Topical at the moment in the London life drawing scene, is dealing with sleaze, namely, The London Life Drawing Society. This is run by Tony Picano/Picanto/Pianco – he has various guises not limited to these. For many years he has been known for behaviour that has upset and offended many women, with inappropriate advances in what was meant to be a professional context. This mainly affects female life models. It’s also true that he has run events that have been straight forward and unproblematic too.
One model, new to London, recently called Tony out on Facebook, and the response has been overwhelming, with many other women coming forward, and a police investigation launched. It is no surprise to many of us veteran models, who spotted him years ago and stayed well clear. This new development is however a very positive thing for women and the life drawing scene, as while Tony may have made himself obvious to us who are in the know, for a newcomer that may be unclear. ‘The London Life Drawing Society’ sounds quite proper, and could be mistaken for being representative of a recognised standard, which is not the case at all. Most life drawing groups here are utterly appropriate, so it is very misleading. We don’t know how many women have been affected or to what extent, but we do know that Tony made a lot of people feel very uncomfortable.
When I say that Tony made himself obvious, this was from his email messages and online notices looking for models. Without ever actually meeting him, he gave himself away to a lot of us. His messages often mixed up the role of the model, with someone offering more intimate services for example, or suggested that models might not need to be paid. Indeed he has also been known for refusing to pay models, even when it was agreed beforehand. His reputation has unsurprisingly been notorious for a good number of years. Please get in touch if you have been affected and would like the police detective’s contact details.
I have had my fair share of dodgy guys to deal with whilst running Spirited Bodies. For the most part they never made it beyond emailing me, but occasionally in the early days one slipped through the net and got into a session. This led to me not inviting new men to pose for Spirited Bodies more recently. I am slowly working out how I may incorporate new men again, after serious vetting of course, and in very controlled conditions.
Following posts I made on Facebook outing Tony, my Facebook account was suspended for 24 hours, apparantly because of nude pictures I had posted. Those pictures had been there for quite a while however, so I suspected a disgruntled man getting revenge.
When my account was reinstated, I took the opportunity to celebrate by sharing a beautiful image recently taken with my partner, which while totally nude, and sensual as well (considered soft porn by some!) shows none of the forbidden body parts. We had done an intimate photoshoot with a friend and this image felt timely and apt.
The Tony case sparked much positive discussion in the life model community, about safety, and also some about the morality of erotic life drawing. There were voices attacking this art form as an afront to our profession. I don’t see it that way however. It is a personal choice, and in the right conditions where boundaries are clearly understood, and the practice is consensual, can show another aspect of the human form, from life. Sex is a part of us, and to deny that and its relevence to artists is bizarre I feel. I wouldn’t pose with anyone else, the way I do with Steve, but that is my preference, and others are more open.
Posing as a genuine couple offers a glimpse into our real life intimacy and affection for one another. The emotions we feel while we are connecting physically go way beyond arousal, and may entirely be of love and mutual appreciation. I think that is a very rare and beautiful opportunity for artists.
Because this is WordPress and not Facebook, here is another of Lidia’s photographs of us.
Steve will be sharing more images of us soon on his life model blog, and has created a page for us! https://charoigne.wordpress.com/esther-and-steve/
We look forward to posing together again, and to promoting healthy attitudes and behaviours within our community.
4 thoughts on “Positive Behaviour, and reclaiming the Erotic”
Esther, i think the photographs of you and your partner are beautiful, and the real trust and intimacy and feelings between the pair of you come through very strongly. I can’t imagine why anyone should think them otherwise, and I entirely agree with the comment Lucy made on your facebook post, that it would be wonderful for your artists to be able to draw and paint poses like these. As you say, sex and intimacy are just as much a part of us and our lives as arms and legs!
I think most of those who know you and have experienced Spirited bodies would agree. I also think that it is a terrible shame that such a worthwhile organisation, which I think is providing something really special and wonderful, should have to deal with the hassles that you describe with the few people who seem to have ‘ulterior motives’ for getting involved in life drawing. It seems such a shame that the presence of men at Spirited Bodies events has to be so carefully “vetted” when there are, I’m sure, many, many men (like myself) who are genuine, and would really welcome and appreciate the opportunities the events provide. I think that there are probably as many men as women who suffer from body image and acceptance issues (just think of all the endless “does size matter” discussions and jokes etc.) and your organisation can and does help them just as it does with women.
Anyway, keep up the good work, and be proud of your beautiful images, and your work and philosophy of life!
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Thank you Lee, your supportive comments are really appreciated! I hope you are well.
That is terrible that he has taken advantage of these women’s generousity. I have nothing but the utmost respect fir my fellow nudists.
Even though I can’t draw very well I still give it a shout when ever we have a life drawing event at Elixir Health Club where I go reguarly. I hope these women at least receive some kind of compensation.
Thanks for showing support. I didn’t know there was life drawing at Elixir!