The Zen of Seeing, with a Cat

drawing-1980s-015_webI recommend the books,  The Zen of Seeing and The Awakened Eye by Frederick Franck, to artists and art lovers everywhere. Essentially Franck tells artists to let real life guide your drawings. Using the principles of  The Zen of Seeing, I sketched my cat G.B., doing my best to remove my ego and preconceptions from what I drew. I concentrated only on the “live cat”before me, and this is what happened (click to see pictures larger):

In this case, G.B. the cat chose her poses and I just drew them as she changed from sitting to crouching.  Her attention span was about one or two minutes per pose, which explains why these pictures are full of movement and a swishing tail. I think this set makes a good example of how gestural drawings can record and preserve the special and lifelike essence of the “being” before you.

You know, If I had never discovered The Zen of Seeing, I might have grown up drawing in a technical and detailed manner from life and pictures, and drawing from my imagination. That’s not so bad, but I’d be missing out on the “life” element in my subjects, and I’d slip back into my “art fears”.   For I was full of  hope, dreams, fears, and self-doubts. I even had artistic breakdowns, where I’d stare at a canvas for hours not knowing how to fix it, then storm around the house feeling frustrated. I needed to take a more meditative approach to art, in order to progress both artistically and spiritually.

“We do a lot of looking: We look through lenses, telescopes, television tubes… Our looking is perfected every day – but we see less and less. Never has it been more urgent to speak of SEEING.”  – The Zen of Seeing

Jim dancing, a painting by Irene Rowley

“Jim Dancing” by Irene Rowley

Now  here is an example of a quick and rough gestural painting, to show how the same principles of seeing can be applied to painting as well. I used a round tipped soft paint brush with a wash of acrylic color on paper. I painted my brother Jim dancing with his Swiss cane, wearing a red sweatshirt hoodie, and blue jeans. It  captures a moment of happiness.  (I hope I do not embarass you Jim!)

With everything happening in our world today, I think the advice from The Zen of Seeing is more important than ever:

“Millions of people, unseeing, joyless, bluster through life in their half sleep, hitting, kicking, and killing what they have barely perceived. They have never learned to SEE, or they have forgotten that man has eyes to SEE, to understand.”- The Zen of Seeing

Books mentioned in this article:

The Zen of Seeing

The Awakened Eye

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