To Touch the Earth

When I first completed this painting last year, I titled it “Under the Bodhi Tree” which isn’t bad…but it didn’t feel like the name or completely recognize the actual theme of the painting.

That title does a great job of representing the broader location of the story, but a lot of things happened under that famous tree.

Most of them involved other ways Gautama Siddhartha (aka Gotama, Shakyamuni, Sakkamuni) pursued enlightenment until he finally found success simply by sitting and observing his breathing as he describes in the first discourse.

This painting on the other hand symbolizes the moment that Gautama defeats Mara and becomes the Buddha.

To Touch the Earth. aka Under the Bodhi Tree
To Touch the Earth

It is taught that after Gautama attained enlightenment, Mara challenged him, declaring that he too was enlightened and should be the Buddha. To show that Gautama could be shaken, Mara sent all forms of attacks and temptations to bring Him back into attachment and suffering. Finally Mara even sent their three beautiful daughters (known as Desire, Aversion, and Passion) to tempt Him.

Gautama Siddhartha reached out his right hand and with a single finger touched the Earth, and the Earth Mother herself acknowledged His imperturbable nature by lighting the Morning Star and Gautama became the Buddha.

The painting itself is Gouache on 18×24 Watercolor paper. 140 lb. It is not in print, but the original is available to the right owner.

A beginning of sorts.

If you are scrolling through here, you will notice that my style is usually cartoony and simplistic.

I would like to say it is by design, and in the sense that I didn’t work to develop it otherwise is true… but in reality it is just how I see things and what my hand gives me when I try to share my thoughts with drawing.

Proof that it is not a developed skill rests in one of the ironies of my simple style.

While I love Ukiyo-E and the single brush stroke pen and ink drawings of the masters of Nippon… I have not developed the skill to replicate them. AND IT IS ENDLESSLY FRUSTRATING TO ME.

That said, lacking skill never stops and homage from me, and the one I am posting today. A simple crane against a red setting sun next to a stand of bamboo.

Crane
Crane

I post it with apologies to the masters who have done this theme so much better, but also with thanks and appreciation for showing me beauty and elegance, even if replicating it is beyond my skills.

Cernunnos Resting

Todays image is another more doodle type drawing.

I may do it again as a straight pen and ink, but the title is “Cernunnos Resting”, and is a portrait of the Green Man just after making his rounds to fertilize the forests.

The Horned God is depicted sitting under a tree holding his Torc in his right hand and a snake with Rams horns in his left. He is flaccid, not for impotence, but to symbolize this being after the great fertilization of spring. He is surrounded by a rat, rabbit, deer, bull, and wolf. All in them selves symbols of nature, strength and fertility.

Cernunnos Resting

The drawing was done with fine-liners and colored with markers. More important than the art itself in this case is that we don’t lose this symbolism (which anyone familiar with Celtic history/ruins will recognize from cave art and ancient European artifacts).

It is a reminder that Europe too had nature based religions that kept us in touch with the cycles of the earth before Rome and the Catholic Church eradicated them just like every other culture touched by them.

I don’t pretend to know the truth about what Gods there are, and how they rank and whatnot, but I have no doubt that humans and their relationship with the planet earth (and each other) will dramatically improve if we get back into rhythm with its life cycles and patterns.

Early String Theory

This is a drawing I did a couple years ago with brush pens and fine points.

The title “Early String Theory” is a play on the modern movement in physics with the much older theory that three seamstress goddesses controlled the fate of man.

For those not familiar with these ladies, they are Clotho (“spinner”), Lachesis (“allotter”) and Atropos (“the unturnable”) and collectively they are known as the Three Fates (aka the Moirai). Clotho spinning your life, Lachesis measuring it, and Atropos cutting it off.

Early String Theory
Early String Theory

Images that shape your mind.

There are some images you see as a child, that truly shape who you are. Whatever the reason for it, the minute you see the image it becomes seared into your psyche and is referenced in your decision making process for the rest of your life.

For me that image was a black refrigerator magnet with a grey/silver drawing on it. It was a poured item and the drawn lines on it were raised from the background. The image was of an owl swooping down on a mouse. The mouse held a pistol behind his back. Underneath it said, “That’s confidence.”

I have spent an unreasonable amount of time thinking about this. Not to mention the amount of time I spent trying to draw it. In my mind the pistol, and even the notion of fighting back disappeared over time.

The idea of it representing confidence even became nonsense. Seriously, no gun that a creature the size of a mouse could hold and fire would ever be able to stop, let alone kill an inbound owl with hunger on its mind.

And as I got older and became aware of philosophies like stoicism and transcendentalism… I adopted ideas like “no fear, no regrets” and chose to live my life by them. Pirate concepts like “No quarter asked, and none given” became my rallying cry.

When I look back at the directions I took philosophically. It is all rooted in that image.

Well I replaced the mouse’s gun with a middle finger, and instead of staring at the owl, he is looking off to the side, to whatever it is that he wants to look at.

His death isn’t important. The way he is choosing to live is.

