What to expect at Spirited Bodies – 20/10/12

For those of you who were not at the last event we did at Battersea Arts Centre, there are a few aspects of this event which I need to inform you of.

Timing of Poses at the Drawing Theatre

Poses are not timed; this is an experimental life drawing session which is more like a performance than usual. Models change poses of their own volition. This has the positive that no one need get uncomfortable, and the possible negative that models may have no idea how long they are holding a pose for. In practise – we did this before – it worked beautifully with models naturally changing position when they needed and not all at the same time. This has the visual advantage of a seamless continuity of pose, which only has small changes happening as it goes along, no big scene changes.
Artists are expecting this and in case of new comers, will be warned on the day! It is a challenge, but they often thank us for it afterwards.

In life drawing a larger woman is a star attraction

Tableaux Created from within

An additional element for this our largest of events will be the presence of several more experienced models who have modelled with us before. Following the success of recent events where we have directed tableaux, I am encouraging our returning models to take the lead this time and suggest themes to those modelling near to them so that various pictures may emerge on the platform. These will last as long as they want to and may evolve as they go on, with some models who took a trickier pose needing to change sooner than others. We will aim to do some 20 – 30 minute poses, but shorter more adventurous group poses are also possible. Artists can see when a pose/tableau will be hard to maintain and it pushes them to work fast. We know that some of them can do it!

Obviously models won’t know if they have sustained a pose for 25 minutes so this is partly an experiment

This is a naturally flexible format which any model may opt out of to pose alone if preferred.

A theme may be as simple as ‘a picnic’ or ‘a wedding’ or be more visual like ‘a circle’ or ‘a mountain’.

from Ladbroke Grove bodies rise up from a heap

Quick Poses to begin with

Each session – morning and afternoon – begins with the chance to try shorter poses which would be from 1 minute to 10 minutes. This warm up period will last for about half an hour and the end of which will be marked by Lucy.

These poses needn’t be connected but give a chance for everyone to acclimatise. Models make their own timings and we encourage them to try bolder more difficult poses in this section. The presence of more experienced models will again help as they will show the way by example. This is one of the benefits of modelling for the 1st or indeed any time at Spirited Bodies – you learn by seeing others.

Whatever wants to Happen

In practise we have no idea how we will all feel on the day. If people don’t feel like communicating verbally on the platform and would rather intuit their own moves without the interference of ‘leaders’ we can easily return to the format which worked so well the 1st time we did Drawing Theatre. This was completely freestyle and by the end models were naturally forming a few poses with each other and connecting in random ways. Fantastic results.

My plan to encourage ‘leaders’ is more of a fall-back and to overcome possible issues relating to having a larger model group. We will be in the Grand Hall this time – 3 times the size of the theatre space we worked in at BAC last time. Tableaux seem favourable as they can make it easier for artists to concentrate on a group of models, as well as giving models an enhanced sense of creating something together.

In addition, last time round by the end of the afternoon models were tired and many had stayed all day. They got very cosy and wanted to have a chat. We loved that they bonded and several are still friends now, but visually there is an imperative to curb this. With a little instigation we can push the energy further for more dynamic results.

by artist and model Rodger who drew quick poses on top of one another in Ladbroke Grove

Model Numbers

This is tricky. Men are far more reliable in their commitment to model it seems. They respond quickly and are less likely to bottle it. Women may contact us initially then get cold feet. We have no idea how many models there will be, we can just aim for lots. We have to turn away men from this point unless they are highly unusual – i.e. non-white, massive, minute, have a reasonable disability or an excellent story! Just being honest.

Women – we want you! Up to the last minute, we want you. In future I may change the angle and refocus it to a ‘mainly women’s event’ if that will help. My suspicion is men do not have body issues to the extent that women do. Women have been told they are too fat and unattractive so much from many quarters that it will take more effort to reach them.

Women posing at Ladbroke Grove

Communicating a Pose: from Model to Artist (to canvas)

My practical application of life drawing techniques is pretty ropey. I’ve heard and seen a lot; but done – there I lack. When instructing others on how to draw me I explain – “Convey my essence, what does the pose feel like? Express that with your charcoal marks!”

Today I observed the communication process again. My typical poses are not often like naturalism, I mean mainly my shorter poses (less than half an hour). They are abstract, geometric, dynamic, concerned with balance and not obviously expressive of an emotion. They are about form. As I shift from angular shape to perpendicular groove, it is my body that tells me which way to go. Or rather it just does it. Today I saw/felt an artist watching me first, before he put pencil to paper. Taking it in – ‘what does it mean?’

