For artists looking for a relaxed, judgment-free environment to practice their drawing skills, consider dropping by The Creative Artillery in Tay Ho on Monday nights from 7pm to 9pm for one of Hanoi Life Drawing Society’s (HLDS) weekly life drawing sessions.
For VND200,000, artists partake in a two-hour class featuring about 20 different poses from live models. Materials and the occasional cup of wine are also included. The class is open to anyone looking to hone their skills or dabble in a new hobby, amateurs and professionals alike.
Coordinator Liz Vorster keeps classes interesting by introducing new models each week and asking them to get creative with the types of poses they do. A mix of short gesture poses and longer 10 or 20-minute poses are always on the agenda, but occasional surprises like live storytelling, unexpected costumes, or impromptu yoga are also not uncommon. Even pets have been known to make modelling appearances.
The Creative Artillery, which is located on the ground floor of Hanoi Rock City, shares a venue with a bar and a dance floor. During the weekend, the space is bustling with people, but once Monday night rolls around, a quiet stillness emerges. Ambient music and the sound of pencils scratching paper are the only noises that materialise out of The Creative Artillery as artists concentrate on their work.
In addition to weekly classes at The Creative Artillery, HLDS also occasionally hosts events at other locations in Hanoi such as the Secret Garden in Tay Ho or The Painter’s Studio in Ba Dinh. Less formal drawing sessions also take place at artists’ homes or studios from time to time for even more intimate experiences.
HLDS also plans to host an event at Quest Festival this fall, which will be free for all festival-goers. Models will pose as different characters in eccentric costumes for artists to draw and interpret. To stay updated about when and where HLDS events take place, follow their posts on Facebook.
HLDS’s classes are distinctive because, unlike conventional life drawing classes, models are as much a part of the creative process as the artists. Vorster encourages models to tell their personal stories either verbally or through props during the classes, which adds an element of performance art to the drawing sessions. For example, one model who had just returned from a long trip through India brought her backpack and her ukulele with her while she modelled. As she posed, she told stories of where she’d been and how material possessions do not equate to happiness.
These models are not necessarily professionals or even experienced, but it doesn’t matter because this group of artists would rather see personality than perfection in their subjects. After the sessions, Vorster likes to ask models to reflect on their experiences. One model explained the experience as such: “Intrigued, exposed and fulfilled… a bucket list experience,” and another said, “This was truly an unforgettable life experience of pure liberation. Seeing each artists’ perception of my body was majestic.”
Artists are also encouraged to reflect on their experiences in the class. One artist wrote, “When I am life drawing, I get lost in my own state of mind. Love and lust, masculinity and femininity, identity and individuality.” Another said: “Life drawing not only lets you immerse yourself in the beauty of nature, but it also encourages you to abstract your impressions, break the lines, and be aware of your own creative reservoir.”
PHOTOS BY JEFFREY STRETTON-BELL