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Workers’ playtime, London, 15 January 2015

23 January 2015

Early evening in a poorly-lit side street, north of Hoxton station. I stand before a dark row of unfamiliar old brick railway arches wondering which one might be number 365. Fortunately salvation was at hand.

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Steve?!

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Two arches down I could see two people attempting to unlock a shuttered frame. The one who called my name was Ilga Leimanis. She would be facilitating a life drawing workshop for a company of landscape architects. I would be her model.

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The booking came via the happiest of all routes: a recommendation. Esther Bunting of Spirited Bodies had previously posed for Ilga, and put forward my name as a capable candidate for future sessions. Esther is an astonishingly great model so I was keen to justify her confidence.

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Eight artists would be working with wet materials – paints, inks – throughout the entire two hours of the session. I would be alternating short, dynamic poses from first to last without a break. The longest lasted 12 minutes; the second longest was 6 minutes.

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So… a lot of poses.

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You might think the constant changes and extra physical stress of short posing would keep me warm, but no. For some peculiar reason I felt cold almost from the start. This was in no way the fault of Ilga or the architects who’d spoiled me with not one but two heaters to myself. I simply struggled to find the sweet spot between burning too close or chilling in a no man’s land of vaguely circulating air.

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The work itself was rewarding. Ilga was brimming with ideas; she kept us ticking along nicely, always encouraging new creativity. The architects in turn were in relaxed mood yet serious about their art.

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I sought to offer constant variety: standing, squatting, kneeling, sitting, semi-reclining, facing left and right, forwards and backwards. If anyone out there thinks a life model is someone that takes off their clothes, slumps down and merely idles for hours, I regret to inform that you have it all wrong.

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After the final pose I padded away to get dressed in a shadowy corner while the artists paved the floor with fascinating works of all colours and styles. Ilga led a review while I tiptoed among them and took photographs where shadows permitted.

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And then I quit to the icy night-time air outside… grateful to the architects for their life art patronage; grateful to Ilga for her faith; grateful to Esther for her kindness.

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