Not being an Artist

I left teaching ‘to be an artist’ when I was 24 years old and, I must say, that decision has taken me on a wonderful creative journey that continues today; 45 years later! But, in a sense I gave up on being an artist many years ago.

Don’t misunderstand me: I paint or draw most days, and always have done. Infact, alongside my three other main daytime activities; making music, cooking and meditating; drawing or painting is one of my top four ‘favourite ways to enjoy life’ when I’m on my own. But, what I’m saying is that, as an activity it has much more to do with meditation practice; especially when I combine it, as I often do, with listening to the SFZC podcasts that I love to listen to; than with being part of any Art World.

My meditation practice, in turn, is not much to do with religion and is much more to do with the shifting of awareness again to being present; 24-7; and constantly finding that I’ve been distracted then repeatedly coming back to simply being here; wherever ‘here’ might be at the time!

http://www.sfzc.org/teachings/audio/recorded-dharma-talks

Luckily, I discovered years ago that letting inspirational Zen podcasts drift past my ears while I doodle is a very healthy, focusing and harmonious sort of activity. So I keep doing it!

And that means that there are certain things I’m looking for in ‘The Activity of Painting and Drawing’. I love drawing to be a calm and still ‘space’ and, most of the time, I like to work on a small scale – because then I can sit under my lovely, warm, over-the-shoulder spotlight and settle into a settee groove, click on to a SFZC podcast on my laptop and enjoy a few undisturbed hours of simple and uncomplicated Hanging Out! with a drawing that, hopefully, grabs my attention without involving too much, if any, thinking!

When things go well that’s a very restful experience; (my) hands are doing the drawing, (my) restful ears are doing the listening; and my inevitably wandering brain is jogging me, every now and then, to write occasional ‘significant’ notes round the edge of my drawing, when something catches my attention.

But it’s not all bad. Deeply satisfying hours can pass like this! And I love it!

Just recently I made the decision to look at different possible ‘styles’ for my future artwork. As I’ve said in a previous post, I’d like to find a simple, immediately understood ‘visual language’ to communicate more readily with the people I meet who are not necessarily ‘into’ the sort of ‘organic surrealist’ drawings I’ve been doing for the last five or six years. I’m intending to make more of a connection!

This year I’m keen to turn my painting or drawing to the wonderful task of drawing peoples attention (including my own!) to the possibility of ‘living harmoniously on the planet’ and being at one with the world. This last month or so has been a bit like running around in the dark for a while; while I tried all sorts of ‘random drawing adventures’ for a few weeks - and quickly realised my artistic limitations, once again! - until, finally, this week it occurred to me that a period of study and developing new painting skills might be what’s called for!

I do like that sense of letting go of everything that I think I know and being prepared to go right back to the beginnings of whatever I’m doing. But, where to start? Well; it’s been an enjoyable week of research and study and has also led me to making a handful of new connections; talking to interesting artists who are working in particular artistic styles or ‘genres’ that appeal to me.

http://www.jenniferbairdartist.com

The ‘Naive Nature Painters’ trail led me to the wonderful Jenny Baird and her Tobago jungle scenes; often inhabited by mysterious, archetypal dancing beings who are clearly embedded in the oneness of that imagined experience. Jenny’s work spoke to plant lover; the gardener; the jungle trekker and the wilderness adventurer in me! These days I do most of my drawings in Cambodia and Laos and it’s important to me that I find a way of working that ‘speaks’ of that experience.

But, having given it a go for a couple of days, I was surprised when I became upset and disturbed at my inability to immediately drop into a wonderful new ‘naive, nature’ way of expressing myself (ha ha!) until I saw the very contradiction inherent in that preoccupied emotional reaction to the task in hand. However, what that unexpected emotional reaction did do was point out to me how important I make it, to find a way of portraying deeply peaceful human beings; human beings who are in tune with the world.

So that drove further research! Given my own background of travelling in India and SE Asia for quite a long time, what came up for me next was ‘Images of the Buddhas’ and the Indian Gods that played an important part in my life, once. What I thought was, ‘Images of human beings don’t come much more peaceful and serene than that!’ and that’s what I’m looking for.

I remembered my time living with the Tibetian emigres in Dharamsala, in Northern India, how much of a deeply embedded and old Buddhist tradition Thangka painting is there and it led me to reflect on these fundamentally different approaches to making a painting – is it important that it’s a form of self-expression or are you doing it as a quiet contemplation and a meditation on our Buddha Nature?

I realised that I might like to do a workshop on Thangka Painting and searched the internet to see what’s available)

http://www.alisapoplavskaya.com/tibetan-thangka-workshopsretreats.html

At first I spoke to Alisa, in Berlin, attracted to her friendly web site. But she is in Berlin! So I needed to find something closer. And that’s how I came across Andy Weber, who has clearly been painting Thangkas for many years and who does something similar in London and around the country.

http://www.andyweberstudios.com/portfolio

So I’ve been in touch with Andy; I’m very taken with the idea of studying and practising Thangka painting and I’m hoping we can find a suitable workshop for me to attend - while I’m in England! Meanwhile, I’ve bought a couple of books and I’m intending to make some sort of a start once I’ve posted this blog.

So the beat goes on! I’ve been fascinated with the progress of my new ‘Trevann Fanthorpe Artist’ page on facebook (‘Like it, if you haven’t already!’)

https://www.facebook.com/trevannfanthorpeartist

and this morning, my sangha buddy of many years, artist Jason Miller, was sharing with me the magic of ‘Pinterest’….mmmm! Enjoy!


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