Free Bleeding Life Modelling

The following is about a recent experience I had when life modelling and menstruating aligned for me. I am sharing it here as want to raise awareness about this issue, particularly for the benefit of women thinking of trying life modelling, as well as for artists booking models. It is not necessarily talked about much, but I think we all gain from freeing ourselves of this taboo. Female models may feel more comfortable, and artists better understand the issues involved. There is a lot of shame around menstruating, which some women experience more than others, whereby it is felt necessary to hide this biological process; the blood, smell, bodily and emotional changes. All of this concealing can further add to the psychological anguish of not fully realising our natural cyclical power, however unaware we may be of this.

I arrived early in Sidcup on a Thursday morning after no sleep. Despite a stressful night, somehow I remained upbeat in the morning, and on removing my garments in the changing room (this college has an actual changing room for the life model!) was amazed to discover my knickers and thighs smeared with blood. How unexpected, and how early. I am generally fairly regular, and this was about ten days premature. It did explain my difficult tormented night however, to a further degree than the stress I was experiencing alone could. With the full moon approaching in a few days, my cycle was realigning to bring my emotional and physical being, in keeping with the celestial sphere. I now found myself in jolly temperament, typical for me of coming on.

I was caught out, without mooncup or pad. There seemed more blood than usual for the beginning of the flow, which is often minor dribbles, and I actually felt excited by the idea of posing while free bleeding. In my robe I entered the posing space and addressed the tutor Nick. I said, “My period has unexpectedly just begun, and I am unprepared. So I will pose, and there will be some blood between my legs you understand.” He did, no problem. I have known this class for a rather long time and feel so comfortable with them, so appreciated always.

I had presented the predicament audibly so that all the class could hear too, and they were all on the same page. This post-menopausal bunch were relaxed and comfortable, as long as I was. While they were not able to offer me a tampon, they helped me feel far greater comfort than usual. Typically my dynamic and movement poses are stretched to the limit here, and several of the class members are nudged out of their comfort zone. How they must have rejoiced in my menstruation to be able to proffer the sofa loaded with as many cushions as reasonably stacked there. I did a few quick stretchy poses, and then was ushered into warmth and comfort. My tiredness was intense and I felt no resistance, just gratitude for my friendly class, who in their turn were equally gracious.

Nick was considering which of the clean sheets to cover the cushions with, and seeing none were red, I said I thought lying on my own robe would be most suitable. I can imagine in other similar situations that a tutor or class member might offer to go and buy a tampon. That didn’t arise here, and I think it was because of the exuberant manner in which I presented my predicament, more elated than troubled by my bleeding. Finally the staining of my legs was not so dramatic. The combination of long reclining poses and a large absorbant bush meant that most of this sticky mess didn’t travel so far.

When it happens, it happens. Go with the flow. Here are two earlier posts I have made, at least partly on the subject, one from a few years ago, and the other a year ago.

I will host events where free bleeding is encouraged, or if not so overt, then it will simply be acceptable. To promote menstrual health, awareness, and not hiding this vital part of our life blood. Celebrating our cycles and all the (hidden) power contained there, until we open it up and declare it ours. We shift with the weeks (if not blocked too drastically with hormones or lack of food for example), accessing different parts of ourselves at each time. Renewing, growing, blooming and shedding. When the blood comes, we are letting go of the old, what we no longer need; dead waste, old blood. To make way for the new.

Here are some photographs from my Girl in Suitcase performance, from the scene about menstrual rites, performed with Lidia at Dandifest, May 2015, Norwich. Lidia is pouring a syropy fake blood liquid over my already blackened body. The audience have been handed a cup of red wine each, in time for our menses communion ceremony.

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Life Drawing Therapeutic for Older People

Today I modelled at Jackson’s Lane community and arts centre in Highgate, North London. The group is for older people, 55+, but most are in their 70s and 80s.

I was touched when Edna, an 87 year old with a dowager’s stoop revealed her unexpected joy at coming to life drawing. A few years ago her spine had suddenly started to crumble, literally one day she felt it go. Formerly 5′ 6″ I think, she lost several inches and now walks with a frame. She said, “It feels like for the first time since my body became broken, I am facing that fact through examining another body. I can see what’s wrong by looking at another body that is functioning. The doctors never show you, and they don’t look at you nude either, (except when operating) though they have to treat you. No one wants to see your body when you are older; relatives don’t even take photos of me any more.”

Despite this sad tale, Edna expresses a lot of happiness on her smiling face and in her twinkling eyes. She has lived a lot throughout her life so far, working as a psychotherapist, travel writer and latterly a photographer. She used to climb mountains and dance a lot. Fellow artist Sheila suggests it is better not to look back because it may remind us what we have lost; better to look forward as life is always full of surprises!

