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The Conservatoire, Blackheath, 7 November 2016

8 November 2016

I’m afraid you’re going to see more of me than you used to!

Back in August, I took part in a multi-model collaboration between Spirited Bodies and All The Young Nudes in Edinburgh. For one 10-minute pose, we were asked to imagine that a relative, friend or work colleague who didn’t know we were life models, had walked into the room. Last night at The Conservatoire in Blackheath, after four and a half years working as a model, it finally happened to me for real.

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I was fully clothed, talking with tutor Victoria Rance in the life drawing studio, when the door opened and in walked Kelly – a colleague with whom I had shared an office for four years, till she left for greener pastures 18 months ago. I don’t know what my face must have conveyed at that moment but Kelly stopped in her tracks with a look of shock that quickly segued to smiling surprise, then slight bafflement. I said:

I’m afraid you’re going to see more of me than you used to!

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The tendency to compartmentalisation has been part of my life since before I took up nude modelling. It’s not about secrets, shame or boundaries, just a natural inclination to let my social circles remain as they are without nudging them towards intersection. Now, through Kelly, one circle had potentially discovered something interesting about another, and it’s fine. I’m proud of what I do… plus, Kelly’s not given to idle gossip.

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On to business! Underfloor heating had been switched on, and the pose platform was surrounded by no fewer than five heaters, so I would be toasty warm despite freezing temperatures outside. As on my previous visit to The Conservatiore, I was happy to go with Victoria’s plan for poses. For the opening one, I would be standing upright for 5-minutes with my hands around head and belly; no hiding place.

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Afterwards I sat on the platform for 5-minutes with forehead resting on knees, hugging my shins. Next came 10-minutes curled onto my side in a kind of foetal position, and then we set up the evening’s long pose. I was to be sitting symmetrically on the edge of a tall box with my feet together and legs angled straight to the ground. I slipped my robe from my shoulders and Victoria asked me to leave it where it fell. We began.

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I remained in this position for an initial 25-minutes, was then granted a ‘stretch break’, and resumed for a further half-an-hour up to an interval. Another 30-minutes took us to the end. I’d felt surprisingly comfortable throughout. Of course, with my robe now part of the tableau, I could not put it back on during breaks so, in the interests of life room etiquette, I pulled on my jeans instead.

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I wandered around the easels during each break to see the works in progress. Some artists opted to start a new drawing each time we resumed, while others developed a single work from start to finish. I loved how at some point during the last half-hour, an artist decided I would look better with long hair – it took me back to my festival years and also gave me the pleasing appearance of a native South American.

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I exchanged a few reminiscences with Kelly but I think we were more interested in the work we were each doing at that moment. Kelly’s are the drawings immediately above and below, and also the first two on this blog. She has a superb eye for both form and proportion – a reminder that often we never truly know the hidden depths and talent of people we see on a daily basis.

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Once again it had been a pleasure to model for this group, and to be shown attention and consideration throughout by Victoria. I’m booked to return next Monday too, and suspect that after the relatively comfortable standing pose of this session, I could be asked for something a little more testing in a week’s time. Bring it on! I feel I passed an interesting psychological test on this occasion. I’m enjoying my art.

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