The bodies of dancers

orange, greys, tutus, dancers, movement

Whilst going through my daily Youtube scan of dance I found this interesting video about the bodies of dancers, by the Australian Ballet. It takes a quick look at how certain parts of the body are in particular crucial to such athletic moves. This is probably quite obvious to those that dance but not so to those who are dance viewers, such as myself. I was particularly interested to see how a weighted wheelbarrow, some very stretch bands and a weighted ball can help train and focus on certain parts of the body.

These things are not necessarily needed to know about when drawing dancers but it does have a similarity with drawing and that is in order to portray the figure with a sense of weight and balance it is important to sense or ‘draw weight’. This can be interpreted in lots of ways by an artist and it is one of the elements I focus on sometimes intentionally.

orange, greys, tutus, dancers, movement
Drawing and print by Jane Denman 2015

Sketching out the future


How strange, sometimes whilst going along in life and doing what is you do, looking up now and then, you suddenly stop and realise wow, I have been doing this for a long time now.

I have been gathering drawings and sketchbooks for preparation material for this year’s art fair and also upgrading my garden studio as a proper place to work too. In amongst all of the sorting out I found my sketchbooks.

Sketchbooks 1993 onwards

Just like discovering old photos, these sketchbooks are a treasure to me as they were the start of my obsession and fascination of drawing the figure. I started these sketchbooks in 1993 and went two or whenever possible, three times a week to life drawing at the Sussex County Arts Club in Bond Street Brighton. I was hooked, I was reading about anatomy, doing drawings in various styles and media and just hoping to capture the figure in any way I could. I had no idea that I would go on to do what I do now. I had found my passion, I applied to go to college in 1996 and they accepted me on the basis of my sketchbooks.

Photo 19-08-2014 10 17 45 Photo 19-08-2014 09 57 54

Still rummaging about I found a few more drawings, here is one of my brother in 1984 in pen.

Pen drawing, 1984, George

So now I feel really old but I still feel excited about drawing of the figure, it is such a challenge, is always different and never let’s me rest. So this year at the Brighton Art Fair my paintings are all based on the love of drawing people.

Photo 19-08-2014 14 54 09


Brighton Art Fair 26 – 28 September, Brighton Dome, Corn Exchange

Now for something completely different

Colours, colours!

I had a ball last weekend when I spent the weekend with my fellow seamstress (mum) attending a weekend Tutu making course up in London, it was the second part of the complete tutu course, making the bodice. We had very expert tuition from an extremely knowledgeable tutor who works as a costume maker for the National Theatre and she taught us a few insider tricks of the trade for creating a dance tutu. I was intrigued from an artistic point of view, as to how they are made. Fabrics that disguise but hold areas together, elastic, piping, coutil, herringbone stitch and lots of other new terminology all belong to this fascinating world of dance. Our tutor said she often made tutus for a whole troupe and watching her fast fingers with pins weaving in and out, with continuous seaming and cutting it still seemed a lot of work.

It seems that dance tutus are made to last and hopefully for years so they have to fit perfectly, sometimes the tutu will be altered to fit another body shape or decoration will be added for another production so the actual cost of one tutu is very expensive. We learnt how to integrate secret seams so that the tutu could be adjusted if it needed to adding to the mystery but functionality that this garment has. We were shown one decorated tutu that was probably used just for one scene, it was laced with glittering stones and applique, quite heavy so the dancer probably changed into it for a short or final scene. We were intrigued by how the light catches the decoration.

My bodice, not shown here as it has a little way to go until it is finished, is a real piece of handmade couture, in the style of the dance tutu. I will forgo the dance netting (I am not much of a dancer!) but hope to make it into a lovely garment that I can wear. I may add sleeves and make it into a snazzy jacket. I have learnt so much over two days I wonder if I will ever remember it all but  I do have my bodice to remind me of a super creative weekend. Here is a picture story and a flavour of how it went.

So now I am back to drawing and painting and into familiar territory. I have gained insight into an unseen area of dance that I would never have known and it was all down to the tutu making. We both enjoyed ourselves very much, came home exhausted with lots of new knowledge and also that there will be the most perfect tutu ready for a very special little girl in our family at Christmas and we cant wait to see her face when she sees it.

A night with Toulouse Lautrec

Can-can girls and Toulouse

I look forward to the Brighton Draw events, they are so well organised and such a great bunch of people. It seems they are able to run off all manner of elaborate and intricate costumes, match hair and make-up and present the most interesting of poses for any length of time and all of that more than once a month too. So last night it was the theme of ‘Toulouse Lautrec’.