I looked at myself: balancing on the sides of my feet, legs crossed, back leaning slightly forward and arms out front about belly level, hands together in an almost begging fashion. My head was tilted up and to the left. I thought: “There is nothing obvious which I am telling you, at least not with your left brain. So best not to analyse too much.” I was right all along. Feel the essence, don’t think about it. Take time to absorb the information given before your eyes, your senses. Then translate to paper. Measure by all means; but let the charcoal interpret the meaning, which in any case never need be clear. Not in linear terms at least. It may strike on another plane.

by the artist in question, Joe Goldman at Idun Eustace’s class (Wimbledon Art Studios); longer pose

Next week we have another meeting for new models; this time at Battersea Arts Centre on Wednesday 19th September, 7-9pm.

Also we have life modelling workshops lined up where participants get to try drawing each other as well as us. The emphasis is not on being able to draw, rather on seeing what the model is from the artist’s point of view. These are on Wednesday evenings of 26th September and 3rd October at Battersea Library. This is great preparation for our event on October 20. Do get in touch to book a place, there is a charge of £10. Drawing materials provided.

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

Meeting the Team in Water Colour

This Thursday 6th September is a chance to meet the Spirited Bodies team if you would like to model at one of our events. We will be at The Leather Bottle, 538 Garratt Lane, SW17 0NY from 7 – 9pm. The nearest overground station is Earlsfield and the nearest underground station is Tooting Broadway. We will occupy a table and place a ‘Spirited Bodies’ sign on it. You may recognise us from the photos in; https://spiritedbodies.com/2012/08/25/mall-reunion/

When I was catching up with Caron Clarke on Saturday as I modelled for her group in Crystal Palace, she showed me some of her beautiful water colours.

One of the best models we know, Lidia who has life modelled around the world
Lidia is known for being a very special person and an incredible model

Caron runs weekly long pose sessions with a model usually returning for 2 – 3 weeks, on Saturday afternoons at her studio in Crystal Palace. She will soon be resuming her more experimental weekly classes, now on a Friday evening, from October she expects. She tutors at this class in which she specialises in taking artists/students out of their comfort zone and showing them a new way for which they are ultimately grateful! (See this post from last year; https://spiritedbodies.com/2011/06/15/mountain-of-strength/) NB Caron no longer operates from Antenna Studios but from her new space at Gipsy Hill Workshops – http://www.caronclarkeartistandlifedrawing.com/

Our Lucy in repose
the whole picture
and Morimda too

We will be answering questions and giving advice to new models at the meeting on Thursday. We are mainly preparing at this stage for the October 20 event at Battersea Arts Centre for which we have a requirement to find models connected with the borough of Wandsworth. In addition we are particularly looking for female models and there will be a women only life modelling preparation workshop coming up.

Men will be taking part in the event too, but we do hear considerably more from male applicants.

Local Meetings & Workshop for Women

Three Standing Figures by Henry Moore (1947–49...
Three Standing Figures by Henry Moore (1947–49) erected at Battersea Park in London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nic Green's Trilogy

Cover of "Calendar Girls"
Cover of Calendar Girls

Finding the Women of Wandsworth Mums http://www.wowmums.org.uk/ accidentally as I dropped into Rollo Business Centre on the Doddington & Rollo Estate near Battersea Park felt like a sizeable piece of the jigsaw fell into place.

Some of the WoW Mums took part in Nic Green’s performance art piece involving 50 women dancing naked, 2 years ago at BAC – where our next event takes place. So I feel hopeful that our artistic nude opportunity may appeal.

Also on the trail of Wandsworth women I discovered that Southside Players http://www.southsideplayers.org.uk/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1, a local amateur dramatics group are due to perform Calendar Girls shortly after our event, nearby in Balham. The script is about to be released for hire for just a year and has subsequently been snapped up by 250 am-dram companies.


I am thinking of doing a naked workshop for women focussing on feeling empowered in the nude. Returning to a women only format feels apt whatever the men say. Too many women are put off by the presence of men and there needs to be a space to not be distracted by them.

I would like to do a mixed workshop as well, with a slightly different emphasis being on posing as a group and the art of life modelling. It’s still about being empowered in the nude, however – it doesn’t matter how many people point out that men have body issues too. We would need more funding to reach more of the guys with really major body issues. It’s more immediately possible for us to connect with the women. In any case we are an organic entity, ever shifting with inputs from different people and at the right time when we may reach those men and women who may benefit most from us, we will surely have a man on the team equipped for that episode.

Lucy has been active on her local forum – StreetLife – and is recruiting from within since she is a Wandsworth resident, among several of her networks. She will organise a meeting soon for potential participants to meet us and ask questions etc.

Images were taken by Lucy at the Hesketh Hubbard exhibition last week.

Morimda