Artists and hobby sketchers have grasped the opportunity lockdown offers to dedicate more time to drawing and painting. But once you’ve drawn all of your rooms, furniture, ornaments and views out the window and even the cat refuses to cooperate, what’s next?
Drawing people from life has always been the backbone of art, and the best way to practise is usually to attend a class. Professional models will hold a pose for anything from a minute for quick warm-up sketches to hours for a gallery-worthy artwork, and tutors offer one-to-one advice as your creation progresses. To replicate that experience from home, classes have sprung up using video conferencing and social media broadcasts to beam classes into your living room studio.
During lockdown, artists, tutors and models have come together to offer sketchers a range of life drawing experiences, from booze-fuelled burlesque to serious painterly poses, bringing together artists from all over the world. Not only do they support home artists seeking inspiration, but they also help financially back the art community and models whose income has been severely disrupted by the pandemic.
We sharpened our pencils, opened our sketchbooks and sampled a few.
Lockdown life drawing experiences: Our picks
Dr Sketchy London Live
Dr Sketchy London started life in a packed room upstairs at a French bistro and jazz venue called Toulouse-Lautrec, with two performer-models presenting anything from burlesque striptease to clowning to performance art and then posing for sketching. Online events are now broadcast from the home shared by Dr Sketchy London evil headmaster Dusty Limits and boylesque performer-model Sebastian “Snuggles” Angelique.
Dusty Limits says: “When the lockdown was announced, I thought, okay, all my work is cancelled for the foreseeable future. What can I actually do? Dr Sketchy is one of my favourite gigs, and it was immediately clear that, given the technology now available, there was no good reason not to keep doing it.
“We’ve spent over a decade making this what it is, and I couldn’t bear the idea of letting it go down the sinkhole of lockdown. People come to Dr Sketchy for the art, but also for the silly banter and the silly challenges and the general silliness. It’s a three-way hybrid of an art class, a burlesque cabaret and a game-show.
“So many people have been told ‘you can’t draw’; they internalise that. Everybody can draw, and sketching is a wonderful exercise in mindfulness. So my favourite thing isn’t the world-class graphic novel artist who comes to keep their drawing skills amazing. It’s the person who thinks ‘I can’t draw’, and by the end of the session they’re just that little bit better, and their inner critic is just that little bit less intrusive. We all need to tell our inner critics to fuck right off. That, and also it’s a good excuse to drink wine and take the piss.”
Tech: Events are coordinated via the Dr Sketchy London Facebook page and broadcast over Zoom.
What to expect: Two hours of fast-moving poses, costume changes and imaginative use of improvised props, including a menagerie of stuffed toys. Daily(ish) challenges are posted on the Dr Sketchy London Facebook page.
USP: The Surprise Monkey Round. The final sketch of the session throws in an unexpected challenge to the imagination.
Price: Free, but tips of around £5 are suggested via PayPal.
Semple Life Class Live
Contemporary British artist Stuart Semple believes that art is for everyone, a motto he has applied to his online classes.
“For the past couple of decades, most of what I’ve done artistically has had a strong online element,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to stream a life class on Facebook, and with the situation, it seemed the right time to contribute that. We very recently started having weekly life drawing classes in the shared art studios I set up, so it was sad to think that they might stop. I realised it was a great excuse to open those classes up to everyone to join in from home.”
The concept was an immediate success, and over 3,000 artists of all abilities and from all around the world joined the first session.
“I thought a few people would come, but I was blown away by how quickly it spread and how much talent is out there,” says Semple. “There was something really special about how everyone came together to draw the same thing at the same time from all over the world.”
Semple also shares downloadable activities through the Instagram account of his CultureHustle art materials shop and his kickstarter to launch the Virtual Online Museum of Art (VOMA), the world’s first virtual museum of its kind, opens next month. VOMA will present curated exhibitions to feature seminal works on loan from major institutions around the world, alongside those by our most celebrated contemporary artists.
Tech: Classes are live-streamed via Facebook Live and the videos are recorded and available to watch later.
What to expect: Two hours with clothed professional models posing against drapes or in their home.
USP: Encouragement and tips from a top contemporary British artist.
Price: Free, but donations to VOMA are suggested.
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London Drawing is one of the largest independent life drawing organisations in London and usually runs a variety of drop-in classes, workshops and events across the city. Under lockdown, it is providing a range of free or pay-as-you-can classes; life drawing classes are paid to help provide some financial security for the models.
London Drawing founder and tutor Anne Noble-Partridge and tutors including Josie Deighton are on hand guiding participants through what to look for, with tips such as framing the subject and using negative space. Alongside traditional models with a variety of body types, you may encounter a model couple who live together interacting in a pose, or an aerial artist creating sculptural forms.
Tech: Advance ticketing gives access to a Zoom session.
What to expect: Two hours with nude professional models posing in their homes from anywhere in the world. London Drawing art tutors draw along and offer tips. Participants are encouraged to chat and share their work and feedback in breaks.
USP: Friendly interaction with artists from around the world.
Price: £8 (£6 concession) via Eventbrite.
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BBC FOUR Life Drawing Live
The first in the series, broadcast in February, was the first-ever live televised life drawing class. The second, in May, was presented by Josie d’Arby, joined by artists Lachlan Goudie, Diana Ali and Nicky Philipps. The broadcast followed some amateur and celebrity artists in the studio, easels spaced safely apart due to social distancing measures, and others at home.
Artist and tutor Diana Ali provided providing insightful tips on tackling some tricky aspects of life drawing. Viewers were encouraged to upload their artworks via a dedicated portal during the show and via social media for the studio artists to provide feedback. The show especially encouraged absolute beginners to pick up a pencil.
Tech: Freeview TV. As the show was broadcast, viewers could switch to “pose cam” via the red button or online for an uninterrupted view of the model.
What to expect: Two hours with semi-nude models in classical poses with tips on how to draw in different styles.
USP: The chance of having your artwork featured on TV.
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