Drawing 'The Muse'


“You can be a brilliant draughtsman, but that means nothing if you are not seeing the world differently”

During May 2018, we teamed up with Cityread London to bring life drawing to 11 local libraries across the capital inspired by Jessie Burton's novel The Muse.

In a remote Spanish village on the brink of Civil War, Olive begins to paint. Her paintings, vividly described by Burton, show how a person, a place, or a moment in history each have the power to transform our perception of reality. This was the starting point for our life drawing workshops for all abilities. Combining observation with fantasy, participants drew their Muse in an imagined landscape using the shapes, colours and words in Burton's text.

For each workshop, a Figuration tutor led the group through some drawing techniques before introducing four main poses. A Figuration model became The Muse, interpreting an extract from the book in their own personal way. The eleven groups produced an extraordinary array of images, some by experienced artists, others by those who had never drawn like this before.

Selection of images

“The new piece was a surreal composition, set against a dark indigo sky and a shining field. On the left-hand side stood a woman carrying a heavy pot, in its centre was the face of the goddess Venus. Both the faces of the woman and Venus looked proud, staring out at the viewer... On the right half of the painting, the crop was deadened and limp. The woman appeared again, except this time she was curled inside a circle, hovering over the crop, her pot smashed around her.”

“It was a view from the bottom of the orchard, the finca behind it. It had its feet in the earth, but the sky above was enormous and swirling, with a hint of angelic, silver-grey.”