A Natural Part of the Journey

Last week I visited 2 naturist clubs in the heart of the rich south of this land. One was a site visit for Sex Maniacs’ Ball, and then a few of us went to a sexual energy channelling workshop at another club down the road. It was all in the spirit of the Ball, because amongst other naturist activities will be an energy healing workshop and we were being briefed in how to help facilitate. No private parts are touched, but the power of the sexually focussed reiki can be such that participants are brought to orgasm. Personally I experienced a very pleasant euphoria, but I guess it all depends on who you are with. Both clubs had a very open, sexy vibe, most fitting for the mission.

Last month I was invited to model at Naturist Foundation, also in Kent, which is a more regular naturist resort. They have a life drawing group amongst other art clubs, and the organiser knew me from a class in Sidcup where I model. He picked me up at Orpington station and drove us to the club. As soon as he parked inside the grounds, he stripped off to acclimatise; I didn’t feel quite ready. It was a fairly mild day, and once we had been to the cafe and had a coffee and sandwich, said hello to quite a few people, I felt adjusted. I shed all other items, and just draped a shawl over my shoulders whilst being given a tour. It is quite a large space, with woodland and different camping and games areas. Children and teenagers were present though not nude like the older folks. I posed outdoors for the second time this year, and enjoyed it more than the first for the liberation of artists also naked. It was a special occasion as normally they take turns to draw each other. Nudity no problem, they some of them struggle with finding interesting poses. I said next time I’d give them a lesson, maybe get some group poses going on. After the session I swum in the warm pool. I don’t remember swimming nude in such relaxed setting before.

Posing in a garden in South East London, a warm evening and a red shawl. Pastel by Arnie

Posing in a garden in South East London, a warm evening and a red shawl. Pastel by Arnie

Scenery at Naturist Foundation where I posed outdoors

Scenery at Naturist Foundation where I posed outdoors

perching

perching

the red shawl (from my Grand Father) is popular this Summer

the red shawl (from my Grand Father) is popular this Summer

In Scotland we exalted in student digs, right in the middle of Edinburgh. Noisy, cheap, no frills but what we needed. A bust tyre on our journey down slowed our progress to Glasgow the next day, but we got to All The Young Nudes just in time. We had trouble finding the venue once we had parked and found the street. We asked an Italian for directions and she told us “It is down a very nasty alley”. Every corner led to a nasty alley and on we shrugged till we reached the last corner. A sign on the main road told us to go round the back. Right at the back and down into the depths of some cave of a club, nothing much to look at, but that seemed to be the way with Glasgow. Inside they were waiting, keeping the artists out till the last minute, and what a queue there must have been, of artists who kept arriving through the first half and packing out this cellar of nooks and pillars, levels and pathways, no obvious centre to work with. We divided up our group of models or else not all artists would get a look. They drunk and music played, we fitted poses into spaces right in front of artists’ noses, making much of all our Scottish collaborators being professionals too. I could see why; if I was new to life modelling I would probably feel daunted by this intense and in yer face set up.

Thelma I believe

Thelma I believe

a Scottish model

a Scottish model

linking up

linking up

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Next night in Edinburgh was at the opposite end of the scale, in a well-to-do part of town (or is it all like that?) in a well kept church hall, attached to the church. A handful of artists drew intently, a more measured affair but the artwork was really special. We had a couple of new models and one pro joining us; I stayed out to direct this time.

Scottish Witches

Scottish Witches

Friends

Friends

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This was a mini-Pieta pose for 15 minutes!

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Loads more beautiful art work from this session here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.607794702576542.1073741837.320375434651805&type=1&l=f30476d02a

There was a hiccup with our final gig north of the border – the venue were unprepared for us, the room double booked, and though we still managed some nice poses together in a different space, we realised this place was not on the case (though some very lovely people did come to our rescue). We are still seeking a resolution here in terms of our next step on the Scottish mission. Overall we made some brilliant connections and can’t wait to get back, in the best possible fashion.

