OffBeat Figure Drawing: “FIRE FLY”

Story and photos by Jenessa Blanchet

“You Belong.” This is the simple mantra echoed in every communication, post or media release about OffBeat Figure Drawing events and this could not be a more apt statement.

On Friday, April 5, I attended my first ever OffBeat Figure Drawing session, “FIRE FLY,” at the #maillotcastle, a stoic 1970s home, sponsored as a one year art residency project in Mount Royal. 

Even though I had read and heard about how open and inclusive these OffBeat Figure Drawing events were, I was admittedly nervous.  I’d never attended a live figure drawing and that nagging voice in the back of my head was quietly whispering “You don’t belong….you’re out of your league.” It was nonsense, but the truth is we all hear the same noise whether or not we’ve been creating art for decades or have never before picked up a pencil or brush.

Art, for such a tiny word, can be incredibly intimidating. We bury that little word in so many heavy expectations and strict definitions that we rob it of the simplistic fact that it is nothing more than the manifestation of human creativity…that’s all.  Even if we understand this, many of us don’t even know where to begin to dig it out from under the burden of our own misconceptions about ourselves as artists.

But Desere Pressey, director of Little Duck Gallery, has found a way for you to not do any digging at all;  a way to effortlessly show you that “You Belong”

From the moment I stepped through the door of the space we were to create in, my fearsome, internal dialogue immediately ceased. Greeted by smiling, approachable faces and encouraged to take some time to explore the eccentric building, I instantly felt the inclusive energy that had been so carefully curated for the event.

The night marked the beginning of creative collaborations between AUarts (formerly ACAD) and Little Duck Gallery (set to open in the fall of 2019 in Kensington). They had taken the architectural indulgence of this former residence and elevated it to something unique and multifaceted; they had dramatically set the stage for you to become part of an inviting and immersive experience.

With live models posing and various performing artists stationed about, it was easy to find a space that suited you, to settle and prepare yourself to create. The first half of the evening consisted of the models posing in shorter segments, working up to a 15 minute pose before a break. These shorter poses allowed you to both warm up and not fall into the trap of placing a great deal of expectation on your work. 

Even Desere’s calm and welcoming voice, as she went from room to room introducing herself and sharing information about the event, the venue and the creative participants, seemed to cohesively support the tone of the evening.

Time passed quickly, the night flowing fluidly from pose to pose, from creating to taking in. Guests were welcome to move about and select a new space to create in or stay as they were, whatever suited you, the artist.  The second half of the evening closed with a longer, half hour pose and as gently and subtly as the night began, it ended with quiet applause for the models, the performers and the artists all around.

The event was everything it promised to be and more. “You Belong” perfectly represented  the lack of pretension and the open energy at this OffBeat Figure Drawing session. And it wasn’t just the realization that you belonged that resonated with you as you walked away from “FIRE FLY,” but that Desere Pressey and her creative collaborators had managed to gracefully design the evening to belong… to you; to your introduction to or continued acceptance of yourself as an artist.

From the moment you walked through the door, there was an imperceptible and immediate stripping away of your apprehensions about yourself as an artist as you gently received the awareness that art does not have to be either intimidating or exclusive. OffBeat Figure Drawing shows us that art is for everyone, art is everywhere, and that we belong.

I would highly recommend attending one of these sessions, especially if you are looking to dip your toes into the local art scene and I cannot wait to see what future events and collaborations will hold.

For more information on OffBeat Figure Drawing or to learn about upcoming events, check out