Wednesday, September 10, 2014

lingering summer light pt. 1

Reflections, cold wax and oil paints, Donna Watson

September... a pause for summer to say an awkward and lingering good-by and for autumn, sitting on a hill top, a jug of cider in one hand and a bunch of wild purple asters in the other, waiting to say hello.  (NYTimes)  As summer comes to an end, it is that time of year for me to post images of my Zen gardens and my Zen greenhouse.  I have decided to divide my images into 3 posts because I have so many to share.  This first post is all about my Zen house... what I call my outdoor decor.

Torii gate entrance to my Zen House

" walk without destination and to see only to see..." 
--- Uta Barth

Follow the stone path

"Your sacred space is where you find yourself again and again."
--- Joseph Campbell

Some of my bonsai in front of my Zen House

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes"
--- Marcel Proust

One of the shelves inside my Zen House

"May my mind come alive today
to the invisible geography 
that invites me to new frontiers,
to break the dead shell of yesterdays, 
to risk being disturbed and changed."
---John O'Donohue, from a morning offer

A new birdcage, inside is a Japanese kokedama or moss ball with a Rabbit Fern

"Landscape consists in the multiple, overlapping intricacies and forms that exist in a given space at a moment in time."  Annie Dillard, Pilgrims at Tinker Creek

Kokedama or Japanese moss ball with Rabbit Fern

"Landscape is the texture of intricacy, and texture is my present subject... What do I make of all this texture?"  Annie Dillard

Another Kokedama, or moss ball with large wooden paddle

"The texture of the world, its filigree and scrollwork, means that there is the possibility for beauty here, a beauty as inexhaustible in its complexity, which opens to my knock, which answers in me a call I do not remember calling, and which trains me to the wild and extravagant nature of the spirit I seek."  Annie Dillard, Pilgrims at Tinker Creek

This is a Rose de Jericho, a type of desert moss,  which dries up into a tight ball without water.  When water is added, it will open up and burst into life, until the water dries up again.  

A water feature inside my Zen House

A corner of the Zen House

A round beach rock with a bee who passed away and has been sitting on this rock all summer

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just 
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't 
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which 
another voice may speak.  
Mary Oliver

Saturday, August 16, 2014

New Journeys, New Frontiers

Landmark,  cold wax and oil painting by Donna Watson

NOTE:  My 4 day workshop still has some openings.  It is coming up soon - Sept. 15-18, 2014.
It is titled PERSONAL EXPRESSION:  A Design Approach.  The emphasis is on composition, elements and principles, personal content and expression.   You will find your strengths and figure out how to best use them to make your works more unique and recognizable and successful whatever your goals are.  The workshop location is on beautiful Whidbey Island at Coupeville WA.  Go to this website for the Pacific Northwest Art School here.  Look under the category for Mixed Media.

Histories, cold wax and oil painting by Donna Watson

NOTE:  My 2 day workshop in Virginia Beach, VA has 3 openings left.  It is also coming up soon -
October 4-5, 2014.  It is titled BORO/WABI SABI:  The Japanese Spirit of Collage.  You will learn how to hand paint your own rice papers to create your collage papers and then you will learn some composition, and design elements and principles to help you create your collages.  Go to this website for Art and Soul to find out how to register here.  Be sure to look for the Virginia Beach 2014 workshops.

Zen 7, collage using hand painted rice papers by Donna Watson

Art is a journey into the most unknown thing of all - oneself.  Nobody knows his own frontiers...
I don't even think I'd ever want to take a road if I knew where it led.
Louis Kahan

May my mind come alive today
to the invisible geography
that invites me to new frontiers,
to break the dead shell of yesterdays,
to risk being disturbed and changed.
John O' Donohue, from "a morning offering"

Friday, July 18, 2014

Narratives of Place

Pieces of Memory, cold wax, oil paints, collage, by Donna Watson

Words begin as description.  They are prismatic, vehicles of hidden, deeper shades of thought.  You can hold them up at different angles until the light bursts through in an unexpected color.
Susan Brind Morrow, THE NAME OF THINGS

Life Energy, cold wax, oil paints, collage by Donna Watson

We establish a sense of place from its vivid sensory impressions or influence.  Places have mood and magic, an atmosphere of their own.  There are different ways of conceptualizing and speaking about the way we connect to the spirit and texture of a place.  We find expression and authenticity of place through sensory cues, crystallized images, and from reasons steeped in memory and meaning.

