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Thread: Zen of Creativity Chapter 3 & 4 discussion and prompts

  1. #1

    Zen of Creativity Chapter 3 & 4 discussion and prompts

    Greetings ALL, we are back!

    In these next two chapters John Daido Loori gets into the nitty-gritty of how our zazen practice facilitates our creativity. He offers useful practices to help us along the way.

    Chapter 3 (The Still Point) JDL explores the relationship between a quiet mind brought about through meditation. When quietly present in the moment our intuition opens as does the focus that is necessary for artmaking.
    The still point is at the heart of the creative process. JDL
    He compares the still mind to a mirror. Being in this clear minded state while making art that centered and grounded focus will be present in our creative endeavor. He reiterates over and over the importance of a meditation practice to reach this point of still intuitive focus.

    Chapter 4 (Seeing with the Whole Body Mind) is about perception. He discusses how, in this open state of stillness, seeing / hearing is not only with our eyes / ears but we perceive reality directly, without editing. Because we are human and use language and words and ideas we often do not ‘see’, ‘hear’ what we are looking at, listening to. We apply knowledge, name, categorize what we experience and once we’ve done that we no longer are really perceiving. JDL asks many individuals do we miss in our daily life experience because we’ve stopped seeing and started knowing’
    The classic creative Zen arts were produced from the still point, not depending on the intellect. How the artists, because everything was experienced as new, could produce such fresh amazing work, even depicting the same things.
    How can we as artists achieve this state, he asks. And his answer is practice. This place of pure awareness is available through concentration and focus in our meditation practice. He offers some simple exercises to assist our evolution.

    I feel assured that each of you has experienced at least occasional bursts of pure creative energy in your art practice. Can you share those moments with us? Or is there anyone’s artwork (music, writing, visual) that you feel has this freshness? Kate offers a fine example here :

    An important point that is undercurrent in this book is not only how to be present and focused in artmaking but how to witness art in this same clear-headed, open manner. He offers some examples in witnessing the Zen masters painting calligraphy or being part of a tea ceremony. Try, next time you are going to sit down to listen to a piece of music, read a poem, go to an art museum or art gallery, to prepare as though you yourself were going to make art. See if your perception shifts.
    We look forward to hearing your take on these two rich chapters!


    'Seeing form with the whole body and mind' Master Dogen

    Hello everyone , welcome to our prompts for chapters 3 and 4.
    Strictly speaking although there are two prompts, they both really pertain to chapter 4 – I feel that we have been exploring the link between meditation practice and creativity, which JDL expresses as finding the Still Point, from the beginning of this project, when I first asked that we sit for about five minutes before starting on anything creative. So let's continue with that practice, taking on board Anne's comments above.

    So for chapter 4 I'm proposing two drawing exercises. I say 'drawing' but fear not as this may not be drawing as you are used to thinking about it. It requires no technical or artistic skills, but does require that you are fully present and focused, and that your mind and body are relaxed and ready to be open to a new experience.
    You will need something to make a mark with – a pencil, pen, sharpie, crayon etc, and something to make a mark on – paper, card etc. You will also need something to 'draw', anything to hand that interests you will do – it can be a natural object like a shell or feather, something man made like a cup or a phone, or a part of your own body – your feet and face are actually excellent subjects for these exercises, as I'll show you later in some examples.

    Prompt 1
    'Usually we don't look at anything at all' Chogyam Trungpa

    In this exercise we are going to be exploring what is known as Blind Contour drawing – it's exactly as it sounds, drawing the contours of an object without actually looking at what we are drawing. What is the purpose of this? In the discussion Anne notes how we often stop 'seeing' and instead start 'knowing'. For example, if you are asked to draw an apple on a table in front of you, your conditioned learning and knowledge of 'apples' will contribute to the marks you make, as much, if not more than what you are actually seeing in front of you. When practicing Blind Contour drawing, we put that 'knowing' aside and focus fully on what we are seeing. We don't check back or refer to the paper in order to judge progress or 'accuracy', because actually they aren't relevant – the point is to look.

    How do we do this? As usual, take a few minutes to sit, to arrive at a point where you are focused and fully present. In future I'll refer to this as arriving at your Still Point.
    Take a few moments to really look at your chosen object. See it as it is, not as you think you 'know' it. Look at the shape as pure form without attaching a name or an idea to it.
    Pick up your pen or pencil, and without taking your eyes from the object and NOT looking at the paper, let your eye and pencil simultaneously record the contours you see in front of you. Try not to lift your pen or pencil from the paper, but if that does happen, just reconnect with the paper without looking at it. No peeking!
    When you are done, look at your drawing. It will probably bear no resemblance as such to the object in front of you, but look again carefully – can you see how you entered the space and how the connection between your hand and pen/pencil 'saw' what you were looking at?

