Tuesday, 14, June 2016

Written by
David Hartley

Guest Post: A Life Drawing Experience inspired by Botticelli

David Hartley reviews his experience of the Venus Reborn package at The Kensington, which includes a life drawing class and entrance to the V&A’s Botticelli Reimagined exhibition


In this special guest post, Hero & Leander’s Managing Editor David Hartley shares his experience of The Kensington’s Venus Reborn package, in partnership with the V&A Museum…

I remember when I was at school, many years ago now, studying for my A-level art exam, standing in the library of the art school perusing the books. I had been told to go and ‘find some inspiration’, whatever that was meant to mean. Amongst them was a book on Sandro Botticelli. Of course I knew his work previously, yet as I stood studying the pages I was indeed inspired by this phenomenal artist that used both composition and the form of the figure so well.

Fast forward 15 years, a mere blip on the heritage timeline of Botticelli’s life and legacy, and I am now in the V&A at the Botticelli Reimagined exhibition remembering that book and the incredible paintings that Botticelli created with such beautiful brushwork and detail. Their ‘ Venus Reborn’ experience invites you to visit the Botticelli exhibition and then attend a life drawing class led by Daniel Shadbolt back at the hotel.

David’s Take on Botticelli Reimagined
The V&A exhibition has collated over 50 original Botticelli artworks. Largely forgotten until the 19th century, Botticelli (1445 – 1510) has become a behemoth in the art history world and as this exhibition shows, continues to influence the artists of today. I enjoyed looking at the variety of media that is used within the show. Certainly not limited by paintings, amongst many there are fashion pieces and film showcasing a broad spectrum of the artistry methods.

David Hartley reviews his experience of the Venus Reborn package at The Kensington, which includes a life drawing class and entrance to the V&A’s Botticelli Reimagined exhibition

The Renaissance of Venus, 1877 by Walter Crane Tate © Tate, London 2015 

With work by Andy Warhol, William Morris, René Magritte and a lot of other big names, the exhibition demonstrates how Botticelli’s work helped other artists elevate their status as creators in themselves. The fine drawings are what I consider the best part of the exhibition. After the exhibition the group met back in reception and we walked over to the hotel excited for some drinks to ease us in to the life drawing class that awaited.

First Impressions of The Kensington
I had never been to The Kensington prior to this and walking through the entrance, the newly renovated hotel struck me immediately of being one of sophistication and casual elegance. Our group class was taking place in The Study, a secluded room with wooden panelling that set the tone well. The room was lit mostly by the daylight coming in through the large window, perfect for drawing a figure. The feel is homely alongside a members club aesthetic. I clocked the newly redesigned K Bar, as we walked through the hotel and it looks very cool. Think Mad Men-esque. Glitzy NY bar. I will be returning for a drink in the not too distant future I am sure.



The atmosphere was very laid back and as always the canapés and wine; a welcome addition. We had a great group of people taking part and we were excited to get the first set of sketches complete. The model moved to her first pose and we started to tentatively put pencil to paper.

We were to start with three 10-minute sketches and these would extend in time and detail as the class progressed. I hadn’t done this for a long time so my drawing skills were a little rusty but soon I started to relax and enjoy what I was putting down. In fact it became an amazing stress reliever. We city dwellers get so caught up in the grind and bustle of daily life that it’s important to lose yourself in an activity from time to time and something we almost always forget to do, or counter-intuitively don’t have time.

celebrating the queens 90th birthday with the kensington and the doyle collection the kensington hotel exterior shot


Instruction from Daniel Shadbolt
Daniel Shadbolt, our teacher for the session, is an artist that teaches life classes and displays his own work at exhibitions such as the BP Portrait Award and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. If this guy can’t get you into drawing then not many people would be able to. He allowed us to develop our drawings of the life model Natasha and would only critique them at the end to ensure that we would try the next sketch with a new technique, allowing us to develop the sketch according to what part of the composition we were interested in. At the end of the day we put all our drawings on the wall so we could view our Botticelli’s in the making and the model could see them for the first time too.

The Venus Reborn package at The Kensington is built around groups of 8 to 12 people such as hen do’s and friends and family which I think will work really well; even a delightfully competitive experience for a couple. It’s certainly a different way to start the celebrations off.

David Hartley reviews his experience of the Venus Reborn package at The Kensington, which includes a life drawing class and entrance to the V&A’s Botticelli Reimagined exhibition


The Verdict
The Venus Reborn experience I definitely recommend, even if you think you cannot draw. Who knows, you may even find that you have had a talent hiding that you never even knew about. Then when it’s finished you can head straight to K Bar or the restaurant next-door. I’m off to get my next fix of drawing – the folks at The Kensington have started something.

The Facts
The Venus Reborn experience is priced at £120 per person based on a minimum of 8 people and includes tickets to Botticelli Reimagined at the V&A and a professionally guided 2.5 hour life drawing class with all drawing materials, a welcome cocktail and selection of canapés with a half-bottle of wine. The experience runs until 3rd July 2016. Preferential room rates are available for those staying at the hotel when booking Venus Reborn.  Click here to book your Venus Reborn experience.

What did you think of David’s review of the Venus Reborn package? Has it inspired you to get creative and pick up a pencil? Tweet us at @HotelKensington and let us know! 

Botticelli Reimagined is sponsored by Societe Generale and will run at the V&A from 5 March – 3 July 2016. The exhibition is organised by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Gemäldegalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. www.vam.ac.uk/botticelli