Thursday, August 12, 2010

From The Shadows

This little 8x10 was an experiment (isn't all art?). I love creating textured and layered backgrounds, scratching and rubbing and working the paint. So after the layers of brown and green and yellow had gone on and dried I sat down in front of the canvas and closed my eyes. When I opened them, images suggested themselves from the background: first the moon and then the reflected moon, then the Buddha in the foreground. I closed my eyes and looked back again. And so on and so on until I had a host of shadowy figures. I thought of how sculptors talk about looking at a piece of stone until the form makes itself known and then their work is to release it.

This is a darker, more ethereal work than usual and in a strange way it painted itself. The process was a further exploration of trust and faith that I talked about several posts back; trusting that if we wait and listen something will come. It might not be what we expected, but something authentic will make itself known. ( Trust is also a focus for August over at Donna Iona Drozda's blog).

In our (my) usual rush to fill up the uncomfortable void where we don't know what's next, I generally trod over this delicate part of myself, me of skeptical self, of unexplored trust. So there was a slightly uncomfortable relationship with both the creating and with this dark, shadowy image that emerged, but there it is. I suspended judgment and called it done.

I have been enjoying the post retreat posts (does that make sense?) over at 108zenbooks, ones asking us to dig a little deeper, asking questions like what life sentences have we given ourselves. How do we hold ourselves hostage by the stories we tell ourselves or the ones we have accepted that were told to us by others? We create the self as a solid entity, almost by accident. For the most part we forget to tell ourselves the story of our Buddha nature, of our kind, generous, talented and wise inclinations.

And so this little painting reminds me that the shadow is the necessary accompaniment to light. It is always there even when we don't notice it. If we pay enough attention and suspend denial we might learn something.

All this talk of darkness and light makes me think of The Sandokai by Sekito Kisen recited in Zen monasteries. Here is a small portion of the poem relating to light & dark: May it shed some light.

Within light there is darkness, but do not try to understand that darkness;

Within darkness there is light, but do not look for that light.

Light and darkness are a pair, like the foot before

and the foot behind, in walking. Each thing has its own intrinsic value

and is related to everything else in function and position.


  1. what an interesting process-- to sit and close your eyes and then open them and paint in the image you see- like meditation painting-- pulling out what is personal and going with the first impressions- wonderful!

  2. This is so beautiful. I read it last night and was deeply moved. The fearlesness in this process is vivid and the painting holds it with a deep light. The Sandokai is one of my favourite sutras to chants and, pendulating between the shadow work of the retreat and the glaring light of the New Mexico landscape, it had a particular resonance for me. Deep bows, Carole!

  3. This is a very mysterious image. Very profound. And one that opened doors inside of me. Which doors, I am not exactly sure. Into where, I don't know. And that's the whole point.

    Thank you for sharing. I hope your will keep on exploring. Such a gift to others!

    With much metta,


  4. oh my, i do love this piece... wow... that figure on the far right feels especially alive and vibrant to me... thank you for the links!

  5. I love this painting and your process in creating it - "waiting and listening." I am drawn into the painting, like an invitation to see beyond - like a portal of awareness into seeing differently. It's very inspiring - stirring something in me. It obviously comes from a very authentic place...

  6. Buddhas in the Mist ^^
    I love it, really nice!

  7. Not filling that void is always hard to do. I enjoyed hearing about the journey you took in creating this painting. I tend to think about a painting I'm working on when I am falling asleep. Ideas come to me that way when I am letting go.

    And so true that light and shadow need each other.

    wishing you a good week.

    also, I created an etsy treasury with one of your buddha art works.

  8. Metta'
    Here is my pick from this post:

    "asking questions like what life sentences have we given ourselves. How do we hold ourselves hostage by the stories we tell ourselves or the ones we have accepted that were told to us by others?" this the 64,000 dollar question or what?

    Your experimental painting brings a grounded serene strength to my mind's/eye. Not surprising since it is your work...done with eyes open or meditatively closed ;-)
    Brings Beauty.

    Merci for including a link to the Luna See.

  9. Thanks Dharma friends for stopping by, adding encouragement and wise commentary. It is such a valuable part of the process, Ahh, for cyber Sangha!

  10. Cyber Sangha.
    I love it.
    That is what it is isn't it.


  11. Your work is beautiful. I love to paint this way as well ... just show up at the canvas and paint/allow what wants to be born.