Liz who runs the class has gotten to know the members quite well, and they feel safe talking about painful feelings sometimes connected with families who are unkind to them. One woman describes her children’s greedy interests in her home… and their lack of sensitivity or consideration for her preferences. She says she enjoys coming to the groups at Jacksons Lane where members are ‘pre-internet; they actually sit down and talk, tell stories.’ Her family dismissively say, ‘why would you want to hang around with that bunch of disabled people?’

Sheila and Edna both clearly have some experience of life drawing, and an artistic sensibility. As I photograph their work, they ask what for, so I explain about Spirited Bodies. I mention the 73 year old woman who had had 2 hips and a knee replaced so only posed sitting down, and did not tell her judgmental family. I also recount the recent appearance of 82 year old Arleen who is a life model (who has had a mastectomy), at our Southbank event. Edna and Sheila are all ears, asking where can they find out more? When will there be an opportunity in North London? It is as if I have poured a drop of hope into their midweek afternoon. The class awaits more funding to be resurrected (today is the last session in a series) and I sincerely hope it is.

my 1st pose is about 10 minutes with a bit of a twist

my 1st pose is about 10 minutes with a bit of a twist

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By the 3rd pose Edna has revealed her excitement at confronting an able bodied form, and how it is helping her understand her condition. I decide a spine view is in order

By the 3rd pose Edna has revealed her excitement at confronting an able bodied form, and how it is helping her understand her condition. I decide a spine view is in order

after a break of some coffee and cake, longer seated poses are decided on. It was very cold today, so I wrapped my coat round my shoulders

after a break of some coffee and cake, longer seated poses are decided on. It was very cold today, so I wrapped my coat round my shoulders

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the coat becomes part of the pose

the coat becomes part of the pose

I love this luxurious final pose!

I love this luxurious final pose!

Some lovely drawings by a very sweet group; rarely does life modelling feel so much like it could help someone.

Life & Death in Mortlake

It has been an intensely busy period, lots going on and no time to write about it.

My Uncle who lived in Mortlake for the last few decades died at home there the other week somewhat suddenly. On a gloriously bright Winter day the family gathered on Thursday at Mortlake Crematorium. I can’t say I knew my Uncle well; he was mostly very reserved. I do remember however, on announcing to my non-plussed wider family that I intended to study drama, he remarked that being able to act is a very valuable skill, and we all need that in life. He worked on the stock exchange all his career, in a role which involved writing regular analyses of the market.

It’s funny how life sometimes lines things up so neatly. On my way to the wake, walking through Mortlake I was able to pass by Vernon Hall where our forthcoming event will be held on Saturday December 15th. The door to the building was open and as if demonstrating exactly what I needed to witness, all the heating was on in the hall, full blast. We last used the space in July, so naturally there was concern that the ample heating would be as powerful in the middle of a cold Winter. I also wanted to check the kitchen where we will make mulled wine to see what kind of stove is in operation. All was looking good.

As all the family were leaving my Aunt’s house, it happened that I had been booked to model that evening not far away in Richmond Adult Community College. What a pleasant experience; in stark contrast to a recent gig where artists made me feel uncomfortable with their constant fussing and disagreements over my pose which lasted a few sessions, these folk, led by a very calm and confident tutor made no fuss at all. Though a long pose over several days, no tape was placed around me, no chalk or charcoal marks outlining my form, no photos to ensure an exact reconfiguration. They were simply relaxed, and with some highly proficient artists among the friendly group. All styles are embraced there and it is understood they are working from life, a live model who will move a little, but if you trust her and work with her, she will find the pose happily again and again. I noticed that I felt able to give a little more of myself because the atmosphere is so positive. Everyone is there including me because we enjoy what we do, so there is no need for petty gripes.

I have never come across a group so at ease with what they do and it was empowering to know it can be done like this. I will take that knowledge elsewhere with me. I think it has something to do with the group running for about 20 years and some of the artists having seen each others’ children grow up together. There are strong bonds there which far surpass pointless fuss. There is a loving and learning environment and each week a different class member brings in a book about a favourite artist and the group discuss the work and look at the pictures.

Workshop-wise we had another fine evening last Wednesday of new models and some with experience creating original poses in 2s, 3s and a bigger group one. Here are some images by artists who were present:

A model from the October event starts the session with a 10 minute pose. Picture by Francis Wardale in felt tip I believe

A model from the October event starts the session with a 10 minute pose. Picture by Francis Wardale in felt tip I believe

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A female duo pose sitting back to back, they had not met before

A female duo pose sitting back to back, they had not met before

The same pose in charcoal and pencil by Rade

The same pose in charcoal, chalk and pencil by Rade

15An angry king with his serf, 10 minute pose

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Part of a sequence of combat poses based on the Elgin marbles!

