DRAWERS OFF EXPERIENCE
Updated: Mar 24
The week I appeared in has been released into the wild as I reflect on taking part in the first series of Channel 4's Drawers Off.
Would I do it again? No.
I don't think it was for me. It actually took lot of thought to take part as I had got rid of most of my art work on social media, like Instagram. There will be old posts and an old art portfolio knocking about online but I had pulled back from wanting to show any thought out art, other than some bad doodles during Inktober.
I had not drawn properly or painted at all during lockdown, so the first drawing done by me on the show is the first proper piece of art I had created in over a year. I had moved away from a regular life drawing group and then the pandemic meant such things ceased to be. So I actually was up for the challenge as it almost felt like an old familiar.
Day 1 was just me calling Jilly by Julie with no one thinking to correct the deaf guy in that he had heard her name wrong. But luckily that was edited out. Well, a lot of pleasant conversation was edited out over the week but that is the victim of such a quick time slot. I created something in charcoal as it was classically "life drawing" in my eyes but apparently it is all about paint and colour these days so that should of been my first warning sign. Spoilers, I lost, disagreed but I will also defend my art like every artist would do.
Day 2 I tried oil paints as production was obsessed with colour and I thought might as well experiment early as you only get 4 chances to make something. The model, Jon had an amazing collection of tattoo tribal art covering his body was it was a massive challenge even for an experienced artist. I hated the piece I created as it was a comedy of errors I made during the hour, first being the choice of medium. If only I could try again, I definitely would of used inks and pens to do Jon justice. Lesson learnt for when I encounter a life model with an amazing amount of tattoos.
Day 3 was a good day. Then I lost haha. It was this part in the competition I knew I wouldn't win the show. There is a definite advantage to modelling early as you have time to reflect and realise to have fun with the process. I was in constant competition mode and didn't get the chance to reset. I actually finished a lot earlier in the hour so I was surprised they made it seem I was busy until the end. The winning piece was justified and I totally understood why; art is personal and it is about what link and feelings you get from the piece. I was more gutted I knew I had peaked and it didn't make the cut.
Day 4 was my last day to make art and I wanted to end with something I genuinely enjoy using and doing, hence the decision to use ink pens. When Diana called it illustrative and comic-like, I was just confused as it was typical life drawing. A style, or whatever, I always use in life drawing groups. I was really confident in my skills and what I was doing so I was annoyed at how negative the conversations were shown in the end looked. I make some amazing tonal ink washes in normal art so I was always going that way regardless if the mentor "advised" it or not. I should of been more Jilly and just ignored her. 😂
Day 5 was my turn to model. I knew I'd hate it. Hated my pose. Hated the sci-fi theme hammered into audience by the edit. The scarf is actually important to me not because it is a "Dr Who" style but because someone took the time to make it for me as a leaving gift. I was proud of what the group accomplished for their pieces (even Jilly), so I am looking forward to getting my hands back on them. Steph was a deserved winner of the week but Alpha was a very close second! It could of easily been a draw.
Final galleries are going to be so divisive as everyone has an opinion on what good art is, but very few actually show their artistic abilities to the world. So for 5 amateur artists to be rushed through a whirlwind of TV production and competition during a very unusual time for everyone is an amazing accomplishment.
DISABILITIES, AS NOT SEEN ON TV
What was missed until a brief window at the end of the week was the impact of doing a show as a disabled person, during lockdown, with all the Covid restrictions and safety. People rarely appreciate how a new situation, with new people is exhausting for someone who is deaf or hard of hearing. Everyone has a visual cue and personal way they speak that we often read, like lip reading so when the world causes everyone to cover themselves and stand back it suddenly is a bigger hill to climb.
The production team were good and had thought about my needs before and during. I loved seeing the diversity of disabled people involved in the making of the show so it did put me at ease. But like most, areas could be improved, they knew I was deaf so they could of given/made the key staff members a clear / see through mask that are available. There were often points that they had to lower their masks at a safe distance to communicate with me.
It is important to see more disabled people on screen, I am someone that has gained confidence to be proud of this and advocate others. The problem is a lot of disabilities are not visual or can be hidden, like my hearing aids in a mess of lockdown hair. I hoped that I could show that disabled people are talented artists too in the show but instead they decided to show me as some experienced life drawer that was cocky for a win.
Maybe I will grow to like my experience and viewing of the show, but part of me is glad that it is done. Now to go practice for Sky's Portrait Artist of the Year, surely that can't be as bad? Surely.
"Terrible Life Model"
(P.S. Below are some of my historic life drawings, I will get back into it again and maybe the show has driven me to do something I love again.)
**Mini update - The production company behind Drawers Off have been actively listening to my concerns around filming as a deaf/Hard of Hearing person and will be taking on board the feedback for any future production, so I fully appreciate that. 😊