I kept a diary whilst growing up and recently a friend and I decided to read it. An entry that really stuck out and made us laugh was my New Year’s Resolutions from when I was about 11, where first on the list was “loose wait.” The spelling, of course, was what made us laugh. The meaning of the resolution, however, is less amusing; at such a young age I was already body conscious and my goal was to be thinner.
My friends and family now know me as someone who’s often wearing skimpy denim shorts and strappy tops, so they might be surprised to hear that my body insecurities haven’t gone away. But in reality, my choice of clothing (or lack thereof!) around the people who judge me the least is my attempt to build up a tolerance to my own body. It’s as though the more open I am with my body, the more comfortable I’ll feel in it. This approach works at times, but it hasn’t had a permanent effect. I’m still regularly body conscious, even with those closest to me.
However, by studying, drawing and painting bodies of all shapes and sizes, I’ve become more aware of the vast range of lines that make up our bodies and how to celebrate these as they are. It’s through the process of exploring these figures that I’ve learnt that my lines are unique and that’s what makes them normal; I don’t need to change to fit into society or with those around me. This is because there isn’t just one set of lines that everyone else has, there are so many different sets, and they are all equally as beautiful.
I like to think that this approach has helped others too. For example, one of the most satisfying things about doing nude commissions is encouraging clients to celebrate their body. So often when a client sends pictures for the commission, they are accompanied by messages apologising that the photos aren’t very good or asking me to ignore their “bumps.” But there are never bumps to ignore, the photos are always wonderful and once they see the finished drawing they realise this for themselves and are proud of how great they look.
I’ve been very lucky so far to have drawn some beautiful, empowering people. As I continue to do so, I look forward to encouraging more people to feel positive about their bodies and also to admire the figures of others around them, rather than envy or judge them.