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Naked beauty

If you think staring intently at a nude model whilst sitting in a room filled with strangers is the definition of awkward, you’d be wrong.


If you think staring intently at a nude model whilst sitting in a room filled with strangers is the definition of awkward, you’d be wrong.

On a busy Thursday night in West Footscray, Mel Bedggood welcomes people into the Handmaker’s Factory, a cute studio space on Barkly Street. Some people have been before, but many have not and sit quietly, trying to find the best position to balance the large wooden clipboards filled with drawing paper on their lap.

When the start time ticks over, heavy curtains are drawn over the studio doors and a young woman walks into the centre of the chairs and shucks off her robe before launching into a series of quick-fire poses.

For a novice drawer, it’s challenging to know where to start. And that’s the idea, Mel explains.

‘You've got to think on your feet, it's like a brain warmup, and then you've got the longer poses, which allow you to settle in and start focusing on looking at something very differently.’

A web designer during the day, Mel studied art at school and decided to start a life drawing class when she couldn’t find one near her home. She’s been pleasantly surprised by the number of people, including beginners, who have been coming to her weekly class.

‘At the start of the class, I ask who's been to life drawing and who's drawn before, and the majority haven't and they're just curious.’

Some are going for the social aspect, to relax at the end of the day or try something new. Others are dragged along by friends who have recognised their talent and want to support them to pursue it, or are rekindling a passion from their youth.

Life drawing has been a foundational practice for artists through the ages because to accurately draw a body with clothes on, you need the knowledge of the nude body beneath.

‘Everyone has different posture and you need to see the detail behind the creases in our faces and the way that the body sags - because no one has a perfect body. The beauty of the body is the imperfections and I think live drawing help us understand that,’ Mel says.

Trying to capture the shapes and lines of a naked person is surprisingly relaxing, reminiscent of a mindfulness practice.

‘Sometimes, I might have had a really tough day and I really wish I didn't have to go, but as soon as I finish that class, I just feel freer, like everything's just gone… as soon as you start the class with the really quick poses, you don't have time to worry about what's going on outside of the class,’ Mel says.

After a few poses, it’s clear there is a diverse range of skill levels in the room, which Mel embraces.

‘It's about being more creative, and opening up your mind and it's relaxing. It doesn't really matter if you are old or young and it doesn't matter how experienced you are or how inexperienced you are; everyone's just really gob smacked at what they've been able to do by the end of it.’

Sign up for a life drawing class.External Link

Reviewed 09 November 2023