Monday, 29 September 2008

Ladies who draw

It's Monday night and I've just come back from a rare village hall modelling job - something I used to do a fair amount of but nowadays it's mainly the college. I had a phone call late afternoon from one of the organisers checking that I was still going - and asking for a lift please as her van was out of action. Half an hour later she called me again to say it had been fixed. I was stuck behind slow traffic on the way there (between 6.00 and 6.30) so a little concerned that I'd be late, but on arriving there was only one Artist present, standing outside the locked hall, so I needn't have worried. Another Artist had gone to get the key, and the woman who'd phoned me didn't arrive until ten minutes into the session.
It was very laid-back and informal, untutored, and only four of them present this evening - three grey-haired ladies and one with hair as blonde as mine - and mine's been dyed for years. The first half was easy with 5, 10 and 15 minute poses, whatever I wanted to do, and there was an efficient fan heater blasting away at my back. Great. I'll have to write an assessment of the various heaters I've suffered under sometime.
They were very keen to demonstrate the lovely new kitchen that had been fitted at this hall since the last time I'd sat for them - lottery money we all reckoned. State-of-the-art oven, double hot cupboard, dishwasher, dinky little stainless steel hand sink as well as the main double sink - and look at this swish corner cupboard with moving parts! How long do you think that'll last before someone breaks it? (Shall we just play with it until it does...) We drank fruit teas and munched on chocolate rich tea biscuits and chatted about this and that, admiring photos of the new grandchildren. I had to purposefully lead them back into the main hall to get them started again.
'Let's have one long pose,' someone said, so the cushions were re-arranged and I lay down with one leg sort of crossed over the other from the hip, positioned the heater to my advantage and stared into space for about forty-five minutes. What was I thinking of this time? Friends to contact, snatches of songs from choir rehearsal, how lucky I am to be a poet, how my middle-age spread is spreading but I don't seem to care too much...
I phoned the Youngest as soon as I was dressed to see if she was still on her own - she was - and to reassure her that I was on my way home. Ella Fitzgerald on the stereo tonight and an easy drive.

Friday, 19 September 2008

England my England

A silver-grey morning. Driving to the college again, further signs of impending Autumn - the blush on a row of field maples, the odd yellow patch on oak trees. Why do different trees change into different colours, I wonder? That's one for the New Scientist Queries page. I glimpse two men on top of a haystack; a number of swans on the river half-hidden by hanging willows. What's the collective noun for swans? I'm sure we were taught that at Junior school (I think it's a parliament of owls, a convocation of crows...). Feels like it should be a pride of swans, or even a royalty of swans... anyway, that's the sort of aimless musing I like to fill my head with while driving.
Today the students were learning about shapes and curves. They had to draw me (in 'dynamic poses' lasting 3 minutes each) just by describing the curves, starting with the longest ones and working down to shorter ones, so maybe starting with out-stretched hand down to toe, then the gap between legs, all the way to kneecaps and (erm) tummy... OK. Maybe it was tummy then kneecaps. Five poses on one large sheet of paper.
The next demonstration was in making shapes on the page and joining or overlapping them to create the figure, with rounded scribbles to suggest the 3D effect. The tutor was not very good at it, and apologised. I noted that he carefully folded his effort later before dropping it in the bin. Despairing cries of 'I can't do this' came at regular intervals. But I have to say that after an hour and a half of intensive work - for me as well as them - most of them had improved dramatically. The last, longer, pose was to put together the measuring from last week with the curves and rounding out shapes of this week. Some of them were even recognisably me. I praised the tutor when they'd all gone, and he sounded very relieved that it had worked.
Driving home I kept noticing shapes, textures, forms and colours repeated in the hedgerows. The creamy fluffball shape of meadowsweet, the festoons of grey-white traveller's joy - or old man's beard as we used to called it - the flatish pinky-white flowers of yarrow, the big bold trumpets of bindweed, the spiky seed heads of teasel, the flatter ones of hedge-parsley. I love England. I love how we, the English, and whatever we called ourselves before we were English, have lived on this land, grown into and with this land, and shaped this land, over so many centuries. I belong here. It is familiar, and beautiful, as are the changing seasons.
There were three men on top of the haystack this time. I think I got stuck behind their feeder-tractor for miles, bumping along with its trailer gaily decorated with loose hay. That was after being stuck behind a member of the forty-club - you know, the ones who drive at forty miles an hour no matter what. Fortunately I was in no particular hurry. The sun was shining in all its September splendour and I was looking forward to an afternoon spent visiting artists' studios.
When I got home there was a message for me - someone from the college had been given my number and could I call them back about some work... It was for the foundation degree course taught at the other campus, an extra five hours on a Friday for five weeks. Yes. I can cope with that. I think. (I hope).

