Am I Mad trying to Draw Dancers that are Moving?

I ask myself this question every time I arrive at a Bodies In Motion session!

These are in essence, rehearsals for a dynamic, and energetic young group of dancers called The Luke Brown Dance Company

The sessions are held in large school assembly rooms, village halls, and occasionally, in a beautiful, stately home ball room. 

Believe me…..the room needs to be large because the dancers cover a lot of ground!

Felicity Cormack is the visionary person who started organising the sessions two years ago.  She manages to find the perfect venue with plenty of room for the dancers in the middle and on average 10 x artists around the edges of the room.

Each artist has their own favourite way of working and having done a few of these sessions now, I paint on a roll of lining paper which I spread out on a table, fixed in place with bulldog clips.  There isn’t time to change work on an easel and as I prefer to use wet media it avoids too much liquid dripping on the floor.

The paper can be unrolled quickly and easily and at the end of the session, rolled up and chopped into manageable pieces later on at home.

For me, minimal materials work the best so I always have to hand a large chunk of charcoal, a couple of coloured inks and and my ‘home-brew’ charcoal and ink concoction.

My home-brew is contained in a wide mouthed jam jar and consists of shavings from sticks of charcoal and a bit of Indian ink shaken vigorously together.  The thing I love about this stuff is that it’s black and runny and goes on like normal ink.  But, once dry I can rub it and move it around like charcoal except that it doesn’t smudge off the paper quite as much as regular charcoal.  To get really big areas of dense black I sometimes apply the concoction with a rag but be warned, it is messy!

Luke starts the sessions with slow warmup movements so that the dancers and us artists can get into the zone. 

These movements are usually repeated a number of times which helps to get the eye-hand-brain talking to each other. It takes me about 10 minutes to get to the place I want, where I’m making fast, fluid and energetic marks. 

Luke and the dancers move constantly so one has to draw quickly, often not really looking at the paper.  This is why for me, having all my equipment laid out along one edge of the table and easily assessable is very important.

The aim is to capture the essence of the movements that the dancers are creating and I find using my whole arm and almost echoing some of the shapes the dancers are making helps to articulate the position in my minds-eye. 

Large sweeping movements, with a big brush and a thin rigger is the way that I like to create a variety of line thicknesses. 

My work often ends up like a dog’s dinner and I probably look slightly odd, but out of a mishmash of lines and marks, a little gem sometimes appears!

It’s a great experience to draw Bodies in Motion and the sessions

Most of the artists are usually weary at this point from the concentrated effort of trying to capture the energetic, live movement we’ve all been privileged to witness.

However, our tiredness is nothing compared to the dancers who have danced, twirled, rolled, and moved from one end of the room to the other, with energy and purpose for almost 5 hours.

If you ever get a chance to attend one of these sessions, I thoroughly recommend it!