What is Zen? What is Sho? (Put VERY simply!)
Zen is a sect of Mahayana Buddhism that aims at enlightenment and emphasizes meditation, acceptance of the present moment, letting go of judgmental thinking, etc.
Sho means calligraphy and is an art based on writing.
Zen Brushwork, a type of calligraphy, differs from other calligraphic disciplines because it focuses on achieving mu-shin (no-mind) through meditation. It is the practice and belief that true creativity is not the product of a conscious effort but develops from mu-shin, a state beyond thought, emotions and expectations. For those who are captivated with art, Zen Brushwork can be seen as a form of true artistic expression.
Demanding the highest level of spirituality, the ability to make one’s strength visible in Zen Brushwork comes only through dedicated practice. In contrast to other calligraphic disciplines, which use Chinese characters as a basis, Zen Brushwork is the expression of Zen through a brush, whether the end result is a single stroke, a circle or a painting. Using the principles of Zen, this art form represents the relationship between the mind, body and universe.
Why my Zen Brushworks are not available to the public.
I know that if my Zen Brushworks or other more traditional Japanese calligraphy pieces were available to the public, sooner or later I’d start feeling the pressure to make it aesthetically pleasing. I started practicing Zen Brushwork to help me unwind and stay balanced, regardless of what the end product looked like or if I made mistakes. If I keep these works private, then I keep any conscious or unconscious pressures off. It’s just a personal decision I made and it works for me. I’m definitely not against people showing their Zen art to the public. I bow to those who master the brush as I’m still very early in my evolution of mastering Zen Brushwork.
Influence of Zen Brushwork on my contemporary Zen Sho Collection
The title of my contemporary Zen Sho Collection is more about honoring my practice of Zen Brushwork since it is what initially inspired me to paint contemporary Japanese themed art.
The Zen Sho Collection falls into the decorative contemporary art category and cannot be categorized as traditional Zen art. Actually, some of my paintings can be quite complicated and chaotic. Each of my paintings are influenced by my practice of Zen Brushwork in varying degrees, depending on how “Zen” I can let myself be that day.
My paintings are also greatly influenced by my experiences in Japan which include: hiking in bamboo forests; participating in Hanami night-time celebrations (cherry-blossom viewing) under hundreds of spectacular tree-hanging lanterns; going to trendy clubs in Roppongi (Tokyo); and climbing Mount Fuji to watch the sunrise above the clouds.
Why sometimes my paintings and Japanese kanji characters are repetitive.
I may be inclined to paint the same subjects or Japanese kanji characters over and over again for two reasons.
Reason #1 is that I paint what I usually want to be surrounded by and/or I try to represent my current emotions in a painting… which is pretty repetitive in itself. After the majority of the painting is done, I will look at it and usually pick Japanese kanji compounds that best describe the feeling or thought I get from the painting even though I’ve used the same Japanese characters in other paintings. I’m more focused on the feeling at the present moment, than whether or not I’m repetitive in my kanji use.
Reason #2 is that sometimes I simply enjoy making the same painting over and over again using different angles or colors. Sometimes I do it just so that I can practice different painting techniques.