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!




  • Sharon White

    Dear, dear Rachel,
    What an inspiring poem and a brilliant painting to go with it. I am a writer from Texas. “Quintessential Style: Cultivate and Communicate Your Signature Look” is the name of a book I wrote in 2014. Your poem and depiction of friendship and acceptance is a treasure. It embodies every ideal we have in the book about honoring your individuality and appreciating the gifts of others. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “It’s not what size you wear, it’s how you wear your size.”
    And, the last line of the book reads: “Enjoy your role in this magnificent life and never forget: You are unique in all of time.” Thank you, dear girl, for reminding us.
    I was wondering if I could use your illustration and poem on my website:
    I look forward to hearing from you.

  • Diane Glasgow

    Curious what colors you like to use for skin tones?

  • Korina

    I’m so thrilled with the beach ladies! And it is so right and so good and so important what you say and paint: Love yourself, be friendly and mild with your flaws. Nobody’s perfect and it would be pure horror if we were. Our little flaws make our personality and individuality!
    I experienced exactly what you describe in your poem: I saw a photo of myself of 1989 and I thought: “Oh my Goodness, I’ve never known how pretty I was!” and: “What a pity I haven’t realized this before, it would have made my life much easier! How stupid I was to think I wasn’t pretty then and concentrating on my flaws instead of my strength!”
    But still and though my self-confidence concerning my body isn’t very good, I’m one of the women you might envy: I walk around exactly as I please and don’t care what people think! And it feels good!
    “Bingo wings” – made my day! :)


    Dear Rachel……I absolutely LOVE your beach ladies and your words because I am one of them and I feel defined by WHO I AM rather than HOW I LOOK……your ladies a REAL PEOPLE and it takes us ALL to make up this world! I am loving the swan landing that I bought from you…had it triple matted so that it would fit into an OLD from that was my grandmother’s. white, navy, light gray on top….it is beautiful and brings out colors…and honors my little fishing village of Swansboro, North Carolina, USA….you and I were both diagnosed with 2 different kinds of cancer in late 2019…and now we are well….we are blessed!!….KEEP PAINTING AND WRITING!

  • Diane Hayward

    I love your ladies and I love your poems. I to paint and write poems my poems are not very grown up and I use very little words but I write what is in my head and heart from what I see around me.
    I’m no artist I just enjoy what I do. Your art inspires me so to kerp on trying no matter how rubbish I think I am.
    Wow Rachel you are one very brave lady telling us about your cancer. I understand that what we as individuals consider art is in the eye of the beholder for me it’s expression of what I see and feel.
    Please kerp painting and kerp those ladies coming and all the poems you feel I love all you do it lifts my heart.
    Thank you for this blog it’s amazing

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