We all loved being on the road too, even Little Chef, takes me right back! That chance to share a bit more of our lives together, get to know each other in closer quarters and have an adventure.

With this baby, Baby Spirited Bodies, well technically a toddler now, like many Mums I make friends on the path. Friends who might not take the plunge if they didn’t know me, if we didn’t become close. Makes it accessible, less scary to be able to talk about it and feel safe with someone who knows. I’ve never been less lonely and it’s a good feeling, but I am getting familiar with some friends passing through for that part of the journey. It’s just so intense for a while, and sometimes the flame goes right out, suddenly because invariably emotions come up, and maybe a clash. I cannot hold their hand all the time, and bam they feel rejected! Onwards. Hopefully I’ll learn to smooth that phase more delicately. I am not a counsillor but I could be a better friend. Fortunately other friends that I have usually known longer, get involved and the effect is just uplifting, because of where they are at in their own journey, and how established our bond already is. Modelling with Spirited Bodies brings us closer, and I am beginning to see that some who needs must part from my company a while, do return when ready, for a new lease of friendship, with a stronger bond.

So lately I’ve been to several naturist places, and while I think these people have the right idea, not only do I not live near enough to one to consider joining, but also, it’s like they are in a timewarp somewhere between the ’70s and ’80s. Of course it’s not about appearances and that’s the point, but at least it’s about having people your own age you share cultural identity with. My own cultural identity may be quite comfortable in the ’80s and ’90s, but most naturists are older. I think it is becoming cool again though. Groups I am part of on Facebook testify to this trend, and the desire to shift the naturist way more into the modern day is a popular conversation topic; how to attract more women, and how to attract more young folks. The growing popularity of nudist events outside of naturist clubs also indicates a change; it may be young people are more inclined to undress socially within a more familiar setting, be it urban such as at this evening’s private view of an exhibition at Guerilla Galleries in Holloway (Daniel Libeskind Space) to be part of an installation (I am involved with several friends, see https://www.eventbrite.com/event/6785468519 for details), or outdoor such as tomorrow’s Streak for Tigers at London Zoo (http://www.zsl.org/support-us/challenge-events/streak-for-tigers-thursday-15-august,2096,AR.html) which is a fundraiser to help save the Sumatran Tiger, or further in nature for a mass skinny-dip!

Last Monday Thelma and I went to The Outsiders Trust Jamboree, which is a light-hearted daytripping prequel to The Sex Maniacs Ball. With children present it was all very tame, but we got to talk a little to the party about what we do with Spirited Bodies, and how that may relate to people gaining sexual self confidence. A gentleman after described how with his unusual condition he is used to being prodded mercilessly by doctors to the point that he is unfussed about his body, but feels it has lost its specialness, just a curiosity and problem to be solved by the medical profession. My Mum is familiar with that too; paralysed from the neck down she relies on others for every bodily function, dignity plays little part, or rather dignity may be redefined according to necessity. The idea of being regarded for art is exceptional, appealing, and I found that with The Outsiders themselves I felt drawn to create a life modelling event just for them. The Ball will likely be a jolly rollicking affair, less time for quiet drawing even if tantric reiki is happening. I would prefer to give my baby the true attention it deserves, although a little taster might spread the message.

At The Mall Galleries last Wednesday, it was a special day for Mum.

water colour by Graham Wood

water colour by Graham Wood

drawing by Margaret

drawing by Margaret

There are more pictures of Mum from this event but they have not been shared yet. There are also many pictures of all the other models of course too; see our Facebook page for them. I just wanted to emphasize Mum as it is harder for her to make herself known, being paralysed and less able to attract artists with dazzling moves. I look forward to events which bring disabled/differently abled people modelling to the fore. It is on the agenda.

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On Sexuality, Disability & Mental Health; or Sustainable Living

From when I was a child, I can remember wanting my Mum to be better, wanting to make her happy. It was perhaps the strongest emotional drive in me. Long before she was diagnosed with MS, I knew she was deeply unhappy, which was expressed mainly through her anger. I wanted her to be ok. It was what I wished for when I blew out the candles, or the tooth fairy visited.

