Circles of Women

Our recent women’s event was in a beautiful space at the Bargehouse (part of Oxo buildings, Southbank), well heated and well attended – with 5 models, and about 10 artists. Poses from 1 – 15 minutes, some with movement. We began dynamic and expansive, and perfected the art of very slowly opening up from an enclosed pose (3 and 5 minutes). In 3 minutes, they had moved so slowly, that when time was up, I found they had hardly opened at all! So I decided on a second round, longer to allow them to complete the movement.

All artwork from the women's session at the Bargehouse, 4/11/15

All artwork from the women’s session at the Bargehouse, 4/11/15


The artists sat in a circle, some drawing in sketch pads, others leaning a board on a chair in front, one or two with their own mini easels set up. Within this circle, the models had a sheeted and cushioned area in which they created their own circles from time to time as they posed.

In daylight before we began

In daylight before we began

We created 5 minute poses for each element – Fire, Air, Water and Earth. Beautiful ensembles with flames, blowing in the wind, waves, and the solidity of Earth.



Hands reached up in a blaze of flames

There was a mix of experienced models including Ursula (a full time model and performance poet), and Claire (professional model, writer and feminist artist from the 80s, returning now with mastectomy), and Paula (relatively new). New models included an opera singer, who sang with Ursula in a sonorous pose; also another totally new model.

operatic notes on a page

operatic notes on a page

That was an impromtu inspiration as the singing model was clearly keen, and we have done that sort of thing before at A Human Orchestration a couple years back, so it felt enjoyable to revisit musical models. Really adds to their presence, and in this case, her voice was so powerful that the room shook. I’m not joking, and I wasn’t even next to her, touching her, so I can only imagine the vibrations in the inner circle. At least one artist was moved to tears, and several said they drew differently as touched by her tones.



Artists familiar, as well as some from the drawing symposium (we were a part of the Southbank Festival of Creativity) made their marks.


A real pleasure to return to my perhaps most passionate area of Spirited Bodies – the sacred women’s space! Though I don’t make much of any spiritual angle, keeping the session within life art/performance narrative, there is an extra element of care and consideration that is about feeling safe, to be all that we are. We are aware, as women together, some of us nude, that we could have body hang-ups, and maybe sometimes we do. But in that space, we are supporting each other to move past that, and enjoy the bodies we are in. We create solidarity, without judgement for ourselves or each other, embracing difference. And that is all that is needed, together with listening to each other, to make a very special warm, shared healing experience.

bending in the wind

bending in the wind

We don’t have to have been especially hung-up to benefit immensely; we all gain from the shared liberation, and witnessing each other being and blossoming. Creating a helpful, proactive, responsive community as well, as we connect more, building friendships. In the end, it is the love between us that grows our collective power, beauty, resonance and connection.



There is space within poses for individuals to practise their own spirituality possibly. Over years of modelling, I believe I have learnt how to very quickly access a meditative state, it is second nature. I smile automatically when discomfort prevails, as doing this alters my mind state to strengthen me, minimising pain. What is more tricky is the muscles reminding me subsequently, that it was not such an easy pose I had fooled myself so well of!


I also talk some of the time, during the session to point out how poses do or don’t work, to guide the models as well as instructing artists, in a different sort of life class! I played a bit of music too, but at the start, I instinctively wanted to let the silence take hold, bringing peace to all of us who had braced ourselves through the city to get there that evening.


I love circles of women. Last night I danced to the full moon with sisters in a church in Vauxhall. I vary in how much I am feeling it each month, but yesterday was very serene. The DJ, Sarah Davies, gave a little talk on body language which felt very pertinent, it spoke to me. How we hold ourselves affects the way we feel, and vice versa. So we can use this to make ourselves feel stronger, even when we are not necessarily there yet emotionally, or mentally. Create bold, confident shapes with our bodies to empower ourselves.


I have noticed over the years, that I had to let go of jobs where the artists were too proscriptive about poses, as if I am not in control of them, it can more likely damage my well-being emotionally (as well as physically).


