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Mall Galleries, London, 10 January 2020

My first booking with Hesketh Hubbard Art Society at Mall Galleries in 2020 was a portrait sitting. This was the society’s first session of the year and, quite appropriately, had a high turn-out of members. Not too many intent on drawing me it seemed at first, but come 6pm a sudden flurry of chairs were dragged across to my corner.

Two hours. One complete hour without movement, then a fifteen minute break for tea and digestives before a final fully static hour. The first half was hardest as a tiredness took hold about midway through. The more my mind focused on avoiding drowsiness, the more that very thought became a catalyst for downward flickering eyelids.

Conversations during the interval reinvigorated my brain. At some point in the second half, I became mindfully conscious of every sound in what ought to have been a quiet room. Each scratch and scrape, cough and clatter held my sharp attention till 8:15pm when, bright as a button, I was free at last to appreciate this multitude of myself in art.

Workers’ playtime, London, 7 January 2020

Having first posed for Blue Zoo Animation Studio in a clothed session two weeks before Christmas, I returned to them two weeks after Christmas to pose nude. As per my previous visit, the two hours would be devoted entirely to quick-fire dynamic work, only even quicker this time.

The shorter the poses, the more I have to conjure up, so it becomes a workout for my body and my imagination. We started with three of 1 minute, three of 2 minutes, three of 3 minutes, then one each of 4 minutes and 7 minutes. After a break we pressed on: 5-minutes, 5, 7, 7, 7, 7, 8, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 8 and 5 – a mighty 25 poses in total.

Occasionally I made use of a perching stool, and once I posed with my umbrella, but otherwise it was just me and my body. So many extraordinary drawings were crafted, capturing the figure and often playfully suggesting character. Every line seemed right first time. Thank you, Wei Wu, who created all the wonderful artworks in this post.

Naked Odyssey 2019

Inspired by my participation in nude outdoor photo shoots for Spencer Tunick, Matt Granger and Natansky – some pre-organised, others guerilla-style – I resolved that, from 2016, impromptu naked photography would be a part of all my world travels…

Fuerteventura in February and March

Jandía at the southern end of Fuerteventura was a base for naked hikes: 4.5 hours along beaches from Costa Calma to Jandía; 4.5-hour round trip to Pico de la Zarza; 6.5 hours around La Pared to Jandía; 4 hours from Punta Jandía to Morro Jable.


On the long walk south from Costa Calma – location map.


Pico de la Zarza (807m), the roof of Fuerteventura – location map.


Facing the winds on the west coast of La Pared – location map.


The middle of nowhere, west of Morro Jable – location map.


An early pause on the trek east from Punta Jandía – location map.


At the southwestern tip of Fuerteventura – location map.

Highlands in April

Esther and I used Wick as our main base for a week in the north-west Highlands of Scotland. We went north to Castle Sinclair Girnigoe and south to the Castle of Old Wick, as well as taking trips to Scrabster, Thurso and John o’ Groats.


On North Head, with Wick harbour and town behind me – location map.


At Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, north of Wick – location map.


Before the mighty ruined Castle of Old Wick – location map.


Laying with the Duncansby Stacks – location map.


Naked at John o’ Groats – location map.


Warrior at Scrabster Head – location map.

Vienna in May

A late May trip to Vienna started warm but ended awash with rain. While the weather was good, Esther and I visited the Danube island of Gänsehäufel for an afternoon in its FKK area. When the rain came, I sheltered under the iconic Hundertwasserhaus.


FKK at Gänsehäufel – location map.


Under the trees of Gänsehäufel – location map.


Under the arches of Hundertwasserhaus – location map.

Paris in August

At Espace Naturiste in Bois de Vincennes we found about fifty naked men and one heavily-pierced bald woman. When one chap started fellating another(!), she flew into a fury, yelling at them, at us, at everyone; even kicking a guy off his bike. So we left.


In Champ de Mars with the Eiffel Tower – location map.


Fleeing exhibitionism and insanity at Espace Naturiste – location map.


