Monday, July 26, 2010

Art Appetizers By Frederick Franck

I have been inspired by my friend merci 33 over at her blog to squint and peer forward into the dark corners of my studio. She has invited willing artists to envision where they might want to go with their work. It made me realize I needed to throw things into the art/life blender and whiz them up a bit, to stir.things up at a deeper level and to increase some technical skills. You've heard about the first class, the one I took with Mr. Collage, Nick Bantock.

The second class was with the gentle and talented, island painter, Stefanie Denz. She had such a gentle way of coaxing the best out of each of us in the class, of recognizing our style and playing to that. And she spoke in the wonderful language of someone who lives and breathes art. An eraser became a tool of wisdom. And she waxed eloquently about not talking down to our viewers by showing them everything. "We are painting for the people who want to look, who want to see. We want to make it interesting and exciting for them." We were immersed in her quiet world of enormous art books and a vocabulary of colour, shape and space.

If we'd had cigarettes and absinthe we might have imagined we were part of some heady turn of the century Paris art salon. But this being Salt Spring I munched on salad with hemp seeds and smoked tofu and sipped herbal tea which I was in danger of dipping my paint brush into. The hours skitted by like a single breath and the brush of an eye lash.

In the end there was a single thread that tied both workshops together. It was about "awareness". For the slightly brooding Bantock we were connecting with something deeply intuitive and we needed to focus on that inner sense. In class #2 I realized how subtle and unflinching our attention must be to be true to any subject we want to draw or paint, how what our mind imagines we see, is often very different from what we find when we look at an object and truly see it. Stefanie offered some wonderful reminders about our art, that apply to life: "Viewers will believe anything if it is done with intention and awareness."

The tentative line, the fuzzy edges, the absently created background; all the places where we are unsure of, that wetry to skim over and hope will be okay, the viewer sees them all. Perhaps he/she doesn't know why, but work that contains places where we express our unsureness or laziness contribute to an unsatisfying viewing experience. EEk. There we are, artists, standing without our clothes. Some are more astute at reading the terrain of our naked selves and others just get the feeling that perhaps one of our hips are higher than the other or our mind is on the fight we had with our kids this morning. Our attention is requested every moment, over and over, if we are going to create art that speaks of who we really are and touches the heart strings of another quivering being.

So I was inspired to drag out my Frederick Franck books, for he manages to layer the language of art and the dharma into a delicious and nourishing sandwich. Let me end with a little appetizer whipped up by Franck: "Looking & seeing both start with sense perception, but there the similarity ends. When I "look at the world and label its phenomena, I make immediate choices, instant appraisals, I like or I dislike, I accept or reject what I look at, according to its usefulness to the "Me". This me that I imagine myself to be, and that I try to impose on others. The purpose of "looking" is to survive, to cope...... When on the other hand, I see, suddenly I am all eyes, I forget this "Me", am liberated from it and dive into the reality of what confronts me, become part of it, participate in it. I no longer label, no longer choose. (choosing is the sickness of the mind, says a sixth-century Chinese sage.)." from "The Zen of Seeing"


  1. "The hours skitted by like a single breath and the brush of an eye lash." (That's really beautiful.)

    And isn't it amazing how everything comes to life under our unflinching awareness?

  2. yes, I think it boils down to these rich and simple syrups. If we remember only that one thing - awareness - we will live in a more nourished and nourishing way.

  3. How beautifully profound. Yes - "in the end there was a single thread - awareness..." Wow - that says it all doesn't it... "When I see...I forget this 'Me'...and dive into the reality that confronts me..." I am luxuriating in the words, letting them sink in... Thank you!

  4. That's a great question, ZenDot!

    Yesterday, a friend of mine, who used to be an artist, just like I was, engaged me into similar conversation. We both agreed that awareness is the subterranean layer beneath all, and the one that is most interesting to dwell in. Art is only one of many possible expressions out of that deeper place.

    Most beautiful art is one that comes from emptied self. Monet is great example.

    Also, to not be attached to the art process/product. Instead, listening to what needs to manifest. So many surprises . . .

    With much metta,


  5. Beautiful post and terrific comments!

    Mahalo nui loa!