Developing in the Workshop

Having a smaller, more intimate group with whom to practise life modelling and instruction therein is a most gratifying bonus. It can be a safer place to start a journey towards more intense life modelling. There is even the possibility to practise posing without having removed clothes. There is not the usual atmosphere of focused concentration, since several participants are not primarily concerned with drawing even though they are giving it a go. Also Lucy and I are apt to cut in and mention during a pose something pertaining to it or ask the models how they are finding it. Between poses as well we bring up different matters relating to posing, and each new pose is introduced with an idea, for example, energetic connection between models rather than physical (models rarely pose alone) as well as a theme. We may try for a naturalistic pose or a more abstract one that is centred on form rather than gesture. Models sometimes come with their own ideas too, especially those with some experience. Indeed last time Richard Moon took part who has modelled for many years and he was most excited as this is his first time in 15 years of modelling that he has had an opportunity to pose with others. Like Lucy he shares a passion for recreating ‘The Raft of the Medusa’, amongst other classical images. He even brings several sheafs of laminated images of poses to present to artists he may work with to help them pick out ideas they are keen to try. Like a catalogue one artist observed!

Four of the models from the recent event in Battersea attended this last workshop and together with Richard, they outnumbered the entirely new models. This created an atmosphere of enhanced confidence. There was not the usual energy of nerves and anxiety present because the right kind of warm and excited (because it is mostly newly found) confidence is contagious. The new models looked less nervous than usual, but this may also have been down to their personalities. One is an artist I met when modelling at a group in Holborn, so he is quite familiar with the set up of a life drawing class. He wrote his own blog piece about the experience;

Another development was the presence of a few experienced artists who were not there to model but to appreciate a variety of short poses by a number of models as well as provide some generally better quality art work. I think they also appreciate the unusual insight into the model’s experience as we talk through the nature of poses and demands of modelling.

Lucy took some fabulous pictures of the art work and posted them on Facebook; One particular picture of 4 models pretending to wait for a bus has become an instant favourite and I think it has been sold! Lily LeMaire the artist insisted it was just a sketch, but sometimes that is all it takes.

The next workshop will be on Wednesday 28th November at Battersea Library again, 7 – 9pm. We look forward to seeing a range of models and some artists hopefully.

John turned up to a meeting, and made us look good!

Spirited Bodies with The Drawing Theatre, February 2012

Seriously, we couldn’t have paid him to big us up more! And he wrote this about us on Streetlife:

“I participated in Spirited Bodies’ last event at Battersea Arts Centre; it was one of the best, and most interesting, things I have done this year. If you have any curiosity about what it would be like to be a life model, go along to meet the organisers (at the Leather Bottle tonight), or contact them via Streetlife. I had no knowledge of Spirited Bodies before signing up, and no modelling experience.

I would particularly encourage you if “public performance” – in its widest definition – is any part of your life. Whether it is acting, music (like me), public speaking, giving presentations, teaching, or just interviewing for a job, most people need the confidence to put themselves in front of other people, and I can guarantee Spirited Bodies will give you that.

SB leaders Lucy and Esther are very organised, prepare their events rigorously, and have a real gift for putting newbie models like me at their ease, telling them what to expect, and helping you get the most out of the experience.  They are very patient with novices, make sure everyone is comfortable with what they are doing, and are not expecting you to have the perfect body or any experience, just a willingness to try.  I didn’t notice the gender balance, but it seemed about 50/50.

They also liaise with the artists, who are very professional, enthusiastic and really appreciate the models giving their time in service of their art. It’s really interesting to see the finished product at the end of the day; artists’ view of your body may be very different to your own perception. If you have any thoughts about the whole issue of body image, this experience will vastly enhance your mindset.  The art group is very structured, and SB works with the organisers to ensure there is no inappropriate behaviour or time wasting. The artists are much too focused for that. I was surprised to learn there are rules and a certain etiquette applied to life modelling, and the organisers take it seriously. For example, models are not allowed to appear naked except when and where they are posing.

