ART FOR ART’S SAKE

10 Aug

             

 

imagesCANFO319 

 

“The first time I ever laid eyes on him was at the night school down the High Street. I was modeling for an art class and he was obviously there to improve or better whatever talent it was he supposedly had. I’d never done it before, the money was good and well, you only live once don’t you? They’ve got all sorts of people they use as models, funny when you think about it. When you see an advertisement in the paper for nude modeling you’d think that only the perfect bodies would apply but that simply isn’t the case. All kinds of shapes and sizes, people from all walks — makes you wonder what the attraction is? Personally I needed the cash — that was my excuse. Obviously exhibitionism springs to mind but when your way past you prime and your knickers would house a troop of boy scouts on a Dartmoor camping expedition that doesn’t seem likely does it? What did they have to gain by standing in a drafty old classroom with clanking radiators and poor central heating in their where-with-all, in the buff, in the nude.

I received a telephone call a couple of days after applying to the advertisement in the Press.

“Wanted.

Models for the School of Art.

Two nights a week, travel and time will be reimbursed.

Call Professor Pinkney. (York 55724)

 

 The telephone interview had been fine, all the usual questions. Did I realize that I would be posing for nude portraits and body imagery?

Yes I said.

Was I comfortable standing in front of strangers for a couple of hours?

Yes I said.

Could I be there tomorrow, a little before six to meet the professor?

Yes I said.

The office was small or rather it was full. The professor, John, sat behind a desk that burgeoned with the weight of untold amounts of paper and what appeared to be a libraries worth of books. Typical artist type. You know the sort — wild hair, glasses, bit disheveled. Nice enough though. He dug around the drawers looking for the release papers for me to sign and finally after a wild paper chase through all the books and folders came up with a coffee stained copy of what he’d been looking for. He was very nice. Put me right at ease.

The session generally lasts for a couple of hours.

No, you don’t have to sit still the whole time.

If you need a break, need to use the loo, then feel free to stand up.

Yes, yes, everybody is very respectful.

“You have to understand,” said John, Professor Pinkney, “that this is about art and nothing else. We’re simply creating an atmosphere that will fire their minds, get their creative juices flowing — capturing the moment as it were. These are fourth years, so they’re all pretty advanced and some of them really are quite talented!” He opened a folder on his desk and pulled out a couple of large pieces of paper. Beautiful penciled and inked pictures of not necessarily beautiful people. It seemed that the models ranged from people of my age in their early twenties to models who were way past retirement. Fat ones, thin one, skinny ones — all shapes and sizes. The professor smiled at me, not the way some bloke would down pub, but appreciatively as though he were seeing beyond the boobs and the blonde hair, seeing me for who I was, seeing me. He paid me up front — twenty quid for two hours! Where can you earn that kind of money for taking your clothes off? Well I can think of one, but this was legitimate, this was art.

The first time I’d been nervous. The professor had introduced me to the class, a mix of about twenty students most of whom I could barely see as they were stood behind their easels. It was a little like being in a darkened theatre where the actors don’t see the audience but rather feel them, the intensity in the shadows. That’s how it was, the feeling of their eyes upon me. Easier than I thought, and as I slipped out of the dressing gown there was a round of applause, not something I was expecting but there you are.  A woman assisted me into my pose — draped me as they say, just me, a bowl of grapes and nothing else.  The time flew by the only sounds the scrape of pencils and the scuffle of wood as the students adjusted and then a flurry of activity as they captured my likeness, my essence.

I saw his easel first, it was different from the others, painted bright yellow, as if he’d tried to add a little personality to what’s essentially just really three sticks held together with a couple of screws and a bit of wood. But it stood out and so I concentrated on that. The lad behind it was fairly ordinary – nice enough face and fairly well built but nothing special. He was so intent, so serious, and clearly very keen on what he was producing. I never did find out his name, it was all a little sterile. A big clock ticked away on the wall and along with the huff and puff of concentration there wasn’t much going on.

No music, which would have been nice as John, Professor Pinkney, didn’t want to spoil the atmosphere.

Time flew by and before I knew it I was putting my dressing gown back on, smiling my thanks for their brief applause at the end of the session, and exiting the room. It was suggested that I didn’t mingle with the students as there should be no hint of impropriety and so I simply went to the ladies, put my clothes on and left. Money for old rope, easy as falling off a bicycle.

Well the money came in handy and before you knew it I was modeling three or four times a week, same place but not always the same class. You could tell by the standard of the art that there was broad mix. Some of them really did me justice and the sketches really were very nice. I was allowed to keep a couple. One of them’s hanging in the down stairs loo. The lad with the yellow easel would be there a couple of times a week. Never spoke to him, just noticed him. He  stuck out like a sore thumb!

Think I’d been at the college for the best part of a year when something funny happened. I remember it was raining; I was rushing so I wouldn’t miss the bus, grabbed my mac and brolly and ran for the shelter at the end of our road. It was a Wednesday — they collect the bins on a Thursday so most of the bins were already on the pavement. I think I saw it when I was halfway to the college – water running off the windows, smokers upstairs, non-smokers down – hard to miss really but there it was, sticking out of one of the bins, a yellow easel, the one that belonged to the lad. One of the legs was snapped off and it’d been stuffed in with all the other rubbish.

Never did see him again. Strange that.”

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2 Responses to “ART FOR ART’S SAKE”

  1. Katherine Hajer August 17, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    I liked the flow here. It all felt a bit like a magician’s trick — here’s a story here, and a compelling one, but there’s another story over there, and the reveal is as startling as that flash of yellow in the bin.

    • Colin James I-10 Blog August 17, 2013 at 7:44 am #

      Thanks Katherine.
      Its always about trying to get the flow right, how smooth one can make the transitions. That’s the magic trick 🙂

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