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The Story of The Brain in 10 ½ Cells

Writing about how he was photographing brain cells, not drawing freehand: “…I was being more mechanical, more objective. My bet to myself was that if I was to repeat the process I had come up with, using the same set of negative images of the same cell, I could draw an identical picture again and again.

But that is not the way it worked out. Several times I found that I had unintentionally reconstructed the same brain cell twice. The same multiple negatives, the same pool of light, but two drawings that were subtly different.

In the shifting of the paper, the flick of the pen, the guesses that bridged two sharp dots separated by a blur, in the incremental flow of the thickening branches and the finest of spines, something subjective crept into my method.

Imagination was an essential ingredient to the way I was working. Which was the ‘right’ drawing? With practice, my drawings became more compelling, and more true to life. I realised they exhibited not just a modicum of artistic licence but also an artistic style.

What is artistic style when you are essentially tracing an outline? Something seeps into the way your hand moves after you have drawn brain cells again and again. Something about the energy of the way in which they have grown transfers into the drawings to give them life. I can tell immediately if a drawing is second-hand, penned by a professional illustrator copying from another source. There is something lifeless in the execution and the intention of the lines. The intuitive sympathy with the form is gone. To draw is to know. And for this reason, drawing became central to the development of brain cell theory. There is art at the heart of this science.”

Richard Wingate(Wingate, 2023)

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