Naked people. Paint. Bevvies.
Now that we’ve got your attention, look here. It’s a big irony, but the two commonest misconceptions about life drawing are completely contrary to one another. The first says it's a low, seedy business. The second believes it’s the preserve of snooty, high-minded art nerds who would laugh a newbie sketcher back out the door of the WI hall. Both views, it turns out, are utter nonsense.
The inclusivity of this clean, fun, and cheap pastime has never been greater. We’ve surveyed a handful of London’s innumerable groups — some of which have taken this ancient practice in quirky new directions, some offering more tuition than others, some 'drop-in' and others pre-booked — but all characterised by a welcoming attitude to both experienced artists and total beginners. It’s also been our policy to highlight the opportunities available outside the established and well-regarded schools, such as LARA and the Prince’s Drawing School.
As usual, the best policy is simply to give them a go — although if you are willing to make a commitment, block session bookings allow long-term savings. Materials are provided as standard or available on the day for mere pennies, so the only thing you need to turn up with is an open mind.
As well as organising the East London N1 & E2 Life Drawing class every week night, the artist Adrian Dutton takes the time to whip up some delicious vegetarian grub for the assembly. The collegiate atmosphere usually migrates to a local drinkery afterwards.
£8.50 or £6 concessions, drop-in, 7-9.30pm on weeknights, see website for locations.
Bobby Gill works and teaches from her Notting Hill home; her well-lit studio is the perfect arena for group challenges as well as for half-time banter over teacups. Since class sizes are intimate, teaching quality is high.
Daytime and evening classes run in terms, advance booking, see website for dates.
Or is it? Life Drawing at the White Horse happens in an actual East London strip club but the dancers strike poses in a decidedly thoughtful, sensitive atmosphere. Teaching is — ahem — "hands off". A local strippers union-cum-campaign group runs the show, encouraging all ability levels and, crucially, genders.
£15 or £10 concessions, advance booking, The White Horse, 64 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JJ, see website for dates.
Art Macabre’s ironic 'death drawing' sessions take inspiration from the iconography of the ghoulish. Face-painted models ghost about unorthodox venues like UCL’s Petrie Museum of Egyptology. Expect Shakespearean skull-clutching, the occasional heavy-metal tune on the stereo, and high drama.
From £10 including after-hours entrance to the venue, see website for dates, locations, and booking advice.
Chin-strokingest but also giggliest
In an age when life-drawing has become synonymous with tittering hen groups, Dulwich Art Group retains a lot of integrity as a slick, decades-old set-up offering long poses which allow you to craft your masterpiece over a period of weeks. They do hen nights too.
From £12 a session, day groups on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, The Old Scout Hut, Greendale, Dulwich, SE22 8TX, see website for times.
Covent Garden Life Drawing enjoys the transient crowd you’d expect of the city’s most central art collective, opening its arms and its biscuit barrels to any curious post-work punter.
£12, drop-in, 7-9pm on Thursdays, Society of Friends Meeting House, 8 Hop Gardens, off St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4EA.
Croydon Life Drawing is for those craving the ultimate weekend destressifyer: paint-splashing in a peaceful setting. Proprietor Francis Wardale lets you just get on with it, but prides himself on the quality and variety of models.
£10 or £5 concessions, alternating Saturdays, East Croydon United Reform Church, Addiscombe Grove, Croydon, CR0 5LP, see website for dates and bring materials.