Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Logo for The Western Front

Life Drawing Bellingham puts pulse into posing

The practice of figure drawing made modern with weekly meetings

The beginning of a portrait comes to life as participants sketch at Life Drawing Bellingham in Bellingham, Wash. on Jan. 2, 2024. Figure drawing allows artists to practice drawing the poses of a live model. // Courtesy of Cameron McCool

A spotlight from a tall lamp shines on a blanket in the middle of the floor. This makeshift stage in an old church near Western is set for the poses of a live model. 

Hosted by artists Cameron McCool and Tabitha Hwyl, Life Drawing Bellingham provides a relaxed space to create and connect every Tuesday from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

In the weekly gathering at Bellingham’s Karate Church, artists of every aptitude are invited to expand their skills in observation by sketching poses from a nude model. 

“You can release stress here [and] do the artwork. Or you can remember what it’s like to be creative,” McCool said. “It’s this nice little midweek pulse.”

The $15 sessions are supplemented with snacks, music and breaks to meet other artists. The drawing periods start with a series of 10 poses held for only 30 seconds, called “gesture poses,” before building up to longer intervals.

“The goal is to loosen up the mind. It’s so much like meditation, to release our grip on all this pre-knowledge,” McCool said. “To be in the precise moment, see what shape that shape is being and let my hand loosen up enough to capture it.”

McCool has been practicing art his entire life but fell in love with figure drawing for the first time in college. 

He began hosting life drawing sessions with his classmates at his Brooklyn apartment, and eventually made it a goal to start a group wherever he lived. Since then, he has hosted life drawing workshops in Boston, Anacortes and Bellingham.

Participants draw while sitting in a circle around a posing model at Life Drawing Bellingham in Bellingham, Wash. on Aug. 22, 2023. While some materials are available, many attendees bring their preferred mediums to capture sketches. // Courtesy of Cameron McCool

Alma Herrera-Sanchez started life drawing with McCool’s group in Anacortes but makes weekly trips to keep attending the sessions after they moved to Bellingham in March of 2023. She studied art in college, but before Life Drawing Anacortes, she hadn’t picked up a drawing pencil in years.

“I was inspired in a way that I hadn’t been … in a long time,” Herrera-Sanchez said. “In a year, I’ve come a long way just getting practice in.”

The long drive is worth it for Herrera-Sanchez, who has recently decided to pursue art full-time. 

“There is this magic that happens in real life, there’s an energy in the air and there’s the interaction with the model,” Herrera-Sanchez said. “You see a lot more. There’s more depth … because it’s supportive to be around other people doing art.”

Tabytha Murphy is an employee at Dakota Art Pastels with its own in-store life drawing sessions.

Dakota Art Pastels is a smaller general art supply branch of the Dakota Art Store in Bellingham and hosts life drawing sessions every other Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. The Mount Vernon store has been running figure drawing sessions for over 10 years. 

“The simple twist of a torso can give you a completely new set of challenges to work through, even though they’re the same exact person you were drawing a second earlier,” Murphy said in an email. 

McCool works to maintain a welcoming and lighthearted environment for artists to feel comfortable regardless of their experience. It also allows them to meet and share their work near the end of each session.

“It’s this powerful connection to being alive, being human and on top of that, this wild translation of drawing from life,” McCool said. “It’s an incredible symbolic patterning of what you’re going through, of your entire journey as an artist or as a person … it’s everything, on the paper.”

More on McCool’s work can be found on his website.

Halley Buxton

Halley Buxton (she/her) is a city life reporter for The Front. She is in her final year at Western with a major in creative writing and a minor in journalism. In her spare time she loves reading, writing with friends and collecting CDs. You can contact her at

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Western Front