Life classes are held every Monday at Dean Clough from 10.30am - 3.30pm. For more information contact Dean Clough Reception on 01422 250250.


The New Life Room
15 x 20
2006
Painting available



I’ve always loved J.B Priestley’s essays, in particular on the role of the artist. He comments on the Avant-Garde and its need to show off, adding that his own preference was for modesty and delicacy with smallness of scale. Nowadays, the conceptual art wing of the Avant-Garde increasingly looks like a side show of the entertainment industry. The shift in taste has resulted in a lack of faith in some traditional courses by the art colleges and universities, causing all but a few to abandon them. The life class has almost disappeared, leaving the initiative to a few private concerns that are determined to take up the banner.




Study For Ledge
2012
Painting available



My role as Dean Clough’s painter in residence enables me to hold a weekly session in the life room. My firm belief is that the life class still remains a vital discipline for many, for some it becomes addictive, even a ritual, where prolonged observation through training the eyes becomes paramount. It is a tiring practice, sometimes exhausting if held over a protracted period where concentration is at a premium and strict silence is observed. The models themselves fascinate me. From the time when they held little esteem, occupying what was once considered a belittling role, they now enjoy a healthy respect from the artists.




Two Models in Conversation
15 x 20
2011
Painting and print available



Sue is an athletic yoga expert as well as a published poet and novelist. Her novel is about life as an artist’s model. Nikita enjoys bringing her world of burlesque into class, wearing only laddered stockings. Erica, who was my pub manager, tours the nightclubs of Manchester at weekends; on Monday she will slowly sink to the floor during her pose. Katrina could yawn for England – her mouth seems to embrace the room. Virginia is like a beach ball on sticks with absolutely no contours to draw – she provides quite a challenge. Siobhan has all the contours, being skin and bone. Their shapes and lives in the life room is all I need for making paintings.




The Red Gown 2.
15 x 20
2011
Private Collection



It wasn't until my time at St Martins that I encountered more relaxed, even playful approaches to working with a model. I had an absolute conviction in the importance of the life room; but to balance my own approach they employed another part-time lecturer who had alternative methods. Playing jazz or dance music, spilling or splashing cans of colour are a relaxing way of painting.
Fine for some..but I couldn't get along with it!




Back View of Sue
15 x 20
2011
Painting and print available



Morning (Erica)
Erica was a pub manager at my local. At first I thought she was far too young to serve over the counter, never mind being in overall control of the establishment. Our relationship developed enough friendly banter for me to suggest that she might pose for the life class, much to the surprise of the regulars. When she agreed to risk it, Erica was in fact in her thirties with two schoolboys in tow, and she was a bit of a looker.
I arranged an easy pose for her. The morning was bright, with the sun rays melting over the soft contours, a rather sexy vision.




Morning
15 x 20
2002
Painting and print available



Afternoon
This time, the afternoon session provides less tonal contrasts. The light, although bright enough, no longer beams its rays across the room. The pose adapts to the gradual sleepiness of the model. The knees have risen to a more vertical angle as if at attention to counteract the drowsiness. The daydreams have faded, the room is too warm and the air too dry to remain open eyed. The class begins to lose concentration – the model falls asleep, some heavy nights in the clubs of Manchester the previous weekend are taking their toll. Towards the end of the session it is time to take stock – has the day produced anything worth preserving? Do I need to work on some areas in order to resolve a problem? Is the feeling, the mood the true one, or will it matter? The contours of valleys and mountains defined by a glorious light that rose to bathe the pose in the morning mellowed into a kinder, warmer glow that lasted until the end of the painting day.




Afternoon
15 x 20
2002
Painting and print available



The naked model may offer a wealth of contrasting forms: flesh that is rounded or hollowed, fat or thin, drooping or firm - but what really intrigues me are knees. My father would enter 'knobbly knee competitions' on seaside holidays, while my own kneecaps - which could shoot up and down my thin legs like shuttles - were celebrated in the school playground.

Knees have character, even personality. Some express strength and are robust; others seem rude and florid in colour. Some betray weakness, whilst others display humour with their lumps and bumps. Put in close proximity they often seem to be in conversation; or placed apart they can look isolated and vulnerable. Knees can be as complex as rocks and boulders, or plain as an iced bun.