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The Conservatoire, Blackheath, 24 April 2017

Having modelled on the final day of last term for Monday evening life drawing class at The Conservatoire, I wasn’t expecting to be back for the first session of their new term. Another model’s late cancellation meant I got the offer, however. As soon as the ten artists had prepared at their easels, I began with three standing poses of 1-minute each, followed by one of 5-minutes, and a ‘reverse Christine Keeler‘ for 10-minutes.

Tutor Victoria Rance called the latter a Spice Girls pose, but her reference was lost on me. My eyebrows raised when she explained I would have to straddle a chair – its open back would have made my version significantly more revealing than the portrait of Christine by Lewis Morley. Finally, the penny dropped when she said I should be facing the wall; it was to be a tasteful study of the back and sides.

The rest of this session was given to a single seated pose, with two 5-minute breaks at 25-minute intervals. Once again the position was arranged for me: facing forwards, open-legged (thus, revealing after all), and with a curved spine of the very kind I try to avoid when working all day at a computer. It was pretty comfortable though, and two ferocious heaters did a grand job of warding off the late April chill.

I look forward to returning one more time before this term ends.

Mall Galleries, London, 14 April 2017

You look every inch the English gentleman, Steven” said Simon Whittle, President of Hesketh Hubbard Art Society, as he walked by. I was wearing a black hat, a silk tie, checking a pocket watch, but otherwise standing nude and tall. Back-to-back with me was Esther, fully nude except for the lipstick she applied whilst glancing in a compact mirror. This was the first of our four 30-minute duo poses at Mall Galleries.

We were weaving a mini narrative, starting with a reprise of our first two poses at The Cambria a fortnight ago. For the second half-hour, we turned to face each other and I lowered myself to be seated on the floor. Esther pulled me by the tie and prodded my shoulder-blade with a crimson ostrich feather. There were murmurs and chortling from the surrounding artists – this was not a pose for the ticklish.

After the tea interval we changed our poses from those of two weeks before. To begin, Esther put on her red stilettos and sat on a low stool while I lay underneath with limbs threaded through its legs; then finally I stayed reclining while Esther curled beside me, her head upon my chest. The arrangement allowed me to take comfortable, if shallow, breaths whilst supporting Esther upon my ribs.

I felt it had been one of our strongest duo sessions at Mall Galleries and this was well reflected by the artworks produced. Afterwards we joined many of the artists at a busy nearby pub, to enjoy wine, tortillas and cheesy chips while drawings of us naked were passed around the tables. I look forward to a return for solo work in four weeks’ time… though I shall dearly miss my inspirational tie-pulling partner.

The Telegraph at The Earl of Derby, 5 April 2017

Two years had passed since I last visited The Telegraph at The Earl of Derby. On that occasion – before Esther and I were together – I was merely part of the audience for a sell-out performance her Girl in Suitcase play; even so, I managed to contribute a little life modelling of my own. Now in 2017, the same upstairs room is the venue for weekly life classes hosted by London Drawing Group and I was here to model solo. We started with four 1-minute poses and four 2-minute poses.

London Drawing Group is a trio of artists: Luisa-Maria MacCormack, Lucy McGeown, and Frances Stanfield. Upon arrival, I had first met Lucy; she would be facilitating the session this evening whilst the others drew. During the 1-minute warm-up poses, she encouraged her artists to draw me as a composite of geometric outlines. For the next 2-minute poses, she suggested they draw large open shapes on their pages and then try to fit my figure within them, thinking about composition. Interesting exercises.

After these early challenges, artists had more of a free hand to draw as they pleased, and I alone received direction. This was simply in the form of requests for standing or seated poses, but otherwise I was at liberty to select a stance. As pose lengths rose to 5 and 10-minutes, I switched direction and posture on a low bar stool, and finished the opening half in a standing attitude with one arm raised. After the break I was able to lay down for 45-minutes, mimicking the pose from a work by Lucian Freud.

Apparently it was a smaller-than-usual group this evening, with five artists joining the three organisers, but the space itself was quite narrow so this number felt about right. The format was nice too, with a healthy mix of short and long work, a little tuition and more time afterwards for self-expression. I was told that group members take turns to lead each session, and I hope in time I’ll have an opportunity to experience the styles of Luisa-Maria and Frances. For now, it was a pleasure to have had this introduction.

Telegraph Hill Festival life drawing taster session, 2017

Esther and I were modelling together again last week for the Telegraph Hill Festival. In 2016 we’d attended as part of a Spirited Bodies collaboration, but this time it was just the two of us posing in a Telegraph Hill life drawing group taster session. We were welcomed by our friend Frances, who runs the group, and were soon joined by a dozen artists; a healthy mix of old friends and first-timers. We started: 5-minutes both standing; 5 sitting back-to-back, 10 with Esther standing, 10 standing back-to-back.

Two 15-minute poses took us up to a break. First, Esther reclined whilst I leaned over her, resting on one elbow. There was some speculation that this would be painful, but it was fine for the amount of time. Afterwards, it was my turn to lay down while Esther opted to stand across me. During the interval there was a somehow inconclusive vote on whether the second half should comprise one or two poses. The compromise split was 10-minutes and 30-minutes. For the first, we sat looking into each other’s eyes.

For our final half-hour, I sprawled backwards on a giant faux-leather beanbag. My 6’4” frame must have overly dominated it, as Esther eyed what little room remained before deciding it would be more straightforward simply to sit beside me; simple maybe, but effortlessly elegant as always. I closed my eyes for some much-needed rest and lost myself in Frances’s excellent playlist. When our time was up, we gratefully accepted the artists’ applause, and I insisted I’d not fallen asleep. At least, I think I hadn’t.

