For a borough whose politicians claim that ‘art is at the heart of regeneration’, it seems that the world’s biggest drawing festival has passed Croydon by. But KEN TOWL managed to track down a well-established group of artists who show that drawing well is not easel
October has been the month of The Big Draw, the “world’s biggest drawing festival”, made up of thousands of events, none of which appeared to be happening in Croydon when I searched.
None of them that is, until I discovered the Croydon Life Drawing Group. It has been around, it turns out, for some 30 years and is currently run by a friendly chap called Francis Wardale.
A short conversation via their Facebook page helped me to ascertain that:
a. everyone was welcome, whatever their level of drawing skill or lack thereof;
b. recommended materials for a starter were cartridge paper and 2B and 4B pencils;
c. It was £10 a session or £5 for students.
Which is a bargain, considering sessions last for three hours.
Just as I had been to church last week to hear London Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey “celebrate” Black History Month, so I had to attend church again (East Croydon United Reform Church, Addiscombe Grove, in the shadow of one of the bigger town centre tower developments near East Croydon Station), to draw pictures of a nude model.
When I arrived I found a broad range of people who were happy to let me photograph them and, later, to show me their work.
It was a little strange however, when, while some were setting chairs out in the Sunday school room that Francis had booked, others were covering up the windows with opaque plastic sheeting. It felt as if something transgressive was about to happen.
Three electric fires were put on around a blanket on the floor.
A couch was put together on this. “It’s good to give the model their own space,” explained one of my fellow artists and, at that moment, the model appeared in a black dressing gown, said “Hello.”
And then she wasn’t in a black dressing gown any more.
Sophie held four five-minute poses and then two 10-minute ones, before taking a break to stretch, put her dressing gown back on, and drink tea with the rest of us.
She explained to me that she practised more dramatic poses for short durations but would be lying down for the second session since she had to hold it for an hour and a half.
I asked her if she drew herself, and she said that she liked to when she got the chance.
My lack of practice showed during the second session, but those around me produced some impressive works in a variety of styles and media.
One of the artists, Henry Latin, produced a particularly striking image in pastels.
I am grateful to Henry and to the other artists for their generosity in allowing me to use their work.
The Croydon life drawing class meets on the second and fourth Saturday of each month (less often in summer and only once in December) at the United Reform Church from 9.30am until 12.30pm. Click here for more information.
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