In 1973, Peter Matthiessen traveled high into the remote mountains of Nepal to study the Himalayan blue sheep and possibly glimpse the rare and beautiful snow leopard.  Matthiessen was a student of Zen Buddhism and was also on a spiritual quest.  His beautiful writing describes the "moments' along his journey... the sky, the snow, the birds, the butterflies, the animals, the people.  I have never read such beautiful descriptive words, with such a deepening Buddhist understanding of reality, suffering, impermanence and beauty.  
"The fire-colored dragonflies in the early autumn air, the bent backs in bright reds and yellows, the gleam on the black cattle and grain stubble, the fresh green of the paddies and the sparkling river---over everything lies an immortal light, like transparent silver."  PM

Woodcut print by Gary Groves

Gary Groves is a woodcut artist.  He grew up in the Northwest and his work is inspired by the stark landscapes of rock, light and shadow.   He has a BFA in sculpture, apprenticed as a potter and lived in Japan.  It is obvious Zen tenets have influenced his work, and he has captured the rhythms and textures of the places he has experienced.  "I want my work to talk about this connection I have established  to try and draw attention to the significance and history of the objects I choose to include in my images."  Gary Groves

Woodcut print by Gary Groves

"I look for some aspect of my subjects, some special quality that arouses me, that I can point out and that may not be readably recognizable... that can make an ordinary object significant for myself and hopefully for the viewers."  Gary Groves

Palouse Falls, woodcut print by Gary Groves

"My medium of woodcut prints is idea for rendering the textures that help to convey my intentions.
The direct and straightforward technique of carving the blocks is something I respond to personally."
You can find out more about Gary Groves and his works at Augen Gallery here.  

Woodcut print by Gary Groves

Here the immensity, the emptiness, feeds the spirit, and leaves it with no hunger for anything but more space, more light---as if one had suddenly glimpsed the largeness, the emptiness of one's own soul, and come to terms with it, glorying at last in its open freedom.
David Malouf, An Imaginary Life

Wood cut print by Gary Groves

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Zen of Creativity

FLIGHT, cold wax and oil, collage 16"x16", by Donna Watson

Note:  Upcoming Workshop.  There are some openings in my upcoming 4 day workshop, 
Sept. 15-18, 2014 in beautiful Coupeville, Whidbey Island, WA for the Pacific NW Art School.
Personal Expression:  A Design Approach is for all mediums and all styles of painting or art creation.
At their website here look for more information or contact me.

SANCTITY, cold wax and oil, collage  18"x18", by Donna Watson

I have read this book, THE ZEN OF CREATIVITY by John Daido Loori, 3 times.  This book taps into the principles of the Zen arts and aesthetic as a means to unlock creativity.  "Well written, wise, insightful...enhanced by fine Zen dialogues and stories, poems, koan, photographs and illustrations as well as apt, stimulating quotations from many writers and Zen teachers."  Peter Matthiessen

The creative process is intuitive, and based on our experiences.  It points us to our essential nature which should be reflected in our artistic work.  As artists, we should always be looking inward to discover our true expression.  To do that we need to quiet our minds, empty our minds, and only be
aware of each moment around us.  Once our minds are empty we are open to new ideas.

All images here are by Donna Watson in her studio

How do you go straight ahead on a narrow mountain pass which has ninety-three curves?
An old Zen Koan

Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art.
Leonardo da Vinci

To study the Way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things.
Eihei Dogen

The inner ---- what is it?  if not intensified sky....
Rainer Maria Rilke

When you look, it is formless;  When you call, it echoes...

No muse appears when invoked, dire need 
Will not rouse her pity.  May Sarton

WHEN I MET MY MUSE by William Stafford

I glanced at her and took my glasses 
off -- they were still singing.  The buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then 
ceased.  Her voice belled forth, and the 
sunlight bent.  I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip 
on whatever they touched.  "I am your own
way of looking at things", she said.  "When
you allow me to live with you, every 
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation."  And I took her hand.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Are We Having Fun Yet?

 Painting, A Moment in Time, cold wax and oil, by Donna Watson

When I tell a non-artist that I am an artist, the usual response is,  "You must have so much fun!"  This always puzzles me, and usually my response back is, "I wouldn't call what I go through as fun." which puzzles the non-artist.  I have even heard some artists say "I have a lot of fun when I am doing my art."  For which I give the same response back, "I am not having any fun."  So what am I having?

Detail of painting, by Donna Watson

I guess the word 'fun' is subjective and can have different meanings to everyone.  So here is the dictionary meaning:  "enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure... playful behavior... an activity that is intended purely for amusement and should not be interpreted as having serious purposes."

Detail of painting, by Donna Watson

So if I am not having fun, how would I describe what I am going through?  It is hard to put into words.  The quote by Martha Graham is always one I use when I try to describe the search and journey I am on as an artist.

