Suchness – How is Your Subject Different?


Often times the word “suchness” or “Isness” is quoted in writings about the Zen arts.  And what does suchness mean?

Suchness is what characterizes the subject’s uniqueness among other scenes or similar subjects.  This may not be one characteristic but more likely several characteristics which distinguish it from another.  A landscape has suchness as does a bowl, vase of flowers, person or any object.

Suchness is what is actually taking place at the moment of your interaction with the subject.  It is a statement being communicated by the subject at this very moment as it is in all its completeness, in this instant of reality.

Suchness is about the object speaking to you and saying “Here I am, in this moment in time, I occupy this space for now.”  “I have a right to be here, please recognize me for my uniqueness.”

My painting above of a beach cabin near my father’s house was done many years ago before my study of the Zen arts.  I would do it differently now yet believe it shows the suchness of the place.  The cabin makes a statement saying “I am here!”

Does your artwork communicate the “isness” or “suchness” of your subject?


Theories Have Been Outgrown

Jul 11 005

My quote for today is from legendary American artist, Arthur Dove:

“Theories have been outgrown.  The means is disappearing, the reality of the sensation alone remains.  It is that in its essence which I wish to put down. It should be a delightful adventure.”

To engage all the senses and not rely purely on sight produces work of exquisite sweetness.  This rests at the heart of the Zen arts.

Man is a Thinking Reed


2208 035

My Quote today is from D.T. Suzuki:

“Man is a thinking reed but his great works are done when he is not calculating and thinking.  “Child-likeness” has to be restored with long years of training in the art of self forgetfulness.      

When this is attained, man thinks yet he does not think.

He thinks like the showers coming down from the sky, he thinks like the waves rolling on the ocean, he thinks like the stars illuminating the nightly heavens, he thinks like the green foliage shooting forth in the relaxing spring breeze.

Indeed, he is the showers, the ocean, the stars, the foliage.  When a man reaches this stage of “spiritual” development, he is a Zen artist for life.”

I can’t say I am at this stage although do have a funny feeling that all of nature speaks to me by constantly expressing the truth of the universe.  Can you hear it? Can you see it?

What is a Barrier?

Perspective Drawing with Ruler

We all suffer from a barrier or two as we struggle to find balance in our art and every day lives.  Trying to run away from them is futile, if we do, they stay with us.

Barriers could be fear, hesitancy, anger, prejudice or something of your very own.

The following barriers are sometimes common to artists:

Holding on to an idea, such as being original.  The idea of your work being original can become your own hell.  When the goal of originality becomes your focus, your idea is no longer original.  The artist is merely trying to be different. Originality actually means “coming from the source” and is enabled by craftsmanship, skill and diligent practice, not by trying to stand out in the crowd. 

Being full of ourselves. To be full of yourself creates a boundary completely governed by our feelings and ideas.  When we are full of ourselves, our best art cannot flow, the muse has no space to enter.  Your boundary crowds out her space.

Being attached to our creations. Let your work go with a bow.  This way you release your artwork in recognition of the knowledge and skill you have learned in the process of creation.

If we are over invested in our work, our judgment goes out the window.  We see only perfection and evolution stops.

You are only a temporary custodian of your work,  do it for the world and are pleased to pass it on and evolve through the learning process even further.

Anger  Your work may be dynamic and exciting but in reality it could be filled with anger. The creative feedback group (see previous posts) will hastily enlighten you regarding this aspect.

It helps to paint anger deliberately, feel it and see it in your work in order to become empowered enough to let it go.

Painful experiences. This is a rich place to take a look at yourself and sometimes the only way to get through a barrier is to become the barrier itself. This may be the last thing you want to do.  Becoming cathartic by imagining you are the painful experience yourself then proceeding to work is a powerful way of moving through this barrier. Use of metaphor may also help you put your painful experiences down.

Working with barriers can’t be rushed, it only comes together through time and patience. The creative feedback group (see previous posts) can provide powerful insight into your progress through their assessment of your work.

Do you have any unusual barriers to your artwork and have you a knowledge of how to work with them?  Please comment if you do.

It’s About Trust

2.27 Sunbaking in the Sky 42cm x 59cm3


 When you learn to trust yourself implicitly, you no longer need to prove something through your art.  You simply allow it to come out, to be as it is. This is where creating art becomes effortless.  It happens just as you grow your hair.  It grows.”
John Daido Loori


Come Said the Muse…

Late May 008

My quote today is from the amazing and unforgettable Walt Whitman:

“Come said the muse,

Sing me a song no poet yet has chanted,

Sing me the universal.

In this broad earth of ours,

Amid the measureless grossness and the slag,

Enclosed and safe within its central heart,

Nestles the seed perfection.”

I read into this that among all the technology, chatter, traffic, images, disturbances and fragmentation of everyday life there lies within us the seed of perfection.  This eternal flame is enclosed and safe within our hearts. You are perfect as you are and everything you aspire to be you are already, yet you do not realize it.

How to Participate in a Creative Feedback Group


If you read my last post you would understand why it is important and beneficial to become a member of a creative feedback group.

Here are some tips on how to participate in the group:

  • Have the image placed away from you, it is important not to look at it yet.
  • Make yourself comfortable and completely relax your body starting from your eyes and going down to your toes.
  • Be aware of any tension around the muscles of your eyes and let it go if need be.
  • Focus your energy within then move that energy up to the back of your closed eyelids.
  • Have the painting turned around and open your eyes.  Take a flash look at the image then close your eyes again.
  • Try to see the image in the back of your closed eyelids.  How does it feel?
  • If you can’t remember parts of the image, fill them in even if you think you may have it wrong.
  • Open your eyes and slowly take in the complete image at length.  See how it feels to you, not what you think about it.  What does it remind you of?  How does it feel in your body?  Feelings can be nervousness, excitement or even relaxation.
  • Ask yourself “What is the artist trying to say?” “Am I attracted to some parts more than others?  “Are there parts of the work I find distasteful?  “Should I sit on it and leave my judgment until later?”
  • How does this image feel beneath my feet, soft, spongy, slimy, wet, hard?
  • Are there any sounds or smells I can recognize?
  • Does the image continue beyond the borders in your imagination?

Now you are ready to give feedback.

The group are acting as a mirror back to the artist and their feedback is invaluable.

Do you have the courage to form a committed group to assist your artist friends?  Whichever way, likewise will be returned to you.