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Painting Through Dance Mamta Khanna

First the paper had to be laid out. Stuck to the floor with brown tape and surrounded by newspaper in order to keep the floor clean.

The palettes were laid out and paint was poured on them to mix and step in. The palettes had to be flat to facilitate mixing and had to be wide enough for one to be able to step into.

The first attempt to see how long the colour lasts, and the kinds of impressions we get at each stage.


The outcome of the first attempt. We tried using different things that we learnt earlier. We even tried pouring the paint directly onto paper and then dancing. It was extremely slippery and we needed to support each other in order to do that.

Attempting to walk to the beat of the music to create a tree along with a few background elements.

In the process of painting. Certain steps needed the person to be supported while certain ones didn’t.

End product on day one.

The “brushes” at the end of day one.

Day One This being the first day, we all were apprehensive as to what to expect. All of us could more or less dance, but nobody had done something like this before. Although we didn’t actually start painting until post lunch, we were keen on learning how the set up was done. When we were first told what all needed to be done, we presumed it wouldn’t take much time. But once we started, we were proven wrong! The set up took up all morning! After lunch, we each picked one colour to start with. We poured it out onto a palette and diluted it, figuring out an almost perfect proportion of colour to water in the process. What started out as random exploration, turned into something more and more exciting with each step. The first experience of painting with our feet was unforgettable. Using acrylic sheets wasn’t the best idea we’d had. They being so smooth and flat, the paint kept spreading and we kept slipping. We painted barefoot. The paint kept wearing off after every 9-10 steps. Once it wore off, we jumped onto the newspaper and back to the palette, dipped our feet in colour again and tried to reach the point where we jumped off the canvas. This was a slightly difficult task as the paint was slippery, and in trying to move a larger distance, we were losing our balance more and more and needed to be supported. At the end of the first day however, our excitement grew on finishing our first painting. We went around showing it to everyone we could and were eager for the next day’s class

Things we learnt at the end of the first day We had to keep colouring from light to dark shades and leaving the highlights and shadows for the end. Once we had colour on our feet, we couldn’t dip out feet into another colour even though they felt dry as the colours still mixed. For each new shade we had to clean our feet and start all over again. We gained small amounts of control over what we were doing and figured out how to make various kinds of shapes and patterns.

After the previous day’s experience, we got trays which had a raised edge. This way the paint didn’t flow out. Plus it was easier to move the palette around.

Attempted to paint a bigger canvas. We decided on another landscape as it provided us with large patches of the same colour as well as small patches with details.

We painted wearing socks. They absorbed more colour so one can be on the canvas for a longer period at a stretch.

We started with the base layer for the tree. The sky was violet and blue .

We simultaneously worked on the bark of the tree and the leaves, adding depth to the painting layer by layer using a darker colour each time.

We were able to get flat patches as well as toe prints by using socks as the paint goes on drying.

The stone was done along with the bark. The grass was next to be done. We sequenced the colours according to their grey values from lightest to darkest.

Day Two On the second day, we completed most of the painting. We started in the morning attempting a bigger canvas this time as a new member joined our quartet making it a group of five people. This time setting up the canvas was faster as we were used our newly gained experience. We got 2 new palettes but still had to wash the old ones as they weren’t enough. Washing the palette was a new experience in itself as they were very cumbersome to clean. We finally started with the sky before lunch. We used socks this time. They absorbed more paint and thus we could create different patterns using them but we didn’t have as much control on the outcome as we did barefoot. We tried dancing this time and creating patterns. The sky was an outcome of “Twist” from “Love Aaj Kal” and “Dhan Ta Naa” from “Kaminey”. The tree was a product of “Desi Girl” from “Dostana”. By the time we got to the grass, we were quite exhausted and danced to various songs that played. We mixed a lot of colours for this unlike the first day where we just diluted the colour and used it. Even though we put adequate amounts of newspaper, the socks absorbed so much colour that everytime we walked on the floor after that the floor kept getting our prints. Cleantech was not happy. Our excitement level dipped a little as we couldn’t complete what we’d thought we would in the day. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop us from calling the crowds back to see the outcome of the second day’s performance.

Things we learnt at the end of the second day Using socks could give a completely different kind of result. We had more control over the prints we made barefoot than with socks. Smaller trays were better. They could be moved around easily, were comparatively less slippery, wasted lesser paint and were much easier to clean. Socks absorb a LOT of colour. It makes your feet dirty too and if you’re walking on the floor, they leave prints which don’t come off and make Cleantech grumpy. Drawing the landscape is a good idea. It gives a vague boundary so the colours don’t spill into each other. Start working with the colour that has the lightest grey value. This way, if u do spill into a patch meant for another colour, it can be covered up. How to achieve a sense of foreground and background. Objects that are small were painted using various toes. The whole foot was used for bigger flatter patches.

