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The Old Dairy, London, 4 September 2013

9 September 2013

Two great cultural institutions come together on Wednesday nights in Crouch Hill: the life drawing group and the pub. Life Draw N4 convenes each week in a function room of The Old Dairy, a venerable drinking and dining establishment in north London.

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On the recommendation of Hope Deeney – a friend and fellow life model with whom I’d previously worked for Dunstan Perera – I introduced myself to Aless, the organiser of Life Draw N4. Emailing my next dozen available Wednesdays, I was fortunate enough to be offered the first date on the list.

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Two short train tides and a five minute walk make this one of the more straightforward venues for me to reach in time for a 7pm start. A sandwich, an orange juice and a few chapters of The Pickwick Papers on the way made me comfortable in body and mind.

I was greeted by Aless and friends in a room that was wall-to-wall chairs. I spread my white sheet over cushions placed in the centre of the room, then stripped as discreetly as possible beneath my dressing gown while artists were still arriving.

Aless cautioned that on a warm summer evening such as this there was a chance the turn-out would be low. To our pleasant surprise, however, the number of artists swelled to 22 at a final reckoning – the most the group had ever seen.

Cometh the hour, I disrobed and entered the close circle of pads and pastels. For the next one and three-quarter hours, poses proceeded as follows:

5 minutes

standing, elbows crossed at chest, hands facing outwards either side of the head, leaning to the right, looking upwards

4 minutes

squatting, left foot on the floor with right knee adjacent, both hands on the floor on either side, head on left knee

3 minutes

standing, very slight back lean to face upwards, with palms over eyes and fingers interlinking

2 minutes

standing, legs crossed, right arm across crown of head, left arm bent behind back

1 minute

standing, arms held out and spread wide, whilst facing left

10 minutes

seated on floor, right leg bent under, left foot on the floor, arms wrapped tightly around the left shin

15 minutes

standing, hands in attitude of prayer with finger-tips close under chin

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20 minutes

reclining, left leg crooked on the floor, right foot planted, left arm crooked over eyes, right arm outstretched

5 minutes

break time

40 minutes

seated on a low stool, left foot on the stool, right foot on the floor, both hands crossed grasping left foot, forehead on left knee

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Gratifying applause followed Aless calling time on the last pose. I’d tried to rotate the poses to offer the artists as much variety as possible. In the time and space available, however, it’s regrettably likely that some saw more back than limbs.

I mused with Aless the possibility of a two-model session with Hope, and whether the room was large enough for it to work. Where there’s a will, there is often a way. For a group founded in February this year, that has already progressed so far, who is to say where the limits might be?

Duo or solo, it would be a pleasure to return for nice people in a venue of distinction.

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