Drawing the Smell of Creamed Rice

Having survived my extended crunch period, I'm settling in to do some writing. Calmer, more sustained writing than happens on a blog, but devoted to the kind of subjects that come in for consideration here at Graphic Tales.

I'm also meaning to catch up in this space, too.

Last December, I had a nice exchange with my blog-pal Klaus von Mirbach, about whom I've written before. He wrote: Some weeks ago I started some new drawings, drawings in a book... drawing outside, waiting for the bus, in the schoolyard waiting for my little daughter, hiking through the town, also drawing in our family house, so a kind of reportage drawing. There is no order behind these drawings, may be it is a kind of self therapy for me, anyway I can not give it up. (Editorial note: I have cleaned up punctuation and spelling for clarity's sake.)

The drawings were charming. I wrote back: "I am fondest of the drawings which provide a combination of environmental information and objects and/or people. What seem to be drawings in a coffee shop from December 7, a lovely little drawing of a room with two chairs, a window and a doll in a wagon from December 10 (what does the poster caption say in the upper right corner?), drawing number 3 from December 11, and, differently, the charming drawing of the fire truck from December 7. That room with the wagon and the chairs is so lovely!"

I noticed yesterday that the latter drawing (shown directly above), which I remembered very clearly, was missing from the blog. I wrote to Klaus and he kindly reposted it.

A striking thing: these drawings are only getting stronger. Now the image of the room with the doll and poster seems less forceful, as the project gathers momentum and graphic presence. (I recently noticed the same thing about the drawings I began making in 2007-08, when my turn to reportage was new. I was excited about them at the time, and now many of them seem weak.)

Other interiors.

A magical crowd of things.

A drypoint, hand printed.

But back to the drawing with the doll and wagon and poster (detail below).

Klaus answered my question about the caption thusly:

The poster caption says, I dont know if I can explain that in English. There is a Zen Buddhist Koan... 


Question: What is the core of the true doctrine, the true teaching? 

Answer: The smell of creamed rice. 

"Doctrine" is in German "lehre" and drawing this postcard I made a mistake and wrote instead of "lehre," "leere." But "leere" means "emptiness, blankness.” I had to laugh, the core is emptiness, but that’s also a meaning of the Buddhist teaching, that everything is empty. 

How wonderful is that?

More: These drawings are a trial to tell something about my life. I am still trying and searching in this direction.The drawings were all made in 15- 20 minutes. In this time the scene has changed completely. I start to draw a person, before I finish she has gone, then another person comes on the scene and gets in the drawing. And so on. The drawing is no photo, it is made in time; but at least for me it is exactly what happened. 

Really, I just want to get out of the way and show these drawings.

Pancake ingredients.

Pancake-making supplies, plus more ingredients.


In our December correspondence I wrote the following, which for me remains the headline of this work: You have remembered what makes childhood beautiful, but you have integrated knowledge into your point of view. Not easy; a gift of temperament! 

Thank you, Klaus.