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The Pigeon Hole, London, 12 March 2015

18 March 2015

Gymnastics, legal advocacy, mixing drinks… there are various forms of employment that can draw one to working at the bar. Thursday night at The Pigeon Hole café in Camberwell, however, was my first time called to the bar as a life model.

Life modelling in a café: what a brilliant idea. It reminded me of the opening scene of Pulp Fiction with Tim Roth asking fatefully, ‘People never rob restaurants, why not?‘ So, why not do life drawing in a café? I’ve modelled in community halls, libraries and pubs. Anywhere is suitable if there’s sufficient space, curtains or blackouts for doors and windows, and enough local people who want to draw.

Space is all The Pigeon Hole lacks in abundance. Hence I would enjoy the novelty of posing mostly from the top of the café bar. I rather relished this as a challenge; being six foot four tall I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be standing upright on it, but I should still set out to deliver as much variety as possible in my poses.

This group is a relatively new spin-off from Camberwell Life Drawing – both are run by Tatiana Moressoni. Although still in its infancy, it has enjoyed enough enthusiasm already to make it viable. We had three artists seated and primed when we started at 7pm, and the number doubled before our 9pm finish.

It’s not uncommon to begin a session with standing poses and end it reclining. In this curious set-up, however, I fancied going the opposite way. My first 2-minute pose was horizontal on a cushion and sheets spread over the whole bar. The artists were barely a couple of metres distant.

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The pose sequence for the first half of the evening was 2 minutes, 2, 2, 5, 5, 5, 10, 10 and 15 minutes. From starting at full stretch I rotated through a set of sitting, kneeling and squatting positions, facing a different direction after each change.

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During the interval that followed I perused the café chalkboard and treated myself to a glass of Malbec. As I wouldn’t be operating any heavy machinery, I didn’t feel too bad about drinking while working. I kept the glass on the bar within easy reach and took a hearty sip when changing position throughout the second half.

My remaining poses were 5, 5, 15 and 20-minutes long. I started out reaching for one of the globe ceiling lights and ended with my only pose not on the bar, standing erect upon the floor directly in front of it. At the end I gulped the last of my wine, put on my gown and followed Tatiana in photographing some of the artists’ works.

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Fair play to The Pigeon Hole and to Tatiana for the fantastic innovation of café culture life drawing. It feels right and deserves to take off in a good way. I hope they continue it with every success, and more cafés are inspired to follow suit.

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