Slam Dancing, Sword Fighting, Keystone Cops, and Painting…
For twenty years I have been dancing and painting behind live bands. What I have found out is throughout the performance the audience are creating in their minds several images before I finish. They end up doing far more work than I do. Before I am done they have created 20 separate paintings in their mind for every time they look back and pay attention to what I am making they create in their mind another image of what the finished piece will look like. Even after I am done, their different experiences and attitudes still interprets my finished piece different than my intention. Which is Awesome. The painting takes a life of its own after I give birth of to it. Paintings take their own life like children do and then you let them go.
I have done this in nightclubs on small easels, large chalkboards, and large canvases. Other times the venue could be in public parks and at music festivals. I have inspired someone in New Orleans to make a living painting large murals as he runs on scaffolding in a jazz club. Sometimes I get the next generation of artist to come up and paint these canvases with me. The youngest being 3 years old.
Dance Painting is great. I get to dance back and forth to the music and apply the paint as I go. Is it more dancing or painting, who is to say but it is definitely gestural… At times I have straight men or women paint with me. Once I had a model in a bikini pose for me. For two hours I would not let her move or almost breathe. What the audience had seen which she couldn’t was I was drawing stick figures which had nothing to do with her. Than at the end of the performance I painted her head to toe. Her boyfriend thank me the net day and I have heard she still treasures the shorts I painted her in to this day 20 years later. I also had another person I painted with who I shared the canvas with. We slammed dance and wrestled to get space on the canvas, painted each other, slapped one another with brushes, dropped kick a corned beef and cabbage at each other, and painted over each others’ work.
It has been a fun time. Keeping look in different venues and parks this summer, you might just see me there. Plus I am still hoping for someone to catch me painting and dancing at the same time in these picture. But for now, I can only hope…
For more info on Chris and his illustrated books visit www.salemhousepress.com. Plus you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to book him for your venue.
Robert Johnson on Chalkboard with pastels at the Hoot Night open mic at Roosevelts in Salem Massachusetts by Chris Dowgin, author and illustrator from Salem House Press.