I realised I could re-introduce drawing back into my hectic schedule by making use of the five-minute trypsination reaction. I am currently using three cell lines in my research: HeLa (a human cervical cancer line and first cell line created), MCF-7 (a breast cancer line), and HEK-293 (a human embryonic kidney line). All three are adherent cells, meaning that they spread and form attachments to the plastic of the culture vessel. When confluent, that is to say when the cells are completely covering the plastic surface and have no space left to grow, we use the trypsin enzyme to cut all of the little attachments to the plastic to dilute the cells so that they have more space to grow. The reaction takes five minutes in the incubator, and often I find myself checking my emails on my phone or staring out of the window. At art school we would do one-minute drawings as a way to stop thinking about drawing – to stop worrying about the quality of every mark. I used the five-minute biro sketches of my cells to feed into this larger drawing.
The images we now recognise as cells are so often made using fluorescent tags and dyes. However, cells seen naked using a light microscope are very beautiful. The HEK-293 cells I am growing at the moment have spiky protrusions that make the cells look to me like islands with bays, harbours and jetties.