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Haiku – The Magic and The Mastery of Ryōkan

Every now and then I get a visit to this post, that I wrote over a year ago. One of my favorites, no doubt about it.

Snow's Fissures and Fractures

It took me awhile to understand the art of haiku. My disparagement and indifference were products of  ignorance and lack of knowledge. As a child, I would listen to grownups making fun of haiku poetry, trying to glue together few simple words without any coherent meaning, deluding themselves thinking the secrets of haiku would be revealed to their unengaged souls. But as with all things distant and unknown, only when you allow yourself to grow and learn, can you perceive and appreciate the hidden beauty and wisdom.

There are very few works of art that deeply touched me throughout my life, pushing me to rethink and question the choices I make, the way I see the world around me.

It happened suddenly and unexpectedly, I was ambushed by few simple lines. Like a fish on a hook, I was dragged onward, trying to free myself, entangling ever deeper. The words…

View original post 1,113 more words

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Introducing – Louise Tate Illustration

You know how when you start watching YouTube videos, you just can’t stop. Video after video, you discover new exciting music. I like to call that “Accidental discovery”. It seems the same is happening to me with discovering artist through Facebook, one leads me to another.

Louise Tate is children’s Artist and Illustrator and by her own admission “Lover of cheese!” .
birthday partyMiss. Tate has scribbled, scrawled and painted ever since she could wield a pencil and brush, developing a passion for painting and drawing very early on as a young child.

rhinosShe has been lucky enough to study both Zoology and Illustration at degree level, live in the most amazing places (South Africa, The Netherlands, Singapore and USA) and work with some wonderful publishers, greetings card companies and individual clients.

penguinShe’s also been fortunate enough to have been highly commended in the Macmillan Prize for Children’s Illustration four times in three years and to have work selected for the Illustrators Showcase exhibition in London in 2013.

the blue treeLouise and her family now live in Shropshire, UK and she has no intention of moving again for a while.

acrobateOn balancing work and family life: “Working from home has its challenges, not least the clutter that appears to accumulate, but it does mean I can juggle work and children. Developing new ideas while spending time with the family (they are a great source of inspiration) means I have the opportunity to be in control.”

sausage tief“Along with my studio space (a converted bedroom), the internet is vital. A third of my sales go overseas and a large number are repeat customers. My art work is a little quirky and unusual and although I sell prints, the brand isn’t just the art work, it’s also me, so I feel it’s incredibly important to communicate with my customers as much as I can. “bedtime story“The rise of social media has meant I can really engage with them and they can see that I’m passionate about my work. I spend a great deal of time listening to what they say and share images of work in progress, from initial sketches to finished pieces, enabling customers to feel part of the process.”

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When not drawing or painting she can often be found chasing rabbits out of the garden or trying to come up with a recipe for Jerusalem Artichokes that actually tastes nice! Louise has an impressive portfolio of stockists developing in the UK and beyond.

dog chewing newspaperPlease, check Louise Tate’s website Louise Tate Illustration and Facebook page Louise Tate Illustration for more information.

All images are courtesy of Louise Tate and are published with permission.

Gallery

Introducing – Helen Godfrey Wire Sculpture

Several weeks ago I introduced on my blog the fabulous work of Robin Wight, who then introduced me to the fabulous work of Helen Godfrey.

Helen - owl spread
Helen Godfrey initially began using galvanized wire as an armature for her papier mache work, for which she won a bursary from Dorset Arts and Crafts in 1997.
Helen - ducks and fox
With no formal training in the arts, Helen crafted her original work in papier mache in her home.
Helen - badgers
From early beginnings, she continued to experiment and was asked to exhibit her work at garden openings and craft exhibitions.
Helen - chicken
One day at a craft fair, she realized that people were more interested in the wire shape support than the papier mache itself.
Helen - mouse
A few commissions encouraged her to continue, and she went on to create a whole menagerie of wire animals and birds, and has recently moved onto human forms.
Helen - rabbit
Wire is a notoriously difficult material to work with due to its inflexibility and strength.
Helen - ducks
Helen has since developed the wire as an art form in itself, with inspiration for her work coming from the surrounding wildlife where she lives in rural Dorset.
Helen - guinea
She has exhibited at garden openings, undertaken commissions for gardens across the UK & abroad, and also had work featured in publications such as The English Garden magazine and Dorset magazine.
Helen - owl
Helen also teaches wire sculpture workshops at Walford Mill in Wimborne, Dorset.
Helen - elephant
It seems Mrs.Godfrey encountered the same problem as  many fellow artists before her:
“Dear Me,
Please stop making things that I don’t want to part with.
Yours sincerely Me”
Helen - dancing rabbits

Please, check Helen Godfrey’s website Wire Sculpture by Helen Godfrey and Facebook page Helen Godfrey Wire Sculpture for more information.

