The Focus on the Maker : Neon Naked

The Focus on the Maker: Neon Naked Jylle Navarro’s unique live painting lessons shine a spotlight on ultraviolet lights and living sculptures. We go to a Neon Naked seminar to see firsthand why the format works so well in the flesh.

Is anybody here familiar with sketching from life?

Even though there are forty individuals clustered around two elevated platforms, each with a tin of highlighter pens and oil pastels, just a few raise their hands. Nothing has shocked Jylle Navarro. I know that most life drawing courses have consistent attendees, but that’s not the case with my own. Many individuals who haven’t drawn since elementary school attend each event, so there’s always a great variety of art to choose from

Recognizing and highlighting original thought

The Ministry, a sleek private members’ club and workplace for the creative professions, can be found behind a nondescript door not far from Elephant & Castle, where tonight’s event will take place. And, when participants enter a chamber bathed by the unearthly glow of blue light, it’s difficult to miss Jylle. Wearing vividly patterned leggings, a sequined bum bag and glow-in-the-dark earrings, the creator of Neon Naked tells me how she began experimenting with vibrant colour and UV light as a fashion student specialised in alternative knitwear:

The striking neon posters of Italian and Spanish black-and-white horror flicks served as an inspiration for me. Moreover, I designed these black-and-white outfits with neon seams; they were quite time-consuming to build, but they were shown during Berlin Alternative Fashion Week. Finally, we switched on the ultraviolet lights, and the models glowed. They were dancing wildly down the runway, creating bizarre silhouettes.Since then, Jylle has employed neon in performance art pieces at festivals, cultural institutions, and event venues around the UK because of its ability to completely change a location. Jylle lists a few of her career highlights, such as designing a Tron-themed area for the V&A’s Design/Play/Disrupt video game exhibition and holding pop-up workshops at Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Colour Palace installation, which wowed visitors to the south-east London venue over the summers of 2015 and 2016.

What appeals to me most about neon is how its illumination affects its surroundings, transforming them and making details stand out. However, the goal is not limited to aesthetics; rather, the effect that short-wavelength light has on humans is of paramount importance. They’ve calmed down, been happier, and less worried.

The Nakedness of Neon

Neon Naked is responsible for the photograph.

In reality, Jylle has devoted a great deal of time to studying the benefits of blue light and how it might improve wakefulness, memory, and cognitive performance, as well as mood, alongside her creative efforts.

Add some vibrancy to the old ways

Neon Naked, an immersive UV life painting event she’s been organising for the last five years and which began in a “friend’s café in Dalston with extremely awful lighting,” is powered by this positive emotion. There have been over 270 events posted on its Eventbrite website, so I decided to check out a session and see what the hype was about.

When I get there early, Jylle is unloading props and the two models for the night are applying bright face paint — “Hannah does flowers, and Bea like strong stripes” — to themselves. Stacks of paper are ready beside each chair, and the platforms are decorated with fabric and neon lights that snake over the floor.

I resolve to get my justifications out of the way and confess to Jylle that I am not a talented artist. I don’t give a damn about how life drawing is traditionally taught, which emphasises accuracy. Basically, I urge everyone who is interested to experiment with various photographic methods. Because most of my subjects are amateurs, I like to work with models who haven’t taken any courses that focus on very conventional positions; I much like to let them improvise and be themselves.

She says this many times as she introduces the evening’s schedule, which consists of eight-minute long postures from the models during which we are to do various tasks.

Neon Naked is responsible for the photograph.

Even while Jylle’s mentions of pointillism (the practise of using dots to create art popularised by Georges Seurat) and Leonardo di Vinvi’s anatomical drawings as the models walk the stage give me pause, the evening is meant more for entertainment than serious art appreciation. I don’t expect realism or a flawless sketch. However, I am advocating for individual expression. This is why I like to give people a wide range of tasks to do, as this ensures that they will all leave with something different to show and talk about.

We spend the night sketching outlines without glancing at the paper or using one continuous line to capture the landscape in front of us while highlighters fly about the room and some of us can’t resist the desire to add neon squiggles and swirls to each other’s faces. Jylle instructs us to not be scared of abstraction and to not be afraid of colour, but her approach to teaching is rather hands-off.

The class seems to have a life of its own, and I find myself wondering whether I really have any say in the matter. I’m merely the office manager who answers emails, sets up the painting supplies, and arranges the location. Truly, it occurs of its own own.

Providing a Platform for Creative Risk-Taking

The epidemic highlighted, however, how how dependent on the here-and-now Neon Naked events are. Jylle had a hard time in 2020, when everyone was switching to digital, since UV light doesn’t function on live computer cameras. “It’s not very efficient, but after the first six months, when individuals were finally let back into each other’s homes, we did do some online lessons. I hired two models for the day so that I could record them in a variety of stances and share the footage with students as I taught the session through Zoom. It served its purpose, but I have to admit that I found myself longing for the personal interaction that I had been denied.

Neon Naked is responsible for the photograph.

Jylle is happy to be teaching again and is always seeking for new ways to tailor her lectures to the needs of her students, whether they are hens at a party or businesspeople at a workshop. After the flu epidemic has passed, I plan to resume my normal teaching schedule and class load. I’m also introducing some new types of events, such as one where attendees are encouraged to come in all gold (including face paint, stationery, and even leaves).

At the end of the night, it is evident that Jylle has succeeded in her goal of fostering creativity. All of a sudden, we’re comparing photos of colourful living sculptures and taking our own work to share on social media, all while joyfully forgetting about our inability to draw.

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