Dancing in the dark

Dancing in the dark


It is quite commonplace for someone to say that they can’t draw. Whilst I agree that some individuals find it comes to them more easily than others, I take issue with those that are so quick to dismiss it as even a possibility. It saddens me to think that this avenue of creativity is closed to some, or at least, they think it is.

Years of teaching design to teenagers has reaffirmed my belief that a large part of the problem is simply a lack of confidence. I don’t mean to make light of it but it really is quite amazing how quickly improvements are made once the initial barrier is broken through.

I usually start students off in pairs sitting opposite each other with a sheet of paper and a pen (not pencil) in hand. The idea is to draw the person opposite in a continuous line without looking at the paper - this not only creates a room full of hysterical laughter but it also loosens everyone up and relaxes them into the task. I specify a pen as the default position with a pencil is furious rubbing out of anything that is not perceived as perfect, and usually with the beginner and this exercise that would inevitably be everything! Try as I might to explain that there is no such thing as perfect with art, it usually falls on deaf ears.

And so it is that after many (many!) attempts the artist really starts looking at what they are drawing rather than the drawing itself and this is where real inspiration lies.


And so it was that many (many!) years ago that I was taken, as a student, on an adventure to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Our tutor told us that we had been allowed rare access to a dress rehearsal of a ballet and not only did we need to be silent but we also had to draw the ballerinas in the dark! The purpose of the exercise was to get the true spirit of the dancers on paper and we were told that to really capture the movement we had to feel it rather than see it. We were asked to draw with charcoal sticks - not the neat encased in wood charcoal versions you get these days but messy, smudgy dark sticks! As you can imagine we all emerged later with very dirty hands and faces and clutching on to pages and pages of some very bizarre sketches!


Some (most) of them were cast aside as they didn't pass muster but in amongst the madness were a few gems that really did capture the essence of the dancers.

This collection of images led onto lots of design developments and several pieces that were constructed in the workshops and I will share some of them with you in future posts.



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