Arts For All; & all about the Man!

Returning from a workshop of ours I mused that we are teaching people how to be naked! It ought to be natural. It is!
Today I took a Spirited Body to work and I don’t just mean my own. James couldn’t make any of our workshops but through emailing I could tell he was pretty nervous. He wanted a chance to try out on a smaller scale and talk about the experience face to face which can make all the difference. I checked my schedule and thought my session with ‘Arts For All’ in Shoreditch might be just the ticket. I asked fellow life model Lydia Julien who volunteers at the charity, running the session what she thought, and after checking with boss Caroline Barlow she said they welcomed the chance to have 2 models for the price of one! They also fully supported my initiative which matches their own to make art available to people who might not otherwise get to it.

“We believe strongly in inclusion and, at Arts For All, people from many different social and cultural backgrounds unite in friendship and creative exploration.”

The class really enjoyed the opportunity to draw from 2 models and were a lovely supportive environment for James’ first time. Lydia let me plan the pose schedule according to my requirement to best instruct in life modelling.

James was incredibly nervous at first and it took a bit of prodding from me to get him to remove his clothes! He didn’t want to draw and just looked awkward at the side so I did push him, knowing that once he got past the first hurdle, it would start to get easier.

James’ first pose: shy, covering his body in a closed stance (5 minutes) by Lydia Julien
Seeing Paulette Lewis’ picture shows me how my own choice of closed pose which I took first, was then mirrored by James

After the 1st pose he quickly got his shorts back on again, probably worried I would lure him into some further trickiness should he remain unguarded… so he stood out while I rocked on alone for 10 minutes. For the 15 minuter I had an idea to make him more comfortable, offering him a seat while I again stood.

by Paulette Lewis

James’ strong 2nd pose by Candy Hilton
by Miessen

From 15 minutes we went straight into half an hour, so that by midday (tea break time) James had experienced a variety of poses. I asked him to lie down however he wanted for this while I took a seat.

Lydia sticks her pieces of paper together for a nice charcoal impression
by Hilton
by Kamye Miessen

In the break we caught up with the artists who were very encouraging, pointing out which parts of James they liked to draw.

The main event after tea was a long pose where I lay and James sat.

by Candy Hilton
by Lewis

Lydia was ecstatic by the end – she is always very happy but I could tell she loved the ambience as much as I had of initiating a newbie in the art of the pose. She’d been showing him her work as we went along so he could understand how well he was doing and see what was coming out well. Caroline too was really enthused by the experience and James was invited to model on his own some time! He couldn’t quite believe it, it felt like such a big leap.

We went for coffee after to pick up the bigger picture of the event and James’ background. He is depressed in a full time ‘proper’ job which drains him and leaves him feeling a mug. There have been major body issues of a particular kind in his past which I have asked him to write about separately, as I think this will resonate with many men. It was great to get to know another of the new cast of Spirited Bodies for Saturday’s exciting event. What a brilliant morning and I feel positive that James is so much closer to feeling confident about the 20th.

Caroline Barlow said that Spirited Bodies are welcome to try out at Arts For All life drawing sessions in future, with or without me. If they approach her alone she will want to meet them first. She has given many new models their first opportunity, already aware that her group is the perfect environment for welcoming and putting at ease a nervous model.

To attend the group to draw; it is on Mondays 10:30am – 1:30pm, at The Tab Centre, 18-20 Hackney Road, E2 7NT at a very reasonable rate – Unwaged/Student £2.50, Part time employed £3.50, Employed £5 and they provide materials

Published by esther bunting

Performer, artist, writer

9 thoughts on “Arts For All; & all about the Man!

  1. Very inspiring story. I do so agree that it does take a lot to take off your clothes in public and bare all for art! However as I (and hopefully James) discovered it is very liberating to be nude; free from the tight restrictions of clothing. It’s just a matter of body confidence and letting yourself enjoy being natural whilst getting over the initial shyness. Doing it in a supportive group though really helps and makes you more confident and reduces the feeling of being objectified – which can be a problem. Once done you will want to repeat though – if only for the challenge and adrenalin run. You will always get those butterflies in the tummy but that’s natural and can act as a stimulus too.

    1. It’s so funny how the initial “moment of truth” gives you butterflies as a new model, but at the end of the night, you’re eager to do it again! I think it’s that rush that gets new models hooked on modeling.

      And I completely agree about the importance of a supportive, comfortable, safe venue. I lucked out because my first gig was for a whopping four people, one of whom was a friend from my grad school days. Made things much easier, at least from a psychological standpoint.

  2. Great update that captures the best of Spirited Bodies. It’s interesting, the idea of ‘teaching people to be naked’. I like to think of Spirited Bodies as helping people to free their inner nakedness; to accept it and share it with boldness and grace.
    Steve Ritter.

  3. I always enjoy reading your posts where you discuss working with brand new models–reminds me of my very first time, as well as reminding me of why I continue to do this. Which in fact seems a lot like what James was getting at–I was working at a job I was really unhappy at (“soul-sucking,” as I described it to an instructor last week), and I just wanted to get out there and do something that was entirely out of character for me. I get sincere thanks, praise, and constructive criticism when I model, something I don’t always get at my day job.

    And I’d love to read James’ thoughts on body image issues which you say you’ve asked him to consider writing!

    Oh, and I worked my first multi-model gig for the first time last Saturday, and your blog was a really good resource in terms of getting to know what to expect 🙂

    1. ‘I get sincere thanks, praise, and constructive criticism when I model, something I don’t always get at my day job.’ Oh how true – that certainly would ring a bell for a lot of people!

  4. Thanks for all the feedback and support guys! I expect James will send me his piece after the event on Saturday.
    I would love to hear more about your multi-model experience Jason – and I apologise if I have missed it in your blog as I have been crazy busy. Always glad to be a resource. If you have a link to a write-up you have done I would be most grateful – if you have time!

    1. I should have it up in the next day or two and will definitely let you know–in fact, I plan on giving a shout-out to Spirited Bodies in my post and will include a link. It was definitely a positive experience and I was absolutely on an emotional high the entire train ride home. I’d never worked with another model, let alone eight, before (it’s rare where I am, for several reasons), and reading the experiences of you and other models and being able to see pictures of what it’s like to model in a group setting really made me feel comfortable going into the event, which in turn led to posing with confidence!

      1. Wow, that’s amazing! I can’t wait to hear more and hopefully see some pictures – art or photo. Looking forward to the link, and the high sounds very reminiscent of what some of our models have reported. I am very excited about taking part myself in the big event on Saturday as usually I am on the outside.

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