Zen painting is free, effortless and natural painting. There isn’t planning, thought or struggle. When someone is engaged with Zen painting, there is no painter and no thing being painted; the painter and the painted are one. D.T. Suzuki describes it similarly, “The secret is to become the plant itself…” That is just so.
But that isn’t to that easy. Well sometimes it is! It mirrors Zen practice in that it may likewise be said that Zen is free, effortless, and natural, like the Buddha-nature within us all. But Zen practice. On the other hand it is very difficult like life as we know it. The usual state to which we are accustomed is filled with difficulty for we do not know our Buddha-nature, though it is all the while there with us. We are confused and don’t know who or why we are or what to do.
So in Zen painting the struggle is to maintain purity, and not let the ego take over with excess thinking, planning, judgment, and confusion. As children, we naturally paint, effortlessly as we see fit, and then we are taught to look this way and do it that way, and we are led to this place of judgment and confusion.
Zen painting runs counter to the academic and conceptual methods for creation of art. It is on this axis between intuition and conceptualization where the difficulty lies. But here lies intrigue and delight, just beyond difficulty!
By its nature Zen painting dictates no content. Not even the famous Zen content of no-content. In Zen painting you will find things as rich and varied as you find in the real world around you, your mind or your imagination. There’s no difference.
In Zen-fashion it goes deep, uncovering difficult issues which people are afraid to look at, admit, or contend with. The nature works are bright and delightfully gay,and the figurative works are intensely honest.