Handwritten Prayers: The Art of Lynn Hays

January 30, 2015


Lynn-cropAll the marks in my paintings are my handwritten prayers… For a long time the prayers were barely written, hinted at in the occasional decipherable letters & the palette was darkly neutral. I wrote my prayers, painted trompe l’oeil bones & spheres. Then I left behind everything except prayers. Muttered always as I work….written endlessly, layered, buried, illegible except as scribble…..not even language.

No longer relying on a recognizable object of bone or sphere I moved into only color. That led me to light. To trying to capture light in colors & shades & the vaguest of forms. Capture light like a fly in amber. That emptiness…. a peek into the luminous ground!

As I began to write them more fully, they became layered beyond legibility & the palette became more colorful & brighter…the pieces as formless as possible. As my prayers got brighter & bigger, the work got better. The prayers…sometimes with shapes carved into the mass of layers of words in shades of the brightest of colors…carried me thro the making of the paintings.

KapalaNow I’ve dropped even the written words…as if I’ve stepped inside the prayers…I’m painting the echoes of all those years of prayers.

Here the air is thick with them. The electric colors I am so increasingly & irresistibly drawn to seem to contain light. Intense colors of chartreuse, yellow, gold, saffron, rust, red, pink, blue. Colors with shades subdued or shady or sunlit bright. Peeking thro a crack, parting a veil…seeking the light & knowing it is my own mind which cannot see what is everywhere! The colors seem to hold the light of elements. The light of living organisms. The light of our world. Looking at the island around me, thinking in the words of prayers, recognizing the dreamlike world we live in, the rainbow light that leaks out of everything……it all seems to be light! We are made of stardust.

Lunis LullabyMy practice informs my painting. Over time the dharma has infused my daily life …so musing on the non-dual is ever on my mind. As my practice deepens it carries & supports my painting. As I write my prayers & make my aspirations day after day on canvases, the scope grows also… outgrows my small life, my tiny world, my reclusive self & with one foot in the microscopic world of xylem & phloem of life & the other foot grounding me as I stare at the cosmos of nebulae & constellations, my paintings become a reflection of my heart’s wanderings…..

PilgrimageI am fascinated at the way these encaustics lend themselves to chasing that light. Their depth & luminous quality allows me to capture – a moment, an inhalation, an exhalation, the gap between, a still moment between notes, reflection on water, an endless sky of clouds & rainbows, fire, inside plants, under water… Chasing the ineffable with such ephemeral materials – the combination is a compelling way to satisfy my creative urge.

Beyond your BeckoningThere is a freedom with the recognition of how impermanent the painting is as it travels thro the steps to become a finished piece. So many chances to lose it. So fortunate to bring it fully formed….the child I give birth to over & over…then release out into the world, secretly, quietly carrying my prayers.

The freedom comes in part because the process itself has the potential to reveal amazing jeweled aspects of a piece as I go. Putting pigment on knowing much of it will come off as I continue. The happy accidents create or solve problems along the way. The relics left….part of the journey….often the most interesting. I welcome & rely on this happening…& live in gratitude for it.

Fireflies in SamsaraThere are days followed by days when although I show up it seems I do no thing. But then one day I make a mark or remove a mark or begin a new piece or retrieve an old one & the work begins again.

Putting pigment on, a day or so later, taking most of it off…I wonder why, but can only follow where it takes me. What seemed like a good move one day doesn’t always stand the overnight test. It is difficult to know when pieces are done…when I’ve done all I can or should do. Step back.   Then do the finishing touches & hang it up & move on.




IMG_3245It is only when a painting is finished & hanging on my wall, moved around over time to make room for others, or being headed for a show….then I see things I never thought of or noticed. I see the influence of my surroundings, the sea, water, cliffs, beaches, sky, forest & gardens, distant mountain ranges & more water & sky.

Birdsong madness…unraveling nests in space…wind rainstorms & hurricanes.

I see the memories of the trips of the mind & heart & the souvenirs.

The physical surroundings, the inner landscape both physical & emotional, the teachings all merge seamlessly.

It’s all there in my paintings.

Now it is 70 years of living in the strokes that make these paintings. Extreme emotions & sensual delights mixed with physical misery & decomposing…such is the life of a being.


IMG_3239The whispering of dakinis as they say mantras, prayer flags muttering with the wind, water rushing over prayers carved into rocks, frozen whispers, the sound of dirt, inside green growing plants….these are the places my paintings are taking me now. It is ecstatic. The northwest mystic landscape,  inner & outer, is mysterious. Beckoning thro mist & deep ink green forests to waters edge & beyond…it feeds my creative heart. My practice walks with me into the studio & holds my brush while I’m there…my lamas abide there as well…so in the end…..these paintings are my offerings, my songs of gratitude to my lamas & for the dharma.

all that happens between & below gift from the east inside perfect golden storm

IMG_6617If I begin thinking about my painting or my paintings the thoughts jumble about….link up with each other not unlike the internet…not always reasonably, randomly, or happily. But at the end of my finally untangled skein of thoughts & thinking I come back to the present. Non-duality. Interconnectedness. Interdependence. Samsara. Practice. Prayer. That translates into: stop daydreaming & get back to work!

That freedom of time liberates my activity on the canvas. The willingness to engage endlessly in the back & forth – the foxtrot & tango of painting: a step ahead, a step back – repeat until painting is finished….no matter how long it takes.

There’s no way to skip stages…knowing that, I relax.

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