INTERVIEW: Lust for Life Drawing | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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When self-taught artist Jonny Lancaster and wife Grace hosted their first Lust For Life Drawing session in a pub’s back room in Darlington, they took the concept of art out of stuffy museums and changed their audience’s perception of life drawing forever. At once uplifting and challenging, the popularity of their sessions quickly grew, and they planned to tour the North East for the first time this year. Having to postpone their plans in the wake of the coronavirus, they suddenly faced an entirely different challenge: how to keep life drawing alive online?

Life drawing – drawing a living being, normally a nude person, in real life – has been practised over the centuries by many renowned artists as a critical part of their artistic development. It is traditionally done in a tutored environment, but discovering a need for an art event that is engaging and free of formalities, the Lancasters created their own version. “We’re unique,” Grace says, “because we’re fast-paced, we’re not tutored, we don’t put any pressure on people and we do it in quite unique venues.”

As promoters of unbounded creativity, attendees do not have to use specific techniques, equipment or listen to lectures; everyone is free to draw as they like. The LFLD sessions open a portal to a liberal era of artistry, as participants draw while serenaded by rock ‘n’ roll classics, taking artists from one pose to the next. Music defines the pace of the sessions, starting off quickly with one song per pose and gradually slowing down towards the end as the number of songs per pose increases.

The LFLD sessions open a portal to a liberal era of artistry, as participants draw while serenaded by rock ‘n’ roll classics

As well as limiting the time artists have to capture the life model’s shapes, their sessions take place in a different venue each month – venues where you would least expect to find naked models. They have hosted sessions in the Darlington Indoor Market, the Head of Steam Railway Museum and the Hippodrome Theatre. Reacting to the current lockdown restrictions has proved challenging; because of the nature of their events it’s hard to recreate digitally, as online sessions can be hacked. “Unlike a musician you cannot say, I’m going to do a Facebook Live and stream to your audience,” Grace explains, “because we’re dealing with naked models and we have to protect them.”

Instead, they created a virtual life drawing pack. In the pack, you receive instructions matched with a playlist that is typical of their sessions; my recent pack included songs by The Cardigans, Elton John and Iggy Pop, alongside a link to a set of poses. Participants are encouraged to follow the guidelines by matching the correct number of songs per pose, making for a refreshing way to indulge in creative self-care.

For their next session in June they’ve invited Brian Ramsey, a semi-finalist in Sky TV’s Arts Landscape Artist of the Year, to do a Line and Wash Workshop on Architecture, which will feature an interactive pack and how-to videos, which will be free to all artists who want to take part (dates of delivery currently TBC).

In a time when we are in need of new forms of escapism, Lust For Life’s Lockdown Drawing sessions are a fantastic way to de-stress and become part of a community that understands the mental bolstering and emotional release creative expression can bring to artists and non-artists alike.

Visit Lust For Life Drawing’s Facebook page to stay up to date with future events

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