“Heart Opener” 6×6, oil on canvas Purchase
The yoga painting series continues on day 9, and, I hate to break it to you, but there might not be an end in sight. What I love most about yoga is the permission it gives its practicers to take up a lot of space.
I’ve done my fair share of various fitness classes– kickboxing, barre, pilates, spin, you name it. I love them all but it’s only yoga that seems to operate from a place of honoring and accepting oneself versus trying to change something– these oblique crunches will reduce love handles– ladies it’s almost bathing suit season– if you do these your butt will look great in jeans. I’ve heard it all. And it’s all okay. But in yoga I’m encouraged to set an intention and quiet the noise (which sometimes comes in the form of insecurity enhanced by the quotes above). In yoga I find my inner voice saying things like “you are strong”.
I used to often lead trainings for artists who would have to get on a stage and direct a group of complete amateurs through a painting from start to finish. My first requirement was always this: Take up a lot of space. The smaller you make yourself, the more you keep your hands to your side or crossed against your chest, the less confident you look and feel. If people are to do something outside their comfort zones, they have to believe that the person leading them is, if nothing else, comfortable and capable. When we then discuss what this looks like, I borrow a lot from body language expert, Mark Bowden’s Ted talk in which he describes the anthropologically important reasons to “show your belly” as a sign of exposure and therefore vulnerability and trust.
Taking up space never came naturally to me. I’ve had to practice it especially when I feel most intimidated or insecure. At art markets and festivals where I’ve put all my hard work on display and many people don’t even look up at it as they pass by, my instinct is to cower, but when I stand, wide stance, open hands, firm and warm “hello”, I feel better. And the work doesn’t feel so dependent on other’s views of it. It feels as firm and independent as my posture. It exists, nowhere near perfection, but meaningful all the same.
The pose in today’s painting is a “heart opening” one. I thought it appropriate.
OMG, Denise, yes! As a human being who had not yet discovered his obsession with photography, this lesson clicked for me at a friend’s party in graduate school. I had always been the person who scrunched up to give everyone else space. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all, as I tend to focus on other’s needs, but I also thought it made me look less approachable. When I started taking up more space, hopefully not in a rude way, I felt so much better about the person I was projecting into the room. I felt like I was inviting people to socialize with me, and it had a profound effect on how I interact with people. In other words, I was, as you rightfully state, allowing myself to be vulnerable.
I’m still learning this lesson every time I compose a photo! What is the appropriate distance for a composition? How much space do the main elements need to take up? Whatever choice I make will completely change the message I want to convey. Do I need the foreground elements to be smaller? Okay, but then how small do they need to be? Or do they need to fill the frame? And what am I saying if I do that? There are no cookie cutter answers here! But in the main I do tend towards the bigger, bolder compositions, and often I feel like I haven’t made the elements I want to emphasize big enough!
Yes, yes, and yes! It’s interesting to think about what takes up space in our art as well as our bodies. I’m going to be thinking on this for some time! Your feedback is always so very appreciated!