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The Victoria Stakes, London, 9 January 2023

In the hour before I was due to leave home for this job, my local rail company saw fit to flash “delayed” across every live journey update on its website. A quarter of an hour later, everything jumped back to normal without any explanation. Nonetheless, I was sufficiently unnerved to leave earlier than planned. After two trains and a brisk walk up from Crouch Hill, I reached The Victoria Stakes a full half-hour before our 7pm start.

Artwork by Rosalind Freeborn.

Julia of The Moon and Nude was already upstairs in the function room preparing for what would be her first session of 2023. It was nice to have time for a natter. Even so, with no event marketing since before the festive season we waited more in hope than expectation for artists to arrive. Happily, cometh the hour we had a comfortable group. We began with poses of 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 4 minutes and 5 minutes.

Artwork by Jeremy Robinson.

Artwork by Rosalind Freeborn.

Artwork by Jeremy Robinson.

Artwork by Rosalind Freeborn.

With three more poses until our break, I decide to recline, sit and stand in that order. First I lay down for 10 minutes in a signature pose with left knee angled on the floor, right knee raised, left hand arched on my chest and right arm pointing up. Next I sat for 15 minutes resting back on my hands with both knees angled flat on the floor. To our interval, I stood with my left leg a pace forward and both arms extended low.

Artwork by David Fathers.

Artwork by Rosalind Freeborn.

Artwork by Jeremy Robinson.

The plan was to finish with one 45-minute pose. This left artists with just 8 minutes to fetch drinks from the bar, pop to the loo and prepare for the second half. Meanwhile, I took a leisurely stroll around the art space to appreciate artworks already made. With our restart imminent I moved a high stool to the centre of the room and perched upon it in as angular a fashion as seemed sustainable for the time remaining.

Artwork by louis000ag.

Artwork by Jeremy Robinson.

Artwork by David Fathers.

Artwork by Rosalind Freeborn.

During the opening seconds it was necessary to make a few hopefully imperceptible muscle adjustments to mitigate against any possibility of my left foot sliding from the seat. Once done, it was fairly plain sailing. Julia gave a time check every 15 minutes and between times I estimated progress by counting tracks on her enjoyable playlist. Nine o’clock arrived gently, mellow, concluding a very pleasant evening.

The Art of Isolation, London, 8 January 2023

This was my first life model booking of 2023 – indeed my first in over 6 weeks – and I confess I misjudged. Inspired by a fleeting stance I’d observed during a performance of ‘One Man Poe‘ by Stephen Smith at King’s Head Theatre the night before, I set my opening 10-minute pose: upright, leaning back upon a wall with my right forearm whilst twisting left and reaching out to point with my left hand…

Artwork by Cliff Barden.

Only 10 minutes. Rock solid for the first three or four at least. After that, I don’t recall whether mental doubts or physical tremors made the first insidious intervention. Soft, soft, soft, the tremors came; my right arm yearning to slip along the wall, my left arm willing to dip, my torso taxed of resolve. Only 10 minutes. Then the artists graciously acknowledged my struggle… and we moved on to the next 10 poses.

Artwork by Helen.

Artwork by Helen.

Artwork by Frank Gambino.

Shorter poses followed: three of 1 minute, three of 2 minutes, one each of 3 minutes, 5 minutes and 8 minutes. I set about these with vigour, variety and a great deal more self-awareness and common sense. Poses can venture to a threshold of pain but are not obliged to cross it. We concluded the session with a 1-hour pose; 15 minutes to a tea break, and a further 45 minutes to the end.

Artwork by Jacqui Hamer.

Artwork by Valeria Pilloni.

Artwork by Elin.

Artwork by Helen.

Artwork by Cliff Barden.

Artwork by Frank Gambino.

Notwithstanding my early discomfort, I thoroughly enjoyed this return to modelling. It had been a pleasant surprise to be booked for South East London Life Drawing at The Art of Isolation so soon after my last visit in November 2022. There’s a lovely feeling of easy-going appreciation and enthusiasm from the artists that can’t help but encourage a model to give their best. Quite a few familiar friendly faces here too.

Artwork by Sophia.

Artwork by Sophia.

