Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Solid Like a Buddha, Free Like a Bird

Waiting for Now, encaustic, 9" x 12"

"Your personal symbols may already lurk in your artwork. Observe the images that show up frequently. Ask yourself, 'Which of these things stand for other things?' What animals are you drawn to? What stories do you want to tell over and over? Your symbols may be there on the canvas right now, but maybe you haven't noticed them or identified what they are there to say. Choose one, and listen to it. Ask yourself what story fragment is being told by that apple or those wings, then see if you can follow a similar thread of meaning through your other artworks and in your dreams."

- Suzanne Simanaitis, "Personal Symbols Found & Made," Kaleidoscope: Ideas and Projects to Spark Your Creativity

Buddhas and birds. Wings and feathers. Leaves and branches. Scribbles and doodles. Words and letters. Chakras. Blooms.

I just did a mental scan of my art and these symbols came to the forefront of my mind. The most significant seem to be Buddhas and birds. I am drawn to them so strongly. When I flip through my collage materials and encounter these bronze statues and feathered friends, I get a feeling in my body, as if something in the center of my belly begins to buzz.

I am asking myself Simanaitis' questions about the meaning of these symbols. What do birds and Buddhas have to tell me? Why are they such frequent visitors? In the above piece I turn the Buddha into a winged creature. So not only do I use these symbols individually and together, but I also fuse them, merge them, marry them. I want my Buddhas to fly. Interesting that I find Buddhas so grounding and bird just the opposite. Perhaps I am trying to manifest a integration of opposites in my very own self: a combination of groundedness and sacredness like the Buddha with the freedom, lightness, and release of a bird. It's the balance of yin and yang. The symbols are like trees: rooted in the earth, but flexible and free in the branches and leaves.

What are your symbols? What images are you drawn to again and again? Take a little time to ask yourself, as I just did, what these images might mean to you? See where this investigation takes you. Perhaps you will revisit an ideal or philosophy you hold dear or you'll surprise yourself with a totally new insight.


  1. do you believe that everyone has a "twin" across the world (or country)??? if so, we could be artists separated at birth:) my symbols are so similar to yours! Buddhas, swirls, birds, writing, butterfly/wings... i'll have to dig up photos of the encaustics i did last summer and show them to you - it's scary in a good way. collective consciousness? love this new piece! with our titles we are also

  2. Jennifer,

    Perhaps we are artistic twins! How wonderful that you see such similarities in our art and titles and symbols!

    I'd love to see your work from last summer. I've visited your wonderful blog. Are they posted there in your archive where I could view them?

    buddha hugs to you,

  3. I was thinking about this very thing yesterday while I was traaveling, Courtney. In fact, I made a list: butterflies, harlequin patterns, hats, letters and words, Buddha, stripes. I too love to give Buddha wings, and I actually have new Buddha piece in process. As I tried to analyze my symbols, I admit though that I was stumped! I really enjoyed your insight and your art today.


  4. hey Courtney,
    I just realized that you responded to my comment! forgot to click on the "email follow up comments"... oops!
    this is a link to a post where i uploaded some of my encaustics i did last summer....

    i am gearing up to do some more buddha stuff - and i just saw some of your most recent posts... i am in love with your "letting everything go as it goes..." piece. i have a little sign in my car that says, "may it all be" and it reminds me of that.

    all i have to say is that - i am enamored (sp?) with your work and really do get so inspired when i check out your blog.

    peace and hugs back,