How life drawing helped me change the way I see myself

What led me to become a life model

Steve, a life drawing model and artist, shares his experience with us. “As a child I was bullied at school and abused at home. Art was my escape route. I had a very negative image both physically and emotionally for myself as I grew up, until the day I forced myself to undress and look at myself nude in a full length mirror. As I calmed down I saw a head, 2 arms, 2 legs and a torso. For the first time in my life I started seeing a human being looking back.”

The mirror, the paints and my body as a work of art

This was when I decided to use myself as my model, and to try to look at myself from an artistic and positive viewpoint. I took numerous selfies and did work on the editing suite on my mobile. Now it was time to dig out the pencils, pastels, and paper etc. I did multiple drawings of myself using the photos and the mirror and soon started to feel much  more comfortable with myself. Suddenly my body was a work of art instead of something to revile. It was all really emotional.

Building confidence for my body through art

Eventually, I made the next logical step and decided to paint myself nude, firstly in loose watercolour and then in oils and acrylics on stretched canvases. The whole thing was an exercise in honesty and self acceptance which has had an enormous effect on my confidence, even to the point where I was able to stand nude in front of a small life drawing group, which strangely turned out to be one of the most liberating feelings of my life. Only through the medium of art could I ever have managed to get the negative emotions I felt for myself out. I would seriously recommend all artists to bite the bullet and try it.

Helping others to love their body

I am even thinking of using some of the imagery in an exhibition to highlight the problems of negative self body image. Initially the whole thing was very daunting. It took me all my strength just to stand and look at myself honestly without trying to flatter. In the end I realised it would only work if I was brutally honest, and took a ‘ warts and all ‘ approach. I just wanted to keep things tasteful. In the end I was pleased with the finished paintings and I’m happy to say that it has helped me to repair a lot of emotional damage done to me as a child.

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4 thoughts on “How life drawing helped me change the way I see myself

  1. This is an excellent article and in my opinion, extremely valid let alone important. I have recently persuaded life models who have been low on confidence and self esteem to life model. They love it and artists love them. We cannot do enough to fight crass body shaming and bullying. If people can take strength and comfort from Life drawing, as a model or artist, then it must be encouraged

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Julian. I totally agree and I was very happy when Steve decided to write the article, express his views and share his experience.

      Being confident about your body is very important and if art and life modelling is a way of getting there then so be it!

      Also, we usually get to know the artists view but rarely the models perspective. Good to hear an opinion from the other side of the canvas!

      Best regards,


  2. I’m a life model in Los Angeles. I love the work. It never gets old. What I hope for is that we stop genital shaming. In the U.S., they call genitals “junk,” and shame any man for wearing tight pants. Please, everybody! Male, female, and intersex genitalia is how we were born. No shame!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Peter, I see your point and I agree that there is nothing to be ashamed of. In the life drawing classes I have been, there was no such thing and artists and models approach was very professional. I appreciate though that some people feel awkward about it; this is a matter of education and culture in my opinion. The more people learn and get exposed to this sort of art, the better they understand.

      Thanks for taking the time to share your experience from the US.

      Best wishes,


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