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Replicating the Beauty of Nature

I have been enjoying a wonderful book called Japanese Zen Gardens, by Yoko Kawaguchi. I have also been thinking about creating a miniature Zen garden out of modelling clay, artificial grass and so on. This, the book tells me, is called bonseki – the art of creating miniature landscapes in a container. Nothing validates a silly little craft project like finding out it’s a ‘thing’, and there is even a Japanese name for it.

I had been considering various ideas for a design for my bonseki garden, when I came across this stream crossing on a walk. I stopped and admired it for a while, listening to the stream and the birds. It occurred to me that I would find it difficult to replicate this level of beauty, calm and serenity in my bonseki design. “Damn,” I thought, “nature has pipped me to the post again”.


It seems odd that a human being, with a lifespan of maybe 100 years, may attempt to replicate the wonder of a scene that occurs naturally; that is to say, a scene that has been created though the awesome power of physical laws acting on the vast complexity of the arrangement of energy and matter over billions of years. It is a wondrous thing about humanity that we could even conceive of such a thing.

It is important to remember that wonder, beauty and serenity are in fact something we as humans create for ourselves. The very nature of the concepts requires human perception. Without us, there is no wonder, no beauty, no serenity, and no meaning. As pointless and insignificant as we are as individuals, this is what we bring to the universe – we experience it.

Using a Tablet for Sketching

There has been a trend in the last 10-20 years towards veneration of technology as a style accessory, regardless of its utility. I believe that our technological advance has been hampered by the huge effort being put into marketing technology by trying to make desirable and profitable items rather than genuinely useful and efficient items.

When I bought a tablet, I felt a bit guilty that I was buying into this style-over-content approach to technology. Did I really need this? Didn’t my computer already do all this stuff? I have been very pleased with my experience of tablets, however, and mine has been genuinely useful to me in ways that a laptop or desktop would not quite capture.

One significant function of my tablet that I have used a lot is a sketching program (‘apps’ used to be called ‘programs’). This allows me to draw directly onto the screen with a stylus or my finger, which I can’t do with my computer, and I can carry it around like a sketch pad. It allows me to capture an idea for a painting very quickly, including the use of any colour I need, and then put it away immediately, and either ignore it forever or use it later for a painting, or just to experiment – this is a lot harder to do with a real pad and pens or paints.

Whilst on holiday, I took my tablet with me and I could sketch whenever an idea came to me. Here are some of the results.

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