Circles and Copies


Smiley Enso I painted in 2001.

Last year I discovered on the web-page of some American Zen group a calligraphy I had painted and put on-line more than a decade ago. I felt half pleased they seemed to like my old sketch, half disappointed they didn’t ask me if it was o.k. to use it. I guess it’s something related to Buddhist percepts, but I might have to go back to their page to find a correct reference which number of which set of percepts is related to “take only what is given to you”. Anyway, I’m not greedy and usually happy if I can help with what I’m doing!

My former teacher, who makes a certain portion of his living by selling his extraordinary Zen-Artwork, had always been less pleased finding other people using his masterpieces without asking, giving credits and maybe an appropriate donation. Particularly his Enso or Zen circles became very popular copy&paste victims, which is partially my fault since I put some of them on-line on his web-page and gallery. Today you can find many unauthorised versions of his Enso on the web, on any kind of material from paper to skin, in all variations from a plain copy to rotated or coloured ones plus additional image or text (and usually with a new copyright notice).

Below just a random selection I found by google today:

enso_from_webLooking at this disgraceful collection, I feel genuinely sorry there is nothing more I can do for my former teacher. Though, considering the obvious popularity and demand for Zen circles, I had another idea:

My daughter initiated a cute local charity project before Christmas last year and collected a respectable amount of donations by that. I was honestly impressed and felt embarrassed I never thought about starting something similar myself. What can I do, but drawing empty circles? Maybe not as nice as my former teacher’s, but usually not completely bad either … I do it every day ever since I’ve first met him almost 15 years ago.

I’m thinking of a “charity deal”: you do a donation to whatever charity project you have in mind, and in return I will draw an Enso for you. You provide the material (and a stamped back-envelope), I do my daily Enso practice on whatever you sent me and send it back (including copyright transfer). Maybe you get an original hand-calligraphed Enso you’d like, and you can do with it whatever you want! Just an idea, I’ll think about it…

P.S.: Only in case you found “your” artwork displayed above: before complaining or considering to take me to court for copyright infringement, maybe you think for a moment of the modest old Japanese Zen monk who provided the basis for all that … and refund him properly for his efforts. Here is the web-page with the original Enso (including original copyright notice).