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B & H Buildings, London, 28 July 2015

5 August 2015

The room was about ten square metres, had a stark low ceiling and red-cushioned seating that ran seamlessly around the length of each wall. It had no windows, but natural light entered through densely packed perforations the size of golf balls set in fifteen rows, and veiled with ‘The Lady and the Unicorn‘ printed silky material.

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I had the impression this was an attempt to recreate the ambiance of an old Ottoman living room, albeit without the brass coffee pots, hookah pipes and, crucially, without the carpets. The floor was hard, bare, and painted battleship grey. It was where I was to life model downstairs at the Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings – a plush all-day brasserie and bar in Clerkenwell, London.

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This is the latest venue from which Adrian Dutton runs his regular groups. Adrian greeted me warmly when I arrived; he is a true gentlemen, a pleasure to work for. He offered one word of caution, however, suggesting I might want to pose wearing shoes as there might be fragments of broken glass on the floor. I could see what he meant, but said I would be careful, putting down a foam mat and sheet.

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We stuck with the proven popular format for pose lengths. For the first hour I started with a 10-minute standing pose to allow time for latecomers to arrive. Next came the dynamic section – 2 minutes, 1 minute, 30 seconds, 3 minutes – after which, poses got steadily longer – 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes took us to an interval. Most artists then disappeared upstairs to get drinks from the bar.

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After a break of about half an hour, we set about our second hour’s work in a similar vein. 10 minutes got us started again, then we quickened to 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute. My 1-minute pose was a full lotus position; upon unravelling I was astonished to see a small puddle of blood on my left thigh. It seemed I’d somehow slit the top of the fourth toe on my right foot… and I didn’t even feel it happen.

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Adrian was more concerned that I was. As I moved on to a 5-minute standing pose, he dashed off to fetch some antiseptic liquid from his car. When the 5 minutes were up we could see I was still bleeding slightly more than was ideal so we took a short time-out to drown the toe in TCP and wrap it with tissue. One artist kindly offered a sticking plaster, which I made use of before heading home.

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Following the brief interruption, we closed with a half-hour reclining pose. The show must go on. In excess of 20 artists were present; happily none were squeamish nor rendered incapable of continuing by the sudden unexpected appearance of a colour not anticipated in their palette selection for the evening. Their appreciation was very welcome at the end.

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It had been a muggy evening. Even with a large modern bladeless fan to give us cool air, the modelling itself had been warm work. Yet I’d enjoyed working for this group as there seemed to be plenty of newcomers, both to Adrian and to life drawing in general. That in itself was enough to bring freshness to the room. I hope they’ll be enjoying lots more life drawing in the months ahead.

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