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Lochaber Hall, London, 2 April 2022

I’ve always been one who feels the cold. You might think it strange then, that I should pick a career demanding nakedness in all seasons. For me it’s simply a calling rather than a choice; barring ridiculous extremes, its elements will be embraced or endured. As I walked past frost-covered cars after a night of sub-zero temperatures, I guessed this 9:30am session at Lochaber Hall would call for a degree of endurance…

Usually if I have two heaters on the go and I’m offered a third, I’ll catch myself saying, “No thanks, I’m fine.” Even if I’m actually rather chilly, a false futile machismo kicks-in and insists I can take it. Mercifully, on this occasion my rational brain managed to get the first word in, responding, “Yes, please!” In fact, I could have asked no more of the group’s organiser, David. He’d switched on all the radiators long before I arrived.

Temperatures outside tarried at single-digits so, notwithstanding radiators or heaters, three hours in a cavernous hall with windows that won’t fully shut and a door missing from its hinges, was fated to have cool spells. What to do but go at it with full vigour? We started with ‘warm-up’ poses: seven of 5-minutes and ten of 1-minute. These did indeed warm me up. Not least because I felt the artists’ appreciation of my efforts.

The rest of the session was occupied by a single 90-minute pose: 40 minutes took us to our tea-break, then a further 50 minutes took us to the end. I was asked to assume an upright seated position with assorted angles. Bread and butter for me, though with care not to duplicate any of my previous long poses here. Variations were added and comfort was maintained, to an extent that no additional stretch breaks were needed.

By my own misjudgement the first 40 minutes were a tad nippy. After attending to the heaters’ alignment and dragging them all a few inches closer, however, the latter half was comparatively snug. And therein lies much of what it is to be a life model; finding in each situation the optimum blend of artistry and discovery, intuition and practicality both to inspire and survive. Maybe that’s what all art is: inspiration and survival.

Central Park Café, East Ham, 24 March 2022

It’s rare these days that I respond to a new call-out for life models. My enthusiasm for each job has not waned, but the appetite for chasing every possible opportunity is no longer there. I’m thirsting less and appreciating more, but a call-out for this session at Central Park Café in East Ham really spoke to me. And happily I was accepted.

Best of all, it was only after being accepted that I discovered it would be a fund-raiser for the British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal. Gladly, I waived my fee for the job to boost their total donation. Hattie, who booked me, said: “we’re also operating a bar and serving some light bites so I’ll make sure you have refreshments!” Perfect. 🙂

The café itself turned out to be a ideal space for life drawing. Lots of room for serving exquisite food and drinks at one end, plus a chilling-out area at the other end offering ample room for me to pose in a circle of 15-20 artists. Oddly, two wooden pallets had been provided as my stage. Not the last word in comfort, but hey. One was plenty!

I spread my trusty white sheet upon the pallet, stuffed a couple of the café’s cushions beneath it, and we began. Short poses first: two of 1-minute, two of 2-minutes, two of 5-minutes. Two poses of 20-minutes took us to our break. I sat for the first, I stood for the second, and I felt at peace throughout.

There was no music to play us along, so audible accompaniment came in the form of soft, friendly chatter between twos and threes of artists around the room. I was asked during the interval, whether I found this distracting. Not at all! I am only there to make interesting shapes; as long as everyone sounds happy, I’m happy too.

It was planned that one single long pose would occupy the second half. I shifted from the round and made angles from the comfort of an armchair against a wall instead. In this position I remained for between 30-40 minutes, at which point it was decided that we could finished with a few more quickies: 2 minutes, 2 minutes and 5 minutes.

By 10pm, we were done. I’d thoroughly enjoyed modelling, the artists also seemed to have enjoyed a nice social evening of life drawing, the food and wine provided by the café had been exceptional, second to none, and Central Park Life Drawing raised a commendable £300 for the British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal. Fantastic.

To cap it all, after I’d dressed and was saying my farewells, Sophie who runs the café (see also Bread Club) kindly allowed me to take my pick of any opened wine bottles. This typified the kind-hearted hospitality I experienced all evening. I left with a goodly Tuscan white in my bag, and the streets of East Ham never looked more beautiful!

