Thursday, November 19, 2009

Zendots To Zen Squares

If I'm Zen Dot Studio then what happens when I paint squares? Is that a koan? Are these Zen Squares? And what is Zen Squared? Is that a math-ematical equation? Would Einstein know the answer?

We've all said "shit happens" or am I leaping into the realm of giant assumptions? But sometimes fun things happen too! This little painting happened the other day in the studio. I say this because in truth that's how it is sometimes. Things emerge from somewhere and you recognize them as something to work with rather than something to line the bin with. When work goes well I never really feel like " I did it". I am often as surprised as anyone at the end result! Look what fell off the easel. Where'd that come from?

I don't know if you can see but I cut little squares of words out to add in. Come on in for a closer look. Little words like meditation and happiness, and self and faith and see and kindness and few more. Something about it made me think "encaustic" and because I don't work in that medium I decided to do a little kamikaze encaustic. I melted some beeswax and applied it to the surface. I used an embossing heat gun to smooth out the wax and called it done! For me there's a retro feel about it all but also a feel of film stock and pixels. These little squares are just jumping around. Also there is a sense of the ethereal, of mystery and foreigness too, maybe French. Someone on one of the art blogs was talking about getting sound or taste relating to colour, for me it's just feeling.

And where is the Dharma for me in all of this? I am really relishing taking back my studio from the clean state of ever preparedness for the real estate market. And two observations come to mind. After a long period of not much studio time I seem to have more creative energy. It's like it was a dormant, underground period that was helpful. It wasn't like, oh I haven't been working, now I'm stiff and arthritic and I need time to limber up. Quite the opposite.

And that is the mystery I think. We never know what will happen. It is about relinquishing expectations and control and just being with what is. And well tomorrow who knows what? Maybe everything will come up black smears and brown lumps. Where I do have choice is in how I view it. Barry over at the Ox Herding Blog once said something that really struck me, "we're always saying things like "expect the best but be prepared for the worst." Why don't we prepare for the best?" he suggested. Something about that reminded me of a saying my Zen teacher has:"look up".

From a lot of the reading I've done on the human mind, it seems we're a hard wired to "look down" or at least behind us to see what's chasing us. It takes a conscious effort, a turning of the mind (at least for me) to expect the best and look up. It's subtle and it's something I find I need to be constantly vigilant about. That old monkey mind is a busy little customer, that often likes to fling you-know-what at anyone who might decide to enter the temple. And if we know that's what monkeys do, well then we don't have to get too excited about it. We just use whatever skillful means we know to send them on their way. Or maybe we just enter by a different door? Happy monkey hunting. And be careful, I hear they have been known to bite.


  1. sometimes squares happen...sometimes the best happens....maybe sometimes the monkey throws rose petals...
    I enlarged your painting and really like the pairing of the words with the squares and image!

  2. Hi ZenDot,
    Great image! All those squares are like the gazillion facets of a person, a buddha. I love the musical, dancing feeling of them all pinging together, yet not being anything solid. The texture is really wonderful up close, like each square is painting in itself!

  3. Thanks to you both for stopping by. Leslie: Monkeys throwing rose petals, now why didn't I think of that!

    It's always nice to get art feedback from artists whose work I really feel a kindred connection with. You both write about art from that deep, spiritual place and create work with that has an Asian and simple flavour I love so much.