All images are courtesy of Helen Godfrey, and are published with permission.

Gallery

Introducing – Fairies by Robin Wight

You never know what surprises the day has in store for you. So, when I woke up this morning, had my coffee and scrolled down my Facebook wall, I stumbled upon something so magical and magnificent, that it’s hard to find the right words.

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These magnificent sculptures are work of Robin Wight, a UK-based Sculptor, who creates playful fairies out of stainless steel wires.

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He builds dramatic scenes of wind-blown fairies clutching dandelions, hiding in trees, and seemingly suspended in midair. There is an unbelievable poetry of motion present in his work.
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Of his inspiration:
“In 1920 two little girls photographed fairies at the bottom of their garden and created a news sensation. As we know, the photographs were fake, but the story captured the imagination of people who wanted to believe.”

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“A couple of years ago, while trying out my new camera, I took the picture in the woods at the bottom of my garden. It was only later when looking at the results that I spotted the figure in the tree.”
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“It’s obviously a trick of the light coming through the trees. What else could it be? Whatever it is, it captured my imagination and inspired me to use the idea in my sculpture.”
10441434_635913476505634_3841548825455147600_nAlthough as a photographer I encounter tricks of the light too often, I would rather believe the real fairies decided to show themselves to Robin, knowing it would inspire him to create magic.
wire-5As his signature, he places a stone “heart” at each fairy’s core, sometimes engraving these hearts with messages. Imagine that, sculptures with hearts, elevating his art to another level.

wire-6

What  better place to look for fairies than the bottom of the garden. You can find them at Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire, England, where there are currently 14 fairies hidden and waiting to be discovered.
wire-7 I can’t remember when I felt so overwhelmed by art work, it seems like the portal opened between Earth and Fairy, and all the magical creatures decided to visit us for a while. I can only hope they spread around and land somewhere near Croatia, so I can see them in person.

On a more serious note, I truly hope this very talented artist has continuing success and joy with his exceptional work, without becoming too overwhelmed.

Please, check Robin Wight’s  website FantasyWire and  Facebook page Wire Sculpture by Fantasywire for more information.

All images are courtesy of Robin Wight, and are published with permission.

Haiku – The Magic and The Mastery of Ryōkan

It took me awhile to understand the art of haiku. My disparagement and indifference were products of  ignorance and lack of knowledge. As a child, I would listen to grownups making fun of haiku poetry, trying to glue together few simple words without any coherent meaning, deluding themselves thinking the secrets of haiku would be revealed to their unengaged souls. But as with all things distant and unknown, only when you allow yourself to grow and learn, can you perceive and appreciate the hidden beauty and wisdom.

There are very few works of art that deeply touched me throughout my life, pushing me to rethink and question the choices I make, the way I see the world around me.

It happened suddenly and unexpectedly, I was ambushed by few simple lines. Like a fish on a hook, I was dragged onward, trying to free myself, entangling ever deeper. The words haunted me for days, always vibrating in the corner of my mind, asking to be noticed, encouraging me to learn more. When I first heard the words, I hastily  wrote those lines on a simple piece of paper, both in fear of losing that feeling that overwhelmed me and in need to comprehend.

Ryokan - Haiku

The thief left it behind:
The moon
At my window.

There is a story behind these words, written by one of the most beloved Japanese poets, Ryōkan. One evening a thief visited Ryōkan’s hut at the base of the mountain only to discover there was nothing to steal. Ryōkan returned and caught him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.” The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away. Ryōkan sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, “I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon.”

Ryokan

Ryōkan: Self-Portrait

Ryōkan Taigu was a quiet and eccentric Sōtō Zen Buddhist monk. A contemporary of Mozart,  living on the opposite sides of the world and completely different ways of life, they shared astounding amount of genius and creativity.

He was born as Eizō Yamamoto in the year 1758. in the village of Izumozaki, in the cold and isolated  Echigo Province. His father was a merchant and the village elder, who passed on to his son a love of poetry. Ryokan’s quiet childhood included both literature and religion, and his reticent nature rebelled at the notion of succeeding his father in business and politics. Ryōkan renounced the world at an early age to train at nearby Sōtō Zen temple Kōshō-ji, where he met visiting Zen master Kokusen and became his disciple , and the two continued their lives in Entsū-ji monastery in Tamashima . He was originally ordained as Ryōkan Taigu, which would translate as “broad-hearted generous fool”, reflecting the  qualities that Ryōkan’s work and life embodies.

After Kokusen death, some twenty years later, Ryōkan, now in his forties, embarked on a long pilgrimage and never returned to monastic life, his decision probably influenced by aggressive reforming of the Sōtō school. Only in 1804 did he settle down on Mt. Kugami, where he stayed for many years. He lived much of the rest of his life as a hermit and spent much of his time writing poetry, calligraphy, and communing with nature. He saw the poverty of his hut as a projection of his own voluntary station. More often than not, he suffered hardships.

