History of watercolor

April 15, 2015 in Blog bericht, Buddhism, Watercolor by Michelle Dujardin


A few weeks ago, on a grey Sunday afternoon, I visited the Mesdag Museum in The Hague. To my surprise there was a temporary exhibition about watercolors and their history. Even though my life has been about watercoloring a lot the past 2 years, I hardly knew anything about the history of it. I never gave it a serious thought why you hardly find watercolor paintings that are dated back hundreds of years ago.

It was lovely to see the first paintboxes in wood that were used commonly by artist, even of Brands we still use today.

watercolor box

watercolor materials

The exhibition opened my mind in several ways. It also confronted me with the status watercoloring seems to have here in the Netherlands. It’s often ridiculed and not taken seriously. Watercoloring has a name of being a hobby for elderly women.

Walking through the museum made me wonder what has happened with the status of watercoloring, since it was only 100 years ago that it seemed to be a far more respected form of art. As I found, watercoloring was frequently used to accentuate illustrations in black and white. But in the late 19th century factories produced cheaper watercolor paint of high quality that made them more populair among artist. In the UK, Belgium and later the Netherlands, artists working with watercolors gathered in societies (called the Dutch Watercolour Society or in Dutch: de Hollandsche Teekenmaatschappij). Among them were two Dutch female artists too.


My personal favorite was a painting by the Italian Mose Bianchi that had quite some color and humor compared to the Dutch painters. This painting is called ‘Choir boys’ (1877)

mose bianchi

Choir boys

choir boys



Wikipedia says about the history of watercoloring:

Several factors contributed to the spread of watercolor painting during the 18th century, particularly in England. Among the elite and aristocratic classes, watercolor painting was one of the incidental adornments of a good education, especially for women. By contrast, watercoloring was also valued by surveyors, mapmakers, military officers and engineers for its usefulness in depicting properties, terrain, fortifications or geology in the field and for illustrating public works or commissioned projects.

Reading this text I ask myself why it was especially good for women? If you look at Asian art that uses similar fluid techniques there doesn’t seem to be a gender difference. Does its has to do with colors? Is it because watercolors are perfect for making botanical illustrations and women love flowers and plants more than men? Or is it because the transparent paint creates lighter, brighter and therefore ‘sweeter’ images. I seriously don’t know the answer, if you do I would love to hear!

The only thing I know is that you need quite some courage and an assured hand to paint with watercolors. If you learn how to paint ‘in the Zen way’ it can free your mind and soul you can use it as a meditation technique. And if watercoloring is considered as ‘typical feminine’ , I think Zen watercoloring could be a very effective meditation technique for women (and of course men too)!

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Zen seeing, Zen singing

November 11, 2013 in Blog bericht, Buddhism by admin

Drawing Eva Cassidy Tekening

Since September, I am following singing classes in Leiden (Netherlands) with Scott Blick, called ‘Playing with your voice’.

They are my first singing classes ever, but I have been told by other participants, that these lessons are not very mainstream at all. Only recently I’m  beginning to realize what is the most important message Scott is trying to teach us. He learns how to sing effortless; by relaxing the muscles of your jaw and voice box, air is able to move freely and your voice sounds more clear and full. The whole idea reminds me of Zen drawing a lot. When you relaxe your arm and hand while drawing, lines will be able to appear on the paper more easily and elegant.

Scott himself does not calls our lessons ‘singing’, rather ‘speaking’. He would like us to learn how to speak words in a natural way. When you know what you say and you stay with yourself, your words are far more effective than if you pretend and focus on you singing techniques only. He states that you are expressive enough by being ‘who you are’, and I totally agree with that. It’s like when you are drawing a spontaneous line on paper, and it looks so much more interesting that a totally polished drawing that lost it’s spontaneous look.

I personally had never thought there would be so much similarities between singing and drawing. In both cases, many people think they are unable to do it well. It’s not true. Many people (if not all!!) are able to sing and draw. perhaps we will not all become a famous artist or singer, but that is not what it’s about. It is about getting the best out of yourself, enjoy expressing yourself and be amazed by what you can do. It’s is about becoming more aware of yourself and effortless learning. It’s also about energy. When you know how to let your energy flow freely, you can learn anything. For example, singing as well as drawing will be easier when you start with some grounding practices.

Does this mean you will automatically become Zen by singing?

No, not exactly. Especially in the beginning, you might get frustrated when it isn’t really happening the way you would like it to. In singing it’s even more difficult, you do not only face with yourself alone; there is an audience involved too. When you are stumbling in front of other people it may increase your inner pressure.

