How I came to paint ....Love the skin you're in

How I came to paint ....Love the skin you're in

Here in the UK it is a Bank Holiday weekend, we are spending time at home, finishing little jobs that need doing , mowing the lawn etc. 

I am also taking sanctuary in my studio, reflecting on my paintings, musing over what I have done so far this year, and what I still want to do.


Me, in my rather messy studio, surrounded by the stuff that makes me happy.

Wow, I had no idea, that some fun times at the beach and my lack of body confidence would resonate with so many of you . A couple of years ago I began painting my swimming ladies, just for fun and for a change from the norm.

This one started my journey with my swimming ladies, and my attempts at poetry. 

I always struggled with people, skin tones, making people look 'right'. This was the perfect way to paint people ( for me) 

I loved doing them and loved giving them the very brightest and fun costumes I could imagine. I enjoy people watching , and far from judging anyone , I am always very envious of the people who just go for it, and really don't worry about what anyone else thinks. We all struggle with body confidence, and these words grew out of my own feelings and talking to my friends.

Three good friends went for a swim
The one who was fat wished she was thin.
The one she was curvy wished she was clever.
The one who was clever wished she swam better
The really great swimmer wished she was witty
The one who was witty wished she was pretty
All 3 friends thought the other 2 were just fine
If only they could let their own bright light shine
So throw on your swimsuit if you're fat or you're thin
Enjoy fun and friendship .... love the skin that you're in

By Rachel Toll

My husbands finds it very amusing that people like my words...she's a poet and she didn't know it ! My bad grammar and lack of punctuation, make him sigh, as he writes for a living ( a journalist / legal type job) ., but he has had to eat his words as my poem has become very very popular, and for that I cannot thank you all enough.

My second poem, which I wrote just after my cancer diagnosis  at the end of 2019 also means a lot to me.

  I am blessed with huge thighs and way too much cellulite for my liking , and now after my brush with cancer, also missing a boob, which doesn't really add to my model potential! It also means I have a much better view of my wobbly tummy! However life is precious , and these words expressed how felt and continue to feel. 

It puts things in perspective….

If only you could tell yourself…30yrs down the line
That the body you didn’t like back then, was absolutely fine.
In fact your imperfections, are what make you ,you
And artists don’t like perfection, it isn’t fun to do!
It puts things in perspective, when things start to go wrong
The things that are important are the things that keep you strong
So, enjoy the world around you, and the people who are close,
Enjoy the ocean and the woodland, take the highs and ride the lows.
Don’t worry about your makeup or the wrinkles that appear
It’s a privilege just to be alive so enjoy it while you’re here x

Rachel Toll

Now I don't profess to be William Wordsworth, I think I am more influenced by Pam Ayres than Seamus Heaney . But poetry and words mean a lot to me as those who follow my posts will know, and I felt that I wanted to get my feelings down on paper.

They say a picture paints a thousand words, but the poems and the pictures together fitted like pieces of a jigsaw.

I begin with a group of women, my friends mean the world to me.

Then I add the skin tones, I add wrinkles, and bingo wings. They are such fun to paint , and most of us have parts we aren't too fond of. 

I have a special pallet now, for my ladies, with all the colours I put into skin tones. I am reflecting what I see, and love, friendship, sharing , are all beautiful to me. The colours are rose madder, yellow ochre, violet , some reds, raw sienna, and some blues.

Then after a lovely day painting ,my women are ready to hit the beach.

I know these pieces aren't everybody's cup of tea, but if I have learnt anything whilst being an artist for a living, it is that you can't please everybody all of the time. 

These pieces are meant to be fun. They  ( hopefully ) show I can diversify and paint different things) I still adore painting landscapes and wildlife , but writing and women's experiences are also very much a part of who I am. I find life funny too, I don't know where I would be if I couldn't laugh at myself and with my friends.

So if you like these pieces , I am thrilled. This week I have added some new cards to my collection , and restocked some of my prints , as well as adding some new originals to my website. I am so glad I began painting women in all their beauty, and now I need to practice what I preach and love the skin I'm in!




  • Susan Lawhun

    Thank you so much for these striking images and your beautiful, uplifting words. They touched my heart. Women of a certain age often struggle with not being the young “perfect” girl/woman that we used to be and it’s so nice to see these images of “imperfect” bodies celebrating who they are!

  • Anne Moretz-Stanger

    I work at a ymca in Virginia and I would love to have a copy of love the body you are in for a bulletin board and then to hang in my office. Any way I can get one?

  • Erica

    Oh I love your poem & your beautiful painting. We are so lucky to have friends & share laughter. In lockdown missing them, yet they are a telephone call & zoom away. What an inspirational post. Thank you so much Rachel for such a wonderful blog.

  • Corrine Page

    This really resonates with how many of us feel ,I’m sending it to a dear friend ( we are both minus one boob) but all the stronger nonetheless and I’m sure she will appreciate it. Thank you so much for your ladies and all the other blogs which have taught me the techniques of the watercolour painting that I took up after my mastectomy . Love them all and please don’t stop 🙏

  • Shel Harrington

    You are my people, Rachel! Love your art, your poems, and your heart. I have a FB page and website called Fat-Bottom-Fifties Get Fierce, and within 30 minutes of having posted your mermaid picture and poem on the FB page, 1200 women reacted (liked/love) and commented – so apparently there are a LOT of us!! :-) Last month I published a fun little book called “Over 50, Defined – words just for us that aren’t in the dictionary . . . yet!” We definitely need our own language for all this special!!

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