I am helplessly seduced by
solitude, silence, stillness
but sooner or later
I get horny for creativity.
Sutra is a Sanskrit word that can mean thread, (sew, stitches) or spiritual teachings. Since I was on retreat at the remote Krishnamurti Uttarkashi Retreat at the time, both meanings are relevant to this piece.
Walking in the high Himalayan forest I was enchanted by the pieces of bark that would fall from the trunks of huge trees and lie scattered on the forest floor like small sculptures in their own right.
I had no art materials or equipment with me. Everything used in this piece was either scavenged from the roadside, under the trees, beside the River Ganges, or bought in the village market.
340 x 900
Stitching, gilding, assemblage
Khadi paper, hessian sackcloth, threads, river stone, old cotton dhoti, recycled cardboard, tree bark*
*Bark from the Chilgoza Pine – Pinus Gerardiana – which is native to the northwestern Himalayas. The fragments in this piece were gathered in forests near Uttarkashi, northwest India. Chilgoza Pine is a cousin of the Lacebark Pine (a native of northeastern and central China) and is also found in Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan.
watercolor on Arches paper
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
– Mary Oliver
John Daido Loori, Roshi, Think Non-thinking, 2000
Sumi-e on paper
The still point is at the heart of the creative process. In Zen, we access it through zazen. The still point is like the eye of the hurricane. Still, calm, even in the midst of chaos. It is not, as many believe, a void to retreat into, shutting out the world. To be still means to empty yourself from the incessant flow of thoughts and create a state of consciousness that is open and receptive. Stillness is very natural and uncomplicated. It’s not esoteric in any way. Yet it’s incredibly profound.
. . .
“I find myself agitated most of the time,” said a young man, so it’s difficult for me to sit. What would you suggest I do?”
Eido [Shimano] reached for the pitcher of water that was sitting next to him. He lifted it with a swift jerk, causing water to spill. “What can I do?” Then he jerked the pitcher to the right. Again water spilled. “I don’t know what is happening.” Again to the left. “I can’t settle down.” Again to the right. Suddenly he held the pitcher high above his head and in a deep voice shouted, “TIME TO SHUT UP AND SIT!” and slammed the pitcher on the floor. He reared back, stared at the pitcher, pointed at it, turned to the audience, and said, “Look, it’s still.” Again he folded his hands, lowered his eyes, and became silent.
– John Daido Loori, Roshi
Source – both of these passages come from The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life by John Daido Loori, Roshi
In the silence of drawing
hidden, yet visible, in each face
I see the Face of faces,
that the plural of man
does not exist,
is our cruelest hallucination –
see that our Oneness is infinite differentiation,
that the pattern of the universe
that what lives in me
is the Tao
in which all lives.
THIS IS NOT WHAT I BELIEVE
BUT WHAT MY EYES
SAW ON THE WAY.
all these faces, all these bodies,
a meadow, a flower,
a night moth and a cow,
A STRANGER NO LONGER
I AM AT HOME,
– Frederick Franck, The Awakened Eye
Frederick Franck was one of my most treasured teachers. He taught me how to see, how to draw as though my life depended on it, and how to live with eyes wideawake.
My website the awakened eye is dedicated to him and his vision.
Frederick Franck’s to-do list
Frederick Franck, artisan
Drawing by Frederick Franck, Mariakapel