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Indoors and outdoors

David Sawyer – Beddington Park in the snow.

We had a snow day! Suddenly Instagram was filled with images of grown-ups going outdoors with childish glee to revel in the crisp whiteness of it all. Us painters of course grasped it with both gloved hands. The compositional possibilities of having so many light shapes down where we’d usually find the darks cannot be allowed to pass unrecorded. This painting by David Sawyer was painted even as the alarmingly quick thaw was setting in, you can feel the fleeting nature of it.

Charles Patey, living in Norway, is used to snow but confinement, not so much. Whilst stuck indoors he has created this excellent tableau as a paean to his dormant life drawing group, The details are exquisite, do have a close look, the easels are Charles’ own design, we have twenty of them for our pop-up events but I also love the crud on the floor, probably the sort of things artists don’t notice in the way that organisers do! Charles goes back to the early days of this group and now runs a similar organisation in his native Norway.

And founder Alison Packer, who many of you will know from our IRL sessions, is now down in the South of France settling into her space there, which because of quarantine has to be indoors for seven days. She has dug out her watercolours and is beginning to become excited with what she sees around her. Here are some mimosas that caught her eye, and nose. She sends her love.

Confinement can cause reflection and re-evaluation, it’s like we’ve all been put on sabbatical. If all goes well we will find that out of the inactivity, we discover the urgency of new projects to carry us through to the new, clean, fully vaccinated, post Covid world – indoors or outdoors.


Free Masterclass with Erin Raedeke

Free Masterclass with Erin Raedeke is on the 15th February 7.00pm: read more or sign up on this page


Tuesday Evening Freya’s Fast Poses 7.00pm-8.30pm on Zoom


Wet media: splishy, splashy, scritchy, scratchy. Freya will be asking you to get your inks, watercolours and brushes out this evening because yes, you can draw with paints and inks. If you are looking desperately around your home for something that looks like a paintbrush, don’t worry, you can draw along in the spirit of wetness perfectly well with a pencil if that is all you have. Our model is dancer Hannah.

You can join us on Zoom from 6.45pm and get to know us and any other drawers before work commences at 7.00pm.

The cost is £8 but if you can convince us you’re a student we’ll give you a code to get the session for £5: drop us an email.

Click here to book

Wednesday Portraiture 2.00pm-5.00pm on Zoom

Amy will be our portrait model for this week and next. I think the piercing is a thing of the past.

Zoom fee is £15 Please book here

The session fee will be reduced to £12 if you use the discount code PESTE2 at final checkout. This is optional.

Saturday Long Pose Life Drawing 10.00am-1.00pm on Zoom


Rebecca will posing for us this Saturday and next. Rebecca is a dancer and almost always poses with her mouth slightly parted, as in the picture above, which brings a distinct charm to the proceedings.

Zoom fee is £15

Please book here

The Zoom session fee will be reduced to £12 if you use the discount code PESTE2 at final checkout. This is optional.

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A Finny Story

Following the announcement by our Dear Leader it seems that we will be confined to quarters for the foreseeable future. Zoom it is.
We heard mutters about restrictions being slackened by March but we’ve heard that sort of thing before.

What that means for us is that we will be unable to have artists in the studio. This is a great sadness to us, on a personal level we’re not immune to the effects of isolation and at a business level it prolongs a very hard year. We are doing our very best to keep going and we sincerely appreciate your support as we navigate what is going to be a bleak midwinter together.

We can of course help each other. Whilst Zoom is unlikely to be many people’s first choice it is very effective for distance learning and to practise, it adds in technological complexity but you do save on travel time and cost and you are encouraged to establish a home studio practice which is immensely valuable. It may just keep us sane and if our Zoom courses and events are well attended we live to fight another day.

Any teachers out there?

With the schools being closed and online education being a bit patchy it occurred to us that we could support teachers who want to deliver classes to their youngsters but don’t have the space or equipment to do it. If you are a teacher, we could help you set up and deliver some classes from our, now well resourced, digital studio. Email us if that is of interest.

