The 4B Pencil, Black Biro and Paper Pad Revolution

New contributor Megan Wright on why your self-image can be helped with a few simple things from your stationery drawer.

MeganLast Summer I travelled over 6,000 miles across Europe, stopping at several galleries and museums on my way. As a result of this I got to view a lot of art; which naturally meant I was confronted with a hella lot of naked bodies, and as a result (perhaps not surprisingly) I’ve come out of it all pretty darn mesmerised by the beauty of our ‘ugly’ bits.

It got me thinking about the female form, and all this “Natural beauty” and “weight-loss” rhetoric that keep popping up on my Newsfeed just because a) I’m a woman, and b) I’ve most certainly googled it. I’m no stranger to dieting, fitness regimes, and body dysmorphia; I remember being 8 years old and realising my ass was bigger than everyone else’s. I spent all my teenage years hating the way I looked and desperately trying to change my body. At one point I would even say I was ‘successful’ in doing so; slaving away at the gym, eating much less, and working as a housekeeper helped me lose nearly 2 stone. The only problem was I never saw the change in the mirror, and I was never satisfied with what I’d achieved.

Aaaaanyway, a year later I was pretty much back where I started, and I tormented myself for ‘letting go’. I felt like I was in a constant game of tug-of-war with my head; one half of me wanted to embrace what I had and love my body, and the other half kept thinking if I just lost an inch here and there then I’d finally be happy with how I looked. Unfortunately, inspiring youtube videos and feminist blogs could only do so much for me to get over myself. In the end it was a 4b pencil, black biro, and paper pad that did the trick.

As I wandered round Frankfurt Art Museum I couldn’t help but stand in awe at the beauty of the nude figures that stood before me. I realised the variety in their shapes and sizes, and how natural they looked. I also clicked that in some cases, their figures were not very different to my own, and I couldn’t help but ask myself “How come I can look at these and appreciate that they are beautiful, but I can’t feel the same way about myself?”.

No one would dare suggest that the Venus de Milo should lose a few pounds, or that Botticelli’s Venus  (in The Birth of Venus) could do with a few inches off her waist. Of course beauty ideals change throughout time, but the fact remains that there is still a part of us that can look at these pictures and know that they are beautiful, and yet if any celebrity with the same figure were to be plastered in the tabloids and subsequently brutally criticised for their “orange-peel” skin . So I decided to see what I’d look like as an art piece, to see if it would change my opinion of myself at all.

I foresaw a time-consuming project that would probably take months before it had any profound effect. In the end, it only took 3 sketches, and a matter of weeks to dramatically change how I saw myself in the mirror. For a couple of hours a day I would try to perfect my hip-to-waste ratio, shade in my pubic hair, and attempt to make my nipples look less like googly eyes until realising that actually, they kind do look like wonky cartoon eyes when drawn turned black and white. It became apparent to me that the more bumps, rolls, or cellulite a particular body part had, the harder it was to draw, and thus it required extra time and care spent on it before it could be considered finished.




I’m not sure whether it was the final result, the hours spent looking at myself in my birthday suit, or if it was a combination of both, but by the end I felt kinda happy with myself. Suddenly I found myself feeling proud of the dimples on my hips, and the way I’d captured the layer of fat around my lower stomach. The sheer volume of my rear-end became almost like a caricature when put onto A3, so I felt it was apt to name the piece “My big fat bottom”. Jokes aside, I felt pretty awesome, but not in a “Gad DAAAyum I’m hot” kind of way. I just felt content, and for the first time my bits finally felt appreciated, which was a pretty nice feeling after years of abuse.

I’m certainly not saying that the revolution against body-hate will be led by a 4b pencil, black biro, and a pad of paper and nor am I suggesting that it is the cure for everyone. It was simply an interesting venture that I would recommend. I still find the little devil on my shoulder trying to make his way into my head, but I’ve become a lot better at kicking him out ASAP. But heck, it worked for me, and it might just work for you too. What have you got to lose?

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