Lost in Landscapes

I have been busy in the studio of late. With the assistance of my beautiful wife I recently migrated from my old drafty and leaky studio to one in my old office. Complete with air conditioning and without leaks! With better lighting and more warmth I now manage to paint into the night…

Oil 2018 58

Another big step I took was to start putting my paintings up for sale online through the Daily Paintworks site. The paintings shown in this blog post all sold recently and it was with happy sadness that I sent them off. They are selling dirt cheap but I am so glad that others can share the joy I get from creating these paintings.

Oil 2018 67

Juggling life between work and painting, stress and friction builds up quite quickly without a discipline of a tempered pace and self-awareness. There is also the potential to lose the golden thread of creativity and spirituality completely. The Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki warned against this:

When we are too involved in the idea of time, or taking care of the material world, we will lose our way. A disciple will not be a disciple when he is completely involved in dualistic practice, involved in a busy life in the busy, mundane world.

Shunryu Suzuki, in Zen Mind, Beginners Mind

I find when things hum along, waking up to the fact of my existence as often as I can provides a source of energy, joy even. These are the moments of awareness that constitute a full, appreciated life not spent in forgetfulness.

From an old post of mine: “Lying awake at 2 am, I think again of Pessoa and his wonderful prose. He wrote:”

To shrug off all duties, even those not assigned to us, to repudiate all homes, even those that weren’t ours, to live off vestiges and the ill-defined, in grand purple robes of madness and in imitation laces of dreamed majesties … To be something, anything, that doesn’t feel the weight of the rain outside, nor the anguish of inner emptiness … To wander without thought or soul – sensation without sensation – along mountain roads and through valleys hidden between steep slopes, into the far distance, irrevocably immersed … To be lost in landscapes that are like paintings … A colourful non-being in the distance …

Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Modern Classics)

Summer has come to New Zealand!  I hope you enjoy this excerpt from a poem by Shinkichi Takahashi:

The Position of the Sparrow (last verse)
Because the whole is part, there's not a whole,
Anywhere, that is not part.
And all those happenings a billion years ago,
Are happening now, all around us: time.
Indeed this morning the sparrow hopped about
In that nebulous whirlpool
A million light years hence.
And since the morning is void,
Anything can be. Since mornings
A billion years from now are nothingness,
We can behold them.
The sparrow stirs,
The universe moves slightly.

Shinkichi Takahashi, translated by Lucien Stryk in 
Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breezes Enter

Thanks to all who have encouraged me with likes and comments. A special thanks to those who follow my blog . I wish you happiness and contentment.

If you are interested to see more of my work, follow me on instagram (@fritzjoosteartist), or to view or buy my work, please visit my gallery on Daily Paintworks.

The Truth Dawns

It feels as if for the longest time I have been wrestling with the challenge of painting honest landscapes. Time and time again I fall into the clutches of the picturesque, the “pretty landscape”. The past week I have been back at work on this analysis.

The challenge I set myself was to dissolve the landscape I had in mind – a view of the mountains near my home with a semi-invented foreground composition – into something more abstract. My first effort came out like this:

Mountain View I (Oil on Canvas, 11″ x 14″)

I was pleased with the outcome, especially the warm, rich and juicy foreground. But that horizon line immediately cast the image as a traditional landscape. I set to the problem with pastels, this time using only blocks of color with little or no lines:

Mountain View II (Pastel on Canson paper, 8″ x 10″)

I liked this one a little more. But I am quite comfortable with pastel, so this felt like cheating.

I went back to oils, this time taking away the option of lines by using only the palette knife:

Mountain View III (Oil on Canvas, 8″ x 10″)

I felt I was getting somewhere, but was weary of the palette knife – it very easily becomes a gimmick or mannerism that an artist cannot escape from, like an actor associated with a certain role.

Finally, as the weekend approached, I resolved the idea with an image that I really love:

Mountain View IV (Oil on Canvas, 8″ x 10″)

There is little left of the original concept, except color, rhythm, harmonies. Who knows how I will feel about this image in a week’s time? I know I felt good, relaxed and happy while doing it and after doing it. It is a good sign, but I know that art is an ever moving target, a mystery that deepens infinitely.

I have been reading The Philosophy of Samuel Beckett, by John Calder. Initially a somewhat dry read for my engineering brain, I started paying better attention in the chapter “The failure of art”. Calder quotes Beckett:

…to be an artist is to fail, as no other dare fail, that failure is his world and the shrink from it desertion, art and craft, good housekeeping, living.

