Tag Archives: Ballet

A story of Petrushka

It all began with a request, from my first born, to create a special gift for his long time university level private-lesson teacher/ coach / mentor, Paul Patterson.   If anyone could understand our complex and multifaceted young musician, and light a path ahead for him through the throes of life in a conservatory setting, Paul has been that person.   He enabled Jack to see that there was no need to choose one musical path over any others – that to study jazz music was not to abandon the classical tradition.  This forked path is not for every musician, and it takes a great deal of extra work, but over the years, with the help of some other amazing instructors as well, Paul has quietly given our Jack many tools to follow his musical nose down whichever path that may lead.

Words simply cannot convey how grateful we are to Paul for his patience, his belief in this kid, and for truly shaping a young life in a way none of us thought possible.  Maybe in some ways, he even saved that young life and placed it on a more hopeful and focused path when he needed it most.

I had in mind perhaps a painting, of a master and his young student. Or perhaps a handmade book.  In typical fashion I thought and thought but was dragging my proverbial heels, artistically speaking, as Jack’s end-of-conservatory recital drew nearer.

Finally, Jack came up with a brilliant, though rather lofty, idea for a gift.  The kind of gift which might suit a teacher who has everything he may want or need.  What if I were to create a small puppet-styled doll, in the shape of Stravinsky’s famed Petrushka ballet?

And so I sourced some scrap wood from a carver friend, and set to experimenting.

This red cedar is incredibly beautiful, but difficult to carve in the time scope we had (and with my ever-so-rusty carving skills!).  So I fell back on some basswood I had up in our attic space which is softer to work with.

After a number of practice runs and false starts, I finally had a serviceable head with which to build Petrushka’s figure and so I set to work on the rest of the body.

I carved and carved.

Shaping things out of little blocks of wood and slowly bringing character and a bit of life to them.

I’ve worked with puppets in the past, most notably with the brilliant Frisch Marionette Company.  But my work there mostly centered on the performance aspect of puppetry, not necessarily the building of them.

And so my goal with this particular work was not a proper puppet necessarily, poised and balanced for nuance of movement, but rather a doll, with puppet tendencies, to be presented as an artful gift.

Soon I had pieces of this puppet-doll put together and able to move hither and thither in his own way.

To me, a representation of anything, be it animal, person, or puppet character, doesn’t really come to life (two-dimensionally or three) until the eyes have been gifted the spark of personality.

Creepy as this may look to those averse to clown-styled imagery, it was upon painting this Petrushka’s face that the personality of this tragic ballet-theater character truly fell into being.

Soon I was crafting a little outfit for him, all handmade, as proper gifts often are.

After awhile he was complete, except for the semblance of strings to give him the feel of a proper puppet, if not necessarily the movement of one.

This Petrushka is full of quirky personality, much like our Jack, and much like his amazing mentor, Paul himself.

It’s been a great joy to put time and energy into this project, even if it meant getting behind in and left behind by a few others.

This Petrushka’s workings are a tad on the clumsy side…

 

But he is a lovely sculptural gift for some one who loves music.  Someone who has himself, done much to sculpt the abilities, thinking and sensibilities of our young musician.  Things we as parents can’t always do.

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  I firmly believe in the truth of this and I take pride in the other adults we’ve invited into our lives over the years to help us in raising ours.  We are deeply indebted to all of them, and this trend continues into the young adulthood of both of our kids.  All that said, Paul Patterson is exceptionally close to our hearts for all the hours he has spent shaping and carving out the musical life of Jack.  We often ran into him at gigs Jack had, even outside of University life.  He always had much to report on all of the hard work Jack was putting into his music, and how we might best support him in our own, non-musical ways.  We can’t thank him enough!

Paul, this one is for you.  With love and gratitude.

Gestures

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You are used to seeing quick drawings of dogs here on this blog, as they are the creatures nearest at hand, and I am comfortable drawing them.  Whether lying still in their beds, or romping around the house or yard, they are just fun to doodle.  People, on the other hand, are difficult to draw, at least for me.  I am reminded of my failures in drawing class (so acutely brought to my attention by a haughty graduate student who may have been a decent artist but had much to learn about teaching).  And so usually, I will admit to avoiding drawing people.  There is so much more to the world, yes?

But yesterday a wonderful opportunity came around that I couldn’t resist.  The folks at Modern Makers have been creating little sparks of magic all over town lately, bringing art out into the community, breaking down traditional silos that exist between different avenues of art.  Dance and Draw was the latest of these events where the Cincinnati Ballet had a few of their dancers on hand for artists young and old to observe, draw, sketch, photograph.  No fancy costumes, just some music and the beautiful, graceful lines and shapes created by the bodies of these amazing dancers.

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We drew them while they warmed up and then they performed a few basic* routines for us. (*basic to them, extraordinary to us)

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The event was extremely well attended by artists of all ages.

 

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My friend and fellow sketching devotee, Christina Wald went with me and we sketched and sketched and sketched….

 

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My nerves over drawing people soon melted away into the gesture drawings of the dancers.  They weren’t holding poses, just moving.  At this point, it’s the job of the artist to capture the essence of these movements.  And so for a few pages in my new sketch-journal, I did just that.  First with some toned paper and white crayon…

 

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And then, onto my beloved watercolors.

 

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I used dried paint from my palette so my lines weren’t any one color, rather a combination of the colors on hand.

 

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After the ballet dancers finished we were treated to a lovely improvisational dance by a dancer from CCM and her musical partner who created music in response to one another.  It was captivating!!  She was a joy to observe and to sketch!!

 

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I was a little sad I didn’t have my ‘good’ camera with me to take better source photos for longer drawings later, but the upside of this is that I drew more than I thought I would.  And I can always mine some of the images Christina managed to capture with her camera!

Last night was just one more example of the vibrant ‘creative class’ so very much alive and well in our Queen City, who just a few years ago was criticized for it’s stodginess and lack of luster.  I love what’s happening here in this town and am glad to be living here for its renaissance.  Bravo to Modern Makers and to all the partnerships and collaborative groups around town working so hard to put together evenings such as Dance and Draw.  I had a blast and can’t wait to do it again!