Skip to content

St Peter de Beauvoir Town, Hackney, London

The passage of time brought me to an old friend at a new venue. It had been 9 years and 10 days since I first modelled for one of Adrian Dutton’s groups. Since then we had worked together 65 times in 10 different settings until a pandemic came between us. We reconnected here, at St Peter de Beauvoir Town; session 66, setting 11.

Artwork by Peter Dobbin.

Artwork by Peter Dobbin.

Artwork by Peter Dobbin.

The start was considerably more energetic than I expected. After a 5-minute opening pose, we launched immediately into no fewer than fifteen 1-minute poses. Fifteen! I’d anticipated some quickfire work but nothing on this scale. I pivoted, stretched, folded, reached, kneeled, arched, turned, turned and turned again, loving every minute.

Artwork by Peter Dobbin.

Next I had to stay still for fully 10 minutes. It felt like an incomprehensible proposition, but I lucky-dipped my mind for a routine stance to suit the pose length. After standing with hands over and under my face, I ended the first half seated on the floor with one arm resting across a raised knee for 25 minutes.

Artwork by Peter Dobbin.

A break for quarter of an hour gave time to enjoy a mug of tea (slopping boiling water on my feet) plus pita bread, crisps, a custard cream and some lovely conversations. I resumed with a 15-minute pose back upon the floor with arms angled in a way that at first felt interesting, but became increasingly uncomfortable.

Artwork by Peter Dobbin.

And then the final pose, a 25-minute throwback: wide stance, one arm draped across the top of my head, the other around my back. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Tonight was an example of the latter. After ten minutes the upper arm started to tingle, by twenty it was dead, and at twenty-four and forty seconds it slipped off…

Artwork by Peter Dobbin.

It’s hard, balancing a dead weight upon your head when the rest of your body cannot move; especially when that weight is one your own limbs. There were gasps as it fell, but these segued to applause as Adrian called the session’s natural 9pm finish. I had pushed myself a tad more was than necessary. Why? Old times’ sake, I guess.

The Star by Hackney Downs, 28 June 2022

Informal life drawing groups often lose artists on early summer evenings that promise long light warm hours, without fear of rain. Upstairs at The Star by Hackney Downs, uncovered windows were wide open bringing a bright celebratory seasonal freshness to Drawing the Star, yet still – alas – numbers dipped.

Even in reduced circumstances, however, the atmosphere here is always upbeat and engaging. Organiser Catherine Hall sets the tone; a reliable playlist adds richness to proceedings, and short poses keep us fizzing along: 5 minutes, 4 minutes, 3 minutes, 2 minutes, then three of 1-minute and three of 30-seconds.

After high-energy freewheeling through six poses in fewer than five minutes, the next pose of 10 minutes feels like a long languid hiatus within which to recompose. It’s the relieving semicolon that draws breath after a rat-a-tat burst of commas. I sat on a low stool and made a shape way too angular for comfort but, hey, it’s the job.

I got back up on my feet for one more 10-minute pose before our break. Legs loosely crossed, right forearm vertical to chest, right hand cradling chin, left forearm on head, left hand cupping right ear, left fingertips touching right fingertips… I borrowed heavily from the extraordinary self-portrait works of Egon Schiele. I borrow often.

Drinks were replenished during the interval. As we resumed for our final half-an-hour, Catherine called for a show of hands to decide pose times: 10/10/10, 15/15, 10/20 or 30. Part-democracy, part-diplomacy found in favour of 10/20 but Catherine asked me to begin with the 20 minute pose for the benefit of those returning late from the bar.

I’d both heard it said and seen for myself that some artists struggled to fit my full form on their page when I reached maximum height. Thus out of compassion for them and myself, I decided on floor work for the 20-minute pose and also the 10-minute variant that took us to the end. Still working those angles, though.

When all was done, artworks were spread around the floor for the general admiration of everyone present. After tidying the room, a handful of us retired to the beer garden for post-art banter. This is such a lovely group on so many levels. Whether new faces or old friends, everybody leaves with a smile on their face. Not least, me. 🙂

Harmony Hall, London, 13 June 2022

Around midday before this Monday evening session I exchanged text messages with Walthamstow Lifedrawing organiser, Harriet and forewarned her: “I managed to get sunburned yesterday so you’ll need your bright pink paints…

On Saturday, I’d taken part in the London Naked Bike Ride painted silver from head to toe. Then on Sunday I joined in the Brighton Naked Bike Ride with no body paint and hardly any sun cream. Tsk. The rest writes itself.

And so to Harmony Hall. I disrobed, revealing the extent of my bright pinkness, then began with four poses of 5 minutes, one of 10 minutes, one of 15 minutes and one of 20 minutes. Shifting shape and direction in the round, every pink patch was shared.

I hadn’t caught the sun all over, I’d just been mottled with a (naked) cyclist’s burn: top of legs, front of arms, upper back, lower belly (striped white where my fat folded) and across my groin. Classy. After a short break I ended with a 25-minute reclining pose.

Notwithstanding my discolouration, I’d felt comfort and warmth throughout, both from the ambient temperature and the cheery good nature of the artists. They managed to create some excellent works; a couple even used their bright pink paints… 🙂

Christ Church Methodist Addiscombe, Croydon, 6 June 2022

It’s not often one starts a long-pose session knowing the UK might have a new prime minister at its close. Such was the case, however, on this evening of life drawing with The Croydon Art Society. I would stand for one single pose from 7:30pm to 9:30pm with a break for tea. At 6pm, Conservative MPs had begun voting on their confidence in atrocious hypocritical law-breaker Boris Johnson. The result was expected at 9pm.

