"The line is essential – seeing where action and breaks in action are balanced. I think a great deal about the ‘white’ space – where the paper does its work," says Maxine Dodd, whose drawings of cyclists in action part of her current theme of movement and sport
Maxine Dodd grew up in Leicester with a strong desire to draw and paint. She trained initially as a painter, studying Fine Art BA at Liverpool University and specialising in oils. In the 1990s she spent time in the IT industry and was employed by companies to teach their staff word processing, graphics and desktop publishing. This experience was invaluable when she took her first studio in 2006 and then developed her website called, ‘Racing Lines’ in 2012. She teaches art and painting to adults, leading classes and talks for local groups. She lives and works in a village near Market Harborough recently she has turned to pen, ink and watercolour to explore her favourite theme of movement. Her love of sport has been the driving interest in her current work, with a collection of cycling pictures on show in Cank Street Gallery from 15 January 2018.
What does a typical day as an artist look like for you?
I often like to work at night or very early in the morning in summertime, so my little bedroom studio overlooking the garden is always open. I am a practising artist but also since 2009, primary carer for my mother who lives with us, therefore, my work and her care fit around each other.
Maxine Dodd working in her studio
How did you choose your current theme, if you have one?
I grew up in a family that loved music and sport, perhaps more as fans than practitioners, but we followed sport and sporting events of all kinds, loved music and I danced a lot.
Maxine Dodd, Tour de France, Breezy Bend, ink & watercolour
I became aware of the Tour de France at college and have become increasingly fascinated by that race and the whole sport of endurance road cycling. I also love bikes as objects. To me, they are intrinsically beautiful – However, I am the worst cyclist going!
I had the opportunity to watch the Tour de France in 2012 and decided to try and draw it as a subject for an online blog. I enjoyed it so much that my whole artistic direction changed and it still excites me 5 years on.
What media do you usually work in?
I trained as a painter but nowadays I really think of my work in terms of drawing – even if it’s with a brush and colour – it’s the drawing that excites me, finding the line….
Maxine Dodd's watercolour palette, pens and brushes
Pen and ink is my absolute favourite – Rotring artpens are just wonderful! Schminke watercolour and pastels - with Sennelier if feeling lavish!
What is the most challenging part of your work?
Dealing with interruptions - phones, buzzers emails, even my own thoughts sometimes. I listen sports commentary on Radio 5 Live as a background to working, particularly at the weekends - races, cricket, they all have rhythms and there are always surprises too.
Depicting movement with graceful lines; the ‘line’ is essential – Seeing where action and breaks in action are balanced. I think a great deal about the ‘white’ space – where the paper does its work.
Maxine Dodd, 6 Nations, week 1, ink & watercolour
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
When the pen line flows. There are times when the action feels almost effortless and all I can hear is the scratch of the pen on the paper and the splash of the water in the pot – I love that so much – nothing beats it!
What skills are essential to you?
Drawing, drawing, drawing!
How did you get to where you are now?
I was very fortunate to have a studio for a number of years at Barton Hall in Kettering.
Maxine Dodd, The Wave, oil
This beautiful house and gardens were opened up to artists by the Wicksteed Trust and it gave all of us a wonderful chance to work, interact with each other and most importantly, engage with the public. It opened up all sorts of opportunities and helped me to establish myself as a professional artist.
My work at that time was inspired by landscape and nature and mostly quite large paintings in oil, acrylic and pastel, working from photographs and sketches.
The change to my subject matter came about through a couple of projects that I accepted.
The first was at a primary school in Leicester, where the brief was to capture dance workshops for children with special needs - without using a camera.
Maxine Dodd, rapid sketch of dancer, ink
I worked with felt tip pen and water soluble crayons to quickly capture the workshops, with the children dancing, using colourful equipment to show how the classes helped them develop communication and freedom of expression.
It was so exciting to be a part of the project and it is still a great highlight and was a turning point for me, to capture active subjects as they were in motion.
Around the same time, I had a similar opportunity to draw the Kettering Symphony Orchestra in rehearsal.
Maxine Dodd, Kettering Philharmonic Orchestra
Once more, I found the activity of drawing from moving action extremely inspiring. I came back to using pen and ink and working on a smaller scale which was easy to set up. I was able in both cases to disappear into the background while they worked. The school and orchestra projects were lovely to be part of.
Barton Hall changed hands around 2011 and became a beautiful hotel, so the artists were dispersed. I came back to work from my studio at home.
In 2012 I was looking for new ways to connect with people and I started up a blog. I have found this extremely satisfying, with reactions and comments and and buyers for my work coming from USA, Canada, Switzerland and France, as well as at home in the UK.
Are there any special moments in your artistic career?
Maxine Dodd, charcoal & chalk
I remember the first time I discovered how to highlight an eye with a dot of white, drawing pastel on black paper at school, I loved the contrast and the way that the pastel lights up. I still do love that!
Becoming part of the ‘velo’ arts scene – art and cycling - has been an inspiration, and finding my new artistic direction in sport and movement.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon, Red or white in the evening!
Maxine Dodd, 6 Nations, week 5, ink & watercolour
Michelangelo or Picasso?
Both!!!!! They draw so beautifully
Mac or PC?
iPhone . . . . or ancient laptop!
Morning or night?
Early morning – very early sometimes!
FAVOURITE THINGS . . .
Maxine Dodd, Racing - Frankel, ink & watercolour
Earth Wind and Fire – their music heals and I just have to dance!
Frank Sinatra singing ‘The best is yet to come’ 1959, (Coleman and Leigh, 1959) - it's optimistic, witty and the orchestra is fantastic.
The Wind in the Willows and The Secret Garden – both lovely and about Nature
Your favourite three artists
Leonardo da Vinci, Barbara Hepworth, Raoul Dufy, René Gruau - I know, that’s four! Gorgeous drawings and beautiful lines in the work of all of them, so elegant!
Maxine Dodd, 'Flags & Caravans, ink and watercolour
Things to do on a Friday night
Piece of advice you’ve been given
Azlan assists by rearranging the pens
and here is my Studio Assistant.
See an exhibition of paintings by Maxine Dodd at Cank Street Gallery from Monday 15 January.
Racing Blues: Maxine Dodd
15 January - 28 February 2018
Cank Street Gallery
44-46 Cank Street, Leicester LE1 5GW