Skip to content

Rhodes Avenue Primary School, London, 11 October 2017

My return to Rhodes Avenue Primary School put me centre stage for a new set of lessons. We opened with three poses of roughly 4-minutes each – I say “roughly” as all of the evening’s poses began with an intended duration in mind, but finished when the time seemed about right rather than being precision checked. Having warmed-up her half-a-dozen parents, carers and friends, teacher Rosie presented two exercises: first drawing negative space, and then drawing with masking tape.

For 20-minutes I was to stand in front of a large A-frame ladder, my elbows crooked and left knee bent. Artists were to sketch all the in-between spaces but try to avoid directly capturing the lines of my figure. This proved a tough task. Far more fun was the challenge of capturing my basic form using flat masking tape on paper, drawing over it, and then creating a graphite rubbing of the relief. For this, I stood leaning for 20-minutes with one foot upon a high chair.

There are no tea breaks here, just short time-outs for artists to look at one another’s work after each exercise. For the final pose, I was asked to have my legs flat on the floor and my body upright. I found a suitable sustainable position and stayed in it for 40-minutes, eavesdropping Rosie’s suggestions for looking and mark-making, along with the occasional chatter of this friendly group. Come 9pm, my limbs were slow to reanimate in the first chill of autumn… but I was warmed by some nice artworks.

Advertisements

The Old Fire Station, Hockley, 10 October 2017

Try to think of the torso as two tennis balls in a sock,” suggested Jake, while holding up two tennis balls in a sock. He was opening Tuesday’s Hockley Life Drawing with an exercise called ‘The Bean’. I was to create 20 separate poses of 30-seconds, each with a different tilt, lean or twist from which the artists would draw only my upper body, in the style of a kidney bean… or two tennis balls in a sock.

It was a curious exercise that I’d not come across before, but it went well, resulting in several wonderful pages full of beans. How many were accurate representations of my torso, I couldn’t say, but it certainly warmed-up our full house of artists. Afterwards we moved on to more traditional life modelling poses, permitting me to be expressive with my limbs. We started with two poses of 5-minutes, and one of 10-minutes.

I stood for both 5-minute poses – leaning backwards and reaching up for the first, then bending double and reaching forwards for the second. For 10-minutes I sat on the floor in a tangle of limbs that owed a debt to Egon Schiele. Surprisingly there was time for only one more pose of 15-minutes before our tea break, so I remained sitting, albeit in a much less complicated arrangement – an act of compassion for anyone struggling.

After the interval we completed the session with two poses. First was a standing pose of 15-minutes, with one arm draped across my head and the other crooked behind my back, then finally a reclining pose of half-an-hour – or rather 28-minutes, as a moment was needed to allow a spray of fixative to clear. I included a torso turn so artists could practice their new ‘bean’ skills. Such lovely drawings… these were magic beans.

Bridge House, London, 9 October 2017

When en route to a life modelling session, sometimes one wishes only to chill, yet at other times one wants to burn. As the sun set on a draining Monday, I wanted to burn, and I was in luck as my booking at Bridge House, Penge was for an evening of short poses with Anerley and Penge Life Drawing. It meant I could work quickly through a range of stances that would stoke fire in my muscles. Nothing dramatic, but enough for me to feel the latent energy of my own body.

I gave consideration to my poses beforehand so the fire of life would not become a fire of pain. Each pose would be sustainable for the given time: three of 2-minutes, four of 5-minutes, and three of 10-minutes up to a break, then three of 15-minutes to end the session. There was to be no laying around – I stood, sat, squatted, knelt on one knee and knelt on both knees. Plenty of extended arm work, too. The latter went down well with one artist who thanked me afterwards for the challenge it gave him.

The final three poses were all seated: the first, an elongated side-saddle posture on a chunky foot-rest; the next was on the floor with one knee raised and an arm extended across it; the third was on a chair, once again with a knee up, but now in the crook of an elbow, and the fingers of both hands interlocked. It all felt good; I enjoyed my work. Artists were engaged too, as individuals moved seats a couple of times to get a more desirable view – which itself is a bit of a compliment. Just the tonic I needed.

Mall Galleries, London, 6 October 2017

Last time I sat for a long pose at Mall Galleries it was pretty basic. Artists from the Hesketh Hubbard Art Society portrait group had joined us and kindly requested that my body be upright, with face clearly visible. This time I started in a more challenging arrangement and asked if it looked OK. “Could you lower your leg so we can see your body rather than a tangle of limbs?” suggested one. “Ah,” I replied, “but some people like a tangle of limbs.” The mild consensus, however, seemed to favour simplicity, so duly I complied – leg lowered, arms down, body straight.

The 2-hour pose would be divided into two halves of one-hour each without breaks for stretching. Once settled in position I would stay motionless for an hour at a time; not too harsh in itself, yet just because a pose is simple doesn’t necessarily mean there will be no discomfort. In this instance, upon reorganising my limbs I’d allowed my left hand to reach slightly behind and rest on the bench that supported me. The arm was not bearing any weight but the wrist was bent backwards and increasingly became a nagging ache.

