Life drawing day at the White House took place on the 25th of June, 2022. A new cultural event in the East Anglian wilderness, we intend to create further such days in the near future.
‘Clara puts her head between her paws’. Music leads to Bowie’s ‘Eight line poem’ on the album ‘Hunky Dory’, prompted by my reaction to our model when they first appeared in the driveway at the White House. Klara is a nineteen year old from East Anglia, an aspiring writer with sights set on a course at the UEA.
In a debut appearance as a model, this person did extremely well working with a small group of people gathered to experience a strange and almost arcane activity.
Klara is remarkably tall (6ft 4) and wears platform trainers to enhance stature, just to piss off others who adopt the same strategy! Wearing a brightly coloured gown, sporting a shock of auburn hair, Klara has feminine hips with high iliac crests and strong face with ‘star struck’ eyebrows. The whole persona reflects the hermaphrodite trends of glam-rock, the emerging Mr. Jones (and others) in the early 70s.
We decided to compress the day, revving up the pace of poses and exercises – ranging between active and passive sets. I used a piano and antique wooden arch with Doric pillars to effect this, aided by clear East Anglian light. The feminine curves of the piano echoed Klara’s form, providing a framework for drawing.
A reclining pose alluded to Erich Hechel’s work. The Doric arch gave a sense of grandeur. Poses of lengthier duration contrasted with short, fast ones which I first encountered at St. Martin’s under the guidance of Connie Jude, Trevor Willoughby, Johnathan Ross and Eric Luke. These bring about different reactions, making learners see themselves and their work differently.
Amongst our group was a detective who (surprisingly) engaged well with the activity. I pointed out the benefits of a holistic approach to seeing and vision; the way a ‘Gestalt’ can contribute to balanced evaluation of a scene. The edifying qualities of a disciplined approach to life-drawing became apparent.
It humbles us to be at one with nudity and the vulnerability of someone who doesn’t have the protection of clothes. Inevitably, we are drawn to the character of a model’s face, which is where I always end up (focusing) when I draw and paint from life. I demonstrated my approach by sitting with students, forming quick appraisals of the subject from their station point.
Life drawing day at the White House was successful in terms of meeting learning objectives and being a cultural event. I enjoyed seeing beginners make good progress. It was concluded with a glass of wine and tutor facilitated peer review.
We will be running our next session at the White House in early September 2022. If you are interested, please leave a short message on the contact form below. Your details will not be visible to others.
Painting of the White House by Doris Zinkeisen, courtesy of Mallam’s auctioneers.