Higan: The Other Shore
This painting started as an idea with a really sweet Japanese couple from the Bay Area. They walked by my booth, came to my studio, and we all just decided to go for it.
I think people often underestimate the emotional and psychological process that occurs during a painting. Creating something from nothing can be completely draining. I’d have days where I felt really good about the progress, and days where’d I’d look at the piece and wonder what the hell I was thinking when I agreed to make it. I often felt like it would never come together, which can be hard because I’m trying to make the absolute best paintings possible.
I don’t think I understood initially how much of myself would get lost in this giant blue, watery image. There were perspective problems to accommodate. There were issues with not having a large enough studio space to take a far enough step back to view it properly. I’d use my camera phone to scale it down so I could view it without being so close to it.
It wasn’t all a struggle. Sometimes I’d find myself in this flow-like state where brushstrokes were just going back and forth, and every time I took a step back, it looked like it was really coming together. Music was blaring, and marks were being made without actively thinking about them. That experience- becoming completely and totally lost in creativity- it’s the most addicting feeling. It’s so hard to explain, but it feels so real to me. I initially told them it was only going to take a few weeks, but I spent over 2 months working layer by layer. When I finally took a step back and said “it’s finished,” I didn’t add another brushstroke. That was it. I couldn’t take it any further, and I had to accept that this was the end of the road. It was really bittersweet, honestly.
I titled the piece Higan, which directly translates to “to the other shore,” and references the Buddha’s journey into Enlightenment. The family has an emotional connection to Jōdo Shinshū Buddhism, and I started learning more about it while trying to think of a name for the piece. It all seemed to come full circle when I learned that the important virtues in that particular sect are resilience, acceptance, and satisfaction- not too far off from what I had experienced while painting it. It’s leaving to San Fran once the varnish dries… feels a little like losing an old friend, but it belongs somewhere other than my studio.