painting the big dao

three strikes


recent paintings

Since I pay more attention to the topic of Zen and Daoism again lately, it is not surprising that this is also reflected in the paintings I am currently doing.

However, with my article series on these topics, new readers could get the impression I might intend to present myself as a Daoist or a Zen master. That would be senseless, inappropriate, and embarrassing. Some of my works are more like a playground to play with ideas from these spiritual worlds. Since you can’t express Zen in words anyway, I just play around with it with a brush and paint.

I could as well choose a completely different topic for my mind games, for example, love. But I don’t understand that either and it seems that Daoism is a lot easier to understand than girls. So I’ll stick to this topic for a while. And if you have been dealing with these topics for decades, one or the other thought just naturally becomes part of yourself.

Today I would like to present 3 newer works and will not write much about them. The first is a play on Zen thought. In the sense of what was said above, it remains without further explanations.

almost as if it were zen



the big nothing

Image 2 is another mental game with the term Nothing. When everything comes from Nothing, the Nothing has to be very crowded. Crowded until everything becomes unrecognizable and yet all is there.

three strikes: painting the big nothing



three strikes: details of the big nothing



another nothing

In painting #3 we would be more likely to recognize ideas from Daoism – although there is not much to recognize – which in turn is anchored in the Dao: to appear to be something – and at the same time not to be it. There is so much to see, but if you look away and try to write down what you’ve seen, you’ll have trouble. But you could see it so clearly….


painting the big dao




the big dao details




Tomorrow I will be a guest speaker at an hourly rate of $1800 (It’s been a long time since I’ve worked at that rate).

Small downside: As with all speakers, my speaking time is 5 minutes 😊 I can speak about the art and culture of the last 100 years.

Ok, funny, but not enough for an extra. I may therefore quote a sentence by van Gogh that I recently came across. I didn’t know this and it’s a very strong one:

If you hear an inner voice saying, ‘You can’t paint,’ then by all means paint to silence that voice.
– Vincent van Gogh


Please also check: Now and Zen | More at ART THEORY | Related: The Dreamweaver’s daughters cast their nets | a couple of new works | Merry -what?


38 responses to “three strikes”

  1. mic avatar


  2. Matt avatar

    Nothing #1 i see a dog within the piece, nothing #2 i see a dragon and a goose

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you, Matt! Even if my works are largely abstract, there are places that point to something “real”. The dragon thing was also intentional. I painted a series with dragons and dealt with the dragon as the creator of the universe.

      1. Matt avatar


      2. Matt avatar

        I tend to see things in most abstract paintings

  3. Busanienne avatar

    Image 2. “When everything comes from Nothing, the Nothing has to be very crowded. Crowded until everything becomes unrecognizable and yet all is there.”

    I can’t explain but I really like this concept…!😅

    In Korea, students learn about Daoism(Taoism) along with Buddhism and Confucianism in middle and high school. As I read Daoism, Zhuangzi, and Laozi in your posts, I was reminded of things I had learned in the past. Very interesting!

    Thank you for sharing your works! They are great. 🙂

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Many many thanks! Many many thanks! Yes, Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism also intertwine in China. I try to limit myself in my articles to painting. I would be very interested in the Korean perspective on this. Maybe one day I’ll be able to get a picture of it on site.

  4. Edith avatar

    Was ich sehe muss ich erst einmal innerlich durchleuchten, das geht bei mir nicht so nur mit diesem Klick. Doch jedes Bild hat etwas Meditatives für mich, es bringt inneres Leuchten, ein sich Fallenlassen, um wieder aufzusteigen…
    Die Farben gefallen mir sehr, sie wirken natürlich, nicht erfunden…
    Van Gogh’s Satz ist bei mir ein verlorenes Spiel – ich kann nicht malen.
    Ich wünsche dir, bei allem, was dich erwartet zum Wochenende nur Gutes
    von Herzen <3

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Vielen Dank! Es freut mich zu hören, dass Du es so siehst. Van Gogh laesst sich natuerlich auch auf andere kreative Bereiche ausdehnen. Schoenes WE und LG

      1. Edith avatar

        Ja, Van Gogh ließ Spielraum offen, ich nahm den Satz nur auf, weil er von dir kam…

  5. Auden James avatar

    The van Gogh quote is indeed an interesting—and heartening—one, especially for those of us familiar with the creative process. Here’s another one (quoted from one of van Goghs letters to his brother Theo, dated October 24, 1884):

    “If I make better work later, I still won’t work otherwise than now; I mean it will be the same apple only riper—I myself won’t turn from what I’ve thought from the start. And this is why I say for my part, if I’m no good now, I won’t be any good later either—but if later, then now too. For wheat is wheat, even if it looks like grass at first to townsfolk—and the other way round too.”

