Friday, December 25, 2015

Reflections and Projections @ the dawn of the new year - Developing the Body the Right Way

One thing I've done over the last year is to get myself into better shape. I started a program of improved nutrition, fat loss and exercise beginning in May, and I'd say that by now I've developed a good base to work forward from. Lost 30 pounds, built a nice base strength and overcame a few pesky problems with joints that were threatening to prevent me from power lifting. And in doing all this I've learned how the body repairs and builds itself, assuming you're giving it what it needs. It's gradual growth built from small steps taken on a consistent basis. And before any real growth can occur you need to overcome any weaknesses and reach a good base level of health - undo the damage of a lifetime of bad habits. You can't put on any muscle until you've burned off the fat, because putting on muscle requires taking in extra calories, and if you're overweight this will only make you fatter. But - and this was a revelation to me - once you've reached somewhere around 10 to 20 percent body fat, things shift dramatically, and now extra calories will feed muscle growth rather than being stored as fat (as long as you're working out hard enough).

I started off right back in May - full-on fat burning mode and strict dieting, but somewhere along the way I lost sight of that and shifted into trying to build strength prematurely. So now I'm rededicating myself to fat loss as my primary goal, and I've set my deadline - lose 30 pounds by the end of June. It's back to the intermittent fasting and salads for lunch, getting rid of all the hidden calories like condiments and cooking oils. Going low carb and limiting even apples to no more than 2 a day (there's a lot of fructose in there!) I've made December a letting go month in many respects - sometimes you need to let go briefly to get a better grip, and this will fuel a new vigor in the coming year. I've also bought a few books - the Samurai diet and the Paleo diet (which are closely related, and are lifestyle changes rather than simply diets). New books get me fired up and provide new insights and motivation.

Another factor I've learned from exercise is that deloads and refeeds are necessary. A deload is a week spent using less weight than you've been lifting, to give the muscles some time to grow and relax a bit. And a refeed (aka cheat day or cheat meal) is a relaxing of the strict dieting protocols - in other words, letting go briefly to get a better grip. If you don't do this, you'll lose your grip entirely.

I'm going to apply these principles to my art studies.

I've been having a series of epiphanies lately concerning the way I'm approaching learning art. For one, I've been trying to paint digitally with visible brush strokes, because I want my work to look like real paintings, not like airbrush or CGI. But I think it's important first to unlearn the bad habits - to develop that base strength before you can start to move forward.

Meaning I should be learning to paint smooth first. Don't worry that it looks like CGI or airbrush - it's vital to first learn to draw the body accurately in terms of structure, proportions and lighting, and that's best done clearly and straightforward, not messing with artificial brushstrokes that just make everything more difficult and time consuming. I need to instead be paying attention to the overall figure and the composition of the image, starting with the big shapes and working toward the small by stages. After getting a good handle on drawing/painting basic figures and landscapes in monochrome then it's time to start working on the other elements - color and paint handling etc. And I should doubtless learn brushstrokes while actually using a brush and real paint rather than trying to imitate them digitally.

I also need to stop letting my gestures distort and have poor proportions, which is something I learned from Mike Mattesi's Force books. I went to those books because my Mouser portrait looked so stiff and rigid (in spite of being my most well painted piece yet), and I decided I need to loosen up the figure and get a little distortion in there. But here again, I need to go to basics first and learn to draw it properly before I start with the distortions.

So today is the last feasting day (I allowed myself 3 for Thanksgiving and 3 for Christmas - December is so hard for dieting!) and tomorrow it's intermittent fasting and the new stricter diet, but with a weekly cheat meal so I don't lose my mind. It feels great to have a good solid plan going forward into the new year!!

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