Rob VanderZee told me I was going to have to be willing to sacrifice myself for my artwork about Women's Body Image. That made me uncomfortable. I didn't know what he meant.
Today I started to get a feel for what he meant.
Yesterday I met with a publisher who is working with me to develop ideas for my book. It was an exhilarating meeting. She has great ideas, is a great listener, and isn't pushy in the least. I feel like God sent me an angel to help me put the pieces together so that the book can come into being. It was truly amazing.
Today was the first uninterrupted day I've had in the studio since I stopped tutoring. (And I have to go to Chris's office party at 5:30, so it isn't quite a full day, but I've sure made the most of it.) It has been fantastic to have time to explore and do things I've been wanting to do for ages.
As soon as I woke up, I couldn't wait to get up, but I decided to do Morning Pages first so I could blow the cobwebs out of my sleepy brain to help me for the rest of the day. Then I did 30 minutes of yoga so I could get the creaks out of my body and so I could have more focus in the studio.
After a shower, I took my camera to the post office to send it to Canon for repairs - I was in the middle of a photo shoot a couple of days ago and it completely stopped working. One of the pins that goes into the memory card broke and I have no way of fixing it myself, so Canon will have to help me out. $180 - ouch. But at least I'll have my camera back. A friend lent me her Nikon because I had another model coming yesterday, so I'm not out of commission, thankfully.
On the way to the post office, I was going down Pinetta here in BonAir. I saw a police car so I slowed down, as is my wont. I was going 36 so figured I was probably fine. I was quite surprised to see the car pull out behind me with lights flashing. I pulled into the Post Office parking lot with the squad car behind me. A policewoman got out of the car. I rolled down the window and asked with concern if I'd done anything wrong. I couldn't imagine. She asked if I know the speed limit on Pinetta. I thought about it and realized I didn't - I figured it was probably 35. She said it was 25! Yikes. I said, "Then I did do something wrong. Geez." She asked for my license and registration. I gave her my license then started scouring the car for my registration. I had no clue where it would be. I haven't needed it since we bought the car 18 months ago. She went back and ran a check on my license while I looked for the registration. I couldn't find it. She said, "Well, you have a good driving record so I'm going to give you a Christmas present and only give you a warning. But make sure you go home and find your registration and put it with your insurance information in an envelope and put both in the car. If you have an accident you'll need them both." I was SO relieved. Here I was going to the PO to send my camera to get fixed, an unexpected expense - if I'd had to add a speeding ticket - 19 miles a hour over the speed limit - I would have been really upset. Horrible. I am very thankful for her kindness. It was truly a lovely gift.
After driving home VERY SLOWLY (and waving at the officer as I drove by her), I came out to the studio as quickly as I could and started painting. I worked on the new picture of Valley, refining the painting I'd done on her hands and breasts. They look wonderful.
After lunch I decided it would be a good idea to do some writing. I'd told the publisher I needed some time to actually get words down on paper before I met with her again - a book doesn't happen just through talking, I don't think! I wrote for about an hour about my relationship to my body and various things that have happened over the years to help me come to do this work I'm doing now. It felt good to get it down on paper, though it did bring up some anger and discomfort. Oh well, that's part of the work. As the publisher told me yesterday, writing is a process of discovery. I've already done a lot of this work, but there is always more to do!
After writing for a while, I decided to do something I'd been wanting to do for quite a while. The phrase from Rob VanderZee is applicable here. My interpretation of "sacrificing myself" is to photograph myself and relentless draw what I see. I started with my belly since that's the part of my body I feel least comfortable with. I photographed it from all sides in heavy shadow. This is a pencil drawing I did from one photo. I plan to do more over the course of the month.
I also photographed my breasts and drew one of those. It looks a bit imbalanced in this drawing. I probably need to go back into it tomorrow. I'm not going to show it here because it simply isn't well done enough, but eventually I'll get it and will post it.
In addition to my breasts and belly, I thought it might be powerful to photograph my face. Since I'm the one writing this blog, I get to choose which picture I show (!), so I'm showing one of the ones I find attractive. I took plenty where I was finding tears and laughter and various feelings. It was powerful looking through them and seeing myself so clearly. It's hard to deny what the camera sees, unlike when one looks in the mirror. I can fool myself in all kinds of ways there. I think I generally look pretty young, but there's no denying that I have a lot of wrinkles on my face. I kind of like them and the character they show, but I know I'm not supposed to like them.
I was helped greatly by a 9-year-old student I had when I taught German as a 23-year-old in Austria. She looked at me and said, "Frau Kuli (her nickname for me), you're going to have the most wonderful wrinkles when you get older because you have such a beautiful smile." I have chosen to live into that rather than the fear that I'll look old when I get old because I have wrinkles. I think the lines on my face show the expressions I've had on my face the most - those expressions have carved my skin into the shape it has now. Had I spent much of my time scowling or frowning or disapproving, my face would look quite different.
I'm thinking about painting a series of self portraits from these photos. To me, that's what Rob meant - I have to be willing to expose myself completely, to dig deep, deep, deep into my own psyche and offer myself up as someone who has done so in order to enable others to choose to examine their own stuff. The publisher said the same thing yesterday - that the more truthful I can be in my writing, the more it will resonate with others, and the more they'll be willing to take their own journeys.
I've done much of the psychological work already - it's recorded in my 4 packing boxes full of journals - but now I have to look back and get some objectivity and write it in a way that others can and want to read. It's a very personal journey. A powerful and precious one too.