    Thanks for sharing you recent work and its Daoist and Zen underpinnings!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Many thanks for the van Gogh quote! Yes very good! I read all letters from him to his brother – 4 volumes. They left a deep impression on me, especially as I had just started painting myself.

  6. Bon Repos Gites avatar

    Painting number three is stunning!! Good luck tomorrow! 🙂 The history of art and culture over the last century in five minutes will be quite a challenge!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much! Challenges are our job 🙂

      1. Bon Repos Gites avatar

        Ha, that is true!! 🙂

  7. swabby429 avatar

    One might observe that these paintings do not conform to “traditional” depictions of Zen. Those bubbles have been burst. This is helpful because tradition becomes constraint.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thanks, yes I see it the same way. If I am only allowed to move in fixed paths, that would not do justice to the essence of Zen. Lucky I’m an old nonconformist 🙂

      1. swabby429 avatar

        That’s the spirit. 😎

  8. Ashley avatar

    A dog, goose and a dragon? I see none of these! I see something, especially chaos, like the indescribable beginning of the universe in technicolour! My favourite is 3# because of the colours!
    PS. My paperback copy of VVG’s letters to Theo with photos disintegrated years ago. Should I look for another copy?

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Abstract painting gives the viewer the freedom to see everything or nothing in an image. However, I try to create associations, to give the viewer the feeling of seeing something organic.
      It’s difficult to say anything about van Gogh: the letters made a strong impression on me, but perhaps they are only so moving for van Gogh enthusiasts.

  9. JMN avatar

    Mincing no words: I like these paintings. 🙂 Can you give an idea of the typical dimensions of your pieces? I know I asked you once about media, and you said inks. I don’t remember if you mentioned surfaces. I’m guessing a high-quality paper? I read Van Gogh’s letters to Theo (in English) years ago. He’s one of the most quotable of artists, and I love the one you’ve given here.

  10. Martha Kennedy avatar

    Well if a miracle were to happen and we were to talk over drinks in a bistro in Vienna, I wonder what we could talk about?

    I love these paintings and this post made me laugh. Thank you.

  11. Rosaliene Bacchus avatar

    All three are stunning!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much! I am glad you like them. It looks like you’re used to these pics already 🙂

      1. Rosaliene Bacchus avatar

        You have your own distinctive style. In learning about the philosophy that drives your creative process, I have come to a greater understanding and appreciation of your work 🙂

      2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        Many many thanks! Can you wish for a nicer compliment? Above all, however, it spurs me on to continue with the theoretical contributions when I see that what has been said is understandable.

  12. linhah avatar

    I didn’t like this batch as much as the last batch.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you for your opinion! For me, a picture is good when I have succeeded in implementing certain ideas that I am pursuing in painting. For me personally, picture #3 is probably the best I’ve painted this year. The relationship of yin – yang, the abstraction, the power, the light… I wish I could do it every day 🙂

  13. graham mcquade avatar

    I like those lovely textural marks in the areas of focus, Friedrich. The way they stand out from the softer focussed areas makes me think of Lucio Fontana, though your paintings carry a lot more detail.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you Graham for your kind words! Since I appreciate your art very much, it means a lot to me. Yes, I play a lot with “opposites” and there is a thopic of focusing in several of my works.

  14. Mike and Kellye Hefner avatar

    Wonderful post. The paintings are stunning.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much! You are very kind 🙏

  15. rabirius avatar

    Excellent works.
    To me it looks a bit two pictures are competing for the space on the canvas.
    Really great!

    1. rabirius avatar

      …looks a bit LIKE two pictures…
      Seems like I forgot a word. 🙂

    2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you! Of course, you as an artist, noticed immediately,👍 i do that often. One aspect of my yin yang concept.

  16. Ana Hernandez avatar

    How I applaud that quote from Van Gogh. And surely you can express the last hundred years of art history with three minutes left to sip your coffee!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thanks very much! Yes, the van Gogh quote is very strong! It can also be used in other areas. Thank you for your kind words!

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