The Conservatoire, Blackheath, 14 March 2022

Whilst life modelling sessions have kept me nicely busy of late, the rest of my life has felt overloaded. No one thing is an overwhelming problem; there’s just a bit too much of everything. On this day, I’d started my full-time job at 7:30am, finished it at 4:30pm, made a freshly-topped pizza, then got the train to Blackheath for The Conservatoire. And I couldn’t stop yawning exhaustedly all the way there. I needed to energise.

The only way energising would be likely to happen was through poses that prioritised effort over comfort. After a few quick poses – three of 1-minute, one of 5 minutes and one of 10 minutes – I offered to stand for the long pose of up to two hours. The week before, model Peter had semi-reclined here in the style of work by Michelangelo. If I was going stand, I reckoned it had to be in the style of Michelangelo’s David

The artists would have to imagine me as a version of David at least 35 years past his prime, having shed all of his muscle bulk and most of his vitality but still dining-out on the pose responsible for his best-known artistic interpretation. I assumed the position on my bare platform at 8:05pm. If I’d been granted just one wish for embellishment, it would have been to encircle myself with the magical mini clay henges drying nearby.

OK, so mini clay henges would have been incongruous in context, but they appealed to my current passion for posing at ancient megalithic sites. I remained in David pose till 8:40pm before accepting the offer of a break. We resumed at 8:50pm after various suggestions for adjustments that might return me to my exact former stance. Another half-hour passed before I took a shorter break. We then continued to our 10pm finish.

It remains unknown whether a cosy reclining pose would have lulled me to sleep, but the standing pose certainly kept me alert. It calls for motionlessness without passivity. As aches begin to set in, constant muscle management is required at a micro level to keep them tolerable. It worked. I left feeling in better shape than I’d arrived. I think life drawing does that for human beings. Physically and mentally, we reset.

47/49 Tanner Street, London, 2 March 2022

Tanner Street life drawing is a well-established group that, in my opinion, keeps on getting better and better. Now located in ‘the flat’ – but more akin to a photographer’s studio – behind the vast redbrick ‘Ugly Duck‘ building, it has found an ideal home for its welcoming Wednesday evening gatherings.

Proportions are perfect for posing in the round, with between a dozen and two dozen artists at an optimal orbit from the model and a comfortable distance from each other. Neutral lighting is mellow while spotlights emphasise shadows and textures. With fair temperatures, plus tea and biscuits for the break, we are indeed in a good place.

And then the long and short of it… or rather the short and long. I started with six short poses – three of 2 minutes and three of 5 minutes – followed by one 10-minute pose, seated side-saddle on the floor, leaning forward on both hands. A 15-minute standing pose, arms folded behind my back, took us to the interval.

The 10-minute pose during my previous visit here was an old favourite; sitting upon the floor with one knee raised and an arm resting across it. A particularly fine drawing of that moment had been used to promote this event, so I was asked whether I would be able to recreate it for the full 55-minutes of our second half. No problem.

It’s an easy pose for me. Somehow last time I managed to put a twist in the balanced arm that made it ridiculously painful, but this time I kept everything loose and relaxed. So much so, that I declined a stretch-break after twenty minutes and opted instead to continue for twenty more before shaking out a few formative aches in my limbs.

Five minutes short of an hour, my work was done. A lack of pains does not guarantee that one will spring effortlessly into motion. Slowly, gracelessly I clambered to my feet and into clothes before joining in an appreciation of the outstanding artworks created. Such inspiration. This surely is a group that just keeps getting better and better…

Harmony Hall, London, 28 February 2022

What happened to winter? During February 2021, enough snow fell for the kids in my street to erect a snowman seven feet tall. By contrast, this final day of February 2022 felt typical of the past three months as I walked the streets of Walthamstow, through mediocre mists of rain and stubbornly single-digit temperatures.

More uplifting was the prospect of modelling for a group I’d never worked with before, at a venue I’d not previously known. Familiarity in life drawing had been hard to come by during the pandemic, novelty was nigh unknown, so with keen anticipation I defied dreary elements to visit Harmony Hall for Walthamstow Lifedrawing.

I arrived plenty early, as always on début, but was given licence not to help set-up an oval of brightly-coloured trestle tables; at the heart of which I would be posing. Artists arrived, I entered the round, I disrobed, and we commenced: four poses of 5-minutes to get us warmed-up.

