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Life Drawing, but not as we know it....

This is an account of one of the Cecil Collins method life drawing classes I have been participating in at South Coast Studio in Island Bay, Wellington. As JoElle says in the introduction, it is a class that asks you to be mindful and present. It’s both challenging and freeing if you are open to it.

British visionary artist and educator Cecil Collins taught life drawing at the Central School of Art and the City Lit in London for over 30 years from around 1951. He lectured regularly at the Tate and at Dartington Hall in Devon, and also taught painting and his own particular colour theory. A visionary and unorthodox teacher his methods have been kept alive by some of his most dedicated and long-standing students, including Jeremy Gale. Wellington art teacher JoElle Gragilla at South Coast Studio studied under Jeremy’s tutelage for almost 6 years when in London. She has just re-started teaching the Cecil Collins life-drawing methods here in Wellington.



Each class is a bit different, but here's a taster:


We arrive at JoElle’s studio on a Monday afternoon, settle in and centre ourselves by grinding our ink using an ink block and grinding stone. There is a group centering process to bring our energies into connection and settle us. The model chooses her own poses, which are anything from one second to six minutes long, and we work with a repertoire of marks (dots, dashes, short lines, long lines, continuous line, "masculine" energy and "feminine" energy) which we are invited to alternate in order to expand our usual habits and try something new.




We use our fingers, a feather quill, charcoal, conte crayon, pencil or Chinese brush and ink. Again we are invited to alternate between them. The instructions come quickly so we have no time to get stuck in our heads. We use both hands at once, our non-dominant hand often, and even our feet, which was huge fun! We are being invited to relinquish control, to focus on making spontaneous marks, not on producing a “good” drawing.

At certain points we are invited to take deep breaths, to feel the places of tension and weight in the body by taking up the pose of the model with our own bodies. The group begins to feel cohesive and focused and I can feel the energy in the room shifting and changing, becoming incredibly calm and peaceful at one point. This is art from the inside out.



I left feeling energised, calm, and with some drawings that feel in integrity with my energy. I have a long way to go before I capture a true sense of the model’s energy, but this first week was the start of a new art journey that feels freeing and fascinating.






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