I love how the full moon women’s dance is run by a bunch of women, tending to be about 10 – 12 years my senior I reckon. They and many of the dancers, are yoga, dance, alternative healing practitioners and artists, so a lot of strong energy in the space, and quite a few run their own women’s spaces. The chairs are cleared from the space and I set to hoovering crumbs, leaves and dust off the massive carpet. It takes a goodly amount of time, especially as I am enjoying being inspired by my moves with the vacuum cleaner! About two thirds of the way through the task, the sound system has been erected, and music begins to fill the church. Housework gets me into my first dance.


A pair of artists unravel and place items on an altar, immediately in front of the church’s own, which is behind decorated gates. After I have stocked up the toilets with paper, and put the moon pictures up, Sara hands me her palo santo to be burnt, and wafted about to cleanse or smudge the space.


Low-lit by highly hung chandeliers, the whole church resonates to the ska, hiphop, dance, world, ambient and darkly gothic music. We are moving through waves, rhythms of our feminine expression, of lyrical, flowing, chaotic, staccato and still bodies. I get a lot from this group. I take my friends there, and gradually get to know some of the women I meet there. It is a source of shared knowledge and deeper friendships.


For me, the instructions through the mic from the DJ about how to move (just suggestions), and what we may be feeling, are often jarring with my own inner journey. I am well habituated to getting into my groove. I discovered at 18 I think, on the dance floor at Slimelight among other venues, how to reach ecstacy through dance, and I wasn’t always on drugs believe it or not! It was a passion, and I knew movement (beyond the everyday) would always be part of my life. I trained in physical theatre at Rose Bruford drama school, in South East London in the early noughties. I wasn’t a great student, but I did appreciate the variety and intensity of some of the outlandish practitioners we immersed ourselves in.


Still, I do appreciate how having an MC helps to bind the group at times, as well as nurturing some of those who may be newer to dance or being part of such a group. It’s lovely to be in a group that is run by women, repurposing the church of a monthly evening, a church which in fact lends itself to a number of new age groups. At one particular phase of the evening, all the women start howling into the air, for a long long time. So happy to hear their voices, and to be taking up space as Sarah wanted.


Another women’s space I would like to bring your attention to, is run by Calu Lema, as part of her Naked Movement project. She describes her philosophy, background and intentions very well, and – Details of her next women’s (naked) space, are here.


I have naturally often thought, how good it would be if the full moon dance was also naked! I wasn’t thinking that yesterday though. The heating was blasting, and we were moving fast some of the time, but it is a big space, so didn’t feel cosy for nudity. Not that that’s really an option here… even in Summer. I also appreciate how it would be highly unlikely that you would get that many women at a naked dance, sadly at the moment. It is very cool to be with so many women dancing though.


My own next women’s event is on Sunday 13th December, at Tanner Street, close to Tower Bridge, from 11am – 1pm. For trying life modelling and/or drawing, with some gentle exercises to get comfortable with posing, as well as explore how the poses we choose may enhance ourselves and others. Nudity is optional. Naked, we may open up more to each other, face more of ourselves beneath the layers, and appreciate our natural beauty and body shapes. But it’s not for everyone. Artists are usually clothed, and sometimes, after a few years or so of coming to Spirited Bodies, artists pluck up the courage to bare all themselves!

a sea of bodies

a sea of bodies


Cottage Suitcase

I write from the cottage in my bed. Just 5 more nights in this cosy abode, and 4 more days of modelling, only 2 of which will be the same pose I have been doing since I arrived more than 3 weeks ago. For the final 2 days, we will try something different. “Perhaps a back view,” said Gundula the tutor, “with one knee raised on a stool? Something comfortable,” she tries to sound convincing.

I haven’t had it too bad for the past 16 days, sitting upright on a chair with a cushion. Back unsupported, but one arm resting on chair back. Right shoulder blade (of raised arm) aches if I haven’t had enough sleep. Sleep also very important for keeping eyes open. Some of the students concentrate on my face. I hear hands clapping loudly or my name called if I start drifting off. Enough sleep means I have the wherewithal to alter the pose minimally and unnoticeably (I think) should I start to feel a muscle ache.

