Growing up I listened to a lot of Tool, a progressive metal band that some of you may be familiar with and some of you may not be familiar with. I still listen to my old albums. The percussionist, Danny Carey, heralded from a local community here in Kansas, giving us mid-western backwater hicks some prestige. I’ve spent my entire career as an artist trying to explain to people that the “fly-over” states are filled with creative artists and political malcontents, too.
Midway through their career, Tool began incorporating works form artist Alex Gray – anatomical cross-sections, repeating patterns, and other evocative images intended to illustrate the connection between body and spirit – into their albums. The images rely heavily on the symbolism of the third eye and chakra charts, but they also weave this content into renderings reminiscent of anatomy textbooks, esoteric symbols, and studies of celestial bodies. It’s really cool stuff.
At one point or another, after looking at all of that great art (and probably after watching Martin Scorsese’s film Kundun, and after attending a talk with the Dali Lama at the Tucson convention center), I really wanted to make a mandala. There are countless designs out there, but I’d never made one of my own and, frankly, I didn’t know the first thing about making a design like that. I’m pretty confident that I still, for the most part, still don’t. Nevertheless, I nabbed my metal ruler and protractor and took to making some of the most god-awful radial line-drawings the world has ever seen (except, of course, that the world never saw them – I threw ’em all away because, well, they were terrible).
I have, of late, taken the practice up again. It’s a great meditative practice. It’s complicated and simple at the same time, mathematical and symmetrical, but layered with compositional complexity. Today’s image is my first shot out of the gate – I know I can make more interesting images, but I’m very pleased to be back in the saddle and experimenting with these designs. I’m already working on others, which I will share once they’re done.
I’m “getting my zen on,” as an old friend from the San Rafael Valley would say. The repetition, the tedious nature of making pictures like this, open doorways in the mind. These compositions require a certain kind of concentration to make, but they’re also ordered, logical, straight-forward. The perfect kind of exercise for any creative personality who isn’t feeling any other specific drive; it’s a way of exercising the brain and being creative when one is feeling stifled, uninspired, or otherwise “blocked.”
The trick is to keep the pen moving. This is how I keep moving. I hope you like it.