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The Conservatoire, Blackheath, 4 October 2021

9 Oct 2021

That most encouraging of sights greeted me as I entered the high-ceilinged Victorian art building of The Conservatoire in Blackheath: a full complement of artists’ easels set-out in a circle. In-person life drawing is back and perhaps more popular than ever. A wooden platform awaited me in the round. I positioned layers of foam across it to a satisfactory depth, spread my trusty white sheet over the top and was ready to begin. When tutor Victoria Rance and ten artists were ready too, I started with a traditional warm-up sequence: three poses of 1 minute, one of 5 minutes, one of 10 minutes.

There were plenty of new young faces behind the pencils extended at arm’s length to measure my proportions. This is also encouraging, though it would be nice to see the pre-pandemic regulars enjoying their practice too. I hope they’ve stayed well and can return in their own good time. Meanwhile my next priority was to prepare a long pose. Victoria had a clear vision: my platform was moved to a side wall and a high stool put on top for me to part-sit, part-lean upon for around 2 hours. Quite straightforward and symmetrical; I think my only creative input was to rest my hands on my thighs.

Once in position I felt pretty good – more optimistic for relative comfort than fearful of aching endurance. And so it was. Only three rest breaks were required between 8pm and 10pm. Nothing in the pose was painful; stretches were taken solely to relieve the creeping effect of changelessness stiffening my muscles. Warmth is the other crucial factor for comfort and this was very well provided by two ceramic heating elements in the electric heater at my feet. I’ll take one of this type rather than multiple fan heaters any day. A tropical cocoon is assured.

When artists observe my upright figure in a long pose, their primary challenge seems always to be getting the proportions right. Specifically, overriding what their brain tells them about the more-often observed relative proportionalities of body and leg lengths so they can accurately represent my own somewhat freakish ratios. In this pose, they had the extra complication of angled legs lending a foreshortening effect from certain perspectives. All things considered, I reckon they did splendidly. I hope they returned home feeling as pleased with their artworks as I was.

From → Art

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