I’ve been working on a new series of faerie sketches for a children’s book. Some are more finished than others. Most of them are in a little 5×7 sketchbook that my wife gave me as a gift, so the sketches are kind of small. These newer ones are being done with water soluble graphite, watercolor pencils and markers. They are helping me to flesh out the story. I’ve also been writing some poetry for the book, but again, more as sketches or ideas that may or may not end up in the book.
All I can really tell for sure is I probably won’t do the finished pieces in watercolor pencil and marker.
In the beginning was the word and the word was OM. Chanting OM is like a tuning fork for your soul. The ancient sacred sound permeates the Cosmos; creating it and sustaining it.
In the 1950s Bell industries aka the phone company was experiencing static on their lines. They assigned 2 physicists to find the source of the static; Peebles and Dick. What they found was a vibration that emited from everywhere simultaneously. At a frequency that matched exactly what scientists postulated the remnant of the big bang would vibrate at. The universe was created by a sound, and is sustained by it. At Azul BlueDragon, we offer ancient, sacred Sanskrit words and phrases, rendered in the expressive Shodo style of Calligraphy,which utilizes a meditative technique to harness the spirit of Creation, imbuing the very ink on the page with energy.
For a limited time, we are offering a free digital download of the sacred Om, to keep. You can print it out and use it to decorate your home or office. It’s our gift to you. (via Free Download! Om Sanskrit Calligraphy!)
What mysteries lurk beneath the surface, looking outward, unseen; waiting to be discovered? My work methods are unorthodox. Try as I might to sit down and devise a tale of my own making, I find it’s a bit like hunting. Not that I have ever hunted anything except cats with my childhood dog; Heidi. Nevertheless. One has to pick up the scent, track one’s quarry. I have to lay in wait, sniff the wind. It’s a merry dance, the hunt. I do research, I conceive a subject; in this case faeries. I devise a format: a picture book. I want it to be in verse, but not the verse of picture books. They’re all so much the same.
My research takes me to medieval poetry. I skip Victorian because that’s where everyone hunts for fairies. But I’m not looking for the story. I’m looking for the voice. I’m looking for something antiquated. Something to give a flavor of a treasure long-lost and discovered anew. In medieval verse, there was a taste for alliteration as much as if not more than rhyme. I find I’m not ready to unravel sonnets and the tricks of language that make poets from Shakespeare to Shelly thought great. Wordsworth’s genius eludes me. I find I like Taliesin.
To lure my prey I paint some of my subject. I write endless babble without any plot or destination in mind.
Then, back in the real world, my one year old is having nightmares. I feel this is my legacy. He has his mother’s eyes, and his father’s untamable imagination. Perhaps the faeries can be called upon to drive them away. I’m generally unconcerned with whether fairies are mischievous as conceived in the Christian era or minor nature gods as seen previous to that. To me all things are manifestations of the Source: Love. In fact, along the way as I fill my sketch book with non sequiturs and rubbish, I hit upon a new mantra: Always choose love. It becomes my hashtag. It is to be a guiding principle in all I do and create, so that when I am done here, I won’t have left only rubbish behind. Looking back on my work, one could argue that it has always been my mantra, just latent, undiscovered. So my faeries will be bringers of light.
I may be getting closer, but still the hunt goes on.
Zen Calligraphy, also known as hitsuzendo, is a style of calligraphy that does not rely on traditional calligraphic aesthetics; instead it is created by the calligrapher, who puts him or herself into a meditative state, and lets the energy he taps into, flow through him and into to the calligraphy. If this is new to you, you may be saying, “what the what?” Let me explain.
First, when I say meditative state, I don’t mean like a hypnotic trance. I mean that the calligrapher empties himself (I’m going to use the male pronoun, because I am mainly speaking from my experience, but understand that this is a method that women use as well) of his own thoughts and opens himself to become an instrument, an extension of the brush if you will. In this way, the true Self is the calligrapher and not the ego. As this is a Japanese style of calligraphy, we will use the Japanese term Ki to refer to the energy that the calligrapher channels. This energy can be seen in the powerful and free look to the brush work.
This calligraphy was developed by Zen Buddhist monks and is itself a form of meditation. Traditionally, the work consists of a Japanese word or phrase, but can also be a picture or an abstract brush stroke. Once the method is understood, the practitioner is not limited to Japanese calligraphy, but can use the method in any art form. Indeed, Zen masters explain that there is no difference between “shodo” the way of the brush and “kendo” the way of the sword.
I have begun to apply the method to Sanskrit calligraphy. In Sanskrit, Ki is Shakti. Both words refer to the same energy that permiates the cosmos, and gives us life. It is everywhere and everything is made of it. It creates, sustains and will ultimately dissolve the universe. In India, Shakti is worshiped as a goddess. The awakening of this energy and connecting with it is known as kundalini yoga.
It’s 2016 and like many people, I have decided to use this landmark to focus my efforts personally and professionally. To this end, I have decided to concentrate more on meditation and trusting in God this year. Professionally, this translates into focusing more on sacred calligraphy. While I have been doing this for years, I feel that I reached a turning point last year, in making the calligraphy more of a personal expression. This has always been my goal, but at first, I was so worried about getting the letter forms correct, that what I was doing could be better described as hand lettering.
My training for this is particularly unique. Many people study calligraphy, many people study typography, and many people study sacred languages. (Actually, in all three cases, many is a relative term; these are rather specialized fields of study) While there is no doubt some crossover in these three areas, the Venn diagram (imaginary in this case, as I am too lazy to actually research the numbers to make my point) is smallest in area where all three fields of study converge.
In this blog, I will talk in detail about the meditative quality of various methods of sacred calligraphy, the difference between how I approach different styles and different languages, as well as what makes for a good word or phrase. People have been doing this for thousands of years in every culture known, so there’s lots of room to study past masters. Be sure and let me know what your interested in, and if you do sacred calligraphy what your approaches are.
I focus mostly on Sanskrit for my calligraphy. I’m basically learning Sanskrit one sacred word at a time. Sanskrit was developed specifically to record the Vedas, the sacred scriptures of India. There is also Tibetan Sanskrit, which is related, but not the same as the Vedic Sanskrit I focus on. The letterforms of the language are known collectively as Devanagari. There are plenty of Sanskrit scholars who know more than me and Vedic scholars as well. I do not claim to be the foremost authority on these subjects. I do not claim to be the best calligrapher in the world. I think you will find my approach fairly unique, although I don’t think I’m the only one in the world doing what I’m doing. I also am learning Zen calligraphy, which I freely adapt to the various languages as a style while also learning the more straight forward methods of kanji calligraphy. I have also done Hebrew calligraphy. I have done all of these professionally, and am going to expand my repertoire this year. Perhaps I will learn Tibetan Sanskrit and maybe some Arabic. I can only promise it will be an adventure.