Actually, one of the best things about the day was meeting the models themselves. There were about 20 of us and a more diverse, educated,  engaged and welcoming group is hard to imagine. They were truly impressive as people. Models came in every body type, age, ethnicity, and background. Sure there was some nervousness at first among the first-timers, but we were inspired by the professional life models, who were awesome! They make it look easy, but there’s more to it than you might think.  Within minutes, everyone was really comfortable and enjoying themselves, and frankly the nudity just didn’t seem to matter. The artists were all clothed, but were far too focused on what they were doing to gawk or giggle.

If you have heard horror stories about having to contort yourself into uncomfortable poses for hours and hours, that won’t happen at Spirited Bodies. We were encouraged to change poses and experiment. Of course it had to be on the coldest day of the year – powerful heaters were provided!

One of the most valuable things was the training session SB organised a few days before the  event. Newbie models (clothed) were invited to try drawing a nude model. Having the tables turned that way made me re-think how I look at bodies, despite my pathetic drawing skills, which were not required or expected.  It also allowed the models to get to know each other before the event, which was helpful. Some of them I should add, are excellent artists themselves.

So if you want a real confidence-building challenge to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, forget that triathlon, Est workshop or fad exercise class, check out Spirited Bodies. You won’t regret it.”

Thanks John, great to see you again.

from Spirited Bodies with The Drawing Theatre, Battersea Arts Centre, February 2012

Part 2 of my Interview with a New Model & more images from Notting Hill

I always find it refreshing to hear from those newer to life modelling what it is they find so exciting about it. For Liz it was many things – the way that modelling encourages you to be just the way you are. Whichever body type you are, that is what you accentuate. You cannot hide from yourself. She has long felt her bottom to be too large, disproportionate to the rest of her figure. As a life model her bottom becomes a feature which artists consider her best part, to be shown off.

Liz has only modelled twice; once at Spirited Bodies and once for an artist who met her at Mortlake. She likes the way it makes you want to look after your body so that you do feel good about presenting it. This is a positive side effect I agree, and something I sometimes forget. It’s nice to be maintaining my body not just for myself or a lover, but for all the people I work with too.

A greater interest in art was another plus offset by life modelling Liz found. She wants to see what artists look for and what has been done before.

She has a strong idea about the professionalism involved in life modelling, largely due to being advised by Morimda. She says that the model should never embarress an artist. Many poses for example, could be erotic or not depending on your facial expression. By behaving in a very straight way, you avoid any confusion or awkwardness. This is again something I have just gotten used to. Life modelling I think has allowed me to regain a sort of innocence, since I am not about making erotic art particularly but do love to be expressive and am naturally quite a sexy person. Thinking about it, that is a big gift, to be myself unselfconsciously.

At Spirited Bodies Liz says, you learn from watching others model. First you do a simple pose, then you see someone else do something more free and expressive. Now she thinks of asking artists what they would like to see in her. This is a good tactic; personally I have several ways I can pose or styles, and I know that some artists prefer natural looking poses while others like extremely posed positions. It can be worth checking how they roll or if there is something in particular they are looking for.

Liz feels more aware of her own beauty now because of displaying herself. She is always looking for new inspiration artistically, and she is enthused by the way that every artist can show her something new about herself. Just as every model brings a position out in different ways.

This piece will be continued, and here follows some more images from Spirited Bodies at Notting Hill Visual Arts Festival.

rugby scrum!
pen and ink
on top of a pile of bodies (undrawn) posed these 2 sirens holding a flower!
from below (models were raised on a platform)
again the scrum – 5 or 10 minute pose
back to back in a circle
women on top of bodies!
Hooray for colour
the corpses below
This artist made very large paintings on the floor which I loved watching her do. I don’t think they come out so well on here unfortunately

Pretty in Portobello

We really admired the artwork from this event

There is a lot more to follow. Truly, artists had a very free style in Ladbroke Grove and we salute that. Just 5 models finally made focus a little clearer, and me being one of them made working out poses with the group nice and easy.

