abstract calligraphy

How an idea takes root and persists

poetry from the sky

Last time I announced that I would write about the background of a new series I might call Poetry from the Sky. That seems sensible to me because it shows how long it can often take an idea to develop or how long it accompanies you.

When I was a student, I went on a trip with 2 friends to a magnificent ruin. We skipped class because we had been treated with an unusually beautiful autumn day. After visiting the ruin we walked around. Behind the ruins, there was a large meadow and further behind and on one side a forest. We made ourselves comfortable on a large flat piece of rock in the middle of the meadow and chilled.

Suddenly one of us saw something high in the air. We puzzled over what it was and gradually it became clear to us. They were leaves! A not inconsiderable number, that danced and floated down. And right towards us. We couldn’t explain how that was possible – here in the middle of a very large meadow. Later I explained to myself with thermals, that the heat in the meadow and the coolness of the forest probably caused a suction.
2-3 years ago I took up the topic (image #1). I have already presented the picture before, sorry!

I remember having a similar experience when I was a kid. Winter. I’m visiting my grandma. Cold, damp day that brought snow and ice during the night. When I looked out the window in the morning, it was partially obscured by a twig frozen to the window. That impressed me a lot and so I also captured this impression in a picture 2 years ago. (image #2).

Poem from the Sky

A few years ago I escaped the summer heat in the city and visited friends in the country. At night we sat on the large veranda of the house and marveled at the starry sky and countless shooting stars. Lights were off throughout the house, but light poured out of a skylight, forming an illuminated cone in the air. And all of a sudden, something slipped through that cone. Very light and prancing, like a dragon. It must have been a long, narrow, thin band. Someone then said it might have been the tape of a music cassette because it had a reddish hue.

I remembered the beginning scene of Akira Kurosawa‘s film Kagemusha (影武者 Shadow Warrior). The scene where the mounted warriors ride down a steep slope – like thick red snowflakes. Red because Kurosawa had the horses’ manes dyed with henna so that they glowed red in the sun’s backlight. For me, that was poetry from the sky.

The first thing I then painted on it wasn’t ideal as I was painting on a canvas that wasn’t optimal for this purpose. (image #3). So I made a change and it came out like this (image #4).

Since then, something has stuck in the back of my mind: characters that float down from the sky like leaves or something similar and write a poem at the same time.

In a new series, I have now started to treat the subject more abstractly and my work is moving in this direction.

poetry from the sky as abstract calligraphy against a landscape painting

This first attempt seems a bit crude. I didn’t want to continue working on it, lest I have to give up the most spontaneous, “innocent” aspect. So I tried another version, which is now more painterly, and spatial, and shows spherical inner workings.

calligraphy and music, ink on yupo ppaer

Poetry from the sky has many facets, of course, and I’ll try to cover some of them over time.

related: leaves, video with leaves and blossoms


45 responses to “How an idea takes root and persists”

  1. Mario Angelo 🌳🌹 avatar

    Molto interessante, bello e trascendente, il tuo articolo,Friedrich! Ciao! Buon proseguire! 🎄⛄

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Molte molte grazie! Questo mi rende davvero felice! Buon fine settimana rilassante e piacevole!

  2. aparna12 avatar

    Wow. Beautiful works of art. ♥️♥️♥️♥️

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much! Have a great weekend ahead!

  3. graham mcquade avatar

    Reminds me of the words of an old Beatles song: Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Oh, yes! But I did not know the song by the Beatles. As the ancient Romans said: “There is nothing new under the sun” 🙂

  4. SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ avatar
    SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ

    Dear Friedrich Zettl 狐胡,

    Thank you for explaining to us so commendably the origin and evolution of the persistent idea about poetry from the sky.

    Of the four images, I like #2 and #4 the most; whereas both the abstract ones appeal to me.

    Wishing you a productive festive season and a wonderful weekend doing or enjoying whatever that satisfies you the most, whether intellectually, artistically, physically or spiritually!

    Yours sincerely,

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you for your attention and your kind words! And thank you for your “hit list” 🙂

      I also wish you and yours a peaceful and happy time! Santa will reward you for your good deeds.
      Yiur sincerely

  5. mich avatar

    Yes, I see what you mean about the last two paintings — the “spacial” enhancement gives the bottom one more depth and turns it into a three-dimensional enigma.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Many thanks, Mich! Yes, that was the intention behind it. Calligraphy as such is more two-dimensional. Bringing in a third dimension and abstracting the calligraphic aspect seemed like an appealing thought to me.

  6. The Sicilian Storyteller avatar

    Very interesting story and lovely works of art!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much! I need to catch up with your stories though. A lot of time has slipped between my fingers lately….

