I thought I’d put together a little guide as to how I went about setting up the Bournemouth D&D group, in case it might be useful to anyone thinking of starting a sketch group. A little background before I dive in –  I used to attend a similar sort of event in Bristol years ago, and when I moved back down to the South Coast, I found I missed the sense of community that came from a regular meet up with like minded creators (the Bristol group was specifically based around comics). I checked to see if anyone was doing anything similar, before taking the plunge and just inviting some friends to hang out and sketch, and it gathered momentum from there. 

Why set one up?
No artist is an island. Or, something like that. Cabin fever tends to be rife amongst artists, who spend large amounts of time holed up in their studios, working away in solitude. By enticing local artists down with the promise of good company and beer, it’s a great way to blow off steam, network and talk all things art.. as well as get some sketching done! 

First things first: Venue!
This is definitely the top priority to sort, and will almost certainly be the make or break of the group. You need to aim for somewhere that is easily accessible to all, that ideally has both parking nearby and is near bus routes. You will also need to look for somewhere that is going to have plenty of space for you all, and is going to have plenty of light. Skylights, for example, are great in the summer months, but with winter fast approaching the requirement for good artificial light is now a must for evening meetings. On top of this, good clean tables and comfy chairs are also worth looking out for. This sounds like a tall order, but these are all things to consider when looking for the right venue. Try looking for bars/pubs/cafes that already host or support other crafty nights (such as Stitch & Bitch, the knitting group), as they’re likely to be receptive to the idea. You may also find that there are artistically themed or independent venues that might go that little bit further to help you arrange the night – rearranging tables, lamps etc to suit the group. If in doubt, start the conversation – it’s amazing how accommodating people can be to a good idea!

Picking a night
This will quickly become a juggling act between what night’s the venue is free, and when people can do. Generally speaking, venues tend to be quieter during the week than at weekends, and people are a bit more available/haven’t already made plans. Bear in mind that you won’t be able to please everyone, but you should be able to find a night that works for most. Frequency – Once a week? Twice a month? Monthly? Work out a schedule that you can stick to and then go for it. You can always up the frequency later, but make sure when starting out and building the network that you don’t miss weeks – like building return traffic to a blog, it’s critical that the evening becomes cemented as routine.

Start small
The best best is to get together with a couple of your artist friends who live nearby and just start it. The hardest part about getting a Drink and Draw group going is the first couple of nights. Don’t worry that there are only 3 or 4 of you; just head down to the bar/pub/venue, grab a drink and start drawing. Worry about building the group up once you’ve got the routine established (…and if you’re doing it right, it should build itself!).

What do you do?
Keep it simple to start with. Encourage people to just sketch – be it from the imagination or from objects on the table. If other members are comfortable with it, try sitting for life studies opposite each other. Share exercises and techniques, look at each others drawing methods and offer support and constructive feedback. Remember that we’re all on the same path, together. Once established, you could then start looking to hold larger events, potentially collaborating with local models, dancers etc though again, only if this is something everyone is feeling. Ask the member for their feedback and find out what people want to be doing more of.

If you build it, they will come… sort of.
Promotion! Facebook groups, fliers, art shops. Sites like Moo.co.uk can be great for putting together short runs of promo cards relatively cheaply, to drive people towards the online presence of the group to get involved. Look for other creative based networks and share there, though be considerate and don’t just go in both guns spamming! (for example, Bournemouth has a ‘Bournemouth Creatives’ network on FB). Make it inclusive and be welcoming, invite all different types of artists. You’ll find it amazing how much cross over there is among different disciplines, and how much we all have that we can teach each other.

I hope this has helped, and would love to hear from you about your D&D group. As ever if you’ve any questions or queries, please either ping me an email or leave a message in the comments below. What are you waiting for? Go start your group today!