French interior at Arcueil – location map.

Lviv in September

In 2011, a trip to Ukraine without visiting Lviv had felt like unfinished business. Eight years later, I put that right with a 3-night stay in this attractive, youthful city. I enjoyed art, wine, endless pretty churches and even stumbled upon life drawing in session.


At an abandoned Maximilian Tower – location map.


Amongst the dead at Lychakiv Cemeterylocation map.

South Africa in November and December

For a final trip of 2019, Esther and I went to South Africa. Starting in Johannesburg, we took the Shosholoza Meyl sleeper train to Prince Albert then continued down to Cape Town a few days later. The settings were irresistible for poses.


On Melville Koppies, Johannesburg – location map.


‘Grand Bagnante No 7’ by Emilio Greco, Johannesburg Art Gallery – location map.


Overlooking Prince Albert – location map.


Swartberg Mountains backdrop – location map.


Art circles west of Prince Albert – location map.


On Signal Hill, Cape Town – location map.


Twelve Apostles Mountain Range behind Camps Bay – location map.


On Table Mountain, looking out to Robben Island – location map.

the odyssey will continue…

 

‘Have I Got Nudes for You’, December 2019

For their last gathering before Christmas, Candid Arts Friday Life Drawing Meetup invited Spirited Bodies to present a ‘Have I Got Nudes for You‘ session, in which life models interpret topical events through dynamic poses and a light-hearted news quiz. Esther would lead the session, with me supporting, and Reni – a guest model – also lending her talents. We arrived early to organise our joyously low-budget props.

We had selected a mixture of well-known and obscure news stories from the past six months, with the only essential criterion being a potential for interesting poses. At the end of year in which Brexit, the election and Donald Trump have all been relentlessly and ever-more depressingly reported, we opted to steer clear of all three (well, it was Christmas after all). We began with eight short poses, asking a question about each.

Fancy trying the ‘Have I Got Nudes for You’ news quiz? See how you get on with the questions below. Answers are at the end of the page.

Pose I – 5 minutes

For our first pose, Reni put on an inflatable gold crown and proceeded to shred a copy of the Mail on Sunday before posing with its trashed fragments…

October 2019: Meghan sues the Mail on Sunday.
It was announced that Meghan, Duchess of Sussex would be suing the publisher of the Mail on Sunday after it printed a handwritten letter she’d sent to her estranged father. Prince Harry attacked the tabloid press on behalf of his wife, saying he could no longer be “a silent witness to her private suffering”.
Question: 1. What was Meghan’s maiden name before she married Harry?

Pose II – 5 minutes

Next, Reni and I posed as if walking with great care along a narrow strip of cling film, which served as an improvised glass bridge…

October 2019: Chinese province closes its glass bridges.
It emerged that the Chinese province of Hebei had quietly closed all 32 of its glass bridges, walkways and mountain viewing platforms for safety reasons. This followed a series of accidents across the country, including at least two deaths, that called into question the safety of glass structures.
Question: 2. Who is the current president of China?

Pose III – 5 minutes

Esther then took to the stage as a footballer unsure whether to celebrate while I stood nearby as the referee, whistle in mouth, scrutinising a TV screen…

October 2019: VAR divides opinion in English football.
Video Assistant Referees (VARs) were introduced to the English football Premier League as means of dealing with “clear and obvious errors” or “serious missed incidents”, but in practice it has caused frustration due to the delays in reaching a decision, the lack of information for fans, and even some mistakes.
Question: 3. How many clubs are in the English football Premier League?

Pose IV – 5 minutes

Before our fourth pose I dotted myself all over with the tip of a red lipstick, then fled in fear as Reni came charging at me with a vaccination syringe held aloft…

August 2019: Sharp rise in measles cases in England.
Cases of measles in England are rising sharply amid fears that growing numbers of people are not getting immunised because of “dangerous” myths about vaccines. Of 301 people diagnosed with measles between April and June, 266 were aged 15 years or over and had not been vaccinated.
Question: 4. What 3-letter acronym is a common name for the measles vaccine?

