2010 Enso Painting

Ensō is a Japanese word meaning “circle” and a concept strongly associated with Zen. Ensō is one of the most common subjects of Japanese calligraphy even though it is a symbol and not a character. It symbolizes enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and the void; it can also symbolize the Japanese aesthetic itself. As an “expression of the moment” it is often considered a form of minimalist expressionist art.

In Zen Buddhist painting, ensō symbolizes a moment when the mind is free to simply let the body/spirit create. The brushed ink of the circle is usually done on silk or rice paper in one movement (but the great Bankei used two strokes sometimes) and there is no possibility of modification: it shows the expressive movement of the spirit at that time. Zen Buddhists “believe that the character of the artist is fully exposed in how she or he draws an ensō. Only a person who is mentally and spiritually complete can draw a true ensō. Some artists will practice drawing an ensō daily, as a kind of spiritual exercise.”

Some artists paint ensō with an opening in the circle, while others complete the circle. For the former, the opening may express various ideas, for example that the ensō is not separate, but is part of something greater, or that imperfection is an essential and inherent aspect of existence (see also the idea of broken symmetry). The principle of controlling the balance of composition through asymmetry and irregularity is an important aspect of the Japanese aesthetic: Fukinsei, the denial of perfection.

I painted my first Enso last night. Circles are a prevailing theme in many of my paintings, but technically I had never painted an Enso. I used white paint on unbleached linen canvas that had a clear gesso. The clear gesso repelled my paint, so I created this Enso with three circle strokes, filling in some of the gaps. This does not follow the rules of making an Enso with one stroke… therefore supporting the Fukinsei philosophy of the denial of perfection… this philosophy makes me sleep better at night 🙂



2009 iMadonnari

Well It looks like the smoke and ash are clearing and we’ll be doing iMadonnari this year.

Come down an visit May 23-25 at the Santa Barbara Mission. We’ll be recreating an Audubon painting this year. Maria and I donate our time and the square is sponsored by the Douglas R. Bartoli Memorial Fund, a fund that was established after Doug’s death with family and numerous friends of Doug’s contributing to the fund. The money raised at I Madonnari goes to support The Children’s Creative Project.

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2009 Om Mani Padme Hum

This is my first attempt to carve this Tibetan prayer into sandstone. I joined a friend of mine at a meditation center in town to do this. It was really fun and it was a great medium to work in. About 20 of us sat outside in the sunshine and some of the people were humming or chanting Tibetan prayers. It wasn’t strictly business though, one of the Lamas came by and was joking about liking the show ‘Everybody loves Raymond’. What a relaxed and happy group of people.

These mantra carved stones will be heaped together and form a Dobum on the hillside of Santa Barbara. Building a Dobum brings great blessings including peace, prosperity and balance. This Dobum is being created in honor of the daughter of Bhakha Rinpoche who died in a helicopter crash in Nepal in 2006.



2009 TED Palm Springs

TED feels like going to camp for your mind! I’d recommend it to anyone that has thought about going. I attended TED Palm Springs, so it’s a satellite conference, but it didn’t feel like a disconnect from Long Beach. There were 400 people attending the Palm Springs event. All walks of life…professors, tv show hosts, industrial designers, economists, artists, and the list goes on. People attending were approachable, professional and relaxed.

The event was top notch! Great venue. Some of those highlights… Google sponsored a coffee shop with free lattes anytime, Odwalla juices and all the naughty munchies you can imagine. Dinners were poolside with heat lamps, great food and wine (to help with creative thinking). Inside the main room was built by Steelcase, so great chairs, couches, bean bags, big plasma screens, little screens, table tops, etc. It was nice to mix it all up since you’re there for 4+ days.

And finally, not to forget the main reason for being there… all the inspiring speakers. Most of the people in the line up I had not heard of before, but had truly innovative things to share. The theme this year was ‘The Great Unveiling’, so talks somewhat centered around that.

They will post the talks on Ted.com, I think some from this year are already posted. Some of my favs:

Dan Ariely, Behavioral Economist, Author of Predictably Irrational, I was amazed in his talk how you could even track and measure behavior in human actions, and things that don’t seem trackable. http://predictablyirrational.com/

Bonnie Bassler, Molecular Biologist, Taught me that our bodies are made up of 10 trillions cells. And that our bodies in addition include another 100 trillion bacteria cells…EEW! But these are good bacteria. http://www.molbio.princeton.edu/

Ray Anderson, Founder, Interface Global, An Atlanta based carpet manufacturer that turned his company around to where it is roughly 80% sustainable, with a goal of 100% in the future. His message, corporations need to get on board with environmentally friendly production. The good news, going green actually raised profits in his company. http://www.interfaceglobal.com/

Elizabeth Gilbert, Author of Eat, Pray, Love. Gave a great talk on what to do next after her ‘freakishly successful’ book. Her presentation style was disarming and she addressed what i think any creative has to face at some point… when you produce something you’re proud of, or that has a big success, how do you approach creating the next thing. http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/

Nina Jablonski, Anthropologist, Talked about the color of our skin, it’s origin… the talk was much more interesting then the way I just put it. http://www.anthro.psu.edu/faculty_staff/Jablonski.shtml

Daniel Libeskind, Architect, Challenging approaches to architecture such as expressive vs. neutral, inexplicable vs. understood, unexpected vs. habitual and optimistic vs. pessimistic. I like how this applies to all creations in life. http://daniel-libeskind.com/

Pattie Maes, Interface Inventor, She just had cool new gadgets… http://ambient.media.mit.edu/projects.php

Jacek Utko, Newspaper designer, He visually transformed some European publications and it reflected positively on their bottom line. He did really nice design work… but when it comes down to it, hire me not him! 🙂  http://utko.com/

Margaret Wertheim, Science weaver: An artist and scientist with a great cause: http://theiff.org/

And of course a few talks about sex: http://maryroach.net/

Some great music! Regina Spektor, Jamie Cullum, Deepak Ram

Some great dance troupes and performers: Capacitor from San francisco, Natasha Tsakos

I left TED feeling inspired and with a sense of more objectivity around the work I do in design, painting and outreach. Here are a few photos that really won’t do it justice. But I did get a kick out of the ‘bling’ covered pool table in the entry.

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