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The Star by Hackney Downs, 8 August 2017

Democracy reigns after the break at Drawing the Star. Its organiser, Catherine Hall offers her artists a vote on whether to go for one 30-minute pose, two of 15-minutes, a 10 and 20, or three 10-minute poses. The first to speak preferred a full half-hour, whilst others had no strong opinion, so a long pose it would be. I eyed the pile of pillows and sheets on the floor… “Don’t lay down completely,” grinned Catherine, so I settled down into an angular yet comfortable seated posture.

I noticed I was smiling almost throughout. Perfect temperature, cosy soft furnishing, a gorgeous playlist, pleasant thoughts and a challenging yet sustainable pose; I do love working at The Star by Hackney Downs. As usual, the first half had been a lot more dynamic – poses of 5-minutes, 4, 3, 2, three of 1-minute, three of 30-seconds and two of 10-minutes. Also as usual, for the minute and half-minute stuff I didn’t know exactly what shape my body would make till it rapidly rewired itself into each tense attitude.

It’s been busy here in recent weeks, but this evening was a little quieter. Nonetheless, there were some very enthusiastic newcomers plus the return of artists that Catherine had known from way back. In a moment of nostalgia, we tried to recall when we’d first worked together as tutor and model. A search of my blog revealed our collaboration in arts had begun on 3 March 2014; it still feels as fresh and enjoyable more than three years later. I’m now looking forward to drawing Esther here on Tuesday next week.

Catherine’s drawings below…

Food, Fashion and Colour Extravaganza at Dumpling Heart

London Colour Walk is an informal gathering of creative people who get dressed or dress-up to inspire and be inspired. They have no rules – just one simple core belief: “the more colours the better”. When they do colour, they do it with lavish celebratory joy and vivacious hearts, their wild styles making wide smiles. On Sunday 9 July, in Haggerston, north London, it manifested as a dazzling Food, Fashion and Colour Extravaganza at Dumpling Heart.

© ‘Colour Walk, Shoreditch, March 2016’ by Ella Guru

Food would be courtesy of Melhui Liu’s Dumpling Heart – a selection of 2-course or 3-course meals, with complimentary drinks – down in the lower level of SHEDlondon. Afterwards, this same space would be transformed into the venue for an extraordinary fashion show presenting the creations of Anne-Sophie Cochevelou, Carey Marvin, Florent Bidois and Estelle Riviere Monsterlune. Esther and I would be two of nine catwalk models for Estelle.

Esther © Richard Kaby

Me © Richard Kaby

After sharing a 2-course meal – Esther had spicy vegetarian noodles, whilst I took the strawberry cheesecake – we went backstage to try on our assigned garments. Esther would be modelling Estelle’s monstershroom outfit, but with a kind of fez instead of its giant mushroom cap, whereas I was back in the sexy flower costume that I’d cavorted around in with Monstershroom and the Bugs back in June. Four sets of models and designers, facilitators, photographers and friends all crammed in a chaotic corridor.

© Richard Kaby – centre to right: Carey Marvin, Estelle Riviere, Florent Bidois.

© Richard Kaby

As ever, there was much waiting around for those precious few seconds of excitement when we could strut the catwalk. Estelle’s creations were to be the last presented; we could hear much appreciation beyond the stage door for those who preceded us. Duly, our host for the event – Empress of Colour, Sue Kreitzman – introduced Monsterlune magnificence, and we entered, one at a time: first Pauline, then Kat, Jessica, Ricardo, Esther, Adina, Aizen, Takatsuna… and last of all, myself.

© Ricardo Castro

© Anthony Lycett

© Anthony Lycett

After our individual moments, we returned en masse together with Estelle to bathe in collective applause. This audience needed no prior persuading of Estelle’s genius for design, but it was nice to share in their warmth and love. Afterwards everyone spilled outside for what was originally meant to be a colour walk around nearby Stonebridge Gardens, but which somehow progressed no further than lots of mingling and posing on pavements. Fun was had nonetheless, in fantastic company and glorious hues.

