Bristol street artist Andy Council agrees. “I think having a bit of a plan is good. Freestyling can work too, but sometimes the results might be a bit too random.” With a career that spans over 10 years, Andy has built a reputation for large-scale murals, often featuring urban landmarks on the backs of his trademark dinosaurs. He champions working in public. “You just don’t get the same experience doing illustration work in the studio, and the audience response isn’t so direct when your work is displayed in a gallery.”
Another Bristol-based illustrator, Dave Bain (davebain.com), participated in and organised the first ‘illustration live draw’ as part of the city’s annual Urban Paint Festival in 2010 (upfest.co.uk). He is all too familiar with the challenge of maintaining momentum and keeping the audience involved. “Positioning [of the work and artist in relation to the audience] is very important to keep [them] engaged,” he says, “along with an element of live music to create a welcoming atmosphere.”
Artists should be able – and should make time – to break off from their work to talk to punters, as this makes them feel more part of the proceedings. “I love meeting people when I’m drawing,” says Dave.
That said, he notes that “it’s always worth checking with the organiser the exact length of time you have to draw”. You can then tailor your style appropriately to avoid the last-minute panic of rushing get your drawing finished on time.
This is especially important when working in a public-sector setting – an arena to which live drawing has recently spread, as Dave has experienced first-hand. “Drawing live for public-sector planning meetings is completely different to the atmosphere of a night-time, artist-led event. It’s a lot more civilised, in often quiet, formal surroundings, with less time to work.”
Whatever the venue, a variety of media can be provided, in a range of basic colours. Andy, who has appeared at numerous events in and around the south-west creating large pieces in a variety of working environments, likes spray paint. “I’m used to using Belton Molotow, though I am really getting into using MTN 94 which is nice and sticky – great for outlines.” “Posca pens are my preference,” says Josh, “and matte emulsion paint is always nice for quickly adding big blocks of colour.”
Dave likes to keep it simple. “I tend to not use much colour when live drawing, unless there is a longer length of time to complete a piece. Black lines on white is very immediate and graphically strong.
5 tips for success Andy Council
• Allow time to set up the work area. You need to ensure it’s stable and not wobbling around.
• It might sound obvious, but you must make sure there is enough room for the artist to create a good piece of work.
• Always provide fresh and good-quality materials for the artists to use – pens, paints, rollers etc.
• Make sure there is good music to keep everyone entertained while they work.
• Ensure there’s diversity in terms of styles and the artists who participate. Live-draw events are often a bit too heavy on the testosterone. andycouncil.co.uk
Work by Andy Council, anticlockwise from top Ouranosaurus, created at Street Fest in London in May 2011; Museumceratops at Bristol Museum; a piece for the Dead Sea Mob collective