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This Artist Wants You to Take Off Your Clothes and Love Your Body

Tori Swanson draws people naked for a living. As an artist, her primary focus is nude portraits. Being sketched completely naked can be a vulnerable experience, but Tori’s goal is to make the experience a liberating one. “I want people to look at themselves differently. I want people to not be afraid to explore who they are, and I want people to be open to trying new things and being less judgemental with themselves.”

Growing up in North Vancouver, Tori was always an artistic kid who loved arts and crafts, painting, and photography. “Art has always been a big part of my life, but I fought it in high school because I thought I was supposed to go to an academic school and graduate and take tests and finish essays, but where I felt most at home was spending four hours in a studio, creating.” After high school graduation, she embraced her love of the arts and went on to study Fine Arts at Langara College and studied abroad in Europe. A few years later, her love of art shifted to fashion and she went to New York to study fashion. “From the outside perspective, people would have thought I was living my best life, a dream. But while I was there, I felt like I was dying. I was so mentally ill with my eating disorder that all I wanted to do was go home.”

Tori grew up with struggling with anxiety and depression. Although her parents sent her to counsellors and tried their best to help, her issues weren’t fully addressed. “It just snowballed. Untreated anxiety, from what I have experienced, turns into depression, and untreated depression can manifest in many different ways. For me, it was anorexia and bulimia.”

She returned to Vancouver for holidays where friends and family expressed their concern. Tori hit a breaking point and decided to stay in Vancouver and start therapy sessions. Her mom encouraged her to start painting again, and it became a therapeutic outlet, a way to work through her feelings. “Being able to put it onto a piece of artwork is how I express myself. When I was in my room with my canvases, I went there emotionally. I went down there emotionally, and brought it out and put it on my canvas and purged it out. That’s the only way I was able to talk about it and work through it.“

At a drop-in life drawing art class, Tori had an a-ha moment that would completely change her way of thinking: “I saw this voluptuous woman drop her clothes and rock it in front of a class of 50 men and women students. I found myself lost in every single curve and the expression that took place. I was witnessing bravery and vulnerability at the same time. A complete stranger inspired me to change and adapt a similar perspective with my own mind, body, and spirit.”

Tori’s primary artistic focus shifted to the naked human form. She started booking clients in for naked portraits and hasn’t looked back. “There was a demand, and I met the supply. It’s like, this is what I was meant to do, and people were waiting for it.”

Tori says at the end of the day, the goal of her work is to change the way people feel about their bodies, to feel good in their skin.

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