© Monika Schaible photography

© Alys Alice

Downstairs at SHEDlondon, we’d been surrounded by good friends and familiar faces; now even more gathered outside. Many would be heading west across London to the King and Queen pub in Fitzrovia for another Monstershroom performance, this time for a Vanilla launch party. Esther and I had been invited too, but our paths lay to the south and east – it’s heart-warming to know, however, that wherever we may travel as individuals, somewhere in London there is unbridled colour and joy.

The Old Nun’s Head, London, 18 July 2017

Life Drawing 15!

Not one, but TWO models for our final session of the term!
Join us for another wonderful evening @The Old Nun’s Head, 7pm to 9pm. We are lucky enough to have Steve and Esther modelling for us. £8 online or OTD. Basic materials, paper and boards provided. Join us for a drink after in the pub! X

Esther and I were privileged to be booked together for the fifteenth and final evening in this, the very first term of Nunhead Drawing Group. I had been booked for their Life Drawing 8, when sessions were still held in The Green community centre. From the following week, they relocated to a bigger space on the upper floor of The Old Nun’s Head, directly across the road. Esther made her own début appearance for the group there at ‘Life Drawing 10’. Now, as a duo, we opened with six poses of 2-minutes.

Originally, it was suggested that we begin with a sequence of 1-minute poses, but we recommended doubling it for the sake of those in our semi-circle of artists who hadn’t any previous experience at drawing two models. A couple of 5-minute poses followed: one in which Esther stood with a foot on my chest, and another in which I hugged her legs. Then for 10-minutes Esther lay down whilst I kneeled behind, not really thinking in advance about the wisdom of knee-balancing, or how pornographic it might appear.

We finished the first half with a 15-minute pose in which I sat and Esther leaned back onto me. After a break we resumed with a similar pose but with a slight shift in weight distribution as now Esther sat and I leaned forward to hug her for 20-minutes. Next for 25-minutes we lay together in an open spooning arrangement, then to finish we stood for 5-minutes with Esther to the fore. Lots of lovely art resulted, and we felt we’d been well received. Hopefully the group will return in autumn – it has a good thing going.

The Plough and Harrow, London, 17 July 2017

Ten minutes into the final 55-minute pose, I’d already started to draft a gushing blog in my mind. I would say that Life Drawing in Leytonstone seemed to attract ever more artists; that the new ceiling lights in The Plough and Harrow were perfect for a pose space; that organiser Jennifer was in great spirits, post-LARPing; and how I’d enjoyed creating poses that projected tension, but avoided discomfort. Then, five minutes later, the first bout of cramp bit into my left calf muscle…

I tried to ride it out for a while, just lifting my toes to ease the pain, but it was a bit too much. I asked for permission to move the misbehaving limb while maintaining the rest of the pose. After about a minute of recovery time I resumed, but five minutes later the cramp was back. This time toe-lifting and grim concentration got me through – such a shame though, as apart from these two moments I thoroughly enjoyed this session. It was a bonus too, having only been offered the booking at half-three that afternoon.

I’d started with 5-minutes in my current favourite pose, placing one arm across the top of my head and the other across my belly. I then shifted stance and stood for a further 10-minutes with my left hand held up to my forehead. For 25-minutes I sat on the floor with my right arm resting on my raised right knee – all artists coped marvellously with the foreshortening – and finally I leaned back onto a sofa for 55-minutes with my arms outstretched upon its cushions. It was a perfect summer evening of art. Almost.

Rhodes Avenue Primary School, London, 6 July 2017

Back to school! Not modelling for students – that remains a rarity – but after hours for parents, carers and friends at Rhodes Avenue Primary School in Muswell Hill. I’d arrived early and was greeted by a couple of employees who asked if they could help. “Ah, yes,” they said when I gave them the tutor’s name, and then accompanied me to the correct classroom. This was a relief as nothing is more likely to make a chap feel self-conscious than prolonged waiting around school gates.

