The Big Draw: Drawing Sessions in Oxford

A round-up of drawing sessions in Oxford, what they're like and where to find them, plus our pick of the online sessions. Many of these are for portraiture or life drawing, but not all. The Big Draw is a festival of drawing, that used to focus on one day in October, and is now year-round. But in our trad-minded way we're taking the opportunity to celebrate October by pushing you in the nicest way to do more drawing!

Lots of studies of ears in different media

Drawing in Oxford - what’s on offer?

There are lots of opportunities to draw in company within Oxford city, with regular themes including figure drawing and objects. Some sessions are taught or led, others are untutored practice sessions, and prices vary accordingly. All these classes specifically say that all levels are welcome: you don’t have to be brilliant to go, just willing to learn, and it is always fun to wander in the breaks, and look at how others have approached the same subject. We also include a small selection of the online drawing world, in case that’s easier for access, timing or especially shy artists!

First up: figure, portrait and life drawing sessions

Oxford Life Drawing at NewGround Coffee & Wine Bar, Ship Street (formerly at The Castle Tavern), Mondays and Tuesdays 7-9, Weds 6-8, £7 per session. Mix of short and long nude poses, 15 mins break in the middle. Come 15 mins early to get a drink and set up. Equipment provided or bring your own. Untutored, relaxed sessions, sitting to draw, with a drink at hand. Tickets on eventbrite or OTD. Insta: @oxfordlifedrawing also on FB and TikTok

Life Drawing at Ovada, Thurs 6-8pm, £10. Relaxed and untutored but there is an artist on hand to facilitate and offer tips. Age 18+, bring your own materials, advanced booking strongly recommended, via the Ovada website. Insta: @ovada
Ovada also offer a selection of longer workshops and courses, including the exciting double bill Painting The Face with Robin Danely and Lucy Stopford: Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 October, 11-4pm, £120.00

Oxford Drawing Circle, Common Ground, Tues 7-9pm (but get there early to get a seat), £7. Untutored, basic materials available but do bring your own. Busy, enjoyable, good range of models. Insta: @oxforddrawingcircle though that does insist the classes aren’t currently happening!

Art-sauce, The Old School House on Hertford St. One-off life drawing workshops, next one Sat 14th October 1-5pm, £20. Courses including Experimental Life Drawing 6 week course, evenings. You must arrive promptly for these sessions as the door is locked after start time! Art-sauce also run artist talks, where local artists show their work and discuss their working practices, and Radical Threads, a knit and natter for all textile artists who like a proper discussion while making. Art Salons let artists bring work to be critiqued and discussed, and there’s also a film club spinoff. Essentially all the PD an artist might need.

OX4 Life Drawing, also at The Old School House on Hertford St, Thursday 6.30-8.30pm Short poses, Fridays 6.30-8.30pm Long poses. This is the group formerly known as East Oxford Life Drawing. They run untutored sessions where absolutely all levels are welcomed, and are pleased to be the cheapest life drawing class in town. There’s no need to book in advance. Bring your own materials, easels and drawing boards available. And again, at this venue it’s vital to arrive on time or early, as the front door is locked once the class starts. Insta: @ox4lifedrawinggroup, also FB.

Jericho Life Drawing, Jericho Community Centre on Canal St, Saturdays 11am-1pm, £16. Guided life drawing classes with tutor Mike England, who offers advice and leads short group discussions to help everyone further their techniques. Boards, easels, paper and some materials provided. Advance booking guarantees a place. Age 16+. Plus occasional longer events.

Botley Life Drawing, Louie Memorial Pavilion, Mon nights. A lively group convened by Ali Hogg (Insta @ali.hogg) which is currently about as full as it can be, but do contact for details if you’re interested.

Queer Life Drawing, usually South Oxford Community Centre (though do check), Sun afternoon 2-4pm once a month (next one 12th November), £7.50. TART Productions run a whole range of activities centring queer folk, including monthly life drawing sessions which feature queer, trans or gender non-conforming models. You don’t have to be queer to attend but you do need to be an ally, and there is good advice should you need it on the website. A supportive and celebratory atmosphere extends to the attending artists and this is a very nurturing group for all abilities, with encouragement to wander and admire others’ work in the breaks. A theme is chosen for the session and the model brings props to bring the theme to life. A range of materials are provided but feel free to bring your own. Poses range from 30 seconds to 20 minutes, with a predominance of short poses (easier for the model if not for the artists!).

