Zen and the Japanese Maple Tree

I’ve written before of zen and drawing. For me, it seems to occur most often when I’m drawing something from nature, especially trees and leaves. When I’m focused on such beauty, it’s easy for me to let go and get into that blissful non-thinking state that describes zen-meditation.

Today’s drawing — while not done outdoors in the presence of an actual Japanese Maple tree — was a perfect opportunity for me to have a little zen time. I needed it.

Inktober 19 - Japanese Maple (2)
Japanese Maple Tree — Ink drawing by Judith Kraus

I’m usually in a good mood when I sit down to draw. I do most of my drawing early in the morning. Once I’ve had breakfast and have done a bit of routine housekeeping, my time is my own. I put on a bit of gentle-sounding music, sit down at the table, and I enjoy the morning and all the possibilities it holds while I read, sketch, and learn about art.

I’m not sure how the prompt words from today’s search — flight, cloud, scorched, sling, tree — led to the Japanese Maple, but once I’d finished yesterday’s Bradford Pear, I went browsing for reference photos and information about the Japanese Maple.

What I found was a little confusing, a little disturbing in some ways. Some sites referred to it as a shrub, others called it a tree, and some nurseries proclaimed it to be both. Should I use it as an Inktober subject? I wasn’t sure, but the fact that the acer palmatum grows up to 6-foot tall meant that I could call it a tree if I wanted. And, I wanted.

Things were already beginning to go wrong, you see. Little aggravations here and there, a brief power outage, a scheduled delivery that didn’t arrive when it should… the sort of petty little nuisances that happen from time to time, that’s all.

So the Japanese Maple — shrub or tree — brought some sort of comfort to me. It’s a lovely tree — or shrub, if you insist. I was fascinated by the shape of the tree, and I wanted to draw it. I didn’t want to wait until morning as is my usual habit. I was having a not-the-best day, and I needed to sit down and go to that zen place.

What better way to get there than through an almost magical-looking Japanese Maple? The leaves are fragile, almost like lace. Yet the Japanese Maple is sturdy and solid, growing as wide as it is tall.

I drew the trunk first with graphite, as well as the first suggestion of the branches, but then I picked up a fine-tipped Pitt Artist pen, settled into that quiet space and just enjoyed making marks, the only sound in the silence around me.

Zen, by the way, is a Japanese practice, a variant of Chan Buddhism, of which I know nothing. All I really know about zen and meditation is that I like the way it feels when I lose all sense of time and place, those moments when my consciousness seems to leave my mind and body to travel someplace else, someplace where nothing exists outside of that single moment.

So, yes, drawing a Japanese Maple was just what I needed. The frustrations of the day still remained, but that’s part of life. I didn’t have to deal with the frustrations then and there.

Now, today is another new day. May it bring blessings your way.


  • Squeeze
  • Deep
  • Breakable
  • Tread
  • Tree



1 Comment

I'd Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s