Form and Freedom


One thing I have grown to appreciate and absolutely love about learning Chinese language is the structure.

Today, I learned that Chinese traditional painting has an equally useful structural starting point.

Take a look at the picture above. What do you see in each of these elements?

From top to bottom these traditional Chinese artistic building blocks represent the most basic patterns in nature – waves, tree leaves, rivers/streams, pine needles, clouds, mountains, rocks…

No, they are not all perfect, this is just practice.

But it’s by practicing these basic patterns, with a healthy amount of consulting the dictionary of brush strokes, that early students learn to follow the rules.

And the next step? Painting a classic landscape with all the important elements.

So what makes me so excited about this?

First, I think the elements are beautiful. And the color is quite nice, too.

But, what I love even more is the idea that structure gives way to focus. And focus means freedom.

Though we may start with a full set of constraints, slowly and ever so surely, a mastery of these brush strokes, these elements, these rules, will allow the artist to ultimately find their own voice and style.

Welcome to the ultimate form of freedom.

Letting the Light In


I was looking out the window today. I look out the window most days. Many windows look back at me.

Have you ever wondered when the window was invented or by whom? I also wonder how one might invent a hole in a wall. Or be bold enough to claim oneself as the inventor.

Windows are wonderful as things and wonderful as metaphors. Either way, they have the potential to let in great light.

I was curious about the origin of the word. One version says ‘window’ originates from Old Norse vindauga, that is vindr for wind and auga for eye, i.e., ‘wind-eye’. Some say window made it to the English language when it replaced the Old English eagþyrl (‘eye-hole’) and eagduru (‘eye-door’).

Looking at some basic history, after humble beginnings as holes in walls, windows first upgraded to include shutters that could open and close. As time went on, windows were designed to protect those inside from the elements as well as to transmit light. It took more than 1,000 years for windows to evolve into something similar to the transparent portals we see in and out of today.

What type of windows do you have? Do you choose to keep them opened or closed? What do you see in them? What do you choose to let in?