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The Dellow Centre, London, 6 January 2019

Whilst I’d personally enjoyed a three-and-a-half week break from life modelling over Christmas and New Year, Life drawing Aldgate and Shoreditch continued without missing a weekend; one session each Saturday, two on Sundays. Its reward for such reliability is an ever burgeoning throng of artists at The Dellow Centre.

On the first weekend of January, I was booked for the Sunday morning slot. I started with a 15-minute standing pose, then progressed through quick work of 3-minutes, 2, 1-minute, 45-seconds, 30, 15 and 7-seconds, down to two poses of 15-minutes each that took us up to half-time.

It was quite crowded, but with room for one or two more people. One person who duly filled a gap during the break was Esther. She would be modelling for the session that followed mine but arrived early to sketch my second half work. The group’s organiser, Tim, handed me sticks to use as props and I resumed with two 20-minute poses.

With a little under ten minutes till the end we still had time to fit in four poses each of slightly less than 2-minutes. I evolved and revolved, 90 degrees with each change in position, from kneeling up to standing. Tim gave thanks and generous applause was forthcoming. Most artists then packed up and drifted away, but I stuck around.

I decided to return the compliment and draw Esther. We had just half an hour between sessions, but this was ample time for the room to refill beyond capacity. I’d never seen it so busy and reckoned there to be 47 artists plus Tim, me and Esther. 2019 looks set to be a bumper year for life drawing here in east London.


Royal Inn on the Park, London, 13 December 2018

With only a dozen days to go till Christmas, my year in life modelling came to an end at the Royal Inn on the Park. I treated myself to a large red wine, then prepared the space by placing my white sheet over the way too ambitious pose illustrations on the venue’s yoga mat, before aligning with a solitary yet entirely adequate fan heater…

And so to work. I struck a suitably dramatic 10-minute upright pose to get us started, then moved to a sequence of three 2-minute poses before lengthening out with poses of 5-minutes, 10-minutes, and 15-minutes. Exactly 12 and a half minutes remained of the first half, so I saw them out as I’d begun: on my two feet.

Artwork by Peter Dobbin.

Artwork by Peter Dobbin.

Artwork by Ed J Bucknall.

Artwork by Ed J Bucknall.

After an interval, I resumed with what would be my last two poses this side of the first weekend in January. I began by sitting on a chair for 30-minutes with one knee raised and one arm resting upon it. Then for a final 30-minutes I stood with hands behind my neck and elbows winging out above my head.

Artwork by Peter Dobbin.

Artwork by Ed J Bucknall.

Artwork by Peter Dobbin.

For no-one’s satisfaction except my own, I’d intended to end 2018 with a tough pose, and this was it. Regrettably I had to shake out my ever-tightening left arm a couple of times towards the end, but it seemed not to disturb the artists. One even kindly gifted me their drawing – Christmas had come early here in north east London.

The Jolly Sketcher, London, 10 December 2018

After somehow muddling-up my London suburbs and arriving with just five minutes to spare for my debut booking here in March, this time I was more attentive. Too much, in fact, as I was fully a half-hour early. The Common House, Woodside Square was still in darkness as I joined one equally keen artist in waiting patiently at the door. But not for long, as group organiser Tanja Hassel was soon with us on the scene.

More artists turned up and together we set-out chairs and trestle tables in a long line, turning 90 degrees at one corner of the room. When the poses began it was with two of 2-minutes, three of 5-minutes, one of 10-minutes and two of 15-minutes to take us up to an interval. I was still feeling inspired by the weekend’s Egon Schiele event so several of the poses assumed a Schiele-esque stamp.

After tea and Tanja’s spiced German biscuits, we finished the evening with a dynamic standing pose of 20-minutes, followed by a forward semi-reclining pose of 25-minutes. There was nothing of Schiele in these two, just my own angled torso. Our artists gave it their full serene attention, producing some excellent work. This was my penultimate session of the year and I thoroughly enjoyed sharing it at a Jolly Sketcher group.

Naked Odyssey 2018

Inspired by my participation in nude outdoor photo shoots for Spencer Tunick, Matt Granger and Natansky – some pre-organised, others guerilla-style – I resolved that, from 2016, impromptu naked photography would be a part of all my world travels…

Cork in February

From our base in Cork on the south coast of Ireland, Esther and I walked the Ring of Mahon, then visited Cobh, Kinsale and Killarney, and finished by hiking from Leap to Rosscarbery via Glandore and the evocative ancient Drombeg stone circle.

On the waterfront at Cobh – location map.

Emerging from freezing Lough Leane near Killarney – location map.

Glance to the snow-capped peaks over Lough Leane – location map.

At the heart of Drombeg stone circle – location map.

On the western stone at Drombeg – location map.

At the heart of a Drombeg hut – location map.

Hamburg in April

Snow fell on the Saturday of Easter weekend when Esther and I stayed with our friend Sabine in Hamburg, Germany. Next day we restored our warmth by luxuriating in the steamy heat of eucalyptus, fruit and menthol sauna ceremonies at Kaifu-Bad baths.

Our John and Yoko ‘Two Virgins‘ pose at Kaifu-Bad – location map.

Lithuania in May

In Lithuania we started at the capital Vilnius, visited nearby Trakai, then spent a few days at the little town of Molėtai before finishing at Kaunas. Temperatures rose from the mid-20s to about 31°C by the end. Never was it more desirable to be naked.

