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cave, London, 19 February 2019

The last duo booking of the Valentine’s season for me and Esther was for life drawing at cave in Pimlico. As ever, we were greeted with great warmth by Karen, the owner and driving force behind this artist-led retail space for ‘art, vintage and up-cycling‘. It is truly one of those rare places packed with curios where everything is interesting.

The layout inside cave seems to have altered on each occasion we visit, and this time was no exception. We would be deeper within the shop area with artists around us on three sides. Fortunately there was plenty of seating available as we had succeeded in attracting a record turn-out for the group.

Esther and I had promised ourselves a gentle snuggly session with nothing strenuous or painful. Karen does like her short poses to be very short, however, so straight away we went into dynamic mode, making all manner of spontaneous shapes: five 1-minute poses followed by two of 5-minutes, and ending the first half with two of 10-minutes.

Rewards were immediate. During the interval, Karen offered teas, wines, shortbreads and cakes to everybody present. I plumped for a snifter of red wine plus some apricot Swiss roll; not recognised as a classic combination, but it ticks my bon viveur boxes. After these refreshments we rounded-off the evening with two 25-minute poses.

Throughout this session we were serenaded by long lost sounds from cave’s fantastic CD collection, with vintage Prince getting most prominent play time this evening. The mix is usually eclectic, although Karen has decided that Barry White is wrong for life drawing – there’s always magic and weirdness here… but then that is surely art.


Bridge House, London, 18 February 2019

Evenings like this remind me why I often try to arrive at least fifteen minutes early – or sometimes half an hour – for every life model booking. I would prefer to relax and wait, perhaps with a glass of wine, rather than risk being late when an inevitable train delay occurs. The precaution meant that when delays occurred en route to Bridge House, I was still five minutes early rather than ten minutes late…

It was my first time at Anerley and Penge Life Drawing since Tatiana Moressoni had returned from yogic wanderings in India and resumed running the group. Spiritual enlightenment had not inspired her to tamper with the perfection of short pose timings here. Indeed, it was as if she’d never been away. We started with two 2-minute poses and followed with four of 5-minutes and three of 10-minutes.

At first it looked like we might be low on artist numbers, but gradually more and more latecomers joined us. I assumed their plans were affected by the same train troubles as mine, but by about a quarter of an hour into the first half we had a good gathering distributed to all sides of the room. The warmth from so many extra bodies was such that I had to ask for the heater to be switched off. In February. Unprecedented!

Artwork by Tatiana Moressoni.

During the interval, three artists asked Tatiana whether it would be OK to pop out and bring chips back into the room. Of course Tatiana agreed, so off they went leaving art and coats behind… and were never seen again. I like to think this wasn’t a judgement on the likely excellence (or not) of my three 15-minute poses after the break. The lure of chips can be powerful.

At the end there was a generous show of appreciation from those remaining. Artworks were laid out upon the floor for collective appreciation. This booking fell in the midst of some duo sessions so it came as a nice, comfortable yet hard-worked reminder of the art of solo modelling in the round; maintaining dynamism and interesting sight-lines for at least three-quarters of those present for every pose. I still enjoy the challenge.

The Birds, Leytonstone, 12 February 2019

Esther and I returned to Leytonstone Life Drawing at The Birds for what would be our second Valentine’s duo life modelling session in as many days. We’d posed here together last summer and our first-half pose times, just as then, would be 5-minutes, 10-minutes and 25-minutes. To begin, we stood in an embrace.

This first pose – in which my left hand supported Esther’s raised right knee – echoed an erotic drawing by Gustav Klimt recently exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts. Group organiser, Jennifer had asked us for “intimate” poses so that’s what we served up. For the next 10-minutes Esther straddled me, sitting on my lap.

This wasn’t about ‘sexing-up’ life drawing – we’re professional models and a genuine couple. Intimacy came naturally, but our purpose and practice remained respectful of established life room boundaries. We felt at ease and the artists seemed relaxed too as they focused on their work. Our 25-minute pose saw Esther reclining across me.

We were to finish with an hour-long pose, but the break overran slightly so it became 55-minutes instead. Still bags of time to get very uncomfortable with a poor choice of position, but we’d practised beforehand and got this one right… well, nearly. Esther’s head was tilted back onto my shoulder, which proved to be a pain in her neck.

This evening had been part two of three in our series of Valentine’s duo bookings. We will be at cave in Pimlico on Tuesday 19 February; this year’s final instalment. Each session is different according to the setting, how we interpret the atmosphere, and the way our bodies are moved to respond. The fun is in the discovery (and the intimacy).

The Victoria Stakes, London, 11 February 2019

Duo bookings tend to be infrequent as the cost of paying two model fees is prohibitive for many groups. As a life modelling couple, however, Esther and I do sometimes get more work in the weeks either side of Valentine’s Day. In fact the increase in demand is such that we were booked by The Moon and Nude for this life art session at The Victoria Stakes way back in November. Shop early to avoid disappointment!

