The Expressive Power of Ensō

Monday, July 13, 2020

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to share something I have been doing for the past few months: Ensō circles, an ancient Japanese art form. According to Wikipedia,  “In Zen, ensō (円相, “circular form”) is a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create.” Since February I have done at least one new Ensō every morning, resulting in several journals full of Ensō art.

Ensō has become a welcome addition to my morning journaling practice. Before making the brush stroke I do some breath work, and as I move the brush in a circle I pray, “Dear God, please bless those I love and those they love.” If it’s a double color/double brushstroke Ensō, I often pray, “Thank you for the gift of this new day and the promise it holds.”

As a calligrapher and writer the open circles call to me. Once I had filled my first journal, I started writing in and on the Ensōs. For those who are interested, here’s a picture of the Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Mixed Media Premium Sketchbook I’ve been using.

Although my process is the same, every Ensō circle is different and I have learned to look for beauty inside the uniqueness of the strokes. This has helped me grow more comfortable with imperfection. Here’s what I wrote in the Ensō I’m holding in the photo.

Having a spiritual practice helps me stay grounded, especially during times of uncertainty, and I am so pleased to have discovered this meditative, calligraphic art form!

If you don’t already have a daily spiritual practice, I encourage you to explore Ensō, meditation, morning journaling or Zenspirations® patterning, which I use as a form of meditation.

In response to numerous requests, I’ll be giving a two hour Zoom class on Tuesday, July 21st from 2-4 Eastern time. Click here to register! The class is $30, and will be recorded. Participants will have access for a month afterwards.

There are a few scholarships available for those with financial challenges. You can email me at [email protected], or PM me on Facebook if you would like more information.

Please leave a comment if you’d like to see more Ensō art, and/or learn how to do Ensō.

Stay Zenspired,


14 thoughts on “The Expressive Power of Ensō”

  1. What a great idea thank you Joanne! Such a lovely way to collect quotes, relax and enjoy a small project without the pressure of feeling like you have to fill a whole page as they look just simply perfect and capture the moment.

  2. I have tried a few Enso circles and I would love to see more of yours! Love your Grounded piece!

  3. I love this, Joanne! And yes, I would like to see more Enso and learn how to do it.

  4. Joanne, I’ve never heard of Enso Art Circles! I LOVE the concept! I had to giggle as I instantly thought of rethinking some beverage rings from sweaty glasses or sloshed wine or coffee which has landed on table cloths, placemats or gasp, even furniture!!!

    Yes I am interested! Very much so as I am getting unpacked and moved in enough so I feel the light is indeed at the end of the tunnel to be creative!

  5. First your Enso’s are beautiful and I can see how they can be so meaningful.

    That you are offering an online class is awesome! What a wonderful opportunity for people to see your talent and to learn from an expert how to add creativity to anything they color. I personally learn something new from you each time I see you do a demo, watch/rewatch a video or see something new you have posted.

  6. Joanne!
    Let’s do ENSO!!!
    As a calligrapher that’s an eastern practice of the “O” in one stroke …
    I loved reading the definition you gave!
    Your contribution of the lettering is wonderful!


  7. I very much want to start an Enzō journal tomorrow! Well, later today. I can’t get over how synchronized with you I am, as I just read about Enzō circles literally about15 minutes before I read this! I would love to see more!

  8. It looks like you’re looking down a cup or a glass and reading what it has to say at the bottom. I know I should learn to embrace the beauty of the imperfect. Sometimes my creativeness can get frustrating and I end up zinging it into the recycle bin.

    The enso is interesting since you can sit and pray and relax. We could all use more prayer. especially now..

  9. What a delight to .earn about enzos again. Years ago I learned a little about them and you have sparked those thoughts again.
    Thanks you.

  10. Yes, please Joanne.! I was blown away by the Enso art you shared with our ‘Being Holy Being Whole’ group, and would love to learn more.

  11. The enso circles are intriguing. After I get the hang of a few more doodle patterns, I may try enso. Your patterning class is a marvelous, useful idea and I hope many people sign up. I try to doodle each morning in my sketch book and am getting better. I will never be an expert doodle artist, however. Just don’t have the time.

  12. I just find those enso so restful. So happy to see a blog post too. I hope the patterning class is a huge success and there may be more classes available online in the future on a weekend or evening.

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