Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Saturday, 27 December 2014

10 Zen Stories

Another year is coming to a close, it’s a time for reflection and letting go of all that has passed. There have been moments of both great sadness and great joy, moments when I wished things had turned out differently. I have made some good friends and I have lost some. There have been lessons learned in almost all situations and where I have yet to learn still, I expect I will keep being given those same difficult situations !
The word I chose last year to run through my artwork was ‘uncertainty’ . Not uncertain where my life was going but not expecting too much and going with the flow. My work has certainly been varied this year, wanting to explore what came from living in a different environment.  The lastest intuitive painting certainly has a air of uncertainty about it and I am loving that.
I am not yet sure what my word for 2015 will be, but I have a few days to think about it.
Things are changing fast and I am still enjoying the buzz of wondering where the next chapter will lead.
Just waiting !

 10 Zen stories to inspire thought.
Wishing you all a very happy and prosperous New Year

1. A Cup of Tea
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

2. The Burden
Two monks were returning to the monastery in the evening. It had rained and there were puddles of water on the road sides. At one place a beautiful young woman was standing unable to walk accross because of a puddle of water. The elder of the two monks went up to a her lifted her and left her on the other side of the road, and continued his way to the monastery.
In the evening the younger monk came to the elder monk and said, “Sir, as monks, we cannot touch a woman ?”
The elder monk answered “yes, brother”.
Then the younger monk asks again, “but then Sir, how is that you lifted that woman on the roadside ?”
The elder monk smiled at him and told him ” I left her on the other side of the road, but you are still carrying her.”

3. Finding a Piece of the Truth
One day Mara, the Evil One, was traveling through the villages of India with his attendants. he saw a man doing walking meditation whose face was lit up on wonder. The man had just discovered something on the ground in front of him. Mara’s attendant asked what that was and Mara replied, “A piece of truth.”
“Doesn’t this bother you when someone finds a piece of truth, O Evil One?” his attendant asked. “No,” Mara replied. “Right after this, they usually make a belief out of it.”

4. The Other Side
One day a young Buddhist on his journey home came to the banks of a wide river. Staring hopelessly at the great obstacle in front of him, he pondered for hours on just how to cross such a wide barrier. Just as he was about to give up his pursuit to continue his journey he saw a great teacher on the other side of the river. The young Buddhist yells over to the teacher, “Oh wise one, can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river”?
The teacher ponders for a moment looks up and down the river and yells back, “My son, you are on the other side”.

5. Is That So?
The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life.
A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child.
This made her parents very angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.
In great anger the parents went to the master. “Is that so?” was all he would say.
When the child was born, the parents brought it to the Hakuin, who now was viewed as a pariah by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child since it was his responsibility. “Is that so?” Hakuin said calmly as he accepted the child.
A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth – that the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fishmarket.
The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask his forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back again.
Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was: “Is that so?”

6. Maybe
Once upon the time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
“Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.

7. Cliffhanger
One day while walking through the wilderness a man stumbled upon a vicious tiger. He ran but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Desperate to save himself, he climbed down a vine and dangled over the fatal precipice.
As he hung there, two mice appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine.
Suddenly, he noticed on the vine a plump wild strawberry. He plucked it and popped it in his mouth. It was incredibly delicious!
8. The Blind Men and the Elephant
Several citizens ran into a hot argument about God and different religions, and each one could not agree to a common answer. So they came to the Lord Buddha to find out what exactly God looks like.
The Buddha asked his disciples to get a large magnificent elephant and four blind men. He then brought the four blind to the elephant and told them to find out what the elephant would “look” like.
The first blind men touched the elephant leg and reported that it “looked” like a pillar. The second blind man touched the elephant tummy and said that an elephant was a wall. The third blind man touched the elephant ear and said that it was a piece of cloth. The fourth blind man hold on to the tail and described the elephant as a piece of rope. And all of them ran into a hot argument about the “appearance” of an elephant.
The Buddha asked the citizens: “Each blind man had touched the elephant but each of them gives a different description of the animal. Which answer is right?”

