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

Expectation & Collaboration – of a model & an artist

Feedback answers from Charlie who both modelled and photographed

a) Did it live up to your expectations?
Spirited Bodies 5 certainly did live up to my expectations, and in some ways exceeded them as well. It was lovely being a homogenous part of the group. I was somewhat unsure of my capability to hold a pose for 30 minutes, so I certainly surprised myself by doing so. I think that having so many fellow models with me made the task of holding a pose much easier, feeling that we were all supporting each other in a very bonding way. I love the way that we all bonded from the start and felt totally comfortable with each other. I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet some of the other models in advance.

From an artistic point of view, I was also very pleased. The evening was a form of testing ground for me, so I came with a very open mind and was not expecting too much. However, the results were far better than I anticipated, and as I go through the numerous shots, I am finding more and more details that I would love to work on and refine on future occasions. I did have some expectation shortfalls, but these were almost exclusively related to technical things such as camera settings, backdrops and lighting.

b) Was anything lacking?

I would say that the space was a bit awkward to work in, but this did not seriously impede the artists’ work. I was amazed to see how 30 artists managed to squeeze their way into the space, but still have a good area to work in. More time before and after the artists’ sessions would have been nice; time for us models to meet and chat, get to know each other, time to set up a few well thought out tableaux – the table worked, but I felt that with a bit more time, we could have been really creative with the space and with each other, and possibly planned in advance what scenes we would like to create for our artists.

From a photographic point of view, time was very limited. I would have loved a couple of hours to really think out the set carefully, have around 30 minutes or so before models arrive to experiment with lighting and camera settings, and have the luxury to work with the models over the course of a very chilled and relaxed day.

c) What did you gain from it?

In no particular order: Wonderful people to create art with and collaborate with, new friendships, new artistic ideas, the confidence that I can hold a pose for at least 30 minutes, some lovely photographic works, a better understanding of how to best utilise awkward space for a nude tableau featuring 14 models, the satisfaction that many artists were able to benefit from my contribution, the experience of building trust with first-time models, it was an invaluable experience all around and I learned loads from it.

Here are a couple of Charlie’s nude abstracts:

A Feeling of Intimacy & Communion

“A feeling of coming together, sharing in intimacy and real connection more pure and truthful than many everyday personal exchanges”, this is a quote from Kim, one of our models at Telegraph Hill, 21/3/12.

by Francis Wardale, ” For most of the time I tried to draw the whole group – taking advantage in having that number of models.”
by Charles Patey, "The challenge of multiple models is to try to catch the spatial relationship between the models."

“I felt trusted and grateful to be included in the other participant’s personal threshold experiences.”

by Brian McKenzie,

“I have modelled for life drawing groups before and even once in a group setting but never before has the experience been tinged with such nuances of communion as it was at The Spirited Bodies event. It really was an experience of opening, freeing and honouring ourselves and one another and I feel so grateful to have been trusted and accepted as witness and participant in this event. Thank you!” You are very welcome!

by Brian McKenzie

Whenever I watch the models as they pose together at one of our events, part of me wishes to be with them. I do enjoy the pleasure of watching them, as they find their part in the picture. Sometimes I try to draw. Next time I hope Lucy and I have a chance to join them, at least for part of the time, because I know their experience is one I have not yet had. And it is a beautiful one, of togetherness and bonding. They are quite elated, if challenged by the difficulty too.

by Brian McKenzie
by Francis Wardale

Before and After; the Vulnerability of being Naked

Firstly I would like to thank you both for hosting such a splendid evening. Well done indeed and please sign me in for the next one!

It was great to be part of such an event. Everyone was so nice and I was very surprised how quickly the nerves dissappeared.

I was also surprised at how quickly we became a ‘community’ working together in genuine friendship and completely relaxed at being naked together. I am not sure this feeling of well being could have been achieved clothed. It was as if the vulnerability of being naked created an invisible bond between us. Really refreshing.

The artists output was also rather special and I look forward to seing the results on the web in due course.


Questionnaire for New Models ~ Telegraph Hill Festival 2012


  1. Have you done any life or other nude modelling before?

No none at all.

  1. Why do you want to participate in Spirited Bodies?

I would like to contribute to the festival event and to experience an opportunity to work with others to celebrate the real people we are. I also believe in the empowerment of women and hope that we all take away positive reflections from the evening.

  1. Do you have experience as a performer or artist?

No none at all.

  1. Do you have experience in martial arts or sport/fitness?

No none at all although I do try to keep reasonably fit and exercise most mornings.

  1. Do you have experience in meditation?

No not really.

  1. What is the longest length of time you think you can hold still for?

It would depend upon the hold I suspect anything from 15 minutes to half an hour? Or am I kidding myself?

  1. Do you mind touching another model whilst posing e.g. holding hands?

No not at all. I am happy to interact as appropriate.

  1. Do you mind or want to be photographed whilst posing, and if so to what degree i.e. identifiable or not?

I am happy to be photographed in any pose and don’t mind being recognised.

  1. How old are you?

I am 58

  1. How would you describe yourself physically?

Reasonably fit, can run 5000k and enjoy walking and swimming

Feeding back: Domitilla Bau @ Spirited Bodies

When I decided to join life modeling for Spirited Bodies I wanted to experience something new, because it sounded very interesting, but I did not know how I could have reacted. The day before coming I was asking myself how I normally feel when people look at me and generally I assume a defensive pose and start to agitate. I thought that staying naked in front of lot of people would have been a little strange for me but finally I found it totally normal and natural and this surprised me.

I liked to see real bodies becoming something different, losing their common shape and colour. I had the feeling that artists through us were finding space to something new, abstracting us, looking beyond what was there and having inspiration and challenging their imagination.

I liked the atmosphere and people. The room was very silent and productive, everyone was literally in what they were doing.

I don’t think that there was something missing or lacking; the heating was great and sometimes I was even sweating; there was water, tea, coffee and biscuits, the place was clean and most of all nothing was forced or imposed. The organisation worked perfectly, I have nothing to complain  and also doing the meeting in advance was better. Just to make sure with who you was dealing.

Yes I would like to do life modelling again either in a group or alone. It helps you to listen to your body and feelings and you have time to think a lot about whatever!

I do not think that interaction is the proper word to explain what was involved between the artists and me. I am not meaning that the process was passive but there was not communication – instead a silent agreement of being the object that they were looking at  and then becoming the subject of their work. For me it was a kind of lateral place where artists through the visual impact of the scene in front of them started their creative process. Yes, I did feel appreciated.

Late in the afternoon on Saturday 11th February, 'The Drawing Theatre' at Battersea Arts Centre: Spirited Bodies 4, photograph by Alex B