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Mall Galleries, London, 7 December 2018

It was time again for Hesketh Hubbard Art Society Christmas party, and once more Esther and I were honoured with a booking to model. As in previous years, we would manifest two 30-minute poses for the first half of the evening, after which the second half would be given over to feasting, drinking, socialising and general merriment. We began seated in a gentle embrace.

Artwork by Anthony Roe.

Artwork by Anthony Roe.

In our second pose, Esther reclined – as was only fair for someone who had endured a long sleepless night before – whilst I sat upright alongside and leaned over her. The lure of an arty party ensured Mall Galleries was packed with more society members than I could remember seeing all year. This made for both a buoyant atmosphere and a tremendously long queue when it was feeding time.

Artwork by Anthony Roe.

Many of the society’s regular life models had accepted an invitation to join the revelry. I smile to think that I too could have simply enjoyed the party without having to work beforehand, but the sentimental side of me still considers this booking a privilege not to be taken for granted. I’m certain it wouldn’t have come my way were I not half of a modelling couple, but it means a lot to me nonetheless.

Esther, me, Tatiana, Dani, Simon (Hesketh Hubbard Art Society president) and Tanja.

Posing did not stop when we put our clothes back on. Our friend Tanja Hassel – this evening’s long-pose model and a very good artist in her own right – had brought along a case of her artistically crafted cushions, which were crying out for a promotional photo shoot. Several of us mustered for the task, and several more took photos of our curious spectacle. The smiles tell our story; a good time was had by all.


Spirited Bodies ‘Have I Got Nudes for You’ 2018

When Esther was invited to stage one of her Spirited Bodies events at The Doodle Bar in Bermondsey, it was an opportunity to present something new. Multi-model life drawing would meet current affairs in Have I Got Nudes for You. Esther herself was to be modelling, alongside me, Lucy (former Spirited Bodies organiser), and Rodger, our friend who made his Spirited Bodies debut in 2012 at the same event as me.

There were early setbacks – Rodger dropped out sick the day before, Lucy had a bad night, I had been nursing a cold all week and the venue lacked sufficient heating – but we were keen nonetheless! In a far corner the public bar, shielded from view only by a folded table tennis table, we created 15 poses to represent news stories from the past year. When we needed more bodies, volunteers amongst our artists gladly joined in.

Pose I – 2 minutes

We ranged from major global headlines to quirky little footnotes and our intention was that artists could try guessing the story while sketching us. For an opening warm-up I stood straight-backed shaking hands with Esther while she descended painfully (very painfully) low in cringing deference. Lucy offered clues as the clock ticked down…

Now it’s your turn! Scroll slowly and see if you can guess each news story from the clues and images below before the answer is given.

Pose II – 5 minutes

Our second pose was symbolic rather than literal, yet still one of the more wearyingly familiar stories to recognise. Esther and I pulled from opposite ends of a tangled rope; me planted firmly with an EU flag, Esther huffing and puffing with her UK flag, but not really making any progress…

Pose III – 5 minutes

Esther would be flying solo for the next pose. First she put on a plastic blond wig, and then wrapped a sheet around her bottom like a vast nappy, fastening it with a gigantic safety pin. She stretched out on her blue sheet like a big baby floating across the sky, filled with nothing but hot air…

Pose IV – 5 minutes

Another dynamic two-person pose for me and Esther. I was maintaining a firm grip on the object into which I speaking, while Esther tried to grab it from me. At no time was I guilty of placing my hands on her as she tried to do her job – that was just trumped up fake news…

Pose V – 5 minutes

Our friend Adrian undressed and stepped up to participate in the next item. It focused on two men standing beside a line that divided the pose space. To begin with we were on opposite sides of the line but I welcomed Adrian to my side, and we held hands as we turned to pose whilst taking a step back across it together…

Pose VI – 5 minutes

Next came a mellow pose for me and Esther. We each held a nice fat roll-up and took chilled-out seated positions on the floor. Obviously we wouldn’t be permitted to smoke in this joint, or even this country, but they’ve been more relaxed about it in other parts of the world since voting to legalize it…

Pose VII – 10 minutes

Two new volunteers undressed and joined us for our next pose. Esther and Lidia held up a large banner that demanded ‘Repeal the 8th‘ whilst Andy and I, wearing bishops’ mitres, lay defeated beneath their feet. Lidia delivered an impassioned speech on the significance of this news story – both for the country in question and for all women…

Pose VIII – 5 minutes

Meanwhile in the sports news: a football was placed on the floor and I collapsed down beside it, screaming in agony and holding my shin, though nobody was near me. One big international tournament dominated this summer; it went well for the English, even better for the French – but a certain name, ah, played a less than impressive roll…