9. Right and Wrong
When Bankei held his seclusion-weeks of meditation, pupils from many parts of Japan came to attend. During one of these gatherings a pupil was caught stealing. The matter was reported to Bankei with the request that the culprit be expelled. Bankei ignored the case.
Later the pupil was caught in a similar act, and again Bankei disregarded the matter. This angered the other pupils, who drew up a petition asking for the dismissal of the thief, stating that otherwise they would leave in a body.
When Bankei had read the petition he called everyone before him. “You are wise brothers,” he told them. “You know what is right and what is not right. You may go somewhere else to study if you wish, but this poor brother does not even know right from wrong. Who will teach him if I do not? I am going to keep him here even if all the rest of you leave.”
A torrent of tears cleansed the face of the brother who had stolen. All desire to steal had vanished.

10. Nothing Exists
Yamaoka Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one master after another. He called upon Dokuon of Shokoku.
Desiring to show his attainment, he said: “The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no realization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be received.”
Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the youth quite angry.
“If nothing exists,” inquired Dokuon, “where did this anger come from

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Self portrait

A day at home painting. 
We are planning an exhibition in the New Year based on self portraits. There will be two portraits of each of us, one done by ourselves and the other by one of the other artists. Should be fun ! We are tossing a coin as to who we get to paint so that there is no favouritism. The object of the exersise is not to produce a likeness but more of an interpretation.....
Anyway, here is my self portrait. An intuitive painting that took about five hours or so. I really had no idea what I would do when I started and just let it evolve. I think there is probably quite a lot you could read into this !

The day started like this

 Detail. I can see a day of the dead mask in here. Three faces, where do they start and end ?

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The whole world is medicine

I was going to do a post on the koan ' The whole world is medicine' but I wouldn't have explained myself as elequently as John Tarrant. So read his article HERE

''Koans have a status as luminous fragments, little stories that are doorways. The phrase ‘the whole world is medicine’ is a short form, convenient and portable, that opens into something beyond itself.'' JT

I was going to talk about how this new style of painting is a medicine. This whole process of being involved in an artist's community is medicine. Step by step I have lived my way into a healing process and discovered something beautiful as a result. But I think I will alow the viewer to weave their own story around these latest works !

Sunday, 7 December 2014

'Aint bad for December 7th

The forecast threatened storms today but by 9am the sky was beautifully blue and the sun was shinning. Taking advantage of the sun, caught the 9.45 ferry and drove to Little Armier, not ten minutes from Cirkewwa.
It's a beautiful walk around the headland and at this time of year not a soul in sight. 

A collapsed cave at Little Armier. People tombstone off this in the Summer.

Looking back to Comino and Gozo

This what Sundays are about. Dog walk followed by a picnic and a bottle of wine on the beach in 19c. You may notice I'm wearing a thick jumpeer but the wind was picking up as the storm slowly moved in and your blood thins when you live in a hot country !

The storm finally reaching Gozo in the distance/

Raffi not wanting to get his feet wet.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Red Shoes

I am sure you all know the Hans Christian Andersen fairy story 'The Red Shoes'. Briefly: A child covets a beautiful pair of red shoes. She persaudes her mother to have the shoemaker make her a pair, but she is forbidden to wear the sinful shoes to church as people will gossip. The child finally disobeys her mother's wishes and wears the shoes to church. A strange soldier comments on the red shoes and how they are beautiful dancing shoes. The shoes start to twirl and whirl uncontrolably and the child cannot stop the dancing. She becomes desperate as the shoes dance endlessly into the night and the next day. She is forced to plead with the executioner to cut off her feet. Which he does. The shoes continue to dance away with the severed feet inside. The child is repentant and dies.

To continue with my recent obsession, intuitive painting, I have interpreted the story in this piece.
The painting is full of whirling and twirling as I dance and paint through my subconcious. In the story it is not the joy of life that kills the spirit of the child, but the lack of it. Perhaps the moral of this tragic tale is that if we deny ourselves our true creative soul, we too will dance in addiction, whirling and twirling uncontrollably in the red shoes. The lives of many creatives have, through suppressing their true psyche, ended in tragedy !

Still whirling and twirling !

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Result !

