Visits to Temples In Thailand, Bhutan, Indonesia and Bali as Inspiration for Buddha Paintings
"I love visiting Buddhist countries and the temples," says Clare Haxby. "I love the Buddhist meditation ritual of burning incense as an offering, the bell and incense are the 2 most important symbols in Buddhist worship and I've been lucky to see this practised in many countries in Asia from Bhutan to Bali."
Clare lived in Asia for eight years. During that time, she traveled with her family from their home base of Singapore to Thailand, Indonesia, Bali, Bhutan and other countries.
On those trips it was quite natural for Clare to make visits to Buddhist temples -
"I was not brought up as a Buddhist but I have always had an interest in Buddhism and am very drawn to the philosophy. I have a few Buddhist friends in London and for years I have attended all kinds of Buddhist meditation classes. I used to go to a lunchtime meditation class in Covent Garden.
I have tried to integrate Buddhist principles in my own life such as 'mindfulness' and 'present moment awareness' - being totally present in each activity whether it is creating a new painting or being with my children or my friends and to really listen and be focused on them."
One of Clare's favorite temples to visit was Borobudor, the largest Buddhist temple in the world, which is in Java, Indonesia. It is one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in existence and dates to the 9th century. The temple is topped by a central dome surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, each seated inside a perforated stupa.
Artist Clare enjoys documenting her travels, both to capture family memories and as reference photos for her art practice. She tells us - "When I am travelling I always take lots of photos, I've upgraded my camera over the years and now have a Canon high definition camera but I don't carry it everywhere, as its heavy, though it does take the absolute best shots; the iPhone is great as well as it's so portable."
Clare's photo of gold Buddhas in a cave in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand AND Clare with her 3 children in front of Borobudur temple.
One of the first countries Clare visited with her family after moving to Singapore, was nearby Thailand. She said, "the food is amazing!" They traveled to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, a city that dates back to the 1200's that's home to hundreds of elaborate temples.
Clare also made sketches whenever she had a chance, saying, "I love to sketch, but there's not always time - its generally depended on the age of my children and what kind of trip we are on. One of our visits to Ubud in Bali was when Alfie, my third baby, was newborn. We were at this rural villa out in Gianyar and stayed around the villa more, so I did develop a whole sketchbook of drawings as the house and garden had a huge array of Balinese artifacts and mini shrines."
At her home in Singapore, Clare had a studio work-space where she began her series of Buddha paintings.
In Singapore, Clare met Rebecca Pflaum who taught Kundalini yoga, and now has a retreat centre in Bali called Naya Ubud www.nayaubud.com. Kundalini is a type of yoga that works on lifting your vibrations. Clare describes how, "Each chakra is related to different qualities and colours and this was a big influence on my paintings, as when I meditate I often see the colours of the chakras--indigo, orange and green I tend to see most."
"I attended Rebeccas kundalini yoga classes for several years and also attended the Bali Spirit Festival in Ubud. Whilst in Bali I also met Ketut Arsana a Balinese Shaman who has an Ashram at Junjungam 5 km north of Ubud where we all took part in a beautiful Puja, or prayer ceremony."
Clare says of her Buddha paintings, "To me they represent spirituality and represent peacefulness and my meditative yoga practice. I created a series of Buddha paintings that focused on the different colours and chakras. Green and pink represents the heart Chakra and unconditional love, Indigo the third eye and intuition and red represents the root chakra, our energy and connectedness, being grounded to the earth."
Some of Clare's other favorite trips to visit Buddist temples included journey's to Angkor Wat in Cambodia and to the ancient Kingdom of Bhutan. Here are more photos from Clare's travels is Asia...
Clare, on her trip - "Bhutan had been on my bucket list ever since I read about the country that limits the tourist footfall and has a gross national happiness factor based on its Buddhist principles rather than on western material development. I cannot tell you how special this country is - there is not a moment in the day that is not dedicated to the country's Mayhayana Buddhism."
"Brightly coloured prayer flags blow in the wind, prayer wheels are turned by the villagers, small boys; the novice monks sit polishing the oil lamps for the offerings at the dzongs. The special Bhutan incense is burned." (Dzongs are a distinctive type of architecture found in Tibet and Bhutan.)
"The elaborate dzongs, such as The Tigers Nest at Paro, sit proudly on mountains and cliff edges throughout the breathtaking mountainous landscape of Bhutan. We did a 12 hour journey by road to get to the highlight of the trip-- the festival in Bumthang. Here Monks dance out the story of Buddhism dressed in brightly coloured masks and costumes. It's a spectacle I felt privileged to see and it will stay with me forever."
Clare says, "We also visited the place where the monks were hand-rolling the incense sticks and I still have a few precious ones left. When I burn it in my studio it transports me back to this heavenly trip to Bhutan. We also visited the Fine Art school in Thimpu where the Buddhist Art of Thanka painting is taught."
And besides visiting temples, Clare and her husband participated in lots of fun activities with the kids!
Washing down elephants in Thailand AND Clare with elephant at Nature Park in Thailand