Once we had finished, artworks were shared around the floor of the venue and later around social media. It’s a gift that keeps giving, to see inspired drawings of oneself as they emerge online over subsequent days. Most are enthusiastically reshared on the @isolationartlondon Instagram account. Many thanks to everyone who tagged me directly, @steveritterlife – I hope I’ll see you again in person soon!

Private booking, London, 26 November 2022

Whilst the deepest darkest pandemic days of coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown now seem like part-hazy dream, part-waking nightmare, its after-effects remain real. Many of us used the time to reconsider our priorities. For me, modelling had always been a pleasure rather than essential employment, but almost 2 years of enforced downtime showed me I needed a healthier life balance. I needed fewer bookings.

So I set myself a target for 2022 of averaging just 3 bookings per month. I was ahead of schedule by mid-February and remained comfortably so all year, but a cancellation in October, a realisation I’d been miscounting, and a rash spate of declining offers got me doubting whether I would hit my annual quota. Then came the joy: first, a booking at The Art of Isolation, followed by a chance to model for Robert Waddingham.

Rob had drawn me previously in Monday evening classes at The Conservatoire, but this private booking would give him the freedom to determine timing, lighting, position and pace. Together we could agree poses that aligned with the challenges he wished to explore. Over the course of three hours, we began with an emphasis on twists and angles, then gradually steered our focus towards the observation of foreshortening

Poses were to last between 15 and 20 minutes each. I stood for the first three, sat for the next three, then lay down as if crucified – this got 10 minutes extra – and finished with one more on my feet. It could be the template for a perfect session; professional conduct from all parties, good rapport and understanding, great music whilst working, and fascinating conversation in between. All in all, a superb session #36 for 2022.

The Art of Isolation, London, 6 November 2022

To south London for my first time modelling in a shopping mall. Rising from the ashes of 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, The Art of Isolation is a shop unit turned pop-up gallery turned established art space in Surrey Quays Shopping Centre (upper floor). On Saturdays and Sundays, it hosts South East London Life Drawing.

I arrived early and was greeted by organiser, Rod Kitson. In the gallery room, an arc of seats backed by a second arc of easels faced a side wall. At their focal point a low wooden platform, a footstool and an armchair were situated as a realm for the model. Tables against the opposite wall held materials for art-making and tea-making.

I would be posing for a full-house of 20 to 30 artists, including a few familiar faces. To get them started I stood for a 10-minute pose, then raced through three of 2 minutes, one of 3 minutes and one of 7 minutes. Two 12-minute poses took us to our half-time break for tea and biscuits. No podium remained unused.

During the interval I saw enough of the works produced so far to tell that these young artists were a gifted bunch; and of course the more mature among them applied their abundant talents with great vision and deftness too. Before resuming, I was asked by Rod whether I would mind if he took photos for use in promos. Gladly I consented.

The second half was comprised of two poses: 10 minutes and 30 minutes. I stood for the first with one arm raised and the other pointing down. To finish, I sat in comfort on the armchair with my right leg extended, my left knee raised, left arm across left knee and right arm serving as a gentle support behind me.

I’d thoroughly enjoyed this session. While I dressed, artists were invited to share their work by placing selected drawings on the floor for admiration and perhaps inspiration to others. My own inspirational act had been to drape my white sheet across all three pose podia. Unprecedented, apparently! You’re welcome. 🙂 Hope to see you again.

The Star by Hackney Downs, 2 November 2022

The dry mild weeks of early autumn had given way to a cooler front. It brought heavy downpours and, for me, a realisation that all my footwear leaks. Heading to The Star by Hackney Downs through damp streets and erratic drizzle I detoured successfully to buy a new pair of boots. Next priorities: a glass of wine and some great art.

Drawing the Star group organiser, Catherine Hall, very kindly catered for the first of those priorities at the bar. Upstairs, we shut ventilating windows against the elements and allowed the pose space to warm nicely while artists arrived. At 7:30pm sharp, we began: a 5 minute pose, then 4, 3, 2, three of 1 minute, and three 30 second poses.