So now I attract partners, sometimes friends that I would like to fix. Habit.

Mum did get better. Not physically, but emotionally she is the most reliably happy person in the family. Definitely not angry. To be fair Seroxat has a lot to do with that, but so does my Father’s unerring loving care towards her. Truly in my experience anti-depressants have never suited a person so well. I think knowing she will never move her body again by herself, gives her conscience clear reign at accepting the drugs. Inside she is very sad at what has become of her, but that is successfully suppressed, and she shows immense gratitude for all she does have, always professing sheer joy in her state of being. As well as the suppression of pain, there is the countering effect of transformation, and I do mean spiritual. Mum knows that in the height of her youth and health, she was unable to appreciate what she had, so dogged was she by anger and lack of confidence. Now that she has lost the use of limbs, sometimes eyes, sometimes mind; she knows more keenly what she had previously, but much more than the value of these physical aids, she is now open to love in her life in a way which she never was before. Most people I know on anti-depressants still get depressed, but not Mum. They really work with her, year after year.

from a recent Drawing Theatre session I did with Paul Kindersley

from a recent Drawing Theatre session I did with Paul Kindersley

On Wednesday 7th August, Mum will be modelling with Spirited Bodies, and this time (she took part before clothed for portrait with Dad) she will be nude. She is really excited about this, saying that although she doesn’t particularly think her body is beautiful, the idea that people will spend time drawing her is very incredible and uplifting. She says it feels like a gift, and she recognises she may be a role model for other disabled people to take part in future. She may not have a wide pose range, but my Goodness can she hold still.

I still have issues on occasion about being asked to look after her. Doesn’t happen very often. I am busy in my life, the other side of London, whizzing this way and that, my parents have their routine and I don’t see them a lot. My brother and sister are much closer to home. I would resent caring for my Mother as I felt I lost a number of years due to her earlier negativity, lack of love for me. On top of this, I have in recent years felt as if I have lost my Father for the enormous task of taking care of Mum. He is exhausted and needs every bit of free non-family time for himself. So I raised this point not long ago, and now we are in the process of reclaiming that forgotten Father/Daughter relationship which may be the precedent for some of the most crucial relationships I form.

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Spirited Bodies is a challenge to keep flourishing – sometimes I recognise in writing the familiar spiel in emails and documents, I have lost some of the necessary passion and zeal to lift this off the ground. Become normal, ordinary, I forget how magical it is! Others in the team get judged by family for putting so much time into life modelling and this project, when before they held high earning jobs, keeping their families in the trappings they are accustomed. This is a real test on relationships, for loved ones to see past the financial value, and appreciate what it is that makes them happy. In our case life modelling and taking that further to others.

model Kayleigh

model Kayleigh

This societal/monetary pressure is a most damaging force, an unfortunate reckoner, and in this respect I am grateful for my rebellious youth which long ago set a precedent for not being expected to achieve or earn in a certain way. And I surround myself with people who understand that and do not judge me for my nude activities. It can be a harsh shock when I find myself in less than usual territory in the company of ‘normals’! But I am getting better at it.

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Attracting a damaged mate has opened up a new vista as I retread the possibilities of more open relationship. I am a dynamic being full of expression and desire, so a physically weaker character with whom I fell in love, cannot hold permanently my capacity. I was getting desperate, thought of splitting up – but we didn’t really want that. I entertained the idea of becoming a surrogate – offering myself for the (sexual) healing of others and my financial gain, but it didn’t quite click. I thought of exercising after long, long pause the lesbian in me, and here I hit a note. I realised my experience of cunt has been so much more limited than mine of cock, and all related hormones. I thought how empowering to feel comfortable with cunt, to know others’ and their ways, not just my own. To know them intimately. Last time I investigated I would have been on drugs or pissed; there was room for so much more exploration. And breasts – if you do not have large ones yourself, how wonderful to feel another’s pendulous pair!