Day three: Individual Assignment. Danced to “ Classical Soul” by Eric Johnson.

Day Three This day only two people were in class as all the others had class with an external faculty member. Therefore we were told to compose an individual painting during the day. All morning Manasi and I tried selecting appropriate music. I chose an instrumental piece titled “Classical Soul� by Eric Johnson. We were to work on a king size canvas. I chose to work on a black canvas as we had been working on white ones the previous two days. I wanted to see if the theories that we figured out in the past two days would work reverse on a black canvas. The song seemed very rhythmic to me and I kept performing salsa steps in a circular manner drawing my feet closer each time. I did have to work in a reverse order this time starting with the darkest shade of blue and moving towards white. I kept mixing the paint fast and putting a fresh layer before one below it dries completely in order for the colours to merge. The mixing of the colour took longer than the painting time. I used socks on the base layer but took them off after one round as the colour was getting too concentrated and the paper, being of a low gsm, would tear.

We completed the painting from day 2.

Finished painting held facing light. Unlike the previous paper, this one was thicker. Thus light wouldn’t pass through on holding it against a window .

New canvas for using inks. We decided not to plan anything for this canvas but just go on dancing to a dhol beat and see different patterns that emerge.

4 different people did “fugdi” two at a time. We had to wear socks for using inks. Our feet would soak the ink up if we didn’t.

The ink had to be poured into the tray, diluted with water to get the shade we needed. White ink was opaque and didn’t produce the same effect. A sponge had to be placed over it so that the socks don’t absorb excessive ink.

Two different patterns we had at the end of the day. It started looking like some sort of abstract energy clash.

The classroom at the end of the day. It had ink all over it as we were testing patterns on the floor after running out of newspaper .

Day Four We started with completing the painting from day two. That was then taken off to put the new canvas. This was the first day with all six people. We attempted an extremely long canvas. This time though, instead of planning the final outcome, we thought of going with the flow, playing different songs and dancing. We planned some steps that would give us nice looking patterns. This time we were working with inks. It had to be done wearing socks as they could absorb the ink. We had to pour the ink into a tray, n dilute it with water based in the intensity of colour that we wanted. The white ink was concentrated and opaque. If we added that to the colour, the colour turned lighter but opaque and the translucency of the inks and the brightness was lost. Once the desired intensity was achieved, we had to put a sponge over it in the tray and step on the sponge each time instead of directly on the colour. This made sure excess colour wasn’t soaked in by the socks. If too much paint came onto the paper, it could tear. We kept trying out different things on the newspaper, and once we used up all of that, we went on to trying out steps on the floor. (cleantech was not happy). We did “fugdi” in pairs using 4 different colours. That created the two focused elements of the painting. The next thing we tried was by sliding out feet from the two circular forms till the edge of the page in a radial manner.

We mixed all the colours we needed in different palettes and set aside socks for each colour. A different sponge had to be used for each colour as well or else the two colours would mix.

We made squiggly patterns with our toes barefoot. We then switched sides and gave highlights to it with the same colours.

The other side started looking dull in comparison so we made it brighter by adding another layer of bright colours to it.

We were trying to add texture to the painting. We put a layer of glue, dance on that to leave impressions due to varying pressure, and then dance over that again with paint. The glue needed to be poured into a tray and diluted slightly before use.

The “fugdi� was repeated over the fevicol. It was slipperier than the poster paint at first but once it started drying, it kept sticking to feet and you had to be careful to not tear the paper.

The fevicol had to be put and spread before one could dance over it unlike paint. Once the dance was done, it had to be left overnight to dry.

The excess paint had to be stored in plastic cups and covered so that it doesn’t dry up as fast. Though while removing it, some did get wasted.

Day Five We had to complete the long painting we started the day before. One side was done, we had to complement it by doing something on the other side. We discarded the socks, kept dipping our toes in ink and making squiggly patterns. But then the colours on the left started overpowering the ones on the right. So we decided to add another layer of brighter colours and different steps on the right. We also wanted to experiment with fevicol to create textures. It was decided that it should be put in the center over the two circular forms as they were losing their focus being very pale colours. The fevicol had to be poured out into a tray and mixed and made a little dilute else it would stick to one’s feet and possibly tear the paper. But unlike paint, the fevicol had to be poured onto the paper and spread quickly. The dancers had to step on it barefoot. It was even more slippery than the paint. They needed to be supported while dancing. They did another round of “fugdi” on the fevicol layer. But towards the end it started sticking to their feet as the glue was drying and they were moving slowly. The glue then had to be left overnight to dry. The paint that was left was poured into glasses which were sealed with aluminum foil so that they don’t dry up.

Once the fevicol dried, we went over it with another layer of paint.

After selecting the next picture, we tried figuring out the size that it should be painted in order to give us patches that could be painted with our feet

Measuring the paper needed accordingly. It was cut to size and taped together.

