Category Archives: Zen Art

Touching… Walking on Art

When you visit a museum or gallery, you are expected to not touch the art. Frank enjoys the fact that his art is not only touched, but walked on:

It was Frank’s great honor to be hired as a consultant to assist in the property purchase, development and construction of a new Zen monastery  in Seattle, where Master Jian Hu served as the first abbot. This was a dream fulfillment for Frank.

This new monastery replaced a dilapidated facility, once a church that degenerated into the living space of drug users and prostitutes. The local community received a great blessing with a new Zen spirit in their neighborhood upon completion of the monastery… a true sanctuary for those seeking truth and peace.

Through Frank’s experience in managing the work of government agencies, contractors, architects, and engineers, he was able to save the Zen monastery well over one million dollars in the acquisition and build-out process.

After completion, It was then Frank’s greater honor to envision, build and gift an outdoor public art installation, a Peace Pole and Dharma Wheel combination, seen in the pictures above, for the enjoyment of all at the monastery , including Master Jian Hu. Frank was also commissioned to paint an outdoor welcome sign at the entrance to the monastery.

Art Concept Development

Developing an Art Concept can take time… As long as it takes.

Spinning the Dharma Wheel Galaxy
Spinning the Dharma Wheel Galaxy

The concept behind “Spinning the Dharma Wheel Galaxy”, a 36” x 24” acrylic on stretched canvas, is the basic law of the universe, inspired by images from the Hubble Space Telescope.

This painting then, then led to a more detailed concept in the “Spinning the Dharma Wheel” in a 90” x 40” triptych, below. In this painting, Frank is employing peace and compassion, as a way to reduce the inevitable suffering that comes with the law of the universe.

Spinning the Dharma Wheel (Triptych)
Spinning the Dharma Wheel (Triptych)




Zen Practice and Good Art

Some wisdom from a great teacher, Shunryu Suzuki, on sincere Zen practice and how to know when art is good:

Sincere practice and good Art.

“What is sincere practice? When you are not so sincere it is difficult to know, but when you are sincere you cannot accept what is superficial. Only when you become very sincere will you know what it is. It is like appreciating good art. If you want to appreciate good art the most important thing is to see good work. If you have seen a lot of good work, then when you see something that is not so good you will immediately know that it is not so good. Your eyes have become sharp enough to see.”


Now some may say, “But I thought there was no bad art.”

Well, the title of Suzuki’s book from which his above teaching is quoted is: “not always so.” So we will just leave it at that, with the further notion that good sincere teaching is also very important (more on specific teachers in the next few posts).

You might want to pick up a copy of  “not always so” for just a few dollars on Amazon or some other source. This is some of the most accessible Zen wisdom available today:

not always so
not always so


Amazon link here, or below:



Reflection Lake
Terry’s Reflection Lake by Frank Kliewer

The painting above (approx. 20” diam.  Acrylic on wood) was created and gifted in 2009 by Frank to Terry Welch, the world-renowned Zen landscape artist, and art collector. The name of the painting is “Reflection Lake” and presents Terry’s favorite view from within the wildlife refuge he developed.

Reflection is key element within Zen practice. Like the stillness of the water improves the clarity of the reflected image, the stillness of our minds improves the image we reflect within our minds of the reality around us.

Zen Garden

In 2009, Terry Welch, the owner and creator of one of the most photographed Zen gardens in the West, commissioned Frank to do a painting of his garden. So many photographs, published over several years, but never a painting.

Terry's Zen Garden
Terry’s Zen Garden

The painting above, done in acrylic on a wood panel is about 40” x 24” and includes a portrait of Master Jian Hu, and a Blue Heron, both visitors of this garden.

In producing the painting, Frank learned that when the lines are raked into the sand (or as in this case, speckled granite stones), these lines represent the movement of our lives. This movement is like the currents of water flowing around islands and continents, represented by the large rocks.

If you stick to the center of the channel (middle path) you will be less likely to run aground, and keep moving.


Enlightenment Frog

Enlightenment Frog

Many years ago, Shunryu Suzuki, in his book “not always so” introduced us to the idea of sitting like a frog. Shunryu said of frogs sitting, “I always admire their practice. They never get sleepy. Their eyes are always open, and they do things intuitively in an appropriate way. When something to eat comes by, they go like this: Gulp! They never miss anything, they are always calm and still. I wish I could be like a frog.”

In trying to get a better grip on this notion, Frank created the 24″ x 20″ acrylic on wood painting below, projecting enlightenment attained while sitting.

Enlightenment Frog
Enlightenment attained while sitting

Since doing that painting, we’ve seen several frogs in a sitting position throughout the art world. In fact, one sits guard in front of our computer:

Enlightened Frog Ready for Winter
Ready for Winter


Moving On…

The painting  below, “Moving On” (48” x 24” acrylic on wood panel) depicts our urge to explore the far reaches of space and colonize other star systems before our sun expires, or some other calamity befalls earth. To do so, we put a lot of emphasis on technology. As the earlier post “Out of Order… Return to Nature” suggests, tech does fail, forcing us to consider reverting to our natural practices.

Moving On -- Hyper Galactic

Hopefully, when we do make this voyage, we will be spreading our positive nature, and not seeking conquest, where we might meet our better.