Pose V – 5 minutes

While I struggled to wash-off the lipstick in the bathroom, pigtailed Esther posed solo sitting on a blue plastic bucket with “POO’S ONLY PLEASE” written on the side…

August 2019: Greta Thunberg sails the Atlantic.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg set sail from Plymouth for New York on a zero-carbon yacht with her father and a two-man crew. The yacht was designed for speed rather than luxury, which meant no shower and famously only a blue plastic bucket labelled “POO’S ONLY PLEASE” for Greta’s toilet.
Question: 5. How old is Greta Thunberg? Bonus point for her date of birth.

Pose VI – 5 minutes

Esther and Reni held aloft a solidarity banner proclaiming ‘#EnaZeda‘ in both English and Tunisian Arabic, while I cowered shamefully with a bottle between my legs…

December 2019: Tunisian #EnaZeda protests.
Photos MP Zouheir Makhlouf allegedly masturbating in a car outside a high school in Tunisia prompted women to share their own stories of abuse and harassment using the hashtag #EnaZeda, which means “MeToo” in Tunisian Arabic. The MP said he was just trying to urinate into a bottle as he is a diabetic.
Question: 6. In which year did activist Tarana Burke first post ‘#MeToo’?

Pose VII – 10 minutes

For a surreal tableau, Esther modelled a pair of white knickers with a hole burnt in the front whilst I sat on the floor contemplating an up-ended herb bottle…

November 2019: Turnip Prize winner announced.
This year’s spoof Turner Prize – called the ‘Turnip Prize’, for “crap art” made using “the least amount of effort possible” – was awarded for a pair of knickers with a burnt hole in the front, titled ‘Bush Fire Down Under’. Other notable entries included a full bottle of the herb thyme spilled onto a sheet of paper.
Question: 7. What name was given to the installation featuring the spilt herb?

Pose VIII – 10 minutes

As a dramatic finale for our quiz, Esther hurled an entire milkshake up the front of my body and thus we stood while it dripped slowly onto the newspaper-covered floor…

June 2019: 8. Farage gets his cleaning bill paid after milkshake attack.
On 20 May, Paul Crowther hurled his £5.25 milkshake up the front of Nigel Farage as the latter campaigned in Newcastle. A court later ordered Crowther to do 150 hours unpaid work and pay £520, including £350 compensation to Farage for damage, distress, inconvenience and cleaning.
Question: 8. What two flavours were the milkshake that was hurled at Farage?

Pose IX – 19 minutes

We took a short break drinks break, then Esther invited anyone to join her in creating a tableau of chimps / politicians as a homage to ‘Devolved Parliament‘ by Banksy.

Pose X – 19 minutes

Popular uprisings were the themes of our final two group poses. To begin, Esther and invitees took up umbrellas in the style of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists…

Pose XI – 15 minutes

Concluding the evening, I returned to fray and held aloft an Extinction Rebellion sign while others posed as protesters with hands glued to surfaces…

Quiz answers

After this final pose, I read out answers to all the earlier quiz questions. How well did you do in our news challenge?

Answer 1: Markle
Answer 2: Xi Jinping
Answer 3: 20
Answer 4: MMR
Answer 5: 16 – born on 3 January 2003
Answer 6: 2006
Answer 7: ‘A Complete Waste of Thyme’
Answer 8: Banana and Salted Caramel

The knowledgeable winner received two free tickets for future Spirited Bodies events, the next of which is set be Body Narratives with London Drawing on 25 January. If artist numbers there match those we had here, it’ll be another special occasion. I had been worried that attendance might be low this close to Christmas, so it was inspiring to see almost thirty people join us. I hope they warmed to our unorthodox ways.

Certainly many of their artworks captured the energy we tried to convey. A few artists sketched elements of different poses onto a single sheet, thereby effectively creating news montages. Just as we models look for new ways of energising artists, so artists continue surprising us with the imagination and talent in their interpretations. It was a grand way to finish life modelling in 2019. Let’s hope 2020 is as much fun.

