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.

 

drawing on the ovary and what it represents

On the one hand…
I think about lineage, in this case, the one that connects art and the human body. I look to artists whose work focuses on anatomy. I observe the image and information that surface through time. I’d like to think I hold a place in that picture.

And then there’s the life stuff…
I recall 2 events piqué my curiosity about the human body and how it works. I draw connections between anatomy, education and the power of the visual. And speaking of visuals…I draw the ovary.

Flashback…
Sixth grade. Catholic school. Teacher: Mr. Robert Fecas (Bob). Nuns run the school.
And sex ed goes something like this …
Boys stay in the classroom with Mr. Fecas (for their information session). Girls go into the library to see a video and have a talk (with the nuns). Girls return to the classroom with a small booklet. Look, I still have mine↓.

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Mr. Fecas sets time aside the following week (during our lunch hour) and will allow us to come into the classroom (boy and girls together) and ask any question we wish. Most every one of us shows up every day with curiosity and questions in tow. We giggle, we learn. Bob is the best kind of educator! (I also credit Bob for introducing me to reading, meditation and journaling at the end of a day – all in that order.)

Flash forward (college days)
In my 20’s, a medical procedure (amazing technology) allows me to see my ovaries (right in their environment). Is that me?, I ask the internist. What a powerful visual! I don’t forget the undeniable proof of a small (so small) world existing right inside my lower abdomen.  I leave the hospital with both a sense of awe and vulnerability (and my health).

Notes on…
The ovary – from the Latin: ovarium, meaning egg or nut.

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Ovaries sit below the fallopian tubes, on either side of the uterus. The small, pearl colored organs produce eggs (once a month). A female has the greatest number of eggs (about 20 million!) while growing in her own mother’s womb (think about that for a minute!). And if you can imagine they also begin decreasing (called atresia) from that point on. Know the typical female is born with all the eggs she will ever have for life, and she also has more eggs than she will ever need.

We know ovaries are part of the reproductive system. Do you know they’re also endocrine glands?  They secrete estrogen, testosterone and progesterone. As a woman ages and her ability to reproduce  lessens, the inner structure, a highly vascular stroma in the center of the ovary containing blood vessels, lymphatic vessels and nerves, becomes active for the first time. It appears one function winds down while another begins. Ovaries maintain an ability to produce steroid hormones for several decades after menopause. They stay active and useful maintaining some balance in the body as time goes on.

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About the energy of the ovaries…
Ovarian energy – think points of creativity. Are you doing something difficult and or challenging out in the world?  Ovarian energy supports you.

According to Women’s Bodies, Woman’s Wisdom, Christian Northrup MD who writes from an energy medicine perspective, says ovarian wisdom represents a woman’s deepest creativity. Ovaries hold that which waits to be born within us, that which can only be born through us. They support a female’s unique creative potential, especially that which we create out in the world outside of ourselves.

Consider, initiate, allow. Yield to your creativity, Northrup tells women, allow it to come through you. She directs a female to her own internal rhythm. The ovaries (and their energy) are dynamic organs that are part of the body’s wisdom throughout her life.

What do you bring forth? What do you allow?

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the female reproductive system

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I look at the structure of the female reproductive system for a long time. Draw, erase, re-draw, erase again – parts come and go as I place the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix and vagina into the pelvic bowl. I can’t help but wonder if the body is truly as symmetrical as medical illustration would suggest. Are things evenly balanced? It’s just a thought.

It surprises me to learn the uterus, in general, has not been studied separate from its role in child-bearing. The uterus is seen as someone else’s potential home and valued when it can potentially play that role, says Christine Northrup MD, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s WisdomAfter the uterus’s childbearing function has been completed or when a woman chooses not to have a child, modern medicine considers the uterus to have no inherent value. The Ovaries are viewed in the same way.

In truth the uterus supports hormonal regulation, sexual satisfaction, and bowel and bladder function. Removal is not advisable unless absolutely necessary. 

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The uterus is held in place by endopelvic fascia or ligaments.

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aligning the pelvis and the muscles

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ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vaginal canal

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blood supply – arteries

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blood supply – veins

The system is remarkable: life-giving, life-enhancing, curvilinear, expansive, contractive, cyclical, beautifully active.

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added muscle and lymphatic system

Energetically speaking the uterus sits in the area of the Hara (lower belly body center) which holds power, passion and creativity. It is also known as the Dantian or the gate of origin, the Ren Mai, translating to Conception Vessel. It is the space where life begins. Even after a hysterectomy (partial or full) the space holds energy.

