Next year, it will be a decade since I first began sitting as a model for Adele Wagstaff. I’ve written before about the journey from the first portrait when I was 18, to the success of ‘Contemplation’ becoming the cover of a Penguin Classic. Adele recently completed a new portrait, and asked if I would write a guest post for her blog about the experience of sitting for her.
I love sitting for Adele. I feel privileged to be allowed into the sanctum of her studio; the many different paintings and studies lining the walls morph and grow week on week. I associate the strong scent of turps with sitting.
For the latest portrait, Adele agreed I could crochet whilst she painted, and hence my head is bowed. For the first portrait, I was reading. Over the years I have become more and more comfortable being studied closely. These days I chat away happily whilst Adele works, so much so that she struggles to paint my mouth because it wont stay shut! On quieter days I listen to Adele’s palette knife mixing buttery oils on her wooden palette. Sitting is a very calming experience; it is a chance for my mind to settle. In the old studio, my chair was usually positioned facing the window, and I would watch the trees dance whilst the time passed. One painting takes many hours and many cups of tea, sometimes green and sometimes Earl Grey. We observe the shifts in daylight, as clouds pass and seasons fluctuate.
Sitting for Adele one to one is a different experience to sitting for a portrait class. There is no stranger sensation than seeing a room full of easels reflecting back your own face. At times, it can be unsettling to be studied so closely by a room of people.
Adele painted this study back in 2004, one of the first times I sat for her Portrait Summer School in Bletchingley. The dynamic of classes can be different, it is a much more ‘professional’ arrangement and the intimacy of one to one sitting is absent. I’ve learnt a lot listening to Adele teach her students. I have a lot of respect for professional models, who can hold challenging poses for hours on end.
I’m often surprised that Adele hasn’t yet tired of painting me. I would love one day to see a painting of an older woman, and compare that face to the face of the eighteen year old who first ventured into Adele’s studio.
Adele is always looking for new faces to paint; if you are interested, contact me and I will pass on your details.