Funny enough, your audience can help you get out of your nervous mind! It’s exactly the same as when drawing: by seeing! Scott reminds you constantly that you must look at te audience and see each one of them  individually. It will help you to connect to the outside world, to get into the moment in stead of clinging to your mind. When you are not thinking, there will be no irrelevant or negative thought bothering you anymore.

This is what you can learn of Zen singing and Zen drawing. It is both about letting go…

Now for me, there is still one difficulty; the lyrics. We all choose a (familiar) song to practice on. A song that has been written and performed already by others. Because it’s not your own text, you will have to remember it while singing, and this is forcing you to get into your mind again. If I don’t learn lyrics  by heart, I will get disturbed in my flow. Scott helps me to get to know my text, by letting me speak the words out loud and by letting me read what the words are really about. So just a practical advice: choose a simple song you love. That is exactly the same when drawing: choose a subject you truly love and the result will be better. If you love what you do it will brings you joy. And the result? That will come as if it was created by itself..

Here you can see and hear the songs I have chosen:

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September 13, 2013 in Blog bericht, Buddhism by admin

bloem paarse bol

Just a while ago, I read Ineke van Lint’s article ‘Why do we hurt most those we love and how to stop this?’

Ineke answers this question on the level of energy and explains how we are used to taking energy from others. You can read the article here and you will probably recognize something.

The reason I would like to share her article here, is because of the solution she offers to this problem. Instead of taking our energy from others, we should connect with the universal energysource. She writes:

“How to do that? By connecting to the energy that is always available. That is the energy of the Universe. The easiest way to connect to this energy is contemplate the beauty of a flower. You also can contemplate the beauty of an object or a person.”

It shows again the importance of (zen) seeing and drawing and how this is a perfect way to connect with this universal energy source! Here advice sits very well with the September drawing challenge to draw a face every day.

On Ineke van Lint’s website you will find lots of interesting articles and books she wrote about various subjects.

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Beyond the monkey mind with Osho Zen Tarot.

May 21, 2013 in Blog bericht, Buddhism, Watercolor by admin

monkey portrait watercolorosho zen tarot

Zen drawing is more than a drawing method to me. It’s one of the ways by which I force myself to become aware of the moment and accept what is happening. Zen drawing is one of my favorite methods, but not the only one. Physical exercises (like belly-dancing in my case) can be powerful methods to clear the mind as well.

My ‘path’ could also be called ‘the path of coincidence’. I use everything that comes into my life by accident and feels right. That’s why I use different methods from different origins and background. In the end, it all fits very well together.

One of these accidental discoveries that has a great impact on me is Osho’s Zen Tarot. I didn’t know much about Osho, except negative opinions of friends and family. At the moment I don’t have any opinion about Osho, except for the fact that he has said and done some very extraordinary things. I love the way he stimulates people to be self confident, happy, playful, interdependent and powerful. His beautiful illustrated Zen cards are a great help in achieving that. The cards tell you what is happening at an unconscious level and mirror the tricks of your monkey mind. I had some suspicion (my monkey mind) in the beginning, but in the meantime I could write a book about all miraculous things that happenend and the effects of the cards. I dare to say now: the cards are always right.



osho zen tarot cards kaarten Osho zen tarot

If you would like to try the tarot yourself, take a look at this website and you pick you card there.

This article with his vision on creating and art is also very interesting to read.

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Drawing reflex: a kind of automatic drawing

February 18, 2013 in Blog bericht, Buddhism, pencil drawing by admin

contour tekening eenddrawing reflex
The most amazing thing about Zen drawing, is that if you just step aside and let your drawing reflex take over, it feels like your hand is able to draw by itself. What in fact 
has happened is what the Buddhists call "the awakening of your inner artist" and you will discover that if you give room to your inner artist, this way of drawing is easy
 and above all, fun! 

But it must be said: for most people stepping aside is not as easy as it sounds! So what does it mean: stepping aside? It means that you try to minimize the influence of 
your personality (or ego) and control mechanism in the drawing process. For it is your personality that is responsible for criticizing and controlling the result of your drawing 
and this personality is not satisfied until it sees a certain quality. For instance, you will notice, that when you start drawing by only using the reflex, your mind will slowly 
quiet down. That is the moment that a little voice inside your head starts talking to you... 'this can't be right, you must be doing something wrong, go on... have a look!' 
Don't worry, let it talk, just stay with your inner artist and continue to draw, because this is just your personality getting nervous and wanting to interfere. 

