Off-Beat Figure Drawing Sessions provides ‘unpretentious’ creative space

Monday 04th, August 2014 / 14:30
By Sheena Manabat
Photo: Boon Ong Photography

Photo: Boon Ong Photography

CALGARY — It’s a balmy day in Calgary when I meet Deseré Pressey, the artist and organizer of the Off-Beat Figure Drawing Sessions. The sessions are large figure drawing events in a warehouse setting with live musicians, food and photography.

Pressey is dressed casually in paint-stained jeans with her blonde hair down. I am surprised to learn that she is a mother of three and has been painting for only two years without any formal training. She balances being an artist with her role as a mother and working part-time in a granite business.

Pressey says that she “followed her bliss” and has been painting ever since. The Off-Beat Figure Drawings Sessions came later, when Pressey moved into her studio. She wanted to christen the space so that it felt like it was hers and so invited four of her artist friends over to her private studio to create some art. That night, she also invited a nude art model and a harpist to the session. They turned the lights off, dangerously lit 300 candles, set up vintage windows and drapes and began to create: thus was born the first ever Off-Beat Figure Drawing Session.

News of the session travelled fast and people kept asking Pressey when the next one was, so she found a warehouse where an art director stored his props. The sessions have been held there ever since, with different models, artists, musicians, themes and, recently, photographers.

“The art became the assemblage of people, the creation of an environment,” Pressey explains.

She believes people continue to participate because they are drawn by an innate desire to be in close proximity to others who share the same passion.

Alexandra Naylor, 22, is someone who loves Off-Beat and hopes to continue her involvement with the sessions. She is a master’s student in kinesiology and a yoga teacher who has been involved as a model with Off-Beat for a few months. As a model, she loves the artistic exchange of positive energy in an environment for a non-sexualized appreciation of the nude form.

Naylor says that she “fell in love with the people, the creative energy and the unpretentious environment of Off-Beat right away.”

To outsiders of the art community, the sessions might seem like some hipster gathering disguised as an “art” session. But, for many, it is a unique experience that brings together like-minded individuals to create something they wouldn’t otherwise. To join you must be over 18, but there are no other requirements: people from all walks of life and from all skill levels come out to the sessions.

“These gatherings don’t need to just be for artists, don’t need to be for people who understand the figure and the form, but are for anybody who wants to come together and experience something in community,” says Pressey.

Photo: Boon Ong Photography

Photo: Boon Ong Photography

With the theme of “moonlight,” the August edition of Off-Beat Figure Drawing Sessions takes place on August 12 and will feature musician Tofu Stravinsky. For more information, visit

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