a heart and a brain

Today in Yoga we talk about the organ of the heart. I happen to have completed (yet another) small drawing of one. We tend to think of it in connection to love. Meg, the instructor, says in this case it’s connected to happiness. She explained the energy is more about accepting what is – as opposed to wanting to control. I also drew (yet another) brain.

They work together. Or do they?

IMG_7730 IMG_7729

For some reason I make a connection to Ahimsa. I’ve decided non-violence is a discipline. I’m not sure why I piece this together. But I do.

no woman is an island – continues

Justice is
… absolute good in itself.
… the boundary that defines all the other virtues.
… Cuique suum – to each his own.
… the virtue which enables man to give each one what is his due.


Graphite, Casein on Paper
23″ x 8″

Alisa Gray contacts me on the first day of the new year. She’s interested in this study of Justice. It’s part of a large series that depicts virtues and sins. I give her a bit of history about the drawing and identify influences.


“The balance I depict comes from Egyptian mythology.  Upon death, one must weigh their heart with the feather of truth. If the heart is lighter you move on in the journey to the afterlife. If the heart is heavier, you are escorted into the underworld.”


Traditional Lady Justice is blind-folded, representing objectivity. In my composition, the eyes are not prominent. I include the infinity symbol. Summun Bonum, the writing on the floating banner “… is Latin for the highest good.” The phrase is meaningful to me, it’s not about good or bad, right or wrong – but about the highest good for all concerned. As I write this I recall my father providing me with thought to go along with most any action – If anyone or everyone did what you want to do now, would this be a better world? If the answer is yes, continue.

Alisa tells me her daughter ” … is a self-taught 17-year-old Egyptian ‘expert’ and she’s taught me so much about Egyptian myths and culture,” (did I mention Alisa is a lawyer) and adds ” … the whole legal thing is compelling.”

I am intrigued because I’ve never heard summum bonum. After 21 plus years as an attorney, I thought I knew most Latin terms that we use. So I looked it up. It’s more of a philosophical term meaning the “highest good.” Too bad, we don’t use it more in the legal world!”

Alisa has a personal connection to the spiral, which is in the design of the dress the figure wears. We discuss the design color – “… no situation is completely black and white.” Alisa’s last name is Gray.

“Yes, I am interested!”  And with that – Justice finds a home.

Alisa is an attorney. She is also a Yogi. She completed her Yoga Teacher’s Training in 2010, and currently teaches Yoga to attorneys. Talk about highest good …

Thanks Alisa. Keep up the good work.

The blog posts titled No Woman is an Island acknowledge the people and/or organizations who support me and the work I do. No one continues alone, much less the artist. I enjoy and appreciate the full circle experiences.

Justice is from the series:  The World Stage, a play in finite acts.


The World Stage, a play in finite acts
casein on canvas
36″ x 36″

in the studio – a practice

Studio – derives from the Italian: studio,
from Latin: studium, from studere,
meaning to study or zeal, 
Practice – repeated performance of an activity in order to learn or perfect a skill.

My drawings, paintings and prints will be on display at Desert Song Healing Arts Center for the months of February and March. I will organize newer work and include a few pieces from  a number of series I completed in the last decade – after my Yoga Teacher’s Training at Desert Song.


WHO: Desert Song Healing Arts Center
WHAT: In Studio – A Practice
Drawings Paints and Prints by Monica Aissa Martinez
WHERE: 3232 North 20th Street
WHEN: February 1st, 2014

During the run of the exhibit, on Sunday February 16th from 1-3 will be an
Art, Music and Yoga community event. Yoga instructor Meg Byerlein will lead the practice as we listen to live sounds from musician Mary Petrich (and friends). Save the date.


Desert Song Healing Arts Center has been in business for 30 years. I’ve known Mary Beth Marcus since the late 90’s when I began studying yoga. In 2003 I completed my Yoga Teacher’s Training with her.

I learned many things during that intense time. Including that I could complete 21 Sun Salutations in the morning and/or in the evening, at a moments call. I’m kidding about that –  sort of.