Kayleigh is not my lover, but I love these pictures and wanted to use them

Of all the possibilities this seemed least threatening to my boyfriend, or most reasonable. There is also a feminist argument for it. Men remain so tightly bonded by comparison, and we women must catch up if ever we are to match status. My boyfriend is appreciative of this sentiment.

And so I found myself another lover, and what a difference it makes. She has a delicate touch, so sensual; I feel new with her and myself opening with abandon. I feel such gratitude for this amazing opportunity to be intimate with two people, and I am much more thoughtful and peaceful with my boyfriend as a result. I want to cherish him more and show appreciation for his understanding. Before he felt burdened to try to keep up with my numerous social activities which of course he could not begin to; now this obligation is shared! Both my boyfriend and my girlfriend have varying degrees of social phobia, but spurred on by the prospect of keeping up each of their sides of the bargain, we find harmony. Finally I might not turn up almost everywhere alone (despite having someone at home for me), which sometimes created an awkward impression. Now I can really keep my friends guessing!

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On Mental Health: (because recent events have brought me closer to the realm of mental health concerning others)

I learnt young that falling into the system could be damaging. I saw my Grand-Mother drugged in a corner, barely present, except on wild occasion as she stopped her meds, and released the wacky conversations with ghosts in the room. Decades of drugs, Electric-Shock Treatment and institutionalisation took care of her (paranoid schizophrenic) but she looked so innocent to me. She had been the first woman in her town in Lancashire to get into Oxford University where she read English, and met her husband, a colonial type of the old boys network. She had once been very intelligent, not at all ‘mad’, but something had driven her to insanity. After my Grandparents died, old family friends revealed that Grandpa’s blatant affairs had been the trigger; whilst they were living out in Africa, far from her home, and her alone with the children.

As a child I considered; if I was mad and I probably am, I never wanted any authority to get hold of me. The world is mad obviously, so I’d rather take care of myself. I appreciate this doesn’t work for everyone, and that the system though far from perfect, has moved on from ’50s strategies.

I’ve never been attracted to men of a certain class either.

I just wanted to use these lovely pictures which have no direct relation to the post

I just wanted to use these lovely pictures which have no direct relation to the post

Spirited Bodies is proud to be part of The Sex Maniacs Ball in September, which is a fundraising event for The Outsiders Trust to enable disabled people to meet partners and celebrate their sexuality. There may be a life modelling workshop, as well as a nude disco along with various other nude activities and therapies.

Workshopping the Right Side of my Brain

I remember the streets from when Chris used to live here, and I was 18. A life time ago and the emotions flood back like it was yesterday – the power of place. Days/nights we would stay up sticking needles in our arms, procuring substances from the other side of town, late night motorbike rides and 24 hour chemists for junkies. A different me.

It’s a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart, a physical sensation and almost a tear as I hold the pose so perfectly for local artists in Kingsgate Studios. I still feel so much love for him. I’ll never share moments like that again. I was so young, really a child dressed as and in fact a whore! So selfish and stupid; sometimes he wouldn’t let me sleep for pushing me to try thinking a bit more.

He is I realise a benchmark for all subsequent boyfriends. There comes a point in each new relationship when I find myself asking if I love my partner as much as I still love Chris. I mean as a person. They rarely match up and it has been the crux of more than one break up. I don’t want to be with Chris, I find him very annoying, but at the core of him there is something that my DNA responds to. He is like family, and by some quirk of fate he is my Dad’s technical support for his computer. My parents who rejected Chris and screamed him out of their house, now get to see him in grown up (!) form and wonder why they behaved so badly.
This strong dose of nostalgia confronts me as I pose and reminds me of the power of that love even if I hardly see him now. There’s nothing like it, and it is empowering.

Here are some of my fairly basic drawings from workshops for Spirited Bodies, and one from ‘Still Life’ (see previous post).