Part of a sequence of combat poses based on the Elgin marbles!

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Women having a tussle

Women having a tussle

a tricky 10 minute bending pose

a tricky 10 minute bending pose, coming to the aid of a floor bound figure

another viewpoint

another viewpoint

a group pose finale, 10 minutes frozen drunk at a party

a group pose finale, 10 minutes frozen drunk at a party

We are looking forward to celebrating life on Saturday 15th December, in the afternoon in Vernon Hall, Mortlake. Do get in touch if you would like to come and draw, paint or sculpt.

Continual Rebirth

The negotiation of the model with her destiny; her liberation from karmic bondage dealt pose by pose, breath by breath, artist by artist and stroke by stroke.

A fastidious group in Dulwich. I am confident, go for a long standing twist. They are 320 degrees around me and some spot infinitesimal changes as more or less breast appears in their sight line, a greater proportion of shoulder etc. Their individual wills vie for the pose they want, they see; so they pull me – my profile a tad this way, my right arm back a bit and more weight on my left hip. I feel like a puppet. So I must be strong. By the time they have finished manipulating I feel like I am on the rack. I want to scream “I make the pose – you deal with it! Otherwise there is a mortuary up the road at the hospital…”

I think, when I can make every session smooth, work each one to be bliss for myself, the nirvana it can be, then I will be ready for the next level. Ready to reincarnate!

Running around to far flung pockets of London all in a day’s work is no stranger to a life model.

My session in Muswell Hill is weekly and in a ‘therapy’ room in a sort of neutral facility. Here I will process years of childhood and adolescent torment in a slot on Tuesday evenings. There are four arbiters of my progress drawing results from my posture. They will experiment with wrong-handed drawing and release their inner artist/child while I writhe on the inside as my inner rebel taunts me.

Getting the bus to freedom after feels like I ought to be heading to Feet First at the Camden Palace. I am just missing a can of Strongbow.

Drawings by Simon Whittle from my recent session at the Mall Galleries (see last post: http://spiritedbodies.com/2012/11/06/performance-preparation/)

This water colour by Graham Wood, also Hesketh Hubbard, Mall Galleries

Performance Preparation

Tonight I was asked to break the rules of almost a century of Old School Life Drawing tradition! Elation and Joy!

Hesketh Hubbard at the Mall Galleries have a well worn routine. They are a big life drawing society who have met weekly since 1930 and always have 4 models; one portrait, one long pose, one on 15 minute poses and one on half hours. I was booked for this last position but that is beside the point as I was instructed for the first time in the organisation’s history, to ‘do what I want’! They asked this of me knowing my penchant for slow elaborate movement, like a dance in slow motion or my own version of t’ai chi. It’s what I do when warming up for a session and they decided they would like it to be the main event. Hooray for being allowed to be me!

A few days ago it dawned on me this actually requires more thought than normal – or does it? I mean there is the pressure to perform. I had to keep up the warm up (normally 15 minutes of movement max after a period of silent, still meditation – about 10 minutes) for 2 hours! These are artists who are used to a very rigid structure; they might want some word on what to expect. I told them what I knew in that moment, it was very much in the moment. The idea was to give me a chance to truly express myself and if that shook them up a bit (so used to their silent, still, obeisant models) so much the better.

They have known me since near the beginning of my life modelling career, some years ago and they have seen me grow as Spirited Bodies began in their session and several of them have followed it since. We will be returning to The Mall I am pleased to say early in the new year with a more evolved version of Spirited Bodies.

I have been rushing around with endless things to do; I had not planned a routine for this evening, but as I woke today and on the cycle ride into court (I was on jury service) I figured out how I operate. I woke before the alarm and saw sunlight streaming in through the gap in the curtains. I took a moment to gather my thoughts, feel where I am at. I felt joy, excitement and I had the memory of a dream of being at The Mall and Simon (organiser) had left a small sound system there and I realised I could have though had not brought music in. Overall the dream feeling was positive, uplifting, if slightly daunting. I launched into my day with clarity and enthusiasm. I wanted to dress in a way which expressed my essence today and allowed me to move. A packed schedule would not afford me time to practise, but in the right outfit my every move would be a rehearsal. I can access different parts of my character at different times; if I am on the ball I have a say in how and when that happens. Clothes affect how others interact with me and how I feel. I am a very physical being who enjoys the sensuality of movement. Some clothes enhance that sensibility, others inhibit it. Some clothes demonstrate to others that this is part of who I am, others hide it. If I need to access the slithery, dynamic me then I am well advised to dress for it, before I undress.

