Now and Zen, Again (for Frances)

Can something old be new again? You bet.

I found a brand spanking new reprint of an old classic at the library: "The Zen of Seeing", by Frederick Franck, a book originally published in the early seventies. The book itself is a very lovely creation - it's not typeset, but handwritten (as all love letters should be, Franck tenderly explains) and illustrated with wispy, minimalist (well, zen) drawings, all by the author himself.

One of my favourite passages in this book touches on what I've been musing about here - that the innate artist in all of us is so easily silenced by those invisible shackles we collect through our individual lives. Here's what he said (capitals are the author's own):

"... WHO IS THE MAN, THE ARTIST?... HE IS THE UNSPOILED CORE OF EVERYMAN, BEFORE HE IS CHOKED BY SCHOOLING, TRAINING, CONDITIONING UNTIL THE ARTIST-WITHIN SHRIVELS UP AND IS FORGOTTEN. Even in the artist who is professionally trained to be consciously "creative" this unspoiled core shrivels up in the rush toward a "personal style", in the heat of competition to be "in". " Indeed.

(This quote can be found in the introduction to the paperback edition by Vintage, NY, 1973).

Now how to get out of a creative rut? or how to get some inspiration if you have no idea where to start?
I just remembered that there is such a thing as public domain images - images that one can use as a springboard for inspiration without worrying about the ethics of copying/copyrighting/cheating...
So I went looking on the internet (love ya, Google) and found an endless supply of sites that offer treasure troves of "free images". I'll be exploring this subject more in the near future, but in the meantime, here's an example of what one can play with. I didn't have any illustration for this post and was not in the mood to pick up pen and ink to do some zen-inspired drawing (I'm going through a terribly dry spell, but that's another story...).

So I decided to look around for a picture I could use, and found this nice one of a bamboo plant reflected in the water.

On Photoshop, I cropped it, used "crosshatch" to give it a sketchy feeling, changed it to B&W, infused it with muted colours, skewed it and added some "noise" to make it look like an old picture of something vaguely asian. Obviously, one of the points I am also trying to make here is that it doesn't have to be good - but it's good to practice!


Neda said...

Oh Man!When I first saw the post (very clever title!), I thought this was the illustration of the book cover!You have always been so resourceful and creative, and way very zen-design oriented...I love the serenity and simplicity of that image.. Thanks for telling us about this treasure of a book.

Quote from a James Wright poem..last lines:
"Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom."

P.S. Yeah, I used it earlier but hey, I think it is very fitting here.

Check the "Creative Commons"laws on Google for guidelines...I am still sorting this stuff out.

Frances said...

The title is very apposite -
Thanks - I had the same impression that it must be the book cover... I agree about the image - that cool connexion between the swirl and the upright and the colours and texture

I found someone blogging and posting open-source materials for collage last night - but I don't remember who or how I got there on my surf round the collage community - will have to look in my History and see if I find her again.
Dry patches - very strange. I had a time in my life a few years back when I worked full-time in a demanding job, did quite a lot of crafts, read a lot and still managed to make my clothes and my daughter's, baked and had a social life... people thought it was incredible - I thought it normal, now I wonder how I found the time - I think I was wired all the time - but I wasn't so very creative, I was channelling creativity into my work and daily life. The sewing and crafts didn't require any imagination or emotional energy, they satisfied a need to be making and doing.
Nowadays I feel much as I used to when people told me I should write, I wondered what on earth I could write - I didn't feel a desire to tell the world anything or have a story I needed to share - Now I look at the beautiful stuff Neda produces and it speaks to something in me, but it fulfills that and doesn't set up anything I need to do. That is dry - I think it might even be desertification.

Debi said...

I had the same first impression of that illustration being the cover of the book. How about that for channeling the perfect mood with your creativity!

Maybe you are charging your batteries during this dry spell? Maybe there is just too much going on in your busy life (all mothers with children at home are busy and doing the most sacred of all work).

Besides being an inspiration for the rest of us, I hope today's post was a touchstone for you. That you still have it, girl!

Rima said...

Thanks, everyone - always so kind and supportive with the comments. In answer to Debi's post, if that's the case, then I've recharging my batteries for the last 25 years or so! Hmmm, that's a good subject for a post...

Bobbie said...

What a powerful image the new version is! Photoshop is like the darkroom of old, where most of the creativity was done. Neda, I love that line from James Wright and know the feeling, but never had words for it before. I'm inspired, just by knowing all of you.

Neda said...

Dry spells are a blessing. There was a time when I did not collage for a whole year! At first, I was really miserable but then I realized that I did not want to do any art. So, I just let it be. I used to be so self-critical that I almost choked myself with doubt and uncertainty. Frances, do not be discouraged, we love what you do...and I admire your work because it really comes from your heart.

dianeclancy said...

I thought it was an illustration from the book - I was sure it was!

Amazing the difference!

~ Diane Clancy