Zajia Lab 杂家

in archived, art, beijing, Beijing Archive 2012-2016, painting

Drawing in Beijing

I like to draw. Lately, I use charcoal, pencil, and gouache, but I also love ink, pastel, and oil. I like to use color and more than anything, I love drawing people — especially those who are in the room with me. I can’t seem to get as excited by drawing from photos or even from my own sketches, but I try sometimes.

Artist: Elizabeth Jenkins

My drawings from a few Dr Sketchys sessions in NYC. (5-20 minutes per drawing)

In New York City, I easily found a couple of venues that offered life drawing.

Minerva at Spring Studios in SOHO provides consistent, traditional life drawing sessions for $15 each (about 2 hours) with a discount if you buy multiple sessions ahead. Sessions every day — morning/afternoon/evening. Totally amazing. An institution.

Artist: Minerva Durham

Spring Studio NYC –
Artist: Minerva Durham (charcoal & charcoal pencil)

The other venue is Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School brought you by Molly Crabapple. It’s totally annoying in many respects — sporadically scheduled, terrible lighting, accompanied by loud music with (mostly) teetering models that can’t keep still, and seating that makes it impossible for most of us to actually see the model, but it’s really great and I almost always attended. Usually it’s at a bar. Sometimes you can get a $3 PBR, but more likely you’ll spend $12 on a gin and tonic. So you’ll be drunk and drawing at 1:00pm on a Saturday. And there are contests. One time I won a giant, spherical, stuffed cow. Anyway, it’s lovely.

Photo: Kate Black

Dr Sketchy’s NYC – Contest in progress. Model is Raquel Reed.
Photo by the amazing Kate Black.

In Beijing, I’m still trying to find some good places. I have been to the idiotically-named cultural center the Hutong a couple of times for their Monday night Life Drawing Club. Both times the model was the same 30-something lady who seemed vaguely uncomfortable and favored kind of boring poses. No one was clearly leading the group — the night began with someone awkwardly asking who was willing to keep time. No one was clear if we should be speaking English or Chinese, but at least one person announced that she couldn’t keep time because she couldn’t speak Chinese. The model wasn’t saying a word, but didn’t seem to follow any of the English. When we took a break to give the model a rest, almost no one conversed. That’s the same with the NYC sessions as well — attracts mostly social misfits (like me!).

Artist: Elizabeth Jenkins

My drawings from the Hutong. (2-5 minutes per drawing)

At ¥60 for 2 hours (¥50 with membership discount), it’s still something I’ll go back and try again. No pre-registration required, but check their calendar before you go because they have cancelled at least one session in the last month or so. Also, I took a cooking class there and it was FABULOUS.

The Hutong

The Hutong – cooking class was fun, drawing is meh

I contacted another place called Lumalu and Lucie cheerfully responded that they would be starting this month with some life drawing sessions every Tuesday at Zajia Lab 杂家 7:00-8:30. Like the other place, it costs ¥60 RMB/class. Or you can register ¥240/4 classes. Sounds promising. She texted me about an hour ago to say that they are cancelling tonight, but will start next week (December 11). Fingers crossed!

Zajia Lab 杂家

Zajia Lab 杂家

Another place was recently advertised on Timeout Beijing and is run by some Frenchies: Atelier (French/English/Chinese/Italian). Notice that they have an official Chinese domain. Interesting. They mainly feature art classes for kids, but they have a life drawing class for adults on Monday nights with Marianne Daquet.


Atelier – Great images on facebook of the kids programs. Hopeful that the adult stuff will be just as fun!

Sadly, the session at Atelier conflicts with the cheaper session at the Hutong. I need to give it a try though, because this isn’t just a drawing session — it really claims to be a class, like with a real instructor. I’m actually pretty excited by that! Zelda Devon, an artist I just started following, mentions using this Atelier method on her blog at Teetering Bulb. She says it is life-altering. Looking at her work, you’ll have to agree. Amazing work.

Zelda Devon

Artist: Zelda Devon – Jaw-droppingly beautiful work! She captions this: “After 3 years of Atelier training, the fundamentals are slowly beginning to make sense. This is a 6 hour study. I’m interested in the effortless look of a big brush painting. -Z”

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  1. Fantastic…I was hoping you’d continue with drawing/painting if you had free time in Beijing. You have lots of talent!!! Keep at it. It’s so much fun altho terribly frustrating as well. Say hi to J from me.

  2. Hi!
    I’d like to ask where I could buy art materials in beijing (preferably cheap) Im after gouache paint and i just can’t find it anywhere!!

  3. Art stores across from the national art museum near Dongsi on line 1.

  4. Thank you for this blog. I wonder if you or any other readers have updates. I would love to join drawing or painting (pref acrylic or watercolour) classes or groups in Beijing (as of May 2017). I’m not making any progress looking on line! Or maybe a recommendation for teacher and we could try and get a group together?