Nicholas Lawson
How well do you think you perceive the world around you? Have you ever tried to improve your visual perception? At the Manifest Drawing Center located in the Essex Studios in Walnut Hills you can find a place whose aim is to help you improve those artistic perceptions. This Drawing Center is a place where you can come and comfortably relax to some soothing music and embrace your inner artist. Be you either seasoned professional or rank amateur, you are welcome to come and simply practice the art of drawing.

This Manifest Drawing Center has a mission to be a part of the community and to open the doors to the creative processes that are inherent in exploring ones ability to draw. In the Manifest Mission Statement you can find the following "Drawing is a key skill underlying every visual art field. To learn to draw is to learn to see, and the way we make things look is directly related to how we see. For these reasons drawing is inseparable from our vision. Aesthetic quality affects one’s state of mind, therefore an ongoing goal of Manifest is to be a “Drawing Center” whereby that fundamental discipline is promoted, featured, and explored."

The Manifest Drawing Center is the only art center in Cincinnati that is known to be devoted to the craft of drawing as a discipline in its own right. Manifest takes drawing very seriously and is a dedicated non-profit organization that has committed its efforts to revitalizing the local community through the curation of quality artistic explorations. The people behind Manifest believe that by committing their time and energy to creating art that they can bring people together and foster community.

Tim Parsley is the Assistant Director of Manifest and he helps oversee the functions of what occurs in the Drawing Center in the Essex Studios. Drawing is the purpose for coming together as part of the community in the Drawing Center and Tim had the following to say about the studio:

"When you are drawing you are looking into your world in a way that doesn't happen at other times. You are using an intesne stare and an intense gaze to try and understand what it is that you are seeing and then you are bringing that down to a paper. Whether that is interpretatively or expressively or literally, each person is gong to do that a little differently.

I think at a professional level drawing is like the life blood of how things get made. There is something about the process of slowing down and looking and embracing the meditative appraoch it takes to really look at something and understand it from a visual and intuitive standpoint as opposed to glancing like we do in normal life." This approach to drawing gives Manifest the inspirational quality of inspiring people to want to view the world accurately and through the eyes of an artist.

I wanted to know first hand what the process of learning to see looked and felt like so I took an evening to observe a figure drawing session at the Manifest Drawing Center. I learned firsthand what happens when artists get down to the business of creating art and looking at the world. Walking into the Center I immediately felt as though I was entering a space of serious artistic endeavor. The Center is laden with plaster sculptures and it has many, many, figure drawings on the walls. You immediately feel someplace authentic and true to its purpose upon entering this room.

The Manifest Drawing Center offers opportunities every week for you to augment your lifestyle with a significant amount of creativity. It offers the opportunity to meet some quality people who are interested in focusing and exploring. You can involve yourself in open sessions which are for your own personal explorations or you can join instructed courses which are taught by seasoned professionals.

I attended an open drawing session. The session began with roughly ten poses being struck by a professional model that was to be the object of interest for the evening. A senior artist decided when it was time for the model to switch poses. She dutifully obliged. Each pose was calmly shifted to the next pose as the artists drew on. These quick sketches were for warming up and getting hands moving across the page to begin the evening.

After the initial sketches something serious began...the long pose. Creating the long pose required much more planning than the sketches because the model had to find a comfortable and dynamic pose that could be held for a strong length of time. This was where the stern eyes of the draftsmen began to focus on a larger goal; capturing the full human figure. As everyone prepared to spend a solid hour and a half steadily observing, and going over all of the nuances of the human form the model confidently relaxed. Each person was switching their eyes from paper to model as they explored. If you move your eyes carefully enough you can find an infinite amount of detail in the human form.

I was siting amidst the sounds of sketches and there were ten of us observing a human figure. The mood was serious as people were intently working on learning to see, focus and draw. There is a tremendous amount of skill that goes into recreating the human form by hand. At the center of attention of these draftsmen stood a woman who dutifully volunteered her services as an object to the Manifest Drawing Center participants. The model was roughly 5'10'' with long dark hair. She was calm and emotionless serving the purpose of being alive and submissive. Each pose she enacted allowed for individual artists to explore their craft. You could hear soft scratches as cont'e, graphite, and charcoal were pushed across the page. This was a room of artistry, a civilized contemporary atmosphere where the beauty of the moment is that for these brief shared minutes people were pursuing passion, organized civilized passion. There was a traditional quality to these students meeting. In a digital age where the human form can be captured and shared at the press of a button on a camera. These artists were exploring every nuance of the human form almost one cell at a time. These artists were meeting to continue a tradition of exploration.

After the drawing session came to a close I had a chance to speak with Emil Robinson who is a professional visual artist. He expressed the following idea during a conversation about the benefits of the Manifest Drawing Center, "The most wonderful thing about these sessions is that they are offered as an open ended invitation to work from the live model, so you have different levels of experience working at the same time. There is a respect among artists who sort of promote that sort of diversity. I would say that anyone that is interested in drawing or in learning more about yourself should come, there are not many places where you can do this. it is especially unique because it is where the passion of making art by observing the world is celebrated." Emil is just one of the artists who create artwork during the drawing sessions at the Manifest Drawing Center. He helps set the tone of the drawing studio by being welcoming to anyone who enters the studio.

If you feel inclined to spend some time exploring your creative side feel more than welcomed to attend a drawing session at the Manifest Drawing Center. The Center is located at 2511 Essex Pl, Cincinnati, OH 45206. Visit the Manifest website for more information and times that the Drawing Center is open