Graphite #10, by Nina Pops

Graphite #10, by Nina Pops

I walk past this drawing 20 times a day, and each time I stop and look again.

The paper is made by the Arches paper mill in France, founded in 1492. The French pronunciation is “arsh” (although that’s a bit tricky conceptually for a German speaker). It is thick paper with a rough finish and deckle edges.

Depending on the pressure of her pencil on the paper, and depending on the pencil (Pentalic? Derwent? 6B? 8B?), the texture of the paper is more or less evident. Nowhere, however, does the graphite complete mask the paper’s qualities.

Besides those details, I’m left with these thoughts (for the moment):

1. the rough or even breathy textures remind me of Billie Holiday’s smoky voice (air over flesh)

2. they remind me of the moist air rasping across the vibrating reed and through the curves of John Coltrane’s tenor sax;

3. they remind me of the sandstone under my mountainbike tires in southern Utah.

4. The shifting play of light and dark reminds me of layers of clouds — wispy and feathery and striated and heavy and black and grey and misty and naturally structured;
5. and it reminds me of Julije Knifer’s black-and-white meanders;
6. and it reminds me of the complexities of a life of choices and accidents, of the patterns that appear if one is careful and focused and skillful and open to the moment.

About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at
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3 Responses to Graphite #10, by Nina Pops

  1. Scott Abbott says:

    Faber Castell 9B, Nina just informed me.


  2. flowerville says:

    das ist auch eine geschichte des bleistifts, und eine schoene, graue. i like the white lines and how they lighten up the whole thing, it really is actually a creation of light, that image.
    yes, tricky pronounciation of the paper….


    • Scott Abbott says:

      a creation of light — you’ve touched on something i had felt but not thought consciously. that’s one of the strongest feelings i have looking at the drawing and it’s even better now you have put it into words.
      noch einmal fuer den Bleistift.


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