By Beckett’s measure I guess I can say the past week I failed several times, and currently with attempt IV I am under the illusion of having succeeded. Slowly the truth about this journey dawns:

Slowly the Truth Dawns

To wake, and know
your heart sinks
dark and heavy,
hardening into stone...

Slowly the sea lifts its waves,
slowly the trees turn red in the gorge,
slowly the fires begin to lap in hell,
slowly the truth dawns...

Olav H. Hague, translated by Robert Hedin, in
The Dream We Carry

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

Among Shadows and Ruins

In my last post I showed some of my recent paintings done on paper. These were in watercolor and pastel. At the moment, I really enjoy working on paper – just something about that natural texture and light weight of paper. However, I have become a bit impatient to let the watercolor dry before I go over it in pastel.

So…I dusted off my old bottles of Acrylic paints and started playing around with it. Not expecting anything to come out of these play sessions, I was amazed at how much I enjoyed the combination of Acrylic and paper.

The images in this post are some abstract works (size about 50 x 33 cm) that have come out of these play sessions – some of these have been getting quite a lot of pins when I posted them on Pinterest, so I guess I am not the only one liking them!


I have also posted some of these on my formal website, and in doing this I found that putting a border around the image gives a much better indication of what the work would look like when it is framed with a mat behind glass. In the case of abstract work, I have always found that the border makes up an intrinsic part of the composition, so it is quite important to see it with a proper border.



A good break over the new year, together with increasing exposure to sunlight, nourishing but sparse food and lots of exercise has enabled me to put some distance between my demons and my angels. At the moment I am living with my angels mostly, but in the end I realize – they are all mine. All part of this particular life as a sentient being on a ball twirling in a corner of the vast eternal universe.

When consciousness can relax into the simplicity of bare presence, something opens up. We are in harmony with a greater intelligence, or more accurately, the illusion that we are separate from this falls away.

Tollifson, Joan. Nothing to Grasp (pp. 103-104). New Harbinger Publications. 

With a more energized viewpoint, I noted that my need to go into the studio has ever so slightly diminished – like everything else this will change – but for now I am keeping a curious eye on it. I have learned not to overthink these changes in my internal seasons too much. Besides, thinking is quite overrated. To quote Tollifson again:

Some of our thinking is useful and functional, but we can notice that much of our thinking, maybe most of it, does nothing but generate suffering and confusion. With awareness, we can begin to feel when thought ceases to be useful, when it slides over into obsessive rumination. The more we pay attention with awareness to any thought process, the more we can become sensitive to where it ceases to be functional. Ultimately, the clearest and most truly creative decisions, discoveries and breakthroughs come from a place totally beyond the thinking mind.

What I have learned to my surprise (again!) over the past few weeks is that a healthy, nourished body exposed to a lot of sunlight really does tend to host a more positive, healthy mind. The old “healthy body, healthy mind” cliche, a bit more personally experienced.

But there is something of benefit in all internal seasons. What beauty is there not also in the spirit in repose, slightly reflective and objective. I can only imagine the mood of Pessoa when he wrote:

The more I contemplate the spectacle of the world and the ever-changing state of things, the more profoundly I’m convinced of the inherent fiction of everything, of the false importance exhibited by all realities. And in this contemplation (which has occurred to all thinking souls at one time or another), the colourful parade of customs and fashions, the complex path of civilizations and progress, the grandiose commotion of empires and cultures – all of this strikes me as a myth and a fiction, dreamed among shadows and ruins. But I’m not sure whether the supreme resolution of all these dead intentions – dead even when achieved – lies in the ecstatic resignation of the Buddha, who, once he understood the emptiness of things, stood up from his ecstasy saying, ‘Now I know everything’, or in the jaded indifference of the emperor Severus: ‘Omnia fui, nihil expedit – I have been everything, nothing is worth anything.’

Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Modern Classics)


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


After a trip away from home in August and September, I really struggled to get back to painting. Pressure at work and a mind that was too busy meant I was only in the studio for short periods of time and those were mostly short and distracted. In this mind-state I just played around with paint and slowly emerged three abstract paintings which I decided to keep. Some others did not make it…


The one above was the first time I painted on canvas in quite a while. I rather enjoyed the feeling of canvas and will probably revert back to canvas more often in future.

