I’m ordinarily a minimalist kind of guy. I like the way simple shapes and colours interplay. Think: the album art for NiN’s Fragile.

This garden was designed with that in mind. I wanted to create something that would almost appear not to be a design. Something that would blend into the natural aesthete of a zen garden. I mean, it would be pretty silly of me to post a blank garden. But there’s just something so appetizing whenever I sit down to a blank space, waiting for the idea to come. I probably spend more time looking at the blank baselines than looking at the finished garden.

One thing I egoistically want to draw your attention to is how much attention I paid to getting the baselines right in this pic. I almost never try to get everything perfect (obviously), but for this one to work I knew the extra effort was a requirement.

If only the design didn’t have to be phallic.

Hours Grow Long

May 18, 2011

I’m becoming a big fan of the stones in circle formation. I meant to mention in Saskatchewan Sunset that the stones around the sun really reminded me of the sort of designs (white in black stone) that you sometimes see in hippie stores like Ten Thousand Villages or Harmony (I’m sure you have such a store in your town, or nearby…you know, the one that sells incense, and wooden clackers shaped like a monk’s hands, and ten-foot tall carvings that resemble the Morlocks from The Time Machine).

It’s kind of an African sort of style but it calls to mind something innate, something ingrown, something instinctual. Something animal. Maybe it’s the collective unconsciousness memory of animals striking out at us in nature, with their mouths hung wide, and the teeth flung to bury into flesh, appearing as a ring of stones.

You have to admit, if there is such a thing as collective unconsciousness, out of the billions of ghosts there would be in our past, that’s got to be a lot of death by animal bite floating around in our psyche. It’s a testament to cancer’s brutality that it’s managed a spot in the top ten ways to die.

Personally I’d rather get cancer than drown to death. Fear of the deep abyss…I don’t know. Cthulu stalks my nightmares.

To get back to the image, though: I chose to make the stones representing the hours grow larger with each hour, but I couldn’t decide if 12 should be the largest, or 11. It seems to me that 12 is really the start of the day, or midday. So that’s more the reset point. By the time it gets to be one o’clock I always feel as if we’re well into the second half of the day. But at the same time, 12 feels like the most important number, and therefore the biggest. So I went with that.

Working at East Wind, you tend to have cherry blossoms on the mind, not just because of their singular association with all things Japanese, but also because, well, they’re everywhere in the store. On the plates, in the pictures, on the clothes, etc.

Even my journal has a 17th century Japanese painting of cherry blossoms. There’s just no escape.

So naturally I decided to try my own hand at it. The effort being to capture what my one boss, Neil, calls, “The Eastern Randomness”. Every time he sees me do a design that’s rigid or sysmetrical he chastises me and says that’s not what Zen gardens are for.

Well, I like to do my own thing. But I can see his point. So every once in a while I try something that has no rhyme or reason. Maybe someday I’ll be more comfortable with freestyle work like this, but I think for most part I like to keep things planned and orderly.

I mean, it’s not like acting, or music, or writing, where it you freestyle and you don’t like it, the sound, or the performance, or the words are out, and gone. With the zen garden, every mistake means erasing the entire picture, establishing a functioning set of baselines, and then starting over, afraid to screw it up because it sucks to break it down and start over.

I feel bad for painters, or anyone in a medium that once it’s screwed up, it’s screwed up, and you either try to mask it, or work with it, or you’ve just lost a day’s work, and countless dollars in supplies and man hours.

Anyway, I hope you’ll agree that I achieved what I set out to do with this one. It’s crazy how not thinking sometimes produces the best work.

Saskatchewan Sunset

May 18, 2011

This could’ve been a picture of sunset in any remote, flat part of any country, like Nevada, for instance. Or parts of Northern Africa. But I decided to go with home country love.

I know it’s tacky (like, 9.5 on the tacky scale, with Love, Actually being about a 5.3) to say you like sunsets, but I really, really do. One of my favourite scenes in any movie is the part in The Education of Little Tree (0.5 on the tacky scale) where James Cromwell is perched atop the mountain with his family and he says, “Here she comes.” as they watch the sunrise and “There she goes.” as they watch the sunset. It’s just one of the most amazing natural phenomena that all humans get to enjoy. Maybe not people in prison so much. But most people.

I tried to go for a wild, abstract sky design, so that it didn’t remind too much of any one kind of cloud formation. I really want to bring to mind any and all of the most amazing sunsets you’ve ever loved.

My list is long.

(which is about a 4.7 on the tacky scale, just narrowly beating out The Majestic, which clocks in at 4.6 and a half)

Star of David

May 18, 2011

I know it’s not a perfect Star of David, but you get the idea, right?

Actually, it makes me think more of a gelatinous blob monster. Like something out of Metroid. Just a blubberous amoeba, squishing along in the protoplasm. Plus, the Star of David is more interwoven.

