my brush is my suijo

 

I’d never attempted a self-portrait

until the day

I drew my breath

 
In John Daido Loori‘s must-have book for artists of all persuasions, The Zen of Creativity, he writes about the way shakuhachi maestro Watazumi Doso Roshi regarded his flute as a tool to monitor his authentic integration with, and expression of, the Life Force.

[The] ability to be free in his music was the result of Doso’s life-long, unrelenting commitment to the discipline of the breath. He actually wasn’t very interested in the shakuhachi as a musical instrument.  He called his flute suijo, which loosely translates as “concentrated breathing tool.”  Doso saw himself not so much as a musician or entertainer, but as one who is totally devoted to developing his life force – chi – by utilizing and strengthening his breath.  The bamboo flute was simply a tool for that practice.  He said once, “Since I must have some way of knowing how my breath is doing, I blow into a piece of bamboo and hear how it sounds.”

The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life by John Daido Loori  (1931 – 2009)

This intrigued me. For many years now, part of my own art practice has been to use a single, horizontal brushstroke to express the exhalation of my breath.  It’s a contemplative practice I’ve written about before on this blog (see the links below), and one that continues – whatever the vagaries of my life.  It’s clear to me that my breathscribe paintings are my suijo, my “concentrated breathing tool”.  They show me how my breath is doing. Which in turn reveals what my mind is doing. And that tells me everything about how my Life is doing.
 
 

Wonderingmind Studio: Miriam Louisa Simons, Breathscribe Series, Desert Breath

 

More helpful advice, this time from Watazumi Doso Roshi himself. It applies equally well to artist and musician, singer and dancer, indeed, to all of us as we embrace genuine authenticity:

So in that sound you have to put in your guts, your strength and your own specialness.  And what you are putting in then is your own Life and your own Life Force.  When you hear some music or hear some sound, if for some reason you like it very well; the reason is that sound is in balance or in harmony with your pulse.  And so making a sound, you try to make various different sounds that imitate various different sounds of the universe, but what you are finally making is your own sound, the sound of yourself.

Watazumido Doso Roshi (1910 – 1992)

 

My outer life has vanished,

but love’s breath still breathes for me.

– Hafiz

 


how many ways can you draw quiet?
California breathing
breathscribe series


curiosity and wonderment

 

If you asked me to choose a couple of keywords to sum up the dynamic that drives my creative practice, I’d pick these two:

curiosity and wonderment

When, on the first day of August, I dreamed up the little project called the daily details, I was just as curious to see whether I’d have the tenacity to stick with it, day after day, as I was to see how far my work would take me – would there be enough images to last the month?

Considering that a large portion of my works-in-hand has never been documented, I was amazed to find that not only were there plenty of details to last the month, there were enough to take me through three months. It transpired that the details themselves ended up driving the project – they wanted OUT. They grew grumpy if I pleaded for a break.

But after three months – 92 postings in all – they let me off the hook, satisfied that a decent overview of the many tracks I’ve explored so far on the via creativa had been gathered together. Followers and friends of this blog have had a break for over a week now; I’m sure they’re as relieved as I am!

Yet curiosity lingers. Now it wants to know which of those 92 posts were the most popular with you, my valued readers. I’m not sure how accurate this selection is – given that I’m aware of friends who followed each posting with enthusiasm but never hit the *like* button, being averse to signing up with WP for their own reasons – but I’ve gathered together the posts that, according to WP stats, received the most *likes*.

August
daily details 27.08.12 daily details 23.08.12 12.08.12 09.08.12
September
07.09.12 19.09.12 18.09.12 30.09.12 21.09.12
October
31.10.12 29.10.12 24.10.12 16.10.12 12.10.12

And now that second little keyword – wonderment – pipes up. It wants me to choose the posts that gave me the most personal satisfaction – the ones that made me think, “Did I do that? Cool.” The ones that have set off little lightning flashes in my mind and generated ideas for new work. The ones that made me remember how much I adore color, texture and making things for no good reason other than it keeps me sane and intimate with something so much larger than the mundane and mediocre. The ones that remind me that, as Frederick Franck told us “The inexpressible is the only thing worth expressing” and urge that I have a lot of expressing to do … and that my time is brief …

01.10.12 18.08.12 27.10.12 22.09.12 03.08.12

Color, curves, edges … and interestingly, painting is the predominant medium. Perhaps there’s a painter in here struggling to have more of a say?


No breathscribe works made it to my grand final. Perhaps that’s because although the series continues (I still breathe my life-tide across canvas or paper) there’s been a shift from the solid straight line. It’s restless; it wants to dance, to celebrate.

I’m exploring a new dynamism, profoundly inspired by the work of a contemporary Aboriginal artist – about whom, more in another post …


curiosity and wonderment [page]
walking the way of wonder
creating from wonder 1
creating from wonder 2
creating from wonder 3


29.09.12

 

daily details 29.09.12

 

acrylics on textured canvas, stitching
[breathscribe-in-progress]


Breathe out, pour yourself into existence.
This is the method of compassion:
Drink in all the suffering and pour out all the blessings.
And you will be surprised if you do it.
The moment you take all the sufferings of the world inside you,
they are no longer sufferings.
The heart immediately transforms the energy.
The heart is a transforming force:
Drink in misery, and it is transformed into blissfulness … then pour it out.
Once you have learned that your heart can do this magic, this miracle,
you would like to do it again and again.

– Osho