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Binary Bodies

19 November 2015

At a quarter to nine on Halloween morning I was a long way from home. A car pulled up on the quiet street between Saltwood Village Hall and the wooden bench upon which I was resting. The grass around my feet was damp, the air was still – cool but not cold. Louise and Nick stepped from their vehicle, greeted me warmly, and together we entered the hall.

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The Secret Drawing Club

We were there to present ‘Binary Bodies‘, the first ever all-day event staged by The Secret Drawing Club. Louise and Nick had founded this life drawing group earlier in the year, sharing in its organisation; Louise is its model in residence, whilst husband Nick adds his artist’s perception to their detailed research and the creation of themes inspired by classical art.

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I had worked with Louise several times before on photo shoots, such as Babylon and Belt Craft, but this was my first time life modelling with her. It was also the first time I’d had the pleasure of meeting Nick; we found a good rapport from the outset. Indeed they were both so well prepared for this event that there was little for me to contribute until the time came to pose.

The long way round

Such was the honour I felt at being given this booking that I considered it particularly important to be at my professional best throughout. Nonetheless, I was profoundly tired after an extraordinary preceding 36 hours that had taken me up and down the country for life modelling. It began on the Thursday with an evening of poses at The Beehive in Tottenham, from 7pm to 9pm.

Afterwards, I made a beeline for south London, to the flat of my partner, Esther, and the next day we travelled together to Oxford, where we modelled for Art Macabre as part of DeadFriday at the Ashmolean Museum. It was very near 2am on Saturday morning when finally we got back to Esther’s place. After barely 3 hours’ sleep I was on my way to St Pancras for the 07:08 train south to Sandling, changing at Ashford.

Morning sessions

Staying bright-eyed and alert would be the challenge. We were to model for 14 artists between 10am and 4pm, with two 15-minute breaks plus a full hour for lunch. The first hour was devoted to short dynamic poses, none longer than 10 minutes, all featuring some manner of interaction. We were nude, or wrapped in a sheet, or holding wooden tribal masks. In several tableaux we interpreted classical sculpture or painting.

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Nick directed the poses, calling the pose lengths and time-checks, explaining artistic references and synchronising our music playlist. This phase required way too much physical effort for me not to be alert. After a break, we mimicked Rodin’s ‘The Kiss‘ and reclined in a pose akin to spooning, both 35-minutes. I am ashamed to confess that I nodded-off during the latter, and even indulged in a little light snoring. Oh dear.

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Lunchtime

Lunch was a tonic for everybody. If one single word defines The Secret Drawing Club, it is “exquisite”; the delicacy of Louise’s modelling, the attention to detail in sourcing authentic props and – especially rare – the fine quality and quantity of food served to participants. Certainly I had never before seen such a magnificent spread set before artists and models alike.

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Afternoon sessions

After lunch we returned to the centre of the hall for two half-hour seated poses. In the first of these we created a simple connection, like an embrace but both facing in the same direction. For the second we sat close to each other at right-angles – not with physical contact, but both ‘reading’ books. Without wearing my glasses, of course, I could hardly see the text, let alone read it.

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Our final 75-minute pose was inspired by ‘PietĂ ‘ – Michelangelo’s stunningly beautiful sculpture in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. Given our respective physiques and the potential discomfort that could be inflicted over such a long time, we didn’t attempt an exact reproduction. Even so, I think we managed to look pretty elegant. The artists’ drawings reflected this superbly, as we admired when finished.

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Looking back

Trains that could return me to London – to Esther – departed once every hour. When our session ended, Louise kindly rushed me to the station in time to catch the 16:21. Alas, it meant I wasn’t able to mingle with artists after the event, which was a shame as they were lovely people. It was also a pity to leave Louise and Nick so soon, but it had been a real privilege to be part of The Secret Drawing Club, if only for one day.

There have been model-run life drawing groups and workshops around London and the UK for many years. The Secret Drawing Club takes these to another level by showing what can be achieved with great care, attention to detail, not compromising on quality, and having a genuine appreciation of art. The group has proven incredibly popular with artists since its creation; I hope they continue going from success to success.

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From → Art

One Comment
  1. boykog permalink

    You are amazing couple Louise and Steve. Great professionalism, pure perfectionists. You are capable of getting the best out of all artists present. Physically your fit like a hand in a glove, so gracious and expressive in everything you do together- life modelling, phtography and all.
    To me – the best male/female couple on the scene…

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