    Prompt 2
    'I shut my eyes in order to see' Paul Gauguin.

    In this exercise we take the Blind Contour practice a step further. From the quote you can probably guess how!
    Use the same object or something different if you wish. Have your pencil and paper ready. This time, pick up your object. Close your eyes, run your fingers all over it, again letting go of any concepts attached to naming, and just feel the form. Take a couple of minutes to do this. Now, what you need to do is to touch the object and draw it at the same time. I find the easiest way to do this is to place the object in front of you, run your fingers over it while simultaneously recording its contours with your pencil. Again, no peeking! And again when you look at your drawing, what can you see? How do the marks represent the connection between object, touch, pencil and paper? Can you see how you drew what you 'felt'?

    Repeat these two prompts as often as you want, they are both great ways of exploring the relationship between how we use our bodies and minds, how we conceptualize 'seeing' and learning to really look at something in a fresh way and without 'knowing'. Above all, they are fun exercises – enjoy them!

    Deep Bows from us both!

    Anne and Meitou

    ~we both sat today~

  2. #2
    It's taken me a couple of days to find these, but here are some examples of blind contour drawing that I did for another project, just to give you an idea.

    Blind contour shell
    blind contour shell.jpg

    Blind contour selfie
    blind contour selfie.jpg

    Blind contour flower
    blind contour flower.jpg

    Blind contour hyancinths - eyes closed
    blind contour closed eyes hyacinths.jpg

    Quality isn't great I'm afraid but I hope these get the general idea across.
    命 Mei - life
    島 Tou - island

  3. #3

    I love these! They are so fresh and without self consciousness. How art is at its very best.
    I've not yet tried, must say I'm a bit intimidated (being a control freak). But will!




  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Cooperix View Post

    I love these! They are so fresh and without self consciousness. How art is at its very best.
    I've not yet tried, must say I'm a bit intimidated (being a control freak). But will!



    There's a lot of fun to be had with them Anne, but also they really make you look in a fresher way. I did this one this morning - feet are a great subject because they are so strange ( and conveniently available) - while I was drawing them and noting the shape of the toes it struck me how funny they look, and yet we wouldn't be able to walk without them Amazing really.

    sorry again for the awful quality, taken on an iPad :/

    Last edited by Meitou; 07-10-2019 at 07:44 PM.
    命 Mei - life
    島 Tou - island

  5. #5
    Very good work, Meitou. _()_

    doyu sat/lent
    土友 上人 ... 特別な人ではない

  6. #6
    Ok Meitou,

    I am going to blind contour my feet tomorrow! now that's a challenge. Anybody else?


  7. #7
    Wow, these are beautiful, Meitou. The flower is stunning.
    I am not used to drawing... even in my gardening projects, I prefer building 1:1 on-site 3d string frames and don't do sketches.
    Interesting experience... here is my try on Prompt 2 (Double-blind)

    Kotei sat/lah today.
    古庭 KoTei / Ralf

  8. #8
    Good job Kotei. double blind too!

    I didn't think is was possible to make a drawing of my foot uglier than my foot.

    right foot adj.jpg

    And Meitou yes, you are right it is fun. Good for me to do, letting go of control to do a good job... I kept wanting to peek.
    And yes, looking in that way was interesting as I forgot it was my foot and was only aware of shape and contour.
    Thanks for this prompt, Meitou. I am going to try with other shapes.


  9. #9
    Hello everyone interested in the arts of any kind...

    Robert Irwin is a contemporary minimalist American artist whose biography was written by Lawrence Weschler in the early 80s. (Recently updated version available) The title alone describes what Loori is talking about in chapter 3 and 4. .."Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees".

    In my opinion it is a must read for anyone seriously interested in understanding contemporary/minimalist art. Among other mediums Irwin has worked with light and space to shift the viewers perception. Weschler says Irwin, "one day got hooked on his own curiosity and decided to live it."
    I love that. I believe our innate curiosity is one of our greatest gifts as humans and certainly necessary if we want to explore our creativity.




  10. #10
    Kotei and Anne, lovely explorations! Feet and faces, great subjects made even more interesting in this exercise because we are forced to confront subjects which we think we know very well, but do we? I love self portraiture especially for how much it reveals of the inner person as well as the superficial appearance.
    Anne thank you for the info about Robert Irwin, that title is brilliant and so appropriate for what we are doing here. Please everyone feel free to talk about artists you admire, here or in any of the threads involved with this project.
    命 Mei - life
    島 Tou - island

  11. #11
    Beautiful feet ;-)

    Meitou, your comment on revealing the inner person and face/body confrontation made me think of Paik's TV buddha from the 70s.
    Buddha sitting in mids of his own medial closed-circuit image. The tension between calm asian transcendence and never ending western medial examination.

    Kotei sat/lah today.
    古庭 KoTei / Ralf

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