Pastel completed by Ted Jacobs who founded the school, in the first 2 weeks

Pastel completed by Ted Jacobs who founded the school, in the first 2 weeks

Focussing on the same pose for such a length of time, the students do notice a lot of detail on me. They are training to pick up every nuance of shadow, the different types of shadow – the dark shadows and the light shadows, and every distinction of illumination on me whether from a direct light source – the North facing window, or a reflection from a bright white object nearby (one of my vanguard of heaters). But the light changes every day and sometimes during the day. We have very sunny days and heavily overcast ones, and this causes the most discrepancy. The students are told to work on different sections of their painting when the weather changes, still trying to achieve continuity. Perhaps the background on a grey day.

Trouble is, as November winds on, we get more and more grey mornings. The afternoons often brighten up, but that’s when they do still life, and I am free to roam the countryside.

In the beginning I am utterly taken with this group of people drawing me. They all seem so shiny and healthy, creating a very nourishing environment. Of the 6 students, all from different countries, most follow intricate and healthy diets, veganism featuring quite heavily. The other 2 are French and German; with no unusual dietary habits, just pride in the food they were brought up with. In our village there are no shops, just a bar/restaurant for bikers oddly enough, though you can buy baguettes there if you arrive early. There is a supermarket several kilometres away, and the students fill the organic (bio) aisle when one of them gives us a ride there. I feel a very positive vibe from the group who take their painting pretty seriously. No alcohol during the week, none of them smoke, and it takes me till week 3 to discover the one who is in fact more of a dope fiend than I am. A well kept secret! (And not in France).

My first weekend in the village I am alone – my housemate has gone away, and I get a little depressed. I haven’t yet felt like becoming sociable, I guess partly because I want to maintain my own space so I may achieve the rest here I need (from London chaos), and hopefully get some work done, maybe some writing. There’s something else though, I am still acclimatising and I have not yet settled. I am not used to sharing my home, so being alone is more familiar. I have been enjoying walks around the area, but today feels weird. On the Saturday night I am unable to sleep, and start rereading my book on female shamanism given to me by my sister. It’s the chapter on reclaiming menstruation and it resonates strongly. About how culturally we are conditioned to repress the power and magic of monthly bleeding. I understand this, I actually tend to enjoy my periods as I am more in tune with myself then. I am fortunate not to have a 9 to 5 in an office; I can organise my schedule to some extent as suits me. I can often use my modelling like yoga to create physical positions which open my body, my chakras in a healing way releasing endorphins and harnessing the power of the monthly changes. I know the business of modelling well enough now that I can manage the people I work with to this end if I need, I mean they trust me to do a good job however suits me a great deal of the time. I often get booked for movement poses allowing even more fluidity of posture.

Final day pose I chose myself

Final day pose I chose myself

Beyond the physical, I feel more aware of what I need to do at that time of the month. It is an optimum time for making decisions, and dealing with problems. I have more clout then and will be firmer if necessary. As I read, my depressive state lifts. I fall asleep very late, and on waking I discover I am bleeding. It is unexpected – 11 days early and I am normally very regular. Evidently the countryside affected me, well it had just been a full moon. Perhaps I was falling in with the women around me, and being closer to the Earth, to nature and farm animals, without massive buildings to block my connection to the sky, I had adjusted. My sadness now made sense, as it is quite normal just before coming on; and Sunday was much lighter, uplifted.

During my second week I felt in harmony with the students, I found the pose more comfortable, and I began to socialise. I am unused to doing such a long pose, but it does allow for a more regular meditation practice, as well as getting to know the people drawing you.

