When Guillermo Tapia invited me to participate in a nude drawing session, I envisioned a French parlor room setting where steely-eyed, mustachioed artists slaved away over large sheets of paper. The actual class couldn’t have been more different.
Five artists and I recently gathered in a cozy artspace just north of Race Street in the Riverside area. The night’s model was in high spirits. Grace Pham, wearing an oversized rain jacket to cover her nude body, told me the drawing sessions are a great way to meet other local artists.
“Were you nervous the first time you did this?” I asked.
“No,” she replied without hesitating. “I’ve always been pretty outgoing.”
Tapia soon got down to business.
“Tonight, we’re doing five one-minute sessions, three five-minute sessions, and one 30-minute session,” he said. “You guys ready? Start.”
Pham casually disrobed and assumed a seated position with her left hand resting on her elevated left knee.
I’ll admit, I was a little skittish about what to expect. And it took me a few minutes to feel comfortable resting my eyes on Pham without feeling like I was gawking. Once I got over that barrier, though, there were many more challenges to come.
Digital artist Alan Linnstaedt, presumably sensing my befuddlement, offered some advice.
“I wouldn’t get into super-fine details,” he said to me as I fumbled my way through the first couple of drawings.
With my weapon of choice, a stick of charcoal, I barely outlined one side of Pham’s body before Tapia called time. The opening exercises, I later found, were warm-ups, intended to prepare the hands and mind for the longer stretches to come. Pham proved an adept model that evening. Each pose — whether with her arms outstretched, with her fist pensively supporting her chin, or while dreamily lying on her side — was held patiently. Over the next hour, I learned how hard drawing from a model can be. My attempts were more human-ish looking than human.
As the drawing session ended, the young artists thanked Tapia for hosting the event. Many commented on how difficult it is to find local, affordable events like the one they just attended. The participants donated what money they could to cover the cost of the model.
The figurative sketching classes are barely one year old. Last summer, Tapia employed the concept to attract locals to a different Race Street studio, one in need of tenants. The sessions proved so popular that Tapia began hosting them regularly, along with fee-based classes led by local artist Alexa Alarcon and others. Tapia branded his concept Artluck. More established artists like Jeremy Joel, Brandon Pederson, and Jay Wilkinson had opened a group studio nearby dubbed Bobby on Drums just months earlier. The timing was auspicious. Tapia began hosting figurative drawing sessions at Bobby on Drums, and young painters flocked to see the popular artists’ workspace.
That summer, Noel Viramontes, founder of the artspace/venue FWBLACKHOUSE (pronounced “Fort Worth Black House”), connected with Tapia via Instagram. The two shared an online interest in the Riverside area, and the friendship soon led to artistic collaborations.
“We like to bring the arts into locations that don’t have it yet,” Viramontes said, adding that he and Tapia “both saw potential in neighborhoods” along Race Street.
By the River Art Fest, held off Race Street last June, featured 11 artists, including Tapia, Wilkinson, Atticus Broadbent, and Julian Gonzales.
“FWBLACKHOUSE really helped us out” with that show, Guillermo said, adding that Artluck is “about collaborations.”
Over the following year, Artluck’s programs expanded to include pop-up shows, lectures, mixers, and other artist-related events. Last March, Artluck presented the pop-up Good Bones at the nearby venue The Post. The open-air event space on Race Street drew several dozen fans to see paintings and photographs by Tapia, Laura Bacigalupo, John Fernandez, and several other artists.
Tapia credits businesses like Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer and The Collective Brewing Project for donating product, providing spaces for his shows, and boosting the resources available to Artluck.
Dee Lara, a friend of Tapia’s and founder of the hybrid art gallery Art Tooth, said Artluck “taps into Fort Worth’s rich tradition in drawing and painting and expands it by establishing a community space for access to educational art without the typical barriers for entry.”
Lara and many of the artists who attended the recent drawing session noted that those opportunities are largely limited to academic settings.
“We’re still figuring out the best use of our time,” Tapia said, referring to the balancing act of organizing shows and providing figurative drawing sessions. “We’d like to reach outside of the Riverside area and see where that takes us. We’re expanding the arts scene in Fort Worth, and the best way to go about it is through collaborations. We hope to expand into the city and beyond.”