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83a Geffrye Street, London, 15 October 2018

This session was my sixteenth in 29 days since returning to the UK from a short visit to Aarhus, Denmark. Usually I would take just one or two of bookings each week, so this has been an exceptionally busy month’s modelling on top of my regular weekday employment. After this evening, however, I have a three week hiatus; I love my artistic work, but I can’t pretend it won’t be a relief to stop burning the candle at both ends.

If this was to be my final few hours’ modelling for nearly a month, I was happy to pass that time at The Workshop in Geffrye Street, Hoxton; Adrian Dutton’s London Life Drawing groups remain a pleasure for the purist. It was already dark when I emerged from Hoxton overground station a little after 6:30pm. The long hot summer nights here were clearly behind me, yet I found the room reassuringly toasty warm when I arrived.

Opening poses were 10-minutes, 2, 2, 2, 5, 5, 15 and 18-minutes. Aiming to create a favourable first impression, I made the schoolboy error of putting too many bends and stretches in the first pose. It’s not as if I needed to show off but sometimes, when the last garment falls to the floor, the body takes its own decisions. Thereafter the priority was management of potentially fibrillating leg muscles up to the break.

After a half-hour interval, in which I was replaced centre-stage by a table of breads and dips, I completed the session with poses of 30-minutes and 28-minutes. Perhaps they both would have been 30-minutes except, just like the first half, I gave rather too much to the opening pose and needed a couple of minutes extra to recuperate. I perched on a stool till the end… then dressed, said farewells, and shuffled away for a holiday.

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East Croydon United Reform Church, 13 October 2018

There are various reasons why one might be chosen to model for a particular group or session – reputation, reliability, suitability for a theme, physique, and so forth – but in what was a first for me, I got this booking because my name is ‘Steve’. Croydon Life Drawing Group organiser, Francis noticed he had a couple of Steves coming up and decided to go for broke by booking more. I was number three in a set of four so far…

With the group meeting on Saturdays and the first pose due to commence at 9:30am, this is my earliest weekend modelling start. A first hour of quick poses gets my blood circulating, however: four of 5-minutes, then 4, 3, 2, 1-minute and two of 15-minutes. I had my back to a wall, which makes life easier as it denies any temptation to contort into a posture that’s interesting when scrutinised from 360° in the round.

After tea and biscuits, I settled down into a single long pose of 1 hour and 40 minutes. A modicum of comfort was vital so I opted to sit on a chair. Apart from that, however, I still added a twist of my left leg, a crook of my right foot, a flexing of my right arm and a slight turn of my body. OK, there was an ache or two, but nothing that needed more than a single stretch halfway through. Job done – now bring on the next Steve!

Mall Galleries, London, 12 October 2018

I was pondering the first of my four 30-minute poses for this evening at Mall Galleries when a regular of Hesketh Hubbard Art Society asked me, “Do you know Nijinsky?” Presuming she didn’t mean the racehorse, I replied in the affirmative and together we consulted Google for a specific pose of his that she had in mind. Fortunately it wasn’t a classical ballet pose, and even more helpfully I was asked to flatten it in the style of Assyrian sculpture reliefs she’d seen in the British Museum. Well, why not…

After this opening half-hour upright with knees slightly bent, one palm on my stomach, the other extended horizontally to my left, with face in profile, I continued with a sitting pose of more familiar stamp; one knee raised, one arm resting across it – I have been utilising variations of this one quite regularly in recent sessions. A fifteen minute break for tea and dark chocolate digestives restored me to my feet and kept me there for the start of the second half, this time in a rather more dynamic standing pose.

Finally a nice lie down. Well, not absolutely deliciously sumptuously nice as I’d put a twist in my torso and kept an arm, hand and index finger raised for vertical variety. My eyes were closed but there was little chance of sleep. Upon reanimating at the end, it was a pleasure to see such a range of materials had been used to capture my poses: fine pen and pencil work, scratchy charcoal, pastels both pale and vibrant, plus some bright splashes of watercolour. Warming feedback too. Lovely folk.

The Prince Regent, Herne Hill, 10 October 2018

This was to be one of those tantalising evenings at The Prince Regent when Esther and I are both booked to model but we must do so just out of sight from each other in adjacent rooms. Still, it was nice to be sharing a session, whatever the circumstance.

Part 1

I started the session two 10-minute poses, whereas Esther was first to put to work on 2-minute poses. As Lisa of SketchPad Drawing was timing us both it meant my 10s overran by a few minutes to allow time for Esther’s changes of pose, but it was fine.

A 20-minute pose (plus a couple of added minutes) brought the opening half to an end for me. Whilst I’d been naked, Esther had been dazzling in a few costume props. Lisa does love a dazzling prop or two. It’s not my forte, but Esther always finds something.

Part 2

After a break and room-swapping, Esther was to finish with one long pose whilst I was to provide two 20-minute poses. At least that was the idea. I had been in position for a little while when some late returners from bar requested that mine be a long pose too.

