🦄✨☁️ this ones for my girls wearing cotton candy body spray and covering themselves in temporary tattoos. for the ones with sticky lip gloss days and cried off fake lash nights. chipped polish and fake nails, huffing nail glue and getting high on benedryls. the ones who prefer stickers over flowers, glitter over nude shadows, and are still trying to figure out how to contour themselves a kardashian or over drawn lips. who are more impressed by a boy with drugs than the ones with a job. bubble gum machine dreams, slot machine nightmares, thrift store street walker outfits and the heels to set it off. the ones who carry fake luxury bags and wear fake fur and no panties with a slip. the girls that were outcasts but identified with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, putting on my best goth make up to watch the simple life. the ones who buy cute sweets not to eat just to have, only filling ourselves with sweet things. we are the ever living ghost of lux Lisbon and Cecelia, and we are dreamy as fuck. get you one! 🦄✨☁️
“I came to model for Cecil because I got to know Lyndie Wright one summer on a drawing and painting holiday. At the time, I was considering whether to go to art rather than drama school. A girlfriend of mine wanted to go to art school and build up her portfolio so I went on this summer course in France with her. That’s where I met Lyndie and her children and we used to hang out with them. Afterwards, back in London, Lyndie attended some art classes in which I modeled. My mother paints and from about the age of fourteen, I would go along with her to model at adult education classes. Instead of receiving a fee, because I like painting, I would be paid in kind so I could paint in a class myself. Later, when Lyndie was going to Cecil’s open classes at Central School, she asked whether I would like to model for him as well. That’s how it began.
"I almost lived at Central and absolutely loved it. Cecil was this wondefully eccentric man with his furry leopard-skin waistcoat. He wore this dark greyish-greenish suit. He’d always wear a suit, but then on top of his suit jacket, he would also wear this fake fur leopard zip-up waistcoat. I think it was something that would keep him warm because he was so frail. I used to find it really amusing because he always wore this thing and the fake fur had become matted because it had been washed a few times, but it was very funny with these yellow and brown spots.
”He would sit in the middle at one of the tables with his record player or tape machine. He was absolutely the master, totally in control. The first time I went was a totally different way of modelling. I’d been used to sitting for forty minutes, having a break, then doing another forty minutes. The first time when he said, ‘I’m going to play a piece of music and you can move to it and when the music stops, just hold that position.’ It was like playing musical statues; like being a child. To actually stand in the middle and then for him to say, 'You can move to the music’ was something I loved because it was like playing games the whole time. As a model, I felt so involved. It was like an organic process and I was totally part of it. I enjoy modelling and even being still for forty minutes, but I felt more connected to the process in Cecil’s classes.
“I immediately knew what he meant because I’m an actress so I was in tune with what it was he was wanting. I loved it. I just completely let rip. I felt totally free. I was not embarrassed or scared or anything about being naked. I just loved the fact that I could move and dance naked. Also, the choice of music or sounds he used was amazingly freeing. Sometimes it would be the sound of wind through trees and leaves rustling or ocean sounds. Another time there’d be a stream trickling. I can’t remember the music Cecil used except the sounds of nature, but it was always quite passionate music. I’ve got a very strong feeling that I moved, or danced to, Mahler. My mind then would be racing because I knew, at some point, he’d stop the music. As much as I was fully present and in the music, I was also observing and wanting to be in a shape that would be really interesting to draw, when he pressed the button, not just be caught standing completely rigid.
”In fact, in our kitchen I’ve got three pictures that one of Cecil’s Students, Melissa, gave to me. Every time I’m in the kitchen chopping vegetables, I look at them and have wonderful memories of that time in my life. The energy that comes from those drawings is so positive that there is something very uplifting about them. A lot of times people who come to the house, look at them, but don’t connect the model with me because they don’t know that part of my history. What I love about them is that there’s so much life in the images. You can see that it’s a figure who’s been caught in the moment and there’s an energy in each of the shapes. I love them and I even remember what fun it was when I was doing that session. They were thirty second poses and that’s what I loved because in that short amount of time an amazing energy was created and the figures seem to have an interior life. That’s something you can’t do if you’re given an hour. Cecil would say things like, 'Have a brush in the left hand and another brush in your mouth,’ then he’d tell the students what they were going to do and this is going to be so many minutes. It was wonderful.
“One of his students was a woman I got to know, Ruth Eisenhart, who was giving classes in Covent Garden before it became so trendy and while Cecil was still alive. The studio was down a little alley. It was a fantastic place with such character. I loved that. Ruth’s classes were pretty much copying what Cecil did. She had the same music, but the amount of time she allowed for the pose would, on the whole, be longer that Cecil’s. Sarah, Lyndie Wright’s daughter, would also come along to draw and I would be sitting in and drawing Ruth’s class too when my friend was modelling. I got rid of a pile of drawings I had, but I’ve still kept my favorites that I love looking through. Sometimes I’ll say to myself, 'That’s really good.’ It surprises me, but it could be hanging in a gallery somewhere and people would think, gosh, that’s something amazing.
"I think people were in awe of Cecil. There was a sort of a reverence towards him because people wanted what he had to teach. He absolutely embodied in his life what he was trying to teach. When you came into his life-drawing room, everything was directed towards him, all attention was given to him and people were sensitive to his condition because he was so old and looked so frail. In his classes everyone was totally absorbed.
