To execute one of those haunting, simple and beautiful Zen paintings, it's almost best if you're a beginner and know nothing about it, thus placing you closer to that desired state of emptiness, formlessness and presence needed to do the magic.

To execute one of those haunting, simple and beautiful Zen paintings, it's almost best if you're a beginner and know nothing about it, thus placing you closer to that desired state of emptiness, formlessness and presence needed to do the magic.

So says Alok Hsu Kwang-han, a Zen master and noted artist who uses the medium — called sumi-e — as a way of "resting in presence and moving in emptiness," a technique he'll teach as "The Creativity of Non-Doing," Oct. 23 and 24 at Jackson Wellsprings in Ashland.

"It's a form arising directly out of formlessness, bringing us back to the source and a sense of joy in the beholder," says Alok, who, with the help of Ashland Qigong master Darrell Bluhm, will get students in the mood of playful centeredness and "the wholeness of existence."

Sumi-e is traditional black ink Japanese painting that was taken to its height by Zen monks in Japan and China, says Ashland artist Liz Shepherd, an organizer of the workshop who notes she is a lifelong artist who uses Sumi-e "to help me clean the slate." She adds, "You arrive at personal stillness and emptiness ... and take that into the movement. It's real awareness that comes out through the brush into making each mark, so, instead of having a goal for the painting, the mark is the goal and qualities come through that mark that are delightful, exquisite and economical, with nothing added."

Alok is showing his work at Adelante! Gallery and Tea House, 88 N. Main St., with an opening reception 4:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 21. He will lecture at 6 p.m. on "A New Manifestation of Zen as Art," which is the title of his forthcoming book. It is free and open to the public.

Three kinds of students seem interested in practicing the Zen of painting — "very good artists who need to break through, psychotherapists who see it as a Rorschach test and people who want to play with brushes, including people who were told by their third-grade teacher that they can't paint," says Alok.

While most people may see art as something for the gifted, Alok sees it as "getting in a space where you're playful. You very quickly get through people's judgments about things. We sing songs. Sometimes, it's the beginners who do best."

Alok, a native of China, was educated in the U.S. in mathematics, sociology and the philosophy or religion. He published 20 books on meditation in China and they were such bestsellers, he said, that authorities in 1998 banned them, triggering his departure from China.

He has taught his workshop at Kunstfack Art College in Stockholm, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Naropa University in Boulder, Colo., Humaniversity in Holland, Sedona Arts Center, Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan, and forthcoming at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum.

"By being playful with not-knowing and putting aside all ideas of how to paint ... I might ask you to paint the 'energy' of music, a Rumi poem, a partner acting like a wild animal, the sound of silence, the Lord of Chaos, your heart's desire," says Alok. "As your brush dances from emptiness, you will watch amazed, exuberant, and grateful. Throughout the two days, we will share our paintings in gentle and humorous ways, so that we become more relaxed and available to existence. We will have fun."

For registration or information on the workshop contact Raylene Abbott at 541-727-2397 or e-mail rayleneabbott@gmail.com.