#O105: Countless Distances

Oil on Canvas (16 x 20″). This is yet another painting based on the scene shown in the source photo below.

In this painting I did not look at the source photo at all, but used my earlier painting (posted here) as the departure point. That painting, in turn, was based on this painting, which was based on the source photo. The sequence is shown below.

So I guess you can say that this painting is the great grandchild of the source photo. It left me wondering, if you continue copying your own paintings of the same scene – would you eventually arrive at the truth, some sort of pure abstraction?

I have been asking myself serious questions about painting. The question: “Why do this?” is often on my mind. Which leads me to “Why do – or create – anything at all?” I guess you can come up with many answers to that question: for posterity, to make money (good luck with that!), to find yourself, to keep from eating, etc.

For anything I spend time on outside of my day job, the best answer to the question “Why do it?” – the one that will keep me doing something – seems to be “because it makes me feel good. It makes me a better person, quiets the mind and takes away my restlessness”.

I find that in recent days my paintings are not too bad, but often I am restless and subtly discontent after a painting session – even if I like the outcome. It is a subtle coloring of the spirit, and I need to meditate on that – I believe it points to something in me that needs to be uncovered.

Over years, I have come to trust the wordless silence of the mind that can be touched in meditation. This open silence which holds us all the time is ultimately receptive and calms the restless seeking personality. I guess you could say that in meditation, that which is infinitely calm and can be trusted holds and calms that which is restless and cannot be trusted.

Over my morning coffee, I have been reading and enjoying two of David Hinton’s books. One of these is Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology. There is a lot there to reflect on. Being an unknown distance into the second half of my life, I am very conscious that there is an end to life – it is the cyclical way of nature.I am drawn to poetry that is short and punchy and points me to stillness.

Seeing off the year’s final day, windblown
snow can’t slow this warm weather. Already,

at our gate planted with plum and willow,
there’s a branch flaunting lovely blossoms.

If I chant, words come clear. And in wine
I touch countless distances. So much still

eludes me here. Who knows how much with
all this unearthly Manifest Mountain song?

T'ao Ch'ien, translated by David Hinton.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

[Hey Boksie! Ek relax so lekker – baie dankie, en onthou ek is baie lief vir jou!]

#O104: The Inner Pattern

Landscape on canvas paper. Also an invented landscape. I start with a wash of thin Raw Sienna into which I wash Red Oxide with random wild strokes. I then take a cloth and wipe away some shapes and stand back. If I am lucky, a landscape like this one steps forward…

A poem by T’ao Ch’ien, translated by David Hinton:

I couldn’t want another life. Tending 
fields and mulberries— it’s my true 

calling. I’ve never failed it, and still,
against hunger and cold, there’s only 

hull and chaff. I never wanted more 
than a full stomach. All I’ve asked is 

a little rice, heavy clothes for winter 
and open-weaves for summer heat. 

But I haven’t even managed that. O, 
all this grief cuts deep. And character 

is fate. If you’re simpleminded, life’s 
ways elude you. It’s the inner pattern: 

no one’s likely to change it. But then, 
I delight in even a single cup of wine.

David Hinton. 
Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology (p. 119). 
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

#O103: Gray Moist Pearl

Oil on canvas paper, approximately A4 size. A week or so ago, I ran out of prepared canvas and decided to just use what I had available, which was a pad of A4 Canson Canvas paper. This painting is the result.

I was not feeling very energetic, wanting to just remain active in the studio. So I decided to just loosely copy this painting which I had posted earlier. I did not set out to do a detailed copy, but just copy the concept and composition using sideways glances at the earlier canvas standing in the corner.

I was surprised at the color tone the paint takes on with the canvas paper. It probably has something to do with how and how much the paper absorbs the paint. I find a hushed, olivey tone in my paintings on paper – something I really like. I think I will try some more.


Rainy, windy day. Good afternoon sleep after rediscovering some poetry that had slipped from my mind over the years. Amongst them the poem below by Juan Ramon Jiminez, who amazes me with his ability to translate the visual landscape into words. What a painter he would have been!

Moguer Dawnings
Silver poplar groves
breaking from the mist!
The solitary wind
moving through the marsh -
unreal earthquake -
widespread Huelva
remote and pink!
Above the sea, near la Rabida,
in the gray moist pearl
of the end-of-night sky
cold behind the raw dawn
(a horizon of pines!),
cold behind the white dawn,
the blazing moon.