Pose IX – 5 minutes

This pose was another symbolic one so recognition was trickier. I stood in the manner of the traditional sign for a male toilet. Esther then set her female body directly in front of me, but making only half the same sign, so together we were neither fully Steve nor fully Esther. We then consulted the artists on what they thought of this Act…

Pose X – 15 minutes

Over the years, great art has often been an inspiration for Spirited Bodies multi-model tableaux. The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault had been reimagined for many events, but in recent times its image has become more poignant as thousands attempt desperate sea crossings in tiny craft. Adrian and Andy returned to pose…

Pose XI – 5 minutes

After a half-hour break for food, Esther resumed with a short warm-up pose – our area still lacked the warmth we were promised for this, the first day of December. Her pose was that of a small girl holding a red love-heart balloon, while her legs were paper that had been half cut to ribbons. An extra clue was drawn on the paper itself…

Postcard in this photo: Madonna & Child by Lidia Lidia © 2018.

Pose XII – 10 minutes

A giveaway for this anniversary pose was a large banner declaring ‘Votes for Women‘. Several women in the room stepped forward to take part in this one, but a lack of heat meant only Lucy had the courage to pose nude alongside Esther; Lidia, Judit, Daniela and Paula all kept their clothes on – possibly a first time ever for Paula!

Pose XIII – 20 minutes

Our next pose was one for the boys. Esther joined in too as we didn’t have enough for a full team. Andy, Peter, me, Esther, John and Adrian, all huddled together, crouching low down as if trapped in a cramped place, no room to play, just waiting. This was the longest of our afternoon’s poses…

Pose XIV – 10 minutes

Sometimes Spirited Bodies reflects the news, sometimes it’s in the news. In 2018, it helped drive the news agenda. Esther and I left Andy, Peter, Adrian and John to show the world their dynamic poses – different body types, all body positive, inspiring body acceptance for a developing generation…

Pose XV – 8 minutes

The final pose of the day was reserved for perhaps the biggest news story of them all. Peter, Esther and Adrian lay down on the blue sheet, a tide of humanity amidst a sea of plastic bottles that Lucy and I scattered on and around them. It was the end of this drawing session; we can only hope it doesn’t represent the end of so much more…

How did you do?

We had great fun with this event. Not only in the modelling, but also with the planning. On sifting through the year’s news our intention had been to find stories that we could translate into good life drawing poses, whilst also injecting some laughs, commentary and topical debate. All we needed was a warmer venue! Perhaps Spirited Bodies can take the idea even further next year. I hope you enjoyed guessing 2018’s headlines.

The Prince Regent, Herne Hill, 28 November 2018

Hindrance. I’d felt my cold coming on Monday evening, yet by Tuesday evening it was still no more than a sore throat. Come the Wednesday evening, my throat was painful and constricted but had no accompanying symptoms, so I felt all would be well for life modelling at The Prince Regent. I still had to arrive on time, however, and a brace of train delays meant I only reached the front door at the minute we were due to start.

Fortunately for me I didn’t find Lisa of SketchPad Drawing impatiently drumming her fingers; what had delayed me was evidently still delaying many of the regulars, so we would begin a few minutes late. When the time came, I opted to perch on a high seat for the opening 15-minute pose (running to 16 minutes). Quick poses followed: two of 5-minutes and one of 2-minutes.

I stood for 15-minutes next, and was all set to end the first half standing in a dramatic attitude with one hand covering my face when Lisa pointed out that some artists liked to draw portraits… so I lowered the hand, lowered myself to the floor, and instead sat with chin elevated for the 12-minutes that remained. Halfway through the session and still my cold symptoms were at bay!

I switched rooms after the interval and finished my work with one 45-minute long pose, sitting on furniture draped with sheets and my chunky sweater. Still my cold remained within, to be joined insidiously by the cold of night that crept past the shield of heaters and through my skin. We compensated for our late start by over-running a little, but I’d lost track of time anyway. I was glad to move again, glad to get warm, glad to be here.

83a Geffrye Street, London, 27 November 2018

The room was warm and in time filled with artists to near-capacity. Conditions outside were damp, but my journey had been quick and I always feel comfortable here at The Workshop in Hoxton. We started with a 10-minutes pose, three of 5-minutes and two of 3-minutes…

I rotated through a sequence of tense, angular, dynamic stances, always making sure my chosen pose would take me to the edge of discomfort within its allocated time but never beyond. My experienced body was doing exactly as it should, yet my inner light felt a little dull tonight. I wondered if artists would notice. We can’t always radiate.

