I got bit carried away with this next part. I started off wanting to try to capture both the power of the dancer’s muscles and movement by incorporating background marks within a more tonal piece depicting muscle form. In addition I wanted to add colour into some drawings. I chose to work with pastel using a photo and some of my studies published previously. By sticking to dancers and using pastels I felt I was back full circle to Degas’ ballet dancer drawings! However I chose to concentrate on capturing power rather than beauty.
Degas this ain’t but I think there is movement and energy here! I have messed up the layering of the orange and purple pastels in places, but the swirling does produce an idea of the dancer moving through the air with energy. I drew with energy and coloured in quickly often using the broad side of a piece of pastel. I have a huge amount of fun doing this, it got my adrenaline going. However I am disappointed with the muscle form in many places (especially the dancer’s extended left leg) , I can do better than that. The boundaries between light and dark areas is too scrappy to be believable and as a consequence the leg gets flatter as you go down the drawing.
I was quite fired up by doing this piece and the energy I felt in producing it that I went on to do a different pose, this time trying to capture more form in the muscles. Dancer II is the result.
I didn’t layer different coloured pastels in the background, rather let the dark colour of the ground appear through the red swirls. This hasn’t photographed very well at all and it is more evident in life. I am still disappointed with the muscle form here and I have got some proportions wrong (her right leg looks huge!) This dancer has a certain amount of grace but not a lot of movement or muscle power. I felt that the composition was also not great, there are a lot of thin limbs with much negative space around them. I went back to my studies and played about with the idea of cropping the image closer to be more like a view of dancer I (the pencil boxes around some of the studies in the previous post).
So a bit fired up with colour and the need to create a convincing muscle tone, I did some more! I kept to a limited palette as I liked the effect that the bright almost neon background tones have on the eyes. The vibrancy of the colour adds to the idea of movement by creating a slight optical illusion of movement that your eye can’t quite focus on. I am not sure how to describe this really, it has a sort of kaleidoscope effect.
The dancers are a bit too stylised perhaps but the swirls of the background are more evident than in the drawings previously. The conveyance of movement is more obvious in the yellow pastel of Dancer III. Maybe there is something about this pose that allows the negative spaces to swirl in a convincing way as I don;t get such a strong sense of this in the other dancers. The composition for Dancer V works better closer in that the previous drawing of the same pose (Dance II). I am also more happy in general with the depiction of muscle tone, especially for Dancer IV and Dancer V. The drawings show power in the muscle groups. They are not ‘pretty’ dancers, but it is of my opinion that the female form isn’t particularly pretty when under tension with lots of muscle mass and tendons showing. The beauty and grace of dancers comes from the fact that the moves they execute look effortless to perform.I think that idea comes across in the drawings above They aren’t pretty in the conventional sense, but they have poise.
I showed these to an artist friend who commented on how ‘neo-Russian’ they looked! Having consider that term a bit and done a bit of googling I have come to the conclusion that he was referring to the illustrative style of Russian propaganda posters such as the Soviet Space poster ‘In the name of peace’ here. This wasn’t quite my intention, but I can see where he is coming from.
On reflection: If I compare these to the quick sketchbook studies in my previous post these drawings are a little too stylised. Whilst as a group they are bold and bright, the colour isn’t actually adding anything to the sense of movement, and once again, they don’t suggest a fleeting moment, rather they capture a pose which isn’t the same thing at all.