Positive Behaviour, and reclaiming the Erotic

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.

With Steve Ritter, photograph by Lidia, www.lidialidia.com

With Steve Ritter, photograph by Lidia, http://www.lidialidia.com

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.

The joy of feeling comfortable with my partner and fellow life model, Steve

The joy of feeling comfortable with my partner and fellow life model, Steve

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.

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The Warmth of Women

I am so glad we decided to make a workshop at Sh! This is a special environment where women may explore their sexuality in a totally welcoming space. It is much more than a specialist sex shop; it has an ethos to reach women where they have not been touched before! It is an intimate space downstairs where we created Spirited Bodies magic within this new setting. Surrounded by dildos, vibrators, whips, paddles and lubricants we eased into poses on the pink oval couch that had a fetish feel. One of our artists was very comfortable directing poses due to her frequenting of fetish clubs; I took full advantage. Not that I am shy, but when you can see someone flowing with inspiration for ideal use of props and the angle of each limb, it is a gift for all to let that unfold. Thelma and I just tweaked some of these poses according to our knowledge of modelling, and making allowances for the newness of these models who want to try a novel experience more in some cases than have a realistic experience of life modelling.

Here are some pictures from this unusual workshop which hopefully we will try some time again.

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I initiated proceedings with a 6 minute pose; the average pose was 5 minutes

I initiated proceedings with a 6 minute pose; the average pose was 5 minutes

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I made suggestions to models about levels and relative openness or closedness of the body, as well as direction of limbs, and as well they found their own postures to fit with the other model’s shape.

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dynamic and fun

dynamic and fun

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These fabulous felt-tip pen line drawings are by Lily Lemaire

These cartoonesque felt-tip pen line drawings are by Lily Lemaire

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Most participants came primarily to try modelling, and a couple preferred drawing, but they too had a go at posing. They said that it helped them understand the models’ point of view.

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Collection of underwear models, or a ridiculous all girl band as one of them observed!

Collection of underwear models, or a ridiculous all girl band as one of them observed!

Colourful finale pose

Colourful finale pose

Artist Khadijah likes to use oil pastels I believe

Artist Khadijah likes to use oil pastels I believe, bringing out tone more than line

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a pink feather boa connected the models

a pink feather boa connected the models

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The costumed model presents different considerations for the artist; clothes draw attention to other features and shapes which the nude does not.

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A light touch; it is so warming when participants get into the spirit of friendly posing with each other they have not met before

A light touch; it is so warming when participants get into the spirit of friendly posing with each other they have not met before

I thought afterwards, coming into this shop for a class, these women would not be likely to be phased!

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Pleasing parallel lines and angles

Pleasing parallel lines and angles

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While life or clothed modelling is not necessarily sexy, it can be. Above all we want to promote women being comfortable and confident in their bodies – sexually and otherwise. Often being at ease with one’s form may enhance sexual confidence, in a truthful way that is not about doing what is expected of us, or what we think we ought to do, but by being ready to sense our own desire and act on it appropriately. Being able to appreciate ourselves allows us to appreciate others more, and be appreciated by others. While the body can be a very sacred place, we easily become disconnected from it in our mentally driven lives. But if we take time to tune into what is going on inside, and learn to move our bodies however we can to enjoy them, we begin to intuit more the language of the body.