  7. swabby429 avatar

    Your first painting reminds me of a cylindrical teevee lamp’s shade that was manufactured in the 1950s that used to be on my study desk as a teen. I pondered the abstract shapes on blue background for many hours. The lampshade triggered many creative projects. I wonder what happened to the lamp.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much! Yes, when we reflect about it, we can think of so many things or events that moved us as children or young people. In old age, some of them demand their right to deal with them or to eliminate one or the other question mark.

  8. Ashley avatar

    I love all of your paintings…again your blues have me remind me of the sea even though you write of the sky. In the 5th picture adding more colour gives the painting more depth. Another great post. Thank you.
    It is coincidental but I have for the last few weeks been working on a short verse regarding the earth and the sky. For me the sky (or the cosmos) is where our life comes from and we are part of that circuit of energy. See my next post on the 21st December, the Winter Solstice!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      “For me the sky (or the cosmos) is where our life comes from and we are part of that circuit of energy”. Definitely. looking forward to your post on the 21st of December. Have a good time!

  9. LAWET avatar

    Very nice.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much 🙏

  10. Martha Kennedy avatar

    Very beautiful, idea and images.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much, Martha!

  11. Rosaliene Bacchus avatar

    Thanks for sharing your creative process and evolution of the theme of poetry from the sky. Amazing the way some images continue to haunt us and how our perception of them changes over time. The second abstract painting is filled with the complexity of life’s poetic undercurrents, so vastly different from the leaves falling from the sky in Image #1.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Many thanks! Yes, some thoughts are stubborn 🙂 Sometimes there can also be some that we only question more closely as we get older.

  12. MichaelJ avatar

    I definitely like your artwork, it’s beautiful, and the stories behind them are too.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much, Michael, for your kind words 😊

  13. mitchteemley avatar

    Your work never fails to intirigue me. Most abstract art has no effect on me, but yours always speaks to me, makes me feel something.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you Mitch, that is very kind of you and your comment makes me feel very happy. I have been told by others before that they normally do not like abstract painting but find something in my works.

  14. loujen haxm'Yor avatar

    Nice final artwork.

  15. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

    Thank you very much 🙏 Enjoy a great time 😊

  16. marylou avatar


    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much 🙏

  17. Stan Stewart avatar

    Great title! And thanks for sharing your art and creative process.
    I had hoped to click the WP like button, but it is not appearing in your posts at the moment.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much Stan! Yes, there are some issues – not only the like button 🙁 All the best!

  18. Eric Wayne avatar

    I quite like that last painting.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thanks very much! Your compliment is my first Christmas present. And maybe my only one 🙂

      1. Eric Wayne avatar

        Hope you get more. I really liked the quality it has of being an “abstract” but also looking like an image of somethings floating as if underwater, but not literally. In other words it is abstract but looks like a realistic image of something that doesn’t exist, and has a kind of atmosphere about it. It’s difficult to put it into words. Gerhard Richter does some similar things at times.

      2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        Thanks very much! Since you are an artist yourself, and such a great one at that, it doesn’t surprise me that you recognized what I’m about. I’ve tried to explain it in a few posts. e.g. B. Is vs. IS NOT. The viewer thinks he sees something specific and yet it is abstract at the same time. Essentially, they are always concepts from Daoism.

      3. Eric Wayne avatar

        Ah, Daoism. That makes sense. I can see that painting from a Daosit sort of perspective. One of my favorite quotes about Daoism is “The Daoism that can be put into words is not Daoism”. It’s outside of the linguistic mind. That ambivalence between image and abstraction is there. I saw it with my own eyes. 🙂

  19. mitchteemley avatar

    Friedrich, I’ve takent the liberty of featuring you and this post on my blog today. I’m hoping you’re pleased with it, and that it brings many new followers to your marvellous work.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much, Mitch! I am very happy. I wish you all the best for 2023!

  20. Mario Angelo 🌳🌹 avatar

    Buon Anno 2023 Friedrich! 🖐️☺️⛄🎄🎁

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you for your kind wishes ☺️ Same to you! Most of all good health 🌞🌹☃️

  21. Robert STOLZY avatar

    I have also long been moved to investigate (or maybe ‘notice’) just how it is that certain ideas and concepts come to operate within our spheres of consciousness. The creative process, and its purity or lack of it, seems to have much to do with the authentic receptivity towards this. Thanks for your ideas. Bon 2023!

    1. Friedrich Zettl avatar

      All the best for 2023 to you too, Robert! Yes, you are right. Authenticity is certainly the keyword par excellence and it deserves my special attention. Of course, I’m aware that my ramblings don’t mean something to everyone. But then I think that there are some people like you who find it appealing to read how I see things. Art is a complicated thing – from the idea to the implementation. But we all know that 🙂

  22. vermavkv avatar


    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thanks a lot! Have a great day!

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