“Tide” Series Show Opening and Reception: Oct. 5, 2013

Tide #51

Painting titled “Tide #51

I am having an opening and reception for a show of some of my “Tide” series images on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 from 4:00 to 6:00 pm, at the Zen Life & Meditation Center of Chicago, located at 38 Lake Street, in Oak Park, IL, 60302. My works will be on view at the Center through October and November and will also be available for purchase.

I have been working on these images since I came back from visiting Grand Manan in Canada at the end of June 2013. June and I spent a wonderful week there with Peter Cunningham and Ara Fitzgerald. Because this island is in the Bay of Fundy, it is subject to extreme tidal movements several times every day. I spent many hours walking out on the beaches at low tide. Since then, I have been exploring the metaphor of “tides” which is very rich for me. I find tides to be very comforting – a large movement of sea and sand on a daily basis – the way the earth breathes.

These works are all digital images, done on a wacom tablet connected to an iMac computer in a software program called Corel Painter x3. I am working from my own photographs and occasionally from Peter Cunnningham’s. I enjoy studying the relationship of water, light, sand, rhythms, waves, rocks, texture, form and space. It is not until very recently that I have clarified that what really drives this work for me is a deep need to integrate form and space, to realize what in the Mahaprajna Paramita Heart Sutra is said to be “form is emptiness; emptiness is form.”

Sometimes my images are very busy and chaotic. They are very spacious and full of texture, but the form gets lost. So I am trying to realize through my work some balance in which the form is present but not solidified or frozen. The form is in the space, and the space is in the form and they co-create each other.

I believe the image I am attaching to this post, best exemplifies my fullest realization of this attempt so far. In my earlier life, I worked as a professional painter for about 13 years. I worked with oils and canvas, and did primarily figurative work. I stopped painting altogether when I co-founded and started the Zen Center of Hawaii in 1992 with my wife, June Tanoue.

Last year, on retreat in Wisconsin, I was inspired by the beauty of nature and the Hay River where we spent our time in deep silence and reflection, to begin painting again. I wouldn’t really call what I do painting, because a painting implies something that is a one-of-a-kind work of art. These are digital images which I can print out many times. I can also do numerous variations on an image. So I suppose they could be called “digital art” or “digital prints” though this sounds a bit cold to me. As far as my own process goes, I still feel that I am painting when I am working on these.

I’m grateful to be able to actualize and realize some creative vision again in my life. It gives me a great deal of joy and happiness to share these images with others, so I hope you will join me for my opening or come by the Zen Center in the next few months and enjoy these digital prints.

Diebenkorn’s Notes to Himself on Beginning a Painting

I find these notes Diebenkorn made to himself when beginning a painting to be very helpful in my own process. I grew up in California and remember the first time I saw a Diebenkorn painting, and I experienced California light in his work. So I have some respect for what he says here.

1. Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.

2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued – except as a stimulus for further moves.

3. Do search. But in order to find other than what is searched for.

4. Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.

5. Don’t “discover” a subject – of any kind.




About 30 years ago, in another life time, I trained and studied with Jan Saether and Martin Vaugel at an art school in Venice Beach, California. I studied sculpture and painting, and ended up gravitating towards oil paints, which I pursued for about 12 years. At that point I was primarily a figurative and landscape painter. June and I married and moved to Hawaii. I continued to paint. And then I started to teach Zen, and opened the Zen Center of Hawaii in 1992. At that point, I stopped painting. It wasn’t until last year during a 7 day retreat in Wisconsin, that I re-discovered my love of painting and took it up again.

But this time, I’m not painting in oils on a canvas. I’m painting with a stylus on a digital Wacom tablet, using Painter 12 software. For a while I was all over the map, trying to find my way. After a vacation on Grand Manan with my friends, Peter Cunningham and Ara Fitzgerald, along with my wife, June Tanoue, in June 2013, I began using photographs I took there, and some of Peter’s photographs to work in a new way. I’m working from photographs, sometimes two or three in the same painting, mixing, layering, erasing, painting. I’m not sure what to call this – perhaps “painting-montage”. But what is clear to me now is that the digital media offers me a wide range of options and tremendous freedom to experiment and explore how I can create a compelling image.

My paintings in the “Tide Series” continue to expand and grow. I like working with a metaphor in a series, because I can explore that metaphor in so many ways. It feels very limiting to me, to think I’m doing one painting about something, and then another painting about something else. Instead,

So you’ll see that I now have many paintings in the one series of “Tides” and this allows me to really explore this metaphor in many ways, and this feels enriching and interesting to me.

I continue to try out other metaphors, but so far, the “Tides” metaphor has been the one I resonate with best.

I welcome your feedback, your comments and your questions.


I am opening this new web site as a simple way to share my paintings and art work with you. I hope you will take a look and feel free to give me your feedback.

Thank you,

Robert Althouse