The Music On the way to court thoughts raced as I pedalled hard – I was late. Despite the dream there would be no music at The Mall, I was sure of that. The only thing that would be different to usual would be my movement. There would however *be music in my head* that would inform the groove of my twist. I would channel some of the techno that an ex-boyfriend implanted into my computer a few years ago. My neighbours must be sick of it as I’ve been playing it regularly and loud. It makes me want to move involuntarily, voluntarily, every which way. It would guide me along with every emotion that pulsed through me since I would move ultra slowly so that the fast beated music may drift in and out of my consciousness. Sometimes I found a position that felt sensational so I stayed there for a while (” This is a pose, I will stay here for a few minutes”) so artists could get more than the line of my thigh or rib-cage. I had done a sequence like this but nothing so long in ‘Girl In Suitcase’.

As I pedalled I thought about clothes and channelling. Choosing items to enhance the way I am today, gave me a lift. I keep bits and pieces from throughout my adulthood. If I’m on a rebellious one, or a sexy one, or a playful one, I’ll find a treasure of ’93, ’97 or 2006 to remind me throughout the day. The tightness of that body, brightness of the tights, holiness of the stockings will send waves through me as I sense them against my skin.

With love and gratitude for the artists this evening, it was a liberating pleasure. Not being tied to their timer gave me reign to be more fully me and find my better poses. We are enjoying the journey together!

Since Spirited Bodies often operates on this freestyle posing basis, I now have new impetus to share knowledge on finding one’s own inspired poses and movement between. Several of the models at the recent event, whilst also loving the experience did mention in feedback that they could do with more guidance.

In my lunch break at Southwark Crown Court I caught up with this fantastic set of sculptures not far from Tower Bridge.

I couldn’t find the artist’s name but the theme seemed apt – dancers having fun relaxing in the poserish way that dancers do! Pen and paper at the ready

dance shoes at the side of the pool

Double Exposure: Meeting my Match!

Stoke Nudington, Nude York or NuDelhi; this Summer is about stripping off.

Ursula had tried to contact me about modelling with Spirited Bodies – she is a life model, artist and performance poet. I had clearly been busy. Serendipity lined us up however as Ron double booked us yesterday and we got networking in the nude. The Portobello artists had a rare treat!

Carol finds the Henry Moore in us

getting comfy

A beautiful occasion we wanted to remember; a most auspicious meeting!

I found Ursula very relaxed and open, it was easy to feel cosy together straight away

We chatted a bit in pose, and got to planning some nude action!

It was wonderful to have some of that experience models at Spirited Bodies get through sudden yet somehow natural intimacy

The stillness and relative quiet sort of make up for what might otherwise feel unnatural, i.e. those conditions give you a chance to breathe and settle with the new company so close and nude

quick pose by Mike Down

Felt tip colour by Mike

Check out Ursula performing:

And here is one of her poems:

Poetry Extravaganza
Poetry Extravaganza
I write verse by verse
Stanza by stanza
I write to be free
I write to be me
Poetry for self-exploration
Words for my expression
Every letter
A part of the puzzle
That put the words together
Which make up the picture
Of what I want to say
Of what I feel
Deep down inside my soul
Of what I know by intuition
Of my work which comes to fruition
Poetry extravaganza
I write verse by verse
Stanza by stanza
Now what is my intention?
What is the purpose of my exploration?
To talk about some secrets of my soul
To communicate the depth within us
To make us remember our dreams
And what we wish for
What we desire, long and yearn for
And what we know
And how we can live in unity
How we can live happily and be free
Poetry extravaganza
Word for word
Sentence by sentence
Line by line
We write our liberation
With letters and punctuation
And recite them with intention
We sing
Verse by verse
Stanza by stanza
Poetry extra
Poetry extravaganza
Chapter and verse
Each chapter a verse
We write
Verse by verse
Stanza by stanza
Poetry
Extra-vaganza! © Ursula troche, 5. 2011

Feeling the Love

I have been running on empty but I feel the love

While I stand before the people drawing me, the warmth inside of me just reaches out

All I feel is love, I am the love

I wish them every clarity of co-ordination and fulfilment as they connect eye to hand to paper

I send my being out towards them and give them all I am

Pure happiness is in me, around me, we feel it together

There is no worry, and I am not my body

I may be in it now, but I am love and light

I return to being my essence and that is what they feel whether they know it or not

In my place of comfort my body informs me how to move and what to express, it just does it

Because that’s what makes me feel the love