Drawing from the felt experience of my bones

This morning’s workshop with Catherine:

Drawing a life-size outline of my body, then filling it in with bones as they felt to me.

We were instructed to focus on drawing from experience, and not worry about what what we think it ‘should’ look like i.e. a picture of a skeleton.

Easier said than done, and I immediately started to literally trace my body with the marker, only realizing 10 minutes later that the task was to draw this outline from FELT experience. A beautiful drawing that helped to connect me to an experience pf my self as organized energy; a set of energetic flows and radiations.

While creating this drawing, I was struck by how difficult it was to translate between my felt internal experience of my bones and the outline of my body, and the external, two-dimensional image that was accumulating on the paper before my eyes – a seemingly vast gap or language barrier. Later Catherine remarked that this issue of translation was fundamental to many forms of creative practice: how to articulate a feeling, or to reproduce something so radically internal, by way of an external media (i.e. clay, wood, paint, pixels etc.).

My felt experience of my skeleton was fragmentary, details fading in an out of focus, followed by blank spots of total mystery: what is that shape inside me? Some clues as to a general volume, but few specifics.

I think a complete skeleton mapping would take me a day or two, such was the difficulty I experienced – both in the articulation of the feelings, and in their description by way of a series of marks on paper. Its incredible that form of something so fundamental as the bones upon which we live should be so mysterious and elusive.

Looking at the skeleton Maggie had created, I was struck by the way that the bones in her skeleton seemed to describe lines of force and energy, rather than inert pieces of bone.

This process of articulation and translation: systematically feeling something inside your body, and then describing that feeling by way of some external representation, also raises questions for me about what’s happening on the other side of the process: the task requires a shift in point of view, in a way that you wouldn’t generally experience when drawing something external to yourself, i.e. a landscape before you, a bowl of fruit, another person’s body.

I assumed that this translation requires a shift in point of view from an experience of containment and extension, towards a third-person, externalized perspective, but there was nothing in Catherine’s request that required this – but it could just as well have been a seemingly abstract collection of swirls and knobbly things spread out across the sheet of paper – which makes me want to attempt this exercise again, with a different set of assumptions around what constitutes a ‘drawing’ of a (MY) skeleton, irrespective of whether anyone else recognizes it or not – the emphasis being on the lines and volumes of the drawing communicating my felt sense of various aspects of my body experience.

This workshop struck me as a very connected to the idea of ‘making strange’ – rendering something so fundamental, but taken for granted as our own skeletal system, and generating representations that seem bizzare and fantastic in rellation to how these structures are conventionally represented.

Looking at these drawings, I feel these skeletons inside me – I put on the artwork, and feel my self inside the body represented on the sheet of paper. I feel the peculiar distortions of volume, length and depth decribed through the marks on the paper – this is a big part of their charm and attraction for me, much like the experience maps created by participants in my ‘Heart Library Project’.

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