coyote in the hood means coyote in the studio

In pre-Columbian timelessness, the coyote inhabited only the west-central portion of North and Central America. With the advancing tide of European settlement across the continent, the coyote and its cousin, the wolf, were seen as a threat to livestock, crops, and human life, and were summarily persecuted, with bullets, traps, clubs, poison, and bad press. The wolf declined, and eventually required “re-introduction” to his old haunts. But the coyote increased, spreading his joyful song beyond the old possibilities, right into the noise of the urban world.
Joy Martin


And in that urban world – he thrives.

Photos on social media show (urban) coyotes across the city of Phoenix Neighbors photos places one in our general neighborhood and eventually one sitting in the yard of someone on our street. That’s close.

Coyote strolls by as Issa watches from lower corner, left side, on the sidewalk.

My husband and I catch the coyote on video (stills↑). We watch it meander across our front yard, while our cat sits in the patio. Issa (cat) sees the animal, gets up quickly, hides in the shadow of a small bush (lower left, on sidewalk), and stares at it. She’s territorial, I’ve seen her charge at dogs. I suspect she understands this guy is different.

I have mixed emotions about a coyote in my hood. I understand neighbor’s concerns. But my curiosity and respect for wild-life does not subside.

Three days later, on a morning run, I cross paths with the creature.

Tall. Lean. Ears, face, body – angular. I decide he’s male. As he passes me, I watch his shoulder-blades ride up and down his back. Photos have me thinking he’s blonde. And while he is tan, close up I see the gray and light brown. His bushy tail hangs low to the ground, reminding me of a German Shepard’s.

This predator is beautiful.

I finish my run and return to the studio to work on my painting. I have seen the coyote.

I read about the 4 chambered heart and 2 lungs. Recently I’d studied the human diaphragm, now I want to know how the coyote’s lays out. I identify  both diaphragm and windpipe. I note spleen, stomach, large and small intestines, kidney and bladder. The coyote in my drawing assumes maleness, as I add the sexual organs.

I look at the teeth, the glands in its nose, and the tiny bones in its ear and
wonder about his senses.

Excellent eye-sight (sees limited color).
Acute hearing (detect prey and avoid danger).
Movement and position of ears communicate mood and rank.
Keen sense of smell – Jacobson’s organ (detects prey and ).

I rework the area until satisfied.

Feet: are quick!
Five digits on the forefeet, including the dewclaw (a fifth digit similar to a human thumb) and four digits on the hind feet. As a coyote walks, only the toes touch the earth (digitigrade).

Coyote’s scientific name Canis Latrans. Canis is Latin for barking dog. Member of the Canidae family. Average lifespan is ten years (Is this is also true of the urban coyotes).

In myth:
The name coyote originates from the Mexican Spanish word, coyote.
Nahuatl: coyotl. Mayan: koyotl.
Aztec name and associations:  Huehuecóyotl (Old Man coyote).

In the latter mythology he is the god of music, dance, song (the howl!), and mischief (the cunning and playful trickster). Coyotes also symbolize wisdom and pragmatism.

In American Indian symbolism the coyote is the shape shifter, animal magician, miracle worker, and totemic ancestor associated with the moon. He is the opener of the way.
To the Crow tribe he is the Creator of the World and all that it holds. He is the First Artist, the First worker.

According to the Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, he assisted in the creation of the human race by scratching open the hide of Mother Earth to release the first people from her womb. 

The coyote: Sacred and extraordinary, adaptable and resilient, intelligent and tenacious.

I don’t like the label urban coyote. But the coyote is here and he is living in our city (cities). They endure.

Can we adapt? Will we coexist? And how do I explain all this to the cat.

Sources:
My random note taking.
Song Dogs of my Soul by Joy Martin
The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects

As I complete this post, I find a useful website. It’s informative and includes wonderful photography and I will be forwarding it to my neighbors.  → The Urban Coyote Initiative.


Five years ago I completed my first animal anatomy study – An Homage to the Cat (Issa-Cup of Tea). Inspired by our daily walks with our cat.

Issa too, moves on my street. And while the coyote and the cat are very different animals, there is some sort of wild I know they share.

“now, what the hell is a chromosome again?”

Reposting today – World Down Syndrome Day.

Monica Aissa Martinez

“The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”
– Aristotle


The post title is a line I pull from page 8 of My Heart Can’t Even Believe It, A Story of Science Love and Down Syndrome,  Amy Silverman’s recently published book.  I appreciate the inquisitive and amusing attitude throughout the book. It’s honest.

