Sunday, 27 February 2011


It was a beautiful Spring like day today, the birds were twittering and all was well. I went down to Brightlingsea for a walk. It's the perfect place for a little bit of me time, time for reflecting. 
Sheltering from the wind in a beach hut porch, I watched the world go by. People marching up and down, chattering noisily, kids throwing stones in the sea, dogs with ears flapping, seagulls screeching.

The light is always so wonderful down there and I love to just sit and watch the clouds rushing through the sky. I was struck by the strong horizontal and zig zag lines the sea, sky and sandbanks were making. I shall use those elements in a painting. 

.....By three thirty all the noisy people had gone and I was left alone to feel the quiet. Muses..... want to rent a beach hut here for the Summer, so I can paint, or just sit. 
The cold begining to seep in now *Ching - idea* Tony will know someone who will know someone who will let me rent one, ........saunters off for a warming cup of tea with him and to listen to a few more of his stories of life on the high seas.
The sun was setting over the field as I reached home.....what a lovely day. Thank you.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Damp squib

I'm not sure how I can manage to take three photos at the same time and get three different results...? !
Admittedly I did use the flash once.....but the difference is extraordinary. The closest to the original is this one below......sort of bluey grey tones, but that's not quite right.  Hmmm. I suppose it could be my laptop that is not giving a true impression either. Hey ho, onward and upward.

The mind is exactly this tree that grass
without thought or feeling both disappear - Ikkyu

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

In the flow

nobody understands my not no Zen Zen
not even that crow's shattering bleak scream got it. 
Ikkyu 15C

Ace photographer Dave very kindly has given me some of his crow photos to use as models! This is the first I have used. The crow is in such a wonderful shape, such movement.....coming in to land. Today I used pen and ink to try and achieve a more scratchy look. Calligraphy makes up the body and background. Illegible, but endless thoughts scribed in a continuous flow. Not really thinking what I'm writing but letting the words form, one after the other. A running commentary of what is in my head.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Murder on the dance floor

Why are are group of crows called a murder? Answers on a post card please.
It's harder than I thought catching the character of a crow. I have spent this afternoon making sketches from a few photos I took the other day. Also been flicking through books. I want my crows to look scruffy, like the ones portayed in Native American art, rather than like the sleek oriental birds sitting in Cherry blossom. I love the way their wing feather tips curl up at the ends like fingers, and their untidy neck feathers.

 There is Buddha Nature only when a swan is white, a crow is black, a human being is a human being. - Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

I used my calligraphy brushes loaded with cheap poster paint on lining wall paper to rough out some shapes. But the lines are too smooth, I want them to look more frayed. Not altogether successful, so more practice me thinks !

Monday, 14 February 2011

Searching for crows

"clouds very high, look,
not one word helped them get up there"
— Ikkyu (Crow With No Mouth)

I went out searching for crows today. The light was beautiful. One minute bright sunlight and blue skies, hinting at the promise of Spring. The next the sun behind a cloud and the East wind reminding me Winter was still lurking. I have a fascination with crows, their glossy black feathers, always suspicious and hinting at something other worldly. Crows feature strongly in Zen poetry and as I am reading Crow with no mouth at the moment, are very much in my thoughts. Ikkyu was a pretty eccentric 15C Zen Master. I love his take on life, his poems/koans are witty and insightful, if a little salacious for most of them to be  repeated here!

"don't hesitate get laid that's wisdom
sitting around chanting what crap"
— Ikkyu (Crow With No Mouth)

The text below gives a little insight into Ikkyu taken from here

I wish I could convey, even a little, the pith and gist of Ikkyu, the mad zen monk also called Crazy Cloud. There is a sense, in the few reliable accounts of his life, of an improbable wholeness to him. In anecdotes documented in the temple records that chronicle both his enlightened activities, and the frequent scandals he enjoyed, there is this: a consummate practitioner and instructor of ikebana, of calligraphy copied across Japan, and the four line verse form he used for his startling naked poetry; a denizen of taverns raucous with "lower companionship", and a well known guest of brothels, where he fled when the "stink of zen", a term for the orthodoxy and piety he found as the head of Daitokuji, a revered temple in Kyoto, overwhelmed him. At the age of 77, Ikkyu fell ass-over-tea-kettle for a 20 year old blind girl, with whom he spent years. His writing about that affair, like all of his published verse, is naked, unsentimental, tender and unsparing. He clearly conveys the foolishness he felt, an ancient zen goat yoked to a beautiful young girl, but also a moving fealty and gratitude for her companionship. The poems of lust are as explicit and celebratory as any produced by Henry Miller or Allen Ginsberg.

This life, embracing long retreats to a hermitage, impressive benders in bars and brothels, disgust with religion and unsullied devotion to his own master, appetites equally large for both worlds, interior and back-alley, is amazing enough. That it was lived from 1394-1482 in feudal Japan, that he was the precocious son of an Emperor who often preferred the company found in rural taverns, that he received inka [the formal seal of recognition of enlightenment from his master, qualifying him to head a temple] , only to burn it when in his forties, disgusted with his temples' catering to the privilieged, seals my regard for him.

His enlightenment, brutally tested and tried by the lineage masters above him, occurred when he was walking a country road and heard a crow call.
When temple bureaucrats were searching for the often eloped Ikkyu, he'd say "Look for me in the Red Light district

Friday, 11 February 2011

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Crow with no mouth

Expressive painting is a great tool for freeing up the mind. I needed to just doodle today. Not to try and work towards a finished piece, but to just make marks and see what happens. I use this method in my 'Unlocking Creativity' Workshop (see sidebar for details). Its tremendously energizing and often new ways of working suddenly appear. So today I spent an hour slapping paint on, taking it off, covering over bits and scraping away. Images started to appear out of the black. Crow came to mind, so that's what I did.

"I'd love to give you something
but what would help?"
— Ikkyu (Crow With No Mouth)