It's been a year since artist and Inverness Drink and Draw founder Claire Maclean first looked at the cultural make up of the city – and saw a blank canvas.
“The visual arts scene in Inverness is getting pretty exciting now, but I feel like that’s a recent development,” she said. “I started Drink and Draw mostly because I didn’t see any kind of network outside of the realm of the fine arts and crafts.
“The main complaint of people in Inverness is that there’s ‘nothing happening’, and they often move to those other cities to where stuff is happening. I’m a firm believer in making where you live better, not just leaving to where it’s already better.”
The drive to improve the city’s visual arts scene led to the creation of the Inverness Drink and Draw events – celebrating a year since its first event at the Tooth and Claw. It’s a milestone that has impressed – and surprised – its founder. “I never expected it to be so consistently successful for a whole year!”
“It’s just been growing and growing. The success is absolutely down to the people who keep coming back.”
And with the anniversary coming up for Wednesday, March 22, alongside the regular doodling and games will be a special gallery event showcasing the full year of Drink & Draw artworks.
“I’ve saved all of the drawings everyone’s done over the last year – everything from scribbles to full pieces!
“A lot of people say they’ve always been meaning to come along to Drink & Draw, but haven’t for various reasons. This will be the best time to come and make first contact and check out what we’re about without the pressure of sitting round a table and drawing. The night will act as a ‘hello’ to new people and a ‘thank you’ to everyone who’s made it what it is today.”
This gallery will be the third special event of its type – previous events have seen Claire and the group’s attendees construct a gingerbread village out of cardboard for Christmas, and a cardboard monster for Halloween.
“On Halloween, there were two guys drinking at the bar, bewildered, just laughing and taking in the madness going on around them!” Claire laughed.
“After a few pints, they got stuck right in and became an integral part of our night. It was like a surreal team-building exercise on psychedelics.
“Then they told me this was their first ever night in Inverness. I like to think those guys now tell their friends and family back home that we’re weird up here.”
And these huge cardboard construction nights will see its apothesis during Cromarty’s new arts and music festival Breathe – in the intriguingly-titled Box Wars. “It’ll be like the cardboard creation mayhem I mentioned earlier, but with more violence and at a music festival.
“The idea is that everyone creates armour, weapons, vehicles, monsters, whatever, out of cardboard and then battle each other to the fictional death. It’s going to be carnage!”
Growing the event and creating a welcoming environment has been an important motive for Claire, whose self-stated goal is to get as many people involved with art as possible.
With further plans on the horizon – in addition to the upcoming Box Wars there are plans for Inverness Drink & Draw life drawing nights, street art installations, and live gigs that meld music with visual arts – the stated plan is to break down perceptions surrounding the cultural scene.
“I think the art world is often too focused on what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ art, which discourages people from creating,” Claire explained. “You should create art because you enjoy it, not to reach others’ standards.
“I think that providing the non-judgmental and social atmosphere has been the key to Drink & Draw’s success. It gets away from the elitist side of art, and brings everything back down to just pure joy – why we all picked up a pencil in the first place. Now, as world-weary adults, the alcohol helps with that!
“Having these events at the pub creates the relaxed vibe, and free entry ensures it’s accessible to everybody.”
Inverness Drink & Draw’s first anniversary showcase takes place on Wednesday, March 22 at the Tooth and Claw from 7pm. Go to Facebook for more information.