In today’s interview, we have the pleasure of speaking with Annie Lyle about her work as a life model and the ways in which modelling has been a positive and empowering experience. We also discuss the factors people should consider when participating in this type of modelling, and we also touch on Annie’s recent work as a ceramics sculptor.
Britain Uncovered: Hi Annie! With such vast life modelling experience, we’re really looking forward to hearing your thoughts and feelings about many of the events you have participated in – and it will be interesting to hear how this type of modelling has affected your body confidence also.
Could we please start by asking how long have you been a life model for, and what it was that appealed to you about modelling to begin with?
Annie: I starting modelling about three years ago. I’d been to so many life drawing classes and I began to wonder what it would feel like on the other side of the easel. I knew the poses that would make good art and I wanted even more involvement in the industry.
Britain Uncovered: Everyone has a unique relationship with their own bodies and many people might find this type of modelling to be outside of their comfort zone – was this the case for you, and did you find it difficult to begin with? Or did it feel natural and comfortable from the get-go?
Annie: I was terrified of my first class, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it the entire day. I was counting down the hours in fear. But that was part of it for me – I like and need to do things I’m scared of.
It wasn’t showing my body that I was scared of, it was the fear of not performing well; but that fear went away soon after I started, as I quickly realised I’m pretty good at this.
Britain Uncovered: What do you most enjoy about life modelling, and what are some of the ways it impacts you? Do you find it empowering and enjoy the body freedom element, for example, or is it more about the artistic expression?
Annie: I have to say the best thing about being a model is meeting so many artists and getting to see hundreds of interpretations of one body. Modelling for them feels like beautiful creative collaboration.
I do also find it very empowering showing my naked body and owning my skin. I would love for all people to experience that feeling, knowing every body is beautiful and that there should never be any shame around showing it.
Britain Uncovered: Would you say that life modelling has affected your perception of your body and/or your overall relationship with it, and would you say that being naked for art classes and photoshoots has helped improve your body confidence levels?
Annie: To be honest, my modelling career hasn’t changed the way I feel about my body. I have a woman’s body, I loved it before and I love it now. No one can take that love away.
Britain Uncovered: What are some of the challenges or difficulties that come along with life modelling, and how are you able to overcome these?
Annie: I’d say one of the most challenging parts of modelling are those long poses. Sometimes I’ll get into position and 10 minutes later think, “Shit, this really hurts!” I either tell the host that I need to take a break or I’ll breath through it, depending on the level of the pain. As long as my body is safe, that’s all that matters.
Another challenge is shooting in cold locations. I have Spanish blood and I love my heat! I’ll either ask for a heater or use the cold as fuel for my performance. Again, as long as I’m safe.
Britain Uncovered: Whether it be a specific art class or a particular photography session, what are some of your favourite sessions that you have participated in over the years? And how satisfying is it to see people’s interpretations of you in the aftermath of these events?
Annie: I have to say, my favourite modelling experiences have been with my modelling partner, Andrew, for the Gymnasia life drawing sessions. Andrew is so strong and we make fantastic poses together. It’s something I never thought I would be able to do and I love seeing the benefits from pushing myself further. Looking at drawings that come from our sessions and all the other sessions is one of the best feelings I’ve felt. I’m honoured to be a part of the process.
I also really enjoy working with photographers but sometimes their style isn’t to my taste. I might not like the lighting or the background but, nevertheless, I’m getting paid to pose.
Britain Uncovered: The lockdown periods over the past year have really changed the way art classes are run, but we’re glad to hear that many have been able to continue as online sessions via Zoom. As a model, have these been more challenging compared to the real, in-life classes, or do you enjoy them just the same? What are you most looking forward to about returning to the in-person sessions again?
Annie: Lockdown was tricky for us art models at first, but thank god for Zoom! Although it’s nowhere near the same, we’ve been able to model for even more hosts around the world. I much prefer modelling in real life because that’s the whole point really, but I do enjoy switching off the camera in my house and the day is done. I’ve missed photoshoots massively though, and I cannot wait to get back to those regularly.
I’m excited to see artists in person, have lots of catch-ups and feel the whole experience of the class while they are able to see me with their eyes, instead of relying on Wi-Fi.
Britain Uncovered: How are you able to keep things fresh and find new ways of approaching your work – and do you continue to learn more about yourself each time you pose?
Annie: Having modelled for a few years, I keep things fresh by changing camera angles, changing backgrounds, bringing different props, different hairstyles and trying new poses. I’m always on the lookout for new opportunities and new people to work with, and I hope to model around the world very soon.
Britain Uncovered: If any of our readers were interested in trying out some life modelling themselves, what advice would you offer them, and do you think it can help people develop a greater sense of body positivity?
Annie: If anyone wanted to start life modelling I’d say definitely attend some classes first to get a feel for how they roll. After that, I’d suggest researching short to long poses and practising them in your room. Get to know which ones are comfortable for you and which ones you’d be happy to hold for periods of time. The hosts are usually very kind and they can help to direct you as much as you need, but it’s good to be prepared. Don’t be disheartened if you freeze up a bit on your first few tries, it gets easier.
Art modelling is great for body positivity and it can really help you fall in love with your own skin. What it helped me to remember is... these are our bodies. I have curves, cellulite, odd boobs, and I’m not size zero – but who the hell cares? And if they do, fuck them! We’re beautiful and we can all help to make beautiful art by just showing up.
Britain Uncovered: In addition to the modelling, you’re also an established ceramics artist, and lots of your amazing work has been showcased at exhibitions in London and beyond. When did you first get started in this, and what is it about ceramics that particularly appeals to you?
Annie: I’ve been sculpting for years but I actually only discovered clay in 2018. As soon as I made my first ceramic object, I fell in love. I knew it was meant to be. My artwork is inspired by nature and so making my natural pieces with a natural material feels right to me, like a perfect cycle.
However, the process is slow. You have to take your time and give the pieces water, care and lots of attention. This is my meditation and my co-creation with the earth.
Britain Uncovered: Are you able to share with us some insight into your favourite ceramic creations, along with details of what inspired you to make these pieces?
Annie: Oooo it’s gotta be my large organic pots! I can’t say which one is my favourite, as they feel like my kids. There’s something that happens when I make these, and my inner sculptor tunes in full flow. I don’t think about what I’m doing or how I want them to look, whatever happens happens. This makes me think what else we could be able to achieve if we empty our minds and trust the flow!
Britain Uncovered: Lastly, what are some of your plans and aspirations for the remainder of the year – either in modelling or your work in ceramics – and are there any particular goals you’d like to accomplish?
Annie: After COVID, I’m absolutely dying to get back to work. I’m ready for all classes, photoshoots and my own creative workshops. I’d like to take my career further by teaching and modelling around the world, and continue getting out of my comfort zone.
I love teaching people what I know and love in the arts. The confidence they receive, the happiness they feel – it honestly fills my heart. As the for ceramics, I plan to make them bigger and again get them travelling around the world more. There’s so much to do and I feel like I’ve just begun.