Some qualities of a drawn line (in no particular order and not necessarily distinct):




Curvature – straight/simple/wavering

Speed of gesture


Regularity of tone/variation of tone

Scale of variation in curvature (see speed)





Possible combinations of qualities:


A straight fine, dark line

A simple smooth curve, varying from dark to light

A soft pale wavering line

A hard, dark, jagged, fast scribble

A complicated curve of varying intensity


Each combination suggests/implies a different bodily action or feeling: a tight or a loose grip of the drawing tool, a fine movement of the fingers or a large movement of the arm, a slow or a fast gesture, considered or unplanned mark-making, a gentle stroke or an angry scrawl …

It’s a good thing we aren’t consciously thinking about all these things when we draw. Here are some recent abstract-ish drawings, starting from fairly random lines and seeing what happens:

Ripples – lines generate surfaces – surfaces imply depth
Fissure – pencil and Chinese white on tinted paper
Unidentified fragmentary object


Growth: the process of increasing in size; development to maturity

Growth, infinite: the premise of capitalism

Growth, malignant: uncontrolled abnormal cell division that can invade and destroy nearby tissue and may spread to other parts of the body

Finally getting the point

I am currently reading Naomi Klein’s No is not enough, and, thanks to her brilliant exposition, I’ve finally understood why some apparently intelligent, powerful people persist, at least in public, in denying what we/they are doing to the planet and carry on acting in ways that exacerbate the crisis. I now realise that it isn’t that they are too blinkered or isolated to see what is happening or that they believe their wealth will protect them from the unfortunate (but unavoidable because the neoliberal show must go on) effects of disrupting ecosystems and society. It’s that they welcome the coming crises because they are set to profit from them. Wars and catastrophes are just business opportunities if you are in the right line of work. And social disruption just frees up the 1% from the irritating hindrances of democracy, regulation and all that.

I’m hoping the last part of the book will give me more reason for optimism.

Here’s a snippet.

Earth Hour 2018

Yesterday evening some of us turned off the lights to mark Earth Hour. To briefly, symbolically, pay attention to the harm we are doing every day by the way we live on the planet. A feeble gesture no doubt. Can a drip, drip of small individual acts eventually add up to a system change? Probably not. But system change is what is needed and sooner than eventually…

Drawn during Earth Hour by candlelight.


The songs of some birds belong to their species, inherited, shared. The wood pigeons sing the same five-note phrase today as their long-gone cousins did when I was on my way to school. The yellowhammer still tweets its nursery rhyme: ‘a little bit of bread and no cheese’. The buzzards still shed their thin calls from thermal heights, like dropped needles. We know them by their calls as much as by their flight or feathers, more perhaps, like the small birds in the hedge which are heard and not seen.

How strange … What mechanisms lead them to utter only those shared songs? What constrains their muscles and their breath to such specific performances? A shape of the larynx or a pattern in the brain?

We, on the other hand, proud individuals, each produce our own assemblages of sound, in different tongues and tones. What would it be like if every time you opened your mouth to speak the same thing came out? And even more strange, if the same thing came out of every other human mouth too. Every utterance as unmodulated as the noises off emitted by our guts, as unvarying as the chime of a bell. Would we find ways to express our separate selves – by timing perhaps, a Morse code of calls?

But maybe the apparent sameness of some birds’ calls is only a symptom of our unsubtle hearing. Maybe every pigeon’s coo is as finely crafted and as variable to their ears as are our infinitely productive tongues.

Or perhaps, to those single-tongued creatures, our constantly inconstant speech sounds like a Babel, a cacophony, the chaotic clamour of a flock of lost souls, flailing and flapping with a thesaurus, who have forgotten, or never found, their ur-syllable, their logos, their essential, final, perfect word.


They are cutting down trees again, not here, but in another village on the way home from town. I saw the tractor with its trailer-load of amputated trunks; it was waiting to join the traffic on the main road at that junction where you always have to wait a very long time.

Someone must have thought that scruffy scrap of woodland would be better bare and treeless; that tangle of trees, mirrored in an obscure pool, would be better ‘developed’ into housing to meet the need for more rungs on the property ladder.

Will the houses they build stand around that pool too, looking into its dark stillness? Or will it be filled up with who knows what? It’s deep, they say. How much debris will it hold? And where will all that black water go instead? Not to mention all the previous residents of wood and pool. (That’s apophasis, by the way – a rhetorical term I learnt today, for talking about something by saying you won’t talk about it, or a theological one for speaking of what can’t be spoken of.)

But the market gets what the market wants, and never mind those costs that can’t be written in a ledger or summed up in a spreadsheet.

The ineffable can eff off, as long as there’s profit to be made.