Johnson is, and always has been, an odious self-serving liar without ethics, empathy, compassion or care for anybody other than himself. His only interest is in possessing the power, wealth, sexual partners and sycophantic cronies that he believes to be his innate entitlement by virtue of class status and personal privilege. He is a disgraceful fraud, utterly unfit for any position of responsibility. Tory MPs backed him 211 to 148.

I have never understood how my fellow working class voters can allow themselves to be seduced by such transparently empty promises on their behalf, while in plain sight his actions serve only to feather his own nest and those of his hangers-on. Some say “he’s the kind of bloke you could enjoy a pint with down the pub“… well, there are lots of people with whom I enjoy having a drink, but I don’t want them running the country.

Session organiser, Evie (“livid and embarrassed by our Tory leadership and cabinet“) and I grumbled about politics during the interval. Either side, the pose had gone well. My angled arm went numb after 30 minutes but I recovered feeling with back-of-neck finger-wiggling. By such discreet methods I avoided the need for stretch breaks, yet I had a very stiff back by the end… As with this government, I endured it.

Lochaber Hall, London, 4 June 2022

Since the start of the year it’s been my pleasure to life model at Lochaber Hall every couple of months. I’m experiencing it through the seasons; it was a single-heater day today, and hayfever satisfactory. We opened with seven 5-minute poses. I stood, sat, stood, reclined, stood, sat, stood. Next were ten poses of 1-minute, in which I tried to represent a plant growing from seed and withering. I have a garden full of examples.

After the 1-minute poses came a 10-minute pose, and then it was time to prepare the long pose that would occupy the remainder of this session – about 2-hours, including tea interval. Group organiser David Weekes had a clear vision of what he would like: standing but leaning back with my buttocks resting on the edge of a table. As I knew I could arrange this to be relatively comfortable, I cheerfully agreed.

Whilst it’s not unknown for me to make abysmal misjudgements, on this occasion my prediction of relative comfort was not defective. In the first hour before we paused for tea and digestives I was content to decline all offers of a stretch-break. In the second half I did take two opportunities to shake the numbness from my hands, but both feet remained firmly planted until we reached our conclusion.

The table relieved my feet and legs of carrying much weight. I’d put plenty of padding under my backside to prevent posterior pains. One lower leg was kept straight and its foot flat on the ground to stop the table from sliding. My back remained straight. Thus, only my shoulders felt any aches as my arms served as supports, and only my hands tingled to intermittent loss of sensation. But it was fine, and the art developed nicely.

The Conservatoire, Blackheath, 23 May 2022

It’s hard to explain, but there seemed to be extra positive energy around the Victorian life drawing studio at The Conservatoire this evening. Warmer outside temperatures meant two windows could stay open throughout – albeit I needed a heater for the last hour. I even thought we had more artists than usual… then realised it only looked that way to me because I had my back to the wall rather than posing in the round. I began with quick poses: three of 1-minute, one of 5 minutes and one of 10 minutes.

Inspired by the ongoing British Museum: Feminine Power exhibition, tutor Victoria Rance suggested that for the long pose I should be seated in the powerful attitude of ‘Lilith‘ by Henry Keen. I’ve reproduced the lithograph image (c.1925-30) below but at the time we didn’t have a copy so Victoria described her to me: a strong female nude sitting with one arm hooked over the back of her chair, a rock star’s confidence and a sun disc radiating behind her head.

Of course, flying blind, I didn’t get even remotely close to channelling Lilith. I lacked a sun disc and, whilst able to manifest other elements as described within the broadest possible interpretation, I rightly suspected I’d fallen a long way short of presenting the intended sum of these parts. I wasn’t feeling too distraught about this, however. I was going to have to hold this pose for nigh on two hours, so comfort was a priority. Also I was hopeful the artists drawing me were no more familiar with ‘Lilith‘ than I was…

After much fidgeting and fussing into a suitable arrangement, I felt the result probably looked quite simplistic to our artists. Even so, I was balanced on three layers of foam, had a loose sheet draped around me and one foot perched on a shifty tub, all of which meant the pose would be tricky to recreate with precision after taking a break. Thus, I remained in situ for over an hour before having a stretch. As predicted, it was a tough getting back into position, but I then went the distance: ‘Steve as Lilith‘. Kind of. 🙂

Brockley Adult Education Centre, London, 4 May 2022

This class at Brockley Adult Education Centre wanted for nothing except, alas, the necessary minimum students to keep it viable. Three had signed-up, but one couldn’t attend due to sickness. As I always say, I’ll give of my best whether modelling for 2 or 200 artists. Unfortunately the adult learning sector can’t afford to be so airily carefree.

Coronavirus pandemic, wholesale gas prices, war in Ukraine… all factors contributing to a worldwide cost-of-living crisis that has been vastly amplified in this country by the collective insanity of Brexit, and compounded by our self-serving, debauched, corrupt far-right Tory government of elites and hangers-on. Art is an inevitable early casualty.

But it’s not only art. All courses are affected. The trickle-down effects are everywhere. It’s to be expected when people have less disposable income, no disposable income, or not even enough to pay for essentials. When people have to choose between food or heating, who chooses art? Tories are destroying all that sustains and defines us.

When people say “life goes on” they mean “existence goes on“. For some people life won’t go on; under this government, needlessly, avoidably, tragically it won’t go on. In this session, for this evening at least, we went on: 1-minute, 1, 1, 1, 1, 5, 20, a break, and 50-minutes to the end. Me, tutor Jo (who made these drawings), and 2 students.

%d bloggers like this: