It’s 3pm on a Saturday afternoon and I’m standing in a room full of women wearing berets and moustaches. We’re all staring at the same naked man. He’s a hunk: toned to perfection with big broad shoulders and smouldering eyes. There’s a spot of giggling – and glass clinking – at the back.
Welcome to Hens with Pens: life-drawing classes aimed at bringing a bit of creative fun to hen parties. I’ve been teaching classes for Hens with Pens for about six months now and loved every minute. I’ve taught everyone from people who’ve never even touched a stick of charcoal before to art graduates. In the process of that, I’ve seen many people who thought they couldn’t draw for toffee find that the class exercises bring out talent they never knew they had… and, of course, seen plenty of experienced artists thoroughly enjoy showing off their talents to the other hens. Even those who don’t quite get the hang of the drawing still seem to enjoy trying – often revelling in how large they’ve done their friend’s nose or how scribbly her hair is (sessions start with hens drawing each other)! And, errr, did I mention the hunk bit?!
Gone are the days when a woman’s last weekend of ‘freedom’ just meant going on a bar crawl wearing an L-plate. There are now myriad options for marking the end of singledom with your female friends, from scuba diving and hang-gliding to burlesque classes and fascinator workshops. A hen weekend is meant to be a super special occasion, and it’s a real honour to be able to help women celebrate theirs in an unusual way.
So how does Hens with Pens work? Well, the tutor, the hunk and all the materials come to the hens, with a bit of retro swing music thrown in if they fancy it. There are tutors all over the country, so even if a party is pretty remote, the chances are, Hens with Pens can sort something out. Venue-wise, I’ve taught everywhere from private flats and hotel function rooms to Thai restaurants. If an establishment (or home!) owner is OK with naked men wandering around, Hens with Pens will happily teach there.
As mentioned above, hens get the chance to encourage the muse a little by donning the traditional artists’ attire of berets and stick-on moustaches. Each class lasts for two hours and is separated into two parts. The first half of the teaching session is formed of a collection of team-building exercises, which involve hens drawing each other. These include challenges such as drawing with the non-dominant hand, drawing without taking the pencil off the page and drawing without looking at the paper.
For the second half, enter our Adonis! Not every party organiser chooses to let on what’s about to happen – in fact many don’t. There’s nothing quite like telling everyone they’re about to have a Salsa lesson and then bringing out a naked man… I’ve seen some hilariously funny reactions to this kind of ‘big reveal’, believe me.
Once the model has disrobed, the class is talked through the process of drawing him in a variety of different poses. The ‘Thinker’ pose, the ‘draw me like one of your French ladies’ pose, and the good ol’ hands on hips pose are all popular choices. Hens are encouraged to work with the model and tutor to decide how they would next like to draw him.
Many hens find the experience inspires them to get arty after the party. It’s lovely to hear hens say, “I haven’t drawn since GCSE but I enjoyed that so much I’m going to take it up again!” Going to a traditional life drawing class might never previously have crossed these women’s minds.
Penny and Mona Lisa (as she prefers to be known) are the brains behind the business. “I started running hen party life drawing classes as I have a degree in drawing and someone asked me to teach a class,” Penny explains. “It went well, so I did another… and then a few more! I spent a year working as an independent life drawing tutor and found that the class formula with berets and moustaches was so popular that I was unable to manage the volume of bookings on my own. That’s why I decided to partner with Mona Lisa to create a national business – Hens with Pens.”
“As a woman trained in the arts, I understand the academic and gendered traditions of life drawing,” says Mona Lisa. “To that end, I’m even more proud to be working with a female partner and we take great joy in subverting this serious tradition with its own clichés! The berets, Dali moustaches and male models make Hens with Pens part of a contemporary culture for women.”
Want to know more? Just make your way over to www.henswithpens.com