Mountain of Strength

High up in Crystal Palace, Caron Clarke is making me cringe.

How she dares tell her attendees to complete her outlandish tasks… is anathema to me. Can she not read the horror in their grimaces?

Maryam Saleemi suggests the dance I want to leap into!

Risks are how we learn. Not worrying about what others think, including our friends, allows us to grow. Clarke is right.

On Thursday evening the class want an easy session; if they haven’t been before they are in for a shock. OUT of your comfort zone will Caron wrench you. She will work the lethargy from you and replace it with collage, blind and non-writing hand drawing…

Martin Cleave makes the most of Caron being distracted by someone else

But seriously I have a massive soft spot for Caron. I’m always creasing at her antics, and her own buoyant smile bounces into my daydream. Having modeled for her a few years, I am familiar with the surprised transformations she elicits from her class.

Our friendship began when we discovered we both play the violin badly and she asked me to fiddle whilst modelling, sometimes we did duets.

I cannot believe the exercises she asks the class to do. I sense disgust

They will never come back. Can’t she see how unfeasible her idea is, that they are tired and just want to relax with some life drawing, not be jerked into spasms of disconcerting creativity?

Sunita Sharma is not put off by the challenges

But towards the end, the class is back with her, and they learnt something new.

It is Caron’s sheer boldness that asserts itself in fact in such delicate form which I admire. For her sumptuous watercolours, and bright shining humour. I don’t cringe anymore, but enjoy an extra giggle as she wades in without goggles. She is the real thing, all by herself and perfectly amazing, always brimming with abundant beauty, natural laughter.

In her Saturday long pose sessions Caron paints

Superb model Vanessa Abreu by Caron

Antenna, Crystal Palace & Caron combine for a groovy formula. The place is a recording studio; musicians, generally rock, indie wander about, tuning up on the roof, strumming in the yard. On my way to the loo my scanty covering flies up – I can feel the testosterone behind me. Hey – if I hang about long enough I might even get asked to be in a band… though I’ve not tried yet, guess I’d rather reach that by other means

are they musicians or punters?


After a long weekend it takes time to recover; and if the weekend has been good, I cannot think for a while afterwards. Decision making is quite absent, except that I still need more sleep.

Aaron records the moment

In a beauteous time of gathering rhyme, fuzzing with slime… I ought to listen more carefully when those around me nudge, but I am very slow, and the progress sucks.
There is one area I do not neglect and it is unsurprising for a snake like me. My senses are attuned directionally violet.

We each have our own relationship with karma, and in my case, a wilderness of women awaited. I am still there really

Atop a tower, Canary Wharf, CitiBank workers get to draw me. I strip off close to the wide view only to be told nudity is forbidden.

Jessica Cavalletto draws me in the bank

Goddess Greetings

Ishtar in the middle of the Gods

Time stands still in Belsize Park

Mothers marvel at their model’s smiling grace, and they fall into peace

Bourgeois etiquette, Beauty measured, and the children’s progress

Successful trappings tap my circuitry and I wur more efficiently!

In the evening I convene in a large ornate South London church with many women more like me

Chairs removed and beats building I let go with them

Merging our chaos, rolling our hips against one another and howling on the altar

Tonight the Goddess culture brings us closer

We release all sorts of anguish and connect with eyes and movement

I feel a feminine frenzy sweeping and a witchy wailing unearthed

Filled with love for womenfolk, and this ecstatic dance is spun by all us here

Ishtar ~ Goddess of fertility, love, war & sex

Suffragette Revealed

Rae Flack's images caught the mood

A caged female stares at an audience arriving

Fresh flowers are treated to a trim, stalks first, heads last, all across the boards

Barricaded in, furniture encloses me

Petals scattered, scissor blades are turned to my prim attire

Blouse pierced I hack at sleeves and torso

Flesh revealed, I freeze in crazed stupor

Rae Flack's collages

My thighs are thick with an effervescing femininity as I perform Emmeline Pankhurst

Stripping in stages to discordant Schoenberg;  a feminist raging release from her clothes


In the early 20th Century Suffragettes gathered at what is now the Battersea Arts Centre for radical meetings. Now this theme is recaptured with theatrical intent. A director instructs me to move subtly as I take the scissors to my garments. But it’s all in the moment, and I just can’t help myself.

There is something extremely potent about tearing one’s clothes off with total abandon, so I just go with it like a wild woman. Yet each impulsive thrust is followed by my contemplative stillness; I hold back for a unique build up of my own sexual tension, not directed to this audience, if only to the one in my mind.

Every performance has a new costume for me to destroy. The artists cut me up too, collages created, and a violent, sexy undressing given shape.

Sucked into the Vortex

Martha & Eve 12th July '10 Vortex for artist Gina Southgate in action

The tutor at Candid yesterday encouraged students to ‘feel the model with both hands – really go all over her body covering the whole volume’. This must be timely because I squelched from pose to pose, bathing in the remote double-handed attention. Anne works well with me, she knows I excel in sensual dynamism and she makes good use. I arch and curve like the best alley cat.

After, I duck on down to Dalston, where friend from birth Caroline Young is entreating me to urban gypsy jazz queen, Sarah Gillespie. This goes down well in the charming intimacy at The Vortex. There are in-jokes and a solid following, captivating delivery too.

Caroline and I were born beds from each other in Archway, back in the late ’70s. As a child my fiddling Father wanted me to learn the violin, and at Saturday orchestra my new best friend… was Caroline. I brought her home, and our Mums remembered each other. Caroline’s had been the memorable vegan on the ward.