Sadly, this inner chatter also negatively influences the drawing result. Somehow your hand gets confused by that conflict of letting go and regaining control and this can be 
clearly seen on paper. As a result each Zen drawing is a reflection of the stillness of your mind, your inner focus and your concentration. But don't worry if your personality 
keeps interfering. It is a proces and you have to give it some time!

Here is some advice to help you find your drawing reflex and reduce the influence of your inner chatter:

- relax, tell yourself to be quiet.

- draw complex and irrational shapes, usually found in nature.

- tell yourself not to focus on the result: whatever happens, is ok 

- pay attention to your  subject. Try not to interpret what you see and focus on the way it looks.

- If you experience difficulties in relaxing, try fysical exercises, like grounding and/ or relaxe breathing before you start drawing.

Hopefully this will help you on your way!
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Trevor Ledford about drawing meditation

December 5, 2012 in Blog bericht, Buddhism, Inspiring artist by admin



Last week I found the blog and drawings of Trevor Ledford on the Internet. Trevor wrote me about himself and his drawings. I’m happy to share his story and experiences here with you.

“Several years ago, while I was still in art school, I was taking lots of drawing classes. Over time I noticed that a very unintentional phenomenon was happening inside of me as I drew in these classes. As I became focused on the model or the subject we were drawing on any given day, and settled into a drawing session, my mind and heart were cleared of all stress. I felt deep connections with whatever I was drawing. The classes became silent after the first few minutes as people started to draw. After classes were over each day I noticed I always felt refreshed and had a great sense of clarity.

I began looking into the effects of drawing and the mind. Around this time was when I found Frederick Frank’s book, “The Zen of Seeing”. It opened my eyes to a brand new way to use my drawing experiences. I began focusing on the process more. As a result, my finished drawings actually improved without any other additional effort. I also began reading about other process-oriented artists. Chogyam Trungpa also really resonated with me.”

Trevor uses several ways of drawing for his meditations, like realistic drawing and Mandala drawing.

trevor ledford mandala-2

He tells about his realistic drawings:

“When you look at the drawings they just look like really well-rendered drawings with close attention to details. In other words, you would never know they were meditations just by looking at the finished drawings. It’s the whole seeing/drawing thing that Frederick Frank talks about in his books. There really is no distinction. I think anyone who draws with quiet focus for extended amounts of time falls into a meditative state whether they intend to or not. As for knowing others that intentionally use the techniques, I do know a few individuals that do this, but not many. Most artists I know use their art primarily for other purposes. I am also a Buddhist, therefore, I think I make the connection quite naturally as a result of my more traditional meditations.

Zen drawing/seeing is something everyone can benefit from whether they are trained artists or not. The beauty of it is that you don’t need a lot of equipment (just pen and paper, or even dirt and a stick). You don’t need specialized training. Once you know the basic process, it’s very easy to just begin and reap the benefits.”

Trevor lives in Chattanooga, U.S.

He has a blog about meditative drawing: http://www.squidoo.com/drawing-as-meditation

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The Zen drawing story of Holger Wendt

October 30, 2012 in Blog bericht, Buddhism, Inspiring artist by admin



Holger was already into meditative drawing when he was a teenager in the 70’s. It was in 1983 when he read the book “The zen of seeing, seeing/drawing as meditation” by Frederick Franck that he realized he was already ‘Zen drawing’. The work of Franck opened Holger’s eyes to a different purpose of seeing and drawing and it gave him more freedom to practice drawing. Frederick Franck is still his most important influence when it comes to drawing.



In the winter of 1988, Holger Wendt was in New York for business and he brought his Frederick Franck’s book with him. It was pure coincidence that Holger’s eye fell on a address mentioned in the book. Warwick NY it said. Before he knew it, he was looking up the telephone number and dialled the number. It was Franck himself who answered the phone and he was so delighted to speak with Holger, that they arranged to meet.


Holger met Frederick Franck three times after that and he joined one of his workshops at ‘Pacem in Terris’. Here he drew these portraits of Frederick Franck, ain’t they beautiful!

Besides Zen drawing, Holger practiced zazen (sitting meditation) a short period in his life. He also practiced Taiji, Aikido and Qigong as a form of physical meditation.