It had been a nice relaxed session, as is appropriate for a free event at a community festival. Hopefully the first-timers will be encouraged by the experience, and become regulars at the Telegraph Hill Centre. Untutored sessions take place on Thursday evenings from 7:30pm to 9:30pm – why not give it a go? In fact, if you read this blog regularly but have never actually tried life drawing, then get down to your local group and check out what you’ve been missing. Now is the time.

The Cambria, London, 29 March 2017

I cannot remember the last time I wore a tie for office work – it’s all open-neck collars these days – yet I was wearing one for life model work on Wednesday evening; a hat too, but otherwise remained open bodied. Esther and I had been booked together for duo poses at The Cambria, so we decided to create a loose narrative. We began by standing back-to-back for 15-minutes, with Esther applying lipstick while I checked a pocket watch; then we both turned and Esther grabbed my tie for 15-minutes more.

© Tatiana Moressoni, Camberwell Life Drawing.

© Tatiana Moressoni, Camberwell Life Drawing.

I perched on the famous Camberwell Life Drawing sofa to begin our second pose, and intended to place my left hand on its back. On the spur of the moment, however, I’d grabbed the brim of my hat instead, and paid for that decision with the discomfort of an unsupported arm throughout. For the half-an-hour that followed, it was Esther’s turn to perch on the sofa whilst I took it easy in a recline on the floor. She’d pulled on her red stilettos and draped them over my body; no problem, except for one catch…

© Tatiana Moressoni, Camberwell Life Drawing.

Sprawled out beneath Esther’s legs, I was nicely comfortable until I needed to take a deeper breath, whereupon I felt a jolt of pain in my side. I didn’t know the cause but I knew I didn’t want a repeat of it, so my inhalations became gruellingly shallow for the remainder of that long pose. Only afterwards did we realise that a stiletto buckle had slipped between two of my ribs. Ouch! For two 20-minute poses after the break, I sat on a chair: first embracing Esther, then supporting her as she straddled my thighs.

© Tatiana Moressoni, Camberwell Life Drawing.

Our final pose idea had been entirely spontaneous. Only once underway did it occur to us that we might appear a tad too erotic for some tastes. Hopefully not. Indeed, if the resulting artworks are any indication then those present were especially inspired. After dressing and packing away, we joined our friend and group organiser, Tatiana, plus a few artists in the bar for drinks and chips. Camberwell Life Drawing remains a great place to model, to draw and to socialise – it’s always a pleasure to return.

The Conservatoire, Blackheath, 27 March 2017

This two-and-a-half hour class at The Conservatoire in Blackheath was to open with some rapid warm-up poses, then be followed by an hour standing and an hour seated. Rather than posing in the round, as has been case here previously, I was to be spotlit against a wall covered by textured material to capture my shadow. I commenced with three 1-minute poses, then stood for 5-minutes with one hand extended and the other resting upon my chest.

For a final short pose lasting 10-minutes, I sat upon the low platform in a manner that accentuated my limbs. Unexpectedly tutor Victoria Rance asked if I might like to be photographed in situ. She knows I always carry a small camera for snapping pictures of the artists’ work; now here was a chance to record their inspirations. She captured me from a few angles during this pose and the two long poses that followed – starting with the hour (or perhaps 50-minutes) standing.

The two main poses were both comfortable, but I accepted the offer of a stretch break during each. Only an achy left elbow from the standing pose needed any real shaking out. For the final pose I was to perch upon a high stool; we tried a number of postures until Victoria asked simply that I be ‘symmetrical‘ in a relaxed attitude, facing towards the spotlight. As I slouched in an embrace of warm air from the nearby heater, I could have happily nodded to sleep.

The last pose of the evening was also the last pose of this term for Victoria’s drawing group. Cakes were shared around as a celebration for those who’d enjoyed the class, and an encouragement for them to sign-up for the next term. I’m already signed-up to pose for one session in June. It will be my first time during the summer months and I can’t wait to experience this magnificent glass-roofed studio during the light evenings. Hopefully many local artists will be of a like mind.

The Sun, London, 20 March 2017

Punctuality and reliability, for me, remain the most important attributes of a life model, and I was keen to arrive early for this session at The Sun. Regular Moon and Nude organiser, Aless was away and had handed the reins to her dad, Stephen – a frequent artist at the venue. I suspect I only got this booking because over the years I’ve been consistently on-time and low maintenance. Indeed, on this occasion I had allowed an extra half-hour for travel when setting out from home in Essex…

…so imagine my dismay, therefore, on finding the next two trains were cancelled and all others running horribly late.

No good ever comes of a lorry hitting a railway bridge. After much fretful timetable checking and journey re-planning, I realised it was likely I could do no better than be ten minutes late. The small mercy of excellent DLR and tube connections, plus a jog from Clapham Common station, meant in practice I burst through the pub door at five past seven. Inside, I found Stephen trying anxiously to phone me – he hadn’t picked up the text message I’d sent him an hour before.

Without further ado, I stripped off and plunged myself into the round of 22 artists – the most I’ve ever seen there – for an opening 5-minute pose. I still hadn’t got my breath back, and felt physically out of sorts, but the show must go on: 4-minutes, 3, 2, 1, 15 and 20-minutes up to a break. It was a relief to get through that first half intact. At the interval I robed and recomposed myself. I’d been shivery, had a touch of cramp and an unsettled stomach, but the postures held firm.

Two poses occupied the second half: 30-minutes sitting on the floor, and 25-minutes seated upon a high stool. These enabled us to over-run the session by 5-10 minutes as compensation for our late start. Honour was satisfied; I hope the artists were too. Certainly Stephen was more relaxed than when I found him. He’d reached a point of confronting the real possibility of having to model himself. I felt guilty for bringing him to that precipice – but, who knows, maybe one day he’ll want to take the plunge.