As I move from pose to pose, especially but not exclusively the quick (and movement) ones, there is hardly any time in between poses when I am working, to recover the body to its natural equilibrium, to eliminate aches and cramps. My body tells me which limbs to work as I form a new shape; more than the alternation of muscle groups (though that is part of it) its language is subtle and beyond logical. It knows I am performing a sequence, that there is a climax mid-flow of muscular tension when I will pass through a pain barrier and I will surpass artists’ expectations of what I can hold. I push myself because I am like a gymnast aiming for gold, I take my modelling seriously because I love it. It is my gym, my yoga and sometimes my dance. It strengthens my core and warms my very being. It takes me to places of trance, of deep joy and wild amusement I cannot possibly describe to you because it is so in the moment, the way it lights my smile challenging the artists to catch it! Sometimes it is tantra too and it turns me on, and if I were a man I would have to master myself quite heroically not to offend people and risk not being booked and getting a tarnished name. As a woman I can hide it if I want though sometimes my sexuality is discerned – naturally I am being closely observed, and enjoying it. That is even turning me on too; part of a pleasure loop of enjoying myself, being enjoyed by others. But it is not deemed offensive; though it affects me physically this is subtle compared with a man. Instead I am likely to wear a translucent glow and my pheromones reach the artists subliminally (or not). I am sometimes booked because I am sexy, though not in an obvious way, because that is not my style. I mean, it is pleasing to artists consciously or otherwise that I am in tune with my sexuality and I know how to handle it. It makes me confident and that is attractive. It is about my physicality and my nature. I know that life modelling has enhanced this for me. It was always there, a big part of me, being very sexy; but after becoming closeted a few years for social and personal reasons, the liberation afforded by life modelling was strong and so welcome. Now I share that as best I can with others.

Working so closely with my body and my beauty daily, I am acutely in touch with my cycle. I bring different energies at different times to modelling, from the highly charged and emotional, to the light and easy going, to the blatantly desiring, and commanding. Through meditation with energy work (visualising the flow and store of energy within the body) I aim to master better the hormonal drives in me. I have become so aware of my enslavement to a feminine cycle of emotions and desires, that I look to overcome this through deeper analysis, to channel all that powerful energy to put it to best use. Not to move beyond sex, but rather reach a higher source of sexual power, which is ultimately more feminine, unbound by time or undue strain.

I will add that there are many different types of life model and I am just one. Our individuality is the beauty of our game.

One of the women who participated on Thursday evening wrote to us the next morning;

“Thank you for a wonderful evening last night. I thoroughly enjoyed the modelling and the theme was right up my street 🙂 I am absolutely interested in modelling again in the future, I think my preference would be all women groups at least for the first few sessions since I am a newbie! I am not so keen on the drawing side as my skills in drawing are so inadequate!”

Thelma responded, “Thank you 🙂 It was an absolute pleasure and to see you ‘warming up’ to the experience. That is why I like SB – there is an indescribable feeling of fluidity, freedom and togetherness – spirited bodies, like minded embracing ‘the nude’, our nude in a practical, loving, flowing into unconscious way – if that makes sense! I fully understand about the drawing side – when I draw I try and do a ‘small bit’ or part of the pose or just try and get the positions to practice perspective.”

Finally the young woman wrote, “I am exploring and learning so much about myself and the world through my body and its empowering and  incredibly freeing. I have always been very comfortable with my body, but unfortunately have been surrounded by a lot of people who aren’t! That can really limit who you are when trying to be sensitive to other people’s hang ups.

I am delighted to have been in the space of women who love and appreciate their bodies as they are :)”

Beautiful

Taking a Shower

Unselfconsciously I bathe myself intimately, reach inside, feel for the string that tells me I won’t be having babies – yet.

I inspect my nipples – are they unduly hairy, in need of a pluck? I might promote being happy with one’s body as it is, but that doesn’t exclude a few enhancements. I don’t shave my bits, partly because I have sensitive skin which flares up at the slightest mention of hair removal down there. I prefer the orange triangle of hair to an itching mass of red plucked chicken look. Admittedly I’ve not investigated laser removal or even depilatory cream/spray; I’m just not that fussed about the presence of my pubes and possibly too lazy. With my proportions I am frequently still infantilised aged 35; there’s no need to assist those fantasies. Then there’s the political point of not conforming to porn style pussy. I think this is every woman’s call and won’t judge others on this choice, but I do think more porn ought to be reclaimed and created from the woman’s point of view.

