Little Known Facts

I’d like to share some spiritual insights I had from a recent trip to the Louvre. First of all, if you’ve never been to the Louvre, you need to know that it’s huge. Ridiculously huge. And having visited before and made myself sick trying to take it all in, this time I limited myself to a single wing: Greek Old Stuff.

I saw an ad for the self-guided tour as I passed the welcome desk, and thought, why not? You get headphones, and an interactive tour-guide on a rented… Nintendo DS? Alas! Have the evils of worldly entertainment invaded even that sacred houses of art? Driven by my fear of eternal damnation, I gave the rental booth a wide berth and decided that I’d be giving myself true self-guided tour.

The amazing thing about ancient art is that it’s one of the only ways we can get in touch with our distant ancestors. What were they like? And more importantly, how did they look? These relics are our only hints. Starting about six to eight thousand years ago, we can see from these representations that mankind was still in a primitive stage, before the development of arms, legs, and heads. My sketchy understanding of evolution leads me to conject that the direct ancestor of these early Greek men was either a worm or a violin.

Next up, a couple thousand years more recent, we see the first primitive arms and legs developing. The head comes onto the scene, but without the facial features, which follow shortly thereafter beginning with the nose. How did the ancient Greek tell friend from foe? By sense of smell, apparently.

A little bit later, man starts to develop some muscle forms on the body, moving slowly towards the evolutionary pinnacle attained by the body-builders of today. I think we can safely assume that these guys originally had heads, and that they were removed to protect the anonymity of the models.

And finally, the human being comes into her own as the beautiful Venus de Milo, who is perfectly developed in physical form, yet still demonstrates the relative simplicity of the ancient Greek, who was still at pains to fully dress herself.

To give her a little bit of credit, she did get halfway there. Fully clothed humans probably didn’t evolve until sometime in the past couple of hundred years.

And finally I’d like to give a shout out to Apollo, who after vanquishing a serpent, took the first selfie in history some 2500 years ago. And also to this random guy, who last week took the 500,000th selfie in history in front of this statue of Apollo.

I thought, this is too much. I have to get this once-in-a-lifetime photo. Not so. If you stand next to this statue of Apollo for fifteen minutes, you’ll have a dozen chances to take the same photo. Oh and by way of apology to art people, this is actually a renaissance statue. Forgive me.

After my inspiring day, I made a couple little sketches in watercolor and gouache.


Lost Masterpieces and Naked People

I don’t really want to bore you with more lame sketches, but when I was back home over the Winter my mom discovered a secret treasure trove that I just have to show you. First of all I should probably reintroduce myself:
My parents are moving out of my childhood home, and now that I’ve dried my tears I can tell you that it truly is the end of the world. There’s even an apocalyptic fire that consumes all things. My Dad started it, and not long after he threw in my favorite shoes. My yellow shoes. As if things weren’t hard enough. It was out of compassion though because I bought new ones, and my sunshine shoes had really seen better days. My luggage for the trip back to Plum Village was already pushing the weight limit anyway.
Moving is a lot of work, especially when you’ve spent over thirty years cramming little remembrances into every empty corner of a two-story house. My mom pulled box after box from the attic, and I learned about a peculiar habit of hers. Every time she would put a box into the attic, she would date it and write what everyone in the family was doing at that moment. What a wealth of strange little time capsules. And then there was the jackpot: my fourth grade art notebook. Upon coming back here and sorting through all my junk from the past six years, I also discovered a few gems, so I’d like to propose a tour of my artistic development.
First, the early days:
After about fifth grade I think I decided I wasn’t an artist, so there’s a brief hiatus here. These next ones are from when I first started up again about fifteen years later:
And finally, here’s some of the figure drawings I did during my sabbatical, about five years of practice later:
I’ll leave you with a few Springtime shots of France.

The Pokening

I wanted to call it the sketchening, but it doesn’t really feel like sketching when you do it on the screen of your iPod. A couple of weeks ago, I was having my biannual burst of renunciate enthusiasm, and I’d decided I was through with my iPod. Why am I compromising my monastic purity with¬†all this worldly music, and giving myself testicular cancer by carrying this thing around in my pocket? It’s all a conspiracy, man!

So as a symbolic gesture of the explosive new beginning I expected for my practice, I decided to build a small rocket and send my iPod into orbit. But then I found out that building a rocket isn’t as easy as they made it out to be in October Sky, and if I remember the movie well, they never got anything into orbit, but instead accidentally caused a forest fire.

So it was back to the drawing board. But in the meantime I pulled all of my photos off of the thing so that, no matter what happened with my aeronautical dreams, my precious memories wouldn’t be vaporized in the stratosphere. So I’m sharing¬†some little color sketches I did with only my eensy weensy finger.

P.S. Here’s a little linguistic tip. In France, wifi is pronounced weefee. But iPod is not pronounced eePod. And in my experience, saying eePod will draw some pretty sardonic looks. Be warned.

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Art History Month Part 3

Ok let’s have a whirlwind tour of my last complete sketchbook and be done with this painful business. I started this one in December and finished it in May. These first sketches are from our Christmas performance evening. Phap Dan said that they look like people from the French Old Regime. Occasionally I throw some color into the mix, even though color is confusing and terrifying.



I was pretty much melting down all Winter Retreat. It’s usually the most stressful and foreign-feeling time for me here, and I was heaping on all kinds of other unnecessary negativity to spice things up a little. I’ve learned to grab some time alone with drawing… even if I’m with people, to open up a little space. It’s not the same as sitting meditation, but it gives me something productive to do with all my energy.


Ok I’ll just let the rest speak for themselves.