Debra Urbacz grabs her pencil and sketches the disrobed….
This issue’s article comes to you from the serene scene that is inhabited by Beeston Canal Heritage Centre. Steeped in nature, it is the perfect backdrop for the life drawing classes, that are currently running in the beautifully renovated studio room upstairs, within the old lock keeper’s cottages. I have been itching to get to one of these classes since they started three weeks ago and finally made it this week, and thought I would share the experience. When I arrive, the room is quiet and gently lit by tiny spotlight stars. It is my first time at the class and I am more than a little apprehensive as it is a very long time since I had done any ‘real’ drawing. I felt a little under the spotlight.
However, it was a small friendly group that greeted me and I was introduced to a host of smiling faces. I already knew Janet who was running the class from the ABC Arts Trail and seeing her artwork displayed locally. She explained that this was an informal class, with a break in the middle for tea and cake. This and the relaxed atmosphere quickly put me at ease. I picked up my 6B pencil, and a sheet of the paper that was provided, ready for my first challenge.
I wasn’t quite prepared for how swiftly one minute speeds by when you are trying to replicate a human being on paper but my first sketch consisted of a shoulder and part of an arm. I persevered though, and by the time I got to my last sketch in the ‘quick fire round’ I had progressed to achieving a little bit more. The ten-minute sketches were better, although I seemed to do a lot more rubbing out than any of my companions. I was pleased to see that my hands were beginning to get into the groove again.
At the break, the conversation was free flowing and despite the fact we had just spent the last hour peering intensely at a naked person, there was no awkwardness at all. After all when you are so deeply immersed in nature, what could be more natural than the human form with all its graceful dips and curves? I was a little bit in awe of the model. Always a failure at musical statues myself, I had to ask how she kept her composure and held the poses for longer periods. “What do you think about, where does your head go?” I tentatively ask. Well dear reader, I am not sure what I was expecting but can tell you the answer was that this model amusingly distracts herself with hearty numbers from the Monty Python musical ‘Spamalot.’ Well why not!?
The second half of the class seemed to go much more quickly. I became thoroughly absorbed in producing at least one decent drawing and was surprised to find that I had not yet glanced at anyone else’s work, nor had they at mine. The lady next to me was using rainbow pastels, from a stash in a box near her feet, and I admired the effect she had created with the small strokes of colour. Happy to remaster the pencil I set to work drawing the prone figure on the floor, paying particular attention to posture and proportions. The extremities provided the most challenge for me and I must have drawn her hands five or six times! I spent the time I had left at the end practising drawing the model’s feet.
The end of the session was as easy as the beginning. As the final timer sounded, Janet informed us that it was the end and we packed away. I complimented my neighbour on her work and rolled mine up to pop in my bag ready for the cycle ride home. I was pleased with my efforts but relieved we did not have to share them with the rest of the group as I had done back in my college days. Instead, I wandered around the cosy space to take a closer look at the Beeston Snappers’ photography exhibition, a series of photographs which have captured what were the old cottages in their derelict state before renovation.
What they have achieved with those cottages has to be seen to be believed. Retaining many of the original features, the rooms feel bright and spacious. With a café and gift shop downstairs and plenty of outdoor space, the centre invites you to stay a while and bathe yourself in calm. Perhaps it is its proximity to the canal but the air of tranquillity will certainly be pulling me back for a visit.
The Life Drawing Classes are currently running on Wednesday evening for two hours from 7:30 pm. There is no need to book and it is just £8 per session with refreshments and art materials provided. Contact Canalside Heritage Centre by email via their website www. canalsideheritagecentre.org.uk, on Facebook or by phone on 0115 922 1773 for information about all of their classes and events.
The Lock Keeper’s Cottages Exhibition features the work of four different local photographers, Sara Gaynor, Lynne Norker, Jenny Langran, Catherine Smith and is on display until the end of August.