“Life drawing can show great beauty in imperfections.” | Joanna and Victoria of Period Paints talk tackling period poverty through creativity

How did you come up with the concept for Period Paints Life Drawing?

Joanna: I came on my period unexpectedly two days before I was due to model for Anomaly Life Drawing. I was initially anxious about modelling while on my period, prickled by fears of people feeling uncomfortable or even disgusted, and worried about exposing myself during a time of the month when I feel significantly dysmorphic.

It got me thinking about the absurdity that I should feel ashamed of my body doing something very normal, in a space which celebrates the human form in all its shapes and shades.

I wanted to find a way to normalise menstruation, to educate people about some of the health and social problems associated and support a cause which fights it on an intersectional front.

How do you feel events like these can normalise discussion around menstruation?

Joanna: Life drawing can show great beauty in things which are conventionally seen as imperfections. While drawing you observe the details of the human form and find a love for the diversity of the human body and a wonderful gratitude towards the model who is sharing this with everyone.

Life drawing breaks the beauty standards and I think it could do the same for the stigmatisation of menstruation. Just like our perceived physical imperfections, menstruation is part of life for many people and should not be something to be ashamed of, feared or disgusted by.

Victoria: Art is also an amazing platform for discussing complex topics. By having events like this we hope to create a space for people to relax and be creative whilst meeting new people in an environment deliberately set up to facilitate these conversations. Sometimes it can be hard to bring up topics such as menstruation with people you don’t know but by having the room to draw and have fun at the same time it definitely has removed some barriers and hopefully people will then have a fun reason to bring it up in other random conversations!

What is your trick to creating a comfortable environment for your events?

Joanna: Victoria runs a number of life drawing classes through Anomaly Life Drawing and I’ve learnt everything from her to be honest!

I have always found that having a little meet and greet at the beginning and middle, with refreshments and maybe some relevant books to peruse is quite calming. I also appreciate it when the model mills around with people outside the allotted drawing times, it just makes the experience a lot more friendly and relaxed.

Victoria: I have definitely learnt to never underestimate the power of a cup of tea! The amazing feature of life drawing is that people can be quiet and concentrate together on a shared experience and then in the break have an immediate topic to talk about if they’re feeling shy.

I have also noticed a massive difference when signposting at the beginning of the event how the evening is going to unfold. Then people know exactly where they stand and feel comfortable to make the most of that time in their own way.

What made you decide to integrate this conversation with life drawing?

Joanna: Menstruation is a human experience which many of us share, and many of us fear. People who have periods have a range of feelings towards it in the same way that we do with bodily imperfections. This is a way of seeing someone (or yourself) through a variety of lenses who are seeing a palette of positive aspects in the model. I wanted use life drawing as a tool for encouraging body positivity towards other people and also ourselves.

Victoria: As Joanna, said it is such a human experience that I feel has been edited out of history and therefore makes people feel that it needs to be edited out of daily life. As life drawing is an arena where people are accepted as their whole unedited selves it only seems to make sense that any process as natural as breathing should be part of that drawing experience.

Tell us about the local charities you help support through these events.

Joanna: There are a few charities and solo heroes in Sheffield fighting period poverty locally and further afield. We chose Campaign Against Period Poverty (CAPP) are doing amazing work to provide menstrual and hygiene supplies to shelters, schools, food banks and women’s organisations in the Sheffield and Chesterfield area and we were really excited to support them.

What advice would you give to anyone trying to help combat period poverty in their own communities?

Joanna: Anyone can do it! It’s as easy as setting up a collection box in your work place and sticking up a poster in the loos. Claire from Girl Gang is inspiring in many ways. When she found out that the local women’s shelter had no support for this she set up collection at her work place and took the donations over when she found spare time. What a great idea!

Victoria: It is also really easy to spend a bit of time researching into the ways in which period poverty affects people. CAPP have loads of info on this and the internet in general, but once you know how it impacts peoples lives you can come up with your own ways to help combat it too.

What do you hope people take away from your events?

Joanna: I think there are loads of different things to take away from the events and if people go home with one of them that’s a success. Body positivity, period positivity, motivation to help, understanding different people’s experiences, understanding your own body a bit more, understanding what period poverty is and how to help, creativity, cool drawings, new friends, new ideas.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to launch their own creative events?

Joanna: Promote promote promote! And just dive in and enjoy it, you’re making an idea reality and sharing it, that’s a really wonderful thing to do so enjoy it!

Victoria: CAPP have helped us so immensely as well! Anyone looking to set up one of these events should definitely find their local period poverty charity and/or get in touch with them to get started 🙂 also yes just follow what you find most fun and work your own events around that and its bound to be a hit!

Period Paints is hosting life drawing events on February 12th and February 26th.

Tickets range from free to £10 and can be purchased on the door.

You can follow Period Paints and keep up with future events by visiting their Facebook page.