seeing . painting . being


There is only this moment
(from which I am not separate)
ever, and always, now.

No effort or strain,
no worry or plan.
The work
(from which I am not separate)
need not be argued with.



Every morning begins the same.  The dawn quietly fills the studio with gentle light.  To my right, a brown clay water kettle set on a low flame to keep the water hot.  In front of me a small, low table, cut from a slab of rough wood, teacup and teapot at the ready.


Studio Tea


The sound of water simmering.  The smell of wet tea leaves.  The stillness of morning.  The taste of the tea.

Drinking tea this way is an exercise in mindfulness.  It quiets inner chatter and brings energetic coherence to the body.  This daily ritual is an important part of the creative process that plays out each day in my studio.  As the focus of the tea session washes the mind clear an inner silence grows.  From here the work proceeds.

As of this writing there are two kinds of paintings happening in the studio.

There are realist paintings, usually a still life of a few simple objects lit with the soft light of a north-facing window.  The first layers of paint are straightforward descriptions of form but as layers accumulate and observation becomes more subtle a felt sense of presence grows.  At first faint, it longs to be amplified, guiding the brush and the development of the work.  Grasping and chasing only shuts the door.  Soon it’s no longer the eye seeing the object.  There is only seeing, painting, being.


Bev Byrnes: Work in progress - Blouse


Lightly child, lightly.  Learn to do everything lightly. 
Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply.  
Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.
– Aldous Huxley


Bev Byrnes: Blouse, oil on panel, 24”x36”


Some paintings are more abstract in nature.  The beginning of these look like haphazard mark-making.  They get the flow going.  From this point on it’s a matter of listening. The listening must be silent and clear, with no owner, and sometimes it would seem to the mind there is no good coming of it.  Sometimes it’s effortless.  Sometimes it’s a matter of persistence and faith.  But as complexity builds (plus a little luck, though wisdom would call it grace) a sense of presence arises and the painting begins to take form.


Bev Byrnes: Landscape of (un)Knowing, mixed media on panel, 48”x48”


Artists are often asked, “When do you know a painting is finished?”  For me it’s kind of like falling in love.  As seeing becomes unseeing and presence encompasses all, the brush begins to move less.  Soon more time is spent just sitting and gazing than in the activity of painting.  There’s a sense of satisfaction, awe and quiet joy.

– Bev Byrnes


Bev Byrnes: Bowl with Mandarins, oil on panel, 10"x10"


Everything is gestation and then bringing forth.  To let each impression and each germ of a feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own intelligence, and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity:  that alone is living the artist’s life:  in understanding as in creating.
– Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to A Young Poet


Bev Byrnes: Ghost Pumpkin with Pears


There is here no measuring with time, no year matters, and ten years are nothing.  Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer.  It does come.  But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide.  I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful:  patience is everything!”
– Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to A Young Poet


Bev Byrnes: Pathless Path ink, tea stain on Kumohadamashi paper, detail


Images, from top:

Pathless Path – ink, tea stain on Kumohadamashi paper, detail
Studio Tea
Work in progress – Blouse
Blouse, oil on panel, 24”x36”
Landscape of (un)Knowing, mixed media on panel, 48”x48”
Bowl with Mandarins, oil on panel, 10″x10″
Ghost Pumpkin with Pears
Pathless Path – ink, tea stain on Kumohadamashi paper, detail

Images and personal text © copyright Bev Byrnes

Bev Byrnes is a studio artist in Seattle, Washington.  Her creative process is built on a foundational love of materials and process.  She has spent over a decade focusing her studies on northern European early Renaissance painting techniques, preparing many of her pigments, oils and paints from the same recipes and procedures documented in historical manuscripts.  More recently she has begun to explore mediums beyond oil paint, including Japanese nihonga painting, which utilizes handmade water-based paints created from mixtures of pigment powders and special hide glues, as well as pure metal foils that the artist often patinates through a variety of treatments.  Both historical northern European painting techniques and Japanese nihonga painting kindle her love of materials and process. 

“The compositions and subject matter of my paintings are born from an exploration of direction perception arising from the collapse of subject/object relationship.  As boundaries between subject and object dissolve the phenomenon of presence becomes amplified.  Presence, in this context, is something ‘beyond’ what is seen, and which imparts an unseen and yet ‘felt’ sense of illumination; it is this presence which ultimately guides and shapes the direction of my work.”
– Bev Byrnes

On the awakened eye blog:

sipping tea, sensing presence


artisans’ gallery