REVIEW: Virtual Life Drawing with Anti Diet Riot Club

About a week ago I had stumbled upon information for Anti Diet Riot Club’s life drawing sessions. Anti Diet Riot Club is a London-based organization that fights against diet culture and works to empower individuals to love themselves and their bodies. Loving their message, and interested in seeing what a virtual life drawing session would be like, I took the leap and registered.

a layered sketch from the session

The event, held on the 4th Wednesday of each month, is advertised as “NOT a serious art class” and is instead meant to be an exploration of creativity as a way to challenge perfectionism and what we’ve come to see as typical beauty standards. Studies have shown a correlation between attending life drawing sessions and positive body image.

My artistic skills with a pencil and paper are typically limited to stick figures and simple doodles, but I sat down with my paper and markers ready to take on the challenge of drawing the human body. 

As soon as I logged into the Zoom call, I was met with a gallery full of smiling participants of all ages, in their respective Zoom squares. There were about 140 participants in the Zoom call, and we did a check-in through the chat. Most people were calling from England, but as I typed that I was calling from the States, I was excited to see that people from all over the world were joining in on this drawing class–Scotland, Poland, Germany, France, and a few people from the US, joining from Colorado and New York. 

three sketches from the drawing ‘games’ we did

The session was guided with silly drawing ‘games’ to help “kick the perfectionist out–” beginning with a simple, 1-minute timed sketch of our amazing model, Lucie. Any worries or hesitations I had about my drawing abilities disappeared once we started flowing through the exercises. Drawing without looking down, drawing with the non-dominant hand, drawing using only triangles or circles, using bold colors, and having a set amount of time for each sketch took the focus off of creating “perfect” art and left space for simply admiring the human form and putting it on paper, to the best of my untrained ability.

The session reminded me, in quite an emotional tidal wave, of how objectively beautiful the body is. Seeing the body, and especially types of bodies that aren’t often recognized in mainstream media, as a piece of art helped to mute the ingrained judgements that often blare, unwelcomed, at the thought of my own body’s ‘flaws.’ Artistically appreciating the details of a real and ‘imperfect’ body made a clear and powerful difference in the way I felt about myself after the session versus before.

If you are interested in joining next month’s session, tickets are available at Eventbrite (also linked below) and cost £5 – £8 (roughly $7 – $12 US). I will definitely be joining again, and for now I move into the rest of my day wrapped in confidence, compassion, and self-love.

my final drawing for the session, using color


PREVIEW: Stew & The Negro Problem

In case you missed Tony Award-winning playwright and singer Stew last night, you have another chance tonight! Don’t miss out on a homage to the art and activism of James Baldwin in a music and theater experience through a contemporary commentary on Baldwin’s 1955 collection of essays on being Black in America. Notes of a Native Song is an irreverent and spirited rock ‘n’ roll song cycle that uses Baldwin’s work to explore race, love, class division, and politics through an exciting mix of rock, jazz, and soul. Catch Stew & The Negro Problem at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre tonight at 8!

Review: Pussy Riot comes to Ann Arbor

On Thursday 19 September 2014, The Michigan Theater Ann Arbor played host to two members of Russian activist group Pussy Riot. They spoke about their experience in Russian prison, their activism and some of their experiences in the US.

Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina have been traveling in the US this year performing and, more recently, speaking at Harvard and The University of Michigan about their new projects Zona Prava and MediaZona.

Zona Prava is an NGO aimed at providing support and human rights protection to individuals who “may be deprived of their liberty” in prisons and camps. Tolokonnikova and Alekhina spoke about the importance of education in the prison system as well as their own experience in the Russian prison system last year, which inspired them to establish this organization.

MideaZona is an independent news website aimed at countering the manipulative, censored and propagandistic flow of information released by Russian media. The website was launched on the 4th of September.

Tolokonnikova and Alekhina are well spoken and passionate about the ideals that drive their outrage and passions. They expressed their appreciation for the openness and accessibility of the American prison system, contrasted with the rigidity and complete inaccessibility in Russia.

The moderator asked about their thoughts about the overlap between activism, music and art to which they aptly responded that there is often no difference between the two. They spoke of the London graffiti scene and of course the international punk movement.

Tolokonnikova spoke about the importance of the voice of the people in a government system and how the corruption of Russian President Vladimir Putin has limited any possibility of this kind of social exchange. She did not respond to the inquiry about what kind of change she envisioned or if she was in fact an anarchist.

Tolokonnikova and Alekhina have been asked whether they would consider going into Russian politics. They replied that they are more interested in establishing grass roots, community based movements to create change instead of working through a centralized, and in the case of Russia, highly corrupt political system.


Having these two accidental celebrities come to Ann Arbor and speak about the work they have done, their experience living under a totalitarian regime, the country they live in and their continued efforts to bring about change in Russia, was very important.

Due to the history between Russia and the United States so much information has been skewed by political opinion and nationalistic pride. Although Pussy Riot is a specific, radical activist group, which is by no means representative of the greater Russian population, hearing the voices of two strong women speaking about their pride in being a Russian citizen despite all the injustices occurring in their country was very inspiring.



On the more critical side – The moderator of the discussion was disappointing. Her questions seemed uninspired and occasionally irrelevant to the experience and expertise of Tolokonnikova and Alekhina. It is also a question whether or not the message from Pussy Riot effectively translates to the United States.


Thanks to Michigan Radio, The Michigan Theater, U of M School of Art and Design, WCBN and of course Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina.


For more information about the Penny W. Stamp Speakers Series line up for this year click on this Link.

Preview: Feminist Activist Group ‘Pussy Riot’ Comes to Michigan Theater Thursday


What: Pussy Riot/ Zona Prava – Part of Penny W. Stamp Speaker Series
Where: Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor
When: Thursday 18 September, 5:10pm
How Much: FREE!

Founded in 2011, Pussy Riot is a punk, feminist activist group from Russia who stage spontaneous performance based protests in public locations around Russia’s capitol cities. Their protests are filmed, edited into music videos and posted on the internet.

Their activism focuses on feminism, LGBT rights, opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the connection between Putin and The Russian Orthodox Church.

Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina, two of the founding members of the Pussy Riot collective made up of approximately eleven women, were arrested in autumn 2012 following a protest against President Putin staged in the Moscow Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

Tolokonnikova and Alekhina were charged with hooliganism and sentenced to two years in prison. The arrests and trials of Pussy Riot’s members drew international attention to the corruption and anti-gay legislation active in Russia at the time.

After their release from prison in December 2013 Tolokonnikova and Alekhina founded Zona Prava (Zone of Rights) and organization aimed at providing legal representation, information, safety monotoring, advocacy and oversight to those in Russian prisons who have been deprived of their liberty.

The event is supported by the UM Penny W. Stamps Speaker Series, Michigan Radio, WUOM 91.7 and Arts @ Michigan.