Thinking about getting creative? Brighton Journal spoke to Jake Spicer, who set up the Draw Brighton studio back in 2009. Draw offers a variety of classes, including portrait painting courses, printing workshops and life drawing sessions. Though Draw’s studio in New England House has unfortunately had to close during this unprecedented time, Draw’s tutors are continuing to provide their wonderful classes online. We discussed what the move to online classes has been like, and the advice Jake would give to new creatives. Keep reading to find out how you can get involved in the Draw community.
Image credits: Pictures in-studio by Mary Martin
Tell me a bit about the background of Draw, and why it’s meaningful to you.
I started Draw (originally The Brighton Life Drawing Sessions) in 2009 after moving to Brighton the previous year. I wanted to meet more people who shared my enthusiasm for drawing – it started off as a gathering of 6 people in the corner of a shared studio in New England House Brighton. Since then, it has grown into a fully fledge social enterprise – we have 6 core session leaders and an amazing team of guest tutors and life models spread across several studios in the building. It is that community of people, their creativity and their commitment to their work and one another that make the Draw studios such a special place for me.
What variety of classes do you offer?
Before we had to close we had a varied programme of art courses – from tutored portrait painting courses to printmaking workshops to daily life drawing classes. Alongside our short courses and drop-in sessions we also ran the year-long Draw Atelier – a more substantial course with 11 long term students.
What’s the most inspiring thing about the Draw community?
I think that it is just that – that it is a community. Life drawing attracts such a wide range of different people – an average drop-in class might have an age range of 16-85 with a mixture people from all sorts of different backgrounds and professions – students, artist, builders, teachers, dentists, careworkers. Whatever they do outside of the studio, in the life class they are all united by this focused act of drawing – trying to make sense of the person in front of them in pencil and charcoal and ink. It’s a wonderful leveller and no matter what level people are at they are so open with their support and advice for one another – that mutual support has continued in the absence of the classes and that is a wonderful thing to see.
What has the response to your online classes been like?
Incredibly positive – just before lockdown we commissioned the Brighton Studio to shoot photos of 16 of our life models and we’ve been releasing them weekly for people to draw from so that we can pay our life models an ongoing royalty to make up for their lost work but it’s the Zoom life classes that have been really popular. Although it is easier to draw from the photos, the live online classes allow everybody to draw together – it creates that sense of communality that we have lost in the absence of classes. We’ve even been simulating a pub trip afterwards – mail ordering beers from Unbarred brewery on Elder Place where we usually go after our evening life class to chat about about our drawings.
What have some of the challenges been with the move to online classes?
The online classes themselves have been great – the national life drawing community have been very supportive of one another, sharing good practice and helping models get set up with filming equipment and lighting at home. People have adjusted to the etiquette of the online classes really well and we really haven’t had any problems at all – it’s even helped some of our disabled students and people who live further away to access classes that they couldn’t attend before. The big problem really is the loss of the real life classes – it’s meant a huge drop in work and income for the charities, buisnesses and social enterprises that run life classes and will have a big knock on effect to the models and tutors they employ. Although we have 1-5 busy online classes a week right now, we’d usually be running upwards of 18 sessions a week this time of the year.
What advice would you give to beginners, like me, who might be thinking about giving art a go during lockdown?
At first – just dive in! It’s important to be playfully at first, treating it as a process to engage with rather than as a way of making polished pictures. If it’s been a long time since you’ve drawn then you’ll be picking up from where you started and for a lot of people that means picking up from childhood! Enjoy the feeling of making marks on a surface and get used to settling into a focused state of looking – you can work on refining the outcomes of your drawings much further down the line.
Where can our readers find information about how to get involved?
We’re sharing all of our new photos and classes on Patreon: www.patreon.com/DrawBrighton and we’re also on social media as @draw_brighton