Art Macabre resurrect the fun and playfulness of putting pencil to paper through London’s only “death drawing” salons. RIP memories of boring drawing classes as events producer Nikki Shaill, aka ghostly host Raven Rouge, invites you to try your hand at skeletal sketching. Believing passionately that everyone can enjoy experimenting with drawing given the right inspiration, Art Macabre’s nocturnal ring-mistress aims to inject a lethal dose of theatricality, curiosity and the macabre into life drawing and encourages you to brandish an artistic weapon of choice and make some killer marks.
OUR STORY SO FAR
Art Macabre Drawing Salons, also known as ‘Death Drawing', have been running since 2009. We started out with 15 people sketching in the small back room of an East London pub. Over the past 7 years, we've grown to now hold events for up to hundreds of people at the UK's top cultural venues. Thousands of people have sketched with Art Macabre across the UK. And we're still growing and welcoming new participants to draw with us every week.
Since 2014 we have had a studio space in Clapton, Hackney. Down in the basement of a gorgeous old church and community space called The URC Round Chapel, we hatch our plans, make our props and store the many sketching materials and skeletons that make Art Macabre happen.
The events were founded by Art Macabre's current director and host Nikki Shaill as part of a Ladyfest Ten team of volunteers, as fundraising events for the DIY arts festival. The team also included artist and educator Ellie Green, and the beautiful, talented Lucinda ‘Lux’ Chell. Lux played an integral part of developing the salons and shaping their macabre themes, not to mention pioneering the soundtracks and many of the playlists you’ll hear played during the salons are her eclectic musical legacy. Her creative and curious spirit lives on through the events and she is a much missed collaborator, artist and friend to Art Macabre.
Nikki Shaill managed and developed the events alongside a full time events producer role for another company until 2013, when she took the leap of faith to go freelance and see how far she could invest her time and creativity into Art Macabre. Years later, she hasn't found a good enough reason to get another full time job yet! Nikki is very much the driving force behind Art Macabre (from the event conception and art direction to the marketing, admin, hosting on the day, ticketing and all else that goes into a company). However she couldn't do it without the loyal, enthusiastic team of regular artists, models, collaborators and volunteers who are part of the Art Macabre community. Including Aaron Jacob Jones and Linsay Trerise, who have taken many of the photos on this website, Jon Attfield, Teddy Valentine and more.
Our events are untutored, as we believe that everyone can enjoy drawing given the right inspiration, but we work with guest artists from time to time, such as Lozzy Bones, Hysteria Machine, Jake Spicer, Frank Gambino and Hybrid Desire.
As an events producer and arts programmer, Nikki Shaill aspires to continually create the kind of cultural experiences that she would like to attend; participatory, inclusive, original, multi-sensory, provocative and nurturing of creativity in its widest and wildest forms.
From film noir to folk rituals, Nikki concocts different themes for each event that take a macabre yet playful, sometimes serious and more often humorous, look at death and the darker side of life. Founded on All Hallow’s Eve in 2010, evolving from Ladyfest Ten’s DIY feminist drawing events, Art Macabre developed in response to a demand for drawing events that presented a more diverse variety of models. From the start, the events focused on allowing models to express their unique character as they posed, whether through sharing their hidden talents or baring their secret tattoos for the participants’ drawing delight. We aim to be body-positive, embrace the fluidity of gender and sexuality, and a welcoming and inclusive community. Narrative, costumes, music and props have become increasingly elaborate and important features of the events and tableaux.
Hundreds of people have modelled with Art Macabre, from first timer friends to professional life models. Models have included mime artist duos, roller derby athletes, circus clowns, yoga practitioners, drag queens and morris dancers. The oldest model posed with her teeth out, and props range from pig’s hearts and chocolate banquets, to leopard skulls and taxidermy chickens. Movement and dynamic poses have been explored through models suspended by Japanese rope bondage, Mexican wrestlers competing in railway tunnels and dance from the ancient practice of Butoh to ballet and voguing.
Our models have included people such as musician Gabby Young, cabaret and drag performance stars Virgin Xtravangazah, Tete Bang and Ragina, Lucha Libre wrestler Garry Vanderhorne, The Bearded Dame Harnaam Kaur, contortionist Tomasso Di Vincenzo, opera singing Carmen Mon Oxide, and performers Molly Beth Morossa, Amy Kingsmill and Missa Blue.
We welcome first time models, often helping to launch the career of those who go on to life model regularly elsewhere. Interested in appearing at the salons and got an idea for that something special you could bring to the theme? We’re dying to hear from you.
PARTNERS AND COLLABORATING ORGANISATIONS
Regular salons are held at Tower of London (called Drawn at the Tower with Art Macabre), twice a month at The Book Club on Saturday afternoons, and regularly at other venues such as Royal Academy lates, Barts Pathology Museum, Queen of Hoxton and other venues in London and beyond. Salons have been held in Parisian cafe gardens, East London cemeteries at dawn, plus summer festival tours including Latitude, Festival No 6 and Wilderness festivals, Ashmolean Museum, British Museum, Salon London and many more places. Here are some of those we have partnered with: