An Inside Look at Newcastle’s The Drawing Room
We can be so quick to declare we can’t do something. Five weeks ago, I was positively convinced I couldn’t draw but that was before I did the most quintessential of all Australian things and just gave it a go. It is comfortably seated in an armchair, sipping a glass of wine that, a few weeks ago, I started the long process of “opening up the right side of my brain” to unleash it onto the pages of a drawing pad.
In a culture which frowns upon making mistakes, the free spirited side of our brains can feel about as flexible as a pair of tight hamstrings attempting to do the splits. Gentle probing and remembering to breathe will soften our brains and bodies over time (yes, it takes time) but if one is armed with patience and a few bits of charcoal, the journey itself is one of liberation and discoveries.
Offering 5 week long beginner’s classes, as well as the more advanced Tuesday night sessions, The Drawing Room at the Royal Exchange in Newcastle is the perfect place to get in touch with the other side of your brain but beware, you may never switch back.
The Beginner’s class gives even the most novice amongst us a chance to get a taste of drawing or to brush up on basics. Guided by the expertise and fabulously positive encouragements of our ‘teacher’ Ann Caddey, and seeking inspiration from Gauguin, Chagall or Picasso, our class has been exploring all sorts of techniques from blind contours to left handed drawings, using pencil, charcoal or pastels, in an effort to capture the essence of the sometimes languid or dynamic poses of a range of talented male and female models.
Starting with a series of quick gestural sketches and slowly working our way into longer poses, each session focuses on a particular facet of life drawing. With the support of inspirational slideshows, where the works of the Masters are intertwined (surprisingly seamlessly) with the drawings of amateurs, as well as Ann’s invaluable guidance, topics like the proportions of the human form, using tone and color, drawing hands and feet are explored in just enough depth to provide us with the tools to achieve some form of self-expression.
For those who are keen to apply these newly learnt techniques in a more informal setting, the Tuesday night sessions are the perfect way to get right into it, surrounded by some incredibly talented Artists. Inspired by “Dr. Sketchy’s” in Sydney, the Tuesday sessions distinguish themselves from the traditional life drawing format. From a Klimt inspired night to Burlesque or Degas’ ballerinas, in an intimate boudoir style setting, a range of models and performers use costumes and props to channel their inner muse, while the slideshow and music set the tone of each particular theme.
As Ann transforms from ‘teacher’ to Master of Ceremony, so do the ‘students’ into Artists. Within the four walls of the Drawing Room, the outside world stops to matter and one can let go and get lost in the light and shade of the models’ graceful bodies, only brought back to the surface, always too soon, by the timer marking the end of each pose.
While it is unlikely I will become the new Edward Hopper or Frida Kahlo, there is strength to be found in embracing the mistakes, the wrong, the ugly, as well as the small miracles that seem to appear on the page out of nowhere. Over the last 5 weeks, I have filled dozens of pages with more or less successful attempts. I have made drawings I hope will never be seen and others I will proudly show my friends but most importantly, I am learning that “If you think you can’t, you’re right. If you think you can, you’re right.”
Beginners life classes, Mondays, 7:30 - 9:30pm
Advanced drawing, performers & models, 6:30 - 9pm, $20 including a glass of wine