Melissa Cooke on graphite drawing: I started using powdered graphite in January of 2008. It was a point in my work where I was feeling stagnant, making small, tedious pencil drawings. I knew I had to make some changes. My solution was to visit an art store and leave with an armful of new supplies, including a can of powdered graphite.
I tried watercolor for about two days, and was miserable. Aggravated in the studio and mourning over some horrible wash of blue that I was attempting to paint, I grabbed a can of powdered graphite and a huge sheet of paper. No one had ever shown me how to use the medium. I just found the nearest brush and started feverishly dusting graphite onto the paper. Within four hours, I had a new drawing and was pulsating with excitement from this new process. I was immediately addicted.
My drawings are made by dusting thin layers of graphite onto paper with a dry brush. The softness of the graphite provides a smooth surface that can be augmented with details by erasing. No pencils are used in the work, allowing the surface to glow without the shine of heavy pencil marks. Illusion dissolves into brush work and the honesty of the material.
Drawing is, and always has been, an obsession of mine. Even as a child, I needed to reproduce the world on paper. I’ve never feared my place in the art world, that in the making and the constant need to create, I would find my voice. Over the years, I learned how to navigate my skill to make it part of the contemporary dialog. I am constantly questioning what I’m doing, and challenging myself to take on new directions. Currently, I have departed from portraiture and am working on still lives–these found narratives that I stumble across in my daily life. For example, “Dandelion Hair” (above) was inspired by a photo I took of a long, curly wig that I found amidst the dandelions. These still lives are evidence of a larger story. There is both an attraction and repulsion to these discarded objects. That tension is something that has always inspired me.
And see more of her work in this month’s Press, Vol. III #12