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Mall Galleries, London, 9 February 2018

Returning to Mall Galleries last Friday evening, I was again challenged with selecting an original 2-hour long pose for Hesketh Hubbard Art Society. I wanted to stand this time, as always I capitulate when faced with what feels like the expectation to adopt a relatively straightforward seated attitude. Tradition is a factor here, and the artists tend to set-up in anticipation of a pose even before the model arrives. The initial absence of a chair seemed to encourage me in my aspiration, but eventually one appeared.

Very well then. I would once more be sitting with my face and body forwards for artists arranged in a semi-circle around me. As per last time, I hooked my left ankle beneath my right buttock, but for variety put a curve in my torso and supported the right side of my face on the knuckles of my right hand. Thus we began. One pleasing aspect of the sameness was that some genuinely lovely people with superb talent would be drawing me, and I could feel assured that strong artworks would be the result of my pains.

The 2-hour long poses are split into two halves, each of one hour. About thirty minutes into the first half, one of the artists asked me if I would like a stretch but, as I felt quite comfortable, I declined. My neck and left side subsequently got a bit achy but nothing unbearable. In the second half, perhaps as a result of my early complacency, no such offer was made, and typically I ended the pose in considerable discomfort. All my own fault of course, as I could ask to stretch at any time. Maybe next time I will stand…

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The Conservatoire, Blackheath, 5 February 2018

I’ve had an idea,” said tutor Victoria Rance with a twinkle in her eye. Mild trepidation gripped me as I waited to hear what torturous contortion would be in store this evening as my long pose at The Conservatoire; yet I need not have worried. The requirement was merely that I lay perfectly straight on my back, echoing works such as ‘The dead Christ and three mourners‘ by Andrea Mantegna, and ‘Clay‘ by Jacob Kramer.

I couldn’t quite believe my luck – simply laying down flat-out for almost 2-hours hardly seemed like work, but for the artists it was intended as a serious challenge to sketch the foreshortened figure. We warmed-up with three 1-minute poses, one of 5-minutes, and one of 10-minutes, then began preparing the space for our main work. With snow having fallen earlier in the day, this was a four-heaters situation.

Although the exercise was supposed to concern foreshortening, I sensed a few artists shuffling their easels around for less demanding side views. For me the challenge was initially how to stay awake, but after about half-an-hour I was aided by a chilly draught that circulated at floor level. Slight adjustments to heater positions during our half-time interval ensured I was snugly cocooned in warm air for the remaining 40-minutes.

Most eye-catching amongst all the finished works were felt-pen outlines of me, drawn onto the clear plastic lids of storage boxes. Presumably these had been held at arms’ length and my body profile traced upon them. Having been surrounded by four roaring heaters throughout the session I hadn’t been able to hear whether this technique had been part of Victoria’s tuition, or was the inspired act of a desperate artist. Genius!

When finished, I’d got as far as putting on my T-shirt when the building alarms started blaring. Fire or burglar, we did not know, but immediate evacuation was required. With temperatures below freezing, however, I wasn’t about to dash outside with no trousers or shoes; an extra 30 seconds was all I needed, and we were soon back indoors. Not even this surprise intervention could spoil a very comfortable evening.

The Dellow Centre, London, 4 February 2018

Life drawing” said the hand-written sign on a small A-frame board, its arrow pointing to The Dellow Centre. This was new! In the art room, I found a wooden platform piled with sheets and pillows upon which I would pose. This was also new! And instead of a few chairs and fewer easels, there were now dozens of chairs arranged in a broad oval with easels standing close behind. This too was new! What was going on?

Amidst all the change, at least Tim – the organiser of Life drawing in Aldgate and Shoreditch – was a familiar presence. Whilst I prepared to pose, he greeted arrivals; starting with about 8 people, then a group of 6 more arrived, then another group, then another. Not individuals… groups! Such a transformation for this session. I had rarely known it to have more than a dozen artists previously, yet today there were thirty.

Pose times would be different: 20-minutes, 20-minutes and 25-minutes took us to the interval, with Tim suggesting a clockwise rotation of 120º each time starting off facing the back wall. After tea and biscuits we ended with poses of 20 and 25-minutes. I still had creative discretion to decide each pose, so I used the fresh energy in the room to ignite new tensions within old favourites. Tim, meanwhile, reinvigorated his tuition.

Among the ocean of young newcomers, it was nice to see a few regulars. I wondered if they might have preferred bygone times of more space and greater liberty to spread out. Hopefully they too will feel renewed momentum, and be duly inspired. Personally, I thought it was a very healthy development from which some excellent artworks were the result. Fingers-crossed it will be sustained.

