Victorian Freak Show

Inspired by the idea of a Victorian Freak Show, the session will feature two models, Maya as Malignancia and Anjie as Belladonna. They will start in costume and gradually reveal their forms through a sequence of narrative poses.

Bruce Thomas
810 words - 4 min read

“That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.”
(H.P. Lovecraft)

And now wicked women and strange sirs behold as daemons approach. Slithering on shadows into this damned hall. Believe it or not the muses are unborn.

What an unexpected turn of events. While I was learning to make paper, with my friend Aaron he asked if I would be interested in participating or exhibiting in an art trail. I am not really that interested in exhibiting but I am always up for running a life drawing session. The following weekend Aaron told me that the Leytonston Arts Trail are looking for unusual events to spice up the event calendar. And that was all the brief I needed.

I went home, I went to bed, and I woke up with a Victorian Freak show burning in my mind, and the perfect life model to do the job. Maya! (a bit of backstory) In 2023 Maya modelled for me, and we had an instant and amazing raptor. A few weeks afterwards we had a coffee because she wanted an opinion on an idea she had percolating. We met. She told me, and I just loved her idea.

A life drawing session where the subject is a monster! We tried to produce that event and it didn't work out. But a good idea never dies. It lingers in the mind, and waits patiently for opportunity to present herself.

A Victorian freak show!

I told Aaron the idea and he was onboard, with the whole Victorian freak show concept, and then suggest to put two models on the podium. I hesitated for a moment, blinked and knew instantly who the second model should be, Anjie! (a bit more back story) When I booked Anjie, for the first time at my weekly class, she show up, that evening with her broad Welsh smile and told me she was going to manifest Lilith (the demonic figure of Jewish folklore). And then she did. And it was one of my most memorable drawing sessions of all time.

The three of us had a call, and all the dates worked, and everything aligned. It is lovely when that happens. I asked for them to express the theme however that wished, and two days later they sent over mood boards, and honestly I was taken aback. Could it be they are mind-readers? I suspect so. Could it be they witches? I suspect so. The imagination and enthusiasm inspired me to take a costume character too. And so the unborn session germinated.

What you can expect

Leytonstone Arts Trail Poster

The Leytonsone Arts Trail Starts on 6h July, runs for two weeks and concludes on the 14th July 2024. Our undead life drawing session will be on Sunday 7th July, from 12 to 2pm at the Red Lion Pub. It will be a trad ional drawing session, with short, medium and long poses. All materials will be provide along with boards. There are two ticket prices. A pre-purchase ticket and a drop-in ticket, available at the door on the day.

As I write this initial article the box office is not yet open. So please watch this space so you can snatch your tickets. This session should not be missed.

Where will it occur?

The Red Lion is a beautiful old English pub, with a private music hall, separate from the main pub, it is a wonderful large space, with a dark wood floor, formerly a dance hall. There are gorgeous wooden chairs from and age long gone. The venue is naturally dark, with heavy curtains to shutter the world off from eager eyes.

The devil's in the decor

We will transform the space with skeletons and skulls and magic trickery to host our two dead models. Anjie will be manifesting Belladonna, and Maya will be Malignancia.

The satanic sirens will pose a duet, starting in costume and slowly peeling away layers to reveal their naked putrid souls. And they have prepared a sequence of narrative events, which will only be revealed to the artists that attend and draw the horrific progression.

The venue will be correctly illuminated, with a primary spot, secondary fill light, and a couple of coloured ambient lights. In addition to this two full size skeletons with radiating rib cages will assist the mood with crooked shadows. And as for me, well I will be skulking in the deepest shadows as the Master of ceremonies: Brucifer!


Bruce Thomas

A software engineer by profession, who studied graphic design in South Africa, and runs a weekly life drawing class in the Homerton library in London.


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by Bruce Thomas