Listening - watching
taking a moment
drawing the world
finding the way to connection
again and again.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Three Moments in December

Tuesday the 11th - 

I stepped outside this morning
and heard birds crying faintly far overhead.
Looking up I saw a flock of tiny white shapes
glittering together - and apart - calling out -
a breathing moving shifting form . . .

Thursday the 13th

Sunday the 16th - 

after the news from Newtown . . .

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A New True Nature !

This time last year I was creating the art for the new edition of my book
True Nature : An Illustrated Journal of Four Seasons in Solitude.

Now it has been published in paperback
with sixteen pages added at the end.

In these new pages I offer a way to step through the veil of fear
that can surround art making. . .

Starting with the ease and attentive eye of blind contour drawing -
then letting words arise nearby . . .

Adding a touch of color to the drawing -

Then going for the full process - beginning, middle and end -
guided by the ancient principles of Heaven, Earth and Human . . .

First is the heaven object - expressing the space - simple and vertical - a winter tree.

Then comes Earth - counterbalancing along the ground - lively and textured - the wild vine.

And now Human - a detail - coming in close - the patch of moss at my feet. 

Letting words arise in relation to each brings forth the insight . . .

In the end it's more about what we choose to draw
and what that tells us about ourselves - mysterious and close . . .

Read more about True Nature here

Order a copy

Come to a book signing !

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Finding the way

into the new season -

into the sketchbook.

Before the fields are mowed down

before the rain begins

I walk out with pencil in hand

and draw . . .

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Dance of Light & Dark

Fourth day in the Ellora caves.
I'm warmed up and ready for the full encounter.
I step into Cave 15 . . .

A series of large sculptural panels line the walls.
I walk towards a dyad showing the moment Narasimha - the lion-man avatara of Vishnu -
springs out from a pillar to engage the cruel demon Hiranyakashipu in battle.

I sit down and drawn Alice Boner's Space Division grid on the page,
showing the central focus with radiating lines of energy.

Alice Boner was a Swiss sculptor and painter who lived in India from 1938 to 1978.
Over these years she explored the Ellora caves for months at a time,
drawing and contemplating the sculpture.
One day she began to see an underlying pattern of geometry beneath the forms.
Describing this moment in her journal she wrote, " I felt that here might be
the clue to the mystery that lay hidden below the surface."

Alice Boner's grid gives me some spatial orientation
as I jump into the full battle dance scene,
my pencil and brush moving quickly on the page.
Curious onlookers gather around me . . .

The lion/man-god is gentle, graceful, full of love.
He smiles as he fights and one of his hands rests lightly on his enemy's shoulder.
The demon dances towards death, also smiling, ecstatic, ethereal.
Through engaging with the god, the worst of murderers is released from his sins
and grateful, his horrendous acts forgiven and cleansed.

I finish the drawing - feeling energized by the image. 

I walk over to another large panel scene on the other side of the cave.
This is the god Shiva slaying Kali, in her skeletal haggard dying form.

First the grid goes down on the page -
this one shows the diagonal elements of Time,
the way the figures are moving in the space.

I begin softly with pencil, feeling tentative and uncertain of my ability
to be in conversation with these powerful forms.

A young man watches me quietly and then asks,
"What is your purpose in drawing like this? "
His question is so simple and deep and I light up.
"When I draw I understand the world in a deeper way.
Drawing brings me into to another level of perception. "
He is listening closely.
"Is it the supernatural you are connecting with? "
"I don't know about that. I just feel something settles and focuses
and I trust this place inside me. "

But this time, as I work on, I feel overwhelmed by the intensity of the image -
Shiva is so triumphant and dispassionate,
Kali so horribly deformed, dreadful, collapsing.

A father and his two daughters watch me draw.
Their presence is gentle and calming.
The man points out that I have forgotten to add the restored form of Kali.
I look again and notice now a smaller peaceful female figure on the right side of the panel -
Parvati seated on a lotus.
She is watching it all and waiting.
As something dies there is the promise of a new world.
I add her into the drawing.
Now there is a still point in the chaos where I can settle
and let it all swirl around me.

I end the day with Ganesh - the Elephant-Headed One - the Great Dispeller of Obstacles.
Some of his hands have been broken off.
When I need to know what he is holding I ask anyone in the crowd gathered around me.
They all know the answer !

Here I am at Ellora . . .

And here is a short cave concert by Steve Gorn !


