Silly Life Drawing

When I started this project I knew I’d need something really ‘out there’ to get the group to draw. Sit down drawing sessions have never worked with our group, and I get it, it’s too much like school, so I knew I needed to think outside the box.

I’ve always seen life drawing as a key element in an artists’ arsenal, it kind of rockets your drawing skills to the next level, all that practicing form and looking at shape and shade. I knew I wanted to introduce it to the group but I didn’t know how to make it look appealing to a group of teens. Then I found the costumes. Hidden in a box in the Sewing Room at PiNC were the craziest, silliest, sparkliest, most amazing clothes you’ve ever seen. So I decided to give it a try.

Silly Life Drawing works by one person getting dressed up in the Sewing Room in whatever crazy combination of garments that they fancy, stomping through to the Art Room, where we’ve set up an interesting backdrop, sitting down on a fancy chair and striking a pose for the group to draw, with a timer being set for 5-10 minutes. The group absolutely loved it, it was loads of fun for everyone involved and we got some amazing drawings out of it.

The session worked really well, and I was really pleased and vowed to run the session again (which I subsequently did over the next few months) but what I loved most about the session was that the group added their own ideas into the mix to make it even better. As an illustrator I’d concentrated on the drawing aspect of the session more than anything else, the costumes to me were just an interesting thing to draw. But to the group they were everything. Each person who got dressed up had two stylists with them to help put the outfit together, and when they were ready they had a ‘grand entrance’ to the Art Room in their outfit, which involved an announcement, several paparazzi and cheers from the crowd. I just didn’t expect everyone to be so supportive and celebrate each other like that. I think activities like this really bring people together, and allow different sides of people to come out, even the silly side. The group really loved the performance aspect of the session, which I hadn’t anticipated at all.

The best thing to come out of Silly Life Drawing though, was the ability for the young people to explore gender and be playful with it whilst being in a safe space. This is absolutely invaluable to young LGBTQIA+ people, and why safe spaces like this project need to exist to provide opportunities for exploration like this. This is why the cheers when people came into the room were extra loud – because we know that if this was happening outside of this room there would be judgement and hate, and all of those things don’t have to exist in here. And that is so so powerful.

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