Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Weekword: simplicity


Welcome to my post on the WeekWord simplicity for Friday January 7, 2011! Click this link to see more thoughts and images on simplicity or to participate. Everyone is welcome!

It might have been in 1968. I joined an organization called the Traveler's Directory. In my description of myself, I included the phrase "I love simplicity--and complexity." I had been studying Zen Buddhism, meditating, trying to simplify my life. "Chop wood, carry water." That came along later, but it was what I thought I wanted. My natural tendency, however, was to complicate everything.

For years, I have been photographing simple "Zen-like" scenes: a single shell embedded in sand, a single feather floating on the water, a single blossom of a flower. But look closely at the photo above, and you can see how I failed. The surface of the sand is riddled with raindrops, old and new, that have given the sand an intricate pattern. The zebra mussel shell has interesting concentric lines and worn corners and the shell contains air, sand and something unknown, where once it contained life.

Simplicity is elusive, but can be pleasing.






What could be simpler than a Zen brush painting? One brush, one color, only a few strokes. Right. What no one tells you is how many times you have to do it over and over to get one to come out right. Practice practice practice. This painting is new. I did it tonight. I did not follow a prescribed pattern, I studied instead the insect itself. Or--rather--some photographs of crickets. I have had no training. I just want to achieve simplicity on some level. I did, however, use a real bamboo brush, a large one--which is very challenging (for me).



My life is more like this in its complexity, only even more chaotic, of course. This is another new painting--I did last night and worked on some more tonight. It is gouache on colored paper. It s for a children's book I am illustrating, written by my daughter for my grandson.

Families are never simple, nor are they simple to paint. This painting was difficult for me. Maybe the hardest one I've ever done.

My imaginary life of simplicity would look something like this picture of my husband with our new grandson:



Of course, were I to Zoom out, the scene would look more like the complex painting above!

I also write poetry and my poetry is rarely an expression of simplicity. I have, however, just received a book with one of my haiku in it, and in celebration of that and the weekword, I wrote this poem (just now)(A Haiku):

Sweeps of Blue

Like simple brushstrokes,
snowflakes whisper over drifts,
pile in arching curves.

There is a genre of one-word poems, but I am not going to attempt one of those at the moment. I wrote another poem today, which, like the painting above, is probably the antithesis of simplicity.

Most flowers are also not simple. Any botanist can tell you about the complexity of an orchid or a dandelion. But here's one that at least looks simple. All the images expand when clicked on.


I'll be looking forward to sharing YOUR thoughts on simplicity.

20 comments:

Coffeypot said...

My mental longing...

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

me too!!! :-D

bluerose said...

I love it! The photo that is, it's simplicity and complexity.

I guess I like comlexity. The texture of the sand facinates me. Makes the simpleness of the shell stand out. Maybe your photo is a reflection of yourself. How your complexities make your simple beauty stand out. :D

I might try this "Weekword" thing. Thanks.

merrytait said...

Thanks so much Blue Rose for the sweet comment. :-D

are you working on this "challenge?"

bluerose said...

Oh wow! The cricket and the painting are amazing, and definitely polar opposites. Most of life is like that, huh?

Well you've inspired me. I'm going to see what I can come up with.

Joye Schwartz said...

Love your cricket painting! We have so much in common :) Painting and I am starting to write and illustrate a children's book for my granddaughter! Love your illustration of your family, loving and chaotic at the same time!

Maria Wheeler, Simply Cool Stuff said...

It is exactly what you wrote about - everything that appears simple is never so...whether from the intricacies of biology, or practice and time needed to perfect something - like a painting, or a work of art.
I love the simplicity of those two generations snuggled together in peace. Beautiful!

peggyfussell said...

I love the cricket painting! This post warms my heart Mary. What a great photo of grandfather and grandson!

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Thanks so much Blue Rose, Joye and maria! YAY!! I had fun with this post!! Making all that new work! Resizing the pix. Not a simple task! LOL! :-D

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Oh, Peggy, Thank you! You must have been commenting while I was!!! Thanks. :-D

Domestic Scribbles said...

Impromptu haikus are the best, I'm so glad you were inspired to join in with such fantastic sharing.

S.E.Minegar said...

simplicity AND complexity--i like that! i can't take my eyes off of that cricket!!

:)

cath c said...

love the paintings and your thoughts. i think that is why the idea of reaching toward simplicity is so popular. it is quite an elusive beast.

Christine E-E said...

I'm partial to "simplicity" in photos so your shell on the rain-dropped sand is stunning to me!
one of my camera instructors suggested that I "fill the screen" with something when I didn't know what to take a picture of... your pic of grandpa & grandson does just that! it also suggests the "power of love" between generations!
Welcome back to WEEKWORD!

junebug said...

I think your painting of the family is awesome. I love the colors and fun. I agree that I kept thinking everything was much more complex every time I thought I found something simple. :-)

Mandyland said...

Your paintings are beautiful!

Elisabeth said...

I like your painting. A big warm family.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Thank you all so much! I've been sick so am running behind.

Biomouse said...

Your artwork is truly inspiring, I'm very much in love with the cricket :) Wonderful post and just sorry I didn't see it earlier!

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Thanks, biomouse! :-D :-D