This second one was painted the next day, and I started leaning into a more green and blue atmosphere. This is oil and cold wax on panel:


The third one was made in the same week. It seems to be the most popular, based on Instagram likes – if that is anything to go by:

O258: Pathless at Night (oil and cold wax on panel)

Robert Henri wrote:

THE WORK OF THE ART STUDENT is no light matter. Few have the courage and stamina to see it through. You have to make up your mind to be alone in many ways. We like sympathy and we like to be in company. It is easier than going it alone. But alone one gets acquainted with himself, grows up and on, not stopping with the crowd. It costs to do this. If you succeed somewhat you may have to pay for it as well as enjoy it all your life.

Henri, Robert. The Art Spirit (p. 12). Basic Books.

When I made the last painting (O258) I was feeling my way through the days. My father had recently passed away (I wrote about this in another post), and since my return to New Zealand I have been ambivalent about my art and what I want to – or will be able to – achieve with it. I mean – why do this?

The emotion I felt reminded me of the phrase from Rilke’s poem “We must die because we have known them”. It is the sort of uncertainty one can perhaps only keep silent about – like wandering “Pathless at Night”:

But the grown man
shudders and is silent. The man who
has wandered pathless at night
in the mountain-range of his feelings:
is silent.

As the old sailor is silent,
and the terrors that he has endured
play inside him as though in quivering cages.

(Rainer Maria Rilke)

Oh yes! I have a silly little website up now for my art! For my upcoming exhibition at the David Lloyd Gallery in November,  I needed to have something more than an online blog presence, so I created my site Fritz Jooste Fine Art just to showcase some paintings.  It still needs some work to make it more professional, but it is there at least.

Thanks for visiting my blog! Special thanks to all followers and long-time supporters who have encouraged me with kind and thoughtful comments.


#O196-7: Release that Dream

I went away, and all my paintings were lined up for slaughter. Then something happened to me. Late at night I fell to my knees in a foreign room – and when I returned they had all become beautiful, beyond my adjusted beliefs.

Fernando Pessoa wrote prose that make me long for a homeland I never knew:

I’ve lived certain moments of respite in the presence of Nature, moments sculpted out of tender isolation, that will always be like medals for me. In these moments I forgot all of my life’s goals, all of the paths I wanted to follow. An immense spiritual tranquility fell into the blue lap of my aspirations and allowed me to enjoy being nothing. But I’ve probably never enjoyed an incorruptible moment, free of any underlying spirit of failure and gloom.

Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Modern Classics)


Pessoa continues:

In all my moments of spiritual liberation there was a dormant sorrow, vaguely blooming in gardens beyond the walls of my consciousness, and the scent and the very colour of those sad flowers intuitively passed through the stone walls, whose far side (where the roses bloomed) never ceased being a hazy near side in the obscure mystery of who I am, in the drowsiness of my daily existence.


In the beautiful book “The Poetry of Zen“, the thirteenth century sage Ch’ih-chueh is quoted as saying:

The failure of the Zen path comes from teachers without deep attainment, just setting forth sayings and showing off knowledge to capture students, and from students with no great aspiration just following popular fads and current customs, content to sink themselves in the domain of intellectual knowledge and verbiage…The ‘teachers’ and ‘students’ bewitch each other.

Another sage (Yueh-lin) is quoted as having observed with regards to talking about Zen:

Ninety percent accuracy is not as good as silence

Alphaville sang this poem:

Hello today 
Open your eyes 
The snow is falling just like leaves 
Aquarian warriors rebuild the ship 
Mr rainbow is gone

Hello my love 
Here's to your heart 
Unfold the lillies in the deep 
The season's over, the shores are sealed

Now ashen roses rain on the fields 
Innocent dreamers, look what you've done 
Now it's time for the phoenix to fly 
Hello today

Wake to the dawn 
To meet the guardians of the isles 
The valient captains will rule the seas till the comets return 
Hello my love 
Here's to your heart 
Release that dream into the world

Join in the air race, leaving tonight 
How does it feel to follow the light 
Beautiful dreamer, it's up to you 
If we glide through the glamour of love

We believe in our dreams 
Reaching out for above 
We believe in our dreams 
Reaching out for love

Songwriters: Bernard Lloyd / Marian Gold / Ricky Echolette
Fantastic Dream lyrics © Rolf Budde Musikverlag Gmbh


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

#O194-5: This Other Way

Journal entry: The past two weeks my enthusiasm for painting has just evaporated. These are my last efforts and they were finished last weekend.


