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One of my favourite things about being part of Art Mania, is that it’s given me the chance to try different things. The opportunity to explore ideas and mediums I haven’t had access to before.

One of the things I’d never considered before, was the idea of life drawing.

It always got categorized in my head as one of those purely visual styles of art. It wasn’t something I’d even contemplated as something I could do. I do remember, years ago, living in Melbourne, my flat mate worked as a life model. One day, I went along with her to one of her sessions, but didn’t stay in the room. I sat in the garden and worked on my poetry.

A picture of a hand using charcoal to draw the outline and shading of a side-on body.

It was only after her session was over and we were heading off to the tram, that I learnt about some of the artists who she regularly posed for. One of these artists always left her without eyes. I found this intriguing and an interesting spin on a purely visual art form. The idea that the artist sees the world, but the model isn’t allowed the same ability. Or was it about the blinding of the naked female because of her nakedness?

Still, it never occurred to me to attempt this form. It continued to remain in that folder of impossibilities due to a lack of vision.

Recently, however, there came a shift in my attitude. I was talking to a fellow artist who had wanted her partner to pose naked for her and the partner refused. This friend and I got talking and agreed that we were happy to pose for one another.

This is an incredible gift that my friend was offering. For life drawing is possible for me, it just means I have to touch the model. Something that then brings up its own challenges. Such an intimate act, made even more so by the need for physical contact. It is a beautiful gift just having the offer made to me. And then the playing field changed again.

I was approached not long after, by a guy who had worked as a life model before and was interested in picking up more work in the area. I explained the situation, the need to touch. He told me that he had no problem with that.

Sam sitting at a canvas painting. There is pink paint on the canvas.

I realised however, that maybe I did. Being female, and a small one at that, I couldn’t help feeling that even though I would be clothed, I was the vulnerable one.

It is always interesting when I meet people and witness how they take my lack of vision.

Some simply take it in their stride. To them I’m just a person who happens to be blind. For others, I bring out that fear within them, the fear of how they would or wouldn’t cope, in my shoes. Another group have trouble getting part the question of how I see them and the world without sight. This often involves them thinking and/or ask me if I need to feel their face to know what they look like.

This is one of the concepts that drives my art. The desire to show people that I do see the world, just not with my eyes and that the images in my head are often very different to theirs’.

I find the act of touching someone’s face, incredibly intimate and not something I feel comfortable with at first meeting, in some cases if ever. The exploration of another’s face is something I’ve only done with lovers, family and those I feel particularly comfortable. This comfort is a two way street. The person in question needs to be comfortable enough in their own skin for me to feel comfortable touching them.

Sam holding Jimmy the lizard.

All of these thoughts and others have been racing around my brain. There was also an implied sexual element on the part of the guy offering to model for me. Obviously some body functions occur in particular situations and I could see where he was coming from. The problem for me was the idea that this would mean a further intimacy was expected on his part.

I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to sort it all out in my head. My final decision, that I only reached last night, was that I couldn’t do it. I’m still perfectly comfortable stripping off for my friend and having her sit for me. I think the difference is that I know that there are no hidden agendas with my friend. That I won’t be walking on unsteady ground. At risk of plunging over a cliff at any time.

So, I’ve surprised myself. Without consciously doing it, I’ve discovered that something I thought was impossible for me, isn’t.

As my mother has always told me, “just because I’m blind, doesn’t mean I can’t do anything I want. It just means I might need to find a different way of going about it.”

Perhaps this will help you look at life differently. Look at something you’ve always seen one way and found there is another way to go about it. Enjoy what you discover.

-Sam Ogilvie