If we are alert, in tune, and seeking then all of life is our classroom filled with lessons at the most unexpected times.
The gardens of the Nezu Museum of art in Tokyo are wild, natural, and un-manicured, in contrast to most of the gardens we saw. Pathways wind among ponds and bridges, small hutches and statues. In that garden I learned a transforming lesson about painting.
My teacher will never know she taught. She was sitting on a bridge painting a small tree that sat on a rock island in the middle of a pond. I only walked by twice, once in each direction, never stopping, only slowing to glance at her work, a simple picture of only the tree and the rock. When you are alert, in tune and seeking, that is all it takes, I got it.
First, it hit me that too often I try to paint everything, any good piece of art must have an object that everything else revolves around, she was ignoring all of the distracting background and focusing on the object of her interest. Second, with the tip of her brush she hinted at the details she saw, I too often try to paint in broad strokes, she painted just enough to trick the mind into filling in the blanks. Lastly, to do what she did, she must have observed more closely than I do, life and art are both enhanced by observation, I hurry and it shows, she took the time to look, a lesson I needed to learn.
Writing the last paragraph I realize there must be metaphors for life there, but that is not the point. The point is, I was wrestling with some art issues, and a brief encounter with a woman I will never know taught me what I needed to take me to the next step. Here is the first sketch I did the next day, inspired by her. Thank you for teaching me.