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Brighton Fringe 2017

Drawing Circus

Drawing Circus

Genre: Circus, Clown, Workshop

Venue: Brighton Spiegeltent: Bosco


Low Down

“Come sketch as models in circus costume are frozen mid-act for your drawing delight”
A wonderful opportunity to draw, at the Brighton Spiegeltent: Bosco, a group of circus-clad or partially clad characters in various ever-changing positions, alongside a large and bustling community of local or visiting artists.


For this, the second Drawing Circus session this Fringe, at the Speigeltent Bosco Theatre, I was amazed how packed the auditorium was. We (my preteen daughter and I) arrived a little late, as the Drawing Circus compere was giving his introduction.

There, stood in front, on the stage were seven women all dressed in various costumes, the sort of thing you would expect… in the circus!
From a (half-naked) lion, a circus MC, 3 clowns of various styles (including a harlequin), a lady in a large hooped-style gown, a hoop-dancer scantily clad, and finally a dancing girl in burlesque basque with many feathers coming from her headdress.

Keeping them company was a small three-piece band on stage comprising a cellist and accordionist and a guitarist.

It was a hot day, and inside the Bosco it was packed, and it was hot. But my word, everyone was very focused, and in the many conjoined 15 minutes slots, everyone was busily drawing the seven characters on stage.

At first I found the music slightly repetitive, incessant and irritating, but as I got more and more into my own drawing, realising the time was getting shorter and shorter, I began to enjoy the drama that the music added to the entire scene, everyone working hard with the various media, of chalk, charcoal, pencil, pen, watercolour, and more.

I haven’t drawn in several years, but my preteen daughter  is a keen drawer, artist, user of oil paints, watercolour, charcoal and coloured pencil, and I was excited and keen to get her in front of this unusual array of subjects. She hungrily gobbled them up, as did the other 75-ish also people packed into the arena-style auditorium of wooden benches.

Slowly one or two of the characters removed a little more clothing over the three hours, revealing more human form to draw. Personally I found the ruffles and many fabrics and feathers much harder, and I was happy to be presented with the human form, for me much easier and simpler to get my charcoal (I like charcoal) around.

The sense of community was palpable, the sense of urgency as time ticked on was even more palpable, as one of the clowns, and the hoop dancer repeatedly changed pose every minute to the sound of a bell, adding to this urgency, that we should make the most of these surreal and bizarre apparitions before us.
At some level it started to feel like a bit like a medical lecture theatre, with students all studying their subjects and scribbling away, scratching away, rubbing away, pencilling away, drawing away to capture the ever, and oft too soon, changing scene.

Adding to the bustle was a photographer busy snapping shots of the subjects, and a small film crew that moved around to capture the buzz, the hype, the energy and the quiet urgency (have I mentioned the urgency!?)

There was little chat, and yet there was a sense of quiet conversation, of discussion through art in action, of perusal, as pencils scraped, paper rustled, or watercolour water jars tinkled by brushes. The music continued to add to the sense of action.

The lighting could have been better. The lighting was mostly flat, from the back of the auditorium, creating little in terms of shadow and definition especially when it came to the naked form. I was surprised that the drawing circus people, who I had imagined knew what is needed, had not thought that through.

I have been a life model myself before in the past, posing nude, and it’s true to say that it is boring, and can also be painful.

However I think the models did look particularly bored and grumpy. It made me wonder how much experience they had, some of them, in posing. Perhaps they wanted to seem surreal or weird. But they mostly looked vaguely bored. 

My only other reservation and sadness was that there were no male models.

Otherwise, although I felt a little down on my creations… I had a lovely time drawing… as quickly as I could. 

And my daughter was completely inspired again after a break from drawing. So, in getting her back into the flow, the session served its purpose hugely. She was very happy when she came away, inspired, and very keen to do more and to show off her drawings to her mum.