A Tribal Sketch-capade


Fountain pen and watercolor on hot press w/c sketchbook 8″ X 10″ (full spread)

(The above sketch was done after the event at home from some of my pictures.)

Once a year our local Sebastopol Community Center takes on the appearance of a Turkish Bazaar with tents and exotic costumed dancers for six days of non stop performance and tribal dance workshops.  We spent a day, mouths agape, sketching dancers in motion. By motion I am referring to the often independent movement of body parts and muscle groupings which we know as belly dancing. Add on a helping of Goth and Heavy Metal and exotic dancer and around-the-world native touches and you have jaw dropping entertainment.

As each act came on stage I madly took pictures with my cell phone for a minute, then sketched like crazy during the remaining 10 minutes allowed for each act on stage. To sketch this kind of constant motion it’s necessary to take “memory” snapshots of the movements you want to capture and then hope the dancer repeats the same movement A LOT!


Fountain pen with Noodlers Golden Brown ink on soft sketch paper

I had filled (used up) all my sketchbooks and was in a bit of a pickle as I loaded up supplies for the day.  Pulling a sheet of what I thought was HP watercolor paper out of the drawer, I made some signature packs, thinking later to make them into a sketchbook.  As soon as the pen hit the paper though, I realized it was some un-sized, blotter-like paper where the ink settles in quickly!

Belly dancers are all about that liquid undulation which I was going for here.  Good thing I left the dancer’s head off here, since there was no time for it!


This dancer from Brazil carried the exotic fragrance of the rainforest in her dance.


There’s something paradoxical about trying to sketch movement, of going from the 4 dimensional world of 3-D space plus time, to a 2-dimensional flat surface.  But one has to try.


 Finally, such a relief to be able to sketch a (more stationary) musician and a male person at that!


Going for pure undulation here, without the details of the gorgeous, tinkly costumes.


pencil, fountain pen, w/c in Arches Travel Book 6X10″

I had brought along an old, partially full sketchbook of the sort I used to like with CP (textured) watercolor paper.  The pen doesn’t flow as well on this surface, which is why I have now switched to smoother paper.  But this paper does LOVE the watercolor paint!  These last three images were sketched during the 10 minute performance, starting with a 60 second pencil drawing, moving to pen, and then later painted at home, using the pictures taken as reference.  The above dancer was one of my favorites.  She was not young or beautiful or endowed with a trim and muscular body, but she expressed herself through her dance with an irresistible blend of fierceness and originality,





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