A finny story

Winslow Homer- Casting Number Two

Notes from an idle painters diary

As a naval child I grew up with the chilled brine smashing into my face and fresh mackerel on my plate. Later, as a schoolboy I lived by the gently roiling Thames, bothering gudgeon and bleak in the long summer months. I am no fisherman but I know enough about the routine of casting a line to sense the connection with the inner hunter gatherer in us all. Certainly enough to spin a tenuous creative metaphor.

The thing about fish is you cannot see them. You know they are there, sometimes they even ripple the water just to tease you, but you cannot be sure exactly where or at what depth or which bait or lure will be the one to snag them.

Experience teaches us their habits, the languid pools within which they lurk or their taste in wiggly worms or cheese or fly. Ultimately though we cast our bait where we sense they may be, there is always an element of faith and mystery.

As artists we may find this familiar. We can go through the motions: we prepare our surfaces, our colours, our implements; we try a new pen, sketch from a different angle, look and record but essentially we are casting our line into the creative pond, sure there is something there but unsure as to how to snag it. With the honest application of routine, a little time and patience it may be that we get a bite.

When the fisher girl feels the bite it is sometimes the gentlest of tugs, so delicate that she may feel she has imagined it. If she strikes too soon the fish will flee and the commotion will clear the waters for some time. If she judges it right her line snaps taut and she can feel the shimmering vitality of her quarry, she is awake and in the game. The fish must be played, if too eager the line may break, insufficient tension and the fish will gain the upper hand, all of her skill is required to land her prize.

The artist too can learn to sense that first twitch of the rod, they notice a shape or colour or juxtaposition and feel something rising up within them, a sense of possibility, the vitality of creative energy, a clarity of purpose. Gently now, just aware and curious and then with more certainty. When seen there is no doubt, the game is on. Some will get away: we scrape down, crumple and toss; but when we land a big one we learn where and how, we may well return to that glistering pool again.

To land the prize takes skill, that is a craft. To sense where the big fish play, that is art.

Having said that I think metaphors can be stretched a bit far at times as in this delight from beyond the fringe by Alan Bennet.

Happy New Year.

These courses still have places – hurry, starting this week!

Tuesday Evenings start 5th Jan – Introduction to Painting From Life with Alex Tzavaras
Wednesday Evenings start 6th Jan – Portraiture with Alex Tzavaras
Thursday Mornings start 7th Jan – Landscape with David Sawyer
Monday Evenings start 11th Jan – Introduction to Life Drawing
Thursday Evenings start 14th Jan – Intermediate Life Drawing

Most of our events are accessible from this page.

Tuesday Evening Freya’s Fast Poses 7.00pm-8.30pm on Zoom

Adrian @modbodadrian

“Drawing with flow and non-expectation” is Freya’s theme to commence the New Year with special reference to @arturdornellesferreira

This is creative life drawing where the emphasis is on experimenting and making the marks your body was made to make rather than conforming to someone else’s ideas about what drawing should look like.

You can join us on Zoom from 6.45pm and get to know us and any other drawers before work commences at 7.00pm.

The cost is £8 but if you can convince us you’re a student we’ll give you a code to get the session for £5: drop us an email.

Click here to book

Wednesday Portraiture 2.00pm-5.00pm on Zoom


Vivian is in traditional dress with some pretty punchy colours. She will sit for us this Wednesday to finish the pose she started before Christmas, so do join us to finish your work or, if you were absent before Christmas, pull up a chair and see what you can make of her in three hours.

Zoom fee is £15 Please book here

The session fee will be reduced to £12 if you use the discount code PESTE2 at final checkout.

Saturday Long Pose Life Drawing 10.00am-1.00pm on Zoom


Anna sat for a portrait last year, which we enjoyed and this Saturday she will be giving us a figure pose. She is tall and willowy.

Zoom fee is £15, in-studio fee varies.

Please book here

The Zoom session fee will be reduced to £12 if you use the discount code PESTE2 at final checkout.

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Planning in a Pandemic

Planning in a Pandemic

Agata Smolska – still life study with grey and brown, from a class with Clare Haward

We are in that curious liminal space between Christmas and New Year, nothing left of last year and not yet the next; like when walking the shore between the tides we find the flotsam and fragments of previous projects and the space to imagine the new.

I was once lucky enough to work for a Japanese company that saw this period as the perfect time for a thorough stocktake and rather than going for bracing walks and eating hearty food would spend their time in the warehouse sifting through dusty boxes. I was even invited to join them.