So, I changed my mind, this is in fact a depiction of a gelatinous, blubberous, squishy, monstrous flesh-eating bacteria. I’m not saying that’s what those bacteria look like. I’m just saying that’s what this is.

Autumn Weaves

May 18, 2011

Just another boring weave, in the Six-Stone Girard style.

But I like ’em.

I almost feel like this pattern could be the logo for some IT company. With the initials AV. Awesome Videlectrics? Amazing Videonomics? Axe-Picks and Velociraptors? Incorporated?

The commercial would go something like:

“Oh, Honey, we’re out of axe-picks.”

“Gee, that’s funny, Mabel, I don’t remember asking you to speak.”

“It’s just that, well, they’re the best defense against the Johnson’s velociraptor, and, gosh, I don’t know how many more kids I can pump out of these hips.”

“At least five, if I’ve done my math right.”

“Please, Honey, say you’ll pick up an AV axe-pick tomorrow…”

“Well, first you think about bleaching your eyebrows platinum blonde, then we’ll talk.”

“Oh, Honey, you’re the greatest.”

Announcer: “AV brand axe-picks and velociraptors. Generating business…for ourselves.”

Chain of Life

May 18, 2011

I fought for a long time to think of a title less lame and sappy for this one, but in the end, I don’t know, Chain of Life just summed up all my feelings.

Too, it was hard to decide on horizontal versus vertical. In the end I went with horizontal, but try looking at it sideways. I love the idea of DNA being this spiral staircase leading up towards some awesome thing. Not heaven, or god, or anything so trivial/overdone. Something truly awesome.

Sometimes, when I think about mankind’s future I just get overwhelmed by the suspicion that generations from now something phenomenal is going to happen, and that life then will be so wholly different from life now that a comparison would be moot.

Cyborgs? Aliens? Virtual reality? All good options.

Pulse

May 18, 2011

My dad had a myocardial infarction recently (that’s a severe way of saying he suffered a mild heart attack), so this one resonates with me.

Note that I used all the stones in this one (minus the specialty stones). 13 usually gets a bad rap in western culture, but in Jewish culture (which I’m not a part of, except in the way that I’m dating a Jew) it’s the number of life.

It’s funny how certain symbols get wildly polarized meanings in different cultures.

Like how in eastern myth, the dragon is seen as a friend, an embodiment of all the animals in the kingdom of nature. And how in western myth, the dragon is seen as everything that needs slaying, vanquishing, overcoming. That’s always struck me as an apt metaphor for our culture. Western culture.

Except the dragon is mother earth, and the knight’s sword is a smokestack.

ps. this design? freakin’ hard to pull off. all those curves and overlapping lines…

Papillon

February 8, 2009

zen-garden-26-papillon

I know it seems like I’m double-dipping on this one (both in the butterfly sense and in the Tip’o’the ‘At sense – so I guess I’m triple dipping), but I think this one bears mention.

I mean, come on. It looks like a butterfly! It tastes like a butterfly! It must be one. No, in truth, the four leaf clover weave is quite a bit different, both in execution and appearance, so I don’t feel bad. And the placement of the rocks is different.

If you pay close attention to my body of work, you might notice that six stones arranged in this way is kind of my hallmark. I hope that if zen gardens become a big thing world wide, that this arrangement is known as Six-Stone Girard style.

Then I’ll die happy.

On the Rocks

February 8, 2009

zen-garden-24

Crash! Thunder! Roar!

Behold the tumultuous madness of the waterfall!

I like exclamation points!

So, I don’t think this is the best or the last you’ll see of my attempts at waterfalls. I think the spray is a little wonky in places. And I think the stones need to be more logically positioned, and I think the top curves of the beginnings need to be better realized, but ultimately, yeah, I’m digging this for what it is.

I’ve always been a huge fan of waterfalls. Back in Hamilton, I used to bike up the mountain rail trail to a place called Albion Falls, and I used to picnic on a fat, flat stone (about the size of a large white van), and Simone (my gff) would wade around in the water of the falls, and I would yoga or tai chi my way into hippie heaven. One time, while we were up there, a young skimpy girl and a middle aged photographer were there for a photo shoot. It was amusing to watch the photographer try to direct the girl, shouting over the roar of the falls. But it broke my heart that she clearly had no idea how to act (artistically, I mean), and couldn’t even take basic physical direction.

Maybe she was just nervous. But as someone who’s been in theatre for over fifteen years, it’s hard for me to imagine stage fright.

Bottom line: it was the least sexy photo shoot I think I’ve ever seen. And she had a nice body. Keep that in mind next time you’re flipping through a Maxim.

(there’s that childish sun again…argh…I just can’t stop myself)