Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Muscle Memory.

Tonight I headed down to the studio with a fresh cup of coffee and some good music for a date with my colored pencils and a grey piece of paper.

Not only have I made the conscious decision to return to art making, but also to return to doing my morning pages (at least 3 pages a day in my journal--remember those, fellow AWer's?). I'm probably stating the obvious, but what these two actions have offered me is a tremendous sense of relief.

I don't know... I think somewhere along the lines, these past several months, I somehow, quite successfully (and unintentionally), boxed myself into a very dry and lifeless place. I've been trying to beat myself into submission when, all along, it's the opposite that I've needed. But I'm going to just give myself a break--because getting to this point (in all its haphazardness) has all been part of the process. I see that now. And I'm learning to trust in that process.

Throughout my life there have been times when I've felt as though I'm observing myself--like a semi-omniscient narrator reflecting on the thoughts and actions of my own (seemingly third-person) character. I generally enjoy this state of mind because, when it happens, I invariably end up with a better understanding of myself.

As I worked on this drawing I found myself thinking about my old painting professor, Carol. She used to talk a lot about muscle memory. I sat down with my pencils and Indian music and coffee and r e m e m b e r e d just how good it feels to draw. I tried not to think about it too much and instead worked quickly, allowing for mistakes. Carol used to preach that, with practice, our muscles remember the actions that they have performed in the past. It's easy to imagine how this works for a musician practicing scales or a dancer rehearsing a series of movements--but it's the same for anything we do. Like riding a bike. The body remembers.

I started doing self-portraits a few years ago in order to get better at doing portraits in general. You see, we tend to lie when we look at ourselves. We want to look past the dark lines that create our smile; or the way one eye is droopier than the other; or the way our chin or forehead is not quite smooth. I find myself attracted to doing self-portraits because they demand more honesty. I know my own face better than anyone else's. If something is "off," I'm forced to be more aware of where I went wrong. For every mistake that I make, I learn something new, not only about myself, but about seeing. I've come to realize that it is in capturing both the beauty and the imperfections of an individual that make for the most interesting portraits.

Morning pages and self-portraits force me to give up my need for perfection. And it's in these little actions that teach me about trust--trust in myself and trust in performing the necessary movements. Whenever necessary--they will be there. Automatic.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

this is a beautiful portrait, jessie. you are so talented and i love reading about your creative process. i am looking forward to catching up with you soon...i love that you are stepping aside and letting your creative self do what it does best. hugs...
~ruby

gkgirl said...

love what you have done so far...
the color is awesome!

and that is an interesting thought
about what the body remembers...
and to step aside a bit
and allow it to remember...
makes sense really.

Jen(nifer) said...

I have decided to do the morning pages again as well... ;)

Happy New Year.

krista said...

THAT, was inspirational.

I hadn't thought much about new years resolutions of that kind of thing, but your post makes me want to think a little about morning pages again, and drawing more again... and maybe I will come up with some sort of resolution because I know if I don't make some sort of promise time will go by and I just won't bother, writing or drawing.

Also as someone who plays piano, it is so true that the muscles remember.

krista the silent k said...

and I forgot to mention, the colour of the orange is totally striking.

bella said...

"I somehow, quite successfully (and unintentionally), boxed myself into a very dry and lifeless place."

I feel like I've been in that place for the last two years. I've just recently found myself emerging from the fog.

Your portrait is a beauty and your optimism is contagious.

deirdre said...

There must be inspiration floating through the internet today. Yours is the second post I've read that has me feeling drawn to the creative side. This is just lovely, both the words and the drawing. There's magic in giving up the control with creativity and letting the art flow through your hands. Oh, it's something I need to remember more often, to let my body and soul speak more freely.

Loralee Choate said...

muscle memory is very important. It is huge in singing so I know just how you feel.

This post made me miss you. It would have been great to hang in your studio with music, coffee, your amazingly chubby cat and YOU.

The drawing is looking gorgeous.

liz elayne said...

the color of this...it is gorgeous. i appreciate your explanation of why self-portraits...it is an interesting contrast to when we look in the mirror. i think when we do that we see all the stuff that isn't so good. but it makes sense that when we would draw/paint/sketch ourselves we would skip those parts. i hadn't ever thought about this until today.

i am starting the artist's way with a friend this week. even though i have done it before, she hasn't, and i think the morning pages alone are reason to go back to it (not to mention i still need to complete all 12 weeks)

blessings to you my dear

kj said...

go jessie! this post and your decisions sound very clear and right. 2007 is waiting to welcome you and your artwork with open arms....

melba said...

I LOVE seeing your art. I want more. Sooo Beautiful.

I am glad you are celebrating your process; just the realization that this is allll a process is cause for celebration.

I wish you creativity everyday in the New Year1

Anonymous said...

oooh....jessie, I MISSED YOU.

tara dawn said...

