An opportunity arose to work on something a little different over the past couple of weeks, working as an artist’s model for a lovely group of artists in Norwich.
Working as an Art Model in Norwich, Another String to my Bow
I sat on a single chair on a little stage whilst the painters got set up in the positions where they could all see, in a semi-circle. I tried to keep as still as I could but at the same time trying to take in as much as I could on my first day.
It turns out that sitting absolutely still for a few hours is trickier than one might initially imagine. As an actor, I am very used to having an audience watching me perform, but it is a strange feeling to be so intensely scrutinised and measured for colour and shape.
On the first week, I was especially relieved to find, during breaktime, that everyone was only drawing or painting my likeness from the neck up, so I could change position. I had made the rookie mistake of crossing my legs and as a result, my big toe was nodding off.
I really enjoyed both mornings. It’s not very often that I attempt to be so still, both in body and mind, away from the hustle and bustle, away from tech, away from demands on my time. Just sitting and being.
I was surprised at how holding a pose and looking at the same spot made me feel quite sleepy too. I asked if I could take a peek at how everyone’s work was progressing during the break. I felt more than a little self-conscious. I don’t even like my photo-face usually, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about my face looking back at me, in pencil, charcoal, pastel or paint.
It was fascinating. I was amazed at how quickly everyone had begun to create something, and the variation and uniqueness in style and technique.
I discovered that my relaxed face looks quite stern and grumpy. One of the artists reassuringly told me that this is quite normal for relaxed faces of people posing for a long period of time. But it couldn’t help but make me wonder, as an actor, if it is why I keep getting cast as the bitchy, aggressive, mean characters when I audition. I guess that might go some way to explaining all the unsolicited “cheer up love, it might never ‘appen” comments I’ve had the delight (sarcasm) to receive over the years.
At some points, when my mind wandered, I was concerned that I might be smirking. There is a period at the beginning, when the artists first start work, that they appear to be measuring in some way. Some using their pencil or brushes and others using purpose made measuring devices.
Catching the measuring in my peripheral vision reminded me of a scene from the Canadian comedy program I used to watch as a teenager, called ‘Kids in the Halls’. One of the sketches used to show a couple of people having a fight from a distance from each other. They would threaten each other by shouting that they would pinch their adversaries face or crush their heads. Um… that probably sounds a little odd when described… here’s a video of it…
… but to be honest, it is more than a little odd, but it used to make me laugh a lot, so when it popped into my head I was worried I might smirk.
Art from the Session
At the end of the second week, some of the artists very kindly gave me permission to take photographs of the images that they had created and to post online. The two on the top left, were painted by Peter Offord, one of the Norwich 20 Group. You can find lots more of his work including paintings, sculptures and portraits over on his website.
Also, keep your eyes open for the work of Suzanne Chisnell. She exhibits all over East Anglia with her marine paintings. She also commissions Yacht Portraits. Find out more about Suzanne’s work on her website. The painting on the bottom right is by Phillip King, who kindly invited me along to sit for the group.