Non-figurative sessions

Doodle Club: meet up once a month or thereabouts in different venues, often museums, next 28 Oct at Ashmo, meet up 11am, entering the museum together at 11.15am. Check instagram for where and when. Then wander about and draw what you find. Insta: @oxforddoodleclub

Drawing Club, Old Fire Station, approximately once a month, next one Sat 28th October, 5-6pm. Free, no booking required. All levels are very welcome at this experimental session, explicitly including absolute beginners! Emphasis is on fun, creativity, and mark-making. The focus on 28th Oct happens to be portraits, but every session’s focus is different, the session is not a class, and trying things out is the name of the game. The organisers say “We encourage getting distracted, making mistakes, collaborating and starting again! Come along with your least precious art supplies and we’ll bring the rest.”


During the pandemic some of us who can’t easily make it to classes had a great time with the rich variety of online sessions on offer. Here are some recommended picks that are still available wherever you are:

London Drawing run online (and in-person) sessions on life drawing, portraiture, still life and a variety of other subjects and one-off sessions. Currently prices are contributions, recommended price for figurative sessions £12 full price, £8 concessions, for mindful still life £5-£10 (or as low as £1 if need be), including a yoga stretch. Many back episodes are available online at the same sort of prices. Classes are tutor-led and they get a fabulous selection of really drawable models, who strike interesting and unusual poses, often with props. Insta: londondrawing which is well-worth looking at as they post an exciting array of techniques, both by their tutors and by famous artists. Really inspiring and good for bold new approaches that make you want to try them out.

Raw Umber are a more traditional group, based in Stroud, who run weekly online portrait (Sunday teatime) and lifedrawing (Wed evening) sessions (and some longer in-person workshops and courses). Again, the advantage of drawing from photos is some extraordinary poses that would be very hard to hold for 30 minutes IRL! A tutor leads each session, and you can follow their techniques or do entirely your own thing. The instagram community often post their drawings in response to sessions and can be supportive and friendly. One portrait session each month is free, the rest come as part of a subscription package. Subscription comes in three flavours: Images £5/month, where you have access to the vast array of reference photos, but not the live sessions; Standard £9.50/month, giving access to the live videos and library of previous video sessions; and Gold £13.50/month which combines the two, so live and past videos, the image reference library, plus bonus videos on e.g. all prima still life, the Zorn palette etc. But friendly tutors and clear instruction make these sessions a good bet for beginners, while the array of models, poses (and occasionally a focus on just ears, hands etc) means practised artists will gain a lot from them too. Personally this is my go-to drawing class. Insta: rawumberstudios or #rawumberlive for the artist community’s work resulting from sessions.

Judith Yaws is a US-based artist who produces amazing figure drawings in conte and pencil crayon. She offers on Instagram a regular series of free photos of portrait models, which are self-portraits sent in by her followers. She also organises figure-drawing marathons from time to time, with 8-10 models in one weekend. As these are at sensible times in the US they do tend to be late night / early hours in the UK, but prices are good (around $15 for two models, 4 hours) and there are some interesting themed sessions (e.g. Sun 22nd October Dia de los Muertes). So for nightbirds who like to do all their quota of drawing in one weekend these resources and sessions might fit the bill! Insta: @JudithYaws

Wildlife Drawing: bored of drawing humans? Help is at hand, from Wild Life Drawing, a UK-based organisation led by a lovely lady called Jenny, who organises online and in-person classes with real animals to draw, plus informative talks from keepers, handlers and experts, and a proportion of ticket sales goes to appropriate wildlife charities. Upcoming classes include Brown Hyenas for Halloween (Sat 28th October) £12 with 50% going to Na’ankusê Animal Sanctuary in Namibia, including a talk about hyenas’ association with black magic; and on Tue 14th November closer to home, is a session on Water Voles, with a talk by People’s Trust for Endangered Species, and 50% of ticket sales going to PTES. Don’t worry - some drawing is done from reference images so you don’t need to worry about the wriggling! Insta: @WildLifeDrawing

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