Pessoa wrote:

Clear things console me, and sunlit things console me. To see life passing by under a blue sky makes up for a lot. I forget myself indefinitely, forgetting more than I could ever remember. The sufficiency of things fills my weightless, translucent heart, and just to look is a sweet satisfaction. I’ve never been more than a bodiless gaze, whose only soul was a slight breeze that passed by and saw.


More and more these days the familiar face of my expectations and demands move me to take a refuge in meditation, calling out to the spacious infinite arms at the end of thought:

Of Mere Being
The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

Wallace Stevens
(this copy from Poetry Foundation)

At times my meditation feels like it is going nowhere. I am awake, open, aware. But no direction or progress seems apparent to the thinking mind. I take comfort in the path that others have walked.

In his book “Novice to Master“, Soko Morinaga writes about his extensive meditation experience in a Zen monastery:

Despite my unrelenting persistence at sitting, every night I would grow hazy and doze off so that my zazen was far from strong and clear.

He continues to describe how he made matters worse by not eating enough as a means to keep him awake while meditating at night. He reached the end of his resources:

Then, one night, all of my ammunition was exhausted. I lost all sense of wanting enlightenment; to continue seeking satori was inconceivable. Gone was the physical and mental energy necessary to maintain a level of consciousness in which one tries to verify with the eyes and hear with the ears…My whole body was a mass of sheer pain…As if consciousness were lost in a fog, all was hazy.

Suddenly, under some impetus unknown to me, the fog lifted and vanished. And it is not that the pain in my own body disappeared, but rather that the body that is supposed to feel the pain disappeared. Everything was utterly clear. Even in the dimly lit darkness, things could be seen in a fine clarity. The faintest sound could be heard distinctly, but the hearing self was not there. this was, I believe, to die while alive….I only know that when I came to myself, I felt tremendously happy!

Morinaga goes on to write:

By meeting what you are faced with right now, though, in this very instant, completely without judgement of evaluation, you can transcend by far all question of cause and effect. You may be working in the kitchen or sweeping in the garden or cleaning the toilet or laboring for somebody else, but you do it without consideration of its relative merit. That means simply doing with all your might, becoming one with whatever situation in which you find yourself in this instant. I would like for you to clearly know that there is this other way of living your life.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

#O190-193: Resuming my Existence

In his poem “The Man Watching”,  Rilke says: “When we win it is with small things, and the triumph itself makes us small”.  Much food for thought there – what then, is worth really wanting? If I pursue the thought “what do I want?” all the way down the labyrinth to the place of not knowing, many certainties start unraveling.


Rilke’s letters make it clear that he needed to be alone in order to fall into such a condition, to exist solitary in an imagined cocoon so that he could come apart before coming together again. In this raw, naked, fragmentary state of mind he felt both too vulnerable and too repulsive to be near anyone, except a servant. [The beginning of Terror].


Pessoa wrote:

For a long time now I haven’t existed. I’m utterly calm. No one sees me differently from who I am. I just felt myself breathe as if I’d done something new, or done it late. I’m beginning to be conscious of being conscious. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll wake up to myself and resume my own existence. I don’t know if that will make me more happy or less. I don’t know anything.


Reaching a place of “not knowing” is good for me. It makes me “see deeper into paintings” (Rilke).


For me, my featured painting for this post (directly above) touches that sweet spot between image and emotion. The way the red peers through the more muted, dark colors suggest something poignant that I cannot quite put my finger on. It relates to what Robert Henri wrote:

That time we sat in the evening silence in the face 
of the mesa 
and heard the sudden howl of a pack of coyotes, 
and had a thrill 
and a dread which was not fear of the pack, 
for we knew they were harmless. 
Just what was that dread — what did it relate to? 
Something ’way back in the race perhaps? 
We have strange ways of seeing. 
If we only knew — then we could tell. 
If we knew what we saw, we could paint it.

Finally, I will end of with one of my favorite poems by Transtromer:

The man on a walk suddenly meets the old
giant oak like an elk turned to stone with
its enormous antlers against the dark green castle wall of the 
 fall ocean.

Storm from the north. It's nearly time for the
rowanberries to ripen. Awake in the night he
hears the constellations far above the oak stamping in their stalls.
Tomas Transtromer, translated by Robert Bly in
The Half Finished Heaven.

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


#O155-159: The Same Fatal Joy

In Cavafy’s poem “He Vows”, he writes:

Every so often he vows to start a better life.
But when night comes with her own counsels,
with her compromises, and with her promises;
but when night comes with her own power
of the body that wants and demands, he returns,
forlorn, to the same fatal joy.