Thursday, 18 September 2008

September sunshine

I do so love driving to work early on a September morning when there's a white haze across the Levels and the sun's shining through, making the cobwebs all showy like a field full of lacy handkerchiefs. There's something amazing about this time of year, the low sun yellow but the leaves not yet turning - apart from the horse chestnut which is now half tawny. A friend at the poetry group last night described it as the 'fifth season', apparently a Chinese phrase. I drove past maize fields too, spiky red tops in ranks, almost harvest time. And into a village swathed in mist, the lollipop lady standing out in her Hi-vis jacket to shepherd infants across the road.
I'm so lucky that I enjoy driving to work. Changed the CD too, it's been laid-back jazz for a couple of weeks but I switched to dub/beat today, Dreadzone.
The other tutor at college, and a new class of teenagers. They seem older than the AS-level group on Fridays, but they're not. Eleven of them in jeans, and one with funky 3/4-length trousers. They have personalities. They talk back to the tutor.
Today he had them working with compressed charcoal and white emulsion and water, showing them how to wet the charcoal (it only works with the compressed variety) and how this particular emulsion is rich in chalk so they blend well. Messy stuff. He loves making these prissy well-dressed teens all messy. Suspect he spent the early 80's as an anarchist punk.
So I took a sitting pose on an upholstered chair (both legs curled up beneath me, one arm nonchalantly drooping off the chair-back) for half an hour. Which extended to the whole of the first half. Fortunately I'd chosen a pose that was quite comfortable for me.
In the break we booked up a couple more dates and he mentioned, again, that we were going on contract - once they'd worked out how many hours were needed and divided them between the 3 of us. There are other models looking for work, he said, but it's easier to stick with 3, except for the odd times which we can't cover. I, for example, can't do Mondays or Thurs afternoons.
So it looks like I'll be doing about 5 hours a week, Thurs and Fri mornings - unless the part-time Foundation starts up (some problem with numbers and whether it will actually run) in which case I get Tues mornings too, at least some of the time. At the moment I go to the gym on Tuesdays, a much-needed return to routine after about a year of being a slacker.
So, the the second half. Same pose, they haven't all finished, in fact all of them would benefit from continuing this painting... Ow. What is comfortable for an hour really starts to hurt after two. I filled my musing time usefully by more planning for my 'poetry for personal growth' course, starting October. Looking forward to it.

Friday, 12 September 2008

I'm back, and so's the college.

Hey, long time no post. I decided this morning to re-start this blog, just to keep me writing really. And you never know, I might make new friends or catch up with old ones again.
So, a lovely September morning and I'm driving back to work at the college after a long break, enjoying the low yellow sun shining silver on wet grass, the red of hips and haws (I've always wanted to use 'hips and haws' as the title of a book or story - or maybe poem - nicely ambiguous when spoken!) and the browny-orange of the first leaves to turn - horse chestnuts.
Another new class of teenagers who've never seen a naked adult in the flesh (only on film I expect, and I don't resemble a movie star). Fortunately the tutor and I are very comfortable with each other. He's primed them with lots of diagrams and tips on measuring, so for the first pose I just stand in the middle of the room for them.
'Standing like a mountain' is the yoga pose I was aiming for, straight spine, shoulders back, tummy and bum tucked in, feet slightly apart, head resting gently on lengthened spine. Half an hour was quite manageable. This was a short class, all over by 10.30 so I only had chance for one other standing pose, facing a different way and with a slight twist and tilt - nothing too challenging. As usual, I examined the students as much as they examined me - only 2 lads in this class and lots of girls. Fashion statements vied with slouchy comfort, hairstyles varied from expertly cut and coloured in layers, through the common short-and-gelled, to I-didn't-bother-brushing-it-this-week.
I know I've put on some weight over this year. I've started my gym routine again after many months without, so aiming to get back in trim, plus I was wondering if my flushes would be obvious... as I was looking straight ahead I couldn't check if my whole body flushed pink, but I did feel it, and the resultant sheen of sweat...
He's now booked me for every Friday class until Christmas, as the other 2 models they use can't do that particular slot. Next week I'm doing a session for the other tutor too and I'm hoping he will tell me that I'm now on a contract - a regular wage will really help with my Housing Benefit nightmares.
Driving home the sky was fading to greyish-white with less blue, and now here comes the rain - heavy as usual but hopefully just a short sharp shower. No chance to mow the lawns again. Better get on with editing poetry then - I had some ideas while driving of how to improve yesterday's Villanelle.
Oh, and this evening I'm off to a private view, one of 'my' artists is exhibiting in Somerset Art Weeks. I might even be tempted to buy something... though probably not a rendition of myself.