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The Conservatoire, Blackheath, 17 November 2016

21 November 2016

Evening life painting – session 1 of 4

After three Monday life drawing bookings at The Conservatoire in Blackheath, I was back within days to begin posing for Thursday life painting. Each life drawing session had been different, incorporating both short and long poses. For the oil painting class, there would be one single pose maintained across four evenings. Sessions would last two and half hours, within which I would be posing for 2-hours, with breaks.

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I arrived early and chatted with tutor David Webb. Luck had been on my side as life drawing tutor Victoria Rance had recommended me at the very time he’d needed to book a male model. David explained that after three sets of three weeks with female models in seated or reclining poses, he wanted to finish the term with a contrasting male figure in a stark standing pose.

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It may seem like I got a raw deal, having stand when those who went before could lay around in comfort, but to be honest I prefer to stand – tired legs recover more quickly than a numb bum. Posing with hands on hips made for a more dramatic posture, but also brought numbness to the wrists. Aside from a 10-minute half-time interval, I took three ‘shake-out’ breaks of a minute or two to recover sensation in my extremities.

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In this session, the eight artists spent most of their time considering form, proportion and composition. During the last quarter, David encouraged them to begin blocking in colour, if they had not already done so. Several struggled – as so many do – with my unnaturally long legs; in David’s words at one point: “you’ve drawn a man, but it’s not that man.” I find it genuinely fascinating to listen and learn.

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Committing to a group in this way – sustaining a long, taxing pose for several hours over several weeks – is daunting in prospect, as there can be no change of heart or omitting a week once work is underway. Fortunately, I feel good about this one; I’m enamoured with the venue, appreciate David’s positive words, and sense the artists’ commitment. It was an encouraging start that bodes well for the future.

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