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Stephanie Mills portrait sessions, August 2019 to January 2020

31 Jan 2020

After two pleasant evenings life modelling for artists at Hutton Community Centre in June and July last year, I was invited by group organiser Stephanie Mills to pose for portraiture at her home studio. Having beheld the astoundingly fine quality of her art, I needed no encouragement to accept. The intended drawing would be developed over multiple sittings, each one lasting 3 hours. Work commenced on 8 August 2019.

At the end of week 1.

That first session set the pattern for all that followed. I stared at my gaze point on the far wall for seven periods of 20 minutes, with five timed breaks of 5-minutes plus one break of 15-minutes giving us the full 3 hours. Measurements and marks were made, some blocking-in began, and then… nearly five months elapsed. Even art has to wait for the right moments on a long journey. We resumed on 3 January 2020.

At the end of week 3.

I wondered whether Stephanie would prefer to start anew after so much time, but she was happy to continue from where we’d left off. We recalibrated the required direction for my gaze and stuck a lump of black putty onto the wall as a marker. That putty held my unwavering attention throughout this session and three that came after. It was just a blurry smudge without my glasses, and hazed-out even more as my mind drifted.

At the end of week 5.

The third, fourth and fifth of our five sessions followed swiftly on 6, 14 and 21 January. While I remained transfixed by putty, Stephanie’s long-nibbed pencils fizzed feverishly upon her paper. The sound seemed so rough, sketchy, haphazard – it was impossible to reconcile it with the extraordinarily fine and precise work of art emerging. Such skill is beyond my comprehension. I felt privileged to be its subject.

Time never dragged; neither did the notorious soporific effects of portrait posing ever take a hold. Weirdly the third of every seven 20-minute pose periods seemed to race by. K+E on Soundcloud played us through till, at the finish, when the last periods of the last session had at last accelerated away, I turned away from my putty, rose from my comfy chair and… gazed upon the most exquisite drawing of me ever made.

From → Art

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