'I went to a nude art class. The way I felt about my body surprised me.'

I love supporting my friend's small businesses and am constantly amazed at what my peers are capable of. I have friends who sell food for a living, others who make perfume, some who design clothes, paint houses, plan parties. And I have one good friend, Rosie, an art model, burlesque star and support worker, who runs a monthly "clothing optional" art class, along with her friend, artist and art teacher, Kate, of Bare Naked Studios.

As I am back in Sydney, I jumped at the chance to buy a ticket to her latest Magnolia's Art Class, hosted at Dulcie's in Kings Cross. It seemed a perfect opportunity to re-enter the Sydney sphere, break down my own body taboos, hone my artistic skills and possibly even make new friends.

The mood of the venue was like a Sydney speakeasy: dark, plush and glamorous, a perfect backdrop for posing. The room quickly filled up with a mixture of punters (Magnolia's invites all female and femme-identifying people to take part). Before you ask, we were curtained off in a totally private VIP section of sorts complete with our own cocktail waiter, all whilst the bustling bar still operated in the main area of the venue.

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Video via Mamamia.

The class started with a breathing exercise, an affirmation and then the invitation to strip! The first two exercises meant most of the awkwardness or nervousness from the space was lifted, then the taking off our clothes got rid of the rest.

I will say I was very nervous to do this, more so in being there alone. However, as soon as everyone had disrobed to the level they were comfortable with (some people opted for full nudity whereas some stayed in their complete outfits) any tension within myself or the room vanished.

We went on to learn some basic drawing skills from Kate, an experienced figurative artist and teacher who really knows her stuff. For a minute I actually felt more self-conscious about my messy scribbles than the fact I was completely topless, but there was something about the openness and the newfound camaraderie in the classroom that made me let go of these insecurities too.

After our lesson, Rosie acting as the model, we were invited to take to the stage and pose, either alone or in groups, for 2-10 minutes at a time. This was not at all compulsory, but in a bid to flesh out this story I put my hand up.

Believe or not, I actually once had a (very short-lived) stint as an art model. It was during my student days when I was working seven days a week between various boutiques. Back then I thought being an art model was a brilliant idea as it essentially tripled my hourly rate.

At the time I didn't really consider that I would be baring all in front of a room of strangers, nor that I would have to hold hard poses for minutes (which would feel like hours) on end. Not to mention I'm the type of prude who might as well wear clothes in the bath.


So last night, as I shakily forced myself onto the stage, wearing nothing but my frilly little thong, I quickly explained (we were invited to share our name and a brief story) to the room of about 25 people that I was forcing myself up there as I was aiming to write a story on it.

Image: Supplied.


The other thing I talked about was a large surgery scar the runs down the length of my spine. In my late teens and 20s I had a really bad health run, having had nine surgeries in my life so far, one of which was to piece my broken back together! It sounds extreme because it was, and ever since I have been particularly bashful about my Frankenstein spine and scarring.

However, in sharing this with the room I felt elated. I then posed, my back facing the audience, for three minutes. In mere moments I wasn't just sharing my story, I was actually showcasing it too. 

I then turned around to witness a sea of drawings of... me! In the buff. A surreal experience that doesn't happen to many. Seeing myself through the eyes and art of others gave me a boost. I'll never be perfect, mind you what is perfect, but for a moment there I could see my beauty.

Image: Supplied.


I talked to some of my fellow classmates about their experience too. One woman told me it was "really nice to be in an environment so welcoming and celebratory of women. To be both the artist and the model was such a good opportunity." Another person talked about how they loved the "sense of community. Here I am able to relax, and not compare myself to other people. It’s art without pretension."

As more models went up, and the more we all chatted to one another, one thing I was surprised by was that the crowd wasn't necessarily a bunch of people who work in the arts. During the class I spoke to a lawyer and a data-analyst - both art enthusiasts, sure, but not at all who I was expecting to be there (another taboo in me broken).

Rosie, who is also working on a Masters in art therapy, says "The reason I started the class was because I felt we don't have enough social space where we can be platonically nude with one another - especially as women. I wanted to create an uninhibited playground where people were free to express and explore themself. I also wanted to create a unique space where the artist and model are fluid, swapping places, encouraging more empathy and engagement."


The class offers people the chance to draw an array of forms as well, not limited to just one model. But beyond an artistic, body positive evening out, something magical seems to happen while you're there. I asked Rosie about this too, she says, "There's a beautiful alchemy to it. There's always a moment where everyone just drops in. It needs to be experienced to be understood." Even if you're there to reclaim your figure or overcome a fear of nudity, as the night goes on, you sort of forget about your body and tap into your soul.

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I should also mention the environment is completely non-sexual. Yes, it's a celebration of nudity and the human form, but it help breaks that connection between hyper-sexualising and the body. It's also such a powerful thing to see an array of bodies stripped down and acts as a reminder that we are all so unique and beautiful in our own way.

Am I biased? Of course I am: Rosie is one of my best friends! However, if you're in Sydney or Wollongong, I urge you to try it too. Mates with the owner or otherwise (I'll remind you I did pay for my own ticket) today I feel better in my skin and in awe of the beauty of the feminine form and, more so, the feminine spirit.

You can follow Magnolias on Instagram @magnoliasartclass.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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