By Annie Rew Shaw
As a musician and writer, I’ve always been a pretty creative soul. Art was a subject I loved at school but never seriously pursued, so I was a little nervous to attend my first life drawing class, hosted by Tottenham Art Classes at the Beehive pub. I needn’t have worried; as soon as I walked into the back room of the pub I was warmly greeted by Taz and her husband Tom, who run the classes. They told me to take my pick of art materials and simply take a seat and draw!
I found the class immensely therapeutic – a welcome break from my laptop screen. It was peaceful yet fun, with a surprisingly upbeat music playlist and quick five, ten, twenty minute poses, providing mini challenges and goals to aim for. It was also extremely gratifying… I felt like my technique was improving with each drawing. The model was wonderfully charismatic and striking, the other artists were warm and welcoming and after the class, Taz and I popped out to the beer garden for a drink and chat…
First of all, can you tell me about your connection to Tottenham and how long you’ve been here?
I moved to Tottenham in 2011, just after the riots. It was my first step into living independently – Tottenham was the first home I made for myself. I wanted to make friends with people in the area who had similar interests. Before I started the classes, I started a little social group where people got together and discovered things about the local area. We hung out at least once a month, which was really nice, to feel connected.
I was an arts manager for a charity in Islington – I used to run the gallery spaces, work with artists, curate exhibitions and run classes there. I decided to launch an art class in Tottenham. There was about six months of preparation: scoping out the area, understanding what’s happening, connecting with local groups.
We launched on 14 January 2014 and had over 40 people turn up to our debut class. It was very difficult to get the word out – Tottenham didn’t really have a social media presence at the time so we were putting up posters and flyers. Word travelled. The first night was so lovely; it was packed with such a cross section of the community. Different ages, different backgrounds… it was amazing and gave us such a huge boost, especially as we’d funded it ourselves.
And now you’ve got regulars attending the class every week?
Yeah! I like to think I’m really close with my drawers because I know everybody by their name. I think that’s what sets us apart from everyone else, because we try to make that personal connection. We always stay behind and have drinks. We love taking it to different local venues as well. It’s about keeping the money in the area.
Why do you think people enjoy life drawing classes?
Around here, there’s a sense of loyalty. People do enjoy the drawing, but because we know them, life drawers have turned into friends, so it’s like a social thing every Thursday.
Life drawing is having a bit of a renaissance – everybody’s going crazy about it. It’s a great way to relax.
What’s your favourite part of running the class?
My favourite part is when I meet everyone at the beginning and ask how they’ve been. The social aspect. It’s really nice.
Have you got any other projects on the go?
I’ve started running weekend courses in my free time. In June, we held a new botanical drawing course in Tottenham. We’ve been very lucky with all of our courses to date, as they always sell out very quickly and we manage to attract different audiences. We’ve got a really varied audience for life drawing, then we run a watercolour class on Monday mornings which attracts more retired people. Then weekends bring in a whole new group of people who live in the area. It’s been really nice tapping into the different audiences and getting them to engage in what we do.
The next course we’re doing is botanical painting in August – really looking forward to that. We try to employ local artists and use local venues to keep it in the area. We’ve tried really hard to keep it inclusive – that’s the main focus. Getting people together and letting them enjoy themselves. Making local friends and keeping up with our creative community.