What a great and inspiring post! Your words are so true...our bodies do remember! But what courage it takes to let go, release, allow our muscles to remember and just do it...so often we censor, we hold back, we hold in. I am so proud of you and this drawing is amazing (though no shocker there:) I miss you dear and love you bunches! May the new year bring you many, many moments of letting go and letting your spirit guide your body!
xoxo,
td

Kristine said...

You have inspired me. I finally did crack open my new sketch book but after two sketches I put it aside. I am inspired to pick it up again... Yet at the same time I am reminded through your reflection not to try so hard to beat myself into submission. I look forward to seeing more of your work and I will eventually share whatever becomes of the sketchbook.

Parisparfait said...

Very inspirational, Jessie. Am glad you're creating art regularly again. You've had a lot on your plate moving house/jobs, etc. so it's inevitable that a bit of an adjustment period was required. Happy New Year! xo

Dana said...

You are doing good things for yourself. Yay for you!

Vesper said...

i love that drawing SO much!

Ces said...

What a refreshing and inspirational post. I love that you always mention drinking coffee and I wonder which of your favorite mugs you use. I think the muscle memory sounds very credible. On painting self-portraits, I am always a failure. I could never capture my own likeness. I think some people are really great at realistic self portraits because they are very good illustrators. Wagonized is one of them. That woman can draw. I am always amazed at how she does it so easily.

Jessie, I wish you a lot of luck, love, peace and prosperity in 2007. it's been a pleasure to get to know you this past few months. You always project a youthful perspective.

Amber said...

This is beautiful! And I like what you say about portraits. I can totally see how that is true. You are so talented!

:)

Jamie said...

It's so yummy and inspiring to see you make room for your creativity in your life. You are so talented! I'm sure you simply must create in order to feel like yourself. It's a joy to see you doing it. I bet if 2007 sees you creating and doing your morning pages, you will have an astonishing year!

And I'm curious; what's the opposite of beating yourself into submission? If you made that happen, what would you do?

You're an inspiration, Jessie. Happy New Year :)

Anonymous said...

Funny, I've been in the same lifeless place. And I don't really know exactly why. Other than we've been really, really busy for reasons beyond our control. Maybe sometimes it's ok to wander around in those kinds of deserts so we appreciate inspiration when we find it.

I love your self-portrait - graceful and haunting all at once. Thank you for the inspiration!

didi bee :) said...

hi, sweetie...i'm here right now. i'll try and find you a.s.a.p.

leah said...

oh, i just love you! this post was awesome. i'm just catching up with all your most recent posts. i love that you've dedicated this year to magic.

when i first read the tite of this post, muscle memory, i thought of the negative side of it. i believe whole-heartedly in the idea that muscles hold memories and my muscles hold a lot of negative ones that i've worked so hard to release over the years. but then you talked about it in terms of coming back to art making, how the body can remember positive memories too. well, duh, I think to myself. Of course! Just a little revelation, small and simple, but wonderful. thank you for that.

i think going back to the mp's is a great idea. i've been fiddling with journaling on paper lately and it feels good. i think i'll be digging back into that again as well.

the self portrait is beautiful. last night i saw a special on the beautiful afgan woman who was photographed for the cover of national geographic, ages ago. the photographer went to find her again to photograph her piercing eyes once more. your portrait reminds me of her. xoxoxo

Anonymous said...

Oh my dear how I have missed you and your words.

I stopped by for a moment- scanned down to see which post caught me-and it was this-her eyes-and ahah-you write about morning pages.

Another friend was just mentioning them-and I felt a tug. Then I thought - well I am busy enough with the etsy store and all-but now I fall into heraing it again and so I think I may have to start.

Would you ever chat with me on the phone about them? I am finding it easier to chat on the phone than blog right now.

I ramble but email me and I will send you my number

misskiat@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

Oh my dear how I have missed you and your words.

I stopped by for a moment- scanned down to see which post caught me-and it was this-her eyes-and ahah-you write about morning pages.

Another friend was just mentioning them-and I felt a tug. Then I thought - well I am busy enough with the etsy store and all-but now I fall into heraing it again and so I think I may have to start.

Would you ever chat with me on the phone about them? I am finding it easier to chat on the phone than blog right now.

I ramble but email me and I will send you my number

misskiat@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

Oh my dear how I have missed you and your words.

I stopped by for a moment- scanned down to see which post caught me-and it was this-her eyes-and ahah-you write about morning pages.

Another friend was just mentioning them-and I felt a tug. Then I thought - well I am busy enough with the etsy store and all-but now I fall into heraing it again and so I think I may have to start.

Would you ever chat with me on the phone about them? I am finding it easier to chat on the phone than blog right now.

I ramble but email me and I will send you my number

misskiat@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

Oh my dear how I have missed you and your words.

I stopped by for a moment- scanned down to see which post caught me-and it was this-her eyes-and ahah-you write about morning pages.

Another friend was just mentioning them-and I felt a tug. Then I thought - well I am busy enough with the etsy store and all-but now I fall into heraing it again and so I think I may have to start.

Would you ever chat with me on the phone about them? I am finding it easier to chat on the phone than blog right now.

I ramble but email me and I will send you my number

misskiat@hotmail.com