In Voluptas Mors at the Royal Academy

In Voluptas Mors‘ (“voluptuous death”) was the title given to a photographic portrait of Spanish surrealist, Salvador Dalí posing next to a tableau vivant comprised of seven nude female models whose bodies had been organised into the form of a human skull. It was captured by Latvian-born American photographer, Philippe Halsman in 1951.


© Philippe Halsman Archive / Magnum Photos

© Philippe Halsman Archive / Magnum Photos

RA Lates: Rrose Sélavy’s Dada Extravaganza on Saturday 9 December 2017 gave visitors to the Royal Academy of Arts a chance to: ‘Enter the worlds of Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp for one unforgettable night in 1930s Paris.‘ And, as part of this night, Art Macabre be would recreating In Voluptas Mors with seven life models.

Preparations

I arrived at 6pm and found two Lilys already present in the foyer. We were soon joined by Teddy and Valentina, and together were escorted by staff upstairs to The Reynolds Room, where Art Macabre director Nikki was preparing the space in which we were to pose. When Angel and Porscha entered our ‘green room’ a little later, we were seven.


Teddy, Lily, Lily, Steve, Valentina, Porscha, Angel – © Art Macabre

Before the doors opened to guests, we tried our installation in different configurations. Whereas Dalí and Halsman had chosen seven women of uniformly fashionable 1950s proportions, we were closer to a cross-section of 21st century London humanity in all its wonderful variety. We explored what our bodies could do and how they could align.


© Art Macabre

The frame upon which we would pose was rather more basic than Dalí’s purpose-built construction – essentially just a cupboard with a box in front, all draped in black cloth. As the 6’4″ member of our team, it seemed likely my position would be side cheek or lower jaw, although I did briefly practice laying across the top.


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell

Visitors began to arrive from 7pm, settling themselves in front of our stage with papers and pens at the ready. We emerged half an hour later, disrobed and smartly organised ourselves – under Nikki’s direction – into the first skull. There would be six in total: the first was held for 10-minutes; the next five each lasted quarter of an hour.

In Voluptas Mors, version 1

For our first voluptuous death, I stood on the left-side, Lily McG was our central figure, while Lily H and Valentina were cheekbones – their knees taking the durability test.


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell

In Voluptas Mors, version 2

Having found 10-minutes was OK, our subsequent skulls were all 15-minute poses. It was now the turn of me and Angel to be cheekbones, with Porscha in the middle.


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell

Interval #1

Whilst taking a break between our voluptuous deaths, sometimes we would rearrange into alternative tableaux for the gratification of our by-now quite substantial audience.


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell

In Voluptas Mors, version 3

Skull number three was a reprise of our first formation. Angel once more scrambled to the high ground whilst Teddy settled down as a lower jaw. 15-minutes again.


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell

Interval #2

Another interval. Some of us mingled, explored or simply rested off stage. Others kept our audience captivated with yet more compelling freestyle poses.


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell

In Voluptas Mors, version 4

We were now past the half-way point and ready to ring the changes. Lily H owned the heart of our fourth voluptuous death, while I hauled myself up to the crown.


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell

In Voluptas Mors, version 5

Skull five – time for Teddy to be our central star. Angel reclaimed top bunk, Lily H was at basement level, and I took a turn standing on the right.


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell


© Art Macabre and Drucilla von Burrell

In Voluptas Mors, version 6

Our sixth and final voluptuous death saw the unlikely spectacle of me at its core, with Valentina and Porscha sides, Angel and Lily McG cheeks, Lily H top, Teddy bottom.

Work is done

When sharing photos the next day, Nikki commented: “loved seeing you all supporting each other and working as a team!” Indeed it was a joyous team effort; thanks to Nikki herself, thanks to those who supported us, the scores of visitors who drew us… and of course, to Dalí, Halsman and the original magnificent seven models. Inspirations!

In Voluptas, even more…

…about the 1951 collaboration between Salvador Dalí and Philippe Halsman:

Bridge House, London, 22 January 2018

Anerley and Penge Life Drawing is temporarily under new management. While its founder, Tatiana takes an extended sabbatical to savour the wonders of India, we are blessed to have Sara Kuan as boss. Sara is a regular at Tatiana’s Camberwell Life Drawing group, a staggeringly gifted illustrator, and – as I found this evening – a very reliable timekeeper. I arrived nice and early at Bridge House for a 7pm start.

My previous sessions here have either been ‘short poses’, which means nothing more than 15-minutes, or ‘long poses’, meaning the reverse. This evening was technically a long pose session but we started with three of 2-minutes, just to get warmed up. Next came two of 15-minutes (both standing), followed by one of 23-minutes (seated on the floor), which took us to an interval.