We studied the history and philosophy of Yoga. I loved learning each of the 8 limbs. You’ll certainly see the influence in my work. I also learned about taking the Teacher’s Seat. I know this framework prepared me for what I do now – teach drawing at Phoenix College. It still provides me with guide lines as I continue setting up a classroom each semester.

Mary Beth has a new studio and a new location. The grounds are beautiful. Join them on Facebook or visit the Desert Song website.


Note: February’s theme is the Heart and March is Community …. they work for me.




The brain takes all the body’s information, internal and external, and produces a response. I love drawing the parts, they are mysterious and complex. Lots of folds, lots of nerves,  lots of hidden elements – for me that means things to represent.

My yoga teacher Meg says energetically we are in the cerebellum now. Each week in class we discuss the organ we are in, and its symbolic aspects. The connection comes from Meg’s interest in Tibetan Pulsation. I know little about the study. I appreciate the information. I understand there’s a physical organ connected to various points in time in the calendar year. Last Wednesday was the last day of being in the legs. Legs, Meg noted, associate with movement: steady forward, hesitant backward, or standstill.

Thursday we moved into the Cerebellum: much thinking, talking. worrying – balance is signified by clarity. Coincidentally this week in the studio I focus and complete the head of my male figure. I rework the cerebellum several times, simplifying the purple (my color choice) form just a little each time.

The cerebellum (Latin for little brain) sits at the base of the skull, above the brainstem. It controls fine movement coördination, balance, equilibrium and muscle tone. My painting of it went through stages. I like the shape, it’s a favorite. It has floral shaped elements which I clean up and eventually leave out for the sake of balancing overall  composition.

Below I start with a general sketch and move to final stage of the area. The painting itself is far from finished.


initial sketch




I always layout more detail thanI keep.


Detail of brain includes ear and the cerebellum in purple

IMG_4391 I notice our yoga practice consists of grounding asanas. We began by standing in tadasana,  firm on the feet.  I wonder now if that’s how the energy of the energy of cerebellum balances. I bet it is.

still drawing the figure in handstand

IMG_3937 This week I focus on detailing the lower extremities, from hip to foot. The legs work to support the physical body. But what about the legs in a handstand? What then?

I think of Gordon – we practiced yoga together for a few years. Gordon was in his early 60’s at the time. He could hang out in handstand and make it seem effortless. Professionally he was a psychologist. He observed people go up into handstand and was always good to offer support – for the body and mind. He often broke it down step by step for me: separate your arms more, press down, use your fingers, take the hips over the shoulder … he’d pause … now kick up with a strong leg and bring your other leg to meet it, don’t take it to the wall (don’t take it to the wall – is key), take the rib cage in, and finally … press up, activate your feet. There were times he’d discuss how fear plays with the mind and affects the body. See yourself in handstand, he’d say. If you succeeded he gave you all the credit. IMG_3938 Now, all these years later, I can – focus and can go up slow and mindful. I feel how the body and joints align.  I hold a handstand for a few seconds, long enough to feel hips above shoulders, knees above hips and feet above knees – energy pressing down to rise up. I sill think of Gordon.

Back to the painting …
Today I detail the legs and think about the joints, muscles and feet. In the original photograph my legs are not symmetrical. That’s my husband offering the support of one hand and that leg – because it is pressing up into it – is muscular. The other is still organic and finding  its way. I could have corrected things in the painting, but I want to be true to the moment. I learn from it. In general, we are not symmetrical creatures. But with a little help we can find center. IMG_3975 IMG_3983

I am going to take a pause now. I’ve worked steady on this painting for a good while. I
want to look at the composition for a few days to decide how I’ll continue.

Back to Gordon …
Years ago, when I was learning Photoshop, I designed a Yoga magazine cover for Gordon because he was so helpful to all of us.
Hey Gordon wherever you are …. thanks! Not only can I handstand but I can also draw myself in one.  One of those activities is harder than the other and I won’t say which.


hot phoenix day = in studio painting

It’s hot in Phoenix. And if that heat’s not enough – I headed to Hot Yoga – early this morning.

I spent the rest of the day very focused, in the studio. I have started a male torso. I reworked areas I thought I’d completed yesterday. I wonder if you can see the changes?

