Adventures of an ISSA Poser

So you're underground with a group of famous cave artists (By the way what is the collective noun for a group of artists - an easel?) and someone asks you to pose for them. The gamut of emotions that run across your forehead are as mixed as the famous allsorts.

Why me ?
What do I do?
Will I Look Stupid?
I feel really honored!

There's really only one way to deal with the situation when and if it arises. Put yourself in their hands and be guided into whatever situation they can position you in and trust them.

The first time this happened to me I have to admit was a little terrified, I mean I'd posed for photographs before, but I'd never been an artists model, and certainly not for someone as eminent their field as Ceris Jones. Ceris is rightly known as a figurative artist par excellence and I was in awe her. I have to say however that she was gentle with me as she tweaked and turned my pose to suit the nature of her art and proceeded apace with her superb figure drawing. The thing that you notice about a really great artist is their understanding of what they want out of a situation and their ability to get the best out of the people around them.

Another of the excellent aspects of posing for Ceris is the speed that she works at. Her fluid, dynamic style rapidly captures the essence of the moment, which means that it's never too lengthy or painful to pose for her.

There are times when it is however important to hold your pose for longer than is comfortable, such as the time when ISSA were working in Kent's Cavern in Torquay and we were sharing the show cave with the paying public. I was posing as a caver crawling out of a small hole at about chest height when we heard a gaggle of schoolgirls approaching excitedly. As the pose I was holding had me facing the floor with my head down it was difficult to see what was going on, but I heard a few "is it a dummy" type comments in the background. Waiting until I could see feet approaching within a few steps before I looked up and said "hello!"

Imagine the screams... It was worth every moment.

Now consider for a moment another of the ISSA artists, Pete Martin. Pete is a superb sculptor who although fairly new to the ISSA ranks has already carved a reputation for the excellent and innovative works that he produces. Pete is an experienced and enthusiastic caver and really understands the ways you need to move, especially on climbs and in small, constricted passages. I've posed for Pete in such "exotic" places as Upper Long Churn, which was easy on the scale of some of the places he gets to.

Modeling for Pete can mean getting into a more dynamic pose, which looks mobile and can be quite strenuous. However like Ceris he rapidly captures the spirit of the moment and is happy to let you take a break (well if he remembers). He knows what he wants from a situation, a sense of reaction to the rock around you and a sense of action in the pose.

On the other hand, modeling for ISSAs Chairman Robin Grey tends to be roomier. Robins drawings are often as large as life and only slightly less flamboyant than he is in person, Whilst expounding on the wonders of the world he draws and paints the grandeur of the open passages with deep, black, inky space going off into the distance.

Robin is an acknowledged leader in the use of Oil Pastels and draws with white pastel on black paper in order to capture the essence of the light in the darkness. So his rapid sketches of wide open river passages aren't too taxing. I've posed for Robin in such places as the wonderful main passage in GB cave and in Matienzo both places that he has recorded in style.

Modeling for Rhian Hicks has to be some of the most comfortable I have done so far. I have posed for Rhian underground sitting quietly in Gilwern Passage in Ogof Draenen was the most recent event so I guess that you do have to accept that you need to get cold and wet at times, but when Rhian wanted some new sketches and pictures to work from and I was able to oblige without even going underground! All I had to do was don my caving gear one sunny day (that was actually the hardest part) and crawl around the back garden. I'm glad we had fairly high fences in that garden!

That's not the only strange location I've been called on to pose though. The dining room in the YSS Cottage in Helwith Bridge. Imagine striking strange poses in the middle of the dining area in a caving club with an audience and while still sober!

If I think that I've had it hard. I have to remember that there have been other ISSA posers who've also suffered for their artists. Dave Ryall has donned his diving gear and alternately sweated or frozen on many an occasion, Jim Sloane has been a stalwart often stopping mid ascent or descent and then of course Rhian, Ceris and the other ISSA artists themselves on occasions become models for the others in the party.

I've felt self-conscious at times, but it's always been worthwhile and one of my proudest moments was when I (along with Jim Sloane) was presented with a T-shirt with the slogan "OFFICIAL ISSA POSER".

I was happy to receive it (very happy given the quantity of red wine I had consumed at the time) and remain proud to wear it on every suitable occasion.

Andy Kendall OIP

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