Dance


I had forgotten this little gem.

Making a line shimmy and shake

I think this little ink drawing was done during a Zumba class.  Line is, for me, the most expressive mark I make and dancing bodies bring out the best in me.  I continue to strive for this kind of vitality in my paintings.

Tonight is the weekly Blues Jam at Larry Holmes Ringside Restaurant in Easton, PA.  Mike and Monica are flying up from Florida this morning and will join me at the Blues Jam.  I think they will love the music and the dance floor.  Not only will I get to paint the musicians tonight, I will have the opportunity to paint Mike and Monica dancing.  They are both awesome dancers.  I don’t think my fountain pen will do them justice.  I think it’s a night for the dip pen.

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I am dreaming of dancing again:

pine tree viewed from the front porch ... pencil

About a week ago my sister, Louise, sent me a wonderful card with a painting of a woman dressed in a green silky dress, arms outstretched, streamers around her wrists, walking a shadow like a tightrope.  For the past week I have been dreaming of dancing and flying again.  I have missed those dreams and I am happy they have returned.

I imagine the pine tree that borders the cornfield stepping gingerly across the lawn at night, limbs outstretched, it’s long skirt making a rustling noise as it walks along its own shadow in the light of the full moon.

Some of these drawings I will post on my flickr account as soon as I can capture them properly with the scanner.

'A Dance for Dionysus' watercolor and acrylic on canvas

An older favorite:

My figurative work is usually loose and playful, fluid and experimental.  ‘A Dance for Dionysus’ was one of my first watercolor and acrylic paintings on canvas.  After toning the canvas with poured and splashed watercolor washes I worked into it with acrylic paints I had mixed into a fluid consistency that could pour and splatter.  I was curious to see if I could manipulate acrylic as I do watercolor.  I had tried with oil paint, but lost all vibrancy of color when I diluted it to a pourable consistency.  Glazing with oil over watercolor washes worked somewhat, but the process was too slow for the energy that drives me when the figures begin to appear within the layers of paint.

For these paintings I don’t use models or photographs.  I look for the suggestion of figures within the patterns.  Sometimes I will work out the twists and turns of the bodies in my sketchbook.  Sometimes I will jump right in and work directly on the painting without the quick sketches.  I find that most models aren’t able to get into the dynamic positions I desire.  I realize that I push the figures beyond the realistic capabilities of  anatomy. I don’t care about the reality, I care about the extended motion of the figure.

As the painting progresses, a story begins to unfold.  When  it reaches the storytelling stage, I must be alone to listen to the tale being told and to respond, as a painter, to that story.

'Dancers' Watercolor

I received an email from a young woman who wrote …

“I was wondering if you would mind if I got one of your pieces of art made into a tattoo. I know I don’t have to ask you but I wanted to.”

After replying to her that I was delighted and curious as to which image she had chosen.  I was also pleased that she had taken the time to notify me of her intention.

She let me know which image she would use and told me why she had chosen it.

“The reason I am getting it is because I met you a very long time ago at an arts festival and I told you I couldn’t draw and you told me to just watch these individuals dancing and just draw their movements. My lines turned into images and it was the most amazing feeling and I’ll always remember it…saying I couldn’t do something and proving to myself that I could. You called me an artist. It was amazing. Thank you.”

A brief encounter can change a life.  We often don’t know when our words or our art has changed the life of a stranger.  What a treasure it is when the person whose life was changed reaches out to acknowledge that special moment.

I’m looking forward to being present when she gets her tattoo.

Eric Ortega, Oil on Paper

When the landscape and everyday objects around me begin to look different in a measurable way, I know I am on a new plateau, one that I’ve been working steadily to reach.  I am finally beginning to reap the rewards of a recent return to the study of color and value scales.  Knowing that my surrounding are now looking different, I evaluated older paintings to see if I can understand why I am either pleased or displeased with them.

The portrait of Eric Ortega continues to be one of my favorite paintings in spite of the fact that it falls into the realm of realism.  In fact, it hangs on the wall, rather than filed away on a storage shelf in the basement.  Until recently, I have not understood why I continue to enjoy viewing this painting.

