|27 December 1999
YouCanDraw.com's Insiders Communique
Happy New Year to all! In this issue:
1) "Entrainment" and it's elixir: How drawing can be that magic elixir.
2) Feature-by-feature: the upper lip.
3) New Years Holiday
I stumbled on an old issue of the Utne Reader (April 1997) recently. The theme of this issue was "Slow Down". As I started reading it I found the articles in it especially meaningful - for two reasons. First, it's the holidays and busy as they are, slowing down is the last thing on my mind - but probably the most needed.
Secondly, it was meaningful because all the methods offered to "slow down" involve the "other side of the brain". We talk a lot about the "right side of the brain" around here, so it seemed natural to me today to go into this a little more.
A New Word
I learned a new word too: "Entrainment". What's that? It's the conscious or unconscious "hijacking" of your own natural rhythm, or pace. Let me explain.
Have you ever been listening to the radio and the latest "hit" has played 3 times already on your favorite station? It was ok the first two times but now, in the third, it's getting a little irritating. (Did I forget to mention it's been hit for a month?) But you're only semi-conscious of the irritation. Still, you're aware enough to change the station. You punch the buttons there on your radio as you switch lanes. The thought "Maybe the jazz station will have something different" flashes in your brain. Then guess what? Cruds, there it is again on the next station. Punch another button, think you're going to escape it? Wrong, there it is again.
Still you're less than totally aware of it because you're mind is ranging over what you need to do when you get to the gym, when you get home, on events at work, other deadlines - you know the routine.
So now traffic is at a stand still and here's this stupid song again! Two more stations - you can't escape it. You look at the radio in disbelief (like it's the radio's fault). You're irritated now. So what else to do but shut it off? So you shut it off. Ah, finally a little peace and quiet. Then what happens? In the middle of your "peace and quiet" you find your fingers tapping out the rhythm, you find yourself humming that same old obnoxious melody.
You stop at the gym and over the loud speakers - the same darn tune. On the TV's at the gym: the video. You try to tune it out - but even if you consciously boot it out of your brain, your senses are still taking it in. (the Ricky Martin hit was the most recent "entraining" tune for me.)
Now it's 2 am, and you can't sleep. Guess what song lyrics you find yourself mumbling? That stupid tune. As a further irritation you find you're still tapping out that danged beat. Now it's in you. You've been programmed. It's taken a subconscious hold on you. In a word, you've been hijacked. Subtle and effective isn't it?. The CIA and other espionage organizations use more overt versions of this phenomenon when they're trying to drive somebody literally nuts. There's no doubt - this is psychological warfare. This is entrainment.
The same way a silly song can literally over take your "rhythm", so can the pace of a season - like the Holidays. All the demands, expectations and pressures imposed from the outside world - not to mention all the demands we put on ourselves - can make us all walking train wrecks. Our brain's (our thinking brain that is) demand's might not be our soul of soul's or our bodies desire. Certainly your boss has other ideas about what's best for you.
Are You off Track?
How do you know if you're off track? You're body will tell you: you're wigged out, your "tolerance index" is zeroed out, you're ready to kill the guy in front of you because he's going just a little slower than the posted speed limit. Or you're in such a rush you want to not only swear at the stop light, you want to SHOOT it out. Or you're feeling "fried", crappy or you literally get sick. (The Holidays mark the beginning of the flu season - not because the cold brings out any new bugs. People's defenses wear down from all the holiday stress and the bugs that are there ALL YEAR 'ROUND have a chance to do a little exploitation. A little biologic rampaging if you will.
The "Escape" Plan
If you can't quite swing an afternoon trip to Acapulco, how do you escape this madness? How do you find your own natural rhythm? What's the silver bullet? Actually there's lots of options. All involve slowing down. There's exercise - walking being the most therapeutic (it's not so goal oriented for most, so it's enjoyable all by itself). For some, something like kick boxing is the only way to feel in control. For others it's getting up 20 minutes early in the morning and writing down their night time dreams in a journal. You can find and play your own music, the stuff you love, the stuff that leaves you feeling refreshed after half an hour of listening. That's the purpose of Siestas in Latin countries or Tea-time in Britain: letting go of all the compulsive, dizzying "busy-ness". For others, it's meditation. For others, well it's drawing.
Making it a Ritual
What's important in all these is regularity: making it a ritual to just make time to do the little things that give you control, that give you some pleasure. "Honoring" this time is a much better word. (Sounds less compulsive to me than "making".) The biggee is finding a way, your way, to shut down your own thinking, driven side of the brain. And this is why drawing is so great: you have to leave thoughts behind to get into the "R-mode", or into the artistic, observer's side of the brain.
A little Trick
Speaking from my own experience, I know how I'll avoid drawing (or anything else) when it's something "I have to do". But amazingly, if I can somehow trick myself into just doing it, it's not so bad. How do I do that? Usually, it's the "tick-tock" of the clock that gets me all wound up. So I start by dropping my expectations very low, eg, instead of saying to myself: "I can only draw today if I find 2 hours", to "all I have to do is 15 minutes of drawing to maintain and even improve" - that's about a hundred times more doable. Don't you think?
And even 15 minutes is enough to shut down the driven side of my head, and put me into "R-mode". Amazingly, these little 15 minute sessions turn into 30, 45, 60 minutes - I lose all track of time. And that's the point of all these little rituals: getting rid of the "Tick-Tock" of the modern world. And R-mode was built for working outside of time. So it's a natural antidote. I leave the drawing board feeling anything but bored - I feel refreshed, I feel a little more "pizzazzed" about things and I imagine I'm not as grumpy as I was before I took my little drawing break. Well I know I'm not. Give it try folks. It might just work for you.
This issue we're going to look at the upper lip. If you're following this mini-series, maybe you could make it your 15 minute-a-day drawing exercise for the next 2 weeks - just draw the upper lip. Remember, there's a whole section on drawing lips, but I'm a firm believer in breaking things down into teeny little bite-sized pieces.
So what's notable about the upper lip?
In a nutshell: the upper lip can be broken down in to three sections:
1) the Middle "winged" section who's middle, lower margin, forms the shared edge or contour that borders on the lower lip. (This is also called Cupid's Bow" - see illustration below. The middle section is colored yellow in the attached picture);
2) and the other 2 parts are what I call the "cornucopia"-shaped areas to either side of the middle winged section.
(You can access the section on lips by clicking or cutting and pasting this:
Remember the lips are placed over the cylindrical curve of the mouth - so the lips change shape with turning and twisting of the head - not to mention they're the most pliable tissue of the face. (the lips twist, stretch shrink, and contort quite amazingly during a simple ordinary conversation.)
Watch the lips of the next 3 people you have conversations with and see it you can't see the three parts I've mentioned (and Cupid's Bow of course) in action. But beware: be careful not to get "entrained" by any fast talkers. :-)
3) Vacation time
And Lastly, I'm on vacation in beautiful snowy Minneapolis for New Years and I'll be resuming the Communique around the 15th of January, 2000. ("2000" - sounds like a long time doesn't it?.)
Have a safe and fantastic New Year!