Our friendship didn’t look back, and she’s always helped me to depart from the rails when she can. We hit festivals in ’92, drugs soon after. A bit later I wandered off to the Slimelight, she preferring ‘the hippie thing’. Now our lives are seemingly different; she has a family, and I have resisted all sorts of responsibility. One thing we do share is following artistic passion, and creating business from it. She is leading the way in beautiful face & body painting. I of course can’t stop removing my garments, so at some point a uniting of talents I hope is inevitable.

The Vortex is decorated with artwork produced by Gina Southgate, who painted the live musicians on various occasions. It makes for messy, spirited and vibrant action.

One on One

One on one I hear you behind me.

Primal painting, panting, heaving, exaggerating, intensifying.

It does sound like you are having sex, sometimes attacking the canvas, angrily.

I can find it amusing once. But I won’t come back.

One on one with a man. You have to be very special to make that work.

He may be married, but really I am ‘the girlfriend experience’. I am a ghost of women he used to flirt with, date. But I won’t play. It doesn’t work for me energetically. It’s not why I’m an artist’s model.

Even if it’s a class; I prefer a woman leading. Very few men can approach this entirely professionally, so in the end you have to find them charming, otherwise it is obstructive. They give away what they think of you, how they find you, in subtle nuance. Like all interaction I suppose. But when you are naked, you can tell if they objectify you.

Sometimes I consciously acknowledge this with artists, so put myself at ease.

Another time – in a group of male and female older artists – where I know the men are in charge… I can’t help but do poses opposed to their girlish view of me. To fit the mould would be too cute.

Greenwich. Mean. Time.

Y.P.A.s are my favourite people to model for at the moment. That’s Young Portuguese Architects if you don’t know; not to be confused with Young British Artists – a very different bunch, not generally into life drawing, apart from Tracey Emin, but she’s not easy to get hold of right now.

The woman wants to draw me as I move in slow motion, a sort of personal variant on tai chi. Well that is like asking me to do what I love, and paying me.

Then I am to lie on a sofa with my legs up against the wall. They’re looking for a different perspective. I enjoy a head rush until my feet are bloodless.

Lounge. Assymetrically. Again I do that naturally.

High up through one way glass I see a familiar evening vista. It’s like the view from my bedroom in close up.

By the water’s edge here is much dereliction – a Greenwich waiting to rise… if money still flows.

Bloodlines in Bethnal Green… and the Jewish Question

Around 1911 my Great Grand-Mother, Rivkah Notlovitz, arrived on a boat in London; she’d fled pogroms in the Baltic East. She headed straight for Stamford Hill, because well you know, it is Ashkenazim HQ. She was bored after a few months however, and boarded another boat; this time for Cape Town. Her religious life over, she now gave herself to politics where an altogether new circumstance of colour presented itself.

Hush descends a shoddy shack and red runs down my leg, heat rising to my face – I forgot the bloody date!

Silence, and after 20 minutes a small pool is at my heel. I clean up.

At break, a German artist books me for an entire week. I’ve got what it takes he says. Public bleeding apparently indicating that I am in fact a woman, not a mannequin.

Pronouncing my name is often followed by, “Are you Jewish?” – by Jews and gentiles alike. Usually I’m not, though occasionally Rivkah has her uses, but technically she’s on my Father’s side, so she doesn’t actually count.

As for why I’m called Esther, well that is another story, and oddly it is related to the holocaust!

Mum grew up in East Berlin and was always an outsider from the off, because she and her family lived there for political reasons, i.e. being on the run from McCarthyism. One thing she observed in the East Germans was, they blamed the holocaust entirely on West Germans. Clearly this was propaganda, but as a child (she left aged 13) it somehow indelibly marked her. She became a dedicated housewife, and her only form of protest for something she witnessed as unjust, was released in the naming of her first born. Somehow she knew that throughout my life I would be mistaken for Jewish, time and time again.

Defying Rationale

Some artists have noticed that I am writing boldly and they are not sure if they trust me anymore.  I have to say that comments I make about artists in my blog are part of a creative writing strand, and while inspired by life, contain fictitious elements. Subtle details are often changed partly to protect identities, and because I have an overall thread in mind which overlays reality and a bigger picture of it.

Today at the Mall, I challenged artists to be bold too; as they walked in my room they were initially confronted with my open legs. Unplanned, I worked the pose out with those present earlier, including women from whose point of view there were good angles and a fabulous grin.  It was men who took the bushy gaze, and after all, from porn they may be used to that. I was comfortable, and understand that some men, like me, sometimes enjoy creating when there is a turn on. It seems a most natural condition, and under the auspices of this life group, all may be gratified.

A latent poise is surfacing in conversation with some who draw me (and have read my words). Testing. I cannot help but feel that regardless this is drawing us closer in understanding. It may take time.

Life Club

Birdsong in the morning,  zone 6,  cemetery path and a silver haired community centre.
I face Margaret. She always gets missed out, so today I look her way. Two minutes picking her medium; charcoal in a chocolate box, or pens in an elastic? Doesn’t look at me, just feels her materials, places her pad.
And then eyes raise, lid removed. A long look, small marks. Wait; spectacles are in order, and minutes go by.
I work hard for 2 ten minute poses, arms high, toes tipped… and then dry up. Too early, close in, and cover what they’d like to see most. Senior sauce. But hey! Even protruding knees and elbows please their select number (to get in you have to make good cake).

In the 2nd half they stop me mid-stretch, frantic scribbling what could be a glamour pose.

I only came because I like Margaret (and the cake).