More on Alice Boner - 

Alice Boner Diaries : India 1934 - 1967
Principles of Composition in Hindu Sculpture - Alice Boner

More on Ellora - 

Ellora: Concept and Style - Carmel Berkson
Abhinav Publications, India, 1994, 2002


Thursday, April 5, 2012

In Service

Back at the Ellora caves . . .

(for the beginning of the story see previous posts -

I notice I'm not ready to take on the "big guys" -
the dynamic gods and enormous seated buddhas.
Instead I focus in on the attendants, the guardians,
the helpers . . .

Nandi the Bull is the mount and gatekeeper 
for the god Shiva and his consort Parvati

Later in the day
I focus on the small figures above me - 
looking down . . .

Next morning at the Shiva cave 29
I am completely surrounded by a crowd 
of children from Uttar Pradesh. 
Bright-eyed girls with colorful jewelry and hennaed hands - 
slender boys with sparkling tikka marks on their foreheads - 
all so curious and excited ! 
Many photos are taken as I draw -

At the last Jain cave (32), 
finding a quiet spot . . . 

Everything is about to change - 
(searching everywhere, then pulled into the complex process
of acquiring a phone in India).

But first - for a long moment - 
I just keep drawing - 
absorbed and happy.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In Ajanta

Early in the morning we take off for Ajanta
with our steady driver Takrit. 
Steve and Takrit talk throughout the two hour trip
and I gaze out the window, sketching details of life along the road,
feeling surprisingly relaxed for being in a car in India
(usually a terrifying experience ! )

Takrit drops us off at the parking lot and we line up to ride the buses
that take everyone to the entrance of this World Heritage site - 
twenty-six caves lining the edge of a remote gorge - 
carved and painted between 200 and 500 AD - 
most of the art created during an intense twenty year period and then abandoned
as the looming chaos of war enveloped it all. 
A flowering of painting and sculpture from long ago. 

We begin to explore . . .

The cave walls are painted exquisitely with court scenes
and stories of the Buddha's lives, 
but the spaces are so dark, the images so severely damaged,
just fragments remain. 

My eyes are straining as I try to make out the details with binoculars and a flashlight. 
Finally I settle into a corner of a deep inner chamber
that has one electric light on the large Buddha statue. 
His hands are intact, not broken or damaged, 
and powerfully expressive. 

As I sketch Indian families gather one after another to be photographed
in front of the huge sculpture . . . 

We move along through the caves, 
trying to get a sense of the spaces, and the lives lived within them. 
Did Buddhist monks practice here ? 
Who were the artists ? Who were the patrons ? 
How did it come so quickly to an end ? 

At the last cave I find a small spot to sit and gaze
on the long stretched out body of the Buddha . . .

I'm in a narrow space, with people filing by 
and a guard nearby yelling "No flash ! No flash!"

Even so I'm feeling settled and happy being with this quiet resting form. 
A man stops to tell me about his connection with vipassana meditation
and the centers worldwide. I turn to him and say, 
"Sounds like what the world needs ! " 

I move a few feet down and begin another drawing - 

Now the guard is telling me I have to move on - finish up quickly.
As he stands there waiting impatiently he remarks, 
"Don't you have a camera ?!" 

On the drive back at the end of the day . . .

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Drawing in the Caves

For the last three weeks I have been in India
drawing the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain sculptures
in the caves at Ellora and Ajanta.

I was following in the footsteps of the Swiss artist
Alice Boner (1889-1981) who had contemplated these sculptures
and discovered the sacred geometry within the forms
(more on this later).

The thirty-four caves at Ellora were carved out of the rock
from the sixth through the ninth centuries.
They are shrines within a mountain.
Cave as womb.
Cave as heart.
I begin the process of exploring,
moving from the outer world to the inner . . .

First Day.
Wandering through the stone spaces -
listening, waiting, for the way IN . . .

The whole image of The Mighty Boar (Varaha Avatara)
is too complex for me to take on this first day.
I sit and draw the details -
his great hand, and foot, and snout,
feeling the sweetness of his contact.

Varaha is an emanation of the god Vishnu - the Preserver -
who comes to save the world when some great evil threatens.
Here he has taken the form of the Boar who has plunged into the ocean
to rescue the Goddess Earth and lift her up.

I see how trusting and relaxed she is in his hands -
raised into the clouds - victorious. . .

In the next cave I am drawn to the pillar carvings.
I'm warming up - finding relationships everywhere !

On to Ajanta - next posting coming soon . . .