Whilst I’m much more of a bracing walks kind of person, taking stock is a sensible endeavour, and now, as the days grow longer and a sense of new beginnings is in the air; it seems a natural thing to do.

Planning is best done with both the head and the heart, it is the head which conducts the stocktake and structural projection but it is the heart that brings the energy for the new. As artists, we are great at anything is possible style creative thinking but not always the best at the thoughtful review of practicalities. With a new beginning we have to start from where we are, so this time, here, now, is the time to have an unsentimental unpacking of all that we are, throw it out on the floor and have a good look. When we can clearly see where we are, the next step becomes easier to discern and our plans have a better chance of being realistic.

Planning in a time of plague

We may have our hopes for the New Year but by Jiminy, the virus and it’s new strains have scuppered some of them! Whilst the schools are shut we have to be too. Whilst international travel is so complicated we’re holding off on overseas painting trips (although we have the end of April pencilled in). However, our brilliant tutors have worked out how best to support you remotely and the results they are getting are amazing. We will also continue to run life drawing and painting sessions using Zoom starting on Tuesday the 5th Jan and keep our fingers crossed for the future.

We hope that Christmas has warmed your heart and that we’ll see you somewhere in our New Year.

These courses have space available:

Tuesday Evenings start 5th Jan – Introduction to Painting From Life with Alex Tzavaras
Wednesday Evenings start 6th Jan – Portraiture with Alex Tzavaras
Thursday Mornings start 7th Jan – Landscape with David Sawyer
Thursday Evenings start 7th Jan – Intermediate Life Drawing
Monday Evenings start 11th Jan – Introduction to Life Drawing

Zoom sessions:

Tuesdays Freya’s Fast Poses restart on the 5th January at 6.45pm for 7.00pm on zoom – book here
Wednesday portraiture sessions start again on 6th January at 2pm – book here
Saturday morning life drawing and painting starts on 9th January at 10am – Book here.

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Why the Big Reset needs us artists

The Big Reset.

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin – Water Glass and Jug

It should be clear by now that nothing will ever be the same again. Even after we’ve been inoculated beyond belief we will be addicted to online shopping and suspicious of people who want to go outdoors. There won’t be anything worth going outdoors for of course, all the decent shops, pubs and restaurants will have disappeared. Our employers, if we are lucky enough to have them, will be saving a fortune not having to waste money on expensive offices but to be honest, unless you work for the government, Google or Amazon, you probably won’t have a job.

So maybe now is a good time to be an artist. Artists don’t have employers, not just because some of them are unemployable; but they have scant regard for authority and little time for rules. Whilst they may get paid for the work they do, in an ideal world they don’t work to get paid. Artists work to a deeper rhythm, the shapes they make reflect their inner truth, the greater the verity the more likely the artifacts will affect others. And now is definitely a good time to be making things that reflect truth.

We live in frisky times, when change occurs the outcome is never certain. Those who have purpose and position, playing with geopolitics; they need us to remind them of what is true: those with their noses buried in their bank balances need artists to remind them of what is important and substantial and those who drudge need art to remind them of their own truth.

Artists have an innate ability to discover rightness and when they achieve harmony in their own work, in a small way they affect others and adjust the rightness of the universe.

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Will you be feeling a little prick in the New Year?

Will you be feeling a little prick in the New Year?

Will you be feeling a little prick in the New Year? It appears that those lovely people at big pharma have managed to pull a golden rabbit out of the hat of our broken lives. Good for them. And good for us if it means we can get back to rebuilding our relationships and businesses. I feel I should be cracking open the champagne but there is a weariness which I’m sure will pass.

We know that those of you who come to our studio to study painting or drawing from life are nourished by the presence of other artists. Like many creatives, I find that time alone is fertile ground but by all that is sweet, the company of others is a fillip to existence and a spur to the production of art. Humanity is the inoculation we all need: a heroic dose of human company would set us all straight. Before we can take this best of all medicines though, it seems we’ll be witnessing another world beating roll out; wouldn’t it be nice if this time it went without a hitch?

It is hard not to be cynical having lived through the last few months, part of me thinks the whole thing is massively overblown and then the other part meets someone who has lost more than one member of their family and then I am thoughtful.

