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Rediscover your childhood creative self

Charcoal and Champage pop-up social life-drawing classes are billed as 'an opportunity for grown-ups, who may have strayed from their childhood creative selves, to rediscover what it feels like to be an artist whilst confronting their hesitations of drawing the human form ... armed with charcoal in one hand, and a glass of bubbly in the other.'

Aneta opening the champagne

Equally as bubbly is Aneta Wnek, the creator and facilitator of the monthly classes. Aneta asks participants to arrive an hour before the class starts for champagne and delicious nibblies so everyone has an opportunity to get to know each other. She also hands out hand-made name badges so you don't forget anyone's name.

A delicious range of nibblies is provided.

The classes are limited to eleven people, and the night I went there were nine of us including one male. Everyone was friendly and I discovered that we were a very multicultural group; Aneta was born in Poland and came to Australia at the age of eight, and the rest of the group comprised two South Africans, three Brits, one Ukrainian, one Russian, one New Zealander and, last but not least … one Australian. The life model also arrived early, made herself a cup of tea and chatted to us before getting down to work.

Before we knew it, our socialising hour was up and it was time to watch a short video about 'Lifelines', another of graphic designer Aneta's projects. 'Lifelines' grew out of Aneta's passion for drawing portraits of individuals she meets serendipitously around the world, and inspired her to start the Charcoal and Champagne life drawing classes. The video provides context to the classes and illustrates (excuse the pun) Aneta's love of life drawing.

Then, once everyone was armed with a clipboard, ten sheets of paper and charcoal, the class began. Aneta creates a safe and relaxed space for people to rediscover their artist within. Throughout the night, she encourages participants to challenge themselves and try something different while having fun. "I started the Charcoal and Champagne classes because I wanted to give people a chance to become vulnerable and challenge them to step outside their comfort zone," Aneta said. "My philosophy is that the more wrong it is the better, because it means you're trying something new."

Drawing exercises. . Photo by Aneta Wnek

We started off with a ten minute drawing with no instruction, followed by a series of three minute drawings experimenting with a variety of techniques. These included keeping the pencil on the page and drawing without looking down, translating the body into geometrical shapes, exaggerating something about the body, and drawing only the shadows on the body. The class finished with another ten minute drawing with no instruction to compare with the first one. Throughout the night an eclectic playlist of background music, ranging from disco to tango, accompanied us as we sketched.

Translating the body into geometrical shapes. Photo by Aneta Wnek

Life drawing is about learning to observe; to see the real person. I found the exercises made me look at the model more objectively and not draw her how I thought a body should look. My favourite sketch came out of the challenge to exaggerate something. Surprisingly, what I thought was an exaggerated foot looked perfectly normal in the finished drawing.

Initially people were reticent about showing their sketches to each other after every challenge, but we soon realised there were no Michelangelos among us and we didn't need to feel shy as we were all in this together.

The drawing component took about two hours but the time flew. At the end of the class, everyone laid their ten sketches on the floor in groups of three and had an opportunity to talk about their experience and get positive feedback about their work. Everybody had shown some improvement in their drawing from the first to the last picture. Aneta takes photos throughout the class and at the end you pick your favourite sketch from your own work to pose with for a final photo.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the Charcoal and Champagne class and can recommend it for all levels of experience. It is rare to get an opportunity to do life drawing for fun and I certainly learnt something from it.

People who have done the beginner's class can join a Facebook alumni page and, in the future, Aneta is hoping offer a four week advanced course for those who are interested.

Pop up Charcoal and Champagne social life-drawing classes are held pop-up locations around Perth. The next one is on 25 June and early bird tickets, available until 8 June, are $65 (plus booking fee). You can buy tickets here. Aneta can also organise private Charcoal and Champagne life drawing classes for eight or more clients.

Cate W. was a guest of Charcoal and Champagne.

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