Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why I Am A Life Drawing Model

Richard Barlett http://primalmarks.blogspot.ca/

I have been a model for artists for over twenty years. My first modeling job I didn't get paid. It was for a fellow artist who was a photographer. I knew him well, trusted him and decided I'd help him out. The second opportunity was for a rather odd fellow, another artist who was obsessed with the legendary Canadian bred Thoroughbred horse, who was literally full of heart, the legendary and beautiful Northern Dancer.
I have long been a passionate horse woman and I loved Northern Dancer. He is described as a legendary hero. What, I am interested in is the heroine, and redefining the meaning, not according to a male interpretation.
In the dictionary the definition of hero and heroine are contrasted in meaning. I know male geldings or stallions can't be heroines, but I think they can have the same qualities as heroines, just as heroines can have the same qualities as heroes. Not that are equal, in being the same, but they are of equal value, just as each genders. 
Note the differences in the dictionary definitions. The heroine is not defined in her own right, but compared in relation to the hero. She is neither ' endowed ' ' illustrious ' or ' noble ', nor is she described as being divine.
 Definition of heroine:
a :  a mythological or legendary woman having the qualities of a hero
b :  a woman admired and emulated for her achievements and qualities
a :  the principal female character in a literary or dramatic work
b :  the central female figure in an event or period 
Definition of hero:
a :  a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability
b :  an illustrious warrior
c :  a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities
d :  one who shows great courage
a :  the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work
b :  the central figure in an event, period, or movement
Are heroines not divine, endowed with strength and ability. Are they not illustrious warriors, noble, with great courage?
Getting back to the artist I modeled for, who loved Northern Dancer, he had me place a small Breyer Northern dancer model on my belly and then he took his photographs. Yes odd, but each to his own.
When I reflect now on why I began to model, I believe I unconsciously decided this was the way to force myself to get connected and more comfortable with my body.  I had always felt generally comfortable with my body, and I attribute this to my mother who had a positive attitude about her own physicality and sensuality. I am not saying I wasn't without hang-ups around my body image. My self-consciousness went on to later develop during my thirties. I was having the beginnings of anorexic thoughts, that can lead to an anorexic condition. Thank goodness I did not become anorexic.
So many women, young and old have been, and are still having a preoccupation with their bodies, and what they look like. Our culture and society promotes, and condones it.
As we age, I think women become more conscious of this, and I suspect we become less concerned about our appearance, and what others think. This is a freeing thing that happens, and there is a real reason it is freeing. It frees our souls to be who we are, and to celebrate our bodies.
After I realized I could make money as a model, and be around other artists, I got serious about making this a job to financially help support myself, and then began many hours of modeling at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design where I was an art student. 
In the early eighties I left for Toronto to study Mime, and when I arrived, I was in need of money, and so once again, I turned to finding work as a model. I found employment quickly at the Arts and Letters Club, and at Ryerson University, which was almost directly across from where I was living, The Christian Women's Temperance Union. That's another story!
I continued modeling all through University and have returned as a model for artists in a gallery, at the age of 61. It has been a very satisfying and rewarding experience, as an artist, and mostly as a woman. I have learned about myself in terms of body image, and reclaiming my body as a woman.
Presently I am reading a book entitled ‘ The Heroine’s Journey ‘, by Maureen Murdock. Here is an important quote that I believe is at the heart of matter of why women and even men, struggle with, when it comes to accepting your body as it is. The high lighted link above, is an interview she gave about the book which was written eighteen years ago, but is still very relevant today, if not more so.
” The soul of a human being as well as the soul of a culture cannot evolve if the body is not reclaimed and honoured “. Maureen Murdock
Years ago, I saw a wonderful documentary film about life drawing models and it explored their lives, thoughts and experiences. I so wish I could locate this film or remember the name of it. I believe it was on Vision TV, PBS of perhaps the Women's network channel, which I don't remember the name of that either. If anyone out there is familiar with this documentary, I would very much love to know the name of this film, if anyone is familiar with it, please drop me a comment.

I am on the heroine's journey, and this is why I am a life drawing model.

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