I think a 10 minute pose – I concentrated on the model closest

At workshops about half the participants pose nude and half clothed

very quick sketchings

Sue MacClaine in ‘Still Life’, acting a bit pissed; I enjoyed foreshortening challenge

Northern Soul

Travel up North go back in time

Sun shines bright behind a blind

Food and sleep give way to

Tenderness between old friends

You talk a lot and my ears overload

Rest by a drum machine instead

In Leeds I see your origin

A gothic wave began here too

You have a madness which you control

There is a trust from so long ago

Were some moments when I wasn’t sure

Through your hate you push a nerve

To create, share words

With your voice, beats and tones

Life Affirming Beauty

My dearest friend invited me to a gathering at her house whereby her women friends may meet for the first time, and transform energy in her house which had had too many experiences with men in it which she wished to put behind her. It did exceed all her expectations and I met the loveliest of ladies there who with open hearts did connect easily sharing food and stories, advice and laughs. It was a breakthrough and my friend cried with joy to bring her life to this place of amazing uplift. I felt honoured to share in her experience and to have been with her the longest time on her life journey. We have been through shit together and seen each other in decidedly unfavourable circumstances. We fell out too at least once when working on a performance project together brought us to breaking point. A few months later after not talking, we realised we had overcome some block and were closer than ever. We reached a new level of being able to be with each other and it was a relief. Having said our worst to each other, we’d had it out, and there was no need for more upset, just gratitude for each other’s friendship. I am so proud of her now.

When are unkind words necessary?

When you run out of options, patience is exceeded. If they are not nasty for the sake of it, then some difficult but honest words may bridge a gap in time. Some things are hard to say and may only emerge in a conflict, but from there growth is possible, and if embraced can lead to greater clarity.

What Drives me towards my Goals, & the Healing Hands of Alessandra Malaspinal

My nigh on 5 month relationship with my boyfriend has allowed me to uncover many depths. It is his strong connection with my formative years that has fast-tracked our lurve and understanding. He seems to possess qualities which enable me to heal and flourish, and somehow I am filling in some sorely missed gaps for him too.

The other day, I realised I had spent too much time at his place, in his neighbourhood, which does necessarily bring back a few memories for me. I got angry and regretted it afterwards, but what I had spewed up did reveal to me so clearly what drives me.

He has unique capabilities in maintaining strong, solid friendships with some significant exes, and just all round good relations with several women in his life. He overall prefers the company of women, expressing the unlikely line that ‘they make more sense’! What I observe is that they trust him, don’t feel remotely inappropriately bothered by him. They can talk to him the way they might another woman, only any competitiveness is ruled out. Similar to the way gay men often make excellent female company.

Sometimes I find this state of affairs testing, though I also know that I may reap the best benefits from it. It can feel like they may have a tighter hold on him, rousing my jealousy, though it’s not the case. More that I am still a bit unused to this dynamic, and to sharing him thus. I am aware that he is protected, loved, by several women who adore him; what a way to keep me in line!

My own history of being far too involved with one man in my life and not having enough time for friends, is thrown into sharp relief. I want to open up now to have more close friends, and for the first time in a long time, to bring my friends towards knowing each other.

So what I realised when I had a recent outburst, is I had left a group of old friends over a decade ago, because I hadn’t been able to process and talk about my negative experiences with anyone around, save the man in my life at the time. What was troubling me inside I did not feel I could share with any of the other mates, where light-hearted banter was the norm. At least, I did not find the right outlet with anyone else, so my boyfriend bore the brunt. When that relationship ended, I had no emotional means to maintain active friendships within the group. I found a new boyfriend, and migrated socially, in a way repeating the same experience. This migration pattern occurred twice; each new relationship lasting around 5 years. By the end I was quite lonely, yet recently through Spirited Bodies I gained confidence, and felt ready to get back in touch with some old friends of my youth. Indeed, an astrological reading from over a year before had mentioned that I needed to ‘find’ my friendship group, as I was far too lonely! I had knocked on a few doors I suppose, but nothing felt right until I went back to the old ones. That is to say that completing a circular journey which brought me home to old friends, has also allowed newer friendships to acquire more grounded substance.

