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Workers’ playtime, London, 10 April 2018

This corporate booking was unforgettable even before it began. City Academy made the arrangements; they asked me to arrive half an hour early, emailed me a reminder three days before, phoned me the day before, and then phoned and emailed with just twenty minutes to go. I suspect this high level of attention was due to some previous model having failed to show up or give notice. They need not have worried, though.

We started with five 1-minute poses…

…followed by five 2-minute poses…

…and continued with five 5-minutes poses….

…leaving time for just a single 10-minute pose to end the first half.

It’s fortunate that the opportunity to create many quick poses is always quite inspiring for me as the pose space itself offered little sensory stimulation. The large silent room was without any source of natural light; there was no music, no chatter, no countdown of time, no temperature fluctuations or uneven flooring, just a phone beep that signified when it was time to change pose, plus the diligent scratchings of half a dozen artists.

After a break that lasted slightly longer than expected, we had time for two 20-minute poses that would complete the session. First I sat side-saddle on the floor and tipped back on my hands, numbing my left arm in the process. Finally I stood with one hand on my neck and the other (numb) hand on my hip. There were smiles at the end, and hopefully everyone was happy. Certainly I was… even in such a curious environment.


The Old Nun’s Head, London, 27 March 2018

Increasingly I find that if time allows, I prefer a leisurely journey to my bookings and to arrive anything up to half an hour early. This evening I did just that – got myself a large glass of wine at The Old Nun’s Head bar and relaxed a while before heading upstairs to be greeted by the lovely people of Nunhead Drawing Group. Short poses first.

I’ve felt relaxed with this group from my very first time here. Like me, they favour quick poses but as this was the final session before Easter they decided to try some longer ones. After opening with five poses of 1-minute and one of 10-minutes, we finished the first half with two of 20-minutes. For the first of these, I held aloft a small lamp…

Having spotted the lamp sitting above a fireplace, I’d set my sights on standing with it for what I assumed would be 10-minutes. By the time it turned out to be twenty, I was already mentally committed – fortunately it was relatively lightweight. I drank my wine and chatted with artists during the break, then settled down for one long pose to end.

© Nunhead Drawing Group

Whilst I remained comfortably static for the whole 40-minutes, a number of the artists chose to swap seats midway through so they could continue working fast. As always here, I appreciated their fine playlist – that Flaming Lips album during the second half was perfect. Indeed, everything was very good tonight, and the art a joy to behold.

The Conservatoire, Blackheath, 26 March 2018

Just like last term at The Conservatoire, I found myself booked for the final Monday evening life drawing class before it broke for the holidays. The day was a pleasant one and I arrived sufficiently early to find exuberant students and parents from a preceding mixed media course still nattering in the main art room. Time was on our side, though. Come 7:30pm, I began with five poses in the round: 1-minute, 1, 1, 5 and 10-minutes.

The shorter poses are a chance to have some fun making semi-random shapes before we start the main work of the session. A slight misjudgement of my positioning for the 10-minute pose – with toes, tendons and arms fully stretched – made that one slightly less fun, but never mind. For the long pose I helped tutor Victoria Rance shift our set against one wall and arrange cushions so I could sit with arms out for about 2-hours.

We started around eight o’clock and continued till ten with two stretch breaks at forty minute intervals. Someone stated early on that I looked like a Roman emperor but by the end it was agreed I seemed more akin to Bill Nighy in Love Actually. For me the most important thing was to endure in comfort; my greatest challenge was to resume with exactness after each break – I think it went pretty well. Bring on the next term!

Mall Galleries, London, 23 March 2018

The four models working for Hesketh Hubbard Art Society this evening were: Esther on 15-minute poses, me on 30-minute poses, Tiziana on the long pose, and Valentina sitting for portraits. I arrived at Mall Galleries almost half an hour early yet there were scores of artists already present; circling Esther’s area in greatest numbers, but I had a good crowd of familiar faces too. My opening posture was upright.

