Pause Draw: Tokyo’s Free Art Meet-Up

By Juliette Olah
March 4, 2016

There are endless ways to while away the afternoon in Tokyo. You could pet some sleeping felines at a cat cafe, wander around an art gallery checking out masterpieces, escape the world in the dark web-maze of an internet cafe, or you could sketch en masse with a bunch of strangers. On a quiet Sunday a few weeks ago, I chose the latter.

Pause Draw is a monthly event run by artists in Tokyo with the aim of fostering the local creative community. Joining the meet-up is extremely easygrab a pencil, a wad of paper and show up on the first Sunday of the month. But do so early, as on the particular Sunday I attended, seats became scarce fairly quickly.

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While it’s true you will find many pros amongst the crowd, the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, so there’s no need to be intimidated by the talent. Whether your drawing skills are highly refined or need a little sharpening, all styles and levels of experience are welcome.

Upon arriving, I sat down at a vast wooden table and made friends with my seated neighbours easily. Local illustrator Maiko Horita (sitting to my left), attends Pause Draw often, and loves the way the meet-ups foster new relationships within the art community, and provide fresh inspiration. My limited Japanese was no biggie either, as this is an international crowd, and I could hear the chattering of fusion accents and various languages babbling about the room. Being immeresed amongst the Pause Draw guests was a bit like being stirred into a bubbling cosmopolitan stew.

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I brought along a photograph I wanted to draw. However, the majority of attendees seemed to arive without particular projects in mind. Our hosts, Adrian Hoagn and Luis Mendo, had inspiration well covered, providing a series of drawing tasks for the group to take part in. These ranged from the conceptual, “OK now draw a monster based on your emotion,” to the literal “look up at the ceiling and draw the tangle of pipes you see,” to the communal “each table share one piece of paper and create an artwork together.”

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However, dashing rebel that I am, I ran with some of these ideas, using them as creative springboards for a sketch or two, while completely ignoring others. The meet-up goes for two hours, and with a chunk cleared in my schedule to draw I wanted to have something meaty to show for it. However, the quick sketching activities are great for beginners or for those who want to yank themselves out of an artistic rut. It’s also the best way to socialize, as the ice is instantly broken when you collaborate with other artists, discuss ideas, or scribble down the features of the person sitting opposite you.

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I left the event with a new drawing and few business cards tucked into my card case. I felt productive that I’d given my pencils an airing, while simultaneously meeting intriguing people from all corners of the globe.

You won’t often hear me diss cat cafes, but I was glad I popped along to Pause Draw at the sake of the kitties this time.

The Deets

When: The first Sunday of each month (the next event is scheduled for Sun, Mar. 6, 2016, 4–6 p.m.)

Where: Location changes from time to time but is often at a cafe in Shibuya. For more details see the group’s Facebook page.

How much: Free!


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