No gaining

Without knowing anything about Buddhism and with no particular intention to learn about Buddhism (except indirectly) I have been reading and rereading Shunryu Suzuki’s little book “Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind.” I’m on my 4th reading, and truly I find new things inside his simple commentaries with each rereading.

I got the book with the intention of seeing how it might apply to art. The application to art turns out to be very direct and useful. So, one notion found in this philosophy is to become fully active and aware (as much as possible) in doing whatever you are doing in the moment you are doing it. In art this can include the desired elements of focusing on the drawing, but it can also incorporate incidental elements like opening and closing tubes of paint, cleaning brushes, or standing back to look at the painting or at the motif.

Whatever you are doing, be inside it. Notice that you are here now doing this. The idea of no gaining is to let go of results, which is not the same as not having a plan or abandoning a plan, or abandoning standards or any of those negations. You can still have a plan, have standards and ideals, and want to paint a nice picture. However, you make yourself aware how future oriented all those tasks are, and thus focus your attention upon what you are doing now — this line, this color, this impression, and so forth. In doing whatever you are doing now, you can let go of the gain. It’s not that the gain is bad or unimportant. It’s merely that the gain is somewhere that is not “now.”

So one is simply focused on now. It is more focus, not less focus. It is to become part of the line, the color, the materials, the thought process — only in its unfolding rather than in its abstract and hoped for future manifestation.

Or, that’s my understanding at least. My understanding right now. I might understand it differently at some future moment, who knows ….

Time’s relativity

I abandoned my blog. And today I return. It’s been about a year. Well, Delacroix’s notebooks include a 22 year hiatus, I believe, so my neglect is not as bad as his was. Whether I’ll resume regular posting or not matters not. I am living inside the moment!

Above is a little drawing made from a photograph. And below is a little painting I made from the above drawing.

I have a plan. It’s a continuation and elaboration of an experiment I have pursued for a while. The plan is to use photography to practice making landscape drawings, and afterwards to paint using exclusively the drawings. Then once the warm weather returns I hope to venture out into the spring and draw very quickly from life — since I will have practiced beforehand using the photos — make many quick landscape drawings and afterwards paint the landscape from the drawings. Hence the practice is meant to develop a better quickness.

Then I can paint landscape “from life” (so to speak) without painting en plein air and lugging all the paint paraphenalia to some location. It’s much easier to draw from life than to paint — much quicker, much lighter, much less cumbersome and even much more direct.

Does it sound like a good plan? We’ll find out! Until spring I am making many small landscape practice drawings and paintings as well as continuing various larger projects.

Always learning.