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A Spanish dance troupe from Chicago on the outdoor stage at Jacob’s Pillow

This summer, I returned to the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts to hear live music at Tanglewood and attend dance programs at Jacobs Pillow. As usual, I brought my journal-sketchbook with me like I do whenever I go on a trip or attend a concert, theatre or dance program. The drawings you see in this article are just a few of the images I created during this most recent adventure. Read on about why my sketchbook is so important to me!

When I do quick gesture drawings, I’m recording my activities and preserving memories. I find I can describe more with my sketches than I am able to with words. I Often use the quick sketches later as inspiration for my paintings. I jot down phrases to remind me of the atmosphere (i.e. sound, costumes and lighting,) to record the nature of the performance or emphsize what my images can’t convey. Sometimes, I’ll draw figures talking, people lounging around a beach, or onlookers in a museum as seen below.

Audience on the lawn at Tanglewood, MA waiting for YoYo Ma and Emmanuel Ax

No matter where I work, action of all kinds is what I am after. I draw quickly or slowly depending on how my subjects move so the details vary depending on how much time I have. When I’m drawing dancers in a darkened theatre, I can’t readily see what I’m doing, so I catch essential movement with a few gestural lines. But detailed expression is also important to me, and I love to catch more in depth expression when I have enough time.

Danil Simko’s ABT dancers at Jacob’s Pillow

I work in a bound, hardcover 5” X 8” sketchbook, with at least 75 lb. paper so it won’t warp under the stress of water media. Over the years, I’ve varied the dimensions of my books but keep them small enough to carry conveniently in a handbag. A hard binding allows me to keep track of each book by marking the date or theme on spine. Covering the books with beautiful art paper is a kind of color coding system I use to help me distinguish one from the other. Inexpensive, permanent or water-soluble pens and markers are with me at all times. I also carry a small set of pan watercolors and brushes that I often use to accent my work. Who knows when I’ll want to draw? So, I am always prepared when the inspiration comes!

Mathias Goerne and his accompanist performing Schubert’s Die Winterreise at Ozawa Hall, and a pensive listener

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