IMG_9219When I talk with her about my interest in drawing Sophie, her daughter, I explain I want the work to serve as education. First I have to educate myself and in the process (mustering up all the elements of design I can) maybe I educate you. I should say the only confidence I feel on this day, is in my drawing skills. About the study of living organisms – I’m no expert and it appears to get more complicated as I go. (Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy comes to mind…I’m an artist, not a scientist!)

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lesson in observation and commitment

Man who wishes to know about the world must learn about it in its particular details. – Heraclitus


The assignment focuses on natural objects with complex (and beautiful) structure and texture. The students set up a composition  balancing positive and negative space, using sea shells and insects – either or both.

Careful observation is key. I suggest they use a magnifying glass. I ask they consider the quality of the lines they use. What sort of lines represent structure? What sort of line represent texture? By now they want to have a larger selection of fine(r) markers.

A couple of students have a particularly challenging time and I suggest short breaks for them. The weather is so nice now, walking or moving will help to settle them.

Here are fine examples of the drawings.  Note composition, quality of line and the attention to detail.

Close up and personal by Virginia

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Bug Portrait by Marco

Detail

Shell Game by Kat

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Bug and Shells by Is SaK

 

 

Sally Sells Seashells by the Seashore by Angela

Detail

The Starry Fish by Vince Van D’oh! by Virgil

Detail

Sea Dreams by Anita

Detail

 

Equanimity by Amareli

Detail

Deux Ex Machina by Anthony

Three Stooges by Adonis

Advanced students use scratchboard. Here is one example by Victoria – still in progress.

Victoria’s shells on scratchboard (in progress)

Detail

 

the pelvic bowl

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It looks like a bowl, my husband says as my neighbor Tara, a Pelvic Floor Specialist, hands him a pelvis anatomy model. She’s lending it to me for the weekend.

I say to him In fact,  it is called the pelvic bowlEddie. He watches on as Tara pulls it all apart and puts it’s all back together, identifying anatomy as she reconstructs the model.

Aren’t we perfectly designed? I say as I watch them.

My recent drawing begins with an outline of the bones of a pelvis (on the front side).  I place into it uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Only then do I decide to bring in the lower spine, the psoas muscles, and eventually the diaphragm.

This weekend I work the back of the drawing ↓ and complete the composition. Highlighting the reproductive system – I’m right back where I started.  The two-sided mixed-media drawing  basically depicts the core of the female body.

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completed back side of drawing 24 x 18″ mixed media

Do you need the model again?, Tara asks. Thanks, I’m complete, I respond.

With this study I learn more about menstruation, conception, pregnancy and menopause. With Tara’s help I learn about hormones, muscles, nerves and the value of breath work.

We are so perfectly designed. You are so perfectly designed. Embody this.

pelvicbowl

More about Tara and her practice (btw – she offers lots of practical information) →  pelvicfloorspecialist.com.


Side note:
Contacted by Carmencita from California who’ll be using an early stage of this drawing (front side) to promote a staging of That Takes Ovaries! Bold Females and their Brazen Acts. The performance will raise funds for Myalgic Encephelomyolitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

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a ceremony of appreciation

Invited by Dr. Jen Hartmark-Hill,  I make my way to downtown Phoenix for a Ceremony of Appreciation. The event, organized by the Medical and Allied Health students at the University of Arizona, College of Medicine, honors individuals who donate their bodies to the anatomy lab.

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Upon arriving I meet Dr. Rebecca Fisher, the director of the Clinical Anatomy lab. She tells me about the personal connection students have to a willed body donor. She shares both the educational aspects as well as some of the emotional impact the experience holds for everyone. I look around the room as we talk and I see students, faculty and their families (newborns are in the mix too). The energy is celebratory as everyone prepares.

The evening includes art, poetry, prose, and music (ukulele, piano, song and dance).

One student names his donor Bruce. You looked like a Bruce to me, he reads into the microphone. Another student tells of holding the hands of her donor and notes the nail polish, chips of color. One guesses the age of his donor and wonders out loud, are you a grandfather?

There is practical (medical) information they gather from their donor’s body along with a natural wonder and  curiosity about the life it held.

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I can’t help but make connections between art students and medical students and their draw to the human body. I have to wonder, do they learn about Leonardo da Vinci in medical and science labs?

The medical students describe the learning experience as 2D (text book or diagram) and compare it to 3D (real-life) experience. Artists use a similar language. Art students study Anatomy (for the artist) to understand the skeletal and muscular system. The study is followed by Life drawing where art students apply what they’ve learned to a live model. Learned and necessary skills to both medicine and art are observation and attention to detail.

