Sexcetera is the university’s week celebrating sexual health and wellbeing co-hosted by the Students’ Association and a number of societies. Its body positive life drawing event was a collaboration between the liberation campaigns and RECONFIGURE, a life drawing and performance art practice led by Topaz Pauls. The session was free and split into two sections: the first half being time to practise drawing techniques and the second being an undisturbed time to draw the life model. One of the most interesting exercises we practised was ‘blind drawing’, where one does not look at the paper when drawing, with the aim being to remove the self-conscious desire for perfection and to nurture the relationship between hand-eye coordination. There was also an explanation between the different tools with which we could draw – Topaz mentioned her preference for softer drawing materials due to the increased “unpredictability” of the result.
A sentence stated by Topaz which stuck with me was her interpretation that “drawing is a very sensual experience”. Indeed, this struck me as an important statement due to the self-conscious choice of whether to press the pencil harshly or softly into the paper. This is also pertinent when one is examining the vulnerability of a nude person in front of you. Topaz referenced John Berger in the class and the way in which he describes how “nudity is a form of dress”, and how we as the artists can play a part in drawing the disguise of the body’s knobbly, hairy and imperfect aspects.
The class was a safe space for discussing the imperfections and insecurities one may have with their own body and Topaz emphasised how life drawing is often looking at someone’s unrefined body in a kind and non-judgemental way. She went on to point out how this can translate to looking at one’s own body with that same kindness. The model herself described her own experience of being horrified at the prospect of being drawn nude when first confronted with the idea, but then assessing the reasons for her discomfort and realising that such a viscerally negative initial reaction is somewhat unnatural and that in fact being a model can feel very liberating. She explained that when she is modelling, she is usually more focused on her actions and poses than on how she looks. This is reinforced by the results of the life modelling: a myriad of interpretations of the action, weight and feeling of the same pose. All in all, I left the session feeling positive, productive and relaxed.
RECONFIGURE holds regular life drawing sessions around Edinburgh.
14 February 2018
Image: Beth Kay