Black, crumbly, scratchy, smeary… charcoal: I love it. Standing up at a precarious easel, I’m concentrating on the hip of the naked woman in front of me and trying to relate it to the elbow of another, and get it in the right elbow/hip proportion.

Under a black-and-white check canopy with a disembowelled chair hanging over my head, I’m at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (in New England House, Brighton). That’s the theme of this life class: I expected people dressed in Alice in Wonderland costumes sitting around a table – maybe a stuffed dormouse hanging out of a teapot. I wasn’t really expecting four beautiful young women, wearing, respectively, a top-hat, striped stockings, rabbit ears, and a cigarette-holder, in a surreal grotto of giant playing cards, a huge key, flowers and checks everywhere… it’s years since I went to a life-drawing class, but things have clearly changed! You might say it’s a bit, well, burlesque, but it’s not: it’s a life-class, imaginatively-staged.

The models start with quick poses, five minutes – in fact, they change positions when the song finishes. The songs all relate to the Alice theme, but don’t include the song from the old Disney film (aaah), and do include a disappointing cover of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ (oh well). But that’s not why I’m here. I plunge into a few brush drawings, all bad – I should have been practicing. It takes a while to get your eye back in, but I switch to soft pencil, then lovely charcoal. Everyone’s concentrating hard, and the models are striking really taxing poses, and I’m getting a bit better, and then it’s all over. Time flies in Wonderland.

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