No flame in the lamp nor charcoal in the fireplace;
Lying in bed, listening to the sound of the freezing rain. …
Lying in my freezing hut, unable to sleep.

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Gogō-an, the modern replica of the cottage where Ryōkan lived from 1804 to 1816

Guests could expect little more than “weak tea and thin soup.” Still, Ryōkan wrote:

Don’t say my hut has nothing to offer
come and I will share with you
the cool breeze that fills my window.

His hut and his hermit way of living represented a microcosm of life and the universe.  It is the backdrop for the continuance  of existence, which he so perceptively depicted in his work.

My life is like an old run-down hermitage
poor, simple, quiet.

In 1826. Ryōkan became ill and was unable to continue living alone. He moved into the house of one of his patrons, Kimura Motouemon and was cared for by a young nun called Teishin, forty years his junior. They struck a curious friendship and exchanged a series of haiku.

Was it really you
I saw
Or is this joy
I still feel
only a dream?
–Teishin

In this dream world
We doze
And talk of dreams —
Dream, dream on,
As much as you wish
–Ryokan

Here with you
I could remain
For countless days and years
Silent as the bright moon
We watched together
–Teishin

Have you forgotten me
Or lost the path here?
I wait for you
All day, every day
But you do not appear
–Ryokan

The moon, I’m sure
Is shining brightly
High above the mountains
But gloomy clouds
Shroud the peak in darkness
–Teishin

You must rise above
The gloomy clouds
Covering the mountaintop
Otherwise, how will you
Ever see the brightness?
–Ryokan

In a book “Great Fool: Zen master Ryōkan: poems, letters, and other writings” translated by  Ryūichi Abé and Peter Haskel, it is noted: “The [first] visit left them both exhilarated, and led to a close relationship that brightened Ryōkan’s final years.” When an earthquake occurred at Echigo-Sanjo, he sent her a letter that said “It is good to suffer a misfortune when suffering a misfortune.”

Ryōkan Taigu died in 1831.  “Teishin records that Ryōkan, seated in meditation posture, died ‘just as if he were falling asleep.'”

He is remembered for the depth of his enlightenment that manifested in the spirit of acceptance and equality that he showed to all without a difference,  from respected officials to scorned prostitutes. He played with children, composed poetry in praise of nature, was renowned for his calligraphy, lived in spartan simplicity, and showed love for all living things.

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Ryōkan is considered one of the giants of Zen, but he led no school, or left an heir to pass on his style. This was a man who disassociated himself from all religious institutions, yet came to be seen as one of the greatest figures in the history of Zen Buddhism in Japan. A Poet who wrote:

Who says my poems are poems?
My poems are not poems.
When you know that my poems are not poems,
Then we can speak of poetry.

and yet his work contains around 140 poems. Ryōkan  may seemed to be a mass of contradictions, but the more likely simple truth is that he was a whole man, who recognised the many worlds he inhabited.

Kazuaki Tanahashi, in the Introduction of his collection “Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryōkan ” wrote: “Because he did not strive to become free, he was always free from attainment—even from attainment of freedom.”

But maybe the great master himself best described the essence of his life and of living in general:

I have nothing to report, my friends.
If you want to find the meaning,
Stop chasing after so many things.

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Statue of Ryōkan, Izumozaki, Niigata Prefecture

I am not a fool to claim my knowledge of art of haiku is more than average, but I am foll enough to believe that I discovered a piece of magic and hidden beauty of life through deceptively simple poetry of one of the greatest poets of all times.

Anthonis van Dyck

A friend asked me not long ago to pick one of Van Dyck’s paintings and give my appreciaton of the things I favor most. It was a hard task, since I am eternally in love with his mentor Rubens and comparison was inevitable. And although Van Dyck succeeded to distinguish himself through his famous portraits of royal family, I believe he captured the magic of the moment in one of his less known paintings.

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Anthonis van Dyck – An English Landscape, 1635.

A fairly small number of landscape pen and wash drawings or watercolours made in England played an important part in introducing the Flemish watercolour landscape tradition to England. Some are studies, which reappear in the background of paintings, but many are signed and dated and were probably regarded as finished works to be given as presents. Several of the most detailed are of Rye, a port for ships to the Continent, suggesting that van Dyck did them casually whilst waiting for wind or tide to improve.

In this quiet little piece of watercolor and gouache, I find those rare quiet moments and recognize, maybe wrongly, an intimacy that is hard to discover in his other “larger than life” works. You can almost imagine his delicate strokes of a brush, longing that pours over a canvas, gentle colors telling a tale of a quiet afternoon,  a breeze cought up in the branches of a grove, distant sounds of a harbour…And those sails on the horizon… they are the promise of things to come.