All of this has not gone unnoticed in Brighton, news travels on the art network and so they get a great artistic crowd in even when it is ‘wall-to-wall’ rain outside on a Monday night. My only problem is that it all whizzes by so quickly and before I could raise an absinthe glass, it was back on the train home again. Ah well, I will have to wait until the next :)

Let’s see what happens

From her piece about Light, Sound and Movement

Getting dance to move
I love this time of year, art fairs are underway, I have completed my shows and getting into the studio and enjoying the new lighting that has been installed makes it a special place to be. Last week I started a series of drawings with the approach, ‘lets see what happens’. This is one of my devices for getting back to the easel without it things would get stuck. Being stuck is not something I am keen on but it does have its benefits if you can see that you are stuck in the first place. So, back to the various trickery I seem to try and place on myself in order to create. Being ‘open’ to what happens when drawing or painting is something I am always keen to experience, whether or not this is successful isn’t too relevant, just to try and be open is the main thing.

From her piece about Light, Sound and Movement
Sylvie Guillem

I came across this wonderful dancer, new to me, Sylvie Guillem who has such an interesting approach to dance, one of exploration and investigation. She has wonderful long red hair sometimes black, for this piece she had it piled up behind her head. Whilst watching her move I gain a lot from what she is trying to convey and try and respond through paint

CLICK HERE TO SEE ME DRAWING Getting dance to move
Sylvie Guillem dancer

A lot of dance that I have watched plays with light and darkness onto the body, sculpting it. This is wonderful to watch, light travels across the body and picks out abstract shapes, defining muscles and giving tips of fingers highlights. For me a lot of movement here is lost, the classic way of depicting chiaroscuro is to edit the amount of blacks to a lighter grey; stark shadows distort the figure and lose form for the painter but they are beguiling and as I had my ‘lets see what happens’ head on I did the above drawing at the end of the day.

Guillem's feet
Guillem’s feet

One of the films that Sylvie Guillem has produced features her in a fascinating space, it looks like she has landed in a white and grey landscape which has been painted with a large brush, she wears black and teeters around on ledges, investigating in a tentative way the space. Getting a beautiful shot of her strong legs and feet was intriguing, I have never stopped to draw dancers feet, they are always on the move.

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Hot weather and paint


I don’t seem to notice too much at the moment what the weather is, I am just enjoying getting down to the wonderful thing of painting. Apparently it has been another scorcher of a day and I am in my studio for long days at the moment. Only a few souls have seen my studio along with a few birds and Lily my dear cat used to keep me company, it is tucked away at the bottom of the garden. I have been asked by Brighton Art Fair to provide shots of the studio along with any current pieces I am working on for the fair in September

It’s just as well I have migrated down there, my usual place for winter has been the conservatory and, since the massive eucalyptus tree has had a big trim, it now reaches a daily 40C.

Here is the studio or a section of it with fan


The hours whizz by, this is one of the painting I have been working on today, small sections of it. I think it will be called Parisian Visit, partly as the woman in the painting is someone we met in Paris last week, she wore this fabulous hat and looked amazing.


There is a second figure too, here are some detail shots.



That’s it for now

Mobility of the line

I nipped down to Grand Parade in Brighton last Friday to see ‘Mobility of the Line/Utility of the Line exhibition

An intro by them:

Line is the constitutive moment of every drawing and forms the core element of any design. It cannot be reduced to a purely linear system, but rather takes on complex and dynamic forms that attract the viewer in various ways, both consciously and suggestively. Whether analogue or digital, line is mobile because it unfolds on the surface: as a straight, snaking, zigzagging, bent, interrupted, or even invisible force. The book is a page for page celebration of the manifold aspects of line.

The common interest in the line’s utility underpins the Drawing Research Interest Group (DRIG). It is a notion debated and interpreted in a range ways: as an arts practice, a research method and as having multiple and cross-disciplinary applications. A cluster of research carried out by DRIG members investigates the relationships between drawing practices in different professions or in collaborative, cross-disciplinary education. This cluster has grown through a collaborative research relationship with the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and with medics and surgeons.

As it was the private view, it was busy. Quite a small exhibition really, promoting the book of research into the line which was on sale, perhaps one to get at at a later date. There were some interesting videos as well as graphic design drawings, sketchbooks and some very intricate drawings which become visible up close. What I find fascinating about this area of the line is how broad the use of the line is. The Brighton Research group have investigated many multi-disciplinary areas and the most interesting, for me, was the hand surgeon. You can see the link to the video they made and the fascinating conversation about drawing from the surgeons point of view, he also produced beautiful drawings whilst chatting away.

Check out the video by following the link here Mobility of the line


John Andrews, Duncan Bullen, Nat Chard, George Hardie,
Antoni Malinowski, Jeffrey P. Turko, Ivana Wingham
and The Drawing Research Interest Group


Back to Screen printing

It has to be at least 15 years since I have done some screen printing and this was at college. College was a real luxury for me, they had all of the equipment to try, limitless paper and encouraged us to stay as long as we wanted.

I was in for a treat when I opened my Christmas screen printing voucher. A day workshop in Brighton at Inkspot Press run by very friendly printmakers offering super facilities. I had forgotten how much fun it is to do screen printing.

I had initially done a still life for the workshop, but it was too complicated and so I chose the line drawing below of Emma


I had almost forgotten all I had learnt all those years ago and so there was lots to catch up on. Here are a pick of some of them, all different.