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[All Levels]: the Sensei, and Being Open Minded; the Beginner’s Mind…

Hello, Painters & See-ers! 

We are all Students on a path.

You are, and so am I–and this is a wonderful, powerful thing! Before we go into anything technical, let’s get into the right frame of mind in our painting dojo. The Open & Learning Mind…

Here on the Web, there’s SO much good work going on along with SO many talented, professional artists. There’s a double-edged sword, though. As well as inspiration based on the Best, I see the flip-side: Learners skipping steps to jump at “style” and “product”, and artists (of all levels) ignoring freedom of both thought and process in pursuit of a certain (perceived, yet vaporous) Orthodoxy. Now, aiming high is good–and so is adhering to professional standards. But let’s not forget to drop our Egos, explore the unknown, and embrace the Unconventional. This is where our Student Mind comes in—and we forsake it at our own peril.

I’m going to paraphrase a few things from this book: “Zen Guitar”, by Philip Toshio Sudo (http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Guitar-Phi…/dp/068483877X). I’ve found that if you substitute your concept of choice for the word “guitar”, you have a very useful guide to many things.

First, a sensei is not, as is frequently mis-translated, a teacher. A sensei is “one who has gone before”. I have “gone before” on the path of Paint I’m showing, but that makes me no less of a student of Art.

In our Painting Dojo, here, we will all wear the White Belt of a Beginner. I am dead serious when I say to do this: when working here, place in front of you–or wear–a white object to act as a concrete reminder of your Open Beginner’s Mind.


Why does a Karate student wear a gi and belt? Why does a priest wear vestments? A cop a uniform, or a chef a hat? Our attire and/or surroundings put us in mind of our purpose, and you should think enough of your endeavor to do the same.

A white belt reminds us that we, as learners, have fresh eyes and clean Potential–we explore, we unearth, we struggle. As we struggle, we get dirty as we gain experience. As we gain experience, our whiteness (noob-ness) grays and darkens into experience…and after a Period…we end up with a black(ened) belt!

But–it isn’t over. Guess what happens next? Yup, you know it–we go back to the white belt again! We become the student again, and the whole process starts over.

So: First assignment: Go make yourself a white belt or a white object to remind you of your Open Student’s Mind. Keep it visible. (And, yeah, you can dirty it up, but mentally!)



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