a little bit about the process of paintig Lao Tzu... the process in general

April 16, 2013  •  472 Comments

the process is one of integration so as to live wholly, with exploration and discovery. The  art made made as the result of it is the reflection of it, made visual so as to express/share with others. Though I have been drawing pictures before I learned to write the alphabet, it was in adulthood that I would come to have intention in art, after I had defined it for myself. This occurred organically as the result of being a typical individual drowning in the suffering of their neuroses, and fortunate for myself turning to that innate practice of drawing that came naturally to me. In this way art would be defined as a practice as to go within, and express without (outwardly). This has been the integrity of the practice, and I have held my ground at all costs to not compromise it. Though admittingly in a culture of of constant temptation and manipulation to which we are all vulnerable to, I have had my moments of confusion and doubt. And so to make the transition from such a practice into a career is one of creative mystery. But such is the essence of art itself, and I admire anyone that attempts to walk down such a path. To create a system of his/her own, as opposed to living within one created by another. Ultimately, to take responsibility for one's existence. Digressing back to the process, my recent piece is of homage to Lao Tzu. He is remembered for writing 'The Tao te Ching', which is a magnitude of wisdom that expresses the ineffable beautifully. The ineffable being the source of life and living, and how to live truly accordance with it harmoniously. What is described in buddhism as enlightenment, living in the true reality of the world as the result of knowing the true nature of the mind… liberated, free from suffering. I love how Lao Tzu uses nature as the resource to learn, and express poetically from. So this became the starting point from which to begin the homage, the process of making the piece. I would go into the mountains of Big Sur California with friends Chris and Claire, packing minimally having only clothes, sleeping bag, and food. We would hike a total of 20+ miles in a few days, resting in a natural hot spring, swimming in the river stream, eating vegetation on the trail, studying geckoes and snakes. All of this would lead to the reflection of harmony. How in nature all work inter-dependently and how even when humans come inhabit it though briefly, they are transformed into this pool of harmony. Every hiker we came across greeted us, and us them. At the heart of being human, is to be happy. It is what we all want. It is the motivation for much of our actions, for living itself. But how in our ignorance we become lost, confused and only bring ourselves suffering. So again in the process of this piece for example, to achieve/experience happiness requires one of harmony as well. I could easily google an image of Lao Tzu, go thru a painting exercise with a movie on in the background, paint feverishly till its done, frame it, put it in a show, and finally experience happiness if it sales.  This seems typical, but this is the reflection of a typical quality in this culture. Avoidance of the experience of nowness. And paradoxically if one care for the result of the expression itself (the painting), the deeper the experience of the process the richer the result. I see art uncompromisingly refelctive of the creator in this way. If the artists concern is money, it will show. If he/she is obsessed with the opinion of the viewer, it will show. If the artists believes authentically in a god, it will show. I've always felt there is a difference between the person that climbs mount everest and then sits in the studio and paints an apple, as opposed to another that never leaves the studio and paints the same apple. A lot of this reflection comes back to how to  live. Not to live in quiet desperation, but to live truly. And in art, there is the opportunity to contexualize such ideas. When I was doing the writing for the piece, I found myself in the middle of a battle between inner critic and inner child. The pen was not working well after I had written much text, and I began to become frustrated. Trying to control the situation, not willing to use another medium to write. I let go, and would use color pencil and other pens that didn't match the original. The frustration had left. I even misplaced an entire sentence, the critic came, and the child crossed out the sentence simply starting over. Harmony began, and the words would write themselves. I was once obsessively concerned with the result of any piece, but have allowed myself to let go more. This isn't a practice of trading quality for sloppiness, rather it becomes a practice of accepting myself truly, having faith in my own being and allowing it to come out. And in doing so, it is like a child seeing the ocean for the first time and the process is one to play in. And again, the result is that much richer in the documentation of this play, not perfection. Right after finishing, I would have the piece photographed by Don at Almac in the city. I love Don, but he never expresses any real insight to the art. He photographs everyones work in the city, and the most I've ever heard him say is "wow". So when he saw 'Lao Tzu', he said 'you know what that looks like… (long pause).. his head looks like the universe. (him smiling) I like how you did that'. I mention this, for the beauty of the universe as a metaphor as the miracle of life was one of the aspects that I thought/wrote in the text. And so from beginning when the inspiration to create occurred, to the end when it was finished and photographed was there a complete experience. One in which harmony was allowed to exist, and one in which was an experience of life itself in its richness resulting in the uplifting of my well being.  Our lives can be so much more of what we make of it, simply with a certain understanding. "The Tao te Ching" holds the knowledge for such an understanding. My hope in any of this, is that the viewer will experience such fulfillment, such uplifting that is always available to all of us. Thank you. "Homage to Lao Tzu", 12"x16", watersoluble oil on wood, 2013


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