Drawing the band

Jennifer Kennedy is usually found right next to the stage drawing away in her sketchbook while the band plays on stage.

Jennifer Kennedy is a member of more bands than most of the musicians in town. Her instruments are a pen and her sketchbook, and she’s usually found right next to the stage drawing away while the band plays on stage. Kennedy draws the moments as they’re happening.

“I’ve danced while drawing…I’ve been bumped into while drawing…It doesn’t bother me.”

With a sketchbook that was originally used for taking notes, Kennedy began her craft by simply drawing people. While she was in college and studying abroad in Australia, she had a lot of time on her hands riding public transportation, so she began drawing the people riding with her.

Kennedy turned her attention to music when she began watching her brother’s band play shows.

“I didn’t see a lot of live music until I watched him play,” she says. “And I would go to shows by myself, so drawing was something to do at a show when you’re horribly shy like I was.”

Kennedy came to love the music she was hearing and the opportunities to develop her artwork. Now, she never goes to shows without a sketchbook. She usually frequents smaller venues like the Camel and Gallery 5 and says the intimate atmosphere helps her in the drawing process.

“Those two venues happen to be good to draw at because they’re small,” she says. “You’re right at the stage and can easily see the performer. It doesn’t matter who is playing. If it’s at the Camel or Gallery 5, I’ll go see it and draw.”

Kennedy knows she will, however, go back to see certain bands she already knows she likes. Goldrush, Herro Sugar, Canary Oh Canary, Hot Dolphin, and Avers are a few that she draws often. She’ll also attend bigger local music festivals for more chances to draw numerous bands in one night.

“Big music events, like The Commonwealth of Notions and Ghost of Pop are fantastic for me, because they often present a lot of different styles of music at once and are a great opportunity to do a marathon drawing session,” Kennedy says. “Plus with the big events, it’s a festival atmosphere and the local music community really shines.”

Drawing at a show is not without its challenges. Most venues are dark and there’s usually a lot of movement on stage. Kennedy adjusts and improves her drawing techniques on the fly–she began using multiple colors when, one day, she accidentally grabbed the wrong pen.

“It’s not like a figure drawing session,” she says, explaining that there’s a lot of shorthand in her work as she tries to keep up with the band’s movements. “It becomes a bit about the rhythm and fixing the music to the page.”

“It’s not always the cleanest, but that’s sort of the point. If I draw a drummer, it’s rare that he has fewer than four arms.”

Kennedy keeps the art process strictly to the show time. The drawings are done when the show is done and when she goes home for the night.

“I don’t color them later. That’s all done at the show,” she says. “Drawing at the show is all about capturing the sounds, the rhythms, the energy at the show and transfixing that onto the page.”

Kennedy has around 200 drawings total, but isn’t quite sure what she wants to do with all of them. A gallery show might be a possibility, but she would rather have music play a part of a showcase.

“Part of my drawing is the performance aspect,” she says. “When I’m at a show, I’ve become part of the show. People can watch me draw. The audience is right there. It’s a lot different when it’s in a gallery.”

“My crazy dream is to go on tour with a band and draw them throughout that tour. I would like to do something like that more than an art show.”

More of Kennedy’s work can be found at lineslive.tumblr.com.

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Andrew Cothern

Andrew Cothern is the founder and editor of RVA Playlist, a music site that showcases events, concerts, album, show reviews, and opinion pieces that focus on the vibrant local music scene in Richmond.

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