Two poses of 15-minutes took us to a half-hour break, during which a fine selection of breads and dips were laid out for a complimentary feast – this was an Adrian Dutton London Life Drawing group, after all. I partook of some bread, tea and two Bourbon biscuits before completing the session with two poses of 30-minutes.

I began the second half perched on a low stool then set to pondering whether I should stand or lay down for the last 30-minute pose. Both options seemed unsatisfactory for one reason or another so, as my main concern was being fair to artists on all sides of the room, I ended up staying on the stool but turned 180°, slightly shifting posture.

When all was done, I photographed the drawings – good work again here – put on my clothes, and readied to depart. On my way out, I was complimented on the hard work I put into my poses. Maybe a lack of core strength simply makes them look hard, but it’s nice that the effort is noticed. Inside each static life model is a human struggling.

The Conservatoire, Blackheath, 19 November 2018

Temperatures outside in the drizzle were of the single digit variety. Inside the art room at The Conservatoire, a thermometer on the wall showed 17°C but I wasn’t feeling it. The chill of my journey had permeated bone and muscle, so I remained clothed for as long as possible. Even by the second of our opening three 1-minute warm-up poses, I was still tight with cold and duly got a hideous cramp in my left calf. For the 5-minute standing pose that followed, I shaped myself like a man shivering…

It was no fault of the venue. I had a heater to the left of me, a heater to the right of me, and a heater in front of me, yet against my stern inner chill the hot air seemed nought but a tepid breeze. I forged one final dynamic 10-minute “warm-up”, then settled down onto a mound of foam and cushions for what would be this evening’s long pose. I took time fidgeting into a comfy position but failed to find a natural home for my left arm so it defaulted into a raised hook dangling above my head.

I assumed the arm would go dead at some point but surprisingly it retained sensation. Its only negative contribution was as a weight upon my head, which then compressed a muscle in my neck, but not intolerably. My main challenge was recalling how to get back into pose after each stretch break – contorting my body among scraps of sticky tape that marked my previous extremities. Somehow it was accomplished. Come the end I dressed quickly, admired the art, then quit once more into the freezing night.

Garrett Centre, London, 16 November 2018

Evidently the room used for life drawing at the Garrett Centre had received a modest makeover since I was last there in June. Most notably the carpet had gone and been replaced with a hard surface. It worried me slightly as, purely at a psychological level, the impression was of a starkly colder space. I needn’t have been concerned, though, as a hefty gym mat, a cushion, my sheet and two heaters kept me very cosy.

Another difference for this long pose session is that I would be modelling in the round rather than with my back to a wall. The circle of chairs filled to capacity in time for us to begin with four shortish warm-up poses: three of 5-minutes and one of 8-minutes. I made sure that for all of these I was facing the side of the room that was fated to see mostly my back for the remainder of the evening.

I settled down to the main pose with around 40-minutes of the first half still remaining, and felt sufficiently comfortable to decline the offer of a stretch break at the 20-minute mark. During the interval, I partook of the finest all-included food selection to be found anywhere on the London life art scene: delicious hot garlic bread and pizza, assorted nibbles, biscuits, teas, wine and jelly babies – classic Adrian Dutton life drawing.

The second half lasted a bit over an hour so, after resuming in the same position, I did feel more inclined to accept the offers to stretch; but only twice. Mainly I concentrated on shaking out my left wrist, which was bent back just enough to become increasingly achy. That one minor irritation aside, this was a pleasant session made more pleasing by the high quality of inspired works revealed at the end.

The Old Nun’s Head, London, 13 November 2018

As ever, I was early enough at The Old Nun’s Head to buy a handsome glass of red wine and prepare a leisurely pace. In the upstairs function room I was forewarned that “it’s been a bit quiet” at Nunhead Drawing Group this term and indeed, as our 7pm start time drew closer it seemed this evening would be another quiet one. Cometh the hour, it was just me and two of the group’s organisers.

It’s a shame as this has been a wonderful place for life drawing: lovely people, superb venue, ample drawing materials, plenty of space, good lines of sight to the model and always an excellent playlist (Laura Veirs featuring this evening). I suspect it’s simply a case of losing momentum after a long summer break, and needing to put out a little more on social media to reconnect with the previous regulars.

On the up side for the organisers, it meant they could use me – within reason – in any way they liked for their own drawings. We started with five 1-minute poses, then had a 15-minute standing pose, and 30-minutes seated on the floor. After a break, in which I was very kindly bought another glass of wine, we ended with 40-minutes standing – or rather half-perched on a fireplace. All hugely enjoyable, so come on artists – join in!

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