Wakabayashi’s Zen Calligraphy


This is my sensei Wakabayashi’s Sho calligraphy of zen master Dogen’s poem coming to terms with reality ’empty-handed’ after returning from China – ‘The eyes are horizontal, and the nose is vertical.’

This prompted my partner to tell me the story she read of Ikkyu (Rinzai zen master, 1394-1481) who placed a curving, twisted bonsai tree on display outside with the note attached ‘If you can see this tree as straight, you will receive a reward’. Townspeople duly gathered up, squinting hard and mumbling ‘How can we see it straight?’


Towards sunset a passing traveller stopped and admired the tree saying ‘What a beautiful winding tree.’ When Ikkyu heard this he passed the traveller the small reward.

The traveller, like Dogen, had grasped reality as it was rather than being carried away by things. Wakabayashi is getting old now, in his nineties, but I am grateful for what I can learn from the wisdom of his markmaking, not unlike that of winding, curved branches and roots…

Wandering the cityscape spaces




I always find interest in the variety of cityscape spaces, especially at twilight or night when it is easier not to discriminate between shapes. Atmosphere! Winter in Glasgow is not so bad after all. The moon shot I snapped reminds me of Dogen, who often used it as a metaphor for our experience and glimpses of enlightenment…

Clouds are scattered in the autumn sky,
But you can see the moon in your mind;
I raise up my hossu and say, “Look!”

(Master Dogen, 1226)

From my lounge window I can see over the west and south of Glasgow, the old University tower and its dominating yet matter of fact modernist library.

Three geese above
Winter crescent moon
Glasgow skyline asleep in twilight shadow

Drifting Snows, Folded Forms

End of December 3 day trip to the Trossachs National Park

Central Scotland

8 and a half hours walk, crampons on at around 400m

Exhilarating but tough crunching through snow and ice

Carrying materials, limited time for sculpture

Drifting snow along the ridge from Ben Ledi to Ben Vane

Snowmelt, deer and headtorches for walk back through Glen Finglas

December 2011

Studio work in progress…

Blair Thomson's Studio, November 2011

From the Hill Top

Some one from below
Is looking at the whirling
Of the cherry snow.


Recently I have been reading and considering the 7th Century Hua-yen Chinese philosophy that influenced Zen in terms of that concept of interconnectedness and impermanence and I’m pulling this into my worldview behind the art and expanding yet simplifying my process. Currently I have some small pieces on show, please check the exhibitions page.

‘There is only incessant change and flux’ (Hua-yen)

‘..blooming, buzzing confusion…’ (Whitehead)

November 2011

‘Art is Explosion’ Okamoto Taro

Konstnärshuset, Stockholm

November 4th to November 9th: ‘HOPE Somalia‘ exhibition at Konstnärshuset, Stockholm, of local and global artists raising funds for the starving millions in Somalia. I’m delighted to participate in this very worthwhile show with two new pieces (including ‘Rising’ below) in this Venetian style palace in the centre of Stockholm and to organising artist Jacob Anckarsvard best of luck with the exhibition.

RGI Annual Exhibition 2011

Until 12th November 150th Royal Glasgow Institute Annual Exhibition, showing one large abstract work (from my city structures series) at the Mitchell, in this one of the UK’s largest open shows. Last month I streamed a live talk from Tokyo by artist Christo whose work I often find inspiring, conceptually and on a staggering scale.

RGI Annual Exhibition 2011

Through Argyll, Barra and South Uist

Summer has been really busy, creative and joyful and we managed to get out the city for a few trips and even caught the best weather too! We went to the Outer Hebrides for the second time this year, this time loading up the bikes with gear, a colourful and motley mix of art and camping stuff. I was focussed on wrecked sites where the semi-organic, man-made shapes and poignant, quiet atmosphere were speaking to me as it were, and I was sketching, making calligraphic and other 2D work, simple sculpture and spending a while with the (digital) camera…. Since returning from all this outdoor work in such a wonderful setting I have been developing these works and I think I will be for quite a while as there are so many creative possibilities and new ideas emerging…