We then proceeded to tracing the outlines that we needed to stick to in order to play with the form and space.

Dancing to the track “Pretty Woman� while painting Marilyn Monroe

After painting the face without the background.

Day Six We started the day with adding the next layer over the ink painting. Thanks to the layer of glue, the paint wasn’t absorbed and had a glossy finish. Once we were done with that, we selected a picture to paint. Using photoshop, we edited it and added the colours that we wanted. Then we projected it onto a wall to check the size of the patches to paint. After that, we figured the size of the canvas we’d need. We cut brown paper to the appropriate size and stuck it. We then held it up against the wall and traced it. We played the song “Pretty Woman” and jived to it. For the smaller parts, only one person had paint on their feet while the other person was only complementing the dance form. We kept practicing the dance over and over again to make sure we stayed perfectly within the boundaries in order to not spoil the space and form idea. The only problematic thing was that we didn’t check how much paint the paper absorbs. Due to that, we had to keep repeating the sequence over and over again to fill all the patches up! Once that was done, we thought of adding something heavier to the base because we’d wound up tracing the image too high. We thought of all the possible colours we could use to fill up the surrounding area.

The day started with yummy breakfast which consisted of cheesecake and parathas!

Mixing the paint to get the colours for the background. We chose very pale feminine colours so that the purple used for the face stands out as a contrast.

We did all different sorts of dance forms to fill up the background ranging from freestyle to jive.

The final painting. We left this on the floor as the frame wasn’t ready yet.

Day Seven This session had the most unusual start of all! We started the day by eating blueberry cheesecake (because Jui and I were dreaming about it after mixing the colours for the painting as it was the same shade as the cake) and parathas that sir brought us. Once we were done with that, we resumed with the painting. Initially we were referring to our photoshop image, but eventually we kept placing colours in patches according to where we felt we needed to add visual weight and to make the painting look balanced. To fill up the background, we did a mix of salsa and jive to start with. Then we were hopping and jumping around and having the time of our lives! This got over by mid afternoon. We then were upto the most herculean task of all: figuring out what to do as our final piece! We all agreed to take an existing painting and try and replicate it. We looked at all sorts of paintings ranging from very realistic ones to zoo zoo images! Eventually we agreed to do an abstraction of Lord Krishna. The look of this painting could be achieved and would be complemented by painting with our feet. Plus it was a silent pun on having only one boy in our class surrounded by girls all the time. During the day we got people to stretch the canvas over two pieces of plywood. In the evening, we projected the image onto it and at night, we spread fevicol over it and gave it a combed texture. We were planning to use acrylic paints on this and the fevicol would make that too look glossy.

We took off the Marilyn Monroe painting as it was had to be measured in order to be framed.

Starting with the next painting( abstract Krishna). We had put fevicol the previous night so it had dried by this time. We were using acrylic on canvas this time.

We had to reverse the process this time and start with the darkest colour first.

And go on adding the lighter colours later.

For the first time in the course, all of us worked simultaneously. The painting never stopped till it was done!

The canvas had been stretched over two plywood pieces. It had to be taken off this and framed.

Day Eight The fevicol we’d put the previous night had dried up enabling us to paint. For the first time in all the days of class, we all started painting together very enthusiastically. All the other days, a few of us would paint at one time and the others would stand aside and watch and then switch sides and repeat the sequence. In the case of acrylic paints, we had to reverse the whole process we’d learnt for poster paints on paper. We had to start with the darkest colour and then proceed to the lighter ones. We also had to wash all the trays that day as we’d been putting it off for all the previous days and finally we reached the point where we used all of them up. We didn’t really dance to paint this painting but instead played instrumental flute music to get us into the mood. The second year students who shared the class with us weren’t too happy about it but once they saw what we were upto they joined in our excitement. We were so eager and excited to see the final outcome of this painting that we did it non stop till it was complete. There were always at least three people working on it(during lunch time). It also had to be done faster to allow merging as the paint was drying comparatively faster over the fevicol. The painting was done by lunch time with just the finishing touches remaining. We decided we needed to improve the long painting that we’d done. We agreed to put a layer of fevicol on the right side as it wasn’t as vibrant as the left. In the night, we all got together and applied fevicol over that part and kept giving it squiggly textures with our hands.

We added squiggly patterns of the same colour as the left side on the right over the layer of fevicol.

Day Nine This was the last day of the course. In the morning we came and added colour over the fevicol that we’d applied the previous night. The two big paintings needed to be mounted and we were to prepare for a presentation. We wanted to make other people experience what we did by actually making them do it and realise how it looked easy but was actually not,but being the last group to present, we had no time for that. Instead we shared our experience through photographs and videos.

The final two paintings that were to be displayed.

The people who did them,

And the person who made it all possible‌

Thank You.

painting through dance  

a 2 week course where 6 students painted canvases using their feet

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