‘Bright Bendy Wendy’: A self-portrait of aerial silks practice

People who hear that I have been doing aerial silks classes often ask the question: “How did you get started?” So, I thought I would begin my blog by explaining how my obsession with aerial and acrobatics began. This post describes how it led to me wanting to create artwork inspired by aerial artists and the creation of my self-portrait.

‘Bright Bendy Wendy’: Tombow dual brush pens on paper (self-portrait)

Getting started

I took my first aerial conditioning class just over a year ago in San Francisco.

My friends at work invited me to try a yoga class with them, so I signed up for ClassPass with them. This was my gateway to trying out trapeze, aerial silks, acro yoga, lyra, static trapeze and rope. Little did I know, I would be bitten by the aerial bug. From then, I started going to all sorts of other weird and wonderful classes.

I noticed Aerial Artique, Circus Center and AcroSports when I started to investigate what was on offer, and was immediately intrigued.

The first class I took was extremely challenging. The class left me unable to lift my arms above my shoulders for the next few days (possibly a little melodramatic but please forgive my artistic license). The main takeaway that I had was that aerial silks required an extraordinary amount of upper body strength and core control. I do not naturally possess either of these.

However, I actually think that was what I enjoyed the most. It meant that I felt like any small progress that I made was a huge achievement. I also felt like if I persevered, that I would be in much better shape than when I started. Working on my weaknesses rather than playing to my strengths seemed like a great challenge. I was hooked! And started taking all the aerial classes I could find.

Inspiration from performers

Through getting involved in so many different circus gyms, I found a bunch of amazing acrobatic shows in San Francisco. I started attending as many as I could.

The professional aerial performers made all of the moves I had been struggling with, look so effortless. It was so inspiring to see how graceful and weightless performers could make the movements look. By this time I had discovered how extremely difficult they were through my own attempts and dramatic thumps onto crash-mats.

In particular, I was jealous of the way the performers were able to fluidly lift their butt over their heads in mid air. I am pretty sure that my ass was much heavier than theirs. However, it may also be possible that it has something to do with their rock hard abs 😉

Aerial-inspired artwork

I started building up the courage to be more confident in my artwork during this same period of time. I always loved painting and drawing people’s faces and bodies. So I thought, why not combine the two things I love doing: aerial and art? Therefore, I decided to start this blog, The Art of Flying.

I want to explore the motivations and emotions behind circus performances. I will also endeavour to see if I can capture the movement and feeling of flying. As an artist, I think I am in a fairly unique position to capture the feelings of aerial artistry because I have experienced them too.


I decided to start by working from a photo of myself. This photo was taken during a class at AcroSports in one of my favourite aerial moves. I have heard this trick called the bendy wendy, half monty, scorpion, creature, sail, fang, and cutie pie… and I am sure there are more terms to describe it. I am wearing my Crabby Pants that I designed in the photo below.

Progress photos of my self-portrait Bright Bendy Wendy

Artistic process

It may seem a bit unusual to choose a reference photo of myself that does not show my face for a self-portrait. I chose this photo because it focuses on the shape my body is making and the wrapping of the silks instead. These are elements that I am more excited to showcase in this artwork, rather than producing a traditional self-portrait.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love colour. I often joke that I like to see if I can blind people with colour with the clothes that I choose to wear. So I decided to do my self-portrait in a rainbow style using my brand new Tombow dual-brush pens. The brush pens had a really lovely feel and are able to blend the colours as I wanted.

I decided to make my skin and leggings a warm colour pallet. To create contrast, I used a cool colour palette on my silks, shirt, and hair. I really like the way the silks stand out where they are wrapped around my legs. To make sure that the piece still has some cohesiveness, I used bright yellow highlights throughout.


My goal is to continue learning aerial silks, going to shows, and meeting new circus artists. I will create a piece of artwork for each post that aims to capture the unique qualities of a performer. Along with the artwork, I will describe the motivations of the featured aerialist and the steps that I used to create the artwork. Hope you enjoy!

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Also published on Medium.

9 Replies to “‘Bright Bendy Wendy’: A self-portrait of aerial silks practice”

    1. Thanks Ally, I thought it would be something different from what you normally see in aerial videos 😉

  1. Hi Kate – loved reading your blog. Being a colour freak myself – I just love the transition of Bendy Wendy using the pens. I’ll need to source some I think! You have mastered the fluidity in the human form – tremendous. Love, T

  2. Hey I love how you combined your love of art and aerial…it really works, especially with the way paint can express movement so effectively. I try to do the same with photography.

    I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but the video you linked in your blog post had me watching with my hands over my eyes. The instructor should never let any student on silks or trapeze without a crash mat…especially if you are going to invert, even a few feet off the ground.

    1. Hi Kev, thanks so much for your kind feedback on my art! I would love to see some of your photography if you post a link 🙂

      Also your feedback on the crash mats is totally fair, I for sure normally use a crash mat and can only blame myself in this instance because there was no instructor. There were no injuries sustained in the making of that video, mostly just embarrassment for getting tangled upside down 🙂 Also I have thankfully improved a lot since then

  3. This is your Mother speaking….. shouldn’t you be wearing a helmet ?? I love everything you do and this blog is just another triumph.

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