WoW! Life Drawing for the Terrified

Thursday, 1 November 2018

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to visit the Women of the World festival as it made its way through Exeter. 

The festival, which took place over two days, was focussed on celebrating all that it is to be a woman, and the achievements and struggles of women around the world. The festival asked why gender equality is taking so long to achieve, and what may we do to better the situation for people of all genders; providing a platform for celebrating what has already been achieved, and an opportunity for those attending to learn more.

There was a series of life-affirming workshops and talks from extremely inspiring women, such as how to challenge misogyny in your day-to-day life - but the workshop that sticks most clearly in my mind is Life Drawing for the Terrified.

I was a complete stranger to life drawing before the WoW festival, so I had no idea what to expect. What I was greeted by was a group of 10 empathetic, generous women, all keen to learn more about life drawing, and two excellent group leaders there to make sure everyone was feeling comfortable and getting the most out of the experience. Those of us attending were welcome to involve ourselves as much or as little as we were comfortable with in the 'life' aspect of the class, and the confidence of the women willing to model was so inspiring.

The workshop was a very interesting experiment in what it means to be seen, and to see others. Walking away, we all talked of feeling empowered, of renewed confidence and spirit through a shared experience with like-minded women.

To be seen so neutrally, in such a warm and giving environment was an incredibly valuable experience. Entering the class, everyone was visibly nervous, but all nerves melted away when we began drawing, and realised we were all far too focussed on getting our sketch just right to think about anything else too much!

The workshop was also fascinating from a fashion point of view. The group was, overall, extremely diverse, and this was no truer than in the clothes people were wearing when we entered the class. For me, it was extremely interesting to see the way in which this diverse group of women presented themselves to the outside world, through the clothes they wore, the tattoos they adorned their body with, and the way they styled their hair.

From what is, essentially, the same blank canvas we all have, all the members of the group had carved out their own unique identity through the means of fashion. This really inspired me to look at my own wardrobe and think more carefully about the way it represents me and how I want to be seen. For a class with very few clothes, it made me think an awful lot about what to wear! The way clothes allow you to present facets of your personality, to express to the outside world who you are inside, make fashion truly exciting.

If you have never attended a life drawing class, either as an artist or a model, I would really encourage you to do so. It was such a new and thought-provoking experience which I’m sure will stick with all of us for years to come. Whether it be through a new jacket, some funky shoes, or a fresh tattoo, fashion really allows you to make you, you! Underneath it all, we’ve all got the same lumps and bumps and little insecurities, but if you can begin to see yourself as a work of art, the rest will follow!

What does being seen 
mean to you?

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