Friday, July 16, 2010


Somewhere on the Internet I fortuitously stumbled upon some photos of butoh dance. Immediately the gestural qualities of this contemporary Japanese dance stirred my figure drawing soul. I love drawing short poses, too difficult for the model to hold for more than a couple of minutes. The movement, lines and imagination of butoh dance seemed like a natural fit for gesture drawing.

Briefly, Butoh is a modern dance form that originated in Japan. From Wikapedia: “It typically involves playful and grotesque imagery, taboo topics, extreme or absurd environments, and is traditionally "performed" in white-body makeup with slow hyper-controlled motion, with or without an audience. But there is no set style, and it may be purely conceptual with no movement at all. Its origins have been attributed to Japanese dance legends Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno.”

So the butoh drawing project began. Our first effort, although fun and productive, was a learning experience. We were very fortunate to have worked with Danae, a wonderful model who has danced butoh. She had been living out of town when the butoh project germinated. Fortunately the universe brought her back to Phoenix and we were able to schedule a session. After some discussion of how to organize the session, we decided to simply let her dance. When she came to a position that she felt would be an interesting pose, Danae would pause while we drew. When the pose became uncomfortable she resumed the dance until she found the next pose. Essentially we had the honor of witnessing a 3-hour performance with at least 30 drawing opportunies.

Those of you who follow this blog know that my primary media is fine art printmaking, particularly dry point intaglio. In dry point the lines are scribed directly on the plate. It’s a visceral process of creating a printing matrix with the added bonus of non-toxicity. Quite often I scribe plates from live poses. During Danae’s dance I scribed a few plates one of which became my first piece of the project. Over the following weeks and months additional plates began to emerge from the drawings. It’s been an on-going evolution of matching paper and ink to the right plate. One of the beautiful aspects of printmaking is to continually experiment with each plate. This ongoing process of capturing butoh dance is far from complete. These are the first prints, please enjoy.

I am very happy to report that the Herberger Theater Gallery accepted Butoh II for their November exhibit. Additional information for the show will be forthcoming.