HASTINGS MUSEUM and Art Gallery are hosting the exhibition ‘Together We Draw’ (January 20 – June 5). This exhibition isn’t a mere group of life-drawings, but an example of how a unique creative event was born, during the lockdown of 2020, and brought creatives from around the world together. Curated by the iconic St. Leonards-based artist, model, and muse, Sue Tilley, this exhibition presents a selection of portraits produced by the hundreds of people who took part in ‘Life Drawing with Sue Tilley’ during the lockdown of 2020.
Part ‘life drawing class’ and part celebrity interview, the live-streamed show saw Sue invite an infamous friend each week to pose for an online audience of local Hastings’ people and from across the world, who would all sketch away and submit questions while Sue and her model had a candid chit chat. These funny, open and uncensored conversations would often touch on deep issues – mindfulness, relationships, addiction, love, death, pop stardom and, of course, isolation.
The portraits on display in ‘Together We Draw’ are not just influenced by the model’s appearance, but by the conversations and atmosphere of the show, making each piece a unique documentation of a moment in time.
‘Life Drawing with Sue Tilley’ was broadcast weekly from March 2020 to March 2021 on Isolation Station Hastings an online community live-streaming channel which was a platform for local events during the pandemic.
Guests included actress Michelle Collins, performer and broadcaster Scottee, nightlife royalty Princess Julia and legendary DJ Fat Tony. The show quickly became one of the most popular weekly events with thousands of portraits created. It also provided a moment for people to be together, during a period when isolation was causing significant challenges to many.
This vibrant and colourful display of portraits encapsulates a collective moment in time when being together and sharing space – even digitally – became desperately needed. Most importantly, ‘Together We Draw’ demonstrates that anyone can be an artist and the process of creating is something everyone should enjoy, something Sue passionately believes in. In fact the range of creativity and talent in the exhibition is diverse, seeing as both professional artists/creatives, but also amateurs, and even beginners took part.
Sue Tilley explains how these unique life-drawing classes were realised:
“I was running art classes at the Fountain Pub when the pandemic struck. Being intrinsically lazy I was originally very excited about not being able to work and being able to lie about watching TV. But after a couple of weeks I was climbing the walls so I was thrilled when Isolation Station offered me a chance to do my classes online.
It was very different to the classes in the pub as I couldn’t see what everyone was drawing so I decided to have a conversation with the model to pass the time. This worked very well, in fact so well some people got so carried away listening to the chat they forgot to draw. But plenty of people still did and it was so thrilling to see what people had done when they sent on their finished works.
It taught a lot of people how relaxing drawing is and how when you are concentrating the time passes by so quickly. People were also thrilled with what they produced and looked forward to each broadcast.
I loved doing it and loved connecting to friends old and new in Hastings and all over the world. And it has been wonderful reconnecting as I’m contacting people to ask them if I can borrow their work for the show.”
One of the artists whose work was selected for the exhibition, is Stella Sevastopoulos, who was taking part in the classes all the way from Athens, Greece. She had the following to say: “Sue Tilley’s online classes were the highlight of my week during the lockdown. I moved to Athens from London back in 1994, and it was so much fun listening to Sue’s conversations with the sitters, about the London club scene in particular (something that I had enjoyed when I used to live there!). Sue created a unique international online art community via these life-drawing sessions.”
Models interviewed and drawn by viewers included:
Chrissie Boy, founding member of the iconic band Madness that started in 1976. @mrcjforeman; Donald Urquhart, one of the leading Scottish artists of his generation @donald.urquhart; Eve Ferret…Model and Artist, actress and singer whose films include Absolute Beginners with David Bowie and Haunted Honeymoon with Gene Wilder. @eve.ferret; Felicity Hayward, one of the most recognised curve models in the fashion industry renowned for breaking barriers in the beauty and fashion industry. @felicityhayward; Fat Tony, described by GQ as “the closest thing British club culture has to a national treasure” Fat Tony is one of the gay clubbing scene’s most legendary figures. @dj_fattony_; Jacqui O’Sullivan, singer and songwriter, best known as a member of the pop group Bananarama from 1988.@jacquioofficial; Les Child, was principal dancer in the Michael Clark company and has choreographed shows for Boy George, Eartha Kitt, Erasure, Marc Almond, The Pet Shop Boys and the Rolling Stones; Mark Moore, producer, DJ, writer and mastermind of chart topping group S’Express. @markmoore01; Damon Alexis-Rochefort, wrote songs for Ru Paul, Kim Wilde and La Toya Jackson before switching to script-writing for Coronation Street. @damonrochefort; Julian Ganio, fashion stylist and artistic director, currently working with Italian luxury fashion mega brand Fendi and the Great British clothes designer Paul Smith. @ganio; Michele Clapton, Emmy and BAFTA award winning costume designer for her work on Game of Thrones, The Crown and many other TV shows. @micheleclapton; Michelle Collins, worked in TV, Film and Theatre for the last 35 years. She has been in 2 of the UKs best loved soap operas Eastenders and Coronation Street. @michelledcollins; Princess Julia… Artist and model, dj, writer, muse, model and artist, a career in clubland that spans over four decades from the mid 70’s to the present day. @hrhprincessjulia; Rory O’Neill (Panti Bliss), dragperformer Panti played a central role in the campaign for marriage equality in Ireland in 2014 @pantibliss; Scottee… Model, a self taught artist who makes political performances and is also one of the token working class people allowed on BBC Radio 4. @scotteeisfat.
Sue Tilley was born in South London in 1957. Although she worked full time in various Job Centres including 12 years in Soho’s Denmark Street, she became a stalwart of the eighties club circuit, where she met Leigh Bowery.
He employed her as cashier at his nightclub Taboo. He introduced her to artist Lucian Freud and his portraits of her, among them ‘Benefits Supervisor Sleeping’, broke records at auction for paintings by living artists at the time. In 1997 she published her biography of Leigh Bowery. Tilley carried on working at the jobcentre until 2015 when she retired and moved to St Leonards-on-Sea.
She now paints, runs art classes, writes, DJs, gives talks, hosts quizzes and collaborated with Fendi on their menswear SS18 collection. She also has a fashion line which is exclusively available on http://www.Popstacular.com.
Hastings Museum and Art Gallery
The award-winning Hastings Museum & Art Gallery is a family-friendly museum with amazingly diverse collections; there really is something for everyone! The museum was established over 125 years ago and has always offered people the opportunity to explore art, culture and history from around the world.
- ‘Together We Draw’ is produced and funded by Home Live Art in collaboration with Hastings Museum and Art Gallery and Isolation Station
- ‘Life Drawing with Sue Tilley’ was funded by Isolation Station Hastings and co-produced with Home Live Art
- ‘Art Scene Athens’ is written and run by artist/journalist Stella Sevastopoulos, who has been covering the Greek art scene since she moved from London to Athens in 1994. For examples of her artwork, you may visit her online portfolio.