As I approached the end of my three years of portraiture study, I was commissioned by a former colleague from Sky News to do a life drawing of his wife for a private space.
I have been life drawing all my adult life - and three nights a week for three years at Heatherleys - but this was my first life drawing commission. The experience was so positive, and full of learning moments, it has decided me to offer this type of portrait to other females.
A little nervous, with nervousness coming from both sides, I met Annie for the first time at the couple’s beautiful, clean-lined London home, where I noted a number of charcoal drawings on their walls. After a cup of tea, we moved to the light-filled bedroom, where the portrait was to hang and the sitting was to take place.
The three of us discussed the type of pose Annie was to take, and it was obvious the couple were split. Annie’s husband preferred a seated, front view, on a beautiful chair they had recently bought together. Annie was more inclined towards a laying down pose on the bed. Perhaps a back view. I suggested we tried both clothed, to see how comfortable she felt in each. But she, bravely, said she thought it best to disrobe so we could judge what worked best with the light from the side windows.
I then left it up to them to make their choice and we arranged a date for the sitting - which is always just the sitter and me. There was soon a comfortable atmosphere in the room where we discussed the pose Annie would take and she decided to go for the front view…carefully pulling down the blinds in case the window cleaner popped up unexpectedly at the window as he was, apparently, wont to do!
I began the life drawing that day, gathering the information I’d need to polish it in my home studio. When completed I showed it to them digitally. They both loved it but qualms had set in about a frontal portrait - as they had realised it meant there would have to be a rush to close the bedroom door, whenever there was someone in the house wished to visit the upstairs bathroom! So they asked if I would do a second life drawing from the back view and that was the one that they hung in that space.
Annie, very courageously then agreed to allow me to show my original life drawing at my Post Diploma in Portraiture final show - and the couple even came along to the Private View to support me! I think it’s clear from the frontal portrait that Annie was not really comfortable being portrayed in this way. She has a natural shyness that is difficult for non models to overcome. In comparison the back view was so relaxed, and the sitting was more enjoyable. In fact, she almost fell asleep during it! And that feeling of being comfortable in the pose, and therefore in her own skin, shines through the charcoal drawing.
Valuable lessons learned from one setting out on a new career in portraiture. There is no picture to show of the back view, as this was created for a private space.
Annie life drawing in charcoal and chalk drawing on paper by Stella Tooth