At least now we can tentatively plan for the New Year – our twice cancelled painting trip to Provence looks like it will happen precisely one year late and now we’ve sorted out how to run a Covid Safe studio with digital streaming we’ll be able to use it more thoroughly, with or without the PVC screens.

If the notion of the vaccination causes you to think forward, our courses are beginning to fill up for next year. If you are already painting with Clare Haward, Alex Tzavaras or David Sawyer and want to continue next term it is a good idea to sign up now, before we start to promote them, to secure your place. Most of our courses are accessible from this page.

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What lies beyond the doors of uncertainty?

This is a drawing by Kate Langley from last Tuesday’s Fast Drawing group, it’s a great drawing but what is also notable is the way Kate has embraced the anarchy of the exercise and worked with the random marks produced. Here’s what she says on Instagram:

“Last night was my first Fast Drawing Class @dulwichartgroup – and what a rollercoaster it was!
We were told to use our left hand to apply a wash of watercolour or ink to suggest contours, then use our right hand to define areas with pen, charcoal etc. Oh, did I mention the model moved (albeit slowly) all the time??! So, if you click through the 6 sketches you’ll probably think I was at some sort of orgy/depicting the ascent of (wo) Man/ at a murder scene or meeting Quasimodo!!

At first I hated it – I am too competitive – but gradually hysteria set in and it was soo liberating, in a mad way! I even like my first attempt (6) best. Thanks to Simon and dancer Lorea for their patience and good humour.”

It also shows what value we can get from working on Zoom during Lockdown. Not many of us would choose to work this way (some do) but as a way of pushing ourselves and our art it definitely works.

Kate is an experienced artist who understands that we are best rewarded if we constantly nudge at the doors of uncertainty. If you have a little less experience and want to learn more about how to draw the human figure think about joining our:

Introduction to Life Drawing

This is a ten week course on Thursday evenings between 6.30-8.30pm delivered by Daisy Perkins. It takes you from the absolute basics, from how to hold your pencil through to proportional drawing with tone (shading). It is a lightning tour of a range of methods used by many artists. Our philosophy is that we show you a whole toolbox of approaches and encourage you to press on with the ones that work for you.

It’s probably the most thorough short course in drawing available and at the moment it is delivered entirely on-line. The next term starts on January 7th, the class size is limited so that we can give you personal attention so now is a good time to sign up. Read more here

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What if we make our drawing about the excitement of seeing?

One of Rodin’s fluid life drawings

You may wonder why it is that we’ve been pushing creative drawing recently on our short pose life drawing sessions.

We know we can teach you to draw accurately, we know that we can show you how to control proportion and value to describe form convincingly, it takes time and effort but there is no intrinsic mystery. At one level it is a craft, you should be able to learn observational drawing in the same way you learn dressmaking or sailing.

However there are moments along our path as artists where we discover that what we are doing may tick the accuracy box but lacks excitement. It seems that all of the certainty we have put in place, through learning the rules of draughtsmanship, can constrain us as much as supporting us.

Nothing stays still, everything to do with life, love and creativity is in a constant state of becoming, it breathes and it changes, so it follows that every now and then we may benefit from changing the way we approach drawing.

What happens if we make our drawing about something other than optical or dimensional accuracy? If we make our drawings about the very excitement of seeing, our very own and personal joy of perception; what are we now drawing? What if we focus only on the elements of what we see that have meaning for us, that move us individually, that we alone feel?

Our short pose sessions on Monday and Tuesday evenings look at this dimension and each week we suggest pranks and stratagems for foxing that aspect of ourselves that likes to constrain: playful approaches that encourage us to reengage with our simple and authentic creative voice.

If you are thinking of joining us on Monday Bad Drawing or Tuesday Fast Poses this week could you make sure to have at least two drawing things, one that will make big spludgy marks, say a big brush and some ink or watercolour or chalks or a rag and pigment; and one that will make a distinct line like a pen or pencil? Ta.

Mermaid Chunky new Album Vest

Fans of Freya may have noticed she’s been a bit away lately, that’s because she has been working hard to deliver her new album as part of Mermaid Chunky. You can listen to snatches of it here and buy the album (recommended) to add some strangeness and charm to your life.