Death drawing: Gothic sketching this Valentine’s

Death drawing. Pic: Kitty Knowles

Examples of death drawing. Pic: Kitty Knowles

Forget life drawing, go gothic this Valentine’s at an Art Macabre ‘death drawing’ session – perfect for both blood-lusting lovers and sick-of-love singletons.

The first of the drawing class’ Bloody Valentines Specials took place last night at the Hackney Attic. And, if their Romance is Dead session was anything to go by, then Saturday’s Kiss of the Vampire class at The Star in Hackney Downs is set to be a highly beautiful – but very bloody – affair.

“We are looking forward to taking your death drawing virginity,” announced our evening’s host, Raven Rouge. If you’re thinking hammer horror brides, you aren’t far off: Our first model, Odelia Opium, took to the stage as an ornate Chinese ghost bride, with long red robes, twinkling nipple tassels and an elaborate headpiece. After an impressive burlesque performance – all streaming fans and authoritative attitude – Odelia broke down her movements into striking stills for us to draw.

Guests sketched away to an eerie oriental soundtrack, but could nip to the bar at any time to keep their wine glasses topped up. While some artists were incredibly competent, a relaxed atmosphere made it comfortable for unskilled scribblers (like me).

Then a short break – where we were invited to learn how to make Danish love tokens at the craft table. And then on to our second model, Ava Iscariot – who looks strikingly like Marlene Dietrich.

With her blonde curls and black wings, Ava was every bit the gothic cherub. At the end of her burlesque she even grasped a bursting heart which slowly dripped (fake) dark blood down her torso.  Pretty gory stuff. Again we sketched, this time to a gloomy playlist: Tina Turner’s ‘It’s Only Love’, Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, Tears For Fears and The Smashing Pumpkins.

Death drawing model. Pic: Kitty Knowles

Ava Iscariot as a gothic cherub. Pic: Kitty Knowles

I asked a couple in front of me what brought them here. Hackney local, Aggie Zvirblyte, 26, said: “I really like drawing and am trying to get my boyfriend to be more creative.  I also like the twists of the macabre and the cabaret elements.”

Other death-drawers, like Milou Stella, 29 from Stoke Newington, were indulging in an anti-Valentines girl-date. “Anything that is a bit macabre and has to do with Valentines Day is awesome,” she explained. “It’s the right attitude, and I love their little twist on traditional life drawing, that element of fun and the unconventional.”

You might think that death drawing classes would be a bit of a girls club, but there were plenty of men in attendance too. Art Macabre regular, Dermot, O’Grady, 41, praised the classes: “If you want to draw and have a highly unusual evening then definitely this is the right place to come, I don’t think you’ll find it in too many other cities around the world, so people should do it in London while its going on.”

And what about the models? Miranda Brennan, who was in the audience last night, explained why she’s excited to be a Valentines Vampire on Saturday: “I’ve only ever modeled here and I love it,” she said. “I just felt brilliant about my body when I came on stage – its something to do with being able to dress up but also be yourself. I like that Art Macabre has such a variety of bodies and genders on display.”

“We do pull out the stops,” she laughed, “I am bringing fangs, not plastic £2.99 fangs either, but ones that go over my teeth – there will be lots of fake blood and amusing facial expressions.”

Kiss of the Vampire. Pic: Kitty Knowles

Kiss of the Vampire. Pic: Kitty Knowles

According to Nikki Shaill, the founder, director of Art Macabre, the Valentine Vampire Special is going to be “really kitsch and fun with lots of references to old school vampire films.”

“Plus,” she added, “It will be at The Star so in between drawing people can get a drink!”

Who wouldn’t want booze, blood and beautiful models this Valentines? Check out for tickets and a full list of upcoming events.

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