During the tea break I shook out my pains. The first hour had actually over-run a little. None of the long pose artists had been keeping watch on the time, so I was indulged to return correspondingly late for the second half. More of the same followed, but my satisfaction is derived from seeing resultant artworks at the end. Even after five years of working as a life model, I still take pleasure from knowing I’ve inspired – or at least contributed to the creation of – good art. My next booking here is for a pre-Christmas brace of 30-minute duo poses with Esther, on 8 December. Should be festive!

The Prince Regent, Herne Hill, 4 October 2017

It had been ages. My last life modelling job was four weeks ago so I felt ridiculously rusty. For much of the intervening period I’d been away travelling with Esther, but now we were back for the start of autumn term and would be working together this evening at The Prince Regent. Inspiration and application were assured. With wine glasses in hand we ascended to the first-floor function room and were greeted warmly by Lisa, the ever-charming organiser of SketchPad Drawing.

For the first half of our session we would share the pose space but be connected only by fabric and proximity, not by physical contact. We worked upon two levels of tables, and on the floor. Lisa loosely shaped each tableau, within which we then selected our individual poses: three of 10-minutes, plus two of 15-minutes. I was naked throughout while at Lisa’s request, Esther remained in the dress she’d bought the week before at Kariakoo street market in Dar es Salaam. Some green material was our only prop.

After a break, we settled down for one single pose of 40-minutes. Esther removed her patterned dress but kept her multicoloured stripey socks with toes. Together we were indulged to get intertwined whilst maintaining interesting perspectives for artists on all sides of us in the round. It was wonderful to have this possibility rather than posing in separate rooms (the usual format here) but also sad because it meant artist numbers were slightly down. Hopefully there will be a full house when we return on 8 November.

Telegraph Hill Centre, London, 7 September 2017

Farewell then, August. Always a lean month for life model bookings as schools break for the summer and many other groups take time out for vacations. One looks forward to the resumption of normal activity in September but this cannot be taken for granted. Life Drawing at Telegraph Hill, for example, had hoped to get five people signed-up in advance to ensure viability for the next ten sessions. Tough times, but the sessions are going ahead – and Esther and I were honoured to be booked for the first.

It was lovely to be reunited with the group’s organiser, Frances and to greet the artists as they returned. We were to create five poses for them this evening, the first of which would be 5-minutes. We both stood – “so many legs” as one artist observed with time running out. Next, for 10-minutes Esther stood while I sat embracing her legs; then for 15-minutes we lay on our sides with our heads beside each other’s legs. For the latter I’d unwisely propped myself on one elbow. Achy!

We ended the first half with a 20-minute pose, in which Esther was sitting on the floor and I was curled round behind, reaching up. At the interval, we took tea and fashioned a mountain of beanbags to support our last pose. We also switched on a small heater as the early autumnal temperatures dipped. We completed our work with a 40-minute pose nestled together in a seated embrace. Hopefully the community of Telegraph Hill will likewise embrace its life drawing and keep this great little group buoyant.

Ryan Skelton photography, 16 July 2017

This was plan B. I’d originally been approached with proposals for a photo shoot at the Laurie Grove Baths on Goldsmiths University campus. The photographer would be Ryan Skelton – a third-year student studying Fashion Communication and Promotion at Central Saint Martins – helped by fashion designer and visual researcher, Alessia Vanini. Subsequently, it emerged a public exhibition was taking place at the baths on our agreed date, so the shoot was relocated to Ryan’s flat and became preparatory to our intended work on location, now rescheduled for autumn.

#NSFW

It was 3pm on a rain-threatened yet particularly humid summer’s Sunday in Elephant and Castle. Ryan greeted me and made tea whilst a friend applied a little make-up to my face. Alessia, Ryan and I then withdrew to a bedroom in which cuttings festooned the walls and rails of clothes busied all sides. About a dozen or so neatly folded piles of vintage garments occupied the remaining floor space. Over the next two hours they adorned me with each set – full dress or fragments that left me semi-nude. We began with an Italian men’s one-piece woollen swimsuit from the early 20th century…


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton

The collection of raiments spanned nations, decades and gender norms. Many barely fit me, with a couple of dresses in particular requiring an inordinate amount of writhing and assistance from Alessia to pull on and off. Once suitably or scarcely attired I was directed into pose by Ryan. Several attitudes were inspired by curious shapes I made whilst getting dressed. Others were unflinchingly explicit, occasionally drifting towards 70s porn territory, but never losing sight of the fashion objectives; I was self-conscious only when staring moodily at the lens – I’m more of a gaze-into-space kinda guy.


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton

Each pose was photographed on three separate cameras – the most modern of which appeared to be a 1980s model. No digital shenanigans here; just analogue equipment, vision, imagination, reflection, colour, monochrome and many exposures. In this work, Ryan conjures with a basic backdrop, fading light, and the texture of developed film to produce a striking set of images. Some may seem comical, many are unquestionably absurd, but there is a boldness, integrity and a raw honesty about them that I like. He has style, and he captures it well.


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton


Photography © Ryan Skelton

%d bloggers like this: