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West Horndon Village Hall, Essex, 8 June 2019

West Horndon Art Group meets at West Horndon Village Hall in the parish village of West Horndon. Once a year they organise a life drawing morning with one female model and one male model. Natansky lives just one town over, so is very convenient as their female model. I’m three towns over, and this year got the nod as their male.

It was Natansky who got me the booking. Later that day we would both be cycling as marshals for the London Naked Bike Ride, starting from Tower Hill, so it all lined up quite nicely. At 10am, we undressed and stood whilst a tutor offered tips on anatomy, angles and observation. Then we posed: 3-minutes, 3, 6 and 15 minutes to begin.

We posed separately throughout, initially switching sides round a table that occupied the centre of the room. For our first 15-minute pose, Natansky sat on the table while I stood at one end. We then swapped situations for the 15-minute pose that completed our first half. A long pleasant social interlude followed, with tea, biscuits and chatter.

At the start of the session, upon request, we gave consent for artists to take reference photos of us in pose so they could finish their drawings later. We assumed this meant pictures from where they sat, but some seemed to be taking souvenir snaps, and one used it as a outright photoshoot! Nat had to chide him for blocking the view of others.

We ended the session with a single 45-minute pose. Nat was reclining, propped up on the table, while I perched on one end facing the opposite way. Aside from photo quirks this was a nice, serene, well-organised, well-attended session. It over-ran by a quarter of an hour, but no matter. We were soon our bikes and headed for the next adventure.

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Little Nan’s Bar, London, 3 June 2019

Nestling under the railway arches of increasingly trendy Deptford are Little Nan’s Bar and its neighbouring space-for-hire, Grandad’s Shed. Both spaces are brimming over with colourful kitsch frippery, but I was here to squeeze my unadorned nakedness into the latter. Once I’d figured out that the large external padlocked door had an unlocked small door set within it, I let myself in and was greeted by artist Joanna McCormick.

Little Nan’s is one of several venues at which Joanna organises life drawing sessions. She originally booked me for this date way back in January, at a time when the venue was less well insulated, so I felt the five-month long wait had been worth it. We began the evening with a heater switched-on, but soon decided it wasn’t needed. Instead we warmed-up with five 1-minute poses and two of 5-minutes.

I loved the playlist. Joanna prepares the music for her sessions with every track either edited or timed to match the exact durations of each pose. Such an eclectic feast. The first 5-minute pose, for example, was accompanied by The Fall’s Bill is Dead, and the next by Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down. Time slipped away without me even noticing. I felt immersed.

The first half ended with poses of 10-minutes and 15-minutes, after which tea or beer or cocktails were taken. The second half consisted of a single 45-minute pose. It was suggested I might make myself comfortable and recline on Grandad’s couch but, as I was only feeling semi-lazy, I only semi-reclined with my head on my left palm. Strong works resulted, including brilliantly colourful drawings by Joanna herself. Good times.

Royal Inn on the Park, London, 23 May 2019

I’ve been modelling long enough to know that heatwaves and life drawing don’t really mix. By some unwritten inverse law, a sudden surge in temperatures will be matched by an equivalent plummet in attendances at art groups. So, whilst it’s a dream for the model to be cosily warm, the advantage is reduced by a shortfall of artists. Such was the situation on my last visit to the Royal Inn on the Park.

As absentees presumably frolicked outdoors in the long light mellow evening air, I set about presenting my best shapes to the dedicated handful who’d paid to draw. Poses were timed at 10-minutes, 2, 2, 2, 5, 5, 15 and 15-minutes during the first half. After a half-hour break, we completed the session with two poses of 30-minutes each. First I sat on a chair, contemplating a balloon, then ended in angles, seated on the floor.

Barrie Novell

Perusing messages on my phone during the interval, I learned the very sad news that legendary life model Barry Novell had died earlier in the day following a major cardiac arrest. I’d only experienced his unique larger-than-life mischievous character a couple of times myself, but had long known him to be spoken of affectionately by all who met him – passionate about his life modelling, a gift to portraits, a true one-off. RIP Barrie.

‘Barrie’ by Antony Williams NEAC PS RP

Forest

It had been almost 5 years since artist Antony Crossfield last photographed me in a studio session for one of his projects. I never saw a finished work from that shoot, but the memory of it and Antony’s striking portfolio of works had stayed with me. Happily, he remembered me too, and knew Esther and I posed together as a couple, so when a specific vision took hold requiring a genuine couple in an embrace, he contacted us. It took a while to agree the date, but on 18 May we went to his flat for a shoot.

