Warm ups, a path to the “Zone”

San Benito Dance Academy dancer
Charcoal on paper

The “zone,” the moment when the artistic vision is met with complete engagement of all the senses: physical, mental and emotional. The moment when an artist is completely absorbed in concentration, there is a loss of self-consciousness, a transformation of time and effortless rhythm of action. We have all experienced that wonderful moment when time stands still and the project at hand takes on a life of its own. The trick lies in how do we create a habit of entering the “zone.”

I loved watching the Golden State Warriors during the NBA basketball finals last June. Here we witnessed that exciting zone where players after hours upon hours of practice make a 3 point shot look effortless and even miraculous. The grace with which Stephen Curry releases a ball while blinded by his opponent and still makes the shot inspires me. Can I develop my visual memory to that same degree? Will my effortless brush stokes convey that subtle glance or capture that elusive gesture?

“Develop your visual memory. Draw everything you have drawn from the model from memory as well. Realize that a drawing is not a copy. It is a construction…A Drawing is an invention.”
~Robert Henri from The Art Spirit.

Through my work at the San Benito County Arts Council, I have had the opportunity to practice and teach a new technique in muscle memory. In one of the workshops we have two dancers from the San Benito Dance Academy model for us. I run through a series of quick one minute poses and build up to 20 minute poses over the course of 2 hours. All these small exercises are intended to build and develop visual memory.

The goal: Create muscle memory connecting eye, arm and brain to rapidly represent what is before the artist. Ultimately the goal is to be able to recreate the pose from memory when the model is not available. In my experience working from a live model that moves in a variety of poses throughout the workshop increases the number of poses recorded in muscle memory. The repeated one and two minute drawing exercises of head, shoulder, torso, hips, legs and arms applied in multiple gestures allows for a fluid library of poses to be committed to memory. This library of poses will be a tremendous resource to draw from in the future. As the artist commits to a disciplined schedule of quick gestural painted or charcoal studies, he or she will discover a rapid path to the artistic “zone,” where the memory will answer the aesthetic questions that cannot be answered by photo reference or the model who has been sitting for several hours.

Upcoming OPA Events

30th Annual National Juried Exhibition 30th Annual National Juried Exhibition
The Thirtieth National Exhibition and Convention will be hosted by the California Center for the Arts, Escondido Museum, located in Escondido, California, from April 9 through May 16, 2021. Learn More!
First Annual Student Art Competition First Annual Student Art Competition
The First Annual Student Art Competition is from January 15 - February 15, 2021 and will be open to Student between the ages of 14 to 22 only. Learn More!
OPA Spring 2021 Online Showcase OPA Spring 2021 Online Showcase
The Spring 2021 Online Showcase is from March 1 - May 15, 2021 and will be open to Associate members only. Learn More!