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Brockley Adult Education Centre, London, 26 April 2023

Hands and feet‘ was the theme of this class at Brockley Adult Education Centre. I always tend to be gestural with my hands when modelling, but what comes naturally when given no thought is quite another matter when closely scrutinised. We opened with poses of 5, 6 and 7 minutes before devoting 8 minutes to the study of hands.

Loose lines by Joanna McCormick.

I couldn’t do much about my bitten fingernails before the session, but at least I could trim the nails of my toes. Their time to shine was the next pose of 9 minutes. A break followed, after which we ended our evening’s exertions with a final 35-minute seated pose that once more positioned hands and feet to the fore.

Artwork by Dick Graham.

Hands and feet as subjects are notoriously the arch foes of figurative artists. Many a student at this class engaged with them only reluctantly, favouring the whole body or even portraiture. This was gratifying in a way; nobody likes to imagine they’re posing fully naked and contorted for students who are sketching nothing but appendages!

Arts Theatre, London, 25 April 2023

After Painting the Figure, Portrait Drawing and Portrait Painting classes, plus another Painting the Figure, my fifth booking this year for City Academy at Arts Theatre was straightforward Life Drawing. Tutor Lawrence Crane began the session by sketching me in a 2-minute demo, then requested five more 2-minute poses for his students.

After these quick warm-ups I was asked to reprise my opening demo pose, now for a longer 5-minute demo. And then things got tricky: same pose requested yet again for an altogether more taxing 30 minutes. Poses concocted in haste with a 2-minute limit in mind don’t automatically translate to a static pain-free half-hour.

I succeeded in sustaining a precarious posture with twisted torso and elevated elbow for 18 minutes before seeking merciful release. After pausing to shake sensation into the arm that I’d hooked over my head, I completed the remaining 12 minutes. What a trooper! I recovered during a tuition theory phase, ending with a final 12-minute pose.

During the last pose Lawrence set his students their homework. He asked them each first to name an artwork or artist they found most inspiring, then to put that inspiration into practice before next week’s class. Meanwhile I stood nude, silent and scrutinised amidst all these notions, thinking about art that’s captivated me…

Inspirational artworks

Johannes Vermeer:
The Milkmaid‘ (1657 or 1658)
Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid‘ (1670-1671)

Egon Schiele:
‘Self-portrait standing’ (1910)
‘Squatting male, self-portrait’ (1917)

Fairkytes Arts Centre, London, 19 April 2023

Opportunities for duo life modelling as a couple are thinning out. Prior to this session, Esther and I hadn’t posed together since January 2022. LeNu Life Drawing, run by our friend Natansky, happily ended our barren spell in 2023 by inviting us once more for an evening at Fairkytes Arts Centre. Last time we were both here was 2018!

At 7:30pm we started in the round with poses of 5, 10 and 15 minutes. Artists studied and captured us with quiet concentration. LeNu Life Drawing has matured – gone are the days of constant chatter throughout. Since the COVID-19 lockdowns it has grown both in numbers and seriousness. Now everybody concentrates on their art.

A further 15-minute pose took us to the half-time interval. Whilst the group’s full focus had been on making art during the preceding three-quarters of an hour, at break-time they swiftly relaxed into being as cheerful, social and engaging as ever. After tea and biscuits we resumed with a 20-minute pose sitting side-by-side on a piano seat.

Esther felt she needed to stand for the final 25 minutes, so we reprised the last of our 15-minute poses with me sitting wrapped around one of her legs. For variety, I picked the left leg instead of right, Esther switched gestures and most importantly we rotated ninety degrees. Thus a familiar pose became wholly original from all perspectives.

It’s a shame there is only quarter of an hour between this session ending and the last train running south from nearby Emerson Park station. It means we have just enough time to get dressed and photograph a few drawings before dashing off. We managed to mingle a little but then had to say our fond farewells. Thanks for having us back!

The Plough and Harrow, London, 18 April 2023

A short-notice booking brought me back to The Plough and Harrow in Leytonstone for the first time since 2017. Not that Life Drawing in Leytonstone neglected me for more than 5 years; venues change, and now this one had switched back. We started with three 3-minute nude poses, and then 5 minutes with my clothes back on.

Artwork by Olga Szynkarczuk.

Artwork by Mark Doherty.

Artwork by Olga Szynkarczuk.

Clothes back on?” You heard correct. This was group organiser Jennifer’s concept: I would first pose for 5 minutes clothed, then strip off and hold the exact same pose for 5 minutes naked. Artists would draw me nude each time – first from imagination, next from observation – and compare. Great fun: the art of mentally undressing strangers!

Artwork by Mark Doherty.

