March 9, 2010 § 2 Comments
At one point in my life I spent three evenings every week sitting.
This sitting went on for 9 months and was not the passive kind you know, in front of the telly or reading a book snuggled into a sofa, but an aggressive type, one that demolishes your social life and doesn’t allow you to wear nail polish, cut your hair or get a suntan.
To explain: I was asked to sit for a picture by one of the World’s greatest and most talented Artists. Although an honour to have been asked it was the hardest thing both mentally and physically that I have ever done. I’d been asked years before when I was in my early 20’s but decided that I had way too many clubs to dance in and much too much fashion stuff to be ‘getting on’ with. Poor excuses I know. Frankly his energy petrified me.
I am the type of girl who avoids communal changing rooms at all costs but, for this, I agreed to be naked. Well, perhaps agreed is the wrong word: ‘Cozzi, sit there, clothes off, good good….’ all said in a manner so speedy and matter-of-fact that I actually didn’t have time to think about whether I should protest and leave.
My first attempts to sit were tense and hellish. Although in only a moderately warm room I would be sweating. There was I, about to be immortalised in paint by someone renowned for being brutally honest in their interpretation, pulling in my butt cheeks, pleading with my thighs to constrict in an attempt to look good only to be ordered to slouch down so that my chest caved into my stomach. Not to be outdone my now rounded tummy squished into three dough-ish rolls. ‘Perfect’ he said prodding the air with a brush, narrowly missing my vanity as it flew out the window.
At first there were 2 sitters: me straight legged behind to accommodate another figure curled up in front. Being with someone else made it slightly easier. But then one evening I came in to find her painted out and told of the idea that the canvas would be extended to allow for my legs. All my legs was how it was put ‘I paint what I see.. all legs’.
Over painting happened again sometime later: someone mentioned that my face looked very much like me. My painted self was described as being ‘quite pretty’ in a way that indicated that ‘quite pretty’ made me a super model by his previous standards. Immediately after it was said I could feel the prickles. No doubt I pulled a face and even if I didn’t a twisted mouth became mine.
Adding to my weekly contortions was something that I hadn’t imagined: other people’s reactions. Over excitement and pride from my parents was to be expected. They frankly would have been happy if he drew me in the style of Hangman just so long as they could tell everyone. What was shocking was how at the mention of my ‘musing’ I’d go from someone who could rarely raise an eyebrow at introduction to a mega-watt, glow-in-the-dark deity. The sight of friends standing in front of me like so many gob smacked kids at Christmas was unnerving to say the least. At parties I would be reverently taken by the arm and introduced to all and sundry in hushed tones. I lost count of the number of ‘you’re so brave’ conversations. Brave? A naked lady brave? Would you describe strippers at Hackney’s Axe as brave? It became obvious that they only thing that made my nakedness brave and theirs tawdry was the fact that one could place the word ‘eminent’ as opposed to the word ‘piss’ when discussing my Artist.
With everyone being less than subtle, a few months in and I couldn’t bring myself to mention the latest additions to the picture: cherries and a stabbed pillow. Taking his family into consideration we both figured that I didn’t need that kind of analysis. A fact that made us laugh.
Being in public with him was very odd as I was constantly being eyed up. Paranoid and wary of his reputation, I’d imagine voyeuristic brains whirring, working out whether our age gap was in any way relative to the amount of Viagra he’d have to take. In restaurants Brit-Art-Gods at the next table would try and get his attention by catching my gaze and I’d be politely but firmly asked to ignore it. And oh how I got used to it: after a few weeks it became very normal for us to go out and enjoy a meal whilst being actively encouraged to blank the Hollywood star across the room. In fact it became quite a game!
Back at the studio I also grew confident enough to wander around naked, drinking tea whilst discussing our favourite topics: the dubious parentage of certain people he knew, hated or borrowed money off, mutual friends, Germany or the merits of being Irish. Relaxing while he added several layers of paint to the already extended contours of my arse (extended by both paint and large puddings), I resigned myself to the fact that I was fast becoming the ‘before’ picture in a Slim Fast ad. I gave up my fervent pre-sitting shaving ritual as, no matter how much hair I took off, when I looked at the picture I appeared to be wearing either hairy knickers or petting a small cat. When I pointed this out from the discomfort of my bed he said: ‘I’m an old man with a bush fixation’ and burst out laughing. I’d join in, there was a lot of laughing. And swearing in that sod-them-all-what-do-they-know kind of way that people have when no one else matters.
Once we had an argument, me standing hand on hip to make my case. It was only when I retired the victor to the bathroom that I remembered (cruelly reminded by a huge mirror and stark lighting) that I was day-go white with tan-line tits and quite comically starkers. On returning more tea and a heart felt apology were offered and both accepted.
And then it was finished. I took my final look as I usually did – alone in the studio sitting on the hard bed I’d been posing on for months, staring at the painting’s reflection in the black curtain less windows and the feeling was oddly numbing. It really was the end of something. Days after I was asked to start another painting, my brief air of doubt about how much time I could spare (at my use of the word I could swear that I could hear his shoulders hitting his ears in disgust) was brushed off with a cheery ‘Byyyyeeee Cozzi’ and that, well that was that.
Lucian Freud – The Studio
March 10th 2010- July 19th 2010