It feels it is this way with my painting – I vow to push through and become proficient with abstracts, yet I always return to the same fatal joy of the wetland landscape of the inner mind.


Below are some abstracts I made – it remains an interesting, hard journey for me:

And one more landscape that did not make the front page:


Every morning I bite off a chunk of Fernando Pesoa’s Book of Disquiet. With the right mindset, one finds in it images that takes the mind to stillness and wonder:

I feel my head materially supported by the pillow in which it makes a valley. My skin and the skin of the pillowcase are like two people touching in the shadows. Even the ear on which I’m lying mathematically engraves itself on my brain. I blink with fatigue, and my eyelashes make an infinitesimal, inaudible sound against the felt whiteness of the pillow’s slope. I breathe, sighing, and my breathing happens – it isn’t mine. I suffer without feeling or thinking. The household clock, definitely located in the midst of the infinite, strikes the half hour, dry and void. Everything is so vast, so deep, so black and so cold! I pass times, I pass silences; formless worlds pass by me.

Meditation keeps pulling me into silence and boundaries not yet transcended. Slowly, as I return, time and time again, to the conditioned self which lies inside those unmarked boundaries, it becomes more known, tolerated, accepted.

Nisargadatta said:

Understand that the mind has limits. To go beyond, you must consent to silence. [I am That, (74)]

I hope you are well -thanks for visiting my blog!

#O151-4: A Love not Known

I am amazed at how hard abstract painting is for me. It requires a balance of control and abandon as well as a balance of self-confidence and self-criticism that is very taxing on my nerves at this stage of the journey.


After such struggle, how freeing it is for me to suddenly switch back to the old familiar childhood landscapes that lie dormant in my mind:


In the Book of Disquiet, full of strangely haunting prose images, Fernando Pesoa writes:

I see life as a roadside inn where I have to stay until the coach from the abyss pulls up. I don’t know where it will take me, because I don’t know anything. I could see this inn as a prison, for I’m compelled to wait in it; I could see it as a social centre, for it’s here that I meet others.
At times the old familiar life, waiting by the roadside inn, gives way to the the most simple yet profound beauty and happiness. The walk with the wheelbarrow back to the compost heap, the 18 steps from my desk to the printer. What stupendous reality flows into these senses! What is this I?
I keep realizing – for now – that the spiritual life is a losing game. You win by giving up; and by watching your self hide those things – down there in the subconscious – the things you feel you cannot give up. Beyond ownership lies what?
Nisargadatta said:
Just look away from all that happens in your mind and bring to it the feeling “I am”. This “I am” is not a direction, it is the negation of all direction. Ultimately, even the “I am” has to go. But bringing the mind to the feeling “I am” merely helps to turn the mind away from everything else.
Questioner: “Where does it all lead me?”
 Answer: When the mind is kept away from its preoccupations, it becomes quiet. If you do not disturb this quiet and stay in it, you find that it is permeated with a light and love you have never known; and yet you recognize at once that this is your own nature. Once you have passed through this experience you will never be the same again.
Thanks for visiting!


O145-148: The Great Yes

This is an abstract in which I have deviated a bit from the color recipe I used in the past few paintings. I quite like this color scheme – reminds me of the Karoo desert somehow.


Below are a two more small landscapes I did along the way. With the thick impasto reflected light is quite a problem and unfortunately the photos do not really show the paintings off very well. But there you have it!


Looking back over a few of my earlier posts (does anyone else ever do that?), I looked at one of my earliest attempts at abstract painting, and I found the following paragraph still applies:

When I watch those spontaneous, vivacious people on YouTube splashing away to create massive Acrylic abstract paintings within an hour or two, I go green with envy. And yet, part of me embraces the anxiety, the constraints, the hesitancy that makes me what I am. This is my road to walk – may I say “Yes” to it!

Che Fece…Il Gran Refiuto
For some people the day comes
when they have to declare the great Yes
or the great No. It’s clear at once who has the Yes
ready within him; and saying it,
he goes from honor to honor, strong in his conviction.
He who refuses does not repent. Asked again,
he’d still say no. Yet that no—the right no—
drags him down all his life.
C.P. Cafavy, translated by Edmund Keeley
This version copied from PoetryFoundation.org

Many thanks for all of you who encourage me with likes and comments, and a special thanks to those who follow my blog.