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And speaking of detail…
The student who draws this skull and heart ↑ is named Dylan. I introduce myself to him and congratulate his fine work.

I appreciate the imaginative way he personalized the drawings (of his donor). Dylan includes the usual anatomical description seen in medical illustration like frontal bone and then he adds more individualized (and more telling of the human-being) descriptions like bank teller, sweet toothjeopardy loversingle mother, grandmother…etc.

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detail

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As I thank Jen (Dr. Harmtark-Hill) for inviting me, we agree the evening is moving and meaningful. And before we part for the evening  she mentions an approach to education that she calls  Appreciative Inquiry.

 I often speak with my colleagues about the fact that we are privileged to teach these medical students—they are incredibly good and altruistic individuals. If we can find ways to protect that compassion, kindness and caring throughout their medical training, while instilling knowledge and skills, we will have done their future patients a great service.

I understand Appreciative Inquiry to be a way of seeing (worldview) and a way of being (process) that supports the goodness in people (individuals, organizations and communities).

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A letter written to a donor and expressing gratitude.

Thank you Jen for inviting me to this most extraordinary ceremony. And thanks to the students for a creative and moving evening.


As I come to the end of my post I can’t help but think of a phrase that influences the work I do. I know with certainty it directs me to unique experiences like this one.

Summum bonum is Latin and translates to the highest good.

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who’s pulling the strings?

The fact that this is a print gets a little left behind. You still see the plate marks but  I’ve added collage elements and casein paint, pencil and micaceous iron oxide.  It was hand-pulled but at this point it’s mostly hand-painted.

I don’t have a title for this version of the print yet.

img_9754Puppet, marionette…
I discover the word Greek word for puppet is nevróspastos  and it means drawn by strings, string pulling.
Neuron translates to sinew, tendon, muscle, string or wire.
Spáō implies to draw or pull.

When you read about puppets or marionette’s you also read about horizontal control and vertical control…all something to think about these days. There’s even something called American Control.

Anyway…here is the new version of this print. Who’s pulling your strings?

studying the psoas

When I start to draw the reproductive system, I never expect I’ll detail surrounding muscles or organs. Naturally I do, its organic, one thing leads to another.

As of now I’ve added in the iliacus and currently I draw in the diaphragm (maybe a future post). The breath influences it all!

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Psoas major ↑comes from the Greek (psóās) meaning muscle of the loins. Their long, elegant form is one reason I want to draw them. The other, I want more  understanding of muscles and this area is a perfect start.

The psoas (a paired muscle meaning there are 2, one on either side of the spinal column ↓) is the deepest skeletal muscle of your core. It originates in the lower spine, attaching at the 12 thoracic vertebrae to the 5th lumbar vertebrae.

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I can’t help but think of yoga postures that work the area (my favorite flow: Trikonasana to Arda Chandrasa to Chapasana). I also consider practical applications and everyday use.

We activate the muscles in infancy as we learn to both sit up and to walk. The psoas muscles continue to do their job our entire life: holding us up as we stand and moving us forward as we walk. They help us get of bed, they allow us to go up and down stairs, as well as run and bike. And they support us when sitting (as well as standing up).

Side note: too much sitting, in fact, can tighten the muscles (which then places more demand on other muscles causing imbalance). Sleeping on your side, in a fetal position, can destabilize the hips and IT band and shorten the psoas (see what I mean…it’s all connected).

The psoas combined with the iliacus ↓ form the iliopsoas. The iliacus originates inside the pelvic, along the pelvic wall. I add it because the two muscles are paired and I enjoy working curvilinear form.

img_9650The two deep muscles of the midsection combine to form one tendon attaching to the inside of the proximal femur (thigh) bone (hip flexors). Simply stated, they connect torso and legs, affect posture and stabilize the spine.
img_9651Think of the psoas muscles as connecting multiple layers, systems, and expressing subtle yet dynamic energy.  Considering the kidneys sit on the psoas muscles I now wonder, do they resonate with the fight or flight energy of the adrenals?

They do play a vital role in our well-being and stability. Neglecting the muscle can lead to imbalances including anxiety, depression, chronic back pain, knee pain, digestive distress and respiratory problems.

Literally the psoas embodies our deepest urge for survival and our basic desire to thrive (this feels timely). Know they ground one to the earth.

Take a long deep breath – and bring attention into your center

…more on the breath and diaphragm later.