I had begun with arms slightly outstretched but only so far as I knew could be held for 30-minutes. Whilst they’d tired slightly at the end, I still fancied following with another standing pose up to the interval – this time in a modified stance with both arms folded close to my body. After tea, biscuits and mingling, I settled myself for the second half in a seated position with my body leaning forward and both hands firmly planted.

I reckon the third pose went down reasonably well as an artist approached me to ask my name during the few seconds before the next one. To finish I pivoted and reached towards the gold life-size nude male sculpture that had loomed over me in the gallery exhibition space all evening. I don’t think anyone troubled to capture both figures. I’m sure that, like me, they prefer it when my duo poses here are with Esther.

Mycenae House, Blackheath, 22 March 2018

Life at Mycenae House began with an anatomy lesson. It was my first time posing for the artists of Life-drawing at Mycenae House where the session was to start with a study of the leg. I asked tutor Jon Long how he would like me to pose for it; “In the life model style,” was the inevitable reply. I removed my robe and put my best foot forward while he described to the group in exquisite medical detail all the bones, muscles and joints. I was impressed. Four 10-minute poses followed.

Having never modelled here before, I felt safe cycling through some of my old favourite poses, whereas at repeat booking places I’m increasingly at pains to be more diverse. The original plan was to stand for each pose but after struggles with my height for the first two, I was asked to sit on the floor for the third. After standing again for the fourth we had a break then resumed with a single long pose to the end. The request was for a twisting reclining pose. No bother.

‘No bother’ in the first thirty minutes became discomfort nearer the end of our last half hour. Midway through I shook out the arm that I’d bent back under my head and found it to be completely floppily numb. Time was easily passed however, as Jon’s on-going observations, advice and encouragement made for interesting listening. At the interval, he’d debated the nature of perfection as understood from the writing of Spinoza… but this is very much a relaxed, easy-going group with great community spirit. I enjoyed.

Arts Theatre, London, 19 March 2018

A short-notice booking from City Academy sent me to London’s West End where on the top floor of Arts Theatre in its Pigeon Loft studio I found tutor Stephen Nicholas. A splendid chap, he had pre-arranged for heaters to be switched on much earlier, and he gave me licence to time myself for some “very short” opening poses. I started with two of 1-minute, one of 3-minutes and one of 5-minutes.

Stephen was engaging with his small group throughout, providing encouragement and advice, and finding out what challenges would interest them. One said foreshortening, another asked about movement poses. Ah, movement poses! Very well. First I strode four steps towards the artists; a pace, then freeze, a pace, then freeze. Next I walked from side to side across the room, four times in a slow smooth continuous action.

As the act of walking is the act of continually unbalancing oneself, a very slow walking pose – or freezing mid-pace – can be more strenuous than it might seem. No problem though, especially as for the remainder of the evening I would be seated with my heels up on an adjacent chair. Very comfy, and an ideal pose for practising foreshortening. In all, this turned out to be an interesting, interactive, thoroughly enjoyable little session.

Wanstead House, London, 18 March 2018

The so-called ‘Beast from the East‘ – a weather system bringing heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures from Siberia – had blown in a fortnight ago, disrupting national infrastructure and life drawing groups alike. I had a booking cancelled back then, and the same seemed feasible this weekend as a ‘Mini Beast’ was forecast. It duly came with flurries of settling snow, but not enough to deter the artists of Wanstead House.

I’m not one to refuse the offer of an extra heater. With a wall to my back, eight artists in a semi-circle before me and hot air blowing from the left and right, I started my first 10-minutes standing. This was followed by a visually pleasing yet physically troubling 10-minute crouching pose. I was then able to recompose for 40-minutes, seated on a sheet-draped chair with my chin resting on one hand.

After an interval for tea, digestives, and grumbles about the Gas Board (is there still a “Gas Board”?), we returned to our places for a final pose of 35-minutes; seated again, albeit this time on the floor with a varied arrangement of limbs. At least one artist was happy not to have me standing again as they’d had a struggle to fit me on the page! I sat in my bubble of warmth and was simply happy that we’d defied the elements.

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