After our opening whirlwind of shapeshifting, we dialled down the pace. Two poses of 10 minutes took us to a break. I stood for the first in a well-used stance, then reclined for the second, attempting to construct a horizon of bodily ridges and negative space. With hindsight I don’t think the latter really worked so I won’t be trying that one again.

For the last half-hour, artists had the choice of three 10-minute poses, two of 15, a 10 and a 20, or one of 30 minutes. After a bit of debate, they settled on three of 10. Also, as I’d somehow managed to cycle through 12 poses without any being seated, it was decided I should sit for the remaining trio. The first two were on a low stool.

As I fidgeted into my initial seated position, I apologised to the artists surrounding me that it’s impossible to be equally interesting from every direction; but there was space for them to move round the room. Efforts to be interesting cost me a few aches so for the last pose I sat on the floor – still twisted and angled, just slightly more serene.

At 9pm, after some nice applause, I cleared the pose space and retreated to a corner where I pulled on my old clothes and new boots. Artworks were spread upon the floor for much admiration and appreciation before all too soon it was time to drift away into the rain. Like new boots on a wet night, Drawing the Star is ever a comfort and joy.

The Birds, Leytonstone, 18 October 2022

First the bad news. This was supposed to day one of a Tuesday-Wednesday booking for Leytonstone Life Drawing at The Birds. Sadly only a few hours before I arrived, group organiser Jennifer was told by the venue that she could no longer make use of the upstairs function room on Wednesdays. My two-day gig had halved. All I could do was make the most of this evening.

On the plus side, so many artists turned up to draw that it felt as though I was posing for two evening’s worth of people in one go. We started with quick stuff, five 2-minute poses, followed by three 5-minute poses: standing, kneeling, standing, standing, and standing; then sitting, standing, sitting again. It hardly sounds inspiring seems when I write it like that, but do allow for varying rotations, contortions, twists and angles.

At this point I believe the original intent was to continue with two poses of 10 minutes each. Jennifer was keen to pop home and fetch some extra lighting, however, so she delegated timing duties to a trusted regular attendee and asked for a 20-minute pose instead. No problem. While I stood with my left hand raised, right hand down and out, those who wished to sketch for shorter periods simply moved about the room.

After a break for drinks and socialising, artists were given a choice: would they prefer one pose of 45 minutes or two poses of 25 and 20 minutes? It seemed only a third of the group felt sufficiently impassioned to take part in the show of hands, but the clear preference was two poses. For the first, I stood with both hands outstretched at waist level; for the second, I sat with left leg outstretched, right crossing over, left arm up

What a great session for a talented group. It was another of those rarities in which I’d felt I was smiling all the way through. I would have loved a second evening with them but, alas, it wasn’t to be. And now Leytonstone Life Drawing needs a new home so anybody reading this with a venue in Leyton and a passion for art, get in touch! Send ideas to J_wolfmail[at] – Thank you. 🙂

cave, London, 18 October 2022

With its ever-evolving character as a vintage shop, workshop, art space, event space and meeting place, the only thing certain about the layout of cave in Pimlico is it will be interesting. When I arrived for this evening’s life drawing it was being prepared for an imminent new exhibition. I would be modelling in the farthest small gallery space.

Small the gallery may be, but it is accommodating. I would be posing with my back to one wall flanked by heaters, while chairs occupied every available centimetre around the other three. All seats had been filled by the time the last artist arrived, so they sat cross-legged on what remained of the floor.

Short poses were the order of the day. We began with three of 3 minutes, followed by three of 5 minutes. Two poses of 10 minutes each came next, and finally one pose of 15 minutes took us to a break. I then joined artists in returning to the main retail room of cave, where group organiser Jane provided complimentary Prosecco. Cheers!

A quick half-time glance at artworks created thus far revealed what I presumed would be the case: my proximity to the artists in such an intimate space meant very few had captured my full head-to-toe figure, especially when standing. This needed rectifying, so after the interval I decided to stick with only compact seated poses.

I resumed with legs crossed, back straight, and hands resting serenely on my knees. After 15 minutes, I opened up with right knee raised and right arm balanced across it for 20 minutes until the end. It had been a happy friendly session, to the extent I was conscious of having smiled naturally in pose almost throughout. Now that’s special.

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