Caroline Myss, PhD, in Anatomy of the Spirit, writes about the area and its energetic connection to the power of choice. Choice is born out of opposites, she notes, duality is forever challenging us to make choices in a world of opposing sides. Managing the power of choice, with all its creative and spiritual implications is the essence of human experience. Choice is the process of creation itself.

Every woman can and should ask and answer for themselves – What am I giving birth to? What life am I creating?


I begin the post noting how carefully I look at the female reproductive system. Naturally I consider the energy of current culture. It’s no coincidence that the first week of the new year I choose to focus on the female reproductive system.

Support Planned Parenthood (and other organizations like it). It offers sexual and reproductive health services including health care and sex education, to millions of women, men and young people world-wide.
Other services they provide :

  • anemia testing
  • cholesterol screening
  • diabetes screening
  • physical exams, including for employment and sports
  • flu vaccines
  • help with quitting smoking
  • high blood pressure screening
  • tetanus vaccines
  • thyroid screening

Work to make health care and education accessible and affordable.

foot notes*

My feet. Still.
More complex than I under. Stand.
Layer upon. Layer.
Points of contact. Mother Earth.
Conductors of.  Magical.


*These are my notes, written as such.

My studio skeleton sits in parts, on my drawing table. I’ve pull the hardware out, separated and laid out the bones. I take a good look at the long and elegant leg bones before moving to the feet.

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Top photo: Femur, aka the thigh bone ↑, is the longest and heaviest bone in the human body.
Bottom photo: The Tibia, aka the shin-bone, and the larger 1 of 2 bones below the knee. It takes all the weight of the body. The fibula, aka calf-bone, which has none of the strength of the tibia, forms part of the ankle joint.

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Bones are living tissue, made up of calcium phosphate and other minerals and collagen (fibers of protein). Minerals make bones hard, collagen makes them flexible. And unlike the skeleton in my studio, hardware does not hold up the skeletal system. Muscles (with the help of tendons and ligaments) hold bones together (can I call the latter software?).


The feet are my current study. Intricate. Wonderful.
The human foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and tendons. A total of 52 bones in your feet make up about 25 percent of all the bones in your body. I gather this information before I begin working. That’s a lot of stuff to organize into one composition.

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Bones of the foot – Plantar View ↓.  The top sections (above my finger)  are phalanges (love! the word). Metatarsals are the longer bones (between my fingers).
(Prior to the 16th century Vesalius called the metatarsals ossa pedi (bones of the instep), and before that Galen called the area pedian (‘the flat’ of the foot).)

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Bones of the foot – Plantar View

See the round knobby bones my finger sits on ↑ (in the drawing I circle them in green). Those are sesamoid bones (derived from the Latin sesamum – sesame seed). These small bones form in response to strain. They provide (like a pulley) a smooth surface for tendons (that bend the big toe downward) to slide over. I mull over that for a good while …wow. Sesamoid bones are found on various joints throughout the body.

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The mid foot ↑, below the metatarsals, is the area of bones forming the arches. These include the three cuneiform bones, the cuboid bone, and the navicular bone. The hindfoot forms the heel and ankle.

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Plantar View – sole of the foot

To appreciate complexity, I work a 2-sided drawing (of my feet). One side presents the sole of the feet ↑ (bones, tendons and muscles) while the flip side shows the top of the feet ↓ (nerves, arteries and veins).
(I get why Vesalius wanted to draw the body and its layers at all various angles.)

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Dorsal surface – Top of the foot

Feet: science and spirit, physical and subtle.

I hear someone say the feet have a consciousness (*bring awareness and care to your feet). They (*you) can learn how to take care of themselves (*yourself).

Stand. Be aware. Bear equal weight on all four corners of the foot – big toe mound to pinky toe mound, inner ankle to outer ankle. Align the second toe directly in front of the ankle. Then go.

Feet guide the knees and hips, acting as anchors to the earth.
They absorb.
They help us to ground and recharge (more than 7000 nerve endings – think about that!)

 

 

 

 

charcoals and pastels and the end of a semester

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I’ll miss this group. Students came in early and students left late. They took on every challenge with great attitude.

The main Drawing 1 assignment is a charcoal still-life focusing on volume and depth. I wish you could see the surface of these studies. The camera doesn’t do them justice.

The charcoal and pastel work are examples of the last days of drawing – sort of breaking out of some of the rules I’d set up for them all semester.

The master reproductions are Drawing 2 student’s final assignment.

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…and maybe Collin ↓ will get extra credit for the imaginative title to his work. Please note.

