Sketchbook notes from the drifting spaces

Limitless – Kusen collaboration

John Fraser’s Kusen No. 240

“A teacher and his student were standing by the shore. In the distance was a boat. The teacher said to the student ‘forgetting about your mind for the moment, point to the boat’. The student pointed to the boat. The teacher then said ‘forgetting about the boat for the moment, point to your mind’. The student pointed to the boat again”

In dualism, we imagine the mind comes first, occupying an unspecified space, within which the world then appears. But truly, mind and world are the same illumination. But it is not the great illumination.

Dogen said that when we see water, fish see shimmering palaces. Demons see blood. Gods see strings of pearls. But the eyes seeing ‘water’ are without limit, and so the powers of expression of ‘water’ are without limit. This is the great illumination. Likewise, ‘mountains’. Likewise, ‘thinking’.

More zen articles at Kusen & Notes from John

Season’s Greetings 2017

Have a super duper 2017 and all the very best wishes for a peaceful holiday.

Creatively 2016 has been really varied, and has seen work on various visual projects, particularly photography and drawings, both getting more abstract and playful.

Recently I have been running free community art classes in Ruchill and Maryhill in Glasgow for young people and adults. I’ll be growing these into the North West and East of the city in 2017.

Evolving photography works

C-print gold 2 (

C-print gold 1 (

Working with nature, plus my own ‘sculptural’ props and my trusty old nikon dslr, and recent smaller digital camera, I’ve been going on to develop various series of photographs and c-prints. The two images I’ve selected here are from work on the Scottish Hebrides. These series have gradually become more abstracted and playful with colour and atmosphere, and are influencing new drawing and painting experiments in terms of colour blocks and composition.

The light will not break – Kusen Collaboration with John Fraser

C-print for Kusen 129 (

John’s Kusen

Book Of Serenity, Case 36: Master Ma Is Unwell

The Case: Master Ma was unwell. The monastery superintendent asked, “Master, how is your venerable state these days?”
The Great Teacher said, “Sun face buddha, Moon face buddha”

Commentary: “unwell” is a euphemism. Master Ma (Baso) was mortally ill, and died the following day.

Sun Face Buddha was said to have a lifespan of 1800 years. Moon Face Buddha lived only one day and one night. Baso is talking about two aspects of experience, once our egoic self concern has dropped away.

The Universe can only express itself through each thing. If there were no things, there would be no light.

Sometimes, we are very aware that we are expressing something universal through this fragile, transient body. The Moon illuminates itself, and everything it casts its light on becomes part of it.

Other times, we forget this body, and are simply part of this illuminated world.

The light can only shine through each thing, and each thing will break

The light will not break

More zen articles at Kusen & Notes from John

Transient worlds within worlds, and divergence – with translations of Basho and Ryoukan

Imperm (Photograph)

within the thin covering snow
Three Thousand Worlds

again inside this world
fragile snow falls


vision of decay in mind, the wind permeates the body


at the month’s end moonless –
a one thousand year old cedar
is hugged by the storm



Contained – Spaciousness
Tranquil – Distorted
Phenomenon – Concept

Ben Ledi – pulsating mountain

Ben Ledi 1 (

Ben Ledi 2 (

Ben Ledi 3 (

Ben Ledi 4 (

Ben Ledi 5 (

Ben Ledi 6 (

Ben Ledi 7 (

temporal voids
of cerulean blue –
ice holes, pulsating –
falling apart rapidly

unravelling – snap shots, walking and cycling, through scottish cityscapes

exterior of multi floor removed

beam through bars, structure behind

wrapped in red weathered cloth

red towers, rising

red tower in distance, modernist tower neglected

electric lights glint, clouds gather above shopping complex

gateway closed, steps amidst modern ruins

Tonedown characters

Tonedown characters 1 ( still shot of light fragmented through organic shapes

Tonedown characters 2 ( white marks on a dark work surface, movement

Tonedown characters 3 ( skyline with large clouds close up and rain dots

Tonedown characters 4 ( close up of artist surface, paint dried and piled

Cobalt Install (Orkney, Scotland) Part 2 – Square

rock texture and moss with angular shapes of blue man made shapes and shadows

sea rock at top of square with blue shapes underneath and looking through to blackness

Cobalt Install (Orkney, Scotland) Part 1 – Horizontal

rocky concrete with blue and sand surfaces

flat layers of blue, with a shadow from above

insect on cobalt blue next to a dark black shadow and rough stone or concrete up close