November's birthday experience was to attend a life drawing class with artist Rachel Clark. I travelled down to London by train and spent the night in a hotel near to where Rachel has her studio so that I could be up early and at the studio ready to start.
This experience was full of 'firsts' for me. It was the first time I'd had tuition from a proper artist, the first time I'd worked with charcoal, the first time I'd used an easel and the first time I'd had a live model 'sit' for me. I think I was most nervous about the latter - I wasn't sure what it would be like for either me or the model to have me staring at her naked body and drawing her. I did not need to worry - Rachel made the whole experience really natural and calm - the model was amazing, not a hint of any concern about being naked in front of people and her ease with the situation put me totally at ease too.
We started with some 5 minute drawings then moved to a whole series of 1 minute sketches. On Rachel's instruction the model would move and take up a new position. All the while we were drawing Rachel moved round the room helping us (there were about 6 other artists there). We then went back to 5 minute drawings which now seemed really long in comparison. Before lunch we had a 20 minute pose to draw in more detail.
Lunch was a wander over to Tescos with some of the other artists to buy a sandwich then it was back to work in the studio.
In the afternoon we did a much longer pose with the model seated. I found that I much prefered the short sketches when working with charcoal and surprisingly was not as happy with my longer pieces of work.
Time flew past - being absorbed in the drawing with lovely calming music on in the background. No-one was judgemental about anyone's work and I began to relax and not worry about doing my best drawing but instead tried to be a bit more uninhibited - I soon realised that my less careful work produced better results than trying to be perfect and get every line in the right place. Rachel did say that the day was not about producing a finished piece but that it was about learning new technique and trying new things. She said that there was a good chance we would not like anything that we drew and not to worry if that was the case. I certainly wasn't happy with my longer drawings but I'm quite pleased with some of the short sketches I managed to do. Here is a selection of the work I did, the first, a one minute sketch is probably my favourite...