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Posted 07.04.20

Illustration lecturer takes life drawing online

By Naomi Girdler

Image and illustration by Sean Morgan

Despite lockdowns, closures, and cancellations, creatives and companies the world over are offering help and support during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many are looking to the arts to provide them with innovative ways to keep entertained and level headed during this period of uncertainty. At Plymouth College of Art, we’re no exception.

Undeterred and inspired to find an alternative, BA (Hons) Illustration lecturer Bridgette Ashton has taken her life drawing classes online, providing her students with opportunities to explore this unique period of time within their practice.

Bridgette said: “I’ve been regularly running life drawing classes for BA (Hons) Illustration students at the college, but following the lockdown and cancellation of the last few sessions, I thought students might like to continue their observational drawing outside of their current module work. So far it's been so successful that I’ve begun opening up the sessions to other year groups, including postgraduates.”

“We run the sessions through Google Chat, with students invited to the chat through their virtual classroom. I then write a description of each timed drawing task. In the first online session I hosted, we focussed on drawing (their own) hands and feet. After completion, they then post photos of their drawings on the chat, welcoming students’ comments on what each has made. This usually results in some supportive and upbeat feedback!”

Image and illustration by Poppy Goldsmith

“In the second week, the students were forewarned to come equipped with either a mirror or a human or animal in their household. They went on to draw their parents, siblings, cats and themselves. This week's session will reference an 18th century novel about confinement called "Voyage Around My Bedroom" by Xavier De Maistre and will encourage observation drawing from familiar objects and interiors. Students are welcome to make suggestions throughout the whole process and the response so far has been really positive and enthusiastic.”

"We have to be creative in our approach to online learning and embrace the positive aspects."
- Bridgette Ashton, lecturer, BA (Hons) Illustration

Plymouth College of Art, like institutions across the globe, has had to accommodate online learning scenarios in order to deliver education to their body of students. As a small-scale independent university-sector art school, we are uniquely positioned to respond to change. We understand that nothing is more important to artists, designers and makers than access to the right space and facilities, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution that will be ideal for every student or staff member.

Image and illustrations by Caitlin Angel

Bridgette said: “We have to be creative in our approach to online learning and embrace the positive aspects. We’re trying to retain that community feeling that you get from a ‘drawing class’. Having daily catch ups have allowed us to stay connected and has enabled students to gain confidence in talking about their work which is a real positive. We do a daily ‘show and tell’ where students have the opportunity to talk about their works in progress, and welcome feedback and questions from their peers.”

“This current transition to digital working has the benefit of introducing our students to what can often happen in the illustration industry - working remotely, getting feedback and direction via email or phone with their art director from anywhere in the world.”