making a song and dance about things

dancers in davis june 2016

A couple of weeks ago I went to the downtown Davis “2nd Friday Art About”, as I had a couple of pieces on display at the Pence Gallery following the Garden Tour (both sold, by the way – hooray!) and so while there was sunlight I stuck around downtown to do a bit of sketching. Inspired by the watercolour sketches of dancers by Kumi Matsukawa from Japan (who wrote chapters in my book Creative Sketching Workshop) I sketched a couple of women dressed in bright Spanish style dresses who were moving from spot to spot, performing a dance to some flamenco style music, and moving on. I also caught them in quick pencil gestures, below. This sort of loose style sketching is useful for people moving quickly, focusing on the gesture and movement rather than going for accurate details. That’s usually how your eye registers things, and your hand works slower than your eye so let it dance with the dancers.

dancers in davis june 2016
I also sketched a band that was playing in the courtyard of the Pence. They moved around a lot less, but my eyesight sketching from a distance made it hard to pick out too many details, but the red of the middle guitarist’s dress really stood out.
musicians in davis june 2016


all you need is music, sweet music

Jenny Lynn & Her Real Gone Daddies
On Wednesday, after all the various rehearsals, it was time for the Dance Dance Davis flashmob.  It was hot low 90s weather, Picnic in the Park was in full swing, alongside the Farmer’s Market, and Jenny Lynn and her Real gone Daddies were providing upbeat 1950s rockabilly music. I stood to draw them (above) as the crowd of people on the green in front of them grew bigger and bigger… at 6:15pm, Jenny asked if everyone was ready to Dance Dance Davis, and then started their “Bang Bang” song, as a couple of hundred people fell onto their backs and started doing an upside down bike ride dance, before launching into the main routine itself. Over the space of about three minutes I tried to capture the crowd below; not easy!! It was quite the spectacle, and even though I think many of the non-dancers were expecting it, it was fun watching the surprise on the faces of those who were not. 
DanceDanceDavis 5-9-12

Here are a couple of good videos of the event:

I See Davis: “Surprise for Davis”  (see if you can spot me sketching)

Davis Enterprise: “Dance Dance Davis Flash Mob”

Well done to Shelly Gilbride and Public Dance Acts for realizing this event! It was fun to sketch.

“are you ready to dance dance davis?”

If you’re in downtown Davis tomorrow at about 6:15pm, keep a look out – there will be dancers!
Dance Dance Davis final rehearsal
“Dance Dance Davis”, a community based dance project led by Shelly Gilbride, will take place as a flashmob, a very large flashmob, tomorrow May 9th at 6:15pm, somewhere in downtown Davis. Shelly, who is coordinating the project with her own PDA: Public Dance Acts along with the UC Davis Institute for Exploration in Theater, Dance and Performance, invited me to document the event with some sketches, and so this past week I attended a couple of rehearsals with sketchbooks in hand, and though I wasn’t dancing myself, wow what a workout! DanceDanceDavis rehearsal
The first one I attended was at the Davis Art Center (now only five minutes from my house!). Most of those in attendance had no experience of dancing, but had plenty of enthusiasm. Shelly eased them into it painlessly with some simple warm-ups, before moving into the pre-prepared dance choreography. Now when I say pre-prepared, this is the fun part – every single move was ‘crowd-sourced’, that is, not just inspired by but actually created by the people of Davis. Going around town, Shelly would stop people and ask them to strike a pose, a gesture, perhaps one that reminded them of Davis. Each was noted and woven together, and as she taught the attendees at rehearsal she reminded them, this dance is written by the people of Davis, by youDanceDanceDavis rehearsalDanceDanceDavis rehearsal
Everybody was made to feel comfortable, to feel part of something. This is exactly what I like to see in community based art projects – dance is not only the realm of your Barishnikovs and your Swan Lakes, it’s something everyone can have fun with. Like I say, I wasn’t dancing because I was sketching, but with all that energy around me I was as good as dancing. Using the smoother paper of my large Moleskine (the ‘Paul Wang’ one, my ‘big ideas’ book) I let my pens do the dancing and sketched as quickly as I could. I am used to things standing still (fire hydrants, etc) so it was nice to let myself go. 

Dance Dance Davis final rehearsalDance Dance Davis final rehearsal
The final rehearsal was on Monday evening at the Mondavi Center. There must have been 200 people there, dancers of all ages from the quite young to the nearly old. There were cupcakes and cookies and this time the band, Jenny Lynn and her Real Gone Daddies, who played live. One young girl said to them, “you sound just like the CD!” The song they play for the dance piece is upbeat, bouncy, and very catchy, I could draw to it all day.Dance Dance Davis final rehearsal
The rehearsal went quickly, and abounded with enthusiasm. Perhaps some will feel nervous when dancing at the flashmob around unsuspecting members of the public, but with so many others doing the same I wouldn’t be surprised if people just started joining in. The flashmob location was revealed (I think a lot of people had guessed it), and everyone went home, to reconvene at that ‘secret location’ by 6:15 on Wednesday…
Dance Dance Davis final rehearsal

“Dancers getting in step for flashmob” (Davis Enterprise)

PDA: Public Dance Acts (Facebook)

thank goodness for speed sketching


Last week was the annual UC Davis “Thank Goodness For Staff” lunch event. It is always scheduled on a windy/sunny day in early May, so that it can coincide with my allergies being at their worst. Mine, and everyone else’s. I took my sketchbook with me this year, as my colleague Erica was going to perform another of her excellent self-penned songs (she’s an amazing singer). It was an exercise in speed-sketching; there were only about three minutes from start to finish to capture her, and subsequently it doesn’t look that much like her, but we learn by trying.  I also tried to sketch the UC Davis chancellor, Linda Katehi, addressing staff and thanking goodness for them. Again, doesn’t look like her but you get the idea. she was actually on the stage, but I drew a close up, over the picture of the stage that I was drawing when the other performers were playing.
tgfs 2011

I sketched some others which were even briefer (didn’t bother scanning), and then two dancers took the stage in colourful Latin American costume. Cuban dancing, it was and they started to move about at a whirlwind pace. My wife said, you won’t be able to draw these. Challenge accepted – and I’m pleased with the result, because this is pretty much exactly as it looked to me, colourful, fast-paced and a lot of fun! anda again, only aboutthree minutes to do the whole thing. Must do more drawings like that…
tgfs cuban dancers