By week three I was missing the potency of my period and something felt out of whack again. I’d been socialising a bit more than is ideal for me, and became aware of not relating to the majority of the students in a certain way. Their extremely privileged upbringings were showing more, and I suspected that half of them had never had a job, certainly never had to struggle at all in order to be able to follow their dreams. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but it can make for naïveté and ignorance. Discussions on global problems revealed their lack of awareness on some issues that are very prevalent in the news these days, such as rampant paedophilia particularly among the ruling classes. We were now at one of their friend’s houses and there were 3 other English people in the room; only one of them was on the same page as me RE Jimmy Saville. Surely being cocooned in an art studio in France for several years was the reason so that’s understandable. What I really missed were ordinary people, friends who I could just be myself with. Friends with normal everyday problems who weren’t rich but down to Earth; no airs, graces or pretences. I was nevertheless extremely grateful for the experience, their generosity and kindness. They always treated me well, it’s simply a matter of a different social world, and one with different values to mine. I had no sense with some of them that they desired change in the world in any considerable way; it seemed to be fine as it was for them. In my world, well getting to live out my dreams may take a lifetime if that, but it is all about the journey. And I do want a huge amount of change!

To clarify, as of course everything is relative and by many people’s standards, even my own at times I am living the dream, I mean be able to spend most of my time making my own art. In a beautiful environment with few distractions is like icing. I am sure I may get there when the time is right.

Week 4, and I have the cottage to myself as my housemate has returned to the States for a wedding. I just want to lock myself away and write. It’s hunting season and every time I go out for a walk I can’t seem to resist going on private property – all the best looking stretches of grass, paths and woods are roped off or signed ‘chasse garde’. I don’t drive but I do have a sense of adventure. Trouble is when you have gone too far in, pushed through an excessive amount of brambles and waded plenty of marsh to go back, but you find yourself locked in by some very spiky fence, deep ditch, stream or impenetrable hedge. Then you hear the gunshots, the sun is nearly down and your phone is on the blink. If you can make it into an open field will you be confronted by an onslaught of stampeding cows? This is the countryside, and it can be scary.

To break my routine a little, at the weekend I decided to take a trip. Inside my mind as well as to a nearby natural beauty spot. I had one tab in my wallet, and took it in halves so as not to come on too strong. It’s not the most visual stuff but it’s definitely mental, I mean you can feel it lighting up your mind. The sounds and colours around me and inside me pulse more brightly. As it rains I cross a rope into a wood and find a natural seat on some bark, sheltered by a tree above. I look a long time at the mesh of mosses, lichens and climbers. It’s a young wood I discern by the girth of trunks, and I regard the trees growing entwined in pairs, singly or in groups attached at the base.

On the way back as the sun is setting behind me it starts to rain again, a massive rainbow crosses my path in front like a giant magical gate I want to walk through but can never quite reach.

The boundaries shift, the rain eases and it becomes a beginning and an end with no middle. I get distracted from the path and make a break into a field. This is the part where I see the village church steeple ahead and think cross country will be a short cut but get waylaid by all the aforementioned trickiness. I find myself running, trying to get somewhere safe before nightfall, stripping off layers in my heated sweat. Adrenaline pumping I wonder where my acid zen went. A farm vehicle passes me the other side of a hedge and I am unsure whether to hide or shout, but after it’s gone, I realise it must be moving towards the road. There’s not much light but I can make out the electricity cables; I am on the right track. Back on the road I swagger in exhilaration, the neon pub light glints on the horizon. I couldn’t understand before why such a bright sign; that’s before I got lost in the dark on acid.

By the end of my visit I come to the conclusion that some of the tensions I had been experiencing with the students were in fact due to the way the group was managed by the tutor. It is up to her to set the standard, and I did not sense that she was fully aware of what opportunity she missed. By regarding the model with  a particular reverence, the artists always gain. It is always a privilege to have the presence of a model, and learning to cooperate with them is a huge bonus for all involved. I’m going to leave it at that as sometimes I think it is better to keep things simple.

I really enjoyed that this trip was long enough to be a whole episode. There was a beginning, middle and end. I went off the path a bit in the middle, but I came back and love the whole story. I tend to look for drama where another would find more harmony perhaps, but nevertheless I found a great deal of love and depth in this time from those around me. I was very blessed to meet every single one of them, they all shared so much beauty and friendly times especially by the fireside.

