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Lochaber Hall, London, 12 October 2019

After a quiet week with zero life modelling, this Saturday morning return to Lochabar Hall was just what I needed. The pose times here are ideal for me; lots of quick work to get us started, then a mid-length piece and finally one long pose to the end. In fact my spirits were sufficiently upbeat that not even portentous utterances like “I’m afraid the council hasn’t switched on the radiators yet” could render them low.

Daybreak had been a drizzly and none-too-warm affair, but I was furnished with a pair of small heaters and the promise of a third if needed. I opened with six poses each of 5-minutes – standing, squatting, standing, sitting, standing, and standing – in a range of orientations, with nine artists at easels or holding sketchbooks, set as a semi-circle around me. The poses alone would have kept me tolerably warm, I think. Maybe.

For the mid-length pose I lay down with my body twisted and one arm pointed directly upwards for 20-minutes. This was the third successive booking in which I’ve used this pose. Each time doubts have been expressed at the outset, followed by admiration at the end. For me, however, it’s relatively effortless and sustainable. If I didn’t suspect it might be bad for my circulation, I would be happy to hold it for much longer.

With one pose and two hours remaining, I got into a comfortable position seated upon cushions and sheets on the floor. The third heater was brought into play and acquitted itself well for about quarter of an hour before fizzling out. Tea and chocolate biscuits at the break provided a more reliable tonic. I felt neither pain nor numbness, so I finished the session with high spirits intact. A fitting way to begin a fine weekend.

The Dellow Centre, London, 6 October 2019

11:30am at The Dellow Centre for Life drawing Aldgate and Shoreditch: I began with a warm-up pose of 15-20 minutes, continued with a 3-to-3 sequence followed by two poses of 20-minutes up to a break, then saw off the session with a single pose of 45-minutes. That was the basic mechanics of it, and everything proceeded nicely, but really I shouldn’t have been there for 11:30am at all.

There are three sessions here at weekends: 11:30am Saturday, 11:30am Sunday and 2:30pm Sunday. Back on 30 July I’d been booked into the second Sunday slot for this weekend, but then on 30 September I was asked if I could shift over to the earlier one. My instinctive paranoid suspicion was that I’d been bumped to accommodate another model deemed sexier and more lucrative. The truth, however, was more curious…

Apparently several young women who attend as artists have said they are only willing to draw female models. Evidently their economic influence is enough to have resulted in male models being purged from the Sunday afternoon roster. I was resentful at first because the late change did rather screw up my intentions for the weekend, but I also feel for Tim, the group’s organiser – his would have been an awkward predicament.

With new life drawing groups continually springing up around London, unintentionally creating increased competition for artists, it’s harder than ever for established groups to remain untouched and idealistically faithful to pure life drawing practice. There has been a ‘sexing-up’ across the scene in recent years, and now tough financial realities are clearly bringing other influences to bear.

I hope we never lose the essential honest wonder of life drawing: where an artist can attend a class that does not have to rely on the promise of glamour or novelty; where the unique human being they are invited to draw could be of any demographic and is guaranteed only to have a professional attitude; and where that artist can be inspired simply by the natural physicality and momentary expressiveness of each pose.

This group has been a positive presence for life drawing in east London for years and hopefully it will continue to flourish as such. I’ll be back here for the second Sunday in December… morning, of course. Oh, and the 3-to-3 sequence? 3-minutes, 2-minutes, 1-minute, 50-seconds, 40, 30, 15, 7 and 3-seconds. I opened by standing upright with arms outstretched, then gradually lowered and curled into a ball. My fall.

Footnote, 13 October 2019: this Sunday afternoon, Adrian Gillian – arguably London’s top male life model – will be posing for the Sunday afternoon slot at The Dellow Centre. Read into that what you will!

Garrett Centre, London, 25 September 2019

While I stood for the opening 15-minute pose, more and more people trickled into the room. Group organiser Adrian Dutton greeted each new arrival and got them settled with drawing materials. It looked likely to be another full house at the Garrett Centre. When a quarter of an hour had elapsed, we moved on to five 1-minute poses.

Our quick-fire work was followed by poses of 5, 10 and 20-minutes. For the middle of these, I stood with arms out at waist level. Once during a similar pose here, one artist embellished the scene by giving me a shopping bag to hold; this time a different artist gave me a ballroom dancing partner. I do love a bit of creative elaboration.

After an interval in which artists could help themselves to hot lentil dalh, biscuits, teas and wine, we resumed with a 10-minute pose and a real treat: Adrian embarked upon one of his meandering discourses on art and artists. It’s been such a long time since I last heard him do this, but I always find it a fascinating lyrical addition to life drawing.

The session ended with poses of 15-minutes and 25-minutes. From reclining with one arm raised, I switched to standing with the other arm wrapped over my head and then saw out the evening seated on a stool with both arms reaching behind me. An ancient Honeywell heater, good spirits and a positive vibe in the room kept me warm.

