Being and Becoming a Zen Artist
I have been drawing all of my life and painting for the past twenty years. My process has always been spontaneous. For instance I would either draw or paint things from out of my head, seemingly coming from nowhere; or I would draw an object in front of me, something from nature, in such a way as I lost all sense of separation between myself and the object I was drawing.
When I learned about Zen Buddhism, I had this instant understanding. I read about Zen painting and other Zen arts and recognized immediately my own process: ďOh, Iíve been doing Zen art!Ē While the tools and techniques were different from traditional Zen art, the process was the same. This is what Contemporary Zen art is about, using the process of Zen art with the modern media and techniques. With this newfound affinity, I continued to just create, spontaneously. I eventually became a Zen Buddhist priest. As a Zen priest, my main teaching tool is my artwork. Through viewing my artwork, people may come to understand something of what Zen is, about life, and who they are.
My Current Work
Currently I am bringing this Zen art process into multimedia artwork. To represent nature is common for the Zen artist as a visual depiction of oneness with nature. There is nothing simpler. I have always taken a different view of nature, a close-up view. Landscapes were frequently done by the traditional Zen artist, and they were done very quickly, as demanded the media of ink as well as the ever-changing natural environment. My representations of nature have been more focused. Rather than painting an entire landscape, I like to focus attention to beauty that we often overlook or somehow gloss over. So I will represent just a close-up view of a flower, for instance.
When painting directly from nature one must be quick, and I am quick. With oils this means that a painting may take a couple of hours, as opposed to the quick ink paintings which take minutes! However, if one paints from a photograph one has a different experience. The meditative process is the same, but it is as if time stands still. One can go deeply into the object and get very detailed. This takes a much longer time and such a painting may take, rather, forty hours! And at times it seems one could keep adding more details, forever. I have been taking Zen photos, focused in nature, as we are not accustomed to seeing it. These I have been spontaneously playing with digitally with no-thought, as is the Zen way, and finally, I have been painting the results with the long meditative process of bringing out all of the details.
One of my objectives as a Zen artist is to act as a mirror on the world, giving back to the world what is right there but unnoticed. Beauty abounds all around us, no matter where we are, but we tend not to notice it. It is our scenic background, all but invisible as we get caught up in our unreal worlds. I take photos, noticing small things we see all around us everyday. I focus them and make them larger so that we may notice them and they may pull us away, even just a little, from that stuff we consider so vitally important but really isnít so very important. Through these pieces, we may bring the proper focus to our existence, bringing prominence to the natural beauty all around us, as it should be. I take the time to notice and give back that which is given to me.