With shoulders hunched over row after row, breaking every so often to stretch their necks and take in some neighbourly banter, the diverse crowd at the third annual Draw-a-thon inside Latitude 53 Gallery was certainly an industrious bunch.
As an observer for a brief part of the evening, the atmosphere lay somewhere between the unwavering buzz of a group meditation and the innocent joviality of a kindergarten art class. The basic need to draw, the desire to emote and render a thought coupled with intention, accumulated into a subtle frenzy of pure creation.
The air of sincerity and lack of ego surrounding everyone, fully absorbed inside their activity, was made even more exceptional by its location inside of a gallery setting. Usually a house for presentation rather than creation, the act of creating from inside of a gallery versus a studio carries a certain weight of subversion.
Todd Janes, Executive Director for Latitude 53, suggests that the Draw-a-thon’s success is partly due to its disruption of the “white cube” mantra.
“The idea of the four white walls, that if you put things inside them it then legitimizes the works in some way, is pretty standard,” he explains. “But here, we’re co-opting the space in a different way that’s collaborative and harmonious.”
Tim Rechner, the head organizer of this year’s Draw-a-thon, would agree.
“It would be different if it was set somewhere else,” he says after eight bleary-eyed hours of drawing. “I’m not sure why exactly at this moment, but the atmosphere would change for sure.”
The momentum of the Draw-a-thon in fact changes two to three times throughout the course of the day and night, rather than maintaining one sustained vibe through the ongoing art party, but for those very few who stay for the long haul, the notion of endurance took on a whole new meaning.
Slumped over in corners and doey-eyed from intense concentration, not everyone was as prepared for a Draw-a-thon as they would have liked. Fatigue of mind, heart and body is slightly different than just pulling another standard all-nighter.
Not that all artists present would have cared about the where and when circumstances. Most already and easily spend eight to 12 hours a day boarded up inside their studios, experimenting and refining their craft to their personal and professional satisfaction. It was obvious that some artists were at the Draw-a-thon simply to complete small-scale projects, using the evening as an excusable setting to work and to socialize in. Their focus is admirable, as even after the band began and the gallery became both uncomfortably warm and loud, most kept their heads down and continued working away.
The act of creating is often a lonely process, partly due to a necessity of concentration, and partly imposed by a general lack of celebrating the craft. The finished product is all that is usually heralded as art, yet the physical labour of art is where the tangible glow lies.
Bringing together a group of like-minded individuals doing similar things, but often doing them in solitude, the joy was in the shared and sustained acknowledgment that the work in art, without necessarily producing an end product, is an ongoing force alive and strong in everyone.