Review: Art Macabre’s Drawing Dukebox

By May 17, 2016

IMG_4213Music and art are inextricably linked – in fact, are one and the same in many ways. And the artwork of an album can often be as treasured as the sounds it contains. Art Macabre’s latest project not only recognises this but celebrates it. 

Describing themselves as ‘death drawing,’ I was always a bit nervous about heading down to an event. ‘Macabre’ sounds intimidating, as do themes of vampires and monsters and events held in cemeteries and crypts after dark – it’s certainly not your usual life drawing class. That’s the whole point, though – within life and death there’s light and dark, and art can be a wonderful place to explore that, rather than adhering to the rigid rules of a traditional art class.

IMG_4287And I like to think of myself as someone who is keen to explore, especially when music and creativity is involved. So it seemed time to get involved. 
In a busy room downstairs at Shoreditch’s The Book Club we gathered at this first event, celebrating Record Store Day, to draw covers from famous albums whilst they were played in their entirety. The idea came from co-founder and current director Nikki Shaill’s girlfriend, and is something of a brilliant idea. Listening to an album in full, and listening together to music is quite rare these days, but as Nikki says ‘something quite special as a way of rediscovering classic artists’ music.’
It was a surprise to us all what the covers would be, but when the clues started coming we got excited. The art direction from Nikki meant that everything was carefully set up, with lighting, costume and props all enhancing the image. The cover and music of In Utero by Nirvana is iconic and dramatic, perfect for the setting, and model Carla Tofano was a brilliant blend of beautiful and intense, whilst the cover of Grace Jones’ Island Life is potentially more challenging to pose for than draw, with Ben balancing perfectly for the duration. Both were fun to draw and listen to. 
IMG_4259Art Macabre organise innovative, challenging and downright different life drawing workshop that started out six years ago as fundraising events for Ladyfest Ten. Having started off in a tiny back room of a pub near Mile End, with the occasional event, they’ve grown, spurred in part by a growing appetite in London for creative events as part of a night out, and by their vibrant approach. As well as ‘death drawing’ their calendar also features the Colourdrome and Drawing Jukebox events, which are a bit more colourful and bright. And alongside the intimate events they pride themselves in they sometimes venture to major museums and arts institutions such as the British Museum, Tower of London, V&A, and the Royal Academy, and at festivals across the summer.
Nikki says that they aim for their events to be “inclusive, friendly and accessible, to reflect a wide range of different models (whether in body type, sexuality, gender, style or persona), be theatrical and have awesome soundtracks, and inspire people in what they saw in our themes to pick up a pencil again and have a go.” 
So if inspired, check out the next dates for Art Macabre. If it’s the Drawing Jukebox that’s piqued your interest, the next show is on Tuesday 7 June at 7pm at Looking Glass Cocktail Club (tickets via and then 17 July at Citadel festival. Want to know what’s on the stereo? ‘We’ve got some fun album covers coming up, but it’s a surprise what will be played on the Jukebox next time so you’ll have to come and see and hear for yourself…’

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