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The Victoria Stakes, London, 6 August 2018

In the comfortable warmth of yet another fine summer’s evening, Esther and I ambled down through Alexandra Park and infiltrated The Victoria Stakes in Muswell Hill at ten to seven. This was my second time life modelling here for The Moon and Nude, and my first with Esther drawing. Julia, the group’s organiser, welcomed us warmly. It seemed an age since we had last worked together, yet she remains every bit as kind and engaging. At 7pm, with a good-sized gathering of artists present, we began.

Pose times adhered to a familiar Moon and Nude format: 5-minutes, 4, 3, 2, 1-minute, then increasing to 10-minutes, 15-minutes and 20-minutes. I traversed the oval space offering various new poses and old favourites. As per my first visit, the broad upstairs windows remained entirely unshielded – Julia asked me if this was OK – but whereas last year our electric lighting on a dark autumn night had emblazoned me nude to the outside world, now the late brightness of August guarded our collective privacy.

At the break we all shared in sponge cakes that Julia had generously bought as it was special day for me. Afterwards, I settled down to a single long pose of 40-minutes that concluded a very pleasant session. Right now, whilst I blog these words – exactly one week later – Esther is back at The Victoria Stakes; this time as a life model, and also a photo model for a private project. Alas, disrupted plans mean I’m unable to draw her, so instead here’s a sketch I made at The Garrett Centre on 1 August…

~~ Hopefully we will return to The Victoria Stakes in early 2019 for a duo session ~~

The Star by Hackney Downs, 31 July 2018

Arriving nice and early at The Star by Hackney Downs on this bright sultry summer evening, I found Drawing the Star group organiser Catherine Hall upstairs finishing her preparations. Seats circled a pile of pillows and sheets, art materials festooned a heavy table by the door, while seductively mellow music lilted across the pose space.

At 7:30pm a steady stream of artists entered, gathered up assorted drawing materials and picked a spot to sit. I felt we had the right number to give the room a good energy without feeling overcrowded. We began: 5-minutes, 4, 3, 2-minutes, three of 1-minute, and three of 30-seconds. Two more poses of 10 and 8-minutes took us to a break.

During the interval, whilst artists ventured downstairs for more drinks, I remained alone with their art. Good work all around the room as is invariably the way here, but striking among them were the freakishly exaggerated pen drawings by Giovanni Forlino – all boggle eyes, stand-out viens, knotty limbs and stupendous studies of foreshortening.

When we resumed, two poses brought the session to a close. First, I sat on the floor with arms arching forwards for 10 minutes, then perched myself on the edge of a high chair for the final 20 minutes. After the early energy of the shorter poses that cloaked me in a glow of sweat, these were comfortable positions for a gently cooling twilight.

At the end, artworks were spread about the floor and I greedily photographed as many as the shadowy red-tinted light allowed. At the bar I bought myself a well-earned large glass of wine, then joined Catherine and several artists at the tables outside for a spot of post-art socialising. Such a lovely evening spent in good company. Always a joy.

83a Geffrye Street, London, 23 July 2018

I have always liked life modelling upstairs at The Workshop in Geffrye Street, Hoxton but the circumstances of this evening were rather sad. Originally I had been booked to pose at Eastbourne House in Bethnal Green – the flagship venue for Adrian Dutton’s London Life Drawing – yet by the end of June an announcement came that its days were numbered. Developers would be making this grand old building the next casualty in an on-going war against character and community across the city.

So whilst a new permanent home was being sought for their Monday evening meet-up, the group had temporarily relocated to 83a Geffrye Street – home to Adrian’s Tuesday evening life drawing since 2016. After the legendary Eastbourne House, this had been my second favourite of the six venues in which I’d modelled for Adrian, so I regarded it as a positive consolation. It’s a very good space for creating art but could never match the grand arena-like quality of its predecessor. Few places would.

In a month of exceptionally warm humid days, this week was set to hit new heights of muggy airless discomfort. Temperatures were still easily above 30°C when we opened the session at 7pm. The first half would be dominated by short poses – 10-minutes, 2, 2, 2, 5, 5, 15 and 15-minutes – which amounted to an hour-long workout. Even naked, the sweat was running across me and breaths of cool air were impossible to come by. When liberated from duty, I poured myself a mug of water and slumped into a corner.

During the interval, windows were flung wide open and two powerful fans were brought out for use in the second half. I was dubious as to whether this air conditioning would achieve anything other than blow the hot air around like a sirocco wind, but I’m happy to report I was wrong. Enough of a difference was made that I was able to get through the last two 30-minute poses without further melting. The artists, too, kept sufficiently cool for the production of some excellent work.

So farewell then, Eastbourne House… you were a very happy home for life drawing in the time I knew you – from 1 July 2013 to 17 December 2017 – and for many years before, I’ve no doubt. You will be remembered fondly for the sense of theatre conjured by your cavernous space; every seat taken on all sides by scores of artists, while out in the kitchen and foyer, a table laden with nutritious fare would be prepared for social feasting at half-time. Such wonderful art was created within your walls! Thank you. x

Fairkytes Arts Centre, London, 17 July 2018

When Esther and I returned to Fairkytes Arts Centre for our third time modelling as a couple there, we brought some freshly rehearsed poses and a shift from serving solely as passive templates for artistic interpretation. We would open up to the semi-circle of artists in front of us while we posed – to begin with, for 5, 10, 15 and 15-minutes.

