These are the better drawings from the last few weeks. I’ve been working a lot from memory, and while it is a great exercise for strengthening recall, it doesn’t usually result in anything worth sharing. One day perhaps. It does have the virtue though of being entirely original, and hopefully, captures more of what I feel essential in my evanescent subjects. People do not like being looked at, especially not by the penetrating eye, but a glance is usually beneath notice. These glances, few or many, if the memory is good, will build an image solid enough to hold in your hands. Practice sketches along similar lines provide a skeleton these fragments can cling to.
Unconsciously, I’ve taken the same path to better capture the flamenco practices. After the last session, I knew I wanted to study the forms of the dance in more detail and chose to do that by grabbing stills from online videos. With enough familiarity, I’ll see more as I watch and sketch the practices, distill more of the motion and character of the dancers, which is my objective. It’s always my objective: I watch people to understand them. It’s what children do, but fortunately for the little ones, no one objects to their wide-eyed stares or fears the conclusions their gazing minds will draw.
Again in Tuesday, the women of Alba Flamenco allowed me to sit in on their castanet work to sketch as they practiced. Sitting in the darkened studio, watching figures in motion echoed in shadowy mirrors, a-swim in the currents of rhythm and cante… I can tell you, it’s hard to keep drawing, when I’d far rather be sipping scalding red wine and clapping along. But for an artist, this is one sweet gig.
I’m out of practice at rapid figure sketching, but I’m getting back to it. I make that disclaimer to compensate for any criticism my work may merit. We’re all sensitive, after all, about being less than we dream or aspire to be. What I witness is exceptional, but my drawings are (for now) sadly static and inadequate. I want more from myself, especially when the dancers stop by at the end of rehearsal to judge what I have done.
It’s curious how insecure we all are. Each of these women, when looking at these drawings, recognized and enjoyed the images of her friends, but confronted with themselves, showed resistance. I found them all beautiful, as I do probably everyone I draw, and when that is not my initial reaction, I find that the process of studying a face or a form warms me to them. It’s one of the reasons I draw self-portraits. When I’m too heavy with self-loathing I know it’s time for the mirror. Yes, my face is aging and was never, even young, classically beautiful, but it’s a good face anyway, busily telling its story to anyone pausing to see it. I wish more people would take the time to appreciate their own story and the map of it they carry every day.
The dancers are beautiful and I’ve tried to capture it. I hope you will take the time to find the merits it may have. (Thanks again to Barb, Susan and Michelle!)
My friend Susan, who dances with Alba Flamenco here in Pittsburgh, invited me to sketch at one of her Tuesday night castanet practices. What a joy! It was fascinating to watch serious artists train together in a discipline I know nothing about, but I can see how one could carried away by the rhythms in the music. I did.
I captured no more than a hint of the drama and grace of the postures, the hyper-extended gestures of the hands, the joy of the women dancing, but I sketched as fast as I could, enjoying every minute. I hope I get to visit with them again–with practice, I will get faster and bring more of what they do to the page. Thanks again, Barb and Susan!