I know I’ve mentioned a 3 person winter exhibit at Mesa Contemporary Arts. Carolyn, Mary and me have launched a blog for the show.  We got the title organized and things are moving smoothly as planned.

Mary was in my studio yesterday.  She’s planning to write about my work.  I’ll be in Carolyn’s studio next week. You can read about our working together at → Formal and Informal.

I already posted a few detail shots from this new work. Go … visit if you’re inclined.

folk arts/yoga…and other news of the day

Sheila's Flower

Friends came by the studio to make flowers this morning.

I was going to write something thought-provoking about arts and crafts.  I planned to put together information about the folk arts.  But it’s been a sad day, despite the fun we had.  AZ Representative  Gabrielle Giffords was shot in Tucson early today. While finishing up our project we got the news.  The tone of the afternoon took a turn.

AZ politics, gun control, the nations political climate, and Ms.Giffords…took over our conversation. It’s not fun being an Arizonan these days. Among the bad news, we continue our connection, finish our plans and clean up. I’m still going to pull the post together, but I’m not going to get too serious about art vs. craft. We had a morning of interaction, creativity, and fun. And the result is a symbol of that.  Still, an historical event is respected and not ignored.


The folks in this case… fellow yogi’s, Dave, Dominique, Sheila and Susan… arrive to the studio to make flowers. Yes, that’s right… yoga and flower making reigned today. My husband hung out with us too.

We’d been talking about doing this for months. Dominique was eager to get going. But holidays and life pushed out the plan.  She was patient. We agreed to organize soon after the new year.

Today’s the day. After morning yoga class…My studio to craft flowers.

I’d sent a list of supplies out earlier in the week.

  • Metal Craft Rod
  • Heavy, yet bendable wire
  • Epoxy
  • Wire cutter
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Scissor
  • Tape
  • Nail, Hammer, Block of Wood (or old phone book in my case)
    oh….and bright, colorful, aluminum cans.

I thought the biggest challenge was going to be collecting enough aluminum cans for six people to make two flowers each. Leave it to Dominique to take charge of the cans. Last we connected, she had some 49 cans. More than plenty. She’d cut the edges off, and nicely set the flattened sheets into a shoe box. Organized our choices.  Thanks Dominique. You so cut our work down, the group will never know. But I know, and my hands, especially tonight, appreciate it.

stacked sheets of aluminum cans

We set up and get going.

We're off to a pretty organized start.

Dominique and Dave...breaking the rules...I mean cutting patterns.

I run instructions by everyone.  Each person has a mind of their own. Not surprised. Though I’ll just say, cause I’ve said it before…a very left brained group of people…once again, in my studio. They listen, mull over details and come up with a more efficient way to proceed. They figure out a new way to cut  petals. Lace them.  Bend them. And glue them. Now… I’m not complaining. I’m simply making note. Creative and smart, two valuable qualities as far as I’m concerned.

Sheila, Susan, and Dominique discussing options....

Eddie and Dave

Focused Susan. Sheila in the background.

A few people…I won’t name names, work in a sort of assembly line fashion. ↑ ↓ While finishing my one, they complete two. I’m impressed.

First flower of the morning…Dominique’s green delight, with blue, yellow and white highlights.

Flowers, for everyone.  What do they represent?  Basically…a Saturday afternoon spent with spouses, friends, music and coffee, tea, cake and tasty breads. Oh…and one cat that wanted in and out the studio door.

As of the latest news, the congresswoman survived, there are 6 dead, including a federal judge and five others (a 9-year-old among them).

I’m home with my husband, wondering…what to be aware of.  Maybe all of it. That’s the yoga.

We learned eventually the congresswoman was shot in the head.

Update: 8/1/2011 – Rep Gabrielle Giffords returns to Washington to vote ‘yes’ on increasing the debt ceiling. She sends out a tweet…The #Capitol looks beautiful and I am honored to be at work tonight.

And the flower making group…I hear everyone kept a flower and gave away a flower.  One person made a whole bunch of them, to keep a few and give a few.

Life continues, the big things and the little things.