How to Host Your Own Ladies Drawing Night
When Julia Rothman, Leah Goren, and Rachael Cole began drawing together, they had no idea that their weekly gatherings would become an integral part of their lives and creative practices. Art directors, designers, and illustrators by day, their nighttime meetings became a place of shared creativity where they could try new things, experiment, and fail without fear of criticism.
Their new book Ladies Drawing Night presents ten evenings loosely themed around a single topic, material, or challenge—from collage to making art with kids, oversize painting to drawing in public.
Julia, Leah, and Rachael took time out of their busy schedule to answer a few questions and provide tips on how you can host your very own Ladies Drawing Night.
Q: Which of the ten Ladies Drawing Nights in the book was your favorite? Why?
Julia: I really liked our “Strike a Pose” night. We each took turns posing for each other so we had a figure to draw. It was so interesting to be the subject instead of the drawer. At first I was very anxious about it, having everyone looking and studying me. But when the role was reversed I realized there’s no judgement, it’s just about capturing the essence of the person. It felt like we really got to know Andrea Pippins, Ana Benaroya, and each other much better. At first, we were all forced into this uncomfortable scenario. Then after more and more switching of model/drawer roles, we relaxed ourselves and our bodies. The poses got more daring. Rachael even climbed on the table with her arms on her head at one point! And those made for some great drawings.
Leah: I really loved collage night! Collage is a technique I don’t use in my work at all, and it was so freeing to make something in a new medium. Since it is so different from the gouache paintings I usually do, I didn’t put any pressure on the outcome. In the end, I combined cut paper and paint, and made a couple pieces I really liked.
Rachael: The nights were all fun in their own way, but on a creative level, I think that would be a toss-up between large-scale night and kids draw. Large-scale night was a watershed for me because going large with drawing is something I’ve dreamed of for years without trying, and it’s led to me doing that more often after the book. Kids draw was just FUN, because I get massive amounts of energy from drawing with kids and love working beside them. It’s an honor to hear their incredible observations and thoughts about drawing and the creative process in general.
Q: What was an unexpected outcome of a Ladies Drawing Night?
Julia: I loved the “Pattern Play” evening from our book as well. In the past, I’ve taught many workshops using this technique to participants at a range of skill levels. Having Ellen Van Dusen and Lotta Nieminen—such talented artists I admire—try this simple approach was a really exciting experience. They both decided to use cut paper to make their patterns, which was so unexpected. It’s something I would have never thought to do myself. I think the work turned out so beautifully and I enjoyed thinking up ways their designs could be used on products.
Leah: Lettering is not usually my forte, but having a prompt that was out of my comfort zone forced me to find a creative solution, and I ended up making two drawings that I really loved. Rather than try something totally new that may not have been “me,” I approached the night exactly in my style, and made alphabets up out of my drawings of women. I think this was a great exercise for me, and I was able to reference what I did that night months later when I was asked by a client to make an animal alphabet for a kids’ product.
Rachael: After we were finished working on the Ladies Drawing Night book, I kept working on a larger scale piece (18 x 24 inches) with sumi ink. One evening, in Leah’s apartment, I went a bit crazy painting large strawberries. Though I had planned on doing this (I even made little studies in preparation), I hadn’t expected to make so many of them. Seeing around nine or ten of them laying together on the floor—taking up the entire living room—was a great feeling. I was literally letting my drawings “take up more space in the world,” something my father has always urged me to do in a metaphoric way with my life in general. The strawberry drawings got a great response and I even sold one of them the next day. I went on to make watermelons, lemons and oranges. I wonder what will be next.
Q: What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to people who want to start their own Ladies Drawing Night?
Julia: Experiment! This is your time to try a new technique or use a new medium. With client work, I always use a thin uniball pen and paint in the lines with gouache. At Ladies Drawing Night, I try and change that rule and mix it up. Rachael has encouraged me to try bigger brushes and make more interesting mark-making. Leah has suggested I pare down my line work and try defining parts of a drawing with flat color. This has helped grow my style so much. All of the experiments I do on these evenings have influenced how I work now. So, I guess the other piece of advice, is be curious about what others can suggest and let them inspire you!
Leah: Relax, and don’t worry about how your drawings turn out. The best part of Ladies Drawing Night is enjoying the process and enjoying the company of your friends, and no matter what you make it should be fun and inspiring.
Rachael: Allow for periods of silence once you are gathered with your lady friends. It’s great to chat, gossip, advise, and encourage while you work—and that’s all fair game—but quiet times really allow people to get in the flow and concentrate on their drawing. Whether or not you feel comfortable being quiet can also be an indicator of whether you are drawing with the right mix of ladies. When some people are nervous, they chat more, some chat less, but the right group of ladies usually yields the perfect mix of banter and productive conversational lulls.
How to host your own Ladies Drawing Night
1. Gather a group of friends to draw with.
If it’s your first drawing night, it can help to limit the guest list to just a few people you feel comfortable with. A small group tends to stay more focused and on track and creates a more intimate environment.
2. Make sure to grab some snacks and beverages.
We can’t make it through a night without a bag of chips and a bottle of wine on the table. And eating dinner first helps, too!
3. Lay out your supplies, and don’t be afraid to share!
Swapping materials gives you the chance to find your next favorite pen or paint color.
4. Pick a theme.
If you don’t know where to begin, having a theme in mind can help you get started, and it’s fascinating to see the different ways everyone interprets it.
5. Talk about your work as you go.
One of the best parts of drawing with friends is being able to hear opinions and learn from each other.
6. Lay out your finished drawings at the end of the night.
It feels great to see everything together and it helps you see your progress from week to week. And don’t forget to take pictures!
To get you started, here is a free event kit to inspire you to draw, create, and have a great time.
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Ladies Drawing Night is available here and wherever books are sold.
Photography by Kate Edwards
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