Life drawing is new here, and I was to be the fifth model in a term of just six evenings. Eight locals had enrolled, paying up front, and six of them joined the tutor, Rosie, and me for this session. Each artist would be provided with an easel, and had their pick of the school art supplies. Rosie had arranged the easels in a semi-circle around sheets and a seat whilst explaining to me her plan for the evening. With everybody in position and ready to draw, we began with three standing poses of 3, 5 and 5-minutes.

Apparently the first three sessions of term had seen the artists progressing nicely, but particular foreshortening challenges in the fourth session had shaken their confidence. I’d kept foreshortened elements to a minimum during the standing poses, but the next set of reclining or seated poses – all 10 or 15 minutes – was intended to provide more opportunity to tackle this trickiness. For a class with mixed experience, I thought they did very well. The final pose of 40-minutes saw me standing again.

There wasn’t much foreshortening to tackle in this last pose, just the usual trouble of gauging the length of my legs in proportion to the rest of my body. Rosie visited each artist in turn, offering her observations and advice, including tips on measuring. Some were open to learning new techniques, while others preferred to rely on their instincts. The pose was comfortable and I enjoyed listening to the discussion and observations about my body. All in all it was a very pleasant evening; I hope the group prospers.

The Old Fire Station, Hockley, 4 July 2017

After modelling in June at the inaugural session of Hockley Life Drawing and feeling it had gone rather well, I was hopeful for future bookings. Indeed, an offer did come for dates at the end of July but I wasn’t available. With just five days to go before the first Tuesday of the month, however, I received an email saying their model had cancelled, so would I like to step in? It was sooner than expected, but I was free and very happy to return. I arrived early and found The Old Fire Station immaculately prepared.

We would begin with five poses of 2-minutes, which the 12 artists were encouraged to draw with their off hand – if right-handed, use the left, and vice-versa. Thus, I thought it best to make my poses less challenging than I normally do for short work. Two poses of 5-minutes came next, then three of 10-minutes taking us to a break. It was a warm evening, but there was no danger of me overheating as I was squarely in the firing line of a fearsome electric fan that could have powered a light aircraft.

Surely this is a lucky group for me as wine and nibbles have been supplied twice, and I was their model on both occasions – this one celebrated the day before’s birthday of group organiser, Jake. After a generous gulp of merlot, I completed the session sitting on a stool for 15-minutes, and then laying down for a shade under half an hour. Twists were added to both poses, maximising the angles with interesting views. Jake offered tips to those who sought advice, and in all it was another truly pleasant evening.

Mall Galleries, London, 30 June 2017

Oh, the suffering! My four 30-minute poses for Hesketh Hubbard Art Society at Mall Galleries began with me standing. My left hand clutched the back of my neck and its elbow was raised, while my right hand reached out slightly to the side, and my stance was open. My left elbow became sore but was tolerable. I made the mistake, however, of supporting my full upper body weight on it throughout the next half-hour. By the end of that half-hour I was trembling with pain; right pose, wrong sequence.

After the break, my third pose was a repeat of one I first tried on Monday at Anerley and Penge life drawing: sitting with one knee up and a pointing arm rested upon it, whilst the other arm reaches backwards as a balance. It looks potentially tricky but in practice was comfortable enough to tempt me into trying something unduly difficult for my finale… nearly. Professional experience eventually reminded me it would be better to lay down, albeit with a few twists.

I thoroughly enjoyed the challenges of this evening, even if I hadn’t enjoyed the bodily sensations that resulted. Muscles in my side were still achy on the train home, more than an hour after the session had closed. It was also enjoyable to chat with some of the artists before, after, and during the interval. As one of the least glamorous models who pose here, I feel more keenly a duty to keep standards as high as possible; kind words from those who’ve paid to draw are always highly gratifying. Thank you.

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