"Don't just Do Something; Stand there!" usually attributed to arch-conservative Ronnie Regan, seems strangely appropriate in the case of models as good as Sue. No, there aren't many, are there, who need only to stand there to challenge us to demonstrate an integrity to match their own commitment. I decided initially, from my low seated viewpoint, to have Sue dominating the surrounding company at my own eye-level. I then embroiled myself in needless background difficulties, which persisted all day, and derailed the plan entirely. Ugly result. So much for unhappy bunny me. "At least I can rip mine up" I says to Tom, as he too admits to being unhappy with his day's work : "It's rubbish, I'm going to paint over it." Ah but mine is a lot more rubbish than yours! I think Tom felt he had pushed a narrative potential into something "slick". By next week, it will be the underpainting of something beautiful. And mine will be cut up, sometime, rather than torn, and incorporated into the endless recycling of work into collage, which for many years has been my creative comfort zone. There I can introduce recent images to those from years ago and far away. Sad but satisfying. It keeps me out of worse mischief. So, to begin by the window, we have Colin working boldly and bravely in the intense pink glow there. Then Sue, taking on the challenge of the thumb-forward hand twisting the arm (which Sue our model was also painfully challenged by), and producing a kind of enchanting somnambulist about to walk out of the frame. (Sue our model was also short of sleep, she confided.) Sandra utilised her fluorescent pink/orange to deal with the almost impossibly-bright afternoon highlights in a structured, scaled down version from her customary size. It works! Moving on to a position facing the model, suddenly the hands, rather than presenting a challenging angularity, seemed to emphasise the curves punctuated by them. Also, against the light, they were accompanied by a blurred and softened face, with just the mouth as a strong feature. Anne picked up on this in a work of sensuous shape and colour. I was so pleased that she had the sensitivity to leave it where it was, and not be tempted to overwork it. And then, Russell, from a similar viewpoint, producing my favourite of the day. This seems to me strong structurally, but also, importantly, shows a preparedness to respond to both the expression and the physicality of the model before him. These two elements work together to produce, for me anyway, a very affecting combination.
Great variety from the portraitists. How did Tony manage to work with a Sirocco blowing at him all day from the heater? He produced a characterful work, with a mega-restrained palette used with some varied and free brushwork. Dick's gives an honest version of the difficulties being experienced by both model and himself in their work, complemented by a menacing green backdrop. David combines the ethereal and surface physicality in a style which is patently his and his alone, created reflectively and rewarding relective viewing. Hadyn's was more than a portrait, but the face and hair draw the attention in their sensitive treatment, and the overall creamy effect of the skin tones are enhanced by a great contrasting background . Ian's treatment exudes an instinctive joy in colour and spontaneity which prompts a smiling response. There is something about it which reminds me at times of Neil's work (haven't seen him on Thurs nights for ages), which I always liked to see.
It is so great to have at least one of us working in 3-D, and Emma's piece has a mix of inner steely strength, confident openness and humour clearly derived from Sue. I wanted to talk to her about it during the day, but was reluctant to disturb her. I wondered if it stops with the day's end, or carries on developing at home?
Altogether, a varied, friendly, intriguing day. The numbers attending both Saturdays and Thursdays are testament to a group getting things very much right. Maybe, though, attention must needs be given to managing the way they, and the model are distributed in the usable space. Would a complete circle at times be out of the question?
by Chris Fallowfield
Paintings and drawings by Anne, Chris F, Chris, Colin, David, Dick, Emma, Hadyn, Ian, Mike, Russell, Sandra C, Sandra, Sue, Tom, Tony and Vikki.