After the break I sat upon a foot stool, in different attitudes and directions, for two final poses of 20 and 25-minutes. In a fleeting instant, we inadvertently brought life drawing to the masses when a sheet that was taped across a doorway between our art space and the adjacent pub room suddenly fell to the floor. I heard gasps, but Sara leapt into action and swiftly reattached it. Hopefully no lasting psychological damage was done.

When the session had concluded, everybody observed the custom of putting favourite sketches on the floor for broad appreciation. In all honesty I can say that this was the strongest set of works I’d seen in two years of modelling here. I had sensed everyone was getting absorbed by the challenges, and appreciated their respectful applause at the end. Tatiana can be very happy in the knowledge her group is flourishing nicely.

The Beehive, London, 18 January 2018

Here was a special occasion. To help celebrate four years of Tottenham Art Classes, Esther and I were booked to model for an evening of life drawing at The Beehive pub. Furthermore, the ticket price for artists was set at just £4, which would cover entrance and a free slice of exquisite birthday cake. This was an inspired move as it looked like almost 40 artists turned up. Somehow they were all accommodated as we opened the session with four solo poses of 2-minutes each, swapping sides with each change.

After posing apart, we came together for poses of 10-minutes, 15 and 20-minutes that took us to a break. We were in the round, which was fine, but unfortunately there was a pillar supporting the ceiling in the same space. It meant that if we cuddled too close together, there would be artists on the far side of the column who would not be able to view either of us. Frustratingly therefore, all our connections had to be at arms’ length, and the good people of Tottenham were denied our more intimate poses.


© Tottenham Art Classes

After cake and some wine, we resumed the second half with two 15-minute poses and one of 10-minutes, taking us to our finish at 9pm. It was wonderful to see such a great crowd had come along to this celebratory event. For relaxed untutored groups like this that can make the economics viable, it’s certainly best to have lower ticket prices and more people present, rather than higher prices but low numbers. Long may Tottenham Art Classes continue making it work in north London.


Birthday cake by Prestige Patisserie – photo © Tottenham Art Classes

Naked World 2017

Inspired by my participation in nude outdoor photo shoots for Spencer Tunick, Matt Granger and Natansky – some pre-organised, others guerilla-style – I resolved that, from 2016, impromptu naked photography would be part of all my world travels…

Martigny in February

Esther and I visited Switzerland to participate in ‘Footfall‘ – a performance installation by JocJonJosch. While in Martigny I posed artily at La Bâtiaz castle and anxiously in a residential area with one of the mud-brick totems built by JocJonJosch in 2016.


By the tower of Château de la Bâtiaz – location map.


By the tower of Château de la Bâtiaz – location map.


With a JocJonJosch mud totem – location map.

Fuerteventura in March

Undertaking nude guerilla-style photo shoots on the Canary Island of Fuerteventura is utterly redundant, such is the prevalence of nudism. Nonetheless, during our stay in Corralejo we bagged shots among the sand dunes and along the coast in El Cotillo.


Sun worship at Parque Natural Corralejo – location map.


Sun worship at Parque Natural Corralejo – location map.


On the beach of El Cotillo – location map.


On the beach of El Cotillo – location map.


On the beach of El Cotillo – location map.


On the beach of El Cotillo – location map.

Jersey and Sark in May

A springtime visit to Jersey turned into a walking holiday, with the additional delight of taking detours to discover prehistoric dolmens. On the neighbouring Channel Island of Sark, we found traffic-free natural serenity and a 21st century stone circle.


At Dolmen des Geonnais on Jersey – location map.


At Dolmen des Geonnais on Jersey – location map.


At Dolmen des Geonnais on Jersey – location map.


Within the new Sark Hengelocation map.


Within the new Sark Hengelocation map.


Esther’s special framing! At Sark Hengelocation map.

Highlands in July

We loved Ullapool in the Highlands of Scotland! The sun was out as we hiked up the coast to Rhue lighthouse and from Achnahaird to Achiltibuie via Loch Vatachan but rain fell when I stripped at Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis – good fun in all weather.


At Rhue Lighthouse, near Ullapool – location map.


At Rhue Lighthouse, near Ullapool – location map.


In the rain opposite Stornoway – location map.


In the rain opposite Stornoway – location map.


Under a big sky at Loch Vatachan – location map.


Under a big sky at Loch Vatachan – location map.

Tanzania in September

During our two weeks in Tanzania we travelled to Dar es Salaam, Bagamoyo and Zanzibar. We were modest in public, but less so while sheltering from a storm in the abandoned German Boma at Bagamoyo, and on a secluded beach at Mangapwani.


In the old German Boma at Bagamoyo – location map.


In the old German Boma at Bagamoyo – location map.


In the old German Boma at Bagamoyo – location map.


On the beach at Mangapwani – location map.


On the beach at Mangapwani, Zanzibar – location map.


On the beach at Mangapwani, Zanzibar – location map.

~~~ this journey will continue ~~~
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