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Creation Story: Dave Klemencic

Live illustrator


Born: Hampton, 1982.

Education: Bachelor of fine arts in painting and printmaking, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2004.

Where you can see his work: As a projection artist working with local jazz and fusion bands, Klemencic can be seen at Emilio's, Bogart's and Cary Street Café, among other clubs. His Web site,, has a calendar of upcoming events.

What his art involves: Klemencic projects his drawings on a wall-sized screen behind the band. Using a Wacom drawing tablet, Adobe Photoshop, a home computer, lighting rig and projection screen, he draws active images while the band plays. "I'm trying to add a visual element to the music that is similar to the music," he says, "that's short-term and immediate over the course of the song."

The transient nature of his work: When the song ends, Klemencic erases and starts over. He says his paintings are to be experienced like theater.

How he came up with the idea: Klemencic watched other artists create murals or drawings while watching bands, and he was influenced by the animated drawings of South African artist William Kentridge. But he has never seen anyone do what he's doing onstage. "I think that musicians are trying to transport someone somewhere else or give someone a different way of looking at something," he says. "I'm doing the same thing — generating imagery, pictures of other, fantastic places. It's like I'm putting a filter on it, trying to give people my romanticized idea of what is actually going on. No matter how realistic you get, there's distortion because I'm detached from the drawing itself. I'm looking at a projection screen across the stage and trying to concentrate on that."

What his work looks like: Sometimes Klemencic draws stylized versions of the band members playing their instruments, and sometimes he takes off with cityscapes, airplane dogfights or other images that might reflect the mood of the music. His palette is bright, and his strokes are always visible as the drawings take shape and morph into changing images that accompany each song.

Who he plays with: Lately he's teamed with organ-and-drums duo Benevento-Russo of New York. Modern Groove Syndicate was one of the first local bands to feature Klemencic's projections. "With Modern Groove," he says, "I know their songs pretty well, so I can do the changes with the music and change the lights. It gives me an immediacy that playing an instrument would."

Klemencic also plays guitar and is developing his keyboard skills on an old jazz organ. When deciding whether to buy keyboard or projection equipment, he chose technology, but hopes to add music performance to his repertoire.

How he fits in: The bands or clubs pay Klemencic when he works with them, since he's considered another performing member of the group. But it's not lucrative yet. Klemencic sees himself as another draw, another reason people might come out to see a band.

How live art can support live music: "I'm trying to feel my way through the music when I'm doing this," he says. "It's been a real learning experience for me, going through the process, seeing how bands particularly in Richmond get fickle support. You have to deal with that, to be ready even when people don't come out." He acknowledges that it's important to earn an audience's appreciation. "Even if you're not into the music immediately," he says, "I like to think that the stuff I do encourages people to keep listening actively. That's the reason I started working with these bands. I like to think I'm helping keep people interested." S

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