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Coloring in the Lines Around My Think

Coloring in the Lines Around My Think

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Published by bde_gnas

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Published by: bde_gnas on Apr 22, 2013
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Coloring in the Lines around My Think
By Don Kruse
[Artist and teacher Don Kruse has recently donated three of his painting to thepermanent collection of the Theosophical Society in America. At our invitation, hewrites here about those paintings and about the process of producing them andthe meaning of art.]When artists are asked to discuss their own work, they will often talk abouttechnique and content. Technique is how they “style” their chosen media, shapedby their education and knowledge, personal biases and idiosyncrasies, emotions,psychology, beliefs, and life experiences—in short, all of those determinants thatmake a unique personality. Craftsmanship is styling that is skillful, disciplined,controlled, and “well and truly made.” Art is often contrasted with craft, but I thinkthat most artists want to be considered creative in both craft and artistry.Creativity should not be limited to the artistry side of the work.Content is the subject matter or what the image is all about—a landscape,portrait or still life, for example. The content of art includes many great themesdrawn from religion, philosophy, mythology, and other symbolic systems. Asociety's most profound metaphysical beliefs and attitudes about God, Truth, andReality are often the greatest concerns of its artists. Content provides meaning toa work of art, whereas technique is the process of expressing that meaning.Because the content or iconography is where meaning resides, it is crucial whenthe completed form is first imagined in the mind’s eye and the creative actoccurs. Such considerations as geography, nationality, historical era, and cultureinfluence both content and style. They are some aspects of a work of art that anartist may choose to talk about.Margaret Mead once asked a young child how she made a picture. The childreplied, "I get a think. I draw a line around my think and then color it in." I try to doapproximately the same thing—simply, clearly, and honestly. The real distinctionslie in my images or “thinks.” How and where did I get them? Are they from natureor from my imagination, maybe even from the world of art itself? What do theysignify? I try to communicate to viewers a complex iconography, an esotericworld of Theosophy, Tibetan Buddhism, and Jungian psychology. Does a childcare if another person sees the line she has around her think and colored in? My
images come from my wandering through museums and galleries, sitting inlectures and seminars, reading books, looking at comic strips and movies . . .and meditating—just being a silent witness. Perhaps both the child and I get ourvisions from the same place, a most marvelous and wonderful gallery called bythe Tibetans the Great Matrix of the Mystery.The design, composition, or structural putting together of parts to make aharmonious whole can be learned in classes, or to some artists it may comenaturally. I taught Graphic Design for many years, so I draw on commercial art aswell as art history for the design of my own pictures. I just try to draw what I haveseen, as beautifully, elegantly, descriptively, and expressively as a Zencalligrapher would. I try to use a simple pencil as they use their brushes. I thinkone’s personality can be revealed by handwriting. Every slant, loop, pressure,twist, and turn reveals meaning to a trained eye.For an artist, the marks, lines, dots, dashes, shadings, shadows, and light ofdrawing reveal the soul. They suggest confidence, sensitivity, depth ofunderstanding, and maturity of spiritual development—or so the Zen sumi brushpainters say. After once being given a beautiful set of sumi brushes, I learnedthat my native tools, pencils, pastels, crayons, and occasionally watercolor arebest for my efforts. It's interesting that soft bristle brushes and ink (soft, moist,receptive, feminine) seem to typify the introverted contemplative yin East, whilepencils, pastels and steel pens (hard, dry, masculine) may be extrovertedWestern yang traits. But, of course, I still admire and respect the great variety ofmaterials and techniques used by artists around the world and throughouthistory.Having drawn a line around my think, next I color it in. I try to stay between thelines.Expressing the artist's personality or emotions has been the criteria formeasuring much art during the past century. Every nuance of uniqueness, everypersonal idiosyncrasy, is scrutinized and praised as revealing meaning throughthe personality and artistic technique. Much of this preoccupation with drawing-room psychology came about after Freud and the birth of modern psychology.This is not a criticism, as I have been deeply influenced by the writing of CarlJung and his followers. Still, I have chosen to try to move my center of attentionfrom my personality —or self to my Buddha Nature or Self. Through the practiceof yoga, Theosophy, Tibetan Buddhism, Jungian Psychology, and other minorefforts, for over thirty years I have tried to deemphasize my ego inflating
obsessions. I don’t sign my pictures; I've tried to make them anonymous, free ofpersonality quirks. In short, I try to eliminate anything to brag about, inflate myego, or cause more hubris.
Demon Queller
In “Demon Queller,” the central figure is Shoki, the Japanese hero, who strikes adramatic pose threatening the mischievous demon, Oni. In many Japanesemyths, demons are quelled, not killed. They are vanquished and made an ally oran assistant in the hero's continuing struggle to conquer his remaining internaldemons, those personality impediments or obstructions that retard or makeimpossible his psycho-spiritual quest for enlightenment. Below this scene, in arectangle (the material plane), are a variety of demons. Some are taken fromEskimo drawings—childlike, charming, but still pretty scary, I think. They arehairy, screaming, wild-eyed, and, all things considered, pretty good graphicrepresentations of elemental demons. I was interested in a primitive orfundamentalist's literal depiction of evil (low in the picture, on the physicalmaterial plane). Next to these random free-floating images is a shaman’s healingtrance from the Bushmen of the Kalahari. In a kind of procession or dance, spiritsor healing energies come into the top of his head in broken lines of short dashes.Later, enveloped in his trance, he casts out demons and takes in healing forceswith the aid of other celebrants.The picture is constructed in layers, the lowest is the primitive, physical, literal orfundamentalist stage. The middle section with Shoki and Oni is the psychologicaland mythic level. The highest plane is a triangle separated from the rest of thepicture by a loose bouquet of flowers. I use flowers often as a symbol of lifeenergies like the Tree of Life. The angel is, of course, the devic kingdom or theinvisible realm of helpers, ancestors, gods, heroes, and all other spiritual forces.Buddhists call those three stages vestures or bodies or incarnations of theBuddha. Nirmanakaya is the physical incarnation. Sambhogakaya is the blissvesture, the archetypal or mythic body. Dharmakaya is the spirit or Truth realm.Art can reflect or contain by analogy the human condition or constitution: "Asabove so below". Just as we humans are a reflection of a higher and morecomplete reality, art stands to us as we stand to God.If you have good art history recognition, you will have guessed the angel to betaken from Albert Dürer’s set of woodcuts entitled “The Apocalypse.” I oftenbrowse my mental file of art, as well as other sources, looking for just the correctcharacter or symbol to tell my myth. The telling of that myth is often a collage of

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