Juan Ramon Jiminez, translated Willis Barnstone,
in Modern European Poetry


Thanks for visiting my blog. A special thanks to all who have recently encouraged me with supportive and insightful comments.

#O102: Everything Points

Close to Hamilton, NZ is a beautiful Arboretum.  During a recent visit I took the source photo below and this led to the painting above. A larger version is shown below. I am pleased with the way the brush and palette knife captured the soft leafy green of the bamboo at the edge of the pond.

#102: Everything Points (Oil on Canvas, 18 x 24″)

The source photo is below. I did not want to place the bamboo at the center, so I cropped the painting to get the duck near the Golden Mean intersection point.


A long time ago, I read The Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau. It made a lasting impression on me. Something in the book that returns to me often, is the recounting by a Zen student of her enlightenment experience.

She also describes a further opening of the heart and mind that occurred six years later. She outlines nine insights that were revealed to her. One which always stays with me is this one:

The least act, such as eating or scratching an arm, is not at all simple. It is merely a visible moment in a network of causes and effects reaching forward into the Unknowingness and back into a infinity of Silence, where individual consciousness cannot even enter. There is truly nothing to know, nothing that can be known.

These words stayed with me over the years and later led to a short poem:

Nothing to Know
Creamy light; river at dusk.
Teenager slamming door
behind a worried heart.

Blood test results
due tomorrow. Red eye staring
back across the intersection.

Duck glancing back - at you.
Look! everything points!

©Fritz Jooste 2016

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and content.

#O101: Clear Winds Turn

A landscape based on a photo taken on my way from work one day. A larger image and the source photo is below. In this painting I worked quite freely with the pallette knife, especially on the foreground.


After I started this I quickly felt that the contained ellipse of water did not contribute to the composition in the way I wanted, so I tried different variations and the one shown above is the one I finally ended up with.


Early morning I have been reading David Hinton’s book Hunger Mountain: A Field Guide to Mind and Landscape. Here is a translated poem:

Autumn Begins
Autumn begins unnoticed. Nights slowly lengthen,
and little by little, clear winds turn colder

and colder, summer’s blaze giving way. My thatch hut grows still.
At the bottom stair, in bunchgrass, lit dew shimmers.

Hinton’s commentary beautifully outlines the translation of this poem from the original Chinese. I find his prose beautifully meditative:

We are perfectly apparent, and it’s impossible, really, to locate a center of identity in the midst of that clarity. If I sit beside the pool, eyes closed as an occasional leaf clatters down through streamside trees, and watch the relentless industry of self, each thought and feeling and memory appearing out of emptiness, wandering through various transformations, and disappearing back into emptiness, I see that I am fundamentally separate from the mental processes with which we normally identify. Instead, I am most essentially the emptiness that watches thought coming and going, hears leaves clattering down through bare branches. And if I simply open my eyes again, I am suddenly and exactly as vast as all existence mirrored in consciousness and vanishing there. The center is beyond, made of elsewhere: streamwater tumbling through schist boulders, for instance,

Hinton, David. Hunger Mountain: A Field Guide to Mind and Landscape (Kindle Locations 470-476). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

#O100: Lessons from 100

My 100th oil painting since I started painting again around April this year. Below are some of the lessons I learnt so far on this journey of painting (and also blogging) – these could be especially useful if you have limited time and energy to paint:

Remove Obstacles: if you have limited time and energy time to paint, get your studio area organized so you have no excuses not to paint in your free time. At one stage I realized cleaning my palette was an irritation because my work area was cramped and everything wobbled as I wiped and scraped the palette clean. When I had a quick 30 minutes free to paint, I would always think – “Its not worth all that cleaning up afterward”.

So  I invested in a large, $20 worth’s piece of thick glass and placed this more sturdily where I could work more effectively. I re-organized the area so that I could easily clean up even a large mess of oil paint within minutes. I took note: “It only takes 4 minutes”.

View Paintings as a WIP: when I started painting again this year, I painted small and tried to complete one painting a day. This worked well at the start. But over time I realized this pattern was not good for me. It felt as if each session should produce something decent to post on my blog else it was a failure. I realized this created tension and kept me from painting – especially if I was down (can you believe, I am sometimes down!) or felt rushed. This was because I would think “Why bother, I will never finish a painting in the 40 minute before XYZ happens”.

