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Mall Galleries, London, 25 November 2016

28 November 2016

In the fixed format of Hesketh Hubbard Art Society life drawing at Mall Galleries, models pose from 6pm sharp until 7pm; tea and biscuits are then taken for precisely fifteen minutes, after which there is a further hour of posing. During the two working hours, a clothed model sits for portraits, a nude model provides four half-hour poses, another offers eight quarter-hour poses, whilst in an adjacent space one final model delivers a single long pose. On this evening, I was that long pose model.

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Although most artists cluster around the two shorter poses, the long pose always attracts a small yet loyal following. It’s also the only setting where the pose can be negotiated between model and artists. I was amenable to standing, sitting or reclining, but sensed I was being steered towards a seated pose. Whilst the easy option would have been to make myself comfortable in some kind of slouch, I decided I would treat them to a straight-backed, cross-legged, spindly posture; something a bit different.

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Unlike other venues that facilitate long poses, there are no updates here on how much time has passed, nor even the option for models to stretch and relieve their numbness or pains. One simply has to find an appropriate state of mind and remain within it for an hour at a time. Fortunately my choice of pose never became unbearable; I wasn’t even told when time was up at the end of the session – only the sounds of a hubbub from the main space told me that it was probably OK to finish.

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Gratification for my exertions came courtesy of thanks from artists. One in particular had been very pleased with my efforts, saying she’d: “been waiting ten years to draw that pose” – high regard indeed. I’ve never particularly been a fan of long poses, and given the choice would probably still opt for shorter, more dynamic work, but after a recent run of single-pose bookings I’m gaining greater appreciation for the discipline. Most important is a real sense throughout that artists are genuinely appreciative.

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