”I would get really excited and I think that everybody sitting there would be as well because they didn’t know what was going to come next. You’re not thinking; you can’t think. All you’re doing is waiting for the instructions, then you just have to follow them with full attention, but you have to leave your brain outside, so to speak. On the whole in normal life, one’s constantly trying to control one’s life and one’s surroundings, whereas there, it was about having no control at all and letting your subconscious take over. In a way Cecil was giving you the tools which would be thought of him being in control, telling you what to do, but it was more a suggestion. 'This is what I’d like you to try this time. Put your bamboo between your toes and have our brush in your mouth.’
“He was in control of the music or whatever sounds he brought to open people’s minds and also when he’d stop the music, but he wasn’t controlling about what then appeared on the paper or what I would have achieved or how I was going to be standing when the button was pressed. I think it’s such a shame that there’s no one in art schools now teaching like him.
"There was such an appreciation in Cecil’s classes, both towards me and the of the students towards each other. During the breaks, I could walk around quite freely and look because people wanted to show what they had done. Each mark on the paper was something they were really excited about and I could understand because I had felt so involved myself. When I’d been modelling for students who’d just come out of school and gone straight into an art school, there wasn’t that connection. It was always them and me. I don’t know whether it was embarrassment or whether it was because they were part of a more conventional education system. There wasn’t that appreciation. You can’t put life into the drawing of that person if there’s such a distance between you.
”Funnily enough, at the same time I was modelling for an artist called Susanna Fiennes. She would hold art classes in the studio of Westminster Boys’ School in the evenings for adults who were all professions; city high-flyers and journalists and things like that, although again these people were enthusiastic and I very much felt part of the group. A lot of them had never put pen to paper before and she was teaching them in a very traditional way. After a couple of years, I told her about Cecil and said, 'Why don’t we try a class where maybe we do some short poses for the first half of the class and think of it as a kind of warm-up to get them to free themselves so they’re not measuring in millimeters.’ We did it and Susanna joined in because it was such good fun and everyone enjoyed it.
“We didn’t have music and I would then be taking the classes as the model. I’d be the one saying, 'This is what we’ll do. I’m going to move and them I’m going to stop.’ I’d say 'You’ve got thirty seconds to do this,’ or 'You’ve got a minute and a half.’ I said, 'I’m going to be dancing around and I’ll stop. I’ll start moving again, but you have to be ready.’ I wasn’t wearing a watch so I couldn’t time myself properly. It was exciting. It wasn’t difficult; it was just about taking [a] leap of faith and letting go. I modelled for this particular class for a long time, pretty much until I came over to the States.
”I started modelling for Cecil in 1980 or '81, then from 1983 I was at RADA and didn’t model. After I left drama school in 1985, I was really working a lot because that was how I made my living.
“Cecil talked to me very little. I didn’t have many conversations with him at all. I think the only one was when he asked me, 'Do you want to go to art school?’ and I said, 'Well, I’m not sure, I might go to drama school.’ He didn’t make any comment that I can remember.
”One day he came back after he’d been away and and I remember Ruth coming up to me. She was quite excited and said, 'Cecil’s started drawing. His creative juices are starting to flow again.’ There were periods when he wasn’t active at all and I don’t know whether she was telling me because she felt it was through me having had a really positive experience and the atmosphere I’d created in the classes, but it was so nice that Ruth came up to me and said he was drawing again.
“I had closer relationships to his students, to the women who would come every week. There were always more woman than men. He didn’t have much personal contact with his students, except maybe for Ruth and also Lyndie who would chat with him at breaks. There wasn’t much contact, but there was absolute, quiet veneration.”
– Alex Kingston, from In Celebration of Cecil Collins: Visionary Artist and Educator (2008), ed. Nomi Rowe
NYC ROOKIES, MORRISSEY WITH FAKE-EYELASH MOUSTACHE SEZ: Come through to Captured Tracks on January 9! Rookie writer Meredith and I are having an unofficial Rookie reader hang from 6-9 PM at the record store, which is at 195 Calyer St. between Leonard St. and Manhattan Ave. in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
We’re going to dance, make bracelets, set up listening booths playing all our favorite jams, have DJ lessons, gruffle on mad Captured Snaxxx (I’ll snag some vegan and gluten-free options; don’t worry), and…oh, is that a very special secret guest or two? It could be? I’m waiting for some emails back but it’s looking very likely? Whatever. You’re the special guests I care about, and I’m stoked to see you.
Meredith and I will be giving out 100 custom mixtapes to commemorate this fun time, with one side by her and one side by me, with extra-special cover art from Rookie artist Esme.
The store is at garden-level, meaning there is a small set of steps to the door. If you need accommodations in terms of accessibility, email me at email@example.com and we will figure it on out.
Parent and guardian–type adults welcome. Rookie writers and editors will be supervising the entire event, which is obvio alcohol-free, and making sure no cretins drop by. Also, I am happy to meet your people if they want to make sure WE’RE not cretins. (If your parents/guardzones just want to drop you off, Cafe Riviera, which is nearby at 830 Manhattan Ave., has THE BEST macaroons, and there’s also a very good diner, the Manhattan 3 Decker, at 695 Manhattan.)
Now: WHAT THE HELL DO I WEAR?!?!?? Oh…a white fake fur stole and garbage jeans, just like always. SEE YOU THERE!