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The Conservatoire, Blackheath, 12 October 2020

14 Oct 2020

This session at The Conservatoire, Blackheath, was only my second life modelling job since the UK coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown of spring and summer 2020. The door is once more ajar for in-person life drawing, yet with coronavirus cases, hospital admissions and deaths on the rise, I fear it won’t be for long. At least the Victorian art studio here offers plenty of room for two-metre social distancing.

All doors were wide open to the street when I arrived, providing maximum ventilation. Instinctively I wanted to close them and keep the cold air out but, of course, priorities have shifted now. Two mini radiators and a ceramic heater soon got the space warm. They felt safer than fan heaters that redirect each exhaled breath towards the model. We began with quick poses of 1 minute, 1 minute, 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes.

A single long pose would occupy the remaining 2 hours. Tutor Victoria Rance asked whether I would oblige the class with a standing pose – in particular, a revision of the arms-out posture I’d made with 219 others for Spencer Tunick’s Everyone Together photographic installation one month earlier. Victoria called it the “Doctor Who pose”, as it resembles the Time Lord’s dramatic stance when regenerating…


‘Everyone Together’

Doctor Who

For a mass photoshoot, one might be in pose for a few minutes. For the wracked and dying Doctor, it’s mere seconds. For me, however, it would be a couple of hours. With six artists looking on, I planted my feet, arched my back and spread my arms. From a little after 8pm till 8:35pm it was OK. From 8:45pm to 9:05pm, my left arm went numb and my back began to lock. Thereafter, it was agony. We finished a bit before 10pm.

It would take days rather than seconds for my human body to regenerate. Six months of limited activity, chair-bound hunching and insufficient preparation took an inevitable toll. Put simply, I was out of shape and out of practice. Life in 2020 has been all about getting through it and finding a ‘new normal’; here my muscles experienced the same. I’m sure I must have grimaced a few times but portraits were captured nonetheless.

Despite my pains, I’m thankful for the opportunity. My last job had been comfortable, and now this was more of a test. But with a second lockdown looking probable before the end of the year, both rough and smooth are to be cherished alike. What once had been regular work is now a rare treat. Hopefully it’s not unreasonable to keep it going into the long dark months of winter. No life has no risk; this one felt well-managed.

From → Art

One Comment
  1. boykog permalink

    so true, we all feel like an overspent long distance runner. I am reading this and hear myself. Not an easy job to be Dr Who, lovely artworks though. That group is a joy to work with, and the atelier is spectacular…
    So long Dr Who….I am gonna catch up at some point,…

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