Preparation

Antony and his assistant welcomed us and – whilst showing every care and courtesy one would expect from true professionals – talked us through the concept. Before we began, Antony showed me the images he had developed from my previous shoot. To me they were extraordinarily wonderful but he wasn’t quite ready go public with them yet. I would love to describe them and the fascinating environment of wall-to-wall arts paraphernalia in which we found ourselves but, alas, discretion does not allow.

Creation

Quickly we set to work. Esther and I undressed, stood upon a little platform and took direction for our first embrace. We then continued in different rotations, with a variety of limb positions and shifting shadows. Again, I won’t reveal techniques but suffice to say our 2-hours flew by as we pursued the ideal shot. And I think at the end we got it. Less than a fortnight later Antony emailed us both with his finished work – a beautiful, tender, haunting, stark and very striking composition, shared below: ‘Forest‘.

Completion

The Beehive, London, 16 May 2019

It was a very fine evening as I walked up Tottenham High Road towards The Beehive pub. The new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium loomed staggeringly large on the not-too distant horizon; a dazzling emblem of progressiveness in this community. Likewise, at just £5 for a full evening of life drawing, Tottenham Art Classes is a great community asset… and a progressive one at that.

In addition to being one of the best value informal life drawing groups in London, they have extended their global platform by getting listed as an AirBnB Experience. Hats off to organisers Taz and Tom for this innovative stroke of genius. At 7pm, it was time for all items of clothing to come off as I started with short poses: 1-minute, 2-minutes, 3, 5 and 10-minutes.

The first half ended with two poses of 15-minutes each. When I arrived, Taz had been concerned that attendance may be affected by disruption on the Victoria Line – a dog on the tracks, of all things – yet as we approached the interval, our main concern was making sure I positioned myself somewhere that everyone in the crowded room could see me. Not so straightforward when the ceiling is supported by a central column.

The second half began with a flurry of quick-fire poses: four lasting just 1-minute each. We then finished at a more sedate pace. I stood for 10-minutes in my recent favourite ‘whispering’ pose, and lastly sat for our final 20-minutes. Somehow I lost track of time and thought there must be another pose to follow but, no, it was 9pm and we were all done. I’d enjoyed being back with old friends… and maybe some new AirBnB-ers too.

The Workshop N4, London, 14 May 2019

When I arrived at The Workshop N4, life drawing organiser Lisa seemed dispirited. It emerged that one after another, almost all her regular artists had contacted her to say they would not be able to join us tonight. Two were expected, but train troubles meant the finally tally was just one – a friend of Lisa – plus Lisa herself and me modelling. At least the two friends together would make it a good humoured session, and naturally I would give as much as if working for a hundred artists. I started with an upright pose.

After standing for 15-minutes I then sat down on a bench, making various angles and lines with my limbs. I held the position for 30-minutes, at the end of which I found one had drawn just my torso and the other my face! Ah, it happens. We took a swift break then concluded with two more 15-minute poses: first sitting, then standing. There was room enough for those drawing me to shift vantage points but this only occurred once; artists do like their favourite chairs. In all, it was a low-key but very jolly evening.

Christ Church Methodist Addiscombe, Croydon, 13 May 2019

I had the great pleasure of being booked on a recommendation by The Croydon Art Society. Founded in 1878, it is considered one of the oldest art societies in England, outside of London. Its membership does engage in life drawing but on this occasion I was to sit for portraits in the rear hall at Christ Church Methodist Addiscombe.

This being an unfamiliar journey for me, I allowed myself plenty of travel time and duly arrived plenty early. I met Evi and Anthony as they were about to ready the room, so I set to work helping them arrange a horseshoe of tables and chairs. At its centre I had a chair of my own, a box upon which to rest one foot, and assorted coloured fabrics

Come 7:30pm, I settled down to commence what was to be a 2-hour session with one 15-minute interval for tea and biscuits. I was offered the chance to take stretch breaks before and after our main break but, having been careful to make a comfortable nest, I found these were not necessary and was able to remain motionless throughout.

Although the artists were mostly silent while working, their chatter at other times was friendly and sociable, as befits a long-running group. Some worked on one drawing all evening, whilst others started a new work after refreshments. It seemed there were as many styles as there were people present, and I enjoyed being the focus for each.

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