One gallery. Two expert artists. Heaps of pencils and lashings of white wine. It can only mean Drink and Draw!

The Museum of Classical Archaeology has been a haven for artists for aeons, with its gallery jam-packed full of casts of the masterpieces of classical art. But in May 2015 I decided to build on this popularity by tapping into the popular idea of Drink and Draw, events which take place nationwide and beyond in which adults can sketch in a relaxed environment with a pencil in one hand and a drink in the other. What better venue for this sort of event, we thought, than our Cast Gallery, filled with hundreds of casts for our visitors to test their drawing skills on? I even like to think that this is our own playful take on the important role casts have traditionally played in an artist’s training: many art schools used to have plaster cast collections so that artists could practise drawing the human form. We’ve just added wine into the equation.

A Facebook Live walk-around this May’s event:

Our first Drink and Draw took us by surprise: we hadn’t expected so many visitors (particularly new visitors) to come along. Over 170 people came through our doors in three hours, which for a small museum and an activity people like to take their time over, is not too shabby at all. Since then, we’ve continued to run two free Drink and Draw events each Spring/Summer, making it an important part of our events programme and hopefully establishing it as a great foundation upon which to build up a greater programme of artist-led events in the future. Our Drink and Draw events usually bring in somewhere in the region of 150 people: a lovely mix of accomplished artists and people who’d simply like to try their hand at something new.

Visitors sketch among the casts

What can visitors expect from one of our Drink and Draw events? Firstly, they can expect a tranquil environment in which they can sketch in peace. Secondly, a wealth of casts of Greek and Roman sculptures: visitors can choose to draw whatever they wish and may move around chairs or make themselves comfortable on the carpet to be near the statue of their choice. Anyone is welcome at Drink and Draw, seasoned sketchers and nervous novices alike! We have two lovely artists, Susie Olczak and Loukas Morley, who move around the gallery offering guidance to those who want it. We also provide good quality pencils and paper for those who’d like to use them (some people choose to bring their own materials – we just ask that only pencil is used to sketch in the Museum to protect our casts).  And not to be overlooked: everyone is entitled to a glass of wine or elderflower pressé on us. We hope that a glass of wine might help to loosen up those who draw rarely but also that it might lower their inhibitions before drawing the many nude sculptures which abound in the gallery! And last but not least, we always have a gallery wall where visitors can display their masterpieces and share their work with others.

Gallery wall in the Museum of Classical Archaeology, with sketches pinned up
May 2018’s Drink and Draw Gallery Wall

But don’t just take our word for it. We asked those who attended Drink and Draw what they enjoyed about the event with a view to understanding why this event has proven so popular and to improving our offer in future events:

“I could stay here drawing forever.”

“Free wine. Great atmosphere. Really sociable and different.”

“Challenging myself with new skills.”

“It was very relaxing just to draw freely.”

Enough said!

Drink and Draw will be back this August. Keep an eye on our Facebook page and website for further details. And don’t forget: though there won’t be any wine, visitors are always welcome to sketch in the Museum during opening hours.