Meditation as Calibration


It is common to think of colors as “warm” or “cold”, “exciting” or “relaxing”. The Russian-born painter and musician Wassily Kandinsky spent years painting abstract compositions, looking at the work of other artists and making note of the effect color had on him. [1]   However, he had an advantage that many of us do not possess. Kandinsky was a synesthete.

Synesthesia is the condition where a stimulus to one sense provides a multi-modal response. For example, if a person sees the color yellow, he or she might hear a tone at the frequency of middle C. This phenomenon is very well presented in the book The Man Who Tasted Shapes by Richard Cytowic. [ Cytowic, R, The Man Who Tasted Shapes. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press (1999)]

Kandinsky developed theories of color and form, which not only had specific meanings for him, but were direct links to a spiritual plane. [2]

Meditation as calibration

Those of us who wish to express our inner feelings do not have the advantage of the involuntary  pairing of a sound with a color, for example. I am fascinated and mystified by the process that non-synesthetic abstract expressionists painters use map their feelings to color and form.

I think I may have an answer for myself. Perhaps some kind of targeted meditation would work. Maybe the people who stand for extended periods in front of a painting in a museum, are meditating in some way. Would this process work if I were to look at prints of paintings in art books, or would it have to be in a museum?

My current process

My experiments over the past few days have consisted of three basic steps: 1) drip or spread liquid latex over a 4×6 or 5×7 block watercolor paper surface and let dry; 2) paint the background using a wet-on-wet technique and let dry; 3) peel off the masking material and paint those forms. I am not entirely happy with this process. Painting with drips is for Jackson Pollock or other people who have 40×60 gallery space, not a 4×6 inch piece of paper; preserving the white space should be a result of looking at a painted area and then deciding how to proceed, if visual feedback has any bearing on self expression.

Below is today’s experiment…

Watercolor abstract experiment December 16, 20134X6 cold press 140# watercolor paper


13 thoughts on “Meditation as Calibration

  1. i wonder. One meditate for a reason, to calm the mind, to be more compassive, to find something on to be focused, or just to make something different. Now could be the art a way to find the truth? and not only being a decorative and expressive way to say something. When i mean find the truth ,im talking about something trascendental, something that could change your live( inner live). That metaphisical idea of the painting is something complete new for me.

    • I don’t know if meditation is exactly the word I am looking for. Maybe not, as meditation usually means – as you say – clearing the mind. The question I have is HOW does one reveal one’s inner truth through a visual medium? If it is possible to clear one’s mind while looking at someone else’s artwork AND being aware of its effect could be a way to utilize that same effect in one’s own work. What do you think?

      • I see. Undoubtly one reveals ones inner world and thoughts on a creative image( an image not always figurative, realistic, but one that you did following your intuition). Personally i draw more about topics that are always at my head. By the other side, if its possible to clear ones mind looking at someone else art work, i think, it depends of the artwork. Im sure that not all the artworks will clear ones mind. Others could have the oposite effect.

          • I draw lines in a paper. Just lines without sense. Then i begin to watch the relations between the lines and what objects that can i create with they ( being aware of the images that appear in the middle of the scrawl) . Almost always the pictures that i find are things that are currently in my life. Things that i am always thinking.

            • I think I know what you mean. My next post uses something like your process, where an image emerges – if I read your response correctly. I suppose you guide the image that appears by how you feel at that moment…
              Thanks for your input!

  2. And I assume that you are aware of the link between synaesthesia and autism, with autistic people reporting that words or numbers have specific colours or tastes? I know that you don’t have to have an autism diagnosis to experience this; I’ve known other people, especially linguists, attach colours or other sense data to words. And is that a letter g I see in your painting? Although at first I saw a number 9.

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