View Full Version : Zen of Creativity Chapter 10

11-22-2019, 04:56 PM
In creating art, the rule of no rule, or spontaneity, refers to a process that is organic, intuitive, and uncultivated. Spontaneity is inherently human; it is wild and untaught. It is the truth that has no teacher. Nobody can give you spontaneity. Why? Because you already have it. It simply needs to be awakened and manifested. It needs to be realized and actualized. And you’re the only one who can do it. You are the only one who can practice it.

This quote from chapter 10 sums up several chapters in this book so far.

Once again John Daido Loori is describing artmaking as a process that flows, that’s not impeded by thought or judgement. Work produced that can be playful and joyful. And as zazen practitioners we know those moments of flow. And realize that a quiet mind allows the creative spirit to speak through.

As examples of spontaneous creative expressions, JDL describes two Zen painting styles, zenga and nanga. Both offer good examples of how an artist places ink on the paper totally present in the moment. But not all of us are painters. How does this translate to other art methods? For instance, I make things 3 dimensionally. I must think through the seed idea, work out measurements, techniques, materials, where is the spontaneity there? Maybe with the original spark of an idea? But I really don’t know the answer.

Of the dance forms of Japan, the No drama, an art almost without parallel in the world, is one of the peaks of oriental art in which the spirit of Zen is expressed. It is an ultimate expression of ‘movement within repose’, an art in which every aspect- words, music, dance, costumes, stage- have been formalized into one fixed form.
Soetsu Yanagi, The Unknown Craftsman A Japanese Insight into Beauty

As JDL discusses the art of No drama it made me wonder if there are any ‘improvisational’ actors/ dancers/ musicians in our sangha who could address this issue of spontaneity and flow in their art. Or painters, fiber artists, poets? Really how does spontaneity, playfulness enter your art making?

Now a word from Meitou.

Hello everyone and welcome to prompt 10.

In the last prompt we considered ritual and how it interracts with creative practice. This time we are going to consider spontaneity. Can we be truly spontaneous in our creative work? Can we be creative within ritual? What does spontaneous even mean to us?

Some of us may have already established rituals around these prompts. In the past I've suggested that we sit for a couple of minutes before starting an exercise; that we settle into our still point.

Today I'm going to ask you to drop all of that and instead just pick up whatever your favourite medium is and do something completely spontaneous.

I tend to associate spontaneity with moving in a fresh direction, making a leap of faith, trying something outside of my comfort zone to shake things up a little. I suggest that you do this too – consider how you usually practice within your creative field – how could you change that and go for something completely different? I have noticed that while I enjoy external limitations, like only using black and white in painting or photography, or using only materials I have around the house, or taking one word or medium as a theme, I'm also aware that I impose certain internal limitations on myself; I've noted time and again that while I'm comfortable with painting/drawing/collage on an A4 scale or smaller, I find it really difficult to go up in scale.

So for this prompt I'm going to go big or go home. I have an A2 sketch book and to start with I'll use my bamboo brush and ink to get into the flow.

If you are a writer of haiku, why not write a sonnet or a few verses of a Homeric epic? If you are used to planning for a novel, perhaps have a go at some flash fiction? If you usually photograph in glorious colour, change it up to black and white – and vice versa. There are hundreds of possibilities just waiting – make the leap! Have fun!


Meitou and Anne

we both sat today

11-23-2019, 04:35 AM
I going to have fun with this one.


My son walking the tight rope.


Playing tennis.


Flying high.


Funky zebra (love zebras).

Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

11-23-2019, 04:39 AM

Painted lioness.


Paris elephant.


Street Rhino.


Vivid zebra.

Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

11-23-2019, 04:47 AM

Red rose.


Prairie dog.


Bald eagle.


Haunted house.

Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

11-23-2019, 10:32 AM
Wonderful Jishin,

I love the fuzzy, furry animals!

Just briefly - I have a butterfly mind when it comes to art - I guess you could call it spontaneous :)
I have no standard of perfection (not particularly skilled in any medium) and hardly ever really plan
what I'm working on. I like to start from the other way round - mainly drawn to colours/textures of different
materials I have stored in my art room. I think my work is often mood driven but don't really analyse.
But outside of the art space I can be very cerebral. I love ideas, reading, looking, appreciating, thinking.
It all goes into the mix and maybe the mood comes from that and the work - whether it be creative writing, art
or planning my garden.

