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Drawing the Way: Practicing Art with Zen


By Carol Enguetsu Lefevre

I’m an artist from Brazil. To write about my work, I need to talk a bit about my life.

I’ve studied architecture in the university but art was always a part of my life. At that time I did courses of drawing and watercolor with important artists in Brazil. I’ve participated in collective exhibitions in the main museums of Sao Paulo, MASP (the Art Museum from SÃo Paulo) and MAC (Museum of Contemporary Art). After graduation I decided to work as an architect, but I kept drawing and painting.

After a while, I was not happy with how my life was going. I felt that working in the architecture office was boring and I decided to work with graphic design and illustration. I also started my practice of yoga. I felt that yoga helped me to be more present in my body and mind. After a couple of years practicing yoga, I went to a Zen Yoga retreat and it was a turning point for me. But actually I felt that I found something that has been always here. After Zazen (the zen meditation), I felt that my perception was amplified and my body and breathing was similar to how I usually felt after drawing.

I also realized that there are many aspects in common between the arts and zen. When I learned watercolor, it was the contemporary approach of that, and it is based in the principles of brush stroke, line, point, and stain. It is the importance of each element and also how the brush touches the paper. Also, you can’t change what is on paper, just work with what’s there. Zen is about how you can be really present in the present, conscious of your body and mind. And the work with watercolor is also about this presence.

Zen is a constant practice, every moment you return your attention, and in this constant exercise you may be able to be in the present. But if you think that you are special and that you may have achieved something, you already lost it. In parallel is a constant practice that makes drawing and watercolors come loose, and with that, the eye, the hand and the subject that is painted can integrate. Who observes who? And who paints what? What manifests when we are really integrated in what we are doing? When we observe reality and can see things as they really are and not as we think it should be, this is Zen, or this is Art, or simply, this is Life.

Another important aspect is that I love to travel and explore new realities. And drawing during travels is a great way to be in the places. It’s about the timing of drawing and how people interact, and how you can see more things. So, together traveling and drawing has been a new way to explore the places where I’ve been and also to deepen my art.

In 2010 I traveled to Turkey and at the time was reading UJI, The time being, a text by Master Dogen, the founder of Zen in Japan. It was at that millennial scenario, exploring the ruins and experiencing that landscape, that I was feeling another dimension of time. After that trip I could not fit in anymore in my day-to-day work-home-work routine and I began organizing a new journey for me. It took a while to see how it would be, but it came.

In 2013, I started a journey through the United States and Mexico with the purpose to deepen my practice of Zen and Yoga. I also reported the journey through my blog where I write and draw on that experience. Initially I spent three months in Yokoji Zen Mountain Center (, then I visited the Sweetwater Zen Center ( in San Diego, San Francisco City Center, and Green Gulch Farm in Marin Count (both Then I went to Mexico where I spent three months in Guadalajara at a school of Kundalini Yoga.

I returned to California to Grenn Gulch Zen Center for intensive training and from there went to NY, where I visited the Zen Mountain Monastery (, Zen Center which is 3 hours upstate. I attended a workshop with the artist Ross Bleckner and after that I spent 10 days in Fire Lotus Temple. After that, I went back to Brazil and spent 5 months preparing to be back in the States. Now I’m in San Francisco, and for now I’m working to find a balance between my zen life and my regular life. Being in the city is a way to find a mid way.

My blog is

I also created a way for people to participate and help me on the journey with the Pieces of the Way ( , people can order and receive a postcard that I draw and write, telling something that I’m living and learning.

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