Northampton’s secret artists

I must confess, art was a talent that skipped past me. I still have memories of attempting a silhouette of a classmate that ended up looking more like an excited puppy, and for years if someone wanted me to draw a person, they’d receive a stick figure with a smiley face.

So, I was a bit worried about attending the Drawing Outside group on Tuesday, fearful that I’d be surrounded by a group of snooty artists. Instead, I spent an hour an half with the most lovely people you could ever spend an evening with.

Drawing Outside is group that, as the name suggests, draw outside. Although sadly, due to weather issues we had to bunker down indoors.

The immediate thing that strikes you is how warm, and inviting everyone is. Even with my limited skills, and the knowledge that my work would pale in comparison to everyone else’s I still wanted to join in. As we sat around sketching, various members of the group shared jokes, tips, and personal experiences.

The group was founded, and is run by Jean Edwards, who works in the faculty of English and Humanities at the University of Northampton. Like most artists she was waiting for something special to base her first piece on, but when this failed to surface, she stumbled across Willy Gilder’s mission to do a drawing a day. During the session, Jean reflected on artists who wait to go to Venice before starting art, but once they arrived there realized they had no practice. After visiting the Urban Sketchers group in Manchester, Jean knew that she had to set up a similar group in Northampton.

For many of the group, art is just a hobby, although looking over everyone’s shoulders, it was clear that they’d had years of experience. The group isn’t like a normal club, you don’t have to show up every Tuesday, just pop along if you’re free that evening, and do some sketches, or watercolours, or pastel drawings. We only had seven members attend, your humble servant included – I was told the usual turnout is around 10.

This is something Jean wants to address. When she was in Manchester for an Urban Sketchers conference, there were 500 people there. Her other hope for the group is for them to become an official chapter of the Urban Sketchers. To do that, Jean said “We have to meet every week, show we’re committed.”

One member, Anne Blankson-Hemans is semi-professional. She has an art degree, and a few years ago competed on BBC’s The Big Painting Challenge. She told me she attended the group as she had to have a job to support herself, but she still wanted to do art regularly. As Willy told me, it’s hard to make a living off of just being an artist.

It was a bit strange leaving the group, I can’t say I’ve ever been so welcomed in a place before. Even though I was an amateur, the artwork produced never made me feel threatened or insecure about my mediocre talents. For anyone who loves art, the Drawing Outside group is definitely the one to go to in Northampton, even if you have to do an indoor session.

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To get in touch with the group tweet @JeanEd70, or @DrawingOutside.

And here’s a link to some more of the group’s work: https://drawingoutsidenorthants.wordpress.com/

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