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Robert Densham 

retired Cal Poly graphic design and drawing professor (on sitting in on rehearsals to sketch members of the newly formed San Luis Chamber Orchestra)

NEW TIMES Describe what it’s like.

DENSHAM I sit among the orchestra, and they become very accustomed to my presence, so I can sit in one of their chairs and I can get an experience similar to that of the player. My drawing becomes more animated according to the music.

NEW TIMES How did you get into this?

DENSHAM I started while getting my masters in fine art by drawing performers, either in theater or in dance. This is nothing but an extension of learning to draw moving people. I’m watching them play, and I’m drawing them at the same time. The nice thing about orchestras is that people have to sit a certain way, hold the instrument a certain way, and their hands are always in the same place.

NEW TIMES How is this unique from all the other art you’ve done?

DENSHAM What I’ve done is learn to grab glimpses of each repetitive motion and try to notice the most visibly identifiable form and draw that. It takes many trials—I draw and erase, draw and erase, draw and erase. Eventually, I arrive at a complete form, but it looks like there is some motion going on. If I drew from a photo, everything would be frozen. Drawing from real life, the stress from observation, along with making marks and trying to have some accuracy, I find that that stress translates into a greater excitement of drawing, essentially mark making. Mark making has energy to it, so in a sense, I’m performing in the same way that musicians are performing.

Do you have a favorite instrument?

DENSHAM Violin and cellos, mostly, and then piano, clarinet, flute, trombone, horns. The violins and cellos have two arm articulations, whereas with a wind instrument you can’t take your hand off the keys. Violinists don’t take their hand off the bow, but their arms are moving all the time.

See Densham’s sketches on the orchestra’s website at

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