My current artist signature is the Kanji (Japanese and Chinese) symbol for "Hill" inside an open circle. (Maki, in Finnish, means "Hill.). The circle is a Zen circle (enso) which is a symbol for wholeness, or enlightenment. The two dots over the "a" are how my name is written in Finnish. The two slashes over the enso, and the rectangle around the whole image were put there for aesthetic reasons, I like how it looks. I've been using this or various versions of it since about 2013.
Before that I signed most paintings with a block Maki - MAKI - usually with the date beneath it. I was inspired to sign my work with something unique by artists like James McNiell Whistler, and East Asian artists who sign their works with a "seal" or a "chop," and others who used various symbols to sign their work. I'm a big fan of Japanese prints, especially from the 1930's and earlier. I love how the chops are all over the artworks. It's aesthetically appealing to me.
I've always had an inquisitive nature - I've called myself an "Independent Researcher Into Realms of Consciousness" since I was about 15 years old. ( It's the one statement about myself that I feel "fits" me ). At around that age I would fall asleep pondering the question, "Who's looking out of my eyeholes?" And if you can focus intensely on that - whole new worlds of consciousness and insight open up to you. Twenty years later I found out that that very question, in the form of "Who Am I?" is the exact form of inquiry into consciousness that the renowned Indian sage Ramana Maharshi, (who is beloved by Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and Taoists alike), used to help people see beyond their limited sense of self awareness.
That is also the time period when I became a student of psychology, philosophy, and religions, looking for the answer to one question. "What is wisdom?" and it's corollary, "Who Am I?" I've always been an avid reader, and in this case I was looking for the source wisdom - which in Sanskrit is called "shruti," the revealed wisdom, as opposed to what is someone else's second hand interpretation, which is called "smriti". I found the answers in an excellent book "The Perennial Philosophy" by Aldous Huxley, which is a great anthology and summary of all the world's enquiry into wisdom --and led me to original sources like --The Tao Te Ching -- The Dhammapada -- The Upanishads -- The Gnostic Gospels (especially the Gospel of Thomas) which are designated as "the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke." These are "esoteric" (shruti) sayings that are more profound and harder to comprehend than the "exoteric" (smriti) sayings that at that time were meant for the largely uneducated masses of people in the early days of Christianity.
The Gnostics believed that to know oneself at the deepest, intuitive level is simultaneously to know God - that is gnosis. God is within you and you didn't need the church as a middleman to know God. Of course, the early Christian Church, in 200 to 400 A.D. didn't like that so they tried to destroy the Gnostic Gospels. But, I must admit, without the formation of a church, and that sense of community, Christianity itself might not of survived through the centuries. And no - Gnostic and Agnostic are NOT the same. See the excellent book by Elaine Pagels, "The Gnostic Gospels", also see the superb book "The Nag Hammadi Library" (named after the ancient site where these Gospels were rediscovered). One of my favorite quotes of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas is - (113) His disciples said to Him, "When will the Kingdom come?" Jesus said, "It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying 'Here it is' or 'There it is.' Rather, the Kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it." To me there are a lot of profound insights in both of these books relating to the exact meanings of what Jesus was trying to impart to others. I felt like it helped to answer my original pondering as a 15 year old, "Who's looking out of my eyeholes?" ----- Pure Consciousness ---- without inwardness -- and all that that entails...
-- More sources that were important to me are -- The New Testament (especially St. Matthew) -- various books about Zen -- and books by enlightened contemporary authors like Eckhart Tolle, (his book "The Power of Now" is the one book, that I would keep if I could only have one book, it covers everything a person needs to know about consciousness -- the short version of that book is "Practicing The Power of Now."). Other very worthwhile authors are Ramana Maharshi, Eknath Easwaran, Mark Neppo, Michael Singer and Ken Wilber. (No one is better than Ken Wilber in describing the levels of consciousness of human beings - he wrote many excellent books, all well worth reading. The best simple, yet comprehensive guide of his work is titled "No Boundary." A must read for anyone interested in states of consciousness). I've always been interested in Eastern philosophy because they come from a position of wholeness and union - and the idea that at the deepest, most intuitive levels God is within everybody and everything - Gnosis! or "Tat Tvam Asi" as the Chandogya Upanishad would say.
The great French artist Paul Gauguin wrote the title of his self-described masterpiece on the corner of his canvas in Tahiti in 1897:
Where do we come from What are we Where are we going
With no question mark, no dash, no punctuation whatsoever. I believe that most artists ponder essentially the same question. It's probably at the deep root of creativity and learning.
It's been a lifelong endeavor. Do I understand what true wisdom is? - Ask me yesterday.