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.