How we feel about our bodies is not a reflection of how we truly see ourselves but how we think other people see us. Or more accurately, how society sees us. For the majority of the population, this incredibly painful as the point of the ‘perfect’ body image is that is rare. Yet this is so artificial, for no one is really born muscular- for this involves spending many hours at the gym which, for many, is expensive and rather boring. While high cheek-bones are impressive, they also involve getting up a few hours extra and obsessively looking in the mirror.
As both a sceptic of modern beauty conventions and a lover of art I cannot help but think that this is all rather ridiculous. When entering an art gallery, for example the Sainsbury Centure, you will notice that there is no standard or aspirational body type- whether it is the blooming fuller figures of Henry Moore or the skeletal Giacometti each piece celebrated and respected for its individuality. So, why is that we cannot apply the same we see these masterpieces to the human body?
During an Art society session members of Pride, who had agreed to be life drawing models, talked to us about their own experiences with body confidence, and why they had volunteered. They discussed not only their own relations with their body, but how the cruel judgements from their own community were enforced upon them. I, as well as many other members of Art Society, was struck by the extreme ways people are categorized: for some, it seemed that being hairy made you a “bear”, or that if you were traditionally unfeminine, you were considered “butch”. It was sad, to not only see that people felt their bodies had to be one thing or another, isolated as a that result of not fitting into a category. The session was optimistic, however, for we incorporated colours of the LGBT flag in celebration of how UEA Pride is making significant moves towards appreciating the individual for who he or she truly is.
This session also felt very different for Art Society members as we drew more than one model at once. In some ways, this was more difficult, as we were doing the same time slots of five, fifteen and half an hour with more to draw – particularly as the last position involved all the models together. However, it also involved a more careful planning of composition; we had to take into consideration not only how to group our subjects together, but also how to apply the same amount of attention to each form. The use of colour itself was also a big step away from using either charcoal or pencil in black and white. In my drawings, I have used mixed mediums of HB pencil, pastels and colouring pencil. I found that I ended up working in a more abstract way in order to quickly capture angle and shape, as well as the personality of the models. I used colour not only to represent the figures themselves, but in the background to create a vibrant atmosphere.
Life drawing celebrates body confidence, not only for the models themselves, but for society: we need to realise that there is not a set body type or ‘norm’.