student of iconology

Photo: Ajahn Jotipalo holding two of his icons

Below is a short bio and history of how I got into creating art.

Jotipalo Bhikkhu is a Buddhist monk, born in 1965. He ordained at the Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in Redwood Valley, CA in June 2000.

As a monk, he has lived at Wat Pah Nanachat (Thailand), Arrow River Forest Hermitage (Thunder Bay, ONT Canada), Vimutti Buddhist Monastery (New Zealand) and the Pacific Hermitage (White Salmon, WA), the majority of his time has been at Abhayagiri.

Prior to ordination, he lived for one year at a Hindu ashram called the Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and one year at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts.

Jotipalo is a graduate of Wabash College (class of 1988) where he majored in Art and Classics.

Short history:

Around 2005, I began to explore the possibility of using art as an aid to meditation and monastic life. Since I wanted to observe what it was like to learn a new skill, I took up the practice of painting portraits and painted daily for about a year. I got to a point where I was happy with the progress I had made and then painted only occasionally. Here is one of my first attempts at a portrait of Ajahn Chah, 4 x 6 inches. Acrylic on cloth.

Photo: early painting of Ajahn Chah

Below are two examples of early paintings. Both measure about 12 x 18 inches. The one on the right is also quilted.

Cloth painting of Ajahn Chah
Cloth painting / quilt of Ajahn Chah

Around 2012 I came to the realization that painting actually increased my energy level and improved my meditation, so I returned to the practice of painting daily.

Here is a brief explanation of how I came to that realization. I had not painted for several years, but during a long retreat, and during a period where the schedule was completely open - I had been doing walking meditation all day and just as it got dark was tired, but did not want to go to sleep. I remembered I had several drawing of Ajahn Chah and decided to see if I could turn them into Buddha images, and also use the Lakota Nations colors to make a prayer flag. I ended up painting all four of these paintings in one sit. It took me about 6 or 7 hours, but time stopped when I painted them and it was 3 am when I realized what had happened. Before I started to paint these images I was really tired, but was completely energized when the paintings were done, This made me think that maybe I could use art as means of meditation.

Photo: Four Buddha images as a prayer flag
Buddha image that looks like a Native American

In 2014 while exploring how to use painting as a meditation, I attended a workshop on icons given by Father Damian Higgins, the abbot of Mount Tabor Monastery, which adjoins Abhayagiri's property. In 2016 I took a second workshop from Father Damian and decided that I would fully commit myself to learning how to write icons. Since that second workshop I have had several private tutorial sessions on preparing the wooden board on which the icon will be written and spoken with him on other occasions about icon designs. I have also purchased pigments and started a daily routine of painting in egg tempera.

Below is my first traditional icon, of Gabriel, also shown is Ajahn Pasanno leading Father Damian into our meditation hall. Fr D is cradling an icon that Abhayagiri had given Mt Tabor when we first arrived in 1998.

Icon of Arch Angle Gabriel
Photo:  Ajahn Pasanno leading Father Damian

Below are a few examples of icons painted in 2018.

Icon of the Buddha
Icon of Jesus Christ

I plan to post a few of my painting from college, once I get them scanned.

Here is a small triptych, painted in June, 2018.

I'm contemplating making triptychs, that could double as travel shrines. Maybe they could have an opening in the back, to house a Buddha image, candles, incense and a lighter.

Back in 1993, I did a series of 10 paintings based on white water kayaking. Here is a slide show of several of these paintings, most of the paintings measures about 48" by 60" and are acrylic on canvas.

Acrylic Paintings - 1993