The Story Behind: Zen

Mandala The Story Behind

Designed in April 2020, Zen marked peace, calmness, being able to appreciate being still in a time where the world as we knew it came to a standstill and erupted in panic, chaos, uncertainty and mass amounts of negative energy and just everything that we never hope happens - summed up, COVID. 

It followed on from designing my first freestyle piece in years - Aries - as my very own adult colouring book page and wasn't solely just a typical mandala piece. It was hand drawn, hand coloured onto (almost) A3 and it was one of the things that kept me sane during my first experience of a worldly pandemic, and a national lockdown in April. 

So let's give you a back story - Ik Onkaar V2 was released in February 2020, and Zen in April 2020. Around March / early April is when I was working on Aries, but actually it was mid March where I moved back home from London after a weekend in Cornwall with my mum and sister because the government were speaking about the increase of COVID cases and the world was literally going into panic mode. 
For me working down in London, I was back from Cornwall for a day before my company for the first time ever announced Working From Home as a normal now (literally the day after I got back so I was pissed that I had to get a train ticket up when I could have driven myself back from Cornwall but luckily already sent clothes with the fam beforehand) and packed another bag and jumped on a train back home. A week later, the country went into a national lockdown. 

On reflection just even writing that bit, the first lockdown was hard, the second was harder, but this one we're currently in right now has honestly felt like the worst of the 3. I got through the first one (well most of the first one) with the thanks of my partner, he was a God send in being there for me consistently, he was the physical definition of the words "support bubble" and he made the mental health affects of a national lockdown a lot less harder. For me it was double whammy, moving back home too after only just having my own apartment for 8 months, living in London for 2 and a half years, and it's been the most amount of time I've ever spent at home within the last 5 years combined. It's been tough, but he made it all seem so much easier. (And I know you'll be reading this so I know you know it all already, but thank you 💕). 

Back to Zen, well Aries temporarily. I decided in the first lockdown to release a free-for-all downloadable colouring book of my designs for people to help pass the time and deal with the lockdown - colouring is an art therapy if you didn't know and now that you do, I highly recommend it (it doesn't matter if you go outside the lines). So I made my own with Aries and it kicked off my Zodiac series (well technically was indirectly 3rd in the series, officially 2nd (only 3rd if we include Kingdom although that was never meant to represent Leo), so let's say 2nd and I will do a dedicated Leo piece). But getting back in touch with drawing again on a different scale, having a completely different style and hell even hand colouring the WHOLE PIECE (it got a lot of love and I was super scared for it btw to the extent I still may do a digital colour one day to save my sanity), I decided to continue saving my sanity when he wasn't around or was at work through drawing more and more pieces - bang, here comes Zen.

Now Zen was different for a lot of reasons - first hand drawn Buddha, first piece where I've mixed mandalas and dot work shading on this scale (there were a few pieces before this unofficially released that broke that boundary) and first piece where I made a kind of scenic setting all by hand - the first was Gemini with my Geisha twins and was all done digitally. It was a piece I was and still am so proud of, because for me it was something so different.
So the original caption I shared on social (because of course the journey has to be shared on social): 

And there we have it... the finale. I'm so super proud to present "ZEN" // I felt the name reflected the piece so well, for even I felt completely chilled out and totally in my element doing this one, even with all the craziness of hearing about covid19 and pandemics and nothing positive basically. It was a reminder to me to keep myself grounded, appreciate the silver linings and smaller details that make up the bigger picture - the time we never have on a daily to spend catching up with loved ones, actually enjoying walks outdoors that we never think twice about or moan about when we have to go to places without a car. To have gratitude that we have this time to reflect, heal and ultimately refocus. These tiny things we take for granted are what make up our bigger picture 🙏

Now on reflection of what was happening at the time - hearing constant covid infection rates and death toll numbers rising every day on the news, I actually started the pandemic being fixated on the news, the numbers, the alerts, the updates - and then I realised how scaremongering and fear-instilling it was - it got to my head so badly, more than I let on that actually I decided to boycott the news 90% of the time and instead just only focus on it when major announcements were on or Google popped up to me with 'breaking news', I found it much easier to cope with that way. And the first lockdown was basically uncertainty. Nobody really understood the rules, the can and can't dos, what were the actual effects of covid, where the hell has it even come from really and what triggered it (not the damn bat). So as I mention in the caption about feeling completely chilled out and in my element in this one, it's not the meditation level I had with Synergy or Reborn (I honestly don't know if anything will beat them 2 yet), but it kept me calm, kept my mind still, kept me at ease in drawing given how chaotic and crazy the world was going. A few weeks before the gym I called home was burnt down too, shoppers were going crazy, it honestly felt like the real life version of Resident Evil and The Purge combined - that's all I kept referencing (and still do). And so with that, I guess it kind of brought about the reason by the name - finding peace amongst the madness, the calm within a storm. Zen reflected how I felt drawing this piece whilst the world went to shit. 

But it made me reflect quite a lot - the things we take for granted. The colours of the leaves on the trees when you go for a walk and not rushing for a tube like I normally was a month prior or the smell of fresh air rather than underground tube stations (which call me weird I freaking still miss because it does become a norm). The time we get back when we're not commuting or at work (I was still working by the way but it was in the study next to my mum every day so I still had a work buddy that I'm grateful was family), but actually having that time to put back into something for you - in my case drawing. It made me reflect on the most simplest things that we overlook - cooking meals at home and not relying on the easy option of grabbing takeouts (and how much they drain your bank account, or in my case how much the bar opposite work did 3/5 working days a week not that I'm an alcoholic, but I did used to drink, a lot). It made me pay attention that actually this time is about healing, focusing on where we can be thankful that we're home, safe, sheltered, away from harm and we have people around us who want to protect us and see us well (and for those who live alone, that there's people at the other end of the phone to call be it friends, families, counsellors and mentors or support groups).

I found a lot of my time during the first lockdown was spent thankfully with loved ones, who just wanted to support me as I tried my best to support them too to just be safe and happy. I admittedly was also in the process of moving back from London officially to Leicester in between this piece so processing that was hard in itself too. It honestly felt like I was taking steps backwards in my life (even though it really isn't the case), it's honestly how it felt and sometimes does still feel that way too. Zen was designed to help us refocus, appreciate and find beautiful the smaller minute details that make up the bigger picture (as done so with intricate details on the mandalas and dot work on the mountain shading), but the find the overall whole picture beautiful too. In this case, whatever the big picture may be - the world, or just you as a person. 

Thank you for reading & keep your eyes peeled for future piece meanings being shared across the blog and also socials. Feel free to share your thoughts, comments and even your own interpretations in the comments below or if you wish to let me know privately - I'm always social on emails and my social media channels. 

One love - Simmy. x


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