They run weekly drop-in life drawing classes for all abilities at their studio Brighton, alongside a range of tutored drawing and printmaking courses. There’s even online classes for their international drawing community, via the Draw Patreon where you’ll find an extensive reference image archive, live online life-drawing and portrait drawing classes, instructional videos and discounts for in-person sessions.
Draw Brighton’s Jake Spicer says he started the community because he wanted to meet other artist in the city. “From the start it was about bringing people together. We were only been able to expand it through the art work of the amazing artists, models and tutors here in Brighton and we were only able to continue it post-lockdown through the strength of our international online community. Drawing should be for everybody, and through making and creating together we find common ground with people of different ages and different backgrounds.”
Spicer started with ‘The Brighton Life Drawing Sessions’ – a weekly drop-in life class held in the corner of a small studio in Brighton’s New England House, which was shared with a seamstress and fledgling graphic design studio The Entente/Colophon. In 2011 he partnered with Shelley Morrow to create Draw and expanded into a dedicated studio running daily life classes. Inevitably, 2020 meant activities had to move online, but it helped them create an international drawing community through their online life classes, tutorial videos and photo-reference.
In 2021, money was raised for a new, larger studio in New England House, which brings together lithography facilities into the space and welcomes in-person sessions to run alongside the virtual programme. Now, this loose collective of 50 freelance artists, tutors and life models are all playing their part in a mission to get Brighton & Hove, and the world, drawing.
Everything is centred on three guiding principles: To provide flexible and affordable drawing education, open to everybody, to provide fairly-paid creative work to artists and models and to provide a space for collaboration and creation.
“We all drew and painted as children, so once we all knew that we could draw,” says Spicer. “Adulthood just makes us forget what we are capable of when we let ourselves explore our own creativity. Although it’s true that some people start off with a degree of natural talent, everybody can learn to draw with a little practice. When you start drawing again, you’ll pick up from where you left off, so if you were 12 when you last drew, your drawings will look like a 12-year old’s drawings and that’s ok – everybody improves with practice.” He says he’s never met anybody who can’t learn to draw with some support and a little encouragement. And this is exactly what participants will find in a drawing session. After all, every experienced artist once started as a nervous beginner themselves.
Alongside Draw Brighton’s weekly online and in-person drawing sessions, there’s plenty of special events taking place in the next few weeks. Every Tuesday (6:30 – 8:30pm) Portrait Club comes to Brighton’s Open House pub. This welcoming and free drop-in session for all abilities sees attendees take it in turn to pose and draw one another.
On Sat 25 Feb (1 – 3pm), the Drawversity Figure Drawing comes to the Draw Studio in New England House (£12/£9). This figure-drawing session is part of programme started in 2019 by Draw tutor Jade Hylton to make life drawing more accessible to models & artists of colour.
Tutored Life Drawing Draw Studio, heading to New England House on Sat 11 – Sun 12 March (10am – 4pm), is a fully-tutored life drawing workshop run by Spicer. (£180/£150)
Draw Brighton receive no external funding and re-invest all of their profits back into studio improvements and into projects which support artists across Brighton & Hove. If cost is a barrier to attending any classes at Draw, they encourage you to get in touch with them, so they can ensure you are able to access sessions at an affordable price.
Spicer says human beings are animals that make things, but we’ve arrived at a strange part in our history where we can go through life without having to exercise that innate inclination. “We don’t have to make our own furniture, our own clothes or even our own food if we don’t want to, but making is an itch we need to scratch. I wouldn’t just say that art is beneficial, but that not having an outlet for our creative impulses is harmful to us as individuals and as a society. Art-making in any form allows us to explore and respond to the world around us – it needn’t be a high-minded cultural activity, but in my view it is an essential part of human experience.”
With a wide range of abilities and styles across the Draw Brighton community, it’s clear there isn’t a right or wrong way to create art. “It’s always important to begin with an attitude of play,” says Spicer. “At first you have to find a medium and learn to love using it. Through experimenting with paint, or charcoal, or graphite you discover qualities in your medium, in the ideas in your own head or in observations of the world around you that you want to explore more deeply.
“That playful curiosity kindles a desire to see more or say more through drawing or painting or printmaking and before you know it you don’t just want to make art, you need to. Right and wrong doesn’t come into it, it’s about giving yourself permission to start to explore what you are capable of.”