"As being the influencer, creator and founder, I'll try to give you the most neutral view and what it took to get there against all odds."
James Tony Picanco
Day - 100 (Minus 100 days before I jumped in in mid 2003)
London was all about tourism, Sports, regeneration, Construction, post millenium and pre-Olympics and so where the funding had gone and so 1/2 of Life Drawing classes in London, at least, had to close down.
My Art teacher from the local community college, tells me to forget about Life Drawing as no more funding, no more models as underpaid, and that I should not get involved as this was a very British, women's Industry with very old conservative and even right wing background. Now I know how right she was...
In time of recession the only way for private classes or any business was austerity. Who ever could do that, was a woman, with qualifications, British but preferably English would have all possible cards to win their game and a few did with each other's support. About 20 classes were left in the London area run by 80% women and 20% of Pro English male Artists, with one or two exceptions.
I had spent 10+ years in isolation on an unfilmed grand Design building project and was desperate to do what kept me sain and alive with my neighbours weekly, and my absolute need for social contact, with something I always loved also which is "People".
Before 2000 I spent 4 years, working and shining in cameras shops where I became trainer, changed everything I could across 103 shops and saw the birth of Digital cameras/the disappearance of the celluloid film, everyday. I did incredibly well and somehow was hoping I could do something about not letting digital get rid of old fashion Photography. I had a vague feeling that maybe there was a way to save Life Drawing classes from the same Digital force that could not be stopped. I did influence in anyway I could succesfully in many aspects on the Photography retail side of things, already making a few ennemies, and was ready to do the same for something dear to me, that brought people together doing something very special, that Life Drawing is. Life Drawing was something only reserved to the elite, for thousands of years and available to all, especially the less elite type, only since the 80's.Day
Day - 50
I spent a considerable amount of time talking about this Art situation with people from the class that i'll literally drag to the Pub, and came to the conclusion that It would be mad to try to change the fact that Life Drawing would completely disappear in favour of digital tablets from home, on our own, but being mad does make a difference to any problem, it simply depends how mad you get and so I knew I had to be extreme somehow whenever possible.
One of those people and who became a really good friend was called Nils.
Day - 30
At that time to help me, make contact with as many people as possible I went to meet people who swap help and services using a Barter system and found a Lady who needed buiding help and so helped her, hoping that she could return, somehow, the favors, instead she asked me if I had a girlfriend :). She was running a Leaflet advertising business from home, trying to flood shops with her flyers where people would pay to go on them. She obviously had an Art section and knew thousands of mainly female artists as she had helped a few in the past with Life Drawing classes. But for me to get help from her, I needed to be single or stop everything and start helping her distribute the flyers, which I didn't really mind as this was my final business before I left the continent to come a live in London, designing and distributing flyers. The problem I encountered was that I am not a Driver and just could not help her and so She never helped me until years later I introduced her to my friend Nils who instead of running classes I gave him as we had too many classes everywhere, he chose to work with her, say bye to me, keep the tiny commission i was asking him, and never saw him again. He helped her for a few years and so managed to fill 12m2 rooms with up to 30 people every week for more than 10 years, every week, all very nice and the begining of my boat/Ark taking on water... So be awareof what can happen if you become succesful in anything, create a new industry, invent products and ideas, you may loose most of your friends who hope to steal whatever they can, including fame, if you are fully qualified, British or a woman in a women dominated industry. Now you know! :)
Day - 15
I found out from her that she was a long term professional squater in her house and Street that had a great history of the all street having been squated, and famous for it in the news and so she managed to grab a few spaces under the train's arches or nearby, that she managed to claim as now been hers that she was renting for community groups and so I prepared myself for my first Life Drawing class as organizer, without any of her help and only using Gumtree. I had to pay for it and had to find models which I easily did with my neighbours help, where we had classes regularly for a few years.
After advertising, in Gumtree, leafletting myself, putting ads in Notice boards all around london and local newsagents, I opened my first class and was a little disappointed as only about 10 people turned up. I was then charging a little less than what others would so £8 a class.
I kept on advertising, leafletting on a semi-full time basis and realized that Gumtree was the winner by far. On my first day, to a few people's annoyance I would use soothing, expressive Classical Music which was one of the reasons why some never came back. In 20 years experience I managed to find out all reasons why and will explain them as I go. Very quickly I realized it would not be easy and looked for ways and tricks to attracked the masses. The other main reason then was that the room had single glazed old windows and it was absolutely freezin in there.
I soon realized that people were not coming to only draw but to network and find how what I had to offer. Little by little I made a list of what I heard from the people themselves, that they were looking for. Here is a short list:
A place where the Art teacher is a experienced, professional Artist with experience to share which I wasn't for Life Drawing. Only for Portraiture.
A place to make friends with people you want to be friend with and who a a place in this Society, so English people, which I am not as being born in France with Italian/Brazilian-portuguese blood.
Someone who knows a lot of artists, from their occupation like a curator, a Framer, an Animator, etc... and I was not one of them yet as I instantly started exhibitions in Pubs to begin with.
Someone who can offer a better service or something new for less £$ss and this was something I could do and so I did.
I Changed location to a Local pub where it was warm but smocky as this was before the smoking ban and so lost a few regulars. But to compensate the pub would not charge anything as we bought drinks. The main reason I went down to ask the pub landlord was because I had years of great memories in a Small pub like cafe on the outskirt of Paris, run by my uncle and its family with Parties, events, Karaoke, etc... I felt I knew their condition and sympathized from day 1, and started to use them in all corners of London. They had never been used for that as people were smoking too much in there. I then reduced the cost of classes from £8 to £4, advertised on Gumtree and this simply brought down the population to the Pubs to draw.