Dynamic Drawing students strut their stuff in a joint exhibition

Ron Curran with his partner Liz Friend at one of their Byron Bay Dynamic Drawing classes.
Ron Curran with his partner Liz Friend at one of their Byron Bay Dynamic Drawing classes.

Dynamic Drawing has been part of Byron Shire’s creative landscape for over ten years, and with a group exhibition opening next week at Kulchajam, Ron Curran talks with Verandah Magazine about the importance of ‘mark-making’.

If you’re into drawing and you live in the Shire there’s no doubt that at some point you’ll chance across Ron Curran and the fabulous weekly Dynamic Drawing classes he runs with his partner Liz Friend.

The free-flowing form of short poses changing from one to another sometimes in seconds, and Curran’s occasional instructions to draw or paint left-handed, or with our eyes closed, or behind our backs, is almost guaranteed to bust through any art blockages you might have.

Model Ben, from a weekly Dynamic Drawing class in Byron Bay.

Model Ben, from a weekly Dynamic Drawing class in Byron Bay.

But although Curran says that he has “scribbled on anything I could for as long as I can remember,” it wasn’t art that originally drew him from Sydney to Byron but – as for many young people, the surf. “I came here when I was in my early 20’s,” he tells me. “I was one of those typical surfie kids with my mates in a Holden. At the time the police did not approve of the surfing culture, and on my first trip to Byron, they told us to get back on the train and get out of town! I did lots of surfing and travelling, but somehow I always gravitated back here.”

Curran still remembers his first Byron sunrise. “We were camped in a car at St. Helena, and I woke up in the morning and thought I was in heaven. I felt as if I’d just come to life – it had a magical effect on me.”  Such a magical effect that he determined then and there that he would settle permanently in the Byron region. A few years later he was offered by chance, to spend a year in the heart of the hinterland.

It’s hard to imagine anybody living permanently at Minyon Falls – deep in the rainforest and surrounded by National Park. Beautiful as it is, it seems a somewhat isolated beauty.   But it was exactly that beauty that attracted the poet Kenneth Slessor, who bought the old timber mill’s dwelling after the mill had closed.

A student's free-form interpretation.

A student’s free-form interpretation.

Fast forward to 1974, and Curran got the opportunity to rent the house from Slessor’s son Paul, whom he had known from Sydney. “When I got there, there was a goat living under the house, and all these boxes strewn around the place with papers falling out of them,” recalls Curran. “It was the middle of the cyclone year and we were always getting flooded in, and everything was damp, damp, damp. I was curious about the boxes and when I looked inside they were full of Kenneth Slessor’s poems – all just sitting around rotting. I told Paul that we had to save them and we did – hundreds and hundreds of original documents. They were all saved for posterity.”

‘I missed the land, I missed the weather…my elemental self yearned for the green hills of Byron Bay.’

Perhaps unconsciously the experience also reinforced Curran’s growing belief in the importance of an individual’s ‘mark’. It’s something he teaches with passion in his classes – explaining to students that the internal artistic force at work within them is the need to ‘make their mark’ – in the case of art, quite literally. “You can get all hung up about what is good art or what is bad art,” he says, “but in my classes what it’s about is self-expression. We’ve had many students who have gone on to make art a full-time career, but we’ve had just as many who have used the method of letting go to help them understand the next bit on their journey – or students who have rediscovered a love of art, or discovered that they are actually good at it when they were always told they weren’t.”


Of course like many teachers Curran doesn’t get much time for his own art practice, but with his partner Liz, whom he met through the classes eight years ago, and who still takes part, he’s hoping to get back into the studio himself.

“We moved to Melbourne a few years ago and lived there for two years,” he says, “and that was a really interesting process for me because Dynamic Drawing just took off – we didn’t even have time to enjoy the city because we were so busy running classes, and although it was very affirming to have everybody from corporate clients to school students love what we were doing I got homesick – I missed the land, I missed the weather. I actually got sick from living there – my elemental self yearned for the green hills of Byron Bay – and I realised that even if Dynamic Drawing could be a huge success in the city it’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to come to the Shire, run the courses with a new purpose and enthusiasm, renovate our house, and continue our lives here.”

For Friend, who met Curran through his classes eight years ago, their relationship has blossomed alongside her continuing creativity.  “When I started the classes with Ron I hadn’t done art since primary school,” she says, “but I’d always wanted to ‘be creative’.  With Ron’s encouragement and the nature of the classes with the short poses and Ron’s facilitaiton I found the confidence to ‘get out of my head’ and trust my instincts.” It’s allowed her to work sponaneously, she says.  “When I look back at what I’ve achieved over the past eight years, it’s really worked for me.  I feel incredibly fulfilled.”

Going with the flow - a student works on a series of quick sketches.

Going with the flow – a student works on a series of quick sketches.

It was lucky for us up in the Shire that the couple decided to come back. Melbourne’s loss has been Byron and Mullumbimby’s gain – and since they’ve been back the couple has seen the size of the classes increase dramatically. “It’s not unusual for there to b e 40 people in a class now,” he says. “Ten years ago it was 15, when I started in 2000 it could be as few as five.”

I wonder if he has any idea – beyond the desire for people to partake in classes – why Dynamic Drawing has become so popular so quickly. “I think it’s because people are trying to return back to who they truly are,” he says. “There are more and more people making the change to move up here, who are wanting to explore their identity, and Dynamic Drawing is a way to creatively do this.”

Basic CMYK

Curran is proud of all his students, and respectful of the models who bare all twice a week, once in Mullum and once in Byron. For the past few months he and Liz have been planning an exhibition of their students work at Kulchajam in the Industrial Estate, which is taking place next weekend (Saturday July 4 and Sunday July 5). The group exhibition opens at 11.00 am on Saturday and includes a Q&A with Ron and a workshop on Sunday (people can take part or observe), which starts at 11.00 am at a cost of $20 per person.

“You know,” he says. “What I’ve discovered myself over the years – and seen in my students over and over again is that you meet yourself in drawing practice if you keep at it, and if you can do that it can change your life.”

Candida Baker

 Ron Curran’s Dynamic Drawing Classes run at the Drill Hall in Mullumbimby on Wednesdays and in Byron Bay at the Scout Hall on Friday mornings between 9.30am-12.30pm. The classes cost $20 and include model, music, facilitation and tea, coffee and biscuits.  Charcoal, butchers paper and A1 cartridge paper are available

For more information go to: https://www.dynamicdrawing.com.au/

Call Ron Curran on: 0421 101 220 or email [email protected]







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