Finding the Art in Everything

31 March, 2010

New Notebook

A friend of mine just had a birthday, and I sent this to him as a present. It is one of my favorite pieces I've ever created. The iconography is based in eastern mysticism and the process of enlightenment, which reflects my recent reading about Christianity from a non-western, pre-Enlightenment context.

The front is about the enlightenment process in its eternal context. I chose to depict that as a growing tree spanning a horizon line, illuminated by the rising suns and moons. I painted the tree with a technique that combines deliberate human effort with randomness and chaos. I didn’t premeditate those lines. Instead, I threw ink and then used air to force it up the page. This means that the shape of the tree is determined by repetition and focused energy, where the ink follows its own path along the paper. It took a great deal of meditative practice for me to be able to control the paint by not controlling it.

In addition, trees represent continuity as well as seasonal change. They represent transformation in that they convert earth (dirt) into living, breathing matter with energy from the sun. The tree crosses the horizon line that divides earth and sky, material and spirit. The tree carries light from one opposite to the other, as learning and study does. As people growing into enlightenment, we cross that horizon line, too, moving from material to spirit by constantly reaching in prayer and study.

The sun is the source of energy for all living things, and the moon reflects that energy. I once saw a time-lapse photograph of the rising moon, and I recreated that here. I saw the rise as a marked process. I also put sun and moon in the sky at the same time—both rising, both present—for timelessness and completeness.

The back is a little more abstract, but so are the ideas of energy, connection, process, prayer that I sought to represent. I drew each of these gold circles slowly, because that gold ink is difficult to apply. This kind of repeated motion and concentration has meditative connotations. Circles are powerful spiritual symbols and concentric ones even more so. The rings are stacked inside each other to represent different stages of prayer and the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit, as well as the interconnectedness of people to each other. The centers of the circles represent the different focal points of prayer, and if you feel the back of the book, you can still feel the grooves I made with my own energy in the painting of it--like the physical representations of repeated prayers.