Brockley Adult Education Centre, London, 24 September 2019

First time life modelling at any adult college – in this case Brockley Adult Education Centre – there’s only one thing truly certain: paperwork. No doubt it’s required by law rather than something they do for fun, but it meant that when Esther and I arrived for this duo session we needed our passports, bank details, National Insurance numbers and had to complete two sets of forms. Only then could we navigate to the art room…

Awaiting us inside was tutor, Joanna McCormick. I’d previously posed for Jo’s group at Little Nan’s Bar in Deptford back in June, where one of the artists here today had also been drawing. In fact, only two artists would be drawing us at this session, which was a regrettably low number but it did give proceedings a more relaxed intimate feel. We began with five 1-minute poses, followed by 3, 5 and 10-minutes to a first break.

I’m never sure if it’s confidence, bravery, complacency or folly that motivates artists to attempt capturing two intertwined figures in just 60 seconds. Whatever the case here, it was done staggering well. The best I’ve ever seen for duo poses at such speed. We resumed with a 15-minute pose for which we were slightly apart, connected by gazing eyes and hand contact. A 45-minute reclining cuddle took us to the next break.

Whilst the artists popped out to get coffees, Jo handed Esther and me a third piece of paperwork; the first two had been registration for employment whereas this was a pay claim. I do wonder whether the cost of processing such bureaucracy might be greater than the value of any potential fraud it could prevent. But, whatever. For our last pose, Esther chose to recline gently downwards whilst I sat cradling her legs for 50-minutes.

With early autumn sunshine streaming through the windows and good-natured spirits in the room, this was a very pleasant afternoon’s work. Unless more artists are found for the course, however, it seems doubtful that all our form-filling could lead to further duo bookings. And the punchline? Receiving emails six days later, informing us there was one more document that needed to be completed… Ah, but it was a lovely day.

The Star by Hackney Downs, 17 September 2019

5-minutes standing with one ear cupped, 4-minutes on one knee with an elbow raised and its hand upon my head, 3-minutes on both knees with one arm held straight at an angle extended high, 2-minutes, three of 1-minute, three of 30-seconds…

This was the fourth time I had modelled at The Star by Hackney Downs for Drawing the Star in 2019, so I was making a point to try new pose variations that I hadn’t used here before. Next, 10-minutes seated with a straight leg and both hands to one side.

I closed the first half standing upright for 10-minutes with one hand reaching over and onto the rear of my head whilst the other pushed as a fist into the arch of my back. An interval followed; our good crowd of artists filtered downstairs for drinks while I rested.

To begin the second half I lay upon the floor with one arm stretched directly upright for 15-minutes, then concluded the session standing with one knee resting on a stool and a hand behind my neck – both new poses, doubtless destined to be used elsewhere.

A fine session and, as ever, enjoyable as much for its social aspect as the creativity. I stayed for a drink and lively banter with organiser Catherine, artist Franco, latecomer Drew, plus many others. I never tire of returning; never take for granted being invited.

West Wickham Arts, Hayes, 16 September 2019

West Wickham Arts Association holds life drawing sessions at Hayes Free Church way down in south-east London, getting towards Kent. It’s a long way from my regular territory, but I warmed to an invitation from one of the association’s members who had seen me modelling several times at Mall Galleries, so decided to take the plunge.

Horrendous railway disruption magically worked in my favour so I got to Hayes earlier than expected. This meant I found myself loitering outside the church hall with crowds of parents waiting to collect their kids from whichever event preceded the life drawing. It seemed to take ages for them to disperse so I suspect we started a little late.

I would be posing in the round for nigh on a dozen association artists – all friendly and welcoming folk. We opened with short dynamic poses: 5-minutes standing followed by 10-minutes down on one knee with my left arm outstretched. Next I was upright again, this time for 25-minutes, taking us to a break. Tea and Bourbons were served.

I’m always concerned to come up with a few poses that are either wholly original or at least appreciable variations when I return to venues that have booked me many times in the past – artists are apt to grumble about models who keep repeating poses. Here, however, I was new to almost everyone so I relaxed into a couple of old favourites.

A 45-minute seated pose took me to the finish, comfortable save for a slight chill after the heater cut out prematurely. Nonetheless, I gladly agreed when asked if I would be willing to return. All that remained was to tackle the trains home – still badly disrupted but, with a nice bag of chips, I simply waited phlegmatically for whatever would be…

The Workshop N4, London, 10 September 2019

Back to Haringey, north London for the first session in a new term of adult life drawing at The Workshop N4. As I passed through its front door, the first thing that struck me was a heady air of sweetly fragrant incense. The group’s organiser, Lisa explained this was to refresh the aroma left by the day’s earlier children’s group…

Multiple misfortunes aligned on my previous visit here to ensure that I was modelling for considerably less than a full house of artists. Happily, we enjoyed a 400% increase in attendance this evening. I started with a 15-minute standing pose and then followed it with sideways and forward-facing seated poses of 20-minutes each.

We had time enough for a last pose of 25-minutes – something of the reclining variety, maybe. I suggested sitting on the floor but resting my arms and head upon a low stool that was draped with cloth. I knew from experience it would ultimately render my arms numb, but also knew the numbness couldn’t last too long in a pose of this length.

In due course I did indeed lose sensation in my arms but only for a few minutes before the end. After a moment or two to recover, I was on my feet and enjoying the drawings that had been crafted. It had been my third time modelling here this year – more than I imagined could be the case at the outset – and each occasion has been a jolly one.

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