Holger works as a Traditional Chinese Medicine-acupuncture practitioner. In the past years he also taught many people his ‘zen drawing’ method. He says about his teaching:


“To teach zen drawing requires a feminine side of me, a sensitivity and perceptiveness to what is wanted and needed for the student. I guess it’s the same kind of perceptiveness I use, when I practice Traditional Chinese Medicine with my patients. I need to see where they are stuck and provide something that can move them further on their way to wholeness and harmony.”


To Holger, Zen drawing is a way for harmonising with the universe, to fall in love with it all over again. Zen-drawing is a guide to perceive what “is”, a door to the present, to the moment of now. He explains:

After practicing Zen drawing, the eye-heart connection stays open for a while, or forever, occasionally clouded by the mind. An example of this is given by an Italian young woman who practiced zen drawing with me for a day in Sweden. The day after she returned to Italy, and she sent me a text message, saying:

”I could see with my new eyes and it was simply fantastic! I’ve been exclaiming all the time, “WOW, è bellissima!””

After this beautiful remark there’s not much left to say about Holger and Zen drawing. One thing: take a look at his Blog about zen drawing.


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Mindful drawing

April 2, 2012 in Blog bericht, Buddhism, pencil drawing by admin

Mindfulness has become very popular in the West over the last few years. Lot’s of people discovered the benefits of keeping their attention in the moment and to practice a tolerant attitude towards everything that happened in their lives. Sitting in meditation however, trying to get a still mind by thinking about ‘nothing’ is very difficult for some people. Simply because doing ‘nothing’ is something we just do not do in the West. For those people who have difficulty quieting their minds, Zen drawing might be a better way of practicing meditation. It’s meditation in action, which means you can be active while reaching a meditative state. Instead of ‘doing nothing’ you will focus on a subject you wish to draw. By looking at it in great detail, your concentration will improve and you might feel committed to your subject as well. It is like a positive spiral: drawing increases your concentration and by concentrating more, your drawing skills will improves.
Realistic Zen drawing can be the perfect practice to become more loving towards your environment as well. If you see how things really are, you will be amazed by the beauty and complexity of all things. That’s why I think that Zen drawing might be the easiest and most pleasant way of becoming Mindful. If sitting in meditation ‘isn’t your thing’, try this for a change!
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Relaxation excersise: drawing circles

January 18, 2012 in Blog bericht, Buddhism, pencil drawing by admin


Before I start drawing I begin with drawing spirals and circles. I found out this improves my concentration and focus. It's the perfect excercise 
for me when I want to get rid of tension and unwanted thoughts. In just a few minutes I become more relaxed. It's a perfect way to open my mind.

The only thing I have to do is to draw circles and spirals without thinking or influencing the result. I just let it happen and I try not to interrupt 
the drawingprocess. I try to continue drawing circles until I feel a little dreamy, as if I am balancing between normal consciousness and a daydream. 
This  exercise has proven to  be useful in all kinds of situations. I also do this when I am feeling anxious or nervous. It helps me enormously, 
so why don't you give it a try and see if it works for you too!
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Using dark and light in Zen drawing

November 1, 2011 in Blog bericht, Buddhism, pencil drawing by admin

Dark and light


In realistic Zen drawing, the contour or outline of the subject can be important. Drawing the outline of your subject is a perfect starting point for your Zen drawing. The level of ‘perfection’ of the shape might reflect your level of concentration. Your drawing is like a rubber-stamp, and you can use it to discover at what point your concentration was well focused, or where it was less, or not focused at all.

As mentioned earlier; the resulting contour drawing looks delicate and fragile and has little artistic value. At least, that’s not the intention of the drawing. Adding some shadows and contrast will give the contour drawing a different appearance. It will become more lively and spirited and I guess, the artistic value will increase. If you feel that the essence of your subject is on paper, there is no need to continue the drawing.

It is my personal opinion that, by adding more and more to your drawing, you will add more of your personality. This is a personal choice, but it’s not necessary for your Zen Drawing or better: Zen experience.  On the contrary; Zen tries to go beyond your personality. Your personality (or Ego) might even interfere with your Zen experience. The essence of the drawing might disappear when you are adding to much dark, or trying to perfect the drawing (make it look real). It’s part of the Zen practice to know or feel when to stop drawing.


This last drawing balances somewhere between the Zen drawing and the ‘normal’ drawing. I guess I could not really let go of the quality of the result. Still, by drawing this landscape, and forcing myself to look even better, I became more and more aware of what I saw. I realized I had been deliberately ignoring the industrial elements in the landscape that I didn’t like. By drawing these ‘ugly’ elements, my opinion changed somehow. I guess I accepted the reality of what was really there.

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