The Mirror Exercise
This exercise has consistently gotten real, real fast, and had profound results. Take your time when you approach it.
Our product is visual, but most of us don't know what we look like. We know what it means to portray an emotion like sorrow or anger or bliss with our bodies, but- what about our faces? What about our hands? Do you know what the subtleties of your body language are saying?
Here is what you need:
- A large mirror
- A chair
- Your notebook and any written ideas you've had for your piece
The mirror: so you can see yourself
The chair: so you can use subtle movements and focus on your face, head, arms, hands, without getting distracted by body position
The notebook: so you have ease of mind and can take notes when you need to, and refer to your previous work
Solitude: because do you really want to do this exercise in a crowded studio? This component is non-negotiable. It must be done alone.
To begin, close the door and put on non-disruptive music if you like, or your favorite ambient sound. Place the chair in front of the mirror. Look over what you've written about this work so far, and pick 1-3 words that seem to repeat themselves. What are the qualities you absolutely insist on getting across? What is the emotional context of the work? What are you trying to say in one small moment of this piece?
Choose one. One word. Then sit in the chair, and regard yourself in the mirror. Move in small ways until you have found a position that you feel encompasses this word. Even though you are sitting, your entire posture can be involved. Ribs, spine, neck, face, arms, hands, even the position of your legs.
When you have found it, write it down or find a way to document it. You will need these notes to refer to when you go back to the studio. That will be the magic hour in which you are able to pull what you have found alone, in a chair, into the air and use that subtlety to add layers to your work.
Because trick after trick is boring AF, and you came here to make something that meant something. Use the entirety of your body to say what you've come to say. Don't leave anything unsaid.
A word of caution here- don't hold yourself back, but I also want to recommend that you not rely on caricature to capture your words. It doesn't have to "make sense" it just has to be honest. This is about how it feels and looks for you- not how it is perceived.