So I changed tack – I started working larger, and deliberately started two paintings at the same time. Then in each session I just worked on the next part of any of the paintings where it was most needed. My productivity and attitude while painting immediately improved.

Even if I had only 20 minutes to paint, I could use that to start the first stages of one or two paintings. Or go and touch up the sky or foreground. I also relaxed and realized how malleable an oil painting is – it can remain a work in progress for months, even years. It is done when you think it is.

Keep Looking for your Groove – it Moves Around: some time ago I did not know what to paint. I found no heart of inspiration from painting still lifes or even my beautiful surroundings. I found some inspiration from my invented charcoal landscapes, but it was a hit and miss affair.

I kept trying. At some stage, I started to find more and more inspiration in photos taken during my daily walks. I had found a ready-to-hand source of material that inspired me and that I could use.  I really felt I had arrived. In recent weeks, I sense a change again – a move back to my invented landscapes.

I see this as an unfolding of part of my inner creative self. It is a movement I do not control. It takes perhaps an observant mind and at least a 100 paintings to start seeing that a painting journey has seasons that we do not always control. Roll with it!

Paint, Paint, Paint – in Sickness and in Health: I often feel tired, depressed, unmotivated. I constantly ask myself why I bother painting.I have no answers. I try my best to paint regardless. I have a canvas pad that I use for such occasions. I tape a piece of canvas my easel and squeeze out some Raw Sienna and mix it with lots of OMS. I paint loose and wild – if I feel frustrated or angry I let it show.

Many times I have been gobsmacked by the change in my attitude that comes from such a session. I have a small painting I started yesterday in this manner, and it is one of the best I have made. At the very least, it is a great sketch for a more finished painting. [I hope to post this soon].

In this same vein, it may be of use to consider the advice given by Barbara Jeanicke, which I posted as Quote #1 on this page, together with a link to the original post by Mrs Jeanicke.

Paint or Blog? Get your Priorities Straight: When I decided to start a blog, it was to have a log of my paintings and note down some of my semi-private thoughts to share with friends. I thought no one would ever read it. I was amazed when my first post got a like – “How did they know of my blog?”, I wondered. (I only later found out all new blogs go on the Reader where others could see it!).

At times I have lost focus and spent more time blogging, looking at blogs and such. I made a decision to limit my blogging time to a short but punchy post (nobody REALLY reads it attentively…do they?) and then check some of the blogs I follow only on weekends. The rest of my free time I paint and then paint a bit more when others are not looking.

Oh yes – if you are new to blogging as a painter, know that MANY LIKES DO NOT A GOOD PAINTING MAKE. [Example, check out this blog. The artist is in a whole other (better!) league than I am, yet she only receives one or two likes per post. But she rarely replies to comments – obviously she is too busy painting!]

Often the number of likes is more a reflection of how active a blogger is – one can literally whip up lots of likes by buzzing around and getting others to follow you. No harm in that – but if you want to be an artist there are probably better things to do!


That’s it for now, I hope the above is of value to someone out there!

I am pooped, will try and add a poem to my post later on!




#O99: Rosy Mist Descends

An imagined landscape, painted on primed MDF board. I wanted to stay open and relaxed so I put some unrealistic color into the sky from the start. It helped to open me up to a different view of what this landscape may be. The texture and tone of the green foreground grass touch something primal in me – I wish I could paint like this all the time.


Below is a close up of the foreground area:


In her book Daughters of Emptiness, Beata Grant writes of the Nun Jingnuo: “Jingnuo was the daughter of a county magistrate from Hangzhou. She entered the monastic life as a young girl and became the senior Dharma heir of the woman Chan master Weiji Xingzhi (d. 1672). Like her teacher, Jingnuo earned a reputation for compassionate but strict discipline and impeccable behavior and attracted hundreds of followers, many of them women of the gentry class.

Here is one of Jingnuo’s poems, which I think goes well with my little painting:

Mooring My Boat at Suzhou
My little boat drops anchor tonight, 
From afar I gaze at the closed city gates. 
As the rosy mist descends, the riverbank clouds darken, 
As the crows return to roost, the mountain moon shines. 
But this little boat still has a long way to go, 
And the thousand-li traveler’s heart is unsettled. 
The noise of drums and oars make it difficult to sleep, 
And that rustling sound, from whence does it come?

