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Brush Up Club 2020 Review & Retrospective

In January Brush Up Club is turned 4 months old! Until now we’ve organized 12 zoom meetings, filmed 8 tutorials, launched a Youtube channel, and have written 4 monthly bulletins for our supporters on Patreon. In this post, we want to talk a little about the origins of our club and about how everything has worked out until now. 

How it all began

The Coronavirus pandemic began in the winter of 2020, and by the spring of 2020 everyone was practically locked up in their own 4 walls. All joint projects, sketching meetings and events came to a halt. Berlin’s art and illustration community was no exception. Before that we had numerous opportunities to visit organised sketching sessions, museum exhibitions, cafes or just sketch outside together, then suddenly we were all cut off from each other, with our artistic development and creative growth inevitably slowing down. In order to continue a regular drawing practice Olga suggested that we organise our own online meet-ups in Zoom. We invited our friends from the community to chat, drink coffee, and draw together. Everyone liked the idea, and our first session was about drawing each other’s portraits. With each session more people started joining in. Olga and I came up with different themes and exercises. We dressed up and sketched each other, drew views from our windows(with Toulouse, Paris and Berlin among others), sketched places in Googlemaps, chatted, giggled, and showed each other our results at the end of each session. It turned out that everyone liked these meetings, and was waiting for each session impatiently. At the same time, the meetings provided an opportunity to practice and brought a tangible creative growth to each participant.

Taiwan by Bela Unclecat
Costumed figure drawing by Katerina Voronina
Portrait drawing by Devorah Livadna

The Brush Up Club Launch

In Summer everyone was able to return to more or less normal life and we started to meet less regularly online. But we didn’t want to drop our initiative. Our experience has shown that such events are inspiring other artists and illustrators to draw on a regular basis. It was nice to see that people who got to know each other at our sessions continued communicating, exchanging work by post, following each other on Instagram and meeting up in real life. 

Illustration by Yulia

That’s why we decided to officially launch a drawing club, and worked hard on creating a bold corporate identity concept with a new name and a website. We collaborated with Fabricio Rosa Marques, a Berlin based product designer, when creating our website.  For now we are using Patreon as the main platform for our club but we are considering to launch an independent one at some point.

Brush Up Club also has a Youtube channel and an Instagram account.

How does the club work?

Each month we select a different theme we want to explore together with our members. We send out a thoroughly researched monthly bulletin with useful links to articles, inspiring artists’ works and tutorials on the topic.

We also expanded our offer from online zoom sessions to tutorials that we film for our members, since, in our experience, some people are not ready to meet online face to face but still require some inspiration to practice drawing on a regular basis.

Our Zoom meetings take place twice a month in the morning on Fridays. We prepare a list of materials, an inspiration board with works of renowned artists and illustrators, and work on fun exercises for our members to try out.

For instance in November the theme was watercolor. During one of the sessions we painted three portraits of each participant( a monochrome one, a two and a three color one in order to slowly approach the complexity of color decisions in watercolor). As we were painting, the model had to do 3 self-portraits, following the same rules.

Watercolor portrait by Christina Pirvu

It’s not only conventional drawing and painting that we explore, we’ve hand printed each others dynamic silhouettes, created each other’s paper-cut portraits, and used stamps to sketch interiors.

Paper collage portrait by Bela Unclecat
Paper collage by Natasha Yamshikova

Engraving on foam rubber by Olga Epikhina
Interior with stamps by Christina Pirvu

In December we decided to move away from life drawings and concentrated on illustration and print, illustrating children’s poems and creating a Christmas themed risograph poster tutorial.

Bonus Sessions

Thanks to our supporters on Patreon, we’ve been able to sustain our club for 4 months! We do understand, however, that some people are not ready to commit and subscribe without having tried one of our sessions out, and that’s why we conduct bonus sessions where anyone can participate for a donation(these sessions are, of course, free for our Patreon supporters).

During one of these open sessions we asked our participants to dress up as folktale characters, and had an enjoyable time of drawing oriental scenes, pirates, Baba Yaga, Vasilissa the Beautiful and many more.

Watercolor by Elena Georgelin

Other initiatives

Being illustrators ourselves, we could not miss the possibility participate in Inktober. We didn’t want to draw the actual Inktober prompts, however, and created our own, preparing a list of characters and a list of locations and randomly combining them for each day during a livestream on Instagram. Through a happy coincidence a prompt for the 31st of October turned out to be “A witch in a museum”.

"Witch in a museum" by Yulia
"Witch in a museum" by Olga

This summarises the short, but already intense and fruitful existence of our club. We wish you a successful and creative New Year and hope that you’ll join our club in 2021!

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Let’s brush up our drawing skills, together

Come draw with us! Brush Up Club is here to expand your illustration skillset and have fun together. We offer live drawing sessions via Zoom, video tutorials, in-depth articles and more

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