The shapes are varied in both size and contour (straight, curved, jagged).  There is a clear delineation between color values of light, medium and dark.  The subordinate values within each of these ranges stay within the appropriate limits of the range.  For example, the darks in Eric’s pants are still lighter than the mid-value of his arms and face which fall into the medium value range of the entire painting.  The darks in his flesh are still much lighter than the mid or dark values in his hair, shirt, shadow or floor.

The dark values in the entire painting connect in one way or another.  The lights and mid-tones in the painting also connect, allowing the eye to move freely throughout the painting from one shape to another.  This supports the feeling of Eric’s dance movements.  He does not appear to be frozen in space like a cut-out against the floor and wall.

Warm colors and cool colors play against each other adding to the sense of form and dimension, creating the depth of the space Eric moves through.

As I review more of my completed paintings, I am creating another pile of paintings to be sanded down and painted over.  About ten percent find their way back onto the storage shelves.  I find it refreshing that I can let go of so many canvases and feel good about it.

Val's Yoga Belly dance Fusion

Val's Yoga Belly dance Fusion

I am about to sort through several hundred paintings and, hopefully, toss more than half of them into the green dumpster that sits in the driveway, hungry for art.   My home studio is one sixth the size of the studio I moved out of in January and is not large enough to store the mediocre strokes of line and dashes of color that are taking up valuable space on the shelves and in boxes on the floor.  More importantly, I don’t want to spend the time evaluating the work that doesn’t excite me, hoping that next time around I will find it worthy of a mat or a frame to dress it up for a gallery wall.  If the work doesn’t thrill me the way that Val’s Yoga/Belly Dance Fusion does, out it goes.

Tonight I will sleep well, having made room for new work.

Five hours later ……..  the dumpster is full.

"Mosquitos" performed by Busterman, choreographed by Christian Von Howard

"Mosquitoes" performed by Busterman, choreographed by Christian Von Howard

Twice within a week I experienced the disconnect between my eye and my hand as my brain searched for a familiar pattern solution and came up empty.  I felt myself shift from free flow to confusion as my brain searched for enough information to create a new pattern.  Instead of sending Mosquito moves or Zumba moves to my hand, it sent odd fragments of ballet, bar dancing and jazz.   My arm and fingers drew the sweep of a Pat Sonne move rather than the wonderfully angular shapes of the two dancers performing “Praying Mantis”.  My brain was at a loss, but my body kept moving, grasping at images from the now distant past.

I recall the evening, several years ago, when I paintied Pat without ever looking at her, though she moved beautifully across the dance floor to the original compositions of jazz.  Tuesday night was practice night at Indulge for the 16 piece orchestra.  I began to paint the music rather than the movement, tapping into my memory of the movements I knew so well from having painted Pat three nights a week for a couple of years.  The need for new body movements led me to painting at dress rehearsals and performances of the Roxey Ballet and Wings Conservatory.  The difficulty in capturing the essence of the new style of movement surprised me.  I thought the connection was strong between my eye and my hand.  I didn’t realize that the middleman, the brain, had to create a new set of directions to send to my hand.

Zumba Event in Califon, New Jersey

Zumba Event in Califon, New Jersey

In addition to unfamiliar movements, I found myself confounded by a new form of energy driving the movements of the women at last Friday evening’s Zumba event.  I had no prior knowledge of the phenomena, Zumba.  As the Zumba website defines it, it is ” … a fusion of Latin and International music that creates a dynamic, exciting, and effective fitness system.”  I thought that my belly dance class was incredible, bonding women of all ages, sizes and levels of experience.  Even that experience didn’t prepare me for the energy of the wild, sneakered, women last Friday night. The auditorium of the Presbyterian Church in Califon, NJ was transformed into a mutation of a gymnasium, dance floor, ritualistic bonfire and a “Freeing of the Spirit” workshop.  The music started; Deirdre took to the stage and led the 100+ women on an hour long journey of stretches, gyrations, shimmies, shakes and giggles, stopping only for water breaks to keep the sweating, smiling, delightfully happy women hydrated.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  I will need at least two more sessions of painting during a Zumba class before my brain will come up with a good set of directions to send to my hand.  I look forward to that opportunity!

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