In the autumn of 1975, in an effort to improve elementary artistic skills, I went to a local evening institute figure drawing session back which was when plans changed surprisingly unexpectedly. The new and keen students were filling the studio ready and eager to start but no model had arrived. The tutor apologised profusely for the delay but after some fifteen minutes wait, and still no model, he asked if anybody was willing to stand in as our model.
This must be easier than drowning I thought Alan so I volunteered. “Would you mind removing your shirt” he asked as I made myself comfortable on the dais. Despite the inevitable fear I managed to remain reasonably still.
The following week Duncan ‘phoned’ in desperation just as I was about to leave for the class, having been unable to contact the appointed model would I do it again please? This time possibly wearing tight briefs or consider going nude. I hesitatingly agreed and he immediately waived the term’s fee and offered to pay me instead.
I had begun to enjoy the new pastime, a world away from my full time career, I must confess. A female model posed the third week and I was able to join all the other budding artists over coffee where several congratulated me on having saved the first two evenings and asked if I would model regularly. When asked if I minded standing naked I surprised myself by saying it did not trouble me. I was, without realising it, launching into a vacation or leisure pursuit that has continued almost to this day.
Word must have spread quickly among artists, sketchers, evening institutes, sculptors and the such for I was soon receiving many bookings from far and wide in fact during the eighties I was often modelling three or four nights during the week and more at weekends. My wife, although initially fairly uneasy at her husband appearing naked in front of a class or an individual, soon came round to thinking it was rather amusing.
Having occasionally posed outdoors in secluded settings, I have been the ‘focal point’ in large country houses, grubby student common rooms, splendid studios, village halls, private houses, you name it I have experienced the setting. I have stripped out of my normal clothes into a robe in all places from toilets, workshops to broom cupboards.
The tutor, leader or class generally set the pose and whether it be standing sitting or lying it is most important that the model agrees at the outset if it is not possible to hold it for three minutes, two hours or two weeks (with relax breaks). Most students are very reasonable but a few will sigh if you blink or slightly move to avoid cramp. – People from all walks and ages take up life drawing and painting, often commenting on the therapeutic value gained from exercising mind and skill with pencil, charcoal or brush.
Often having been thanked for modelling and not showing qualms about appearing nude it is surprising the people who comment that they are house and garden naturists and thoroughly enjoy the feeling. – At one time Prince Charles showed a keen interest in life drawing which inevitably prompted a media interest which in turn brought me approaches by the national television networks to appear live during a morning programme at a fantastic fee but I declined the offer.
I have enjoyed working in some unusual places but probably one I will always remember was about twelve years ago in a bitterly cold greenhouse at a Cancer Hospice near Aylesbury. The patients, about a dozen men and women were so grateful to be given instruction in the techniques of sketching the human figure by a Friend of the Hospice, who herself had cancer and has since passed away, made me especially welcome. There have been many amusing incidents, which hopefully
I may be able to share with you through the columns of Barefacts in the future.