I was asked and agreed. It was a pose I had used in a couple of other recent sessions so I knew it could be extended. Nonetheless, those additional 20-minutes proved to be a tad more achy than I hoped. Ah well, I could have declined. I guess I must enjoy it…

The Victoria Stakes, London, 8 October 2018

It’s an endearing quirk of some artists that they can fly with endless imagination when creating new works, yet are soon emitting unsettled murmurs if anyone dares suggest a new sequence of pose times for a life drawing group. So discovered Harriet, stand-in facilitator for The Moon and Nude at The Victoria Stakes. Her heretical proposal to try starting with a 15-minute pose and a few 2-minute poses was swiftly abandoned in favour of the traditional first-half format of 1-minute, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 15 and 20-minutes…

In fairness, it was all good-humoured and Harriet did an outstanding job of running the session this evening. The artists were on form too, present in good numbers and even going so far as to give appreciative applause at the end of individual poses rather than wait till our 9pm finish. Possibly unprecedented! During the half-time break, I checked out their artworks – particularly keen to see where the ripping sounds had come from. No, it wasn’t constant dissatisfaction with drawings; rather, some incredible collages.

After the interval we resumed with a 30-minute pose – for which one artist kindly leant me his walking stick – and still had enough time for two poses of 5-minute and one of 2-minutes. Someone called out “could one of them be standing?” Having stood for the previous half-hour I might have been spared that imposition, but in truth I’d intended to stand for one anyway. Three shapes later, we were done. The mood remained positive throughout, hopefully making it a fruitful session for all involved – not least, Harriet.

Lewisham Arthouse, London, 7 October 2018

The first fortnight of October was already my busiest two weeks of the year when I got an email from London Drawing Group asking if I would be available to pose for a full day Egon Schiele themed class at Lewisham Arthouse. I had promised myself: no more bookings!  But… London Drawing Group… Egon Schiele… it had to be done.

1-minute and 3-minute poses

Clearly I wasn’t the only fan of this association as tickets for the session sold out very quickly. Lucy McGeown was leading the class; she opened with a short biography of Schiele, from early artistic development to imprisonment for “public immorality”. When our artists were ready, we warmed-up with ten 1-minutes poses and four of 3-minutes.

10-minute poses

I’d modelled for an Egon Schiele class run by London Drawing Group in August 2017, and was happy to reprise that occasion now. My physique lends itself naturally to the poses in his work; I may be twice the age of the artist in his prime and may have had twice the dinners, but I can emulate his public immorality! Two 10-minute poses next.

20-minute pose

At no stage was I asked to replicate any specific pose from Schiele’s paintings. I was simply to supply examples of angularity while Lucy explained various techniques he’d employed at different periods of his all-too-brief career. One 20-minute pose ended the first half, taking us up to an hour-long break for lunch.

4-minute pose

While at lunch, on my own initiative I Googled examples of Schiele’s work that I could try replicating. In one of these, the figure makes a square shape with his arms held at ninety degree angles behind his back. I attempted to do likewise for merely 4-minutes at the start of our second half. Let me tell you, it’s a tough one to maintain.

20-minute poses

Undaunted by my 4-minute fragility, I called upon original Schiele works as inspiration for the next two 20-minute poses: the first standing with one hand on my chin and the other arm across my head; the second seated on the floor, hunched with knees apart and arms crooked about me. Longer poses, but much more bearable.

40-minute pose

For the last 40-minutes of the session I drained the last of my ungainly power: sitting on a stool, one foot on the floor, the other up on the seat, an elbow across my raised knee, and the other hand under its buttock. Not a thing of beauty, but there were ribs, folds, limbs and negative space aplenty – crucially, the artists seemed well pleased.

People say typecasting is not a good thing, but I’m sure I will always appreciate being called upon to pose in the manner of Egon Schiele and his models. It’s an opportunity to become more than the sum of my angles – trying to create physical manifestations of bygone masterpieces and maybe even inspire some new ones. It was a pleasure.

Waterloo Action Centre, London, 19 September 2018

This is Steve who’ll be modelling tonight,Esther said to the presenter from Mexican TV channel, Televisa FOROtv. I shook hands and tried not to look startled, having at that minute only just walked through the gate at Waterloo Action Centre, still under the illusion I was there simply to photograph Esther in duo poses with Valentina Rock and being interviewed for the telly. Now it seemed I’d been volunteered into a trio…

Televisa had asked to interview Esther following widespread UK media coverage of her Spirited Bodies campaign to promote life drawing amongst teenagers as a means of combating unrealistic body ideals fuelled by social media. This aligned nicely with her booking to model for London Drawing so dots were joined and here we were. Esther spoke to camera before the session started, then Valentina struck the opening pose.

Anne of London Drawing had introduced the session, explaining the presence of a TV camera and making sure no-one felt uncomfortable. After warming up with Valentina’s elegant stretch for 15-minutes, the artists’ next challenge was drawing three times as many models in just two-thirds the time. Esther and I undressed and joined Valentina for a first trio pose of 10-minutes, then another of 10-minutes, and one of 15-minutes.

That took us up to an interval, during which Valentina and two 17 year-old artists gave television interviews, whilst I roamed around photographing artworks. I was astounded at the high quality of works created in such a short space of time. After the break, we ended with poses of 20 and 25-minutes. Aside from suggesting we alternate our high, middle and low relative positions, Anne left us wholly free to express ourselves.

In tune with the session’s theme of body acceptance and body positivity, we remained quite organic and naturalistic throughout our poses. This seemed to be appreciated by the artists, who could relax with our relatable comfort and physical diversity. I hope the message continues to spread around the world: that observing and drawing the human body, nude and natural, in a safe space, can be of social as well as artistic benefit.

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Watch the news story online at Televisa.NEWS: Se popularizan clases de dibujo al natural en Reino Unido – also below…

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