With my boyfriend now, I was jealous, of other women who took his and other platonic friendship for granted, which I struggle with. I bitched that they hadn’t been there for me all those years ago. It’s irrelevant now. How many friends was I not there for when I was too young to know any better? What does make sense is that my relative loneliness drove me forwards to create something new, as well as to reach out to others in a gesture of inclusivity. When I heard a friend complaining of a woman she did not like, who some years ago had been violent towards her and is part of a larger group of friends, in fact accepted by some of her friends, I found myself wanting to give the woman a chance – never having met her I could not judge her. Who knew why she had been in the bad place my friend had had the mischance to encounter? Particularly women I want to be ready to listen to. This woman may not be as privileged as some of the female friends that my friend is accustomed to. Privilege here refers not only to wealth, but also access to loving support.

What the above does omit is all sorts of other reasons I wandered into a wilderness; like needing a new lifestyle, and the recognition that slowly I would be harmonising relations with my biological family, and that that would have to happen before I could sort anything else out. I am far from alone in taking a meandering path. What drives me comes from earlier origins too, naturally.

Loving the Long-term Relationship

This propensity towards the long-term relationship just seems to attract more of the same. Despite all sorts of unfavourable conditions, I see now how the LTR has stood me in good stead. I have a nose for them; my support networks have not before been set up to cope with the single life. I work to redress that imbalance now, not in order to be single, but so that my relationship may last longer and grow richer.

Hardwired in me is a 7th sense for a sustained, engaging and emotional relationship. I don’t even think about it – my body tells me where to go. I volunteered to pose naked for my present boyfriend before I even knew why! My mind created other motives which weren’t without content… then I stopped eating and sleeping a while… girlfriends warned me at first fearing some danger, then later when my concentration failed to return from the ether, they told me to go to him.

Once the connection has been established, I am confident – even after a honeymoon may have dipped, that I can work through whatever I have to so that love builds, a snowball gathering momentum! Of course finding the right man to do that with is what keeps this blessing buzzing.

an advertising agency pays for its employees to learn to draw

A friend who took part in Spirited Bodies 2, Julia, brought a friend with her.  Alessandra took well to modelling and found it liberating as a woman approaching middle age. It brought out some of her natural vivaciousness and she did excel. Sadly the reality is that a woman her age is less likely to be booked than me, I mean she would likely have to go the extra mile to promote herself. Unless you are blessed with some unique physical feature, more averagely shaped women are less likely to get work as they age. I have learnt this through the SB project, and now hold off informing would-be models that work is guaranteed. I am a slim, bendy physical theatre performer who can stand on one leg for 15 minutes. Being in my mid 30s is not a problem. It might be for another woman.

Thankfully Alessandra has many talents, and one she is developing is the skill of transmitting energy to others by healing with reiki. Since meeting each other she has been practising on me, and on occasion I have taken the opportunity to draw her. It has been a fantastic way to get to know her. While I lie down, eyes closed, she holds hands above me, or sometimes lightly touching my skin. I feel warm, tingly sensations and relish a chance to concentrate on breathing. I let go of tension and appreciate her time immensely.

Bella Ragazza

Thoughts on Indecent Exposure

Making new friends is a treat to be savoured, or else ravenously devoured because when you hit it off, nothing can stop you.

Getting to know people properly with whom you have been acquainted for years may take a similar turn, if only that some of the leg work has already been accomplished.

When new faces are foisted upon us situationally, it may be wise to hold back. Otherwise we risk the forcing of friendship, the over-burdening of our companion; the unhappy match of divergent dreams. It is like casually undressing for a near stranger while you are still in the street, and asking them to inspect the folds of your belly button. You can expect to be left naked and ridiculed, if not generating hysteria.

Dancing for Pan, recreating a Poussin

Image created by a student at Candid Arts, as I took the pose of each character in Poussin’s ‘Dance before a herm of Pan’.