I’ve recently joined a great life drawing group in Bangkok that I discovered through the app “Meet Up”. I love creating art although I’m very out of practice and shy about my ability, so it was with some anxiety that I went along to my first meet, having been invited by a new social media friend, and not knowing really what to expect.
Bizarrely it is held in the upstairs bar of a UK style fish and chip shop near Asoke, which does mean you can draw with a plate of chips and glass of wine in front of you. (The fish and chips are UK style, not the shop, which is thankfully a lot less greasy, and as you might be drawing a male model, don’t sit there eating a battered jumbo sausage unless you want to give him a complex.)
Mary, who runs the group, is a very welcoming host and immediately put me at ease, explaining that it comprises artists of mixed ability and can range week to week from only a few attendees to standing room only. She provides some supplies in case you want to try different mediums, but you need to bring your own paper and your preferred medium, which I did; a 3B pencil and various black ink pens.
I’d done a weekly evening drawing course for a couple of months back in 2014 at Brighton College (my first formal class since school) and discovered an enjoyment of working in ink. Once I get over the fear of making my first, inerasable mark on paper, I find it quite liberating to know I just have to go with the flow and ride with what I put down, incorporating “mistakes” into my drawing.
I arrived early, which gave me time to get a good seat, and as it got towards 7pm the class filled up. There certainly is a range of people who attend. That night I met an Indian guy who was a professional gaming artist on contract in Bangkok, a young Californian woman teaching English in a local school quite some distance away from the class, and a lady on her last night staying in Bangkok who’d come alone while her husband had a business meeting.
Our model that evening, a young Thai woman, disrobed and took her place on a mat in the center of a horseshoe of tables which were now full of artists. Even the bar behind was half full.
Each meet starts with a series of 1 to 2 minute sketches to draw everyone’s focus, and it sure works. 1 minute is a very short amount of time, and being very out of practice, I started to draw taking my time to observe and consider my lines. Before I’d got a shoulder on paper time was called, and Mary directed the model to another 1-minute pose and the clock started. Whew! A bit scary but a fantastic way to get everyone to stretch their artistic muscles and throw down as much as possible in such a short time. To really observe instantly with evaluating where to start and dispense with the consideration of technique, proportion and aesthetic. After warming up there are a couple of 5 or 10 minute poses, (all the while Mary advises the model so that he/she can pick a comfortable pose for time given,)
SOME OF MY 1 TO 5 MINUTE EFFORTS
followed by a 20-25 minute pose bringing us to a half time break, after an hour is up.
The break (5 minutes or so) is a great time to talk and each other’s drawings, as well as the poses drawn, is a good ice breaker and opportunity to get some ideas and inspiration from other people’s techniques. Looking at some people’s work you might think it’s easy to be intimidated, as there are some superb professional artists there who have honed their skills for years, but they are all very encouraging of us amateurs.
Once resumed, the second session starts again with a series of very quick poses, to get us re-focused, followed by some 20-25 minute sessions. My longer efforts:
Usually each week it’s a different model than the week before; male, female, Thai, Western or other, so you’re drawing different forms regularly.
It’s the first time I’ve drawn the human form, and I do find it a challenge. I may well enroll in in a taught class here to learn new techniques and develop new skills but for now I’m resolved simply to draw more often, whether it’s in a group or on my own.
One of the professional artists in the group showed me that youtube has many free, timed life drawing model poses, which are a great way to practice if you have a decent size screen to observe.
Also a lot of life models are available for private bookings, one-to-one or in groups, large or small. At one meet, our model Chris handed out business cards and is available for hire through his site www.ChristopherRyan.com.
There is no perfect in art, but practice makes progress, so I’ll head along there as often as I can, and keep looking for other art groups and classes to refine my skills.