Chateau des Landes

Chateau des Landes

in Cerqueux sous Passavant

in Cerqueux sous Passavant

Chateau de Beaurepaire

Chateau de Beaurepaire

The amazing first post on the Blog of this site! It is about writing and creating the show, plus some art work from a life modelling session.

The show contains life drawing opportunities.

Live musical accompaniment from The Next Room on percussion and strings.

A Christmas Workshop in Highgate

I thought for Christmas, a light hearted, fun event, more like the workshops we used to run, and without the intensity of the interviews. Creating amusing scenes with a group of models, so that with the focus on some abstract drama, there is a distraction from the possible discomfort of being nude. A bit of wine and some music to ease the flow, and we will be transported from a community centre to a Winter scene from popular fiction or a fairy tale. Also a return to the workshop format, where each participant has a chance I hope to try modelling and drawing, if that balances with the numbers. There is always space for those who only wish to draw, and for women who only wish to model; for men to model or do both however may be more over-subscribed is usually the case.

In the Autumn I reconnected with Camilla Scaramanga who runs life drawing classes at Holly Lodge community centre in Highgate, and after a chat she was keen to collaborate. I saw the centre as an ideal workshop venue for the upcoming season. She liked the ethos of Spirited Bodies, and shares a feminist disposition, but agreed that a mixed event would be most fortuitous now, to introduce the idea to the area and her group.

I have some personal history with Holly Lodge estate where the community centre is – in the next road down, my Mother grew up when she moved to London in 1963. I visited the place often where my Grandmother resided for many years until she died when I was 14. Her flat was the first place where I came across life art; she herself was an artist who sometimes drew, embroidered and sewed nude women in her art. Her walls were decorated with female nudes by various artists and I did not quite understand her appreciation as a girl. I preferred her more abstract pieces, or those featuring animals as was more fitting with my socialisation, which little did I know included some inhibition about the naked body.

My Grandmother was apparently more relaxed, and looking back I realise she was a greater influence than I ever had the chance to fully acknowledge during her life. She embodied a woman who lived for herself as well as for her family. Her life spanned several careers and different socio-economic climates as well as 3 different husbands. She always married for love, and husband number 2 was a communist American. The plan to migrate to his home in Seattle was thwarted by the US government’s House of Unamerican Activities Committee, so they tried in vane to settle in London, Paris, Switzerland, Austria… and finally grew tired of being tracked down and blocked by the FBI. They found sanctuary in East Berlin where they remained for the rest of their marriage and the formative years of their daughters. My Grandmother – Mary Wolfard, worked for the communist party at various stages in the early years, became a journalist while they lived in Europe, notably though sadly lacking evidence she interviewed Picasso on a beach in Spain, worked in radio in East Berlin; and when none of her socialist credentials were recognised when she moved back to London, she decided to become an artist. I have often wished she might have lived a few more years, as an adult I have so much to ask her! I unfortunately don’t have any photographs of her work, though plenty of it is on the walls of my parents’ home. I have a few pieces at my home also, but just now I am away in France modelling for a month in the Loire valley so unable to provide images. This however has reminded me that some record ought to be made.

I haven’t been to Holly Lodge estate at Christmas time in 23 years. I very much look forward to returning.

For more details please see the Events page, and for inquiries relating to Women, please see here.



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.








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


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.




dynamic and fun

dynamic and fun


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

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



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.


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


a pink feather boa connected the models

a pink feather boa connected the models



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


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!



Pleasing parallel lines and angles

Pleasing parallel lines and angles


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 :)”


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


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


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.

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:

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

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.

While I gently sleep in Idun’s class

On a warm day I naturally find the right position for repose

Abstract landscape seeps into a student’s drawing…

as Idun weaves her way round a vapourous studio

Mum has been in hospital and a blood transfusion has left her drained beyond words. It is like she has left the building.

For a long time she has fought with strongest will power a paralysing condition. Infections play havoc with her mind, and this is the part we all knew might come.

