Festival Drawing

Music festivals provide the perfect creative environment to sit and draw the constant stream of music, movement and people. Drawing the passing parade over several days is a great way to loosen up your drawing skills.

I’ve learnt from trial and error, where to position myself in the audience without becoming a distraction, what techniques and material are practical to use in crowded venues, and how to deal with bad weather.

The first year I drew at a music festival, I treated the performers like they were ‘life drawing models’. My drawings were often attempts at portraits of the musicians. They were figurative and accessible to the many people who looked on. I learnt to expect interruptions from interested people and have my view blocked by spontaneous dancers. I had to draw fast or be left with lots of unfinished images.

I took some pre-prepared ‘grounds’ that were created by spraying water onto watercolour paper and then marbling. I then incorporated these textures into my drawings. This was successful, but I ran out of paper very quickly.

So the next year I took an ipad, which meant I could wander about the festival more freely and incorporate photos and sound into my drawings using a sketch app. This worked well but the light from the ipad was more distracting and some people thought I was FaceBooking. Using the recording function I soon ran out of battery and there were limited places to plug in to power up the ipad for the next day. I also found drawing on a small shiny tablet required a different approach and drawing style. This took a while to master.

For the next festival I decided to try and express the music and movement using a more abstract approach. I concentrated on colour, patterning, rhythm and gesture. I took several rolls of prepared water squiggle paper and drew the passing musicians cross the paper from left to right to create a visual timeline. I used a water soluble crayon that could be worked into at a later date. I was both responding to the marks on the page and the sound and movement on stage. I had to improvise.

Drawing using the ipad at the National Folk Festival, 2013.
Drawing using the ipad at the National Folk Festival, 2013.

I also took two ipads which allowed me to have one charging while I drew with the other. The Sketch app Procreate has developed its recording function, so creating videos of my drawing trail, and uploading to FaceBook allowed me to publish instantly adding to the immediacy of the drawings.

Its not easy drawing in public, but the spontaneous outcomes can create memorable images or experiences that can be then translated into other artworks later.

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