Group organiser, Julia greeted us when we arrived but then, as she was feeling rather poorly, left us in the very safe and capable hands of her partner, Edward. The three of us together agreed pose timings for the evening, and at 7pm we started with warm-up poses – two of 2-minutes. This is way too short for capturing two figures so we began solo and swapped ends of the room at the change-over.

The structure for our poses together was to be three of 15-minutes each, taking us to an interval, then two of half-an-hour to complete the session. For the first of these, we stood in an embrace. Posing in the round, however, we can’t cuddle fully front-to front as all any of the artists would be able to see is our backs. Ergo we arrange ourselves into a sort of semi side-to-side alignment. It’s less comfortable but more drawable.

For the second 15-minute pose we sat close together on the floor, gazing face-to-face but bodily apart, with just hands making physical connection. The first half ended with Esther sitting on a stool and our bodies once more hugging sideways. After the break we resumed with Esther standing and me wrapped round her legs, and finally I sat on the floor while Esther lay across my lap. Serene.

The session overran, but we were quite content. Our efforts appeared to be very much appreciated by those drawing us, and there were some superb artworks to show for it. Edward and Julia are among the nicest, most attentive and considerate organisers for whom we have the pleasure of working. Lastly a word about the creation below, called a “landscape of limbs” by the chap who drew it. I like to think of it as… a ‘limbscape‘.

The Dellow Centre, London, 9 February 2019

For reasons unknown my body didn’t feel tip-top today, but I would still do my utmost to make interesting shapes. I missed my train, so arrived at The Dellow Centre with only five minutes to spare, yet still ahead of most artists. When the session started, I opened with a 15-20 minute seated pose that I would reprise for the day’s last pose.

Artists continued walking in, such that we had roughly 25 present when we moved on to the quick-fire poses: 3-minutes, 2, 1, 50-seconds, 40, 30, 20, 15, 10-seconds. With each change, I rotated slightly clockwise and shifted stance a tad to create a dynamic sequence for those wishing to overlay their drawings.

I ended the first half with 20-minutes upright, and 17-minutes on a stool. After a break for tea and biscuits, we finished with one pose of 15-20 minutes and another of 20-25 minutes. Timings had become a bit vague towards the end but I was comfortable and content not to worry. Life drawing Aldgate and Shoreditch went fine.

47/49 Tanner Street, London, 6 February 2019

On entering 47/49 Tanner Street – home of Tanner Street Life Drawing – it was as though my glasses had steamed over. I could vaguely make out people bustling about the ground floor area but they didn’t seem to be artists. Eventually I twigged they were clearing up after a fashion photoshoot… and they had been using a smoke machine.

When the mists had cleared and the fashionistas departed, I noticed what appeared to be a pigeon perched on a radiator at the far wall. I wasn’t sure it was even real but as I got nearer, it suddenly perked up. The venue manager said they’d been trying to catch it all day but with no luck. With our session ready to start, we agreed just to leave it.

I began with four poses of 5-minutes each, then went with 10-minutes and 15-minutes taking us to our break. After making a mug of tea and taking a few dark chocolate thin digestives, I turned my attention back to the pigeon. Now barefoot, I was able to creep stealthy behind it, and slowly, slowly, slowly… quickly snatch it with both hands.

The pigeon didn’t seem flustered at all. If anything, it was perhaps inwardly peeved at being grabbed from its warm perch and cast into the chill night air. After scrubbing my hands thoroughly, I rounded off my evening’s modelling duty with a needlessly painful 50-minute seated pose. Nice shape, but an ill-considered dangling leg. It happens.

The Conservatoire, Blackheath, 4 February 2019

I was asked to recline for the long pose on my last two visits to The Conservatoire in Blackheath, and before that I was seated, so I now felt a professional duty to stand. A plan was agreed in conversation with tutor Victoria Rance, but first I would begin with the usual short format: three 1-minutes poses, one of 5-minutes, one of 10-minutes.

Artwork by Anthony Roe.

Artwork by Anthony Roe.

The long pose we selected was one I had maintained for a mere 10-minutes only two weeks before with The Jolly Sketcher. On that occasion, I perched on the edge of a table with my back to a window. Here I would occupy a high seat on a platform that we pushed out of the round to allow artists to horseshoe about me.

Artwork by Gareth Williams.

This pose was due to last 2-hours, during which I took three breaks. As time wore on, my buttocks and the back of my neck became ever more achy, but never unbearable. Tellingly at each interval I could immediately walk out of position, whereas sometimes in more painful poses, it takes a few minutes for me even to be able to stand.

Artwork by Anthony Roe.

Artwork by Anthony Roe.

Artwork by Anthony Roe.

Some artists progressed a single drawing for the full two hours whilst others started a new work with every break. Whatever their approach, one couldn’t help but appreciate the conviction with which each focused on developing their unique style. Happily, they affirmed they’re still not bored of me, so I hope I’ll develop yet more with them too.

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