This week I have been making time to revisit old passions at 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 in the old lock keeper’s cottages.
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 was 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 quite one minute speeds by when you are trying to replicate a human being on paper but my first sketch consisted if 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 minutes 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 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.
“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 that the answer was that this model amusingly distracts herself with hearty numbers from the Monty Python musical ‘Spamalot.’ And why the hell not?! Although I think it might make me giggle.
The second half of the class seemed to go much quicker. I became thoroughly absorbed in producing at least one decent drawing and was surprised to find that I had not glanced at anyone else’s work. The lady next to me was using coloured pastels and I loved 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. 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.
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 much of the original features, the rooms feels 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. I might put some practice in before my next class though.
Until next week
find your tranquil place