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Naked Ambitions in Whitstable

31 October 2013

Life modelling can be a solitary business. While in pose the model is both the centre of attention and in total isolation. We become a different species of humanity to our artists; a curiosity. The model arrives, disrobes, works in static silence, then leaves. They may never encounter another their own kind.

The reality, of course, isn’t quite so bleak. I’ve enjoyed wonderful warm conversations with life artists and group organisers. Most significantly the Internet – and specifically Facebook – has done more than anything before it to provide space for communities of models to emerge.

Sharon Smithers, a Kent-based model based of some 14 years’ experience, has been instrumental in forging one such community. The secret Facebook group she founded in December 2009 already has 213 members. Establishing this flourishing community was one dream come true. Another of Sharon’s dreams came true last Sunday.

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Naked Ambitions life drawing in Whitstable, Sunday 27 October 2013

For a long time she had wanted to stage her own multi-model life drawing event. It was discussed around the table in the Peter Cushing pub, Whitstable at the first meeting of friends and members of Sharon’s Facebook group. Here, on 19 January 2013, the event was given its name: Naked Ambitions.

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First gathering of life models, at the Peter Cushing, Whitstable

Fast forward to 27 October 2013, at the Horsebridge Arts and Community Centre, Whitstable. Sharon Smithers is centre-stage. With her are four female and five male models. There too is event organiser, Mike Foreman, and fully 25 artists. It is 10am. Sharon makes a short, emotional speech. Naked Ambitions is a reality.

It’s fitting that five of the models – Sharon, Gill, Hope, Peter and myself – were among those present for that first gathering at the Peter Cushing. Joining us were Anthony, Brian, Laura, Leo and Richard. Artists and easels lined the walls of the Horsebridge’s roof space as we started all together with a 30-minute standing pose.

This was a nice group icebreaker to get us under way while latecomers arrived. Hope and I posed back to back. Afterwards we divided into three smaller groups within the same space. Each group would specialise in holding poses over particular ranges of time. Artists set their chairs around us according to their preferences.

Sharon, Gill and Leo occupied the centre space with single long poses. Brian, Hope and I were in one corner for poses of between 20 and 40 minutes. The others filled the adjacent corner with dynamic poses of one, five or 10 minutes.

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Hope sat centrally on a chair in our middle group; I sat on the floor at her feet with my head resting on my right knee, while Brian lay on his side. This first pose was to have lasted 40 minutes but with timekeeping focused on the dynamic group, we probably ran closer to an hour.

Afterwards I filled a five minute interlude with a seated pose. On resumption we went the 35 minutes till lunch with Brian and Hope laying on their backs. I stood in a slight twist holding the back of the chair. Lunch was to have lasted half an hour, but with so many models and artists queuing at the centre’s café, an extension was needed.

When everyone had returned, our middle group swapped places with Anthony, Laura and Peter, while Sharon, Gill and Leo settled down in new long poses. For the shorter poses we took turns in two rounds of five minute poses each.

I started by laying down with one leg and one arm crooked upwards, and next held a lotus position with hands in prayer.

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Then for 10 minutes fours of us curled around each other on the floor, reprising a pose from the previous weekend’s Angelo Musco photo shoot.

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Hope and I next posed seated, side by side for 10 minutes; Brian worked through five athletic one-minute poses, and we concluded all together with a 10-minute tableau. It had been a good day’s work, one I warmed to more and more as it progressed.

I’ve posed in multi-model groups on many occasions, but this was the first time with smaller sub-groups working in a single space. The dynamics were interesting. During the morning there seemed to be more artists interested in the dynamic poses; in the afternoon it was long poses that drew most attention. Choice was appreciated.

Already there are plans afoot for repeat events next year. Mike’s management of the day ensured everything ran smoothly, and a good turn-out of artists meant that all 10 working life models got a good share of the takings for their contribution.

With experience, refinement and good quality modelling, events like this can only go from strength to strength. All that’s needed is the vision and passion of one inspired individual to get them off the ground. Take a bow, Sharon Smithers. You did it.

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