As I walked into Red Gate, the room had shifted from its usual bare-floored appearance to something much cozier; the couches were moved to form a snug semi-circle around the stage, and the floor inside this circle was covered in blankets and cushions. The room was filled with dim red light, and on the brightly lit stage, a blanket and heater awaited a live model. Some attendees reclined on couches and cushions, chatting easily, while others gathered drawing boards, paper, charcoal and pencils from a table nearby. It was Bits & Pieces: a recurring event featuring life drawing and creative writing. For $7, guests gained the benefit of a live nude model, drawing supplies, writing prompts, and a relaxing environment.
Organizers Roisin Trefla and Maayan Cohen, two UK exchange students studying at UBC, put together the event series and carried out three editions, each with different themes: the theme this time was consumption. After everyone settled in, Roisin and Maayan began the night by reminding everyone that the event was about trying new things — that those used to writing could try focusing on drawing, or vice-versa. The inclusion of both writing and drawing activities provided more opportunities for exploration, and probably helped to draw a larger audience.
After the short intro came two five-minute life drawing poses, followed by two five-minute writing prompts. While most folks were shy about sharing writing pieces, it was exciting to see all the different drawing styles and skill levels in the room. Clearly, the room had come together not just for the drawing practice but also for the community, the atmosphere, and the opportunity to learn.
As a writing prompt, each participant drew from a jar two slips of paper, each with one word relating to consumption written on it. We were then given five minutes to free-write about each word, then 15 minutes to put together a rough poem, story, or argumentative piece. I received the words “colonization” and “sex.” This was the most difficult part of the evening for me: the consciousness of others in the room felt restricting — “colonization” and “sex” were also challenging to put together. However, the prompt was a creative way of getting ideas flowing and held potential for more productive combinations.
After a break for sharing and conversing, drawing resumed with a 30-minute pose. Roisin and Maayan advise the audience to take the first five minutes to simply look at the model, so as to remember that drawing is also about seeing. In the dim red light of the space, with tranquil music playing in the background (as well as the odd post-punk jam coming through the wall from the next room), guests settled into their drawings.
The evening came to a close with the addition of several new drawings to the world, new writing ideas floating through attendees’ heads, and some pleasant conversation. Overall, Bits & Pieces was an excellent opportunity to brush up on an old skill or to try something new.