Arm Yourself With A Pencil At An Empty Tower Of London

Rachel Stoplar
By Rachel Stoplar Last edited 100 months ago

Last Updated 20 January 2016

Arm Yourself With A Pencil At An Empty Tower Of London
Model Manko is perfectly poised as a medieval queen. Photo by Benedict Johnson, courtesy of Drawn at the Tower with Art Macabre.

Tourist attractions are much, much better without all the tourists. And if you haven't picked up a pencil in a while, then by heck, a drawing session at an empty Tower of London is the place to do it.

Drawn at the Tower follows the by-now familiar formula of fun activity (provided by Art Macabre) plus cool location (courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces) — and it works. Even if the drawings you end up executing are distinctly crap, you can't help but enjoy playing the artist.

We spent half our evening sketching the 'queen' (model Manko resplendent in a flowing green gown and fetching headdress), and half with a convincingly regal 'king', an enthroned chap called Theo who had a huge beard, a shiny crown and a massive shield. Yes, it sounds a little dressing-up-box, but when you chuck these costumes and props in an 11th century tower it all starts to feel rather convincing.

Royal subjects drawing the king. Photo by Benedict Johnson, courtesy of Drawn at the Tower with Art Macabre.

Our royal couple were apparently based on real medieval monarchs but this just felt like a silly distraction from the business of drawing them. So we tried to ignore our tutor riffing on how this semi-naked model represented a significant proto-feminist and instead concentrated on our creations. Admittedly they were of the more infantile variety — we maintain this was due to the tutor's insistence on quick sketches using colourful crayons, and not our massive lack of skill.

The kingly section was far more satisfactory, as our second tutor Jake Spicer let us sit still for a full half hour or so and actually guided our use of the charcoal. He introduced us to some basic principles of drawing, including the obvious-sounding but actually rather revolutionary 'draw what you see' approach — our efforts hitherto had been closer to the smiley face emoji than Michaelangelo.

One major flaw at the preview: medieval palaces really lack decent central heating and we were bloody freezing sitting on the cold bare floor. But Art Macabre director Nikki Shaill promises there'll be cushions and hot drinks next time, so hopefully you'll be much warmer, comfier and tipsier than your valiant correspondent.

The next Drawn at the Tower event takes place 15 February at 6.30pm on a predictable Valentine's theme; subsequent events take place monthly thereafter with more promising themes of Witchcraft, Ravens and Royal Beasts.