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Artistic ‘chicken scratches’

Joann Knapp of Detroit Lakes stands in front of some of her framed drawings at the Holmes Art Center. Knapp sketched the drawings during performances at the Historic Holmes Theatre. Photo by Pagyn Harding

DL woman recognized for her showtime art

Like many other Detroit Lakes residents, Joann Knapp has been a season ticket holder to the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes since its doors opened. As an artist, she likes to sit up front near center stage where she can relax, enjoy the performance… and sketch.

“What I choose to sketch depends on the lighting and the ink pen I have in my purse at the time. Right now I have a Uniball Fine Point pen with black ink so that’s the pen I would use.” Joann explained. “I can usually draw in semi-darkness, but if it’s too dark, I can’t see well enough to do it. I say what I do is more like chicken scratches rather than drawing because I’m not trying for an exact painting. I’m just trying to capture the feelings of what is happening on the stage.”

Joann has always liked to sketch, but she isn’t exactly sure why she started sketching the performances.

“I’ve been drawing every since sixth-grade when I was trying to sketch Spring Lake and not being able to get the shape of the lake just right,” she said. “So I guess drawing these sketches during the theater performances just came naturally to me.”

The Holmes Art Cellar (HAC) recently featured Joann’s sketches in a special exhibit. Some of the drawings dated as far back as Oct. 7, 2011, and as recent as Feb. 17, 2017.

Joann Knapp’s Dueces Wild drawing with signatures. Contributed image

“I can’t believe how beautiful this exhibit is,” she said. “The Holmes Art Cellar did an excellent job of matting and framing their copies of my drawings. At my age, I never expected to be one of the feature artists in this grand opening celebration of the Holmes Art Center.”

Beth Gilbert, community outreach director for the Holmes Theatre, said, “Because this space is a remodel of our senior center, we wanted to celebrate our older artists in the community. Joann’s work is unique because it’s a beautiful tie between the theatre and the arts. Besides, we love how she is creating an art form from what she sees on the stage.”

Joanne Knapp’s Farrenc Trio sketch. Contributed photo

“I know this sounds a little crazy, but I think this is part of my job as an artist,” Joann explained. “I take my work very seriously. For example, here’s a sketch I completed during the Monday Always Leads to Murder performance on March 17, 2016. In that performance, one of the ladies kicked up her leg when she was dancing and I was thrilled that I could capture that kick.”

Each drawing brought back different memories for Joann of both the performance and her sketch.

“Another example is The Farrenc Trio sketch from a Jan. 31, 2017 performance.” Joann hesitated, “This sketch was particularly difficult for me. I struggled with getting the base cello in proper perspective. But seeing it now, it looks pretty good to me.”

To finish off each sketch, Joann would track down the performers after the show.

Gallery goers check out Joann Knapp’s sketches in the Holmes Art Cellar. Photo by Pagyn Harding

“I also take very seriously getting signatures of the performers. When I show them what I’ve done, most of them are very surprised at how I captured the fun and excitement in their faces.” Joann smiled.

Her sketches have a variety of instruments: guitars, violins, flutes, and saxophones and the performers’ signatures somehow seem to compliment the action captured in the sketch.

After she obtained the performers signatures, Joann would sign and date each sketch and, in most cases, she wrote the name of the performance. Then she gave a copy of the sketch to the performers and one to the Holmes Theatre and kept the original for herself.

On a corner wall of the exhibit are several drawings. “This is perhaps my favorite,” she said about a sketch of the Deuces Wild performance on Feb. 17, 2017. “I like how I captured the energy of the two performers on stage but caught the excitement of the audience as well.”

Joann ended her artist interview by stating, “I did this because I enjoyed doing it and am very pleased with what I’ve done. Thank you for asking me about my chicken scratches.”

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