Doing gesture drawing with yoga instructors is something I was inspired to do around June of 2017 when I heard about Ontario Culture Days for the first time at an info session held at the St. Thomas Public Library. I’d recently photographed a Beer & Yoga night being hosted by Sarah Westaway at Railway City Brewing Co. so I reached out to her to collaborate on the project. Sarah was interested in the idea so we tentatively agreed to work on it together.

drawing donkeys set up around a posing yoga instructor for life drawing session

The concept seemed like the perfect mix of body arts and visual arts. Gesture drawing is a great introduction to visual art because you don’t have to be a professional artist to find the joy in using impressionistic charcoal lines on newsprint to represent the human figure.

At the time I was also on call part time as a field producer for Investigation Discovery’s series “On The Case with Paula Zahn” in New York. While there, I was also shooting some footage for Estee Lauder. It was great working in New York, but when I got the call to go and it conflicted with planning and holding a gesture drawing class with yoga instructors for the 2017 Ontario Culture Days weekend, I was a bit disappointed.

two yoga instructors balancing in a pose for a group of artists doing gesture drawings

As much as I love spending time in Brooklyn/New York and Toronto (or the6ix, as it’s known on social media), the one thing I’ve taken away from those places is that if you don’t invest in the arts and culture where you live, it won’t develop. And to develop it, you have to make choices and sacrifice going to other locations and events that are already established. This year, for example, the Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) was being held on the same weekend as Ontario Culture Days. As much as I love that festival, catching up with other artists, and getting the inside track on what’s going on at studios like Disney, Pixar, and Laika, this year I made the commitment to focus my energy primarily on Elgin and St. Thomas.

two yoga instructors balancing in a pose for a group of artists doing gesture drawings

Gesture Drawing with Yogis was Saturday afternoon, so after getting lots of sleep, I headed over to The Yoga Company space at 456 Talbot Street and set up all the drawing donkeys (which I’d made with Jaclyn White of Jac’s House in my parents’ wood shop at Orchard Hill Farm), put drawing pads and charcoal sticks on all the donkeys, and crossed my fingers that people would show up for the event. Then I got a message that one of my yogis wasn’t going to be able to make it after all. So I messaged Sarah Westaway to see if she would be able to come earlier than planned and she messaged back to say she could and that she’d bring another instructor, Lindsay Martens, as well. First lesson learned: always book two yoga instructors for a time slot.

After that first hiccup it was smooth sailing. Chloe and Rob from Anahata Acro were the first to arrive and they set the tone by holding difficult poses for up to 10 minutes while participants worked at capturing their forms. They were followed by Lindsay Martens and Sarah Westaway. The final yoga instructors to do poses were Cindy Watters and Laura Vasquez.

two yoga instructors balancing in a pose for a group of artists doing gesture drawings

In the end, the whole experience was exactly what I hoped it would be – a meeting of like-minded individuals from our community that were excited about creating new experiences and artwork. Now we’re going to be able to take that positive experience and work together to recreate it for other people from our community.

If you’re interested in checking it out for yourself, Jaclyn White and myself will be hosting the next Yoga Life Drawing class at Jac’s House (400 Sunset Dr.) on September 13 from 7 PM9PM. Admission is $10 and participants are asked to bring their own drawing materials. You can save your life drawing spot in the class by registering over on the Laing Studios website.