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The Dellow Centre, London, 12 May 2019

21 May 2019

Amongst all the usual life modelling paraphernalia on the floor of The Dellow Centre there was a rope, apparently left behind by a previous model. Well, what was I to do? For my opening 15-minute pose I hooked it beneath a corner of the wooden pallet on which I was standing, wrapped it round my shoulders and shaped as if to be pulling it. That’ll teach me to use someone else’s props; I was quite achy by the end.

Next was the quick-fire sequence. Life drawing Aldgate and Shoreditch organiser, Tim suggested a resurrection theme – as the pose lengths went down, I steadily rose up: 3-minutes, 2-minutes, 1-and-a-half-minutes, 1-minute, 50-seconds, 40, 30, 20 and finally 12-seconds. I think I reached peak resurrection at 30-seconds but hopefully got away with it. Two 20-minute poses – one with a pole, one seated – took us to a break.

The first-half poses had all been in the round, but after tea and chocolate biscuits Tim decided to rearrange chairs and easels so I could have my back to a wall for one final pose. He moved a wooden chair into position then demonstrated what he had in mind by sitting on it with hands behind his head, in a long low recline like a plank. “Can you hold this for 40-minutes?” he asked, “it’s a Euan Uglow torture pose.”

‘The Diagonal’ by Euan Uglow, 1971-1977

Like a heroic fool I attempted the position, but it was immediately evident that my long legs and body couldn’t even begin to balance like a plank across such a little chair, let alone sustain it. Tim confessed that the previous week’s model had also declined, and suggested modifications: sit up straight, bend one knee and have my hands down. So now it was a much more conventional seated pose. Sweet mercy.

I placed cushions beneath my backside, shoulder blades and both heels, then simply sat back and let the artists practice their skills for nigh on three-quarters of an hour. It was a painless pose, which was humane as my legs were still feeling the after effects of my initial ropework. The session produced a mix of fine drawings and fun drawings, which hopefully meant I did well. And Tim seemed happy, despite the lack of torture.

From → Art

  1. Hi Steve

    ‘The Diagonal’ by Euan Uglow

    I may have an explanation of why you found it difficult. The clue is in the diagonal line visible in his painting.

    Uglow would prepare his studio in advance with “plumb lines”, so the line in the painting also exists on the wall of his studio. He would put the model into the pose and wait for her to “settle” until she was level with (in this case) the diagonal line. He would not begin to work until she reached this point, and when she passed below the line, he’d stop. So he may perhaps spend only a few minutes on the work during a session.

    I can’t find a link giving details of how long The Diagonal took to complete, but generally his method was to return many times to a painting over perhaps a year, or more. So for The Diagonal, I expect at every session he would repeat the process of letting the model settle and stopping if/when she passed the line.

    This may explain why it’s impossible to hold the pose – perhaps Uglow didn’t expect the model to be able to hold it for more than a few minutes?

    This link has images of his studio with his “plumb marks”

    For another description of how he worked, with quotes from him and his models see this link:

    “I posed for him for several weeks …. When I saw how little he had done at each session, I couldn’t believe it. After about 20 hours all we had was a sketch that looked as though he could have knocked it off in an afternoon.”

    “Uglow was …a meticulous artist who never rushed. He would produce only a couple of pictures a year but The Wave, a crouching nude with arms outstretched, took even longer than usual. “I saw the model today and she said she’d posed for seven years,” said Uglow …”I thought it was five. But she took a year off because she was ill… now the model’s so smart that I have to phone her secretary to get in touch. She was a student, now she’s a posh lawyer.”

    Uglow on his models: “It’s quite a commitment – a terrible commitment, I’m sure. I feel sorry for them, but I can’t go any faster. I could splodge off something in three-quarters of an hour but it wouldn’t mean anything to me. I’m not interested in it.”

    On “The Diagonal”: Uglow said he could have used a plank instead of the model but added: “Much more interesting to look at a girl than a plank.”

    Hope you find this useful!


    • Many thanks, Martin!
      I knew a bit about Euan Uglow but not all those details. Interesting.
      Aside from the painstaking method, however, the main problem for me on the small upright chair provided was simply being able to balance my plank-straight 6’4″ frame from shoulders on the chair-back to feet on the floor, and still rest my backside on the edge of the seat.
      Some things are just not meant to be…

  2. Oh, I just found it. “The Diagonal” took 7 years to complete!

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