Friday, January 28, 2011

Sketch Night at the Opera

Last night I had the good fortune of being able to doodle during a dress rehearsal of the Minnesota Opera's Mary Stuart at the Ordway Center. I was invited by Tempo and the Black Hat Collective, and was part of a group of about fifteen cartoonists who tried to visually capture the opera. Our little group must have looked strange from the stage, fifteen dark-clad cartoonists scribbling madly under a haze of blue booklights, our rapt silence broken only by paper rustling or the occasional pencil dropping on the floor.

I haven't done any life drawing since college, when I spent a ridiculous amount of time drawing in coffee shops and around campus, drawing people who either didn't notice me sketching them or didn't care. This guerilla sketching style forced me to get used to drawing people who moved around a lot, resulting in distorted or fractured drawings like this one:

The actors in last night's opera, however, moved around significantly more than someone sitting in a coffee shop, so it was a major challenge trying to capture a pose. Because of this, my first sketches of the night are kind of a mess:

[ Click for larger versions of each pic ]

Realizing that I didn't want to end the night with a jumble of frantic half-drawn sketches, I decided to try a blend of life drawing and imagination. I took a mental snapshot of something that happened on stage and stuck with that pose, even while the actors were busy moving around standing in different positions. I also thought it would be fun to incorporate lines from the opera, translations of which were conveniently shown on a screen above the stage. So here's the result of the less-lifelike, more imaginative set:

A note on materials: These were drawn on 80 lb Strathmore drawing paper (the sketchbook with the brown cover) and I used sepia Pitt brush pens for the linework and Copic markers for the tones and color.

The only downside of the night is that I spent so much time focused on drawing that I failed to grasp exactly what was happening on stage. But whatever plot was lost to me was made up in a greater appreciation for all the little details in costume and background that I don't usually catch when watching a performance like this. All in all a terrific experience and I highly recommend that other cartoonists jump at the chance to do this should the opportunity come up again.

Thanks to Tempo and the Black Hat folks for allowing us to sneak in and draw for three hours. It was a blast!

Update: MinnPost's Max Sparber wrote a review of "Mary Stuart" and he even mentions our little sketch troupe and includes a photo of yours truly.


Paul C said...

Sleepy Paul!!

Kevin Cannon said...

A classic, eh? I had almost forgotten that these drawings still existed online!

Courtney Mault said...

Excellent sketches! I was at the performance last night as well, but not in the cartoonist capacity. So happy to be able to see your results!

Kevin Cannon said...

Thanks, Coco!

Loops O'Fury said...

These are great, Kevin! I wish I were as quick as you--I didn't finish nearly as many sketches.

I too did a "She would insult me even in my grave." Seems like that was a popular scene to draw.

Avidor said...

Great stuff, Kevin! It was fun sketching with you and the other cartoonists. I posted some of my opera sketches at the TC Urban Sketchers blog:

Kevin Cannon said...

Lupi -- Quality, not quantity! Can't wait to see your drawings.

Ken -- Those are great! I love the montage style. Looks like opera glasses did the trick.

Colin Tedford said...

Cool! I took my sketchbook with me on my first visit to the Maine Wildlife Park and got a real education in how much animals move around. I haven't tried it much, but I think the "mental snapshot" technique is a good one. A related one is trying to visualize really clearly for imaginative drawings so as to "draw from life" from one's imagination - haven't done that one much, either because it takes extra effort!

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