I like nothing better than a new challenge - within reason. Don't ask me to run a couple of km, or to eat twenty nine hamburgers or something, but give me an opportunity to sit with a pencil and paper and draw for an hour or two and I'm in.
My Hero was at his choir rehearsal, I had everything I needed on hand, so all I had to do was to sit myself in a comfy chair in front of my screen with my drawing book and pencil and wait for the fun to begin.
On the dot of 7.30pm, the live facebook feed began and Jonathan Yeo introduced Andrew, the model who took his first pose. We were advised that there would be four, short, two-minute poses to draw as a kind of warm up.
OK, let's go....
My drawing was certainly no masterpiece and the two minutes went by in a flash. Oooo, how can I draw his left foot without making it look as though he doesn't have a leg? I'm not sure I succeeded, but hey, we're warming up, right?
Oh, now 'scuse me...! Clearly we were not to be spoon fed with straightforward poses and this professional model was creating some interesting shapes to draw, too. The second two-minute pose was equally challenging with receding limbs and tricky lighting.
Again, two minutes is no time at all and yet, I rather enjoyed just going for it and getting the shapes in place. No time to dwell on details. Like his face!
What was I saying about shapes?
By the time I got to this third pose, I'd worn down my favourite pencil and had no time to go for another. I grabbed the spare I'd picked up as an afterthought and wished I'd thought ahead and gathered some different tools with which to draw before dismissing that as an excuse and telling myself to "getonwithit".
The final two minute warm up then and a pose with some great lines and shapes again. No distraction of a face and even his head was barely visible - so no excuses for not getting it right, then?
I think this was the least successful of these quick warm ups though - if I say I got a bit distracted by his bottom, I'm sure you know what I mean. At least I didn't have the textural challenge of cellulite to draw!
After a short break, we moved on to ten minute poses, the first one offering rather similar issues as the first warm up: limbs which receded into the background.
I wasn't at all happy with my work on this one. Jonathan Yeo had suggested that we try something different for this one, that we move on from what we usually do and focus on shading, or shape, rather than just go for the outline. I also recalled how a friend and artist always advised giving figures some kind of ground...so they don't float in mid air. In this pose in particular, I felt the need to indicate the different levels of the bench he was sitting on and the fact that his left leg was supported. Maybe that was a distraction too far and I ought to have stuck to the simple outline after all, but hey ho, we were here to learn, weren't we?
A fifteen minute pose now, then, with clear shapes and maybe, just maybe, time to attempt to draw a face in there too?
Well, after ten minutes or so, I ought to have started on a second drawing, because I was finding the longer poses more difficult and resisting the temptation to keep going and over working it was difficult. I tried to capture the tonal values in this drawing - not very successfully - but was happier with the line of his body and felt that at least I got him in proportion!
At this point, there was a break in the class. Time for Andrew, the model, to relax and stretch and time for Jonathan, the programme leader to answer some questions and share some of the results so far. It was fascinating to see how others had interpreted the poses, how freely some had drawn (I was envious of that) and to see that others had identified exactly the same challenges as I had.
The final stretch then, was a 25 minute pose and the most difficult of the evening.
More receding limbs, different levels and twenty five minutes to capture the details.
I'm not sure if my concentration was waning or whether I simply prefer to work in a quicker, less considered way, but about half way through this pose I felt I'd overdone it and lost the best of it. Of course, it didn't matter one jot - I was enjoying the experience and I continued to scribble and add more shade...too much shade!
And that was that.
Profuse thanks were offered to Andrew, who really had done an amazing job of creating such interesting poses to draw and maintained them perfectly. Several FB comments had expressed concern for his well being as his face became increasingly pink during that last 25 minute session, but Jonathan Yeo assured all that this highly regarded professional model was fine and had been modelling at the Academy all day. He also remarked how relieved he was that "no emergency action" had been needed to "keep everything in" - a sentiment I think we all shared!
Feedback on the FB page and the RA own website was universally positive and I hope that they will consider repeating the exercise, for it was a remarkably fun way of spending a Thursday evening. Few of us have the chance to enjoy a life drawing session like this, especially with a model of this calibre and I'd be curious to know the number of people who participated - certainly, those commenting came from a world wide community and the RA must take credit for such a global reach!
I might repeat the exercise, with a few different tools in my hand, because the RA have recorded the session and shared it on YouTube. Perhaps you will give it a try? If so, please share how it turns out!