A Few Tips For Life Models From Andre R, plus images by Rob Black

Andre took part in last Saturday’s multi-life modelling event in Mortlake and would like to share this advice which is particularly good for those new to life modelling;

  • It’s a good idea to stretch thoroughly before a posing session.  Calves, thighs, hamstrings, neck, back and shoulders are all vital.  This helps muscles from seizing up or going into unhelpful spasm.  My personal preference is to stretch at home and then again at the venue

On this point, it is probably ideal also to soak in a hot bath both before and after a posing session – but that’s not a very green thing to do!  Maybe a Jacuzzi at your gym is a good compromise!

  • Have only a light meal before a posing session
  • Take a dressing gown, towel (for wiping away perspiration), facial tissues and bottled water into the posing room with you – the core “kit” for any model to have handy
  • If you find you have to sit on chairs or cushions etc provided at the venue, it might be good “etiquette” to cover these with your own towel or dressing gown and sit on this
  • When posing for any period longer than 10 minutes, consider how your body weight is distributed onto pressure points onto your limbs.

Always aim to distribute weight and pressure onto feet, hands and joints as evenly as possible.  Be realistic about how long you can hold any pose that generates even the smallest seeming: pressure points, muscle tension, muscle stretch, muscle lock, joint strain or any feeling of holding or bearing weight – yet having to keep still

  • Never look directly at artists, it is unnatural and soon becomes uncomfortable for both artist and model.  Pick a point in the room – it might be a light switch, a spot on the wall, a bracket on a pipe, a red paint splotch on the back of an easel.  Point your nose at this spot.  If you ever have to move your head or return to a pose, you will always be able to return your head to a precise position again
  • Try not to have limbs doing anything symmetrical, have each leg or arm doing something different – it is more interesting for the artist(s)
  • One trick for being able to hold arms away from the body for long periods is to use a pole, but you still have to think about weight, stretching and pressure points and be realistic
  • There’s no harm in planning poses ahead of a session.  Maybe flick through life drawing tutorial books to get ideas for poses.  Steal ideas from other models! Always be realistic about what your own body can manage
  • Plan a “repertoire” of what you can achieve for the range of poses you might be asked to undertake: short dynamic poses (2mins to 5mins), mid-length poses (15-25mins) and long poses (30-45mins)
  • If you find you are in trouble in a pose (it can happen to even the most experienced) and decide  you must break the pose to stretch, unlock frozen muscles, deal with a building spasm etc, you can try warning the artist(s) that you are going to have to break the pose in 2 minutes’ time (or whatever)
  • When memorising your pose (so that you can return to it) the two key things to make a mental note of are head position (see above) and feet position (some people even have their feet position chalk marked on the floor). Arm positions just have to be memorised
  • The following is a personal view.  Posing nude for life drawing is not a naturist thing.  My belief about “etiquette” is that as soon as any break or session end is called, you should put on your dressing gown.  I once saw a male model walk around the room nude looking at what artists had drawn – don’t make such assumptions about what strangers are comfortable with.  Keep to the line that is drawn about why you are there to be nude.  As I say, just a personal view.
  • Always ensure tutors or hosts are going to both time poses strictly and call out time remaining during any poses of 10 minutes and above.  Most mobile phones have stop watches these days! Models can lose all sense of time, even in a 15 minute pose.  It helps both models and artists to have someone call out “10 minutes left” “halfway through”, “5 minutes left” etc.  This is so incredibly helpful that you must always ensure it is going to be done

Here are some bold, colourful images created on an i-pad at last week’s event by Rob Black

Thank you Rob, we really appreciate your work, it’s great to share it. Lovely compositions

Rob can be found on