Pose times then lengthened in five-minute increments. I sat upright upon the floor for 10 minutes with left arm resting on my upraised left knee. Next I stood for 15 minutes with arms folded behind my back. Taking us to a break, I returned to the floor and sat side-saddle clutching an ankle for 20 minutes.

One of the nice things about a first-time appearance at any group is being able to run through a set of well-practised signature poses without feeling guilty that artists might have seen them all before. The second half was to have just one pose of 25 minutes, for which I was encouraged to recline. Cue another signature pose: one arm raised.

During the interval I was asked time and again whether I was warm enough. Indeed I had been warm enough, so I made the mistake of declining another heater. Down on the floor, however, it got very chilly. But it was only for 25 minutes… and the artworks created were fantastic… and such a friendly group! Good times, nice people.

Mall Galleries, London, 21 February 2022

There’s a lot I like about posing for Hesketh Hubbard Art Society at Mall Galleries. Portrait modelling is satisfying work for a kindly, close-up crowd of talented devotees. Short poses of 15 minutes (just the once) and 30 minutes (pre-pandemic) attracted a bigger crowd of keen observants at centre stage in the main gallery. And long poses, well… that can be rather more detached and gruelling. Yup, I was back on ‘long’.

Artwork by Anthony Roe.

I arrive. I adjust cushions. I spread my sheet. I disrobe. I sit. I remain motionless from whenever seems about right. An hour elapses. No sounds. No speaking. A hubbub in the short-pose space eventually tells me it’s surely half-time. Yet no-one speaks here. Two walk off. Still I sit. Another minute or so. Still artists paint. Then one says, “I think that’s the break”. I have been motionless for over an hour. I put on my robe. I get tea.

Artwork by Anthony Roe.

The interval lasts 15 minutes. A voice from the main gallery calls: “OK, it’s time to get started”. I resume as before. We repeat as before. One hour passes. A hubbub in the short-pose space tells me time’s up. I remain motionless. Artists are packing up to go home. Still I sit. Still my artists paint. Then one says, “I think that’s it”. We exchange a “thank you”. I get dressed… And, you know, everyone I talk with is genuinely lovely.

The Prince Regent, Herne Hill, 16 February 2022

When Esther and I modelled for SketchPad Drawing at The Prince Regent, Herne Hill in January 2020, nobody suspected a prolonged pandemic hibernation was only six weeks away. Life drawing easels went in a cupboard on 11 March 2020 and didn’t re-emerge until 10 November 2021. How hungry for art the regulars must have been! Certainly I was delighted to return, and happy to see so many familiar faces.

There were compromises, of course. Easels were now set further apart, meaning the two function rooms could accommodate just 14 artists instead of 20. In turn, this duly meant they could afford only one model instead of two, albeit with increased pay. But how can one model be present for 14 artists socially-distanced through two adjoining rooms? By posing in the doorway, of course. It’s limiting, but I’m up for a challenge.

We started with four standing poses of 5-minutes each. For the first I leaned forward, forming my own arch within the door frame. Nice pose, but an unforeseen side-effect was latecomers and group organiser, Lisa, walking to and fro beneath me. I reckon it lasted more like 7 or 8 minutes, so it couldn’t have been too terribly inconvenient. My third pose also stretched to 8 minutes, prolonged on request with my willing consent.

Pose four, with arms up and tensed from side-to-side, became rather painful so there was no chance of me extending it. With hindsight I should have asked for a reduction to offset my earlier generosity! No worries, though. Next there would be two poses of 15 minutes each, taking us to the interval. I stood for the first, right hand on neck, left hand on hip, then followed it by sitting side-saddle on a low table.

The second half was intended to provide a single pose of 40-45 minutes. So bereft of socialising had the artists been, however, that our break time over-ran and eventually there was only a half-hour left for life drawing. Just as well for me as I’d decided to sit with my feet higher up on the opposite door jamb. By the time we finished, my left leg was completely numb and I was unable to stand for a couple of minutes.

The end of a session is no time to be legless as I like to see and ideally get photos of as many artworks as possible. I fumbled into my dressing gown, hauled myself up on one leg, and gradually worked sensation back into the other so I could hobble around the easels. Restored feeling within my hitherto dead limb was not the only sensation I appreciated. So many great drawings and paintings tonight! So good to be back.

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