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Lochaber Hall, London, 9 December 2017

It was one of those early mornings that make one’s extremities literally ache from the cold. The tightening in my face, hands and feet as I walked through Lewisham for half an hour to Lochaber Hall, might have been enough to give me second thoughts. The sky was clear, the frost crisp and the temperature freezing. I feared for the conditions in my cavernous destination, so it came as a huge relief to feel warmth when I arrived in good time for a 9:30am start.

Radiators were all switched on and three fan heaters were blowing thermal goodness across the pile of pillows and sheets upon which I would be working. Artists adjusted their easels and when ready to start, we got going with six 5-minute poses: variously standing, kneeling, and squatting. For the 20-minutes that followed, I sat comfortably mid-crossfire of the three hot airstreams. One long pose would occupy the remaining two hours, and it was agreed that a similar seated pose would be desirable.

I sat motionless for 45-minutes. Towards the end of this first period, organiser David disappeared to make tea and coffee, and to bring forth dark chocolate digestives for the interval. When our eight artists were sufficiently reinvigorated, we continued with no break until the session concluded. My back became a little achy, but I remained toasty throughout – that had been my main priority. After some pleasant chat at the end, I exited once more into brilliant sunshine… very well wrapped-up.

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Mall Galleries, London, 8 December 2017

Last Friday evening was Christmas party time for Hesketh Hubbard Art Society. The regulars have been obliged to wait two years for this annual event, as last December it was cancelled in favour of a late-arranged visit by Prince Charles. No Royal rigmarole in 2017, happily, so the usual format could proceed: life drawing for the first hour, then buffet snacks, wine and festive mingling thereafter. As per the last party, Esther and I were booked to provide two 30-minute poses.

When our modelling was done, Esther wisely made haste to the buffet while I took too long checking out the artworks and thus had to wait an hour for the queue to diminish. It meant I had plenty of time to catch up with the artists and some of the other models who’d posed at this session – including our friend Tanja on long poses, and the lovely Emma and Tim on portraits. Hesketh Hubbard president, Simon had quite thoughtfully invited a few other models to join the socialising, so more chatter and selfies ensued.


Me and Simon, managing a peep across Valentina and Mary into Tiziana’s selfie.

Our duo poses at the party in 2015 was my first time modelling at Mall Galleries. I’ve been blessed to receive many bookings here since, and already have two dates in the diary for next year. From a model’s perspective, the format is not necessarily the most comfortable in London, but there’s a cheerful social scene at its core, within which I’ve enjoyed meeting some fine characters – nice people. So, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Hesketh Hubbard Art Society! I look forward to seeing you again in 2018.

Wanstead House, London, 6 December 2017

I thought you said male models are always late, Patrick,” queried one of the artists at Wanstead House as I walked into the top-floor room ten-minutes early. “No,” retorted Patrick, the life drawing class’s organiser, “just some younger male models at Sunday morning sessions.” It seems the next generation must have trouble getting the bed off their backs after a Saturday night. This Wednesday evening, however, all was well.

Patrick asked me to start with two poses of 10-minutes followed by two of 20-minutes. All four poses I chose were more suited to 10-minute work, so consequently the latter pair – standing with one arm up and the other reaching out, then on the floor, propped on one hand and an elbow – both became rather achy midway through. I decided that after the interval I would make myself comfortable.

Happily, this group always seems to luxuriate in its tea break, so I had plenty of time to recover. The final pose would see me sitting on a well padded chair for 35-minutes. This was ideal. Patrick did some drawing, and offered advice to his seven artists. I do like his approach – he carefully studies the pose from the vantage point of each artist before offering comments on their work – never in haste, always considered.

At the end of the session I was pleased to receive compliments for remaining “so still“. It might be assumed this is the minimum requirement of a life model, but the standard evidently varies, just like the ability to climb out of bed in time for a morning session at the weekend. Punctuality and stillness are the basics – commitment, imagination and character are then what make the difference. I am still… and I’m still learning.

The Conservatoire, Blackheath, 4 December 2017

This was the last Monday evening life drawing session of term at The Conservatoire. Judging by the amount of sparkles on the floor of the life room, I guessed the previous class had been making Christmas decorations… though I’m not sure what accounted for the peculiar sandy texture underfoot. The broad square platform on which I usually work had gone missing, so I would begin upon a carpet of cushions and sheets in the round of easels, opening with three 1-minute poses.

A mini menagerie of man-shapes made up the middle poses. For 5-minutes I became a monkey – think six-foot-four spider monkey rather than chimp – stalking across the forest floor on fingers and toes. Next, for 10-minutes, I was a penguin: straight-legged and straight-armed, leaning forward to inspect some curious object on the ice; a long-limbed, plucked penguin. A single pose would occupy the rest of the session, and for this I acquired frog legs.

