In the Studio: ensō

The following is text from a recent email I sent to my mailing list. If you'd like to be on the list, visit the Contact page to sign up.


"As a symbol, the circle expresses the totality of our points to the most vital aspect of our existence - its ultimate wholeness."  -- John Daido Loori

The circle evokes feelings of calm and completeness. In Buddhism, the Zen circle or ensō, the most common subject of Zen calligraphy, represents the Great Void, the universe itself, enlightenment, and power. It is a symbol encompassing all of the ten thousand things, a mandala to concentrate the mind.

Since 2013 I have painted over 800 ensō as part of my studio practice. Although its form is simple, its essence is difficult to grasp. Of the numerous ensō I've drawn, only a small percentage of them feel true. One must be mentally and spiritually prepared to execute one that evokes a direct expression of the ineffable, to make visible the invisible. 

While the ensō is executed with one brushstroke in a single breath, one must consider the time spent staring at the empty paper to prepare oneself mentally, the years spent in daily meditation, and, too, the years of life lived by the artist.

I have selected a handful from my studio collection to make available for purchase. Images of these are posted on my website under ensō | traditionalEach one is 4.75" x 4.75" on heavy Fabriano paper. For further information, feel free to contact me.

...ultimately we should appreciate that the ensō has no reason or point for its existence other than itself. It exists perfectly and completely, and is aesthetically gratifying for its own sake. The ensō is its own merit and its own reward...the fruit of the ensō is the ensō. -- John Daido Loori