Artwork by Jennifer Wolf.

Artwork by Mark Doherty.

Energised by the originality of our dressed/undressed poses, I became careless with subsequent selections and adopted a needlessly uncomfortable kneeling position for the next 12 minutes. When set free from tearing tightness in tendons and toes, I was kinder to myself in choosing a side-saddle seated pose for 12 minutes to our break.

Artwork by Olga Szynkarczuk.

Artwork by Mark Doherty.

After the interval we would have two 20-minute poses taking us through to the end of the evening. Yet again I got it wrong, adding an unnecessary extra torso tilt to a pose with one arm over my head and the other stretching across my chest. It meant a little too much muscle effort was required to compensate for a slight overbalance.

Artwork by Mark Doherty.

Artwork by Olga Szynkarczuk.

Artwork by Olga Szynkarczuk.

Even with self-inflicted aches and pains, I do love working for this group. Once again my recovery position was sitting down, this time with one knee crooked upwards and both arms reaching forwards. I was feeling happy… and my smile didn’t go unnoticed by keen-eyed artists. 🙂

Artwork by Mark Doherty.

Arts Theatre, London, 14 April 2023

Four sessions in 2023 for City Academy at Arts Theatre, with no two alike. This one was rather spartan – a ‘Painting the figure‘ class led by one stand-in tutor (José), with one model (me) for one student. Without a plethora of people and paints, studios can be cold, cold places; and with just a pair of diminutive floor heaters toiling against the odds, this one certainly was. After ‘warming up’ with poses of 5, 7, and 7 minutes, we set-up the long pose that would occupy most of the evening’s two and a half hours.

My angular short poses had been well received, so I was asked to provide something similar for the long pose. A pose that can be held for 5 minutes cannot necessarily be held for 95, but with a couch and careful consideration we concocted a compromise. I endured a chilly first 40 minutes up to our break, then repositioned the heaters so our next 50 minutes were tolerable enough for me to agree extending by 5 minutes more. It had been a tough, peculiar gig, but a nice painting justified it… just. 🙂

Mall Galleries, London, 31 March 2023

Back at Mall Galleries to sit for the portrait artists of Hesketh Hubbard Art Society, my first objective was accessing their pivotal throne. Again and again, I paced round the perimeter of portraitists who’d assembled tightly into a double arc but I could find no means of ingress. It was a busy night. When finally an oil painter momentarily left his station, I slid carefully betwixt poised paraphernalia and eased into the hotseat.

As always, it was to be a 2-hour pose: 1-hour without a break then fifteen minutes for tea and biscuits, followed by a final hour without a break. Imperceptible to my myopic vision, Esther was at the far end of the gallery fashioning 15/30-minute poses, whilst our friend the legendary Leo @Jigglechick87 held a long pose between us. Cometh the hour’s end, I took stock of works in progress; loved that one below!

In a domestic setting it’s not unknown for me to make a mug of tea last for an hour or more, but here speed was of the essence. I orbited in front of the refreshments table, taking a custard cream, digestive or ginger snap each time to help the hot drink on its way down. Thus sated, I returned for the second hour, which as always seemed to fly faster than the first. And what magnificent works resulted…

Artwork by Richard Gray.

Artwork by Desmond Sloane.

Artwork by Tony Swann.

The disciplines of life modelling and portrait modelling are profoundly different, and in more ways than the obvious. It doesn’t follow at all that just because a person has an aptitude and inclination for life modelling they will be equally willing and able to sit for portraitists. Nonetheless, perhaps inexplicably I’m ever more content to do it and was very happy to sit back while the brilliance of Leo and Esther shone for life.

“Model trifecta of the apocalypse…”

Brockley Adult Education Centre, London, 22 March 2023

This was a nice one – the last session of spring term attended by the most artists I’ve ever seen for a life drawing class in Brockley Adult Education Centre. Our tutor, Jo showed images of drawings and a promotional video by local star Curtis Holder as inspiration for practising the use of loose colourful fine lines. And it worked.

We began with quick poses. Not a typical 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 minutes, or even a 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, but a quirky 1, 2, 3, 3, 2, 1. Well why not? Mix it up. A check-in on how everyone was progressing showed all were up for the challenge and smashing it. For the next 6, 10 and 15 minutes I sat, stood and sat, taking us to our break.

Artwork by Dick Graham.

We finished with a single pose of 40-minutes. Propped up against a folding mattress, no tensions or aches, all pressure points evenly balanced, I was comfortable enough to go the distance without needing a stretch. Gentle work with the last sippings of my tasty half-time lemon and ginger tea for reward at the end. Lovely vibe in the room.

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