Buvette Masthead

Seven and a half heads tall: Meg Morton shares the essence of life drawing

Jessica Schumann

careers-1024x711With her heart set on attending art school to study life drawing in the midst of Berlin’s thriving art scene, Meg Morton was determined to get a creative education like no other. Ready to soak up everything she could, Meg just ‘missed the boat’ and so sought out the next best thing the creative city could offer her.

“I joined seven different art collectives that ran across the Berlin at all hours of the day,” the 27 year old waitress-by-day (you may recognise her as the friendly face of Monster kitchen and bar), artist-by-night shares.

“It [life drawing] is so fluid over there and so accepted. It’s a really natural art form in Berlin and I fell in love with it. I was literally doing it full-time.”

For Meg, life drawing has an attitude unlike any other, with shared unspoken ease and respect for the models who bare all before the students who dare to draw them.

Two years ago, she returned home to the nation’s capital with a suitcase full of knowledge, a passion to share what she had learnt and an eagerness to etch her mark on Canberra.

Meg Morton2

“When I came home, I was a bit heartbroken and I wasn’t ready [to leave life drawing behind]; I needed to keep doing it,” confesses Meg, who has called Canberra home since age 11.

“When I left Berlin, I asked myself ‘Why can’t I create the same [art] culture here [in Canberra]?'”

Leaving a world of excitement, action and with a vibrant social scene, Meg was worried about what she was coming home to, but discovered soon after planting her feet back on home ground that Canberra was in fact beginning to take off.

“Canberra has really bloomed in the last two years and with it an exciting momentum where it’s all about food and hospitality culture. People are out and about, trying new things and being more social,” she says.

“I joined a group at the ANU but it was so expensive and inaccessible and I just didn’t love it. So I thought I’d create my own [classes].”

“My mentality was not about making it a business. I never intended it to be this successful. I just really wanted to have it as a community. Like-minded people doing something really simple together.”

Opening the doors of her tiny Watson townhouse, Meg began to regularly host and facilitate life drawing sessions. Two years on, she now has a following and the whole process down pat – including finding models familiar with the artistic form. Though there have been some interesting characters along the way…

“In the beginning, I would get the weirdest responses [to callouts]. Some of them didn’t know it was nude or semi-nude; others weren’t prepared for it,” she says.

From a humble 12 students, Meg’s classes have grown six fold with more than 70 people attending in any given week. An average class size is 25 people and that’s to ensure enough room for each artist and to maintain the intimacy experienced within a life drawing session.

Meg Morton sketch

“It eventually got too big for my apartment and so when I met this model, we collaborated and have recently moved to a venue which has introduced me to loads more models,” Meg says.

With an amazing repertoire among the local art scene of about 15 models, Meg is able to offer those who attend variety and a creative space accessible by all. Based out of Friend Gallery on Braddon’s Lonsdale Street, Meg is happy with the move.

“We’ve gone into a space that’s really invested in the arts. It’s not just accepting; it’s encouraging and it really fuels the fire,” she says.

“I pay a really small fee to be there and it’s contributing back into the art world that I so want to be a part of.”

Through a bit of research, it’s easy to see that there’s really no other classes like Meg’s.

“I want it to be as open and accessible to anyone as possible. This is the beginning of something quite special,” Meg says humbly.

With both non-tutored and tutored classes offered, Meg says you’re encouraged to participate at your own level.

“I always say if you’ve got your own style and you’re not here to learn, you can. Use this space [the classes] to how you see fit,” says Meg.

Ironically, this lover of life drawing proclaims she is ‘not the best life drawer’ and that you don’t actually need any art experience to sign up. And while everybody is different, she adds it’s all in a person’s relationship and connection with the model.

“A model that I love and can draw well, may not be the same for another person who might not respond at all,” Meg says.

Meg Morton

“It’s taken me this long to get a thorough understanding of why it’s [my drawings] good, what make a good model and what you need to have in your class that ensures everybody leaves, including the model, feeling happy.”

The tutored classes include a walk through of techniques and exercises that provide any participant with a basic understanding of life drawing and its approach. But for Meg, it’s the community created around life drawing and its free spirit that she loves.

“The human form is one of the oldest form of study in history and there’s something so timeless about it,” she says.

“It’s a not a person’s figure that is important; it’s the relationship with their body and their relationship with the group, even if it is a silent one.”

An exhibition, 7½ heads tall, of figure drawing and sculptures curated by Meg Morton will open at the Nishi Gallery on Friday 23 January from 6pm to 9pm with works by artists in the Colony Collective and the Nishi Art Collective with Meg Morton, life drawing groups. The free exhibition runs until Sunday 1 February.

The Exhibition

The essentials
What: 7½ heads tall
Where: Nishi Gallery, 17 Kendall Lane, NewActon
When: Saturday 24 January to Sunday 1 February; 11am-3pm Monday to Friday; 11am-4pm Saturday and Sunday.
How much: Free

Life drawing classes

The essentials
What: The Colony Collective non-tutored Life drawing classes
When: Classes reconvene Monday 2 February and run every Monday evening from 6pm-8.15pm
Where: 68 Banjalong Crescent, Aranda (around the back of the old Aranda shops in a beautiful old building that’s been revamped by Two Before Ten)
How much: $20 per class (discount cards also available) with all materials provided.
Web: Find The Colony Collective on Facebook
[email protected]

The essentials
What: The Nishi Art Collective with Meg Morton (tutored) Life drawing classes
When: 6pm-8pm every second and last Tuesday of the month. Classes reconvene Tuesday 24 February
Where: Monster Kitchen and Bar, Hotel Hotel
How much: $20 per class or $180 for 10 classes
Email: Reserve an easel via email to [email protected]au


Jessica Schumann

A 'rambling ranga' at heart, Jessica Schumann is a bubbly, creative social thinker who thrives on words, social media and an innate knack for sharing stories. When she finds the time to write, Jessica seeks out the beauty in change and the essence of human condition. Varied and diverse in nature, her writing delves into the enviable world of people, travel, food and culture. When you can't find her in a nook writing, just follow your nose and you’ll soon find Jessica indulging in her other passion – cooking – or curled up on the couch with a good book in hand. You can find her over at ramblingranga.com.au. More about the Author