Sorry - haven't read the chapter yet - not sure if this is relevant - just free associating!



Sat today

11-23-2019, 09:30 PM
Hey Jishin,
So wonderful. What I like about the images is their startle effect. Especially the 'flying high'. Took me totally by surprise! Maybe that's the desired effect of art work that's spontaneous. Nothing you would expect. Thanks for posting.



That's perfect fit for this chapter. TO not be driven by end product but by process, materials, mood. Please, if you are comfortable doing so post some of your work (writing, art or even garden images).



11-23-2019, 11:03 PM
Thank you Jinyo and Anne!

This is a fun chapter.

Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

11-24-2019, 01:04 AM
I have a butterfly mind when it comes to art


Melting butterfly.


Butterfly portrait.


Kaleidoscope butterfly.


Butterfly triplet.

Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

11-24-2019, 05:02 AM
More butterflies.


Melting blue butterfly.


Green butterfly.


Purple butterfly.


Plain vanilla butterfly.

Butterflies rock.

Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

11-24-2019, 08:35 PM
Jishin, these are great! I particularly like that first one of your son on the tightrope, wonderful abstraction, it's a real work of art and just goes to illustrate how much fun you can have when you really go for it and play around with medium.
Jinyo, I think we have a very similar approach. I'm very organic, I like to work with whatever comes to hand on whatever comes to hand, I leave it all out on a table and will wander in at various times and just do something without any planning, although recently I've become aware that there is usually a little seed of an idea in my head to start with that starts nudging me into action. I also really like looking at other people's work, reading, following all sorts of links and leads on the internet - in some way this is very nourishing for me and can actually satisfy my creative urge as much as making something myself. I think I would also describe myself as a butterfly, I really enjoy any kind of creative practice - another thing I've realised recently is that I have always unconsciously brought that into everything I do which falls outside the boundaries of what might be called practising art. In fact there are no boundaries but it's taken me many years to realise that here, as in many things, I fell into the trap of duality - creating a distinction between some areas of my life with others, whereas in fact it's all one seamless flow of not-one-not-two.
I tend to do my best things when being entirely spontaneous, but I know that something inside me resists accepting this work, as if not spending days or weeks over something somehow diminishes its value, or its inherent ability to be taken seriously. This is something I need to think much more about, as obviously this narrative is entirely of my own creation and I'd like to explore it fully; I feel there's strange connection between my confidence in making very spontaneous marks and my lack of confidence in approaching what I might define as a serious attempt to produce something of real integrity. Actually the more I write ( and I'm writing here completely spontaneously!) the more clarity is emerging around this apparent conundrum; it will be interesting to see where this leads.

11-24-2019, 10:47 PM
Thank you Meitou!

Before (pardon the messy room as we were in the process of moving).




Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

11-26-2019, 04:17 AM
A lethal lioness.


Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

11-26-2019, 05:51 AM
A dragonfly.


Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

12-18-2019, 10:01 PM

A pen!

Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

12-19-2019, 01:27 AM
Eye see you.



Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

12-19-2019, 01:37 AM
Jishin, I think that you should give up medicine and just stick with photography, obviously your real gift and calling. :p

I must say that some of your stuff sometimes knocks me out of my chair. Wow.

Gassho, J


12-19-2019, 01:39 AM
Thank you Jundo!

Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

12-20-2019, 07:24 PM
An Eye for an Eye...

Yes! I agree with Jundo. You do have an 'eye' Jishin. Thank you for keeping the conversation alive with your very fine images.

Coincidentally, yesterday I was with a friend visiting our equine buddies when I took this picture. We go almost every Thursday and have so for almost 2 years. I have always (because of early childhood bad experiences) been afraid of horses, so huge and scary. But my friend grew up on a ranch in Colorado and she is almost an 'equine' herself. I now know about their gentleness, and their intelligence and love brushing and stroking them. We visit Jed, an Arabian, Smoky, a Tennessee walker, and Cleo a very sweet and fat donkey. This image is Smoky's eye as he watches me.

You can see me and Cleo and the deep blue of our NM sky in his eye. The world in a horse's eye.



12-20-2019, 08:27 PM
Wonderful image Anne. It’s always fun to try to see what the eye sees by looking at the reflection. :)

Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

12-20-2019, 09:30 PM
Makes me think of this:


Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

12-21-2019, 03:58 AM
Went to the grocery store today. They have great photo opportunities there.

Onion head.

Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__