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