By Garth Laidlaw
A little over five years ago, my dad and I decided to start our own figure drawing sessions out of my parents’ home on Tiffany Street near downtown Guelph. When the six-week session we had been attending at The Guelph School of Art ended, we felt that the stopwatch of decline would begin on our drawing skills and would only revive when the next six-week figure drawing class began in the following season. Eventually we decided to try running our own figure drawing sessions on a consistent basis and make it a drop-in so that if anyone felt the spontaneous urge to draw, they could.
Me in the foreground. This is a busier night! (all images courtesy of Garth Laidlaw)
At first, it was a pretty humble affair. Now, it’s still a humble affair! This is part of the magic of it. There were many times when we thought of expanding into a bigger space, to allow more participants so that we could make it cheaper for everyone. However, we realized that it’s actually a rare opportunity to be able to sit in someone’s living room and participate. It’s cozy, warm, and you might have to share a couch with a stranger. Our venue is conducive to meeting new people and sharing ideas or advice. I believe that the way our drawing sessions work is rewarding and fun particularly because one shares the space with different people each time.
My dad, who runs the figure drawing with me, painting away.
When we began our drawing sessions, we wanted to ensure that our models would be fairly paid. My dad and I decided from the beginning that if it wasn’t going to be financially sustainable, we weren’t going to do it.
We have managed to keep it relatively sustainable and consistently active for about five-and-a-half years at the time of this article. Another rule that I’ve kept in my back pocket is that if it’s not fun, we shouldn’t do it. Which leads me to this question I often get from others:
“Why try figure drawing?”
It’s a good question. Here’s a simple list:
Finding focus: in a fresh and dedicated setting, many find it meditational – a counterbalance to our bustling, busy-minded culture.
Making friends: a nice community of people to keep up with, and see around town
Working side-by-side: It feels good to be united with others who came with the same intent – to capture some essence of the pose that the model gives us.
Sharing ideas and stories: from art and music to the news, you might leave with a list of things you’re excited to look up.
Baked treats: We have treats at break baked by my mother!
Escape from daily worries: You temporarily don’t have to worry about anything else. As an advocate of mono-tasking, this ranks highly as one of my favourite reasons.
Rocky therapy: Our 12-year-old Corgi, named Rocky, is basically our figure drawing mascot, and he puts a smile on many a face.
These are just some of the reasons why I like figure drawing. I hope what it communicates is that there is so much beyond just the drawing. I mentioned many times the ‘artists’ who attend our Tuesday sessions, but I use that term inclusively. Anyone who comes out is participating in the act of ‘artmaking’ and is therefore an artist. Most of our participants are beginners. I encourage anyone to come and try it once or twice. If you like the experience, you can buy a 5- or 10-session punch card, to use whenever you feel like it.