· By Maria Nilsson
Bare in the open air
Bush Life Drawing is a new figure drawing class blooming out of the wilderness around Byron Bay. What makes it different is that classes are held out in the open, under the Australian sun. Each class in a new wild location. I wanted to take figure drawing out of the classroom context, it is usually an event that happens in a white room with students neatly lined up in circles with a fluorescent bulb as a single source of light. I thought surely the beauty of the human form deserves a better backdrop than this. A space and light which will bring all that beauty forward and connect the body to the space it exists within. At the same time as bringing the artists that want to capture it out into nature. I couldn't think of a sweeter way to spend a Sunday morning. The classes will focus on one or two longer poses so we can really take our time to capture all the detail of magically created sets.
What has life drawing got to do with body image? It is rare these days to see a nude body out of a sexual or commercial context. Let alone a commercially sexual context. Me and Maria, the creator of Atmosea, come from Sweden, a country where nudity is fairly liberated compared to most other countries I've visited. It was normal to me growing up seeing many different kinds of bodies, the bodies of absolute strangers, in very casual settings like the sauna, the beach, locker rooms, even at parties. (Yes there is always a naked Swede on the dance floor). It wasn't until later when I moved away I got to understand the general creepyness of public nudity that seemed to be the status-quo of other countries. The normality and joyfulness was gone. Even after 7 years of living in France, the homeland of female topless sunbaking, I still felt this was an exception to the rule of public nudity because it is nice for the male gaze. I had never been told to put a top on at the beach for years but suddenly when breastfeeding I was told to cover myself up immediately. The magic of toplessness was gone because I was a mum and I was off the market. It is clear we have some healing to do with our own and other's nude bodies. So I have been running drawing classes for years, sharing the magic of drawing and the magic of nudity. It is healing on so many levels. No matter the experience of the drawer we all lose ourselves with the line on the paper. Even if there is only one person, our holy muse, who is in the nude it sets a sort of sacred respect throughout the group. I love witnessing that. It can be equally empowering to be the artist as the muse. Both hold a great responsibility and reward.
Here are some words from Maria who was our muse for the first edition of Bush Life Drawing:
Life drawing modelling gave my confidence back. After having two babies I have an enormous respect for my body and to what it is capable of creating. But by saying that a lot of things change in your appearance and it can be hard to accept the new you. Now I love seeing my body as a piece of art. It's just absolutely magical. It has changed the way I look at all bodies. So Thanks for making art of my body. Spend more time naked!