Thursday, November 29, 2007


Just looking, really looking, can make you rich in an instant. In first love, you gazed into your Beloved's eyes, seeing their beauty so clearly, seeing beyond their beauty to their Essence. After a time, maybe
you don't see them as freshly; you're not so undefended, so receptive and full of wonder--do you barely glance now, satisfied with familiarity, instead of a Mystery, the miracle that is still here this moment?

Often what we really see is our handy handle for people and things--their name, the words and concepts we attach to them, our stories and memories and associations about them--not the direct reality of things-in-themselves. It's a vital, creative skill of the mind, to label this way, to identify and name things: egg, house, friend, tiger--run! We attach these word-handles to things so we can pick them up and play with them and move them around, inside or outside of our minds, for our purposes, for our survival and comfort. And so we objectify them. They flatten and become uniform to us--an example of a category. We take them for granted. We don't look deeply.

When learning to draw, we run into this flattening, generalizing mind-habit as an obstacle to realism. When we're mostly drawing a concept, we create a lifeless stereotype. You have to see from just where you are, the unique view from here and now, and look in, to the vitality of the thing. If you labor to make it "look like" a representative specimen of its named kind, it dies on the page. In truth, it's never been seen or known before, completely new in this unique, already changing light, viewed from this exact perspective through your eyes. It was just born.

Left-brain says, "Flowers! got it, let's go! OK, ok, I know! azaleas--satisfied?" but right-brain, face to face with spotted flagrant pink open-mouthed reality, has to commune and worship. It's a different kind of attention.

You can look with that kind of in-love openness for an instant at anything, at everything--it doesn't have to be "pretty" like a flower. A bottle cap shining on the ground, the rich brown hieroglyphics and warm yellows of a rotting banana--it doesn't matter what, when you look past your label and your preferences and see, through to the wordless truth.

My Sweetie and I will celebrate our 10th anniversary on winter solstice. This is a rose (by any other name) I made for her the first week we were together. Well, maybe a rotting banana wouldn't have looked like it smelled quite so sweet....

Scorpio Rose, detail, fabrics, '97