Workers’ playtime, London, 11 December 2019

Which garments to select for my ‘clothed/ or costumed/ partially nude‘ model booking at Blue Zoo Animation Studio? They favour items: “light in color so that we can see the fabric in the light of the room, but if you don’t have anything light that’s fine too as long as it looks interesting; we also like clothes that compliment your body shape.

Latching onto the ‘light in colour‘ part of my brief, I decided to take it to its extreme by donning a 100% white ensemble that I last wore at a cacao ceremony four years ago. As a back-up, I also took a highly patterned top and trouser pairing, in case the white was a bit too boring. I needn’t have worried, though: white was just right.

As is often the way with animators, their preference was lots of quick dynamic poses, and that was my preference too. We started: 3-minutes, 3, 4, 6, 6, 8, 8-minutes, then took a short break. We finished: 10-minutes, 10, 11, 10, 10, 10 and 2-minutes. It was energising but also a nice winding-down at the end of their – and my – working day.

Superb drawings by Wei Wu: instagram.com/weitoocool / twitter.com/weitoocool

The Dellow Centre, London, 8 December 2019

Upon arriving a quarter of an hour early at The Dellow Centre, the first words I heard were from one of the regular artists declaring surprise to see a model on time at all! It seemed Life drawing Aldgate and Shoreditch had suffered a series of latecomers. Punctuality and reliability remain important qualities for a life model. So to work…

After the opening pose of 15-minutes, I was asked to provide five poses of 2-minutes. This wrong-footed me a bit as I’d assumed I would be asked for a ten-pose sequence from 3-minutes to 3-seconds, as per recent sessions here. I quickly improvised a new plan: rising, rotating, rolling my arms and descending.

We started at 11:30am sharp yet, after one pose of 15-minutes and ten of 2-minutes, somehow it was now 12:10pm. This appeared to confirm my inkling that timekeeping had thus far not been exemplary. Poses got longer from this point, however, and duly became strict. Two of 20-minutes took us to a break.

I sat upon the floor for the first 20-minutes, then stood with a broom handle held over my right shoulder and vertically behind my back. Poses during the first half had each been in the round, but after our break for tea and biscuits the room was reconfigured so I could finished with a single 40-minute seated pose, my back to the windows.

I’d intially selected a posture in which my body was titled and supported by a forearm that rested upon one leg, but it was suggested I straighten up to make the pose more comfortable. I did so, but probably should have stuck with my first instinct as my back muscles now bore the burden. It was bearable, though; a nice afternoon.

Royal Inn on the Park, London, 5 December 2019

This was my first life model booking since returning from a summer fortnight in South Africa. Here winter was beginning to assert itself and Christmas was fewer than three weeks away. I walked briskly through the busy murk of east London, to the Royal Inn on the Park, wondering whether many artists would do likewise; the answer was yes! Using the venue’s Christmas flowers, I made my pose space a bit festive for them…

In fact I think almost 30 people joined us to draw – a good turn-out, and very pleasing as I like to see Adrian Dutton’s London Life Drawing groups doing well. We began the evening with a 10-minute standing pose then swept through three 3-minute poses before closing the first half with poses of 5, 15 and 20-minutes. One small heater plus the warmth emanating from an intense oval of sketchers kept me cosy throughout.

Some of my poses were new, others were recent favourites, but as always I checked my blog to make sure I hadn’t used any of them when I was last here in August. For the second half I provided two poses of 30-minutes each. The first saw me seated on the floor with crossed legs and one forearm weaving between them. The second was less fussy, more natural; a simple standing pose with one hand on its shoulder.

At 9:30pm we were done. Applause was kindly forthcoming and works were set upon the floor for general admiration. Several eye-catching drawings managed to elude my camera, which was frustrating, but there was good quality, fun and commitment in the creations all around the room. Returning to my bulky clothes, I bade my farewells and departed into the December night air, reacclimatised to joyful London life modelling.

Four artworks above by Peter Dobbin
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