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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. πŸ™‚ 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 toΒ 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,Β 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. πŸ™‚

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.

The Victoria Stakes, London, 17 October 2022

I emerged from the London Overground at Crouch Hill. More than nine years ago, on the occasion of my first booking with The Moon and Nude, I turned left for The Old Dairy pub. Now I turn right on a far longer walk, almost five years to the day since my debut for them at their current home: The Victoria Stakes. I arrived early, got a large red wine and ascended to where an oval of chairs awaited in the function room.

Artwork by Rosalind Freeborn.

Artwork by Rosalind Freeborn.

At the centre of the oval was a tapestry suitcase, waiting to be opened and disgorged of art materials. I sat alone in the half-light, feeling nostalgia for bygone sessions until my reverie was restored to the present when The Moon and Nude’s Julia walked in. It didn’t take long for the space to be ready and artists to join us. The sequence of pose lengths remained just as I fondly remembered, beginning: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 minutes.

Artwork by Rosalind Freeborn.

Artwork by Rosalind Freeborn.

The classic sequence continued – pose lengths of 10, 15, and 20 minutes took us up to an interval. Different groups operate different timings, but it’s not uncommon to get asked for three poses of 10 to 20 minutes before a break. Nowadays my tendency is to favour one pose standing, one sitting and one reclining. It’s just a question of what order. This evening as I sat for 10 minutes, stood for 15, and reclined for 20.

Artwork by Rosalind Freeborn.

The second half would be a single pose of 40 minutes. I was feeling comfortable and altruistic so I asked Julia, “Is there any particular type of pose the group would prefer: standing, sitting, reclining? What have other models done recently?” Julia’s reply: “To be honest, most just lay down.” Very well… I would stand. Not an act of self-sacrifice, heroism or one-upmanship; I just felt warmly disposed and supportive in the moment.

Artwork by Rosalind Freeborn.

Life modelling can be unpredictable. I’d stood for 40-minutes and felt only a couple of dull aches whereas a few seconds into the opening 1-minute pose I’d been seized by the most painful cramp in my left calf, which lingered for days. But overall it had been a gentle evening. Whilst it’s great to work with many groups, I cherish my long history and feeling of connection with The Moon and Nude. See you again soon: 9 January!

Garrett Centre, London, 12 October 2022

Complacency about the need for a plan ahead of my last visit to the Garrett Centre resulted in me having to invent new poses to get through the first half-hour. This time I’d decided to contemplate some options on the journey there… but a failed tube train disrupted my train of thought, so yet again I would begin making them up on the fly.

I arrived on time to find the room crammed with artists, and still more coming through the door. It meant we started late but this was fine as it allowed me to settle mentally. To compensate, the first 15-minute pose seemed to last just 12. Five 1-minute poses followed, then a 5-minute pose, and then a 10-minute pose that overran to 12.

It’s not unknown for there to be fluidity in pose times at Adrian Dutton’s groups. I’ve learned to factor this in when selecting poses at particular moments; especially when Adrian is working alone and cooking a superb dahl for the group to enjoy at half-time. Specifically: nothing too strenuous for the 20-minute pose before the interval!

It had been a pretty comfortable first half. When Adrian brought it to a close and gave the artists a run-down of catering and group admin details, I slipped into my robe and out the door to get a mugful of dahl, some crisps, and a jellybaby for dessert. After an extended break, we resumed with a pose of 10-15 minutes.

By the time this penultimate pose was called to a halt we had 22 minutes left until our scheduled 9pm finish. Thus the final pose lasted 22 minutes. Working in the round all evening, I’d been alternating direction with each change and now did so one last time. Hopefully I managed to provide a pretty fair balance of views from all perspectives.

It had been a very enjoyable session in which I’d felt lots of positivity round the room. At the end, artists set out drawings on the floor for each other to see. Strong works, I thought, reflecting talent, enthusiasm, and the will to constantly explore and improve. This will probably be my last session with Adrian in 2022… so bring on 2023! πŸ™‚

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