Clear Heart
Watercolor, 4 x 6"

Matted and backed to 8 x 10"

Part Two of Shunryu Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind,is called Right Attitude.
"The point we emphasize is strong confidence in our original nature."
The section on Repetition opens with
"If you lose the spirit of repetition, your practice will become quite difficult."
Indeed! This is true whether we are meditating or painting. I have swerved in and out of the regular practice of painting for all sorts of reasons. Travel, injury, household distractions, other work, disillusionment, procrastination... but I would say that one big reason is that, at a certain point, I felt as though I was repeating myself.

Now, the sort of repetition I'm referring to is different than what Suzuki means. However, I let my fear of repeating myself curtain my regular practice. It's ridiculous, really, because repetition of a recognizable style and subject is often what provides the way for an artist to catapult themselves into brandom and commercial success. The ridiculous might be better described as an ego issue and, possibly, impatience. Or, to be more fair, perhaps I felt as though I was not developing satisfactorily, and so I stepped away from the practice. Understandable, but not the best solution. I bring all this up because, in my current state of having just a wee bit too much on my plate, I have not made time for my daily watercolor practice.

As I am teaching drawing and watercolor as a spiritual practice, it is now time for me to schedule my own daily watercolor practice. It's something I love to do and a matter of changing some current habits.

Suzuki writes about the practice of making bread:
"But we may find it not so interesting to cook the same thing over and over again every day. It is rather tedious, you may say. If you lose the spirit of repetition, it will become quite difficult, but it will not be difficult if you are full of strength and vitality.
So the kind of practice we stress thus cannot become too idealistic. If an artist becomes too idealistic, he will commit suicide, because between his ideal and his actual ability there is a great gap. Because there is no bridge long enough to go across the gap, he will begin to despair. That is the usual spiritual way. But our spiritual way is not so idealistic. In some sense we should be idealistic; at least we should be interested in making bread which tastes and looks good! Actual practice is repeating over and over again until you find out how to become bread. There is no secret in our way. Just to practice zazen and put ourselves into the oven is our way."
A lesson for me and a lesson for my students. The repetition of regular practice is crucial in watercolor as in any other form of creative endeavor. Anyone can fall out of the regular habit, even me, who deeply understands and teaches the need for regular practice. It takes courage and discipline to get into (or get back into) the regular habit.

The root of the word courage is directly related to that of heart. Back to the watercolor board and my original nature with a clear heart!
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RH Carpenter said...

I found this post to be about courage - your courage to face the fears and doubts and anger and wonder at it all and still do it :) May each of your days be the same! ha ha

Suzanne McDermott said...

Ha ha, indeed! Maybe with a bit less intensity!

Mary said...

These are rich and evocative thoughts, Suzanne--thank you for sharing them. You have helped me today!

Suzanne McDermott said...

...and you have helped me by leaving your comment. Glad to be of service.