Thursday, December 9, 2010

Zen and the Art of Christmas Card Making

After last week's marathon project and subsequent post, I spent the next day and a half staring blankly at my sketchbook wondering what project I can possibly do this week. The last few weeks have been like this. This blog pressures me to constantly one up my previous week's work. I feel that if I don't do something new I'll let down my readers..all 8 of you! Anyway, there I sat. Staring blankly at my tabula rasa (Thanks, Dave!) wondering what I could do. I asked my wife for an idea. She says, why not do a family portrait? A good idea. I could further challenge myself by drawing the thing I hate most...NO, NOT MY FAMILY!...FACES!  
I was inspired. I began to give it some thought and I decided that a neat idea might be to draw our annual Christmas card. Usually, Rachel sets up some sort of still life of snowmen and Santas and puts Sophia in 3 outfits and struggles to take a picture of an active toddler who feels that taking her picture is tantamount to pouring acid in her diaper. So I decided to spare Rachel and Sophia the fun of this and try something different. So here is the Baldwin Christmas card this year:

The best part was that we didn't have to fight to keep Sophia still!
This project was a ton of fun. It was a struggle but I learned a lot about my abilities and I even rediscovered an old Zen concept that I had forgotten about: The Beginner's Mind

"In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki

I remember reading Master Suzuki's book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind when I was in college. It was one of those books where the concepts makes sense but you never truly grasp them until the right situation comes around that brings it home. Master Suzuki's quote on the Beginner's Mind is fairly self explanatory but to explain further it is considered a state of ultimate freshness. Try to remember the first time you learned to ride a bike or learned to swim. If you can't remember that far back, try to remember the first time you fell in love. Everything is new in the beginning, it's uncharted territory where you have no expectations, except to experience something new.

My blog has been that way for me. I have been rediscovering art, regressing back to my old lessons and hearing my old teachers correcting my layout and techniques. However, I never regressed as far back as I did when I was struggling to properly draw Rachel's face for this project. I could capture the upper part of the face (her eyes, hair, and glasses) but I just couldn't get the nose and mouth to come out right. I sat there for an hour, drawing and re-drawing her mouth and I eventually became so frustrated I started drawing pseudo smiley faces with her hair and glasses like a 5 year old. Surprisingly these simple renderings captured her essence better than any of the detailed drawings I tried earlier.  In the 2 minutes that followed this realization I was able to draw myself and my daughter.

It was at that moment that Beginner's Mind made sense.  I stopped focusing and struggling on the minute details of the face and simply had fun with it. I felt like I was learning a completely new way of looking at things. I have moments like this when I would play with Sophia and draw her quick sketches on her magna-doodle. For her, my pictures never need to be precise...actually I never have time to be precise since she spouts off a different idea every 5 seconds. It's those moments where I feel like an art God...I can draw her anything and she feels such utter joy with the results.

This leads me to next week's project. I am thinking of trying my hand at a comic strip for the blog. I could use a good idea, so if any of you are willing, send me your ideas/stories that would make a great comic strip and I'll see what I can do.

Until next week!

1 comment:

  1. Loved this! And the picture is awesome! So true: approaching something with a beginner's mind can make you see so many more possibilities. What an irony. Great job, Scott!