Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sketchbook: The Art of Belly Dancing

Keeping the connections between eyes, hands and heart open requires practice. My sketchbook is the tool I use to connect with myself and the world around me. A form of meditation, sketching is a fabulous way to stay in the present moment as it requires all of my attention. As my mind drifts, the pen drifts. Drawing keeps me on track. Both in my creative work and in my life -- there is no separation.

Don't get the idea that I'm some sort of tidy, perfect sketchbook/scrapbook type. While I admire those people who naturally organize their experiences into tidy books, I've never been one. I keep little 3" x 5" sketchbooks (or larger) in the car, my purse, by the phone and other places to record a moment when it hits me hard enough to move my pen. Pages may be weeks, months, even years apart in the same book.

I'm not a picky sketcher. Ink pens are my favorite because drawings made with them don't smear easily. And, I don't sketch to a "finish". My pieces are usually only a matter of minutes long. Fifteen minutes for a quick sketch is my usual limit, 1 to 5 minutes is more likely. That seems to be either the time I have or my attention span. Either way, the result is the same. Dance is a particularly favorite thing for me to draw. I love the fluid movements and focused energy. The challenge of drawing moving subjects entrances me.

Last week I attended the High Desert Belly Dance Guild's April Showcase in Bend, Oregon, an exhibition of a variety of dance styles from several of the Guild member teachers and students. Fascinated with dance, I started taking belly dance lessons last fall from my friend, Kathy Southwick, a life-long dancer. Her class is fun and her music mix always inspires an extra shimmy. Attending the dance class gives me insight into feeling my visual experiences kinesthetically. Sketching is a way to feed and educate my art from the inside, rather than always looking for external influences such as style, fashion or concepts about what defines good art.

Drawing Note: These drawings of belly dancers are ball point pen on 3" x 5" paper. Completed in about 5 minutes or so (as long as the dance lasted), they are representations of my visceral response to the movements and beauties of the dance and dancers. Though this sketch was 5 minutes, I've been sketching for over 30 years. What you're seeing in each sketch is the refinement of my ability to create an image that relates my experience along with leaving open to view the paths my mind took during the drawing/meditation. See how my love of movement influences my paintings on my site at

Remember, these images are copyright protected. Please do not copy them without my permission.

1 comment:

  1. Great message, Cristina. Keeping blank paper journals or sketchbooks handy is a great habit. I find that I have always been able to keep a visual-conceptual-imaginative connection with my granddaughter from the time she could hold a crayon. Our most fertile "creativity" time has been during car rides - she in her car seat weilding crayon or markers, and me juggling the paper at her elbow. Since she was able to put a few words together and hold a crayon, she would draw and I would “read the story” of the drawing. Then I would draw and she would “read the story." Back at her home, we’d often make collages and random drawings, playing with color – and talking about ideas that popped up from the imagination. Now that she is almost 6 I bet our connection gets stronger as we explore in creative “journals.” I have 5 years’ worth of them in a collection ready for her to keep when she’s grown.