Saturday, October 17, 2009

Painting Your Life

I've been promising a new painting. So finally here it is. It is new territory for me in lots of ways. Stepping out into the unknown is always a good thing in the creative process. It shakes things up. And if you're lucky you might even be pleased with the results. But as my Zen teacher has said to me about life choices, just because you don't get the results you want, doesn't mean you did the wrong thing. You decide in your heart what you want to do and are guided by those well thought out intentions. The results are simply that, results, not a measuring stick that we beat ourselves up with.

It is my experience that many of the same rules apply to life that apply to painting. Playing it safe is easy. But eventually that gets boring, the process and the end product. It's easy to end up stifled and trapped in the same old pattern, without even being aware of it. And then maybe a light goes on. Or maybe as in this case, some comments, observations and suggestions led me to a try something new. Not to say repetition is bad. As in practice you often need to repeat things to refine them. But that doesn't negate exploring new territory.

And sometimes you paint something awful. That's life. Crappy stuff happens and eek there it is on canvas! Maybe we have the luxury of tossing it before anyone sees it or painting over it. But we need to have the courage to go to the kingdom of squirm and wriggle, to keep company with our discomfort. I read somewhere recently that a real measure of our practice is can we bear insult or feeling humiliated with some measure of grace or equanimity. Maybe that is the purpose of our bad art? To help us learn how to do this?

In the same way that we need to remind ourselves that we are not our thoughts, I think we need to remind ourselves that we are not our art. It has arrived in the world through us, it is not us. If I can understand this at a deep level I am truly free to create. I don't need to judge and be self conscious and measure and weigh what I create. Will people like this? Will they think I'm a talentless lout? Will they laugh behind my back? Ah the insecurities of the little self. But if we don't identify too strongly with what we create, if we're not too attached to it, it's not a problem. We can look at our work in a more objective way. We are freer to edit, modify, and learn from what we've done. If not we simply feel defensive and protective of ourselves and our work.

So while this painting is not wildly different it is a departure. If I am honest I will admit I feel a bit naked about the primitive quality of this painting. Maybe it will evolve into a new, personal style or maybe it's a dead end? Who knows. Time will tell. Instead of painting the usual painted, hand stamped squares I have collaged the entire canvas with different papers and then added paint. Green Tara is a new subject and I have added her mantra in various places. Can you see it? It's kind of like the "Where's Waldo?" of Buddhist painting. I often go back to a painting later and modify what I initially think is finished. So who knows what it will look like the next time you see it? I find that time gives more space and distance, a better position to edit from. So these are the places where art and life and practice intersect for me. Really we are all our own works of art any way. We just tend not to see ourselves that way. Are you a painting or a song or perhaps a novel?


  1. Lovely. Green Tara is such an inspirational subject matter. The piece is beautiful ... very feminine.

  2. I have come back to view your Green Tara several times and I love this new look :) I love the color scheme combination. But mostly I was taken by her eyes. For me it is the inward gaze that I see, the looking toward the Heart, allowing the Heart to guide her.

    What I also hear you saying in your post is it's about living outside our comfort zone, whether it's in our creative expression or in just living itself. Living outside of what is familiar and comfortable - even the known path of our "spirituality" that we follow... Just allowing the Heart to guide us...

    It seems "Tara" is speaking bundles to me today - through art and word :) Thank you...

  3. Beautiful post. Beautiful painting. Beautiful you. Thank you:)

  4. Hi ZDS!

    This is a wonderful wonderful picture and post! Thank you! I especially liked all the text used in the picture, it gives it real feeling of Tara emerging from the chants and mantras. Thank you.

    By the way, my oldest and closest friend, Colin, who also lives here in Bangkok, is also an artist. He reads your blog and is very much inspired by your work (so much so he recetly started his own blog after seeing yours) and he'd like to send you a picture in gratitude if that is possible.

    (He'd be writing this himself except that he's sometimes not very comfortable on the Internet and asked me to do so on his behalf).

    Now, I don't want to appear like some kind of stalker here (wouldn't that be funny - 'Marcus' Journal' stalks 'ZenDotStudio'!) so I'm not going to ask you for your address! But I guess you must have some kind of mail contact through your art business to which he could send you his work.

    Leave a message on my blog with the details if you like. I won't publish it for the world to see, I'll just pass it on to Colin so he can send you the picture he has for you.

    All the very best again,


  5. Thanks so much for all the fine comments! Ah warms the heart. I am especially amused by the "Marcus' Journal Stalks ZenDotStudio" Looks like a headline for a Buddhist Tabloid, don't you think! I am charmed and would be most delighted to receive a picture from Colin! What a treat! I love stories of inspiration!

    bows to all,

  6. Thank you ZenDotStudio! I got your message and will pass it on to Colin today. All the very best, Marcus _/\_