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how to draw a line

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Recently, I’ve been researching how lines are born.

It was a rainy Saturday when I learned to draw. I turned on the lava lamp, turned off the ceiling light and sprawled on the bed next to a photo of a vial of fruit flies and a microscope image of one of them. Most of my evenings were spent in a frenzied and contemplative manner, trying to piece together all the scattered advice my drawing instructor gave me at his studio in Lahore. It taught me how to formally hold a . Day one, I was meek about it. He held it with his thumb on his left and his four fingers on his right, as if he were ready to write a letter. By the end of the month, it fit in my fist like a magic wand and my arm showed me where to go.

This fall I’m trying to remember everything he taught me. Most of my days are spent in a sculpture and puppetry studio near Swift in orbit with each other. I’m an avid museum fan, but I’ve never been to a studio. I’ve seen countless works of art and was thrilled not to be able to identify the process that created them. In museums, there is a veil between art and the viewer that is never completely removed. The artwork is coquettish and hangs on the wall, never giving up the secret that led to its birth. In the sculpture studio, there is no shyness. The artwork is stripped before it is ready. There are unfinished works everywhere, still unpolished and polished. Some have not yet been carved, some have not yet reached their climax. The paper clay is still wet and crumbly like a patch of mud waiting to be stepped on.

I recall my instructor telling me to trust the process, spit the line out like vomit and let it empty me. There, incompleteness is a state of constant existence, and making is thinking without pretense. I am not monitoring here. I’m behind the scenes: locker rooms, women’s restrooms, pre-games.

In class here, I bring a picture of a fruit fly so that I can engrave it. In preparation, I sketch this little insect countless times, peeling off a new layer of muscle each time. Sometimes I feel stuck. Too much clutter in your head is clouding your ability to breathe graphite.

Do a google search for “how to draw”. I’m not going to learn how to draw by dragging a pencil across paper. I mean in a more emotional sense: how to draw. way of thinking. How to clear your mind. How to excavate in commemoration. How to Satisfy Your Hunger. Take off your jacket, bend your fingers, and twitch until you rest. How to be a better friend, how to let my mom know I love her. How to keep quiet. How to completely empty your mind so you can imagine where your hands want to be planted next.

Practice relentlessly until you become miserable. The line is unstable at first and becomes belligerent within a few days. I enjoy the intimacy of it all. I used to feel like I struggled to keep track of pictures of marrying myself in the vein of artists I admire so much, but now I feel grounded. From 3D renderings to anatomically correct caricatures, I know fruit flies well. I am learning slowness, patience and attention.

In trying to be a better artist, I’m trying to be a better observer and a better friend. Inside my eyelids, all lines can be drawn. Traces of iridescent wings extending to meet the brown exoskeleton and yellowish underbelly. Like, how you can navigate the body you’re trying to complete in your work. How to draw is how to play, how to slow down. what will happen.

Isham Khan is Trinity Senior. Their column “Microscope” is usually published every other Tuesday.