Body dissatisfaction in the UK has never been higher, particularly among young people. The pressure to conform to the impossible stereotypes we are bombarded with in advertising, magazines and on the catwalk is overwhelming and damaging – one in four of us is depressed about our bodies.
Jo Swinson MP (Lib Dem) speaking at a parliamentary inquiry into body image in January 2012.
Feisty Fraulein J (she who bemoaned male body hair) has drawn my attention to the genre of Fashion Illustration which is her own profession and which I find as controversially stereotyping as the world of photographic fashion modelling. The famous illustrators she has pointed me to, Stina Persson (Swedish) and Tina Berning (German) stylize youthful female beauty to more-than-humanly-possible perfection. It nearly scares me off modelling. How dare I display this unadorned, no-longer-a-spring-chicken face and body of mine when such expectations as these are in the world?
Or am I being all sour grapes about ‘beauty’ as a valid concept, just because I’m not beautiful myself? Isn’t it good to admire and celebrate beauty?
Following last week’s discussion re: the dearth of young male models, a new YOUNG MALE LIFE MODEL has been sighted in Batley (for non-UK readers, Batley is located in God’s Own Country, Yorkshire, the most significant part of England).
A very fine specimen indeed, writes David Mace in Tom Wood’s blog about this week’s Redbrick Mill life-drawing workshop (Sat 2 June 2012): Joseph is built upon classic lines that would surely have turned Michelangelo on in a big way. No saggy, wrinkly or wobbly bits – all tight, dynamic and self supporting as was intended when Adam was first moulded… In some ways it was quite difficult to come to terms with [all this perfection] – like drawing from a cast: no human idiosyncrasies to seize upon and relate to and give warmth to our responses… Joseph was a very good model – poised, motionless and alert.
For drawings and paintings of this Adonis see http://tomwood.typepad.com/my_weblog/
The other night in Haworth village, historic home of the Bronte sisters, my website photographer Michael Kilyon and I trialled our Big Collaborative Project for the coming year, THE LIFE ROOM. We met first in the Black Bull (where Branwell Bronte would get blathered) to do some planning. When we arrived at the Haworth Art Group, the Baptist Centre was busy. Light Opera were upstairs. The main chapel hall was, for the evening, The Life Room.
Michael took portrait shots of the life room and all of its inhabitants and the cross on the wall and many other objects. Upstairs they sang It’s A Long Way to Tipperary. Views of my spot-lit body were incidental, only captured obliquely – I am not the (visual) subject of this project – but I was fascinated to see, later, how I looked in my reclining pose. In truth, no languid limbs, no elegantly twisted torso – more like a pile of white uncooked offal.
More anon re: THE LIFE ROOM.
Back to anorexia. ‘Looking Good’ is a poetry collection by Carole Coates, a friend from the Brewery Group workshop I attend in Kendal, about being anorexic as a student in an era before the diagnosis was widely heard of or understood. Here is one of her poems. Can you retrospectively identify people you knew who were probably anorexic before the diagnosis was around? Or is this preponderance of eating disorders ‘new’? I wonder this about loads of stuff. Sexual abuse. M.E. Dyslexia. ADHD. Maybe nobody had problems in the olden days.
At the County Hospital
They haven’t told her why and she doesn’t really care
that her eggs have stopped blobbing every month.
In her head she’s still somewhere else
in the self-induced trance of being miles away
when all those men put their hands inside her.
She wonders if they’ve dried up at the source –
or there’s a build-up somewhere, a brimming dam of marshy blood?
She doesn’t ask, but the chief doctor with the biggest hands
smiles towards her, bends down over her.
He’s had a good look round and he’s found nothing wrong.
But maybe she’s just a teeny bit too thin?
Doctor’s orders – a box of Cadbury’s Milk Tray.
And put your feet up too – some chocs, an Agatha Christie…
She smiles and nods – she has the manners of obedience.
Her mother always said she was too good to live.
Shoestring Press 2009
This is a bit of an aside but, a propos ‘blobbing every month’, I just had a discussion with another life model about what we would do if menses started trickling down our thigh while in pose. My periods are utterly unpredictable so it could EASILY HAPPEN.
What would you do if you were a draw-er?
There is a God.
I am cycling to The Hive in Shipley for modelling. A woman driver doesn’t see me and turns sharply in front of me. I brake so hard I fly over the handle bars and through the air, but due to various flukey factors I DO NOT ON THIS OCCASION DIE. Arriving at the class I get well looked after by tutor Jane and everybody: plenty of sympathy. I see my swellings portrayed in at least one drawing.
(Actually there isn’t a god, just kidding)
Back home, I feel horribly sorry for myself. No-one to cluck and worry and examine my bruises. I email Secret Lover, but SL has a family to cluck and worry about. However I do, soon, get a kind response. A virtual one. Which is not enough.
ABOUT THIS WEEK’S ARTIST: DOUGLAS BINDER has been Painter in Residence at Dean Clough Galleries, Halifax, for 25 years. He heads up the Monday life-drawing salon. Come along, it’s 10.30-3.30 with an hour for lunch and erudite discussion of Art in the lovely café. £11 full day, £5.50 half day. Untutored. Bring your own materials.