finding the design

Meticulous as these mandala paintings can look, I never plan them out from beginning to end. I can’t. It’s like trying to draw a map of a place you don’t yet know; it’s impossible.

Each design is a combination of inspiration, choice and chance. You take a step (or a few), then you look. The painting shows you the next. It seems that when a painting seems stifled, like nothing is happening or working out, either I’m trying to control it too much and overlooking the opportunities, or I haven’t dared to commit to anything.

I love this painting because it’s a surprise. Looking at it now I don’t quite remember how I got there!

life purpose

For years I’ve been looking for that little thing called Purpose and Meaning in life. Finally, I’m starting to feel that perhaps one of the purposes of life is simply and bravely to blossom, expand and become more of who we are. Because that’s been my yearning.

Life’s purpose and meaning are different for everyone. Tell me, Friends, what are you here (in this life) for, and what makes you feel your days are worthwhile?

wrong choice

(Wrote a poem to go with this painting I made)

Wrong choice of color

on the wrong choice of line

This is a labyrinth

of errors and design.

It’s an accomplishment

to stick to a plan.

But it’s a gift

to lose your way

and find

a new landscape.

The map was only

drawn in sand.

It’s gone the second

you leap.

obsessing about the best stuff

When I was still an exclusively Cantonese-speaking ten-year-old I memorized a Japanese name, written in English letters, because it was printed on the covers of the Sailor Moon manga. Naoko Takeuchi. In my head I would pronounce it like English words, truncating the double vowels into one syllable. I didn’t know how to say her name or what she looked like, but I knew she drew the best art I’d seen in my ten years on earth.

I read all the mangas, watched the anime on TV. I fed hundreds of HK$1 coins into a machine to trade for collectible Sailor Moon cards. I saved up pocket money for Sailor Moon stickers. I had learned the English names of the planets in the solar system before I knew what a solar system is, because Sailor Moon had friends like Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, and so forth. So when I started going to school in England, I was the Chinese kid in a British classroom who didn’t speak but wrote the names of all the planets when the teacher was still at Venus.

Come to think of it, isn’t it amazing when we get to obsess about the best thing we’ve seen in our lives? If we always obsess about the BEST things we know, won’t that make for a fantastic quality of life?

What’s the best-of-something you are obsessing with right now?

sailormoon

painting and me 02

The thing I struggle most with painting is not technical ability, though that is a trigger, but the uninvited guests who pull their chairs right up to me the moment I sit down with a blank piece of paper and brushes at my desk. The perfectionist hovering above and under my brush, the art school graduate who’s scared I’m going to ruin her reputation any further, the art gallery staff who will decide that nothing I make is interesting enough, and the inner critic who identifies each mistake in the painting as the reason I’m failing in life.

“I’m not blind!” I shouted back in my mind. “I can see how this looks like a child’s drawing compared to what I had in mind! Just go away and let me be.” But don’t turn around. You just can’t engage them like that.

Despite the gnarled fingers on my shoulders, hot angry breath, sighs of disappointment, I labored at the painting until I couldn’t fix it any more. When I gave up, my inner Monet came out and took over the should-have-been-OCD-precise mandala painting. In my resting state (as Monet was doing the work) I asked, apart from ignoring those “guests” as best I could, what am I supposed to learn from them?

It said: The opposite of their assaults. Self-compassion.