We were meant to meet our instructor at 1pm by the clocks in the forecourt of Flinders Street Station, the secret meeting point emailed two days prior to only those who signed up for the Sunday 9th of November tour (different days have different meeting points). My friend and I made it exactly at 12:59:30 according to the Flinders Street Station clocks. As exciting as our race against time, we were more excited to take part in the Secret Sketch Crawl by Classie. When I first heard of the Secret Sketch Crawl, my hyperactive imagination told me that it was an exclusive society that wandered around the city stealthily dressed in trench coats. My imagination was a little inaccurate, but it did not make the actual experience any less cooler.
We started off with introductions so that we all knew a little about each other and how much art experience we've all had. There were twelve people in our group. My friend said she felt less intimidated after realising that there were people of many backgrounds with quite a few having zero experience in sketching. Some were here to hone their skills, some were dragged along by a spouse/friend (in my friend's case) and others wanted to learn something new. I myself ironically hadn't had a chance to actually draw since I started studying architecture (it's amazing how computer software take over your life) and I was looking forward to sitting and drawing something that isn't a floor plan.
We were lucky to have sunny, cool weather but if it is a rainy day the instructors will have a contingency plan as they do know a lot of secret indoor places good for sketching as well. Our crawl started in Alexandra Gardens near the Yarra, under the shade of a beautiful palm tree. We started off with a couple of exercises to loosen up. The first was a quick 30 second sketch using our non-dominant hand to draw something in our vicinity. I used about 15 of those seconds trying to teach my left hand to hold a pencil. The second time we got one minute to do this and third time round we could use our dominant hand. We were then given 45 minutes to sketch anything that takes our fancy. Most focused on the beautiful views across the river or the Princes Bridge while I paid homage to the palm tree we were sitting under (someone had to do it).
We headed off to our second location afterwards, across the Yarra from the Arts Center. We sat on the concrete wall next to the foot path while happy Sunday joggers and walkers looked at us curiously (and enviously as I like to think). Here we got to have a go at soft pastels and charcoal. I found this part the most challenging as both materials can be quite messy and difficult to control. But it really helps you become more confident with your lines and the instructor, who was both encouraging and constructive, made sure she gave one on one time to all participants at all locations. My friend, who has a science background, said she quite enjoyed using these new materials and had a lot of fun with it.
The last destination of our crawl was also by the river bank at the eateries below Federation Square. Here we got to sit at a café and we were given a complimentary drink. With a cool cider in hand and sitting under a canopy it was the perfect end to the tour. For me, I think this final sketching exercise was the most enjoyable. We started off with trying to draw a portrait of a person without looking at the paper. And after a few tips on the composition of facial features we set off to do a 45 minute portrait. I was worried that this might be the end of our friendship, but I was pretty proud of the portrait I did of my friend and luckily she liked it too.
The session ended with a show and tell where we got to share our drawings, our embarrassing sketching moments and our triumphant masterpieces. And while everyone had different levels of experience, I think all managed to do work that they were proud of and most importantly it seemed everyone had a really good time. Both my friend and I enjoyed it a lot and I couldn't recommend it enough.
Just a couple of tips, in other words things that I wished I had and I was glad that I did bring. The first location, we sat on the grass and when I got up I did have damp jeans so it might be useful to bring a small towel or something to sit on. Also soft pastels and charcoals can be quite messy and I wished I brought some wet tissues to wipe my hands on since I did end up wiping them on my jeans (they are going straight in the laundry). And another good thing to bring along is a power snack that isn't messy. Between my friend and I, we had jelly beans and a Lindt Chocolate slab and this is a good remedy should you feel tired at any point, a quite common ailment in the 24-25 age category. All art material were provided, from pencils, paper to pastels so there is no need to bring your own unless you really want to.
Regardless of your age, occupation or your expertise level in art, if you are looking for a nice relaxing way to spend three hours on a Sunday afternoon while learning something new this is the perfect activity.They are one off classes, so you don't have to commit to anything long term, but there is much to enjoy even if you wanted to go on a second crawl as each Sketch Crawl is unique and has different top secret locations to keep things interesting (and stealthy).