Trakai castle panorama – location map.

Luokesai lake, south of Molėtai – location map.

Dūriai lake, north of Molėtai – location map.

Pastovis lake, at the heart of Molėtai – location map.

On the stump at Kaunas lagoon near Pažaislis monastery – location map.

Dusk at J. Naugardo gatvė in central Kaunas – location map.

Aarhus in September

In Aarhus, Denmark, I seemed to spot nakedness everywhere: a looped film trailer on the airport bus; sculptures, street art; the Women’s Museum; ARoS; nudists at Den Permanente; the Rådhus giant mural; GENDERhouse Festival. One has to join in!

On the sea defences, north of Aarhus marina – location map.

At Ballehage beach, south of Aarhus – location map.

By the Dome of Visions, central Aarhus – location map.

Ghana in October and November

From Accra we ventured east, following the coast to Ada on the River Volta estuary. After a few days we headed north to the village of Wli on the border with Togo, before returning at last via Akosombo to the capital. Such wonder! Truly we loved Ghana.

On a sand spit at the mouth of the River Volta, near Ada – location map.

At our riverfront cabin near the Volta Estuary, in Ada – location map.

Shimmering under the billowing mist of mighty Wli Waterfall – location map.

Reconnecting the rainbow at Wli Waterfall – location map.

By the River Volta at Adi Lake Resort, Akosombo – location map.

On the roof of The Sleepy Hippo Hotel, Accra – location map.

Marrakech in December

We concluded our year of travel spending Christmas in Marrakech, Morocco. Nudity in public is not commonplace here – to say the least – so opportunities to liberate our bodies were few. We took care to make sure those moments showed no disrespect.

On a roof terrace, with the great Koutoubia Mosque just visible – location map.

A short walk north from les Jardins de l’Agdal – location map.

The Ochre City at sunset – location map.

the odyssey will continue…

Lewisham Arthouse, London, 8 December 2018

The Egon Schiele themed workshop run by London Drawing Group at Lewisham Arthouse on 7 October proved such a success – with demand for tickets surpassing availability – that a second session was organised two months later. Lucy McGeown would be facilitating again, and I would once more be the model.

11°C – that’s what a thermometer on the wall said when I arrived early at the Arthouse life drawing room. Two heaters high up on opposite walls were glowing red, but did not seem to emanating heat with any great urgency. Never mind; hot-blooded artists were starting to arrive and the first set of poses would surely get us all warmed-up.

1-minute and 3-minute poses

Before any drawing commenced, Lucy held a succinct yet comprehensive talk on the life and works of Schiele. Examples of his art were taped the length of one wall, and I used several of these as inspiration when we began with short poses: ten of 1-minute and four of 3-minutes.

7-minute pose – close-up

Each artist observed me from behind an easel and board. For our next 7-minute pose, Lucy suggested they come forward and sit around me on the floor to draw an extreme anatomical close-up. I provided a full body pose for consideration, yet everyone chose to zoom-in on my face or head. Curious!

7-minute pose – three rotations

The next three drawings all captured the same pose, rotated one hundred and twenty degrees after each change. Pose lengths would once more be 7-minutes, so we were still working rapidly with loose lines. I continued to offer angles with my limbs, inviting artists to render them in the Schiele style – many accepted the invitation.

20-minute pose

There was time for a single 20-minute pose before lunch so I set myself in a standing position, with one hand cupping my chin and the other arm wrapped around my hand, as in Schiele’s 1914 ‘Standing Male Nude with a Red Loincloth‘. Before dressing to pop out for food, I checked the thermometer again; it had soared to 14°C.

1-minute poses

Upon our return, we warmed-up again with four swift 1-minute poses. The first was to be drawn blind – that’s looking only at me, never at the paper – then the second was OK to look at the paper, the third was once more blind, the fourth another looker. My glasses were on the floor beside me, so personally I couldn’t look at anything.

20-minute poses

Three longer poses would conclude our workshop exercises – with Lucy encouraging artists to experiment more with colour. The first two poses would be 20-minutes each. To begin, I shaped myself into a low, limb-tangled knot on the floor, echoing Schiele’s ‘Nude Self-Portrait, Squatting‘ from 1916.

For the next 20-minute pose I sat upright on a chair with my legs folded and one hand resting behind me so I could lean back slightly. This wasn’t an attempt to recreate the figure of any specific Schiele painting; rather I was simply exposing my ribs and limbs in a way not hitherto manifested.

“Wistful” sketch by Lucy McGeown.

40-minute pose

My final pose was to last 40-minutes. It would be my first one of the day in a reclining attitude with a typical life model torso twist and, to maintain some Schiele inspiration, hands in the style of his ‘Mime van Osen‘ (1910). In the previous two poses my eyes had flickered briefly as if to sleep, but now – with eyes closed – I remained alert.

It had been fun! At lunch time, Lucy popped home and fetched another fan heater, so while the room only crept up to 17°C, at least I personally achieved a modest level of toastiness. Artists shared their works for general admiration and my phone’s camera feasted greedily. It had been another fine London Drawing Group workshop.

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.

Artwork by Simon Whittle.

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.

Artwork by Simon Whittle.

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.

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