I am an artist, graphic designer and educator. I believe in all religions that teach people love and peace. I believe in karma and reincarnation, and I personally practice a combination of Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.
I abandoned my paint brushes and studied computer arts abroad in New York. For the past 25 years, I’ve been dazzled by the numbers game. How can I gain more clicks and views from e-marketing campaigns? How can I attract audiences to pull money from their wallets to buy a product or trust a brand? I went from an artist to a businesswoman. When I turned 50, I looked back and questioned the meaning of my life. I realized it was empty. I had done nothing. I was lost until I found peace for my soul in the philosophy of Buddhism and Taoism.
God has no form nor images according to many Buddhist scriptures including Vajracchedika-sutra (金剛經Jīngāng jīng). In a Tibet movie ‘Thangka’, the artist raised questions to his blind teacher of why and where the images from. The Thangka master answered, ‘It’s Buddha’s mercy.’ The benevolent Buddha has no preferences, only mercy. In India, a simple rock lingam can represent Hindu Lord Shiva. Humans created gods’ images or forms. That is humanity’s preferences. Through thousands of years of aesthetics and preconceived preference, deities’ images were merged with native folk cultures and influenced by definitions of beauty in different location and eras. When Hindu Buddhism was bought into Tibet, Tibetan artists created their own kind of exquisite Thangka Arts instead of copying India’s. Comparing then and now, today’s Information Communications for Buddhism should be much more numerous and diverse than thousands years ago.
I have been searching for my own kind of deity images. My artistic soul was awakened, and I criticized commercial statue goods in the current markets. Was I alone? If I could calculate human factors and cultures to fit various preference, what if I could use my professional skills to create an image based on more than three decades of professional practices in art and design and practice across three religions: Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism?
Traditional media like oil painting on canvas, watercolor on paper or ink on silk are unique but costly. The father of Taoism, Lauozi’s (老子) Tao Te Ching (道德經), the most honorable Taoist philosopher says, ‘Frenzied racing and hunting drive the human heart crazy. Goods difficult to obtain drive human pursuit into obstacles.’ (馳騁畋獵令人心發狂, 難得之貨令人行妨。) Once I was a guest in a wealthy friend’s mansion. The owner was very proud to show us his valuable antique collection of a Tibet Thangka. I asked, “Do you know who this god is?” He had no clue. This Thangka took a devoted artist years of patience and faith to finish, line by line, brush by brush. The result is a wholly unique devotion, the only one of its kind in the world. Instead of hanging in a worship hall or a temple, this precious holy art became rich people’s sordid merchant game. What if religious arts could be exclusive, yet economical?
In this modern digital world, making a photocopy is an easy way to duplicate artwork. Anyone can have a duplicate of Vincent Van Gogh’s Iris painting purchased from the gift shop at the Art Museum. But, the fact is that there is always an original, the only real one. All others are adulterated copycat goods and forever valueless.
Thus, what if holy art is created in a digital vector format, instead of traditional media? Here are the benefits:
- The artwork could be mass produced and every single one is still the original because there would be no single original piece. It would just be a digital processing file.
- It could be produced onto any medium– paper, canvas, fabric, etc. Printing on paper for publications, canvas paintings for a worship room, wallpaper mounting in temples, etc.
- It would be resizable and always retain the same high quality. If you enlarge or zoom on to pixel (bitmap) images, you can see the low quality of it. However, a vector graphic is mapped out using mathematical equations that calculate from one point to another in the form of lines and shapes. Thus, no matter how big or small, it will be reproduced digitally in its best quality.
- It would be revisable and customizable to fit different needs. Different religious sect have different doctrines, even if they worship the same god; the same god often holds different instruments, hand gestures or even clothing for different prayers.
Across those three Asian religious, the goal is the same: meditation for enlightenment. Combining the inner soul and the universe’s greatness energy in one is considered a process. Channeling energy or light into the body is a common method during the meditation process. Most of my paintings are bright yellow in tone to indicate lights. Yellow also symbolizes warmth, compassion and child-like purity, a common color on many monks’ robe in Indian Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism and Chinese Taoism. Unlike regular fine arts or abstract styles, the overall theme is noble and designed for popularity and easy understanding. After all, religious art is for the people, not the artist, nor the collector.
To honor all deities and to fit the purpose as a worship image, all the deities are sitting up straight and stately. Combining knowledge of related scriptures and studying historical appearance, characters and other human factor preferences, I carefully sketched and digitized each paintings. I asked around for opinions because I believe everyone has their own images of god in their hearts. None of my paintings are set in stone. I make revisions for the better. And of course, I realize that it’s not an easy task to make everyone happy. Providing options through digital revisions is my solution.
Religious art could be considered missionary metaphysics. As an artist pursuing religious practice, I seek answers to the meaning of life through the drawing process. In my very first painting, I ignorantly treated it like any other design work, sitting in my dining room with snacks and some loud rock music to keep me “productive”. Of course the results was shameful. After many failings, I leaned that each section is a practice lesson. I must keep my mind and soul unoccupied by any influences. One painting takes months of quiet sittings in the worship room, spiritual communications, learnings, passions, and monk-like living and vegetarian diet. There are challenges, questions, frustrations, mistakes…but it all reaches the same end: one of joy!
I am in the mission of sharing joy!