By CATHERINE RODIE BLAGG
As I approached my 29th birthday (many, many years ago) I asked my close friends to help me compile a list of things I should do before hitting the big three-oh. The idea was that the suggestions should be things that would challenge me, help me overcome a fear, teach me something or be something I’d always talked about doing.
I ended up with an impressive list, ranging from ‘go back-packing’ to ‘get a tattoo’ (both of which I ended up doing), but the challenge that stood out the most was ‘pose for a life drawing class’… That’s right… ‘pose naked for a life drawing class’…
My first reaction was ‘no way! I couldn’t… not in a million years! What a ridiculous idea! Get naked? In front of a whole room full of strangers! No way.’
But the idea had been planted and the little seed of suggestion grew in my mind. Every now and then my thoughts would wander and there it would be, waving at me, that little idea whispering ‘why not?’
I started to wonder if I’d dismissed it too quickly… maybe I could do it… and maybe I’d actually get something out of it…
Like so many women I know I had often experienced negative feelings about my body. I’d look in the mirror and see my round hips and rotund thighs. I’d focus on all things I didn’t like. Sometimes I avoided mirrors altogether…
The more I thought about it the more I started to realise why my friend had suggested it in the first place. If I had been afraid of spiders he would have told me to hold a Tarantula in my hand (Sshhh I am scared of spiders… don’t tell my friend).
Getting my kit off in public would give me an opportunity to experience myself in a new way. To be totally venerable. To be still. To be quiet. To see myself the way other people see me. Without the filters.
Once I had committed to the idea I started to make some calls. A little part of me hoped that I wouldn’t find an art school willing to accept a model with no experience. That little piece of me that always holds me back, that little piece that says ‘you’re not good enough’, ‘you’re not worthy’, ‘you’re not ok’.
But that little seed of suggestion had grown into a mighty tree, its foundations gave me strength, its branches gave me courage… its leaves waved and rustled and whispered…. ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’….When I got the call booking me in for an 8-hour life painting class I was absolutely thrilled.
And then I was terrified.
On the morning of the art class I felt sick with nerves, as I travelled into the city I kept asking myself why I was doing it? I could stay on the train and go somewhere else. I could make an excuse. But somehow my body ignored my head and my legs carried me off to the art college regardless.
The teacher was kind. She spoke softly about different poses and arranged cushions on the floor. The room was warm. I changed into a dressing gown and waited for the students to arrive. I felt my heart beat in my chest.
It turned out to be one of the most liberating experiences of my life. I felt oddly comfortable reclined on the ground in the altogether. Showing off my birthday suit. I listened intently. Paints were mixed. Lines were drawn. Brushes met paper. The clock ticked. The heater hummed. I was ok.
At the end of the class I walked around to see the finished artwork. And I was stunned. Humbled. Elated. The woman in the pictures was beautiful. I took photos to remember the experience and the feeling.
I was OK.
Catherine Rodie Blagg lives in Sydney with her husband and two small daughters. In her free time she blogs about the challenges of modern motherhood. She drinks an alarming amount of tea. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and writing at Cup of Tea and a Blog.