Our Intuitive workshop was a great success and I think everyone, including me, learnt a little more about paint application and working with colour. What became very obvious was that one should try to work on a large canvas. Anything smaller than 50x50cm rather limits the possibilities and lines become restricted. The wildly colourful paintings were a cheery sight inspite of the torrential rain outside. I would have liked to have taken this course out of the studio and into the sunshine but the weather wouldn't allow....typical as we are back in tshirts again today.
It was very rewarding to see the results when some of my students had never painted before. After a wary start everyone soon got the hang of layering paint on the canvas in a bold and confident way. 








Dance music on and away we go.

I think we will try and do these workshops once a month, Not only are they great fun but the donations go towards improving our studios and work spaces at The Mill Room. We have such a lovely atmoshpere in which to work and our little community of artists means we can constantly seek advise or bounce ideas off each other. It is a really energising place to work. 

Our next event is Winter Tales - our arty take on folk and fairy stories-starting on December 3rd. We will be open on Wednesday 3rd 6pm onwards for an evening viewing and to listen to the tales being read by Penny Evans. It will also be the start of our Christmas studio opening times. Everyone welcome.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

There are no mistakes

 Expressive Painting Workshop
Wednesday 26th November 10am – 3pm
One day workshop. For novice and experienced painters alike. A chance to spend a day painting in a spontaneous and fearless way, using basic painting techniques in an innovative and self-expressive way. Sarah Baird will facilitate throughout and give a short talk at the start on use of colour, mark making and encouragement on exploring the process. Sarah will also give a handout sheet with the basic principles so that you can continue with this exciting work at home.

Donation to The Mill Room
To book a place call into The Mill Room Studios. Or find us on facebook:  The Mill Room Studios

What you need
Bring a large canvas or board to work on. The bigger the better. 70cm is a good size to start ! No smaller than 50x50cm.
A good selection of acrylic paint colours.
A selection of cheap brushes inc a fine brush.
A sense of fun is essential and please leave all preconceived ideas of what a painting should look like at home !


This is where it all began a few weeks ago. Faith and I spent a very lovely day painting intuitively. (There was some angst that needed exorcising!) People wandered through the Mill Room as we painted, some more interested than others at our mad workings. The general census of opinion was that we should hold regular workshops there and encourage painters and non painters alike to have a go. 
So here we are holding our first workshop of this kind, tomorrow. I will be facilitating and am looking forward to it. We already have 8 people signed up but can take a couple more. Alternatively wait for the next one in a month's time.

Our Mantra:    There are no mistakes.

After 5 hour's work we have propelled ourselves into a whole new way or working. Things will never be the same again.

We  will offering workshops once a month which will include mixed media and collage, paper making and much more. Keep an eye out for what's going on at our facebook page. If anyone is interested in learning wood turning techniques let us know. We may be able to offer this in the New Year.

Friday, 14 November 2014

As The crow flies

How time flies... back again into November and the weather is still warm. It feels like a blustery English summer and I am dressed as if I was holidaying in Cornwall. Big warm jumper, scarf and shorts !
The light is fab at this time of the year and I just can't help taking pics on my evening walks.

A very lovely footpath that leads from Mgarr Harbour and along the cliffs to Xatt l-ahmar.

Numbers are growing at The Mill Room Studios and we now have a proper little community of artists, dreamers and healers. The next exhibition we are working on is called 'Six Winter Tales' Our art works will be based on folk or fairy tales and how we interpret them. I shall be working on a triptych on canvas....any guesses as to the cautionary tale ?   The exhibition will begin on 3rd December @ 6pm everyone welcome. 

The usual building up of layers to give texture then a layer of gesso before I start to paint.

Not yet finished, a few cautionary words to be added and some more detailing to be done.

I am itching to do a big abstract piece and have been trawling through a couple of books sitting on my shelf for inspiration. Both these books inspire to get out of a creative rut and just let the paint flow. So that will be my next project and I can't wait to get started. My 'unlocking creativity' workshop I ran in UK was loosely based on these ideas and I think I may revamp that workshop to fit in with my studio at The Mill Room. If you are interested just msg me on my facebook page.