"No artist is pleased.  There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.  There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others"

Detail of painting, by Donna Watson

Art is longing.  You never arrive, but you keep going in the hope that you will.  Anselm Kiefer

Journey, cold wax and oil painting by Donna Watson

Most people think happiness is about gaining something, but its
not.  It's all about getting rid of the darkness you accumulate.
Carolyn Crane

Spirit, collage using hand painted rice papers by Donna Watson

Things don't really get solved.  They come together and they fall apart.  Then they come together and fall apart again.  Its just like that.  The healing comes from letting there be room for all this to happen:  room for the grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
Pema Chodron

And this is how I approach my art, as a starting point for discovery, healing, and that divine dissatisfaction with the hope that I will get "it" with the next painting or collage or assemblage.  It is the "it" that is hard to describe.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Unveiling... And the winner is...

History by Donna Watson,  oil and cold wax, collage and Japanese string

Every seed grows in darkness and silence.

Story by Donna Watson, oil and cold wax, collage and scroll

For the first 6 months of 2013, I faced a serious creative block in my studio.  I wanted some sort of change, but did not know why or what.  I did not know how to move forward, nor what to experiment with or what to try that would result in some sort of change that I would like.

Mapping by Donna Watson, oil and cold wax, collage bundle

I finally decided to try a new medium.  For the past 6 monte or so, I have been experimenting with cold wax and oil paints.  It took me awhile to get used to the slower drying time.  With a lot of experimenting and layering... I ended up with many layers which I scratched, rubbed, pressed, brayered... and I have finally ended with some new finished pieces.

Old Scroll by Donna Watson, oil and cold wax, old collage papers and old scroll

I also decided to change and add to my collage.  Everyone has a story to tell.  Stories become our compass by which we navigate through our memories and discover our core being.  We use stories to build our sanctuaries.  These stories (memories) become our history.

Riverbed by Donna Watson, oil and cold wax, paper bundle, rock, string

Because our memories are intertwined with language, I like to explore the importance of words, phrases, sentences... snatches of memory lingering in and out of consciousness.  My collage became
layers of old letters, book pages, and old maps wrapped into bundles.  Scrolls, which can hide stories and histories, have also been included.  These remains of the past represent our memories in the present.

Every human life has its seeds, whether building a sand castle, cooking, painting a canvas, walking through the woods.

And now, for the drawing for my book:  THE BEAUTY OF NOTHINGNESS.  Thank you to all those who left comments at my blog and those who sent email comments.  There were 65 names.
I wrote down all the names, cut them into pieces that were folded and put into a bowl... and the one name I drew out is.....  Barry!

Thank you again, and if any of you are still interested in my book you can go to
here and take a look at the whole book. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Stuff... and a Give Away

 REMINDERS,  Donna Watson, acrylic and collage

NOTE:  I will be teaching 2 two day workshops in Portland, Oregon in April.  The first workshop is titled:
Journal to Book:  A Zen approach.  On the first day, artists will explore their interests, passions, heritage, hobbies, or relationships AND create collage papers, either hand painted or found for their journal.  On the second day, artists will take their story or history or interest and use collage papers and/or text to begin their book in a blank journal.  (April 8-9, 2014)

The second workshop is titled:  Boro/Wabi sabi The spirit of collage.   On the first day, artists will hand paint rice papers using paints, stamps, stencils, whatever.  There will be in introduction to Zen tenets, composition, design elements and principles.  On the second day, artists will create their collages using journals, canvas, wood supports.. whatever they want.  (April 10-11, 2014)

For more information on these workshops go to:   

Zen Nature 2, Donna Watson, collage

NEWS:  My paintings have been included in the book 100 ARTISTS OF THE NORTHWEST.
My painting REMINDERS at the top of this blog is one of the paintings included in the book.
There are 50 artists from Washington and 50 artists from Oregon.  The book is filled with 
contemporary artists of all mediums both 2-D and 3-D, and is available from

There will be a reception and book signing on March 1, at Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park on Camano Island, WA.  I will have 6 painting included in the show and there will  be 25 artists from the book there in the gallery for book signing.  

AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!  This is my first ever giveaway after - wow, how many years since I started my blog?  4 or 5 years.   Just leave a comment (make sure I know how to contact you) at this blog post and I will have a drawing and send someone a copy of my own hand created book THE BEAUTY OF NOTHINGNESS.  The book is available at  here   but I have one signed copy ready for my first ever give away.

Here are some sample pages from the book.  You can view the whole  
book at the link above.

"Learning to be creative within the confines of our limitations is the best hope we have to transform ourselves..."  Phil Hansen

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