Thanks for visiting my blog. Special thanks to all the old friends who have encouraged me with comments.

#O98: Taken on Trust

I was after the feeling of a wet, moody overcast day in which one could be happy for no reason. A larger image and the source photo is shown below.


The source photo below was taken on my daily walk, almost at the same point as the image I painted in this post.


…And my aim in my life is to make pictures and drawings, as many and as well as I can; then, at the end of my life, I hope to pass away, looking back with tender regret, thinking, ‘Oh, the pictures I might have made!’ (Vincent Van Gogh in a letter to his brother Theo).

Every day – some days more than others – I have to trust that my paintings, my little efforts, has some meaning. That all the paintings standing around with no home, can still bring the heart home. Trust is needed.

Two excerpts on trust, from poems I know:

For the mind in harmony with the Tao,
    all selfishness disappears.
With not even a trace of self-doubt,
    you can trust the universe completely.
All at once you are free,
    with nothing left to hold on to.
All is brilliant,
    perfect in its own being.

(from The Mind of Absolute Trust, by Sent-Ts'an;
from The Enlightened Heart)
...How much we have to take on trust every minute we live in
  order not to drop through the earth!
Take on trust the snow masses clinging to rocksides over the
Take on trust the unspoken promises, and the smile of
   agreement, trust that the telegram does not concern us, and
that the sudden ax blow from inside is not coming.
Trust the axles we ride on down the thruway among the swarm
  of steel bees magnified three hundred times.
But none of that stuff is really worth the trust we have.
The five string instruments say that we can take something else
   on trust, and they walk with us a bit on the road.
As when the lightbulb goes out on the stair, and the hand
  follows - trusting it - the blind banister rail that finds its
  way in the dark.

Tomas Transtromer (translation Robert Bly), from
The Half Finished Heaven. Line breaks here are my own.

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and content.

#O97: Already There Here

This is an under-painting that became a painting of sorts. I was going to make a more realistic image based on the photo below. It was painted over the grave of an earlier effort – I forget which one.

I put down an under-painting in white and transparent red oxide. When I put the Cerulean blue in those sky holes it just blew me away. So I added some color in the foreground and just stopped.


Here is the source photo, not that it is really important in this case:


The tide is moving out. Like everything in the universe, positive has in time turned to negative. Hope rolls gently over into despair, the beautiful unfinished there on the easel – the same – now thin and deadly. Respecting the inner seasons given to your psyche, you take a seat and wait…Wind blows in gusts outside. Sunday afternoon.

Already There Here
The fearful undertow of tension remains;
the forced real of adult convention.
And the interrupted dream of childhood
keeps asking: when will school be out?

Look again! Here now in that infinite inch
between the whiteboard diagram
and the marker in your mind.
The client there in the chair
shoeing you into the comforting invoiced prison.

Instantly even and only here the mind that
stretches to crystal focus and -
walking through that situation
in sunlit time, long and open -
can touch hands, feet, breath.

And overhead between the ears
the sacred sound of air escaping:
A never ending bell announcing:
"School's out, School's out!"

©Fritz Jooste, 2016

Thanks for visiting!

#O96: Wild Thyme Unseen

Invented Landscape (Oil on Canvas 12 x 16 “). This is an invented landscape based on my acrylic sketch that I posted here. I was surprised how much I enjoyed doing something more abstract after working realistically for several paintings.


Below is a closeup of the detail in the foreground area. It felt great to be loose with my brushstrokes and just see what happens. I am glad it turned out like it did.


One of my favorite meditation teachers quotes the following part of a T.S Eliot poem in one of his talks. In the talk, Ajahn Sumedho discusses the limitations of thought – how one can be very clever yet void of any wisdom or empathy.

What is the alternative to continued  (mostly anxious) thinking? To learn to let go of unneeded thinking and planning, and trust and find repose in the unseen, silent witness behind the eyes – that noble aspect of each human that never left us even for a second since we gained awareness as children.

Here is the part of T.S. Eliot’s poem. It is a verse in one of the Four Quartets (Dry Salvages):

Men's curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation of the saint -
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime's death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.
For most of us, there is only the unattended 
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That is it not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.

Thanks for visiting my little blog. I hope you are happy and content.