Getting Naked in Lockdown: How Nude Art Changed my Perception of Sexiness

Illustration by Jaimee Andrews

At the very end of last year, I counted into 2020 in Wales with my closest friends. We were drinking prosecco in a hot tub and thinking about what the new decade would hold. For me, I promised myself I would put some serious effort into kick starting my dream career, hit the gym and get myself a beach body for summer 2020, as well as potentially giving some thought to dating again.

As life went on and the January blues kicked in, these goals fell by the wayside. I took a job that would make me more financially stable over one that would hone my craft, all thoughts of men left my head after one failed attempt and I ate fried chicken every day for at least a week rather than purchasing a gym membership. I was almost a quarter of the way through the year and I hadn’t even started working on my resolutions.

Then the unexpected happened and the U.K. went into lockdown. My hours at work got reduced and my social life disappeared; I found myself with an abundance of free time on my hands and not a clue what to do with it. I am aware I have been extremely lucky during the pandemic that myself and most of my loved ones were able to work from home to reduce any chances of catching coronavirus, but my entire life looked completely different and it was incredibly daunting.

I think at the start of lockdown, there was a sense of camaraderie in the U.K. - that we would all get through the pandemic together with the weekly Clap for Carers, an increased community awareness and celebs like Joe Wicks putting on virtual P.E. classes for the kids. There was a great pressure to use your free time better; could you turn your hobby into a new money-making business? Had you signed up for a new workout from home plan? What new recipes had you perfected that week? Were you smashing it through each run of the Couch to 5k app?

I’ll admit I bought into the frenzy of it all. I threw my money at an influencer’s workout routine and I brushed the dust off my trainers and took up running. I felt a great deal of pressure to be doing something with my newfound free time, in particular to have a lockdown “glow up.”

I pushed myself hard towards my goal of shredded abs, but I was burnt out after just a few weeks. I had no professional help with my running and I constantly had knee pain - or a swollen ankle - but the shame and pressure really got to me so I pushed on. My new day consisted of lounging around the house in leggings and baggy tops feeling totally uninspired and “ugh” until I berated myself into going for a run or doing a workout.

I saw others flourishing in lockdown, setting up businesses, virtually dating (and finding love!), and getting fitter than they had ever been. I found it hard not to draw comparisons between those people and myself. In the shallowest way possible, I was envious of people I didn’t even know that well and I felt unattractive and inadequate. I was losing who I was in lockdown and my body confidence was hitting a new low.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, in the U.K. over a third of adults have felt anxious or depressed about their body image, with one in eight adults experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings due to their concerns. I know I’m not alone in my feelings, but it’s hard - especially in a national lockdown - to access help or support.

Even now when lockdown rules have all but disappeared and pubs, bars and restaurants are back open, I find the thought of going out incredibly nerve wrecking. What is usually an altogether fun activity for me - from picking my outfit, doing my hair and make-up and hanging out with my friends - has now become something that needs an awful lot of “hyping up” to even consider.

Despite the opportunity to do all this (by remaining two metres from my friends in public places), the initial pressure to better myself and my failure to do so has changed my perception of my own body. I may weigh less now, I may have lost an inch here and there, but have I really made the most of my free time when my anxieties and body image have suffered?

Funnily enough it was through a skype call with a friend that made me reevaluate my own perception of what “sexiness” really was. I had been working towards the goal of having a flat stomach, toned arms and legs, and a perfectly peachy bum, thinking that this was sexy, especially when comparing myself to Instagram models and influencers. But I’ve found true sexiness comes from owning your body, flaws and all, and loving yourself - something my friend helped me realise when she introduced me to nude art.

Nude art was never something I had considered before, I felt too self-conscious or I was worried people would see it and judge me. But the entire process from start to finish was an absolute dream. In our post-lockdown world, there were no still life painting classes where a group of strangers gawked at my naked form. It was far more intimate than that; just myself and a camera in my bedroom. It was all about me and how I wanted to portray myself – what angles I preferred, how much or little clothing I was wearing, and my background and surroundings were personal to me.

Under the scrutinising lens of my camera, I realised that the stretch marks over my thighs and the extra jiggle around my belly were the parts of me that made me unique and, therefore, sexy. I took photos of myself that I was completely happy with, and strangely proud of, for the first time in a long time. Even the photos I uploaded to my own social media always required a filter and endless criticism before I would begrudgingly post them.

Then there was the end result.

Words can’t explain the overwhelming emotion I felt when I saw myself through the eyes of an artist. It’s an experience I would urge anyone to try, especially if your body confidence is low. Aspects of myself that I thought were insignificant or boring, were perfectly crafted on the page, my stretch marks were tiger stripes, and I looked like a woman who exudes confidence and power and sexiness.

The pressure I had felt in the first month or so of lockdown to come out the other side as a health guru who had dropped 10 stone was no more. I now have a constant reminder of how an artist sees me; fierce, unique and sexy.

Article by Kate Goodyer