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Aubrey Beardsley Sketching Salon

9 November 2014

Art Macabre – 28 July:

Remind you of anyone? Planning an upcoming event… I wonder who the model should be??

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One doesn’t like to thrust oneself forward with unseemly clamour, so I responded with a discreet *cough*. Eleven weeks later I was posing as an all-nude Aubrey Beardsley in ‘The Club’ bar of Hotel Café Royal, near Piccadilly Circus, London.

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For those unfamiliar, Aubrey Beardsley (b. 21 August 1872, d. 16 March 1898) was: “an English illustrator and author. His drawings in black ink, influenced by the style of Japanese woodcuts, emphasised the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic.”

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Hotel Café Royal – 14 October:

I arrived in good time to find Art Macabre supremo and über visionary, Nikki aka Raven Rouge, readying our pose space. In addition to the honour of being invited to model, it was rather special simply to be inside this exclusive historic building.

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Props are paraphernalia were prepared and primped and positioned. I helped as best I could before withdrawing behind the scenes, where I would be joined by my co-model for the evening, Missy Macabre. Missy applied her own delicate make-up, while Nikki was more liberal in applying mine.

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The event was a complete sell-out, which meant the bar was awash with artists by the time we were ready for our first poses. We would start with two short pieces in which I would be solo as Aubrey Beardsley: first posing with Art Macabre’s medical skeleton, Stanley, and then raising a cheerful glass of something fizzy. I stood with care as the top of my head brushed the ceiling.

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Missy then emerged, semi-clad with Beardsley-esque adornments, for our duo poses: first with me seated and then both of us standing. I held black and white flowers while Missy fluttered a delicate fan.

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We concluded the first session wearing masquerade eye-masks. Missy took the high ground while I squatted by her feet, head held back to balance a mask on my face.

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During the interval we changed make-up in readiness for a tableau that echoed one of Beardsley’s best known ink drawings: Salome with the head of John the Baptist on a plate. Missy went on stage first to pose solo with the empty plate.

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Next, she needed a head. I was that head. Our second plate had a hole in the middle, with a slit that enabled me to fix it round my neck. Bloody rags held it in place.

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I was led out by Nikki and put into position, kneeling so Missy could clutch the edge the plate that encircled my neck. This would be a 20-minute pose.

It was a fantastic scene but I’d misjudged; I should have thought to support my shins and ankles with some of the countless cushions laying around on bar chairs. I didn’t, and as a result endured the last 15 minutes in exquisite pain. Whoops.

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Aside from that moment’s discomfort it was a tremendous evening. Afterwards, all the artists laid out their high-quality work so I could take poor-quality photos. Amid banter and laughs I posed for a few photos with the artists, and everyone seemed happy with their evening’s art and entertainment.

Full respect to Nikki for taking a complete event like this from concept to reality, and making a sell-out success of it. The effort put in is not to be underestimated. I merely have to turn-up, take direction, strip naked, and be as inventively static as endurance will permit. Nikki has to create legendary art happenings. Nobody does it better.

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