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Collin’s “Monkey Scream – The existential horror of being a gorilla skull in an art 111 still-life.

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Travis’s Skull

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Brittany

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Kanata’s broken T-pot

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Firm by Robert

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Karen’s Tipsy

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Jen’s Still-life

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Margin’s T-Pot

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Victoria

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Kestin

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Kestin’s Study

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Robert’s Study

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Gabriela’s Raphael (reproduction)

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Jessica’s reproduction Amarita (Indian master)

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Natividad’s Alex Katz (reproduction)

Happy Holidays to all my students!

look-see-draw-move to the seat to your left-keep going

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This is the last week of school and the group has mastered technique. They developed skill. We have a couple of days left in the semester and I take the opportunity to one more time (this semester) get students out of their comfort zone. It’s invigorating for everyone.

This still-life is made up of a variety of shoes (familiar objects). Some students lend their shoes (for added color and shape). This is the first assignment where I instruct everyone to move quick(er). I remind them to look and as usual tell them to put down what they see. I call time and have them move to the seat to their left. They do not take their own supplies with them. They use what is in their neighbors supply box. I meander through the group and  when the student appears ready, I hand him or her color-pastel. No one has used color in this class.

By the time we are complete everyone has moved emotion aside, eased into the exercise, used color pastel, and made quicker decisions (utilized confidence).

Can you see each drawing has at least 4 pairs of hands in it?

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hemming flames

I love what some writers can do with words.

Last January, Trish tells me about her soon-to-be-published book. The title is Hemming Flames, she says. My quickest thoughts… fire? forest fire? firemen? wild and out of control fires wanting to contain or control? The response is visceral…fire in the gut?

Months pass and now I hold the hardback book in my hands. I read the title and see the image and make different associations… a cover? clothing? that which we wear? fray? and again…control?

Whatever it is, it gets my attention and keeps it.

Hemming Flames is a beautiful hard back book of very personal poems written by Patricia Colleen Murphy.

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The weekend before I get Murphy’s work, a friend drops over to pick up a book she lent me last summerI recall how I respond to Adrienne Rich’s book, Driving into the Wreck. The title and the words hold my attention. I read through the book the first day and then I have to put it down. It takes time for me to come back to it and read again – slow and careful. I have feelings of determination (to continue reading) and curiosity (understand).

The day I get my copy of Hemming Flames I read late into the evening and then some more first thing the next morning. The days that follow I come to it with curiosity and I have to say…once again that odd feeling of determination…to read with care and let it sink in.

Art.

I email Trish. I ask how people have responded. 

The book has been very well received. I am so glad it’s out in the world. A lot of people have mentioned that they feel it is a brave book. I’m glad for that because it was hard to be that brave.

I agree, she does courageous work.

Today….

 Turkish Get-ups

I thought she meant costumes but she meant
what’s inevitable when you’re down. It is how

to stay exceptionally strong, she says. She says
this to me often out of one of her many mouths.

We’re born prone, she says. Then we roll onto 
our bellies. Up, she says. Get up, she says. Get up.

I am down and I hear her in the other room.
Without visual clues, I can’t tell the exact

meaning of her statements. She says, it is not 
hyperbole if it is true. She says, you began life

as a vowel. She says, people incapable
of guilt can have a really great time.

Years ago, fresh out of grad school, I take lines from Sylvia Plath’s writing.  I creat a series of small drawings (stream of consciousness narratives).  Pulled in by how Plath organizes her words and thoughts, I want to make sense of her writing. I do this with Doris Lessing’s work too. I don’t work in this way anymore but it’s easy to imagine Murphy’s words could hold the framework for such a series.

Here are lines (from different poems) that catch my attention. I separate each by indentation. What I could draw out – I wonder…

I drop a smile into the tub
near the edge. Irretrievable!

and then he carves
sailboats into the linoleum.

all studium and no punctum

I spend all day in a room
with every item I will ever own

Doctor put me on the stare-pills.
I can’t feel my distal parts.

Brava Trish!
To learn more about Patricia Colleen Murphy and her work go to → hemmingflames.com.


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Patricia Colleen Murphy teaches creative writing at Arizona State University where she is the founding editor of the literary magazine Superstition Review. Her poems have appeared in many journals including The Iowa Review, Quarterly West, American Poetry Review, North American Review, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, Natural Bridge, Black Warrior Review and others. She has received awards from the Associated Writing Programs and the Academy of American Poets, Gulf Coast, Bellevue Literary Review, The Madison Review, Glimmer Train Press, and The Southern California Review. A chapter of her memoir-in-progress is published as a chapbook by New Orleans Review.