Artist Jody Kramer will be leading one of Draw Down’s many free workshops. (photo by Olga Livshin)
Vancouver Draw Down, a city-wide festival of drawing, is turning five this summer. In 2010, it started as a collaboration between the Roundhouse Community Centre, the Museum of Anthropology at University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Art Gallery, but its roots are found in the United Kingdom and its charitable Big Draw campaign. Their motto reads: “Drawing helps us to understand our world and to interpret and communicate ideas. We campaign to improve visual literacy. The campaign has one aim – to get everyone drawing!”
Marie Lopes, a Roundhouse programmer of arts, culture and environment and one of the founding members of the event in Vancouver, said, “The name Draw Down was inspired by our goal to help people get over the idea that drawing is a precious, frightening activity only practised by artists who have some kind of a mystical talent. Many people who do not think of themselves as artists see drawing as a dividing line between artists and non-artists. We hope to inspire people to get over their performance anxiety and just throw down and draw. We seek to reveal that drawing is a way to think, to dream, to plan and explain, to map, to share ideas and stories, to spend time together, to laugh. It’s intensely satisfying and a lot of fun.”
According to Lopes, in the first year, the Draw Down hosted free workshops at the Roundhouse, MOA, VAG and four community centres, with about a dozen artists participating. “In the four years since we started, we have grown to [more than] 43 free workshops, happening in all 23 Park Board community centres and 20 arts partner venues as diverse as Satellite Gallery and Mountainview Cemetery. We’re hoping to see over 5,000 ‘drawers’ coming out on the Draw Down day,” which will be June 14.
One of the artists who will be leading a workshop, called Dragon Ball, at Strathcona Community Centre is Jody Kramer, a local artist and animation filmmaker. In an interview with the Independent, Kramer said that this will be her second time participating in the event.
“Last year, Marie Lopes called me and asked if I would lead a workshop. I agreed. My workshop was stationed under the Main Street Poodle on Main and 17th. Of course, our theme was a poodle. Over 100 people came to my station to draw during the three hours of my time block. This year, I’ll be leading a workshop at Strathcona. We’ll be drawing basketball players and turning them into dragons.”
The theme isn’t mandatory for participants, just a prompt for those who don’t know where to start. “Anyone who comes to draw with us will have lots of creative freedom,” assured Kramer. “It’s about exploration, making your mark on the world. You don’t have to be an artist to draw. You just have to be brave.”
Kramer said people of all ages came to her drawing session under the poodle: toddlers with parents and senior citizens, art students and neighbors. “Children always draw; they are curious and not afraid. Adults often think that there is only one way to draw, the legitimate way, so they stand aside and let professionals do the job, but artists have been challenging such assumptions for generations, breaking with rules. Anyone can draw. There is no right way.”
Her goal is to see everyone who comes to her workshop drawing and happy, “to see their eyes light up with their own ideas,” although she is always ready to answer questions and provide guidance. “I like to give people confidence,” she said. “Let’s take away the idea of beautiful, high art. Let’s simplify art. You don’t have to be Emily Carr. You can draw a map and still make your mark.”
Kramer herself has always liked art but she didn’t consider herself a professional artist until she was in her 20s. “I always doodled, made up stories in pictures, but I didn’t know any professional artists. I thought I would be a writer or a teacher. After university, I worked in an office and I finally met people my age from Emily Carr. Then, I knew. I listened to them talk and I understood them. So, I went back to school, to Emily Carr, to study animation and I loved it. Still do. It makes me feel alive.”
To date, Kramer has created several animated shorts, quirky and expressive visual narratives that make people smile. She produces them in the old-fashioned way – by drawing. “Each film takes about two or three reams of paper [a ream is 500 sheets] for five minutes of film time, 12 pictures per second,” she explained.
She also has taught art, but pointed out that she doesn’t like a classroom setting. “I like teaching in a public environment. I worked as an educator for the Vancouver Art Gallery, conducted school tours and kids activities. I also worked for the R2R Film Festival, where children watch movies and make movies.”
Creating art in any form and shape makes her happy, and she will try to instil the same delight in everyone who comes to her drawing station on June 14. To learn more about Kramer’s art, visit jukimuseum.com; for more information on Drawn Down, visit vancouverdrawdown.com.
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].