Floored at the Slade

It is a shift, a change of gear and in some ways it will be easier. But did we say, do all we needed to? Now we are left with fragments

By the river in Mortlake

There may be another opportunity, but I am not counting on it ever being like before. Dear Mum xxxxxxx

~ Beyond the beauty of external forms, there is more here: something that cannot be named, something ineffable, some deep, inner, holy essence. Whenever and wherever there is beauty, this inner essence shines through somehow. It only reveals itself to you when you are present. ~ Eckhart Tolle ~

Examples of Life Modelling Poses

Here are some pictures of recent poses I have done. If you are about to try life modelling for the 1st time and have not seen a model posing, this can give you some ideas for how to pose. It is a very individual activity however and must be necessarily adapted to suit each model.

by Deborah Collins

These six 10 minute poses demonstrate some varieties of balance. One is leaning on a chair; there is one pose with weight distributed evenly between the legs; the others have most weight on one leg. The top left hand pose is a good example of a twist, whereby the body faces one direction lower down, then another further up. Artists tend to love a twist; it is a challenge, but also makes the pose more interesting and lets them see more of you from one position.

One leg up on the seat gives more levels to the pose. Arms leaning back makes the pose feel open and lends complementary triangles of negative space, shown here balancing the shape of the upward bent knee.

I am skinny so taking advantage of my angles works for me. Different body types do well to emphasize their features accordingly

Here my back is arched forward gently creating a different impression. My back naturally forms an ‘S’ shape which artists frequently want to draw. Posing to accentuate the ‘S’ however is not good for my back if done excessively. Sometimes I need to give it a break and rebalance by curving the other way. As a model it is vital to understand these needs of the body so you don’t over do it.

A pose showing the curve of the back

The same 10 minute poses as above, from a different point of view

Longer poses tend to be more natural so the model may settle into them. Picture by Deborah Collins

Some artists use longer poses to concentrate on portrait. These are by tutor Cathy Bird

Elbow to knee connection creates negative space and helps artists to measure

Negative space is the area in between which is not the body, and may be formed by limbs connecting with the body and creating a shape. Artists use particular measurements in a pose to relate to other lengths to help them achieve an accurate sense of proportion. They often hold a pencil up in line with a pose and with one eye open measure how much of the pencil length is taken up by the head for example. They then use that measurement to compare other details in the picture. The length of the head may be comparable to say that of the arm touching the knee.

Here is a post I wrote a while back about how particularly to pose in the group situation at Spirited Bodies;

That was for a previous event and I would like to add that on the forthcoming occasion – 21st July – there will be some shorter timed poses to warm up, from 5 to 15 minutes. Then there will be a period of freestyle posing when models may change pose when they prefer.

There will also be at least one timed half hour pose when I would like all models to remain still at the same time. This is good for feeling what life modelling is like, as well as giving artists a better chance of creating a good picture!

Also I have just found this which is the blog of a male model describing his experience as a life model. He’s got some good advice and covers many topics from what to think about whilst posing to what to expect financially from being an artist’s model.

Charcoal & Broomsticks

Like Cindarella after a hard day’s work I rest on my broom

exhausted and in a day dream about my Prince

Ugly sisters are having fun, being invited to everything and somehow stopping me from joining in while an evil step Mother holds the key to my cellar

Then a Fairy God Mother appears and offers a chance of freedom, to come out and shine

Cindarella figure from different view points; she is the hidden consciousness about to be revealed at the right moment

She holds the secret to unlimited success, beauty and Love!

Before you can manage your own affairs you must find the peace inside. Repeated rhythms of arduous work have kept Cindarella calm and disciplined. Drudgery has not dampened her dreams which sparkle more alluringly than ever. Solitude has brought her closer to herself and to value the company of others.

Reflection is a vital part of the discovery. To stay totally still and not move an inch, except for the infinitesimal but steady descent with gravity which the artists observe as they alter their measurements. I don’t notice, I’m locked in a stare and far away