Badger's eye view: On meditation and Matisse

Badger's eye view: On meditation and Matisse

Meditation is a a practice of paying attention to what your doing, setting your intention then hold your attention on what your doing usually the breath. There is a comforting joy in that focus. Making art can provide that same kind of joy. Be it painting, drawing writing or just doing comics when you just make there is joy in the making.

Looking at art provides you with the experience of the artist’s hands and eyes at work. The profound simplification of the cutout lets me follow his action even more closely then a painting. The act of looking becomes communication of his gesture with the scissors as you can follow his choices.

That and being kind to people, that may be all there is to life.

In the long ago 90’s I made a more or less weekly trip from Jersey City to Manhattan. Visits often started with a dip in Matisse’s Swimming pool at the Museum of Modern Art. Multiple figures in motion seemed like a great model for what comics should be. Old me can only smile with compassion at my youthful idealism of applying Matisse to superhero comics which I was trying to do at the time.

Henri Matisse’s Swimming pool in its original location at the Hôtel Régina in Nice.

The Swimming Pool made me happy. Drawing, or cutting paper, is free as if you can jump into the deep pool of space. Here’s the way to make comics that is like life. All the rules “comics” imposes don’t mean anything. I was young, it excited my “drawing soul”. I was going into DC to deliver pages. These figures excited me more than the house style of comics.

Standing in the room surrounded by the blue figures splashing in and out of the water I felt joy.

Matisse (with Picasso) had torn apart the rules of drawing in the beginning of the century. The conflict of the abstraction (dare I say cartooning?) from Africa with the representational drawing of Europe is part of what makes Matisse’s work leap off the walls. Over his life, line, flat and simplification of cartooning with color freed from representation and value challenged the three-dimensional representation of historical Western art. His last great works was done by cutting shapes out of paper, almost sculptural in their existence.

In the late years of his life he took a summer trip to the south of France and said, “this heat is going to kill me. Take me home and I will make my own swimming pool”. He went home and started cutting up even more pieces of that to build that pool. Matisse had said he wanted to make paintings like easy chairs but in the cutouts both here and in the Chapel, work turn into this joyous space.

Matisse draws the tensions of form, from the bubbles and splash of water to the figures cutting through the water. Art is to be lived with, played with in Matisse’s world. Just the joy of the movement is a good thing.

Spinning around in the room you have a comic.

Next: More swimming and spinning with Matisse

Mark Badger

Mark Badger

Mark Badger started in comics drawing assorted superhero comics for Marvel and DC Comics during the '80s and '90s. Now he explores the corner where Kirby, Modernism, and even a few politics, meet.

To comment, please send an email to

Any comments may be subject to publication on this site only. Your contact information will not be shared with third parties.