I’m thinking about how we are on our own, in the comfort of our own privacy. When we go to the toilet and we don’t think about the noise we’ll make or the smell. If we get an itch we’ll go right on in and scratch. The difference between being alone and with others, how it takes a while to share as much of everything as we can. When I fall in love or make a new friend I really notice where I am holding back or shy. After a while I’ll leave the door open, censor less. I am grateful for that intimacy with others, to just be myself getting on with living rather than worrying.

As Idun was saying while I was modelling in her class yesterday, “When you stop worrying, let go of preconceived ideas, that’s when the magic starts to happen.” So true. They were drawing with their ‘wrong’ hands.

When I am on form, life modelling is like a gift. I get paid to express myself as I am. I mean it’s spiritual! How much I am in the moment becomes a measure of how well I am working it. I guess that is the same for any job, but in this one, mostly what I am doing, is just being. Holding still and being. Looking vaguely interesting. Somehow. Cultivating posing. Tuning into my natural presence and switching it on full blast, whatever the fuck that means. Beaming at the artists till I forgot they are even there, remembering something funny my boyfriend did or some comedian…

I took pictures of some artworks that caught my eye in the Mall Galleries this evening. Cheekily I didn’t record who created them.

unnatural lights bounce of the glass

I notice I feel quite free among these artists, performing myself for them. If I feel sexy I show it, without being overt. Whatever I’m feeling they get it. They get more of me than some of my friends do and sometimes I think they know me better. They watch me just being.

by one of the guys at Mortlake; Paul’s Tuesday group

I keep thinking about intimacy. About my desire to share stupid stuff which probably turns my boyfriend off me but I like sharing because otherwise I would be holding back. Sure sometimes there is a value to resisting sharing and I will find such a line if it ought to be known.

I think partners who we love are a good place to start when considering intimacy. He is the only person I regularly have naked physical contact with. When I was younger there were many more such folks in my life and often I didn’t know them. Now I do monogamy. I love him very much, his physicality and all. He is more than twice my body weight and I love to feel the pressure of him bearing down on top of me! That is a sensation I cannot give to myself. I am comforted by his flesh; he makes me feel tiny and I am like a little fairy next to him.

My boyfriend makes me wish I had dropped out more. Like stayed on that road because then I’d have more friends like that, instead of disparate womenfolk of similar strands of awkwardness to myself. Hey ho, what to be done but just be getting on with where I am at… I need to be a life model just to come to terms with this stuff! In the end though I just let go of me because there is so much more to give.

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

Therapy Breakthrough

Typical. Just as I was about to discontinue seeing my psychotherapist, we get to the good stuff. Sex and my early sexual experiences; my relationship with my Mother.

The truth is I had put off discussing sex as my therapist is Muslim. Stupid I know, prejudiced too, but I felt weird bringing it up and opted to talk about everything else instead… until she brought it up.

I had been unhappy with my boyfriend’s living arrangement and my anger levels were disturbing. After a few weeks of probing this situation, she said, “But doesn’t it affect your sex life?”

I already liked her, little though she says – it makes what she does say all the more poignant – and from then I found a whole new level of appreciation for her. No one else had said that. If she had been Western I have no doubt that I would have been talking about sex with her from the off. But then, how to spot the breakthrough?

She was so right. Sex is very important to me, perhaps my strongest currency. It wasn’t that we weren’t having sex; I will always find a way! But that our truest intimacy was compromised. Our ability to get to know each other in every way that we would, without interference – that felt in question. No amount of communal aspirations could make up for that. It is a base that we needed and are establishing now for ourselves, and for which I am most grateful.

The pressing difficulties of the present out of the way, we were free (my therapist and I) to delve naturally into the past. That my Mother had resented my burgeoning sexuality when puberty struck, had given me many issues. It felt good to cry, and I knew we are only just beginning.

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Pictures of me by Sue from The Pastel Society, 18/2/12