“For me painting is a gesture of “conscious seeing”. Zen practice is not something distant or esoteric, but simply and fully being alive; hiking being the path, painting the mountains being a mountain. In the most graced moments in the painting studio, I get out of the way and allow the mountains and rivers to paint themselves.
I began Zen practice in 1996. In 2010, I received lay ordination in the Rinzai Zen tradition and my teacher Shodo Harada Roshi gave me the name EKan, with which I sign paintings. EKan can be translated as the ‘blessing/wisdom borne of seeing with one’s whole being’.”
Creativity has been a significant force in Amy’s life since she was a child. Amy Darling grew up in an artistic family that always valued the visual arts. Her mother, in particular, infused her awareness with awe and wonder of the natural world. At age 18 despite some leanings, Amy decided not to go to art school and to instead pursue a liberal arts education, and later a Master’s in clinical Oriental Medicine.
Earlier in life, she explored photography, ceramics and wood sculpture. Her interest in ceramics declined after a trip to the South West where she saw pottery shards thousands of years old. She was mortified at the prospect of her crude creations being memorialized for eons. During four years of global travel interspersed between the ages of 18 and 26, she made occasional journal sketches and tiny paintings with a portable watercolor kit. She has never taken a painting class.
After returning to the US in 1999, artistic endeavors became more humble in scale and medium in deference to work and life. For years, she created collages of paper and pressed leaves and gave them away to friends and continued with photography. After a dozen years without touching a brush, she pulled out her watercolors in the autumn of 2012 and began painting from photographs taken while hiking in her treasured Cascade Mountains.
In the winter of 2014, she modified her clinic schedule, allowing more time for painting.
For the past several years, Amy has been studying The Mountains and Waters Sutra (briefly described here), a lyrical Buddhist text written by 13th Century Zen Master Eihei Dōgen. Her current watercolors are an actualization of this study and reflection. In this article, written for a group show at the Tahoma One Drop Zen Monastery in July 2014, Amy shares some reflections about the relationship between creativity and spiritual practice. Current painting is done largely from photographs taken over many years of hiking in the Cascades. All paintings featured here were created in 2014-15.
Amy is available by commission.
Tahoma One Drop Zen Monastery ~ July 2014