Tutor Victoria Rance often favours getting me into poses that are either symmetrical or compact, or both. This one was all the above as I perched upon portable steps and a cubic box, with my heels near to my buttocks and hands with interlinking fingers on top of my head. I sat like this for four innings of 20-minutes each. It wasn’t particularly uncomfortable – numb fingers were my only affliction – but some great drawings were the result. It has been another very good term in a superb art space.

cave, London, 30 November 2017

At the end of a day in which fleeting flurries of snow had blown across London, it was with mild trepidation that I approached cave in Pimlico for an evening’s life modelling. It is a venue blessed with warmth, but mainly emanating from the hearts of those who work there. Apart from that I imagined its large lock-up exterior doors not necessarily being the last word in cold insulation. Happily my doubts were misplaced as a pair of fan heaters, hot underfloor piping, and a 1970s vintage mock-fireplace worked a treat.

Possibly I wasn’t alone in fearing the cold, as it seemed around half the regular artists had opted to stay at home. On the plus side, a couple of newcomers were present so we had a nice gathering. Pose times were as per my first visit here, starting with five 1-minute poses, two 5-minute poses and two 10-minute poses. For the first 10-minute pose I lay on the floor with my feet up on a chair. Whimpers from the group suggested this was a bit too taxing, so I made the next seated pose compassionately simple.

Hot mugs of tea with biscuits at the break were very welcome. My appreciation of the Tears for Fears CD played during my first visit – teenage-years nostalgia – had been noted, so I was treated to it again. In the second half, we were serenaded by Enigma while I stood with a broom handle across my shoulders, and then sat so my numb left arm could recover – both were 25-minutes. It was another relaxed, genial session in a space that feels as much about community as it is art. Cosy joyfulness on a cold day.

The Old Nun’s Head, London, 28 November 2017

During its brief existence Nunhead Drawing Group had outgrown its first home and switched across to The Old Nun’s Head function room. I’d been fortunate enough to model for them in both venues, solo and in a duo with Esther, but it became unclear whether the group would return after its summer holiday as the three original founders all departed for warmer climes. Happily, three of the group’s regular artists have taken over, and I was very pleased to be invited back for session 05 of their autumn term.

Perhaps because it was London’s first truly freezing night of late 2017, the attendance was half what had been expected. Either that or artists were more greatly seduced by the ‘Drag Bingo’ going on downstairs. Never mind though, as it turned out to be a very positive session, and plenty warm enough. The first half was focused on quick poses: five of 1-minute, four of 5-minutes and two of 15-minutes. A great playlist of Japanese swing and obscure disco set the right mood and tempo.

After an extended drinks break, in which I was generously furnished with red wine, we finished with poses of 15-minutes and 20-minutes. By now the bingo caller downstairs had gone into overdrive – bellowing out his one-fat-lady and all-by-itself – but, between smirks and winces, we endured. The result was an impressively high standard of work from everyone present, displaying strong style and verve. It was good to be back, and even better that the group has returned.

Exhibit B, London, 27 November 2017

Standing in a stride for 7-minutes with right arm held high, torso twisted round and left hand pointing backwards – this was the first ever pose for Life Drawing at Exhibit B, and I had great honour model for it. The session was organised by a friend, artist, and fellow life model, Lily Holder, whom I first met in 2015 as co-model for Art Macabre’s Watercolour Revolutionaries. I made sure to arrive at the Exhibit B bar a half-hour before our 7:30pm start to help ease any opening night nerves Lily might have.

If there were any nerves, it would not be for want of preparation. A curtained-off space at the far end of the bar had been exquisitely prepared, with all-new drawing materials placed out in labelled containers, chairs with boards and drawing paper arranged in a tight horseshoe, music connected to the in-house sound system, plus a notepad that held the names of everyone who had bought an advance ticket. Crucially, the notepad also contained prompts for all the challenges Lily would be giving her artists.

After the opening 7-minute pose we continued with short poses for the rest of the first half: three of 2-minutes, three of 1-minute, then 3-minutes, 5, 5, 7 and 5-minutes. The exercises included: drawing with the unfavoured hand, drawing with both hands, start with four geometric shapes, continuous line, shading only, and more. Lily’s approach throughout was to provide strong clear inspiration for the whole group rather than give individual tuition or critique; and the group responded well.

Poses after the break were a mathematically-pleasing sequence of 9-minutes, 16 and 25-minutes. The first two were timed to accompany single pieces of music, which Lily hoped would bring fresh stylistic interpretations. After standing and sitting on the floor, for the final pose I reclined with a twist – not least to be sure all fourteen artists would have a rewarding line of sight. Generous applause rang out at the end. Let’s hope the success of this inaugural evening continues in the group’s regular Tuesday slot.

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