Contemplation – The Definitive Guide for Intelligent Artists

motherland calls study

As artists we use many mediums.  One we take for granted is that of contemplation.

I define contemplation as a withdrawal of attention from the outside world and a total focus and dedication of the mind.

Contemplation requires the ability to see intimately and without distraction.  As an artist, you transfer by way of the creative process, what you actually saw, heard or read in great detail.  You transfer not what you think was the experience but what actually was.

As a musician, painter, poet, writer or other creative, you have a conditioned mind which naturally engages you to communicate with the world of reality in your own special way.

The greatest block to contemplation is our impulsive way of identifying and naming things.  Once we have defined an object or experience with a name, the way we perceive it changes.  Our perception stops once we have a name for things because we think we know it from our past experiences.  At this point, we stop seeing its qualities and the process of perception is lost.

In the process of contemplation, you look upon an object or situation as if for the first time.  That way, it always seems fresh and new even if you have encountered the situation previously.

Here is an exercise to help you experience without identifying.  Ideally, this exercise will take about 10 minutes.  The idea is to experience objects in the way of Zen, i.e.  see, hear, taste, touch, smell without identifying or naming.

  • Place several small objects on a table.
  • With your eyes closed, choose one of these items
  • Explore it with your hands, keeping your eyes closed.
  • Feel the object but avoid identifying it.
  • Continue this process until you think you have discovered all aspects of the object, shape, angles, texture, softness, hardness, sharpness, smoothness, smell etc.
  • As thoughts arise, acknowledge them, let them go and return to the object.
  • After a few moments, return the object to the table and put everything away in a container.
  • Repeat the process every day or two or when you can.

Eventually you will become skilled at experiencing objects without identifying them.  This can be done with visual and sound images also.

You may not realize it but eventually this way of experiencing objects will translate into the way you express yourself in your arts practice.

Do you have any experiences of seeing something in a different way, as if for the first time?  I would love to hear from you!


How to Use All of Your Senses to Capture the Unforgettable

Cycling t shirt screen print

Today I will talk about Zen ways of seeing….

Do you wonder why only one or two images, paintings, poems or musical pieces stand out from the hundreds, perhaps thousands you encounter?  What has this particular photographer, artist, poet or musician been able to capture to make the experience unforgettable?

The answer is that he has seen, heard, felt with his whole body and mind.

The other artists were creating using only one of their senses, their sight – one aspect of our expression alone.  We seem so dependent on seeing that we tend to ignore communication from the other senses.  I wonder what would happen if you were to converge information from all your senses?

For example, when you stand atop a headland looking outwards towards the sea, you see the dazzling colours of the sky, sand, ocean, clouds and foreshore.  You see the shapes of the clouds and the waves; there is so much visual information for you to ponder over.  At the same time, you smell the clean salty air, feel the cool grass beneath your feet, hear the sound of the waves and the wind rustling in the trees.   Your complete experience of the scene is governed by all of these sensory experiences.

You risk missing the heart of what is actually being experienced when you become locked into your sense of sight.  This is true for photography, poetry, painting, composing and whenever you are inspired to create from your worldly experience.

Experiencing this whole body way of seeing on a daily basis will touch the sacred dimension of your life.  To make direct contact with reality in this way is a whole new way of attending and experiencing.

Using all of your senses to create results in unique, fresh, alive and fulfilling work even if you revisit themes used thousands of times before by others. This is liberating, especially when people tell you “everything has been done before” –  not exactly true.


This exercise will take no more than 5 minutes.

Take an item from your household.  It can be a teacup, a small ornament or something not too large.  I did this exercise with a fan shell I found on the beach.

Forget the name of this item and experience its physical presence.  There is no need to judge it as good or bad, attractive or ugly.  Evaluating or analysing this object in any way takes away from the experience.  It is not necessary to name or understand what is being experienced.  Just feel the object, see it, touch it and experience it without your mind moving.

When a thought pushes your mind out of the stillness, acknowledge it, let it go and come back to the object.

By regularly doing this exercise, you will be surprised to notice your attentiveness and awareness will heighten in other areas of your life. Little things you have not noticed before will jump out at you.

Courage – Daily Therapy for Artists



“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!  Live the life you’ve imagined.  As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”  Henry David Thoreau


Lost in the Music

Xmas 2012 002

Today’s quote is from T S Eliot..

Music heard so deeply that it is not heard at all, but you are the music.”

I can think of times when I have listened to music and my self disappeared.  I was lost in the music and became one with it.  This quote is worth thinking about.  Can you remember times when you were the music?

Secret Artists’ Business – How to Paint in Oils Without Toxicity

toxic studio 2 004

Would you believe I did this oil painting with no linseed oil, no solvents, no mediums of any sort and no tube paints?

Yes, it’s true.  It is possible to paint in oils without breathing in any fumes and if the room is not well ventilated, that’s okay too.  I will explain…

The most toxic thing about oil painting is the linseed oil.  Nobody tells you this and because it is a natural substance, everybody thinks it is not toxic.  The fumes from it are harmful and skin rashes are common. I have been made very aware of this by having a blinding headache and feeling fatigued after using linseed oil.  I solved the problem by inventing my own way of painting in oils.  I will explain my process.

Firstly, I purchased powdered pigments from Blick Art Materials,  I ordered a warm and a cool of each primary colour plus one black and one white. You will find them under the letter “P” for pigments. I chose the Sennelier brand because the pigments are rich with a great depth of colour.  Blick Art Materials were great to deal with and the parcel arrived very quickly.

Town 021

Next, I purchased a bottle of safflower oil.  I tried to find food grade but could only find organic but this is not necessary.

Town 022

Next I put a small amount of the powdered pigment on my palette and mixed it with the safflower oil.  I made a runny consistency to start the painting off.

Town 027

Mix it well to take out the small lumps that will appear. The rule of fat over lean must apply as with oil painting generally.

Next I applied the paint.  Make sure you mix the powdered pigment and oil together well otherwise it will become clumpy.

Town 029

Next I rubbed back the paint into the canvas with a cloth in the Sfumato style which I like.  You don’t have to do this but make sure the paint is very lean for the first and subsequent coats.  You can use thicker paint as the work progresses.

Town 030

Don’t forget to clean your brushes with Eucalyptus Oil as per my post in the “Way to a Non-Toxic Studio” category.

Here is a picture of another work completed in this way. The drying time takes a little longer than traditional oil painting depending on the thickness of the paint although this can be a good thing.

Australian Artists 011

Cleaning up is a piece of cake. There is no need for turps or solvents or any kind.  I sometimes use a disposable palette but mostly glass plates from my kitchen to mix colours.  As there is only oil and pigment on the palette, just wipe the plate clean with a disposable kitchen towel.  Easy!

To clean your brushes refer to my previous tutorial on how to do this in a clean non-toxic way.

PS Always use a mask when blending powder pigments.  They are not the best when inhaled and the powder sometimes floats in the air when you cannot see it.

Stop Thinking and Talking About It

Auction Album 2 033

“Stop thinking and talking about it and there is nothing you will not be able to know.” Zen Paradigm

I have tried this and it is not easy  We seem to have a virtual conveyor belt of thoughts coming at us 24//7/365!  I guess it is up to us to pluck the thoughts which can most benefit us with good feelings and let the others zoom by.