Back in March, organiser Natansky had modelled at one of Esther’s Spirited Bodies Stories of Women events, wherein a feature is the models speaking about themselves and answering questions from artists; it’s a means of revealing the model as a human being rather than just a human body. Now, at LeNu Life Drawing, it was our turn.

For the opening 5-minute pose, we each balanced on one leg whilst Esther described the sequence of events that led her to become a life model. Next Esther stood behind me while I sat cross-legged upon the floor for 10-minutes and told my own story. With twice as long in which to do so, I… spoke… a… little… slower.

From this beginning, the intention was that we would go on and discuss all manner of other concerns. The artists here are a very sociable bunch, however, so in practice all we’d done was lit the touchpaper for them to begin chatting amongst themselves. We took a few more questions, but by now several conversations were going on at once!

Of course, it didn’t matter so long as everyone was enjoying the session. Esther and I remained comfortable throughout, and continued to engage after the interval during our final two poses of 20-minutes. It had been fascinating to participate this small taste of the original Spirited Bodies innovation. Thank you, LeNu, for listening and drawing us.

The Conservatoire, Blackheath, 16 July 2018

Adult Art Showcase, Friday 20th July‘, proclaimed the notice on a sandwich board outside The Conservatoire, Blackheath. The free entry and a free glass of wine were tempting but what really caught my eye was the portion of a life drawing in the top left corner. Hey, that’s me! Drawn here by Gareth Williams on 4 December last year.

I wasn’t the only one surprised by the poster – neither tutor Victoria Rance or Gareth himself knew of its presence. Art, it seems, can obtain a life of its own. Come 7:30pm in 30°C heat we were ready to make some more, starting with “warm-ups” of 1-minute, 1-minute, 1-minute (shoulder stand), 5-minutes (standing) and 10-minutes (seated).

Victoria gave me the honour of selecting the long pose. Having learned that this would be the last Monday life drawing of term, I asked whether at any previous session there had been an opportunity for the class to draw a standing model as the long pose? The answer was ‘no’ so, feeling kind hearted, I adopted a suitably dramatic upright stance.

I remained in this attitude for much of the remaining 2-hours. After the first 40-minutes, we had a nice long break that took us up to about 9 o’clock. Two shorter intervals split the final hour, and it was with considerable relief that at last, very slowly I straightened my back and took the weight off my load-bearing leg.

As can often happen during the interminably long minutes of a pose, my back felt like it might seize-up permanently. Elation upon release and subsequent enjoyment of the artworks, however, was a fine short-term fix. Lingering aches made themselves known for a few days afterwards. Still, I love the Victorian art room here in summertime.

Garrett Centre, London, 29 June 2018

Having ended a longer-than-usual absence from Adrian Dutton’s life drawing groups on Monday, the next booking for him came just four days later at the Garrett Centre. I’d not been here since 1 November last year – this evening was altogether sunnier.

Sunny it may have been, but we would be working in one of the basement community rooms. Familiar faces were on the scene as I arrived and took position in a horseshoe of chairs. This was a long-pose session but we started with three 5-minute warm-ups.

For the long pose itself I chose a seated position with an arm outstretched across one knee – I’ve used it countless times, but never here and never for more than 30-minutes at a time. Here I would hold it first for 41-minutes, and then another hour after a break.

Mercifully, it sustained fairly well. An early dull aching between my outstretched elbow and shoulder had me worried, but didn’t last. Only a numbness in my supporting hand needed shaking out a couple of times during the latter half. So in all, I think: success!

The Birds, Leytonstone, 26 June 2018

We hadn’t reckoned on being quite so out of practice. Last year, Esther and I had duo posed for life drawing groups on seventeen separate occasions. In the first six months of 2018 it had been just twice, the most recent being way back in February. It’s easy to forget the extra concentration needed to make a well-balanced sustainable pose for two people – especially when both are so eager to take position.

We resumed our double act at The Birds in Leytonstone – a new venue for both of us, but with a life drawing group led by an old friend, Jenny, who runs the Monday night group at The Plough and Harrow nearby. I took an immediate liking to The Birds as its upstairs room is ideal for art – warm, spacious and flooded with natural light. Plus, we got 25% off the price of all drinks! No wonder we began with a 5-minute dancing pose.

This starter was fine, if occasionally requiring some tension to steady our balance, but thereafter we got it very wrong. Only for ourselves, mind you; we remained solid for the artists but internalised a lot of discomfort. Esther stood for 10-minutes and I sat by her feet with my head tilted too far back, thereby earning an excruciatingly achy neck. For 25-minutes, we then sat in an embrace with only arms and back muscles for support.

After an interval for refreshments, we finished the session laying down with our bodies spooned together for an hour. It looked serene but by halfway we were into all sorts of numbness and pain. With hindsight each pose was more suited to the pose time that preceded it. But never mind! It was great to model as a couple again, to catch up with Jenny, to inspire the creation of such wonderful drawings and to socialise afterwards.

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