“Do you think we’ll have to draw a girl or a guy?” I asked Carla as we walked down Regent Street towards our life drawing class. “Because I’m not sure if I can stare at balls for a solid hour.”
We were headed for Sketch London, a wonderfully whimsical cluster of ‘destination’ bars and restaurants, including the extravagantly wallpapered Glade restaurant and the Gallery, a ‘gastro-brasserie’ designed by Turner Prize winner Martin Creed. Aside from its eclectic décor, the place is famous for its afternoon teas and unique lavatory concept (!), which I was really looking forward to, er, pissing on.
But we weren’t going to sip rare teas from china teacups or drop a packet in the two-Michelin starred Lecture Room restaurant. We were there to draw naked people in the Parlour, which extends its usual offering of cocktails and fancy sandwiches to life drawing classes every Sunday evening. I went with Carla Juniper, who has a degree in art and has therefore drawn more dicks than I’ve had hot dinners. I, by contrast, had never drawn so much as a nipple in my entire life.
I was a bit nervous. I mean, we’re all grown-ups, and God knows we’ve all seen the human body in all its wobbly glory any number of times, but what if I got the giggles? Or upset the model by drawing them unflatteringly?
We took our places on the Parlour stage, which sits at the top of a room stuffed with mismatching furniture and chintzy fabrics. Our paper was provided for us – along with a glass of the house wine, otherwise £6.50 – for a tenner. A tenner! You can barely buy a Freddo bar for that any more. Carla had brought along her posh crayons, but other people were doing just fine with the pencils and charcoal provided.
At 8pm our model appeared, dropped her robe and draped herself over the Louis XIV-style chair the tutor had placed in the middle. Nobody batted an eyelid, not even any of the people just sitting in the bar for a drink. Which is remarkable, because the life model was an absolute knock-out. I’d be lying around on chaise-lounges for money too if I looked like her.
The model switched poses every five minutes for the first half hour, and then did three longer ones for the second half. I ballsed up a couple of times, but a few turned out okay. Occasionally I’d sit back to admire my work, only to glance over at Carla’s (significantly better) version. I made a mental note to bring along someone really shit the next time.
I’m no artist, but I found the whole experience surprisingly therapeutic – the perfect way to wind down after a busy weekend. It’s also really fucking cheap. (Making it almost too good to share. But I have anyway, so get yourself booked in.)
For prudes and juveniles, fear not: it was remarkable how normal a naked woman in the middle of a bar became. Within seconds you stop focusing on the tits and arse and just concentrate on drawing the lines.
A couple of glasses of wine and a good sheaf of paper later, we collected our things to go. But first we needed to visit the famous facilities. Which I can say with absolute certainty are the coolest lavs I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. It was like taking a leak inside a giant egg.
We visited Sketch London for its weekly life drawing class in the Parlour, which lasts around 90 minutes. It costs £10, which includes a glass of house wine and materials. Places book up quickly and are limited to thirteen per session, so get in early. You can reserve a spot with Clea, who can be reached at email@example.com. More details about Sketch can be found on their website.
Sketch lives at 9 Conduit Street, London W1S 2XG, closest to Oxford Circus station.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.