*Please note: As of June 2014 I no longer work as a life model or offer private life modelling tuition.*
Each time I de-robe to present my body to an artist, I recall why I started life modelling in the first place. I think it’s that first kiss of cool air in places rarely public that probes me to question my motives. I’m not a nudist – take the artist out of the picture and I like my clothes on, but I am obviously an advocate for freedom. The bare skin-to-air sensation, public and pure, is an edge I like to toe for many reasons, however none so rewarding as the stereotyped beauty it begs to shatter.
Rewind ten years ago and I was a young twenty-something locked in prisons of self-doubt, criticism and shame about my body; how it looked, felt and folded skin over skin. I avoided showing my body because somewhere along the line of adolescence I decided it wasn’t good enough. I’d walk in shame, tummy tucked in, posture contrived and shoulders curled to create a semblance of magazine model perfection.
This negative pre-occupation with my appearance was one of a number of faces of my depression. It always needed revision with a therapist and became a reason for more CBT and positive affirmations. The round-abouts of ‘I love and accept my body, I love and accept my body, I love and accept my body’ lead to giddy nowhere and a false sense of telling myself what I thought I should say. Oppressing the true shape and expression of my body, whether by thought or physical distortion, stacked on more reasons to feel depressed, and was more to the point, oppressing the true self in me. Besides, I wanted to experience so much more than the surface meaning of a healthy body image – I wanted to taste freedom, expression, creativity, autonomy, all through the means of my very own body.
This relationship based on self-loathing felt harmful, both to my body and my soul. I grew concerned that this unloving dialogue directed at myself would become cancerous and quite frankly, I was sick and tired of feeling so ashamed of being the shape of me. It didn’t seem to matter what tricks of the mind my therapist taught me. I needed to reconcile this relationship once and for all by going out on a limb of: I am comfortable and happy to be seen as I am.
Artist: Sharon Martin
Fast forward seven years to when I am a teacher of life modelling, I now have such honour for my body and its natural beauty, and have the creative feedback of artists to thank in concert with my own courage to step outside my comfort zone. Had I not discovered life modelling and applied my self to this ancient art form, I may never have known what it would be like to feel at ease beneath my skin; you know, at peace with my bits and bumps.
Every time a life model stands naked before their artist, they are essentially baring their soul in the name of art. This exchange between muse and artist, appreciates that every part of the individual’s body is whole and perfect as it is, and in a world where we are constantly sold the story that we need improving, this is a refreshing and healing encounter. Very quickly the stereotypes of beautiful turn to plastic.
The masks fall away and the miracle of creation takes over, not unlike at birth and death. There’s a sense of honouring in the presence of a life model, expressed in the hasty jottings of charcoal or the smoothing of clay, the clicking of camera, in a race to capture this marvellous beauty into form. Throughout my 7 year modelling career, I have been fortunate to work with artists who offer respect and appreciation to their model as I share with them my unique body, unadulterated. It is in this exchange of the offering and the receiving that over time chipped away at my illusions of ugliness and immersed me in the healing balm of self-acceptance.
Life models often describe their experience akin to transcendent meditation. It becomes a practise lodged in timelessness to escape the frenetic pace of life and welcomes reflection, dreaming and inner-peace. In addition to exploring one’s inner-landscape through life modelling there are many creative and practical benefits of this sacred art, which I will describe in later blogs.
Artist: Lisa Nolan
First and foremost, the personal adventure of discovering just how safe and liberated one can feel toeing the life model’s edge – naked, poised, wordless and witnessed – cultivates self-confidence, self-esteem, liberation and connection to our body’s power. Gifting oneself with this opportunity to move and express ‘just as you are’ is a personal pleasure and remedy for the distorted and unhealthy body images, that serve no purpose on a path of true self-acceptance.
Life modelling changed and saved my life, as can any creative art used to transform suffering.
Interested in becoming a life model? Find out more.