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A Hidden Gem: Relaxed Drawing at Wardlaw

This event occurs from 3pm - 5pm every Wednesday. Free entry.

Advertised as a drop-in session for budding artists and tired students alike, the Wardlaw Museum’s Relaxed Drawing session on 13 March proved to be one of the University’s most overlooked events. Although there were several regular visitors to the museum, the event in question was sparsely attended yet still managed to be one of St Andrews’ hidden gems for those looking to take a break from the stresses of academia at this time of year. 


Offering the opportunity to sketch a range of objects on display, from prehistoric fish to intricate stained glass windows, the Wardlaw Museum jumps on a trend that has increasingly been employed in many galleries and museums across the country. In doing so, these places have been transformed from display spaces to more interactive venues where the boundary between object and viewer is increasingly blurred.   


Upon entering, drawing materials, including a clipboard, paper, and pencils, were provided at the door and foldable chairs were available in each gallery. The staff proved welcoming and eager to offer further information on any of the objects on display from old Incan artefacts to skulls from the town’s darker past. 


Many of the most popular objects were in the museum’s newest exhibition Iran: Wonders of Nature, which offers a rare glimpse into ancient Persia and the vibrant culture of the region. The phoenix-like ‘Simorgh’ bird, the ‘Rabbit-Fish’ and the ‘Stone Mountain Man’ all attracted great attention. 


“I heard it was free,” Billy, a maths student, said, as he struggled with the intricate feathers of the Persian Simorgh. After a series of lengthy and challenging tutorial sheets, he had chosen to pop over to the event for some much-needed rest. “It’s been great so far, there’s a good selection of objects and consistent lighting,” he explained, already eyeing the muscular figure of the Stone Mountain Man. 


Other students found subjects in unexpected places, some turning away from the displays and towards the impressive sea view the museum offered on its viewing terrace. “If I had a few more hours it would be better,” one student said, bemoaning the “short” two-hour window in which he was given to sketch the unfolding landscape before him. 


However, some found that drawing was increasingly cumbersome and became distracted by the many interactive displays the museum offers. Putting down his clipboard, Billy became engrossed in one of the many mathematical games which tested his pattern recognition against a timer. 


The Wardlaw Museum has always felt particularly St Andrean, with its galleries charting the University’s long and prestigious history through a plethora of displays including ceremonial maces and astronomical instruments. Its relaxed drawing sessions, organised every week on a Wednesday, demonstrate a willingness to engage with university life in a way that students, tired out from their studies, would be mistaken to miss.

Photo: Beau Thomas

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