My husband thinks maybe I have a brain tumour. You know, one of those that causes someone to start doing crazy, out of character things and nobody says anything and then one day that person dies and everyone says afterwards, "Yeah, I thought she was acting strangely."
Trust me, I don't have a brain tumour. Well, at least I don't think I have a brain tumour.
But I am adrift. Adrift in the sea of life, reflecting on the last 20 years and wondering about the next 20 years. My eyesight is clouded with fear, excitement, curiosity, anxiety, and fear. Mostly fear.
I'm not like Oprah. I don't know many things for sure. I know the sun will rise in the east and set in the west but apart from that I can only be sure that someday I will die. Given current life expectancies I also am fairly certain that my life is well over halfway finished.
That sobering thought causes me to squeal "But I haven't done everything I want to do."
It is with the determination of that statement that I have decided to take some risks in life, not something I have ever been entirely comfortable with, and do somethings I never even knew I wanted to do but know I have to do once I hear about them.
When I read about an event sponsored by an organisation called Spirited Bodies, I wanted to be a part of it.
I love art. Art has the power to make me laugh and move me to tears. I an stare in wonder at a drawing or a painting for hours. I'm not just looking at the picture but appraising the talent of the artist who saw what they saw and was able to put that down on a canvas for all to see in a way that I never could. I mean, I still draw stick figures. My eight year old daughter has more artistic talent in her pinkie finger than I have ever had in my entire body. Artists amaze me.
The opportunity to be a part of art was irresistible. The opportunity to become that art was mesmerising.
It was with this ideal that I volunteered to pose nude for the event with London Drawing. Spirited bodies would provide the nude models and London Drawing would provide the artists.
Initially I attended an introductory session with Esther and Lucy, the two wonder women behind Spirited Bodies. Along with a dozen nude modelling virgins, the process and boundaries were explained to us. You could have cut the apprehension with a knife. But these two women made it seem very safe and almost clinical.
I decided to attend the next two workshops where hints and tips of posing nude were to be given. Initially I thought well, how hard can it be to pose nude? I mean, you take of your clothes and stand there, right? But the introductory session introduced the concept of holding a pose. For 30 minutes.....uh oh!
That evening I went home and tried to stand still. My husband kept asking if I wanted to go get an MRI scan done. I just kept standing in the middle of the lounge in all my glory thinking that my right big toe was killing me and my right arm was never going to stay aloft at that angle for 5 minutes. I must be doing this wrong.
I attended the first workshop at Battersea library. My stomach was in knots but as I had absolutely no intention of getting my kit off, I told myself this was ridiculous. I had brought my dressing gown (robe) as instructed but just so I could say I had followed instructions to the letter.
Esther and Lucy encouraged us all to get some paper and pick out some drawing tools. I choose a pencil, eraser and some charcoal, although what exactly I was planning to do with these implements remained unclear (see reference to stick figures above). We had settled into our chairs in a circle and Esther, who had changed into a sarong wrapped loosely around her body, explained that we would all draw each other whilst we each took turns modelling. She expanded that it was entirely our choice as to whether we posed fully, partially and not dressed.
And with that she dropped the sarong to the floor and stood before us in all her glory. Lucy instructed that we had 5 minutes to draw Esther. 5 minutes? To draw Esther? A day wouldn't be enough for me to draw anything at all. I stared at my blank sheet of paper, then back up at Esther's elbow, then back down at the paper, then up at Esther's ankle. I gripped my pencil and started with her heel, then moved to her hip, then tried her head. Next thing I knew, I was out of time and Esther had her sarong back on.
"How did that feel?" Esther asked. I stared at the mess on my paper. And thought, "Not so well." but then I realised I was so wrapped up in my own process of drawing that I had completely forgotten that there was a nude woman standing in front of me. Pretty soon everyone wanted a go. One woman who had kept her clothes on for her first go had decided that she wanted to try again but this time nude. She later said she felt more comfortable the second time around. You quickly realise that it's not about whether the model has clothes or not but that at the end of the process, there is a work of art, good or bad, but art.
The second workshop was much like the first although I had figured out quite a few poses that I could hold for some time without my limbs going numb. I gained some more confidence and tried out some poses with other models. Driving home that evening I wondered if I would feel as confident at the main event as I did in the workshops.
Posing alone or in groups of 2 or 3 in front of a dozen other models who would be in the same position as you was relatively a walk in the park. The thought of posing with 30-40 other models on a multi-tiered platform in front of 7-80 artists was like an Olympic marathon. Would I be able to do it when the time came? Or was I going to chicken out at the last minute and run for the hills? I had 2 days to talk myself out of it and I felt a sore throat coming on.