Part 5 Kinetic Drawing

The concept

In my original research into artist’s depicting movement I discovered a category of drawings in which the drawing was the movement rather than the image (such as Heather Hansen Emptied Gestures ). These kinetic drawings can be viewed either as the process of the drawing including the motions of the artist or as the finished product where the artist is absent by the meaning of movement is portrayed through the repetitive lines. I decided to have a go at a kinetic drawing myself, however I was not able to set up a huge area of paper draw in the way Heather Hansen does and thus was not going to be able to capture movement of my own body in this way. Having been very drawn to the work of Julie Brixey-Williams who uses amongst other techniques, performance to inspire her drawings I decided that this such approach would be more achievable in my small space.

Given my lack of access to live performances I decided to use you-tube videos of contemporary ballet dancers as inspiration for my kinetic drawings. Whilst watching the dance I would set up a pen on paper and let my hand respond to the performance in front of me without looking at the paper and see what happened. I imagined that my resulting pen line would in some way resemble the movements I had seen and hopefully display some of the dancers energy.

The results

Initially I tried the technique out watching a dance video called Painted (dancer unnamed). I chose to use A3 graph paper because I like the juxta-position of the perceived freedom of movement against the controlled, choreographed nature of the dance. I felt the squares of the graph paper represent the control and choreography of the sequence in a defined space whilst at the same time, my drawn line was free to ‘wander’ across this space in response to the visual stimuli. Here is the resulting drawing using a Graphik line painter on graph paper.


Not the most inspiring of pieces, and taken out of any context you would be hard pressed to find any movement or meaning within it. However part of the problem is the nature of the line itself. Whilst it appears to leap and twirl about the paper there is very little variation in the line itself, except for a few areas where I have made fast, sudden marks and the line thins a little as it only skims the surface. In order to try to add some interest to this technique I repeated the exercise several times, using wet graph paper and the graphik line painters. Click on the drawing title to take you to the video clip that I used. I was selective in my timings for these drawings, drawing only for 1-2 mins (so not to completely obliterate the results). I did not necessarily start drawing at the beginning of each clip. The line painter responded to the wet page and produced as I had hoped a greater of variety of line through the flow of the pigment. This is not something I was controlling rather a random element that depended on how wet the area of paper was and how long the pen remained there (ie dependent on the speed of my pen stroke).

Roberto Bolle dancing in 'The dance of God'
Roberto Bolle dancing in ‘The dance of God’

This drawing of ‘The dance of God’ was quite controlled. I wasn’t looking at the page but I have managed to stay in quite a small area. I think I was drawing from the wrist only rather than my arm, resulting in smaller, less free movements with the result of a ‘tight’ drawing. This doesn’t allow the freedom of dance movements to come across. I made a conscious effort to use my whole arm for the next attempts.

Milena Sidorova dancing ‘The Spider Dance’

The Spider Dance video is worth watching for the amazing feat of a dancer moving in the most incredibly realistic spider-like locomotion I would have thought possible! My drawing has captured some of this movement and I am quite pleased that when I look at it I am instantly rewarded with a memory of the dance and the amazing feat of athleticism. I am not sure however that a viewer that has not seen this dance would feel the same. I do feel that this drawing however does have some structure to it (in an arachbid sort of way?), possibly because it has a certain amount of symmetry in the lines.

Massimo Murru and Lucia Lacara dancing 'Bolero'
Massimo Murru and Lucia Lacarra dancing ‘Bolero’

The paper was particularly wet for the Bolero dance and the black pigment ran much easier that in the other drawings. the result is much more movement throughout the page, but still not necessarily a drawing that displays much out of the context in which it was done. I really like the fact that there is a part of the middle of the drawing where I accidentally missed wetting the paper giving a lighter, more lucid area of line amongst a billowing cloud of lines. This dance was performed by two dancers and I have responded to their interactions throughout the sequence that I watched. I really like the result of Bolero, it has atmosphere, is centered on the page and conveys the energy I experienced with viewing the ballet.

For Bolero I was responding to the movements of two dancers with just one pen line.  I was curious to see what would happen if I used two pens, one in each hand for each dancer, and drew simultaneously.

Roberto Bolle and Shirely Esseboom dancing to Mozart
Roberto Bolle and Shirely Esseboom dancing to Mozart

Here the male lead is drawn in blue and the female in green. It was incredibly hard to get my left and right hands to work independently but I did manage a little. Whilst there is cross-over on to each side of the paper for each dancer, they predominately stayed in their ‘respective halves’. Whilst it is interesting to separate out the dancers with different colours, I think that this drawing has lost the sense of movement that the single line Bolero drawing had and whilst it does show interaction between the dancers it doesn’t depict energy or movement. The green and blue pigments haven’t responded to the water in quite the same way that the black pigment did. Bearing this in mind I had one last try going back to the Bolero dance (because I love it as a piece of music) but with a red pen for the female dancer and a black pen for the male dancer.

Massimo Murru and Lucia Lacarra dancing 'Bolero' 2
Massimo Murru and Lucia Lacarra dancing ‘Bolero’ II

This last effort, Bolero II,  turned out to be one of my favourite drawings because for me what comes across is the intensity of the relationship between the two dancers, portraying two doomed lovers. There is tense, movement in the drawing, not as much perhaps as the original Bolero above, but definitely holds energy and vitality. The response of the pigments to the water adds atmosphere to the drawing (compare to the green and blue of the ‘Mozart’ drawing above). Bolero II isn’t centred on the page is such a pleasing way as the first Bolero and it lacks that enticing middle section,  however I think that the tension provided by the second pigment colour more than makes up for this. It is a drawing that you can look at time and time again and feel different emotions as a viewer. The leaps evident by the male lead (black pigment) add a lot of energy to the drawing ( for instance compare to Mozart above). There is a certain ‘Jackson Pollock’ quality to the final image!


These are kinetic drawings where the line has been produced by my arm/hand/pen following and responding to the visual stimuli of strong energetic movements of dancers. Taken out of context I am not sure any viewer would appreciate these drawings in any way, they could be construed as a mess with no coherence to them. However some do convey an immense sense of energy and movement, for instance the two Bolero drawings. Whilst I don’t suppose for a moment that these drawings will be seen as improvements on my drawing skills, this has been an interesting exercise for me. It has allowed me to express emotions through random pen lines without being constrained to a resulting image. These drawings are a pure response to human movement and mark a huge leap forward in experimentation for me.  In a way these drawings have been as liberating as the exercises at the very beginning of this module, the exercises where we had to make marks recording our emotions. This freedom of expression has often been lost in my work, where I have often been criticised quite correctly of trying to hard to make art. I can see the value of such exercises to try to retain this freedom of expression. I certainly feel free and energised in producing this type of work. Perhaps this is a lesson learnt a little too late for me in this module but it is a lovely lesson to be able to take forward.

Part 5 Kinetic Drawing

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