On a rare fine night, Danielle Wright visits an open-air pop-up drawing club in the middle of town.
In an area more commonly used as a thoroughfare, Persian rugs circle a performer next to a small table with velvet fabric topped with grapes. Pears and bananas rest on the floor. It's everything you'd imagine of a life drawing class, with the addition of clothes and fresh air.
Tonight's performer is a model from Europe who is in New Zealand temporarily. Last week, a yoga instructor performed acrobatic moves and the week before a belly dancer had all eyes on her in the middle of the circle.
The model moves around, lying down, standing up, smiling, now staring into space. For me, her job would be my ultimate nightmare - I don't like people looking at me, but she seems completely at ease and lapping it all up as around six people use her as inspiration for their sketches.
Everyone is quiet and most people have arrived on their own. The sound of water from the fountain is just heard above Andy Smith playing acoustic guitar perched on the edge of a planter box. It's like a small oasis in the middle of busy people rushing home.
Rebecka Janois, here for the first time, says she hasn't drawn for many years, but, after working all day, finds it relaxing to be creating something without any pressure.
"It's a chance for me to think about something other than my work," says Janois, who is a PhD student researching human and computer interaction. This is her chance to interact with people, albeit in a silent way.
Passers-by stop to see what is happening and to enjoy the ambience, some even bring their takeaway dinners and watch the class watching the model.
"It's totally different each time," says co-organiser Kate Barnett. "We have regulars, but it's such a walking zone that even if people don't stop and draw, they are affected by it. In a way, it's meditation as well as drawing."
Last week, a professional painter from Europe sat down to sketch and art students like to stop by for a class that is not being judged.
"We had a homeless man come along one night," says Barnett. "He decided to draw me instead of the model and in about 20 seconds he showed me an amazing sketch, like Picasso or something. He also gave me a link to his poems on Tumblr, he opened my mind to a different perception of him."
It's not just about the drawing, and never seems a chance for good artists to show off - I don't see anyone showing their work around, or even peeking at their neighbour's sketches. It seems more like a way to meet people in a relaxed atmosphere.
"We often go out to dinner with everyone left at the end of the class," says Barnett. "The classes are something social that's not about meeting at a bar."
Though I don't see anyone exchanging phone numbers, I do notice people dropping in for a while then going back into the early evening a bit more relaxed, as if they had somehow slowed time down for a bit, before rejoining the home-time bustle.
Drawn Pencil it in
* The Mid Town Drawing Club is in Khartoum Place, Lorne St, outside Tony's Steak and Seafood Restaurant (weather permitting). It's free, but donations are also welcome and go towards drawing supplies for the events. Use the supplied drawing equipment or bring your own. It's part of a series of pop-up events, check cleobarnett.com for events calendar and timing for the next club. Look out for Art Week Auckland events from October 26 to November 4.
* Life drawing at the Library Bar is $40 including cocktail, drawing utensils and a hunky male model. It's on the last Tuesday of each month.
If you need some practice before you go, try Draw Something, the latest social gaming hit. Comedian Jimmy Fallon described it as "Pictionary for people who don't want to see or hear each other." It's so popular, 35 million apps were downloaded in its first six weeks, making its owners US$200 million richer by selling their company. Available from itunes.apple.com.By Danielle Wright