“Elige Bene Mori” 18×24 Goauche on watercolor paper

“Elige Bene Mori” is latin for choose a good death. I encourage you to embrace this notion and hold it close to your heart. The original painting in gouache on watercolor paper is not currently for sale, but you can purchase prints of it through my account at Fine Art America, HERE.

Buddhist Hell

When one thinks of Buddhism, the thought is usually one of peaceful serenity, unless they are fans of kung fu theatre or are following some of the more violent uprisings in SE Asia currently.

What one does not usually think of is a concept of hell. Well, just like most other major religions, Buddhism has a concept of hell. Several actually, but the one todays art piece entertains a specific one. The Realm of Hungry Ghosts.

For those unfamiliar with Buddhist lore. A Hungry Ghost is basically someone who is a slave to their desires, aversions, and/or passions. More specifically it is described as both a form of reincarnation and a realm where one is constantly haunted by those sufferings until they free themselves of them by practice of the eightfold path.

The inspiration for this piece came from a Japanese interpretation of this, which was named Gaki Zoshi (Hungry Ghosts). It is a very old scroll and you can find images from it all over the internets.

I did the piece as an Inktober project in 2021, and being pen and ink it took the entire month.

“The Realm of Hungry Ghosts” 18×24 pen and ink (fineliner) on Watercolor paper.

This pen and ink piece is originally 18×24 on watercolor paper and prints are available through Fine Art America here.

Yin Yang

Today I am going to share two separate gouache paintings I have recently done.

They are also Buddhist and Japanese history pieces.

The first features Toyotomi Hideyoshi; samurai, daimyo, Shogun and second great unifier of Japan. The image is from early in his rise to power.

It is said that he greatly desired to have tea at the famous tea house of Sen no Rikyu, who was also known to have one of the most beautiful morning glory gardens in all of Japan.

At first Rikyu had rebuffed him. But knowing the samurai was growing impatient, Rikyu decided to have him.

Before the day of their tea, Rikyu dug up all of his magnolia gardens and selected only one. Placing it in a simple bamboo vase in the tea room.

When Hideyoshi arrived, he was enraged that the gardens were gone. He stomped into the tea house, and was stopped cold.

The single morning glory was perfect, and upon seeing it Hideyoshi saw Rikyu’s mind clearly and went on to become one of the great Shoguns in Japans history.

It is titled “Rikyu’s Morning Glory”

Rikyu’s Morning Glory 18×24 Gouache

The second image is of Sen no Rikyu. He is the great tea master modern tea ceremony is based upon. He served two Shoguns as tea master and was of such great stature that he could have audience with anyone in Japan when he was alive.

The image is of him committing Seppuku on Hideyoshi’s order.

The reason is lost to history, but every version of it I have seen guessed at has been the result of ego and petty jealousy.

Hideyoshi’s Gratitude 18×24 Gouache

I am not sure how I managed to save those images at different sizes, but it is of little concern. What is important is that they are available in a couple of print sizes in my Fine Art America store. Rikyu’s Morning Glory here and Hideyoshi’s Gratitude here.

Yin Yang set of “Rikyu’s Morning Glory” and “Hideyoshi’s Gratitude”

Visual Koans

One of the things I like to draw, is a focus on another. That other being world religions. The focus being Buddhist art, more specifically Zen Buddhist art. It is especially true when I can do pieces based on Japanese Zen Buddhist art. Doing it in a Ukiyo-E drawing style just makes a well iced cake.

The image I am sharing today is all of that.

It is also an entirely stolen concept.

I did do Josetsu the honor of not attempting to redo his painting the way he did it. Further more, I didn’t do it in the same style.

I merely stole his Koan.

For the uninitiated, a Koan is a form of riddle in Zen Buddhism that is supposed to stimulate the potential for enlightenment when meditated upon.

This one in particular is called “Catching catfish with a gourd”, and was Josetsu’s original  suiboku  (basically Sumi) Painting was done C. 1415 .

The painting depicts a man standing by a creek and attempting to cat a catfish with a gourd (as the title suggests).

I won’t post the original image, as I do not wish to be shamed by the comparison. However, here is my original painting.

Catching a Catfish with a Gourd

In the 18×24 gouache painting the gourd represents our mind and the catfish represents enlightenment. The gourd being used for something it is clearly not suitable for. The clear implication being that our minds are not suitable for attaining enlightenment, and that it is not something that can be gained through thought.

It is certainly an idea worth tossing around in your head while trying not to think too much on anything in particular… at least until you figure out to just let go and breathe.

If you would like to own a print of this piece, it is available HERE. The original is not currently available for sale, but it will be once I complete the larger project it is part of. If you would like to be considered when it is, send me a message.

“Catching a Catfish with a Gourd” print.

Todos somos Americanos

Today is the last day of Pride month so its as good as any day to talk about one of my tshirt designs that is easy to be proud of.

That pride has nothing to do with the artwork, because it is just a map of the western hemisphere imbued with a rainbow that Adobe Illustrator installed for me.

Todos somos Americanos means we are all Americans.

https://www.teepublic.com/t-shirt/5388303-todos-somos-americanos

That means every single human that lives on one of the American continents.

No matter your race. No matter your gender. If you live here you are an American. Buy the shirt, remind random people of this simple fact.

My teepublic store lives here.