Catrien Ross

Artist & Mystic in Japan


It began with a knowing, akin to the faint rumble or crack that can sound in the mountains as a warning just before the actual earthquake arrives.

I need to paint paintings. Now.

What??? This can’t be serious. I’m a writer, remember. I don’t paint. I never have.

As a lifelong natural mystic, however, I heed my inner voice. Crazy, perhaps, but nothing dangerous or harmful to anyone else, and I understand that what I must do is get myself to an art supplies store as fast as possible. In the first week of July, 2013, the day after the initial rumble, I do so.

Looking around, bewildered by unfamiliar materials, I have to rely on the vague information stored in the brain which kicks in to help. Oil paints might be toxic – oh well, in that case, acrylic paints it will be. Colors? Yes, I know about primary colors. Red, then, along with yellow, blue, and tubes of white and black – that will do for now, and I also add gold and silver, which sing to me from the shelf. But canvas, how do I choose? Some preprepared canvases in F8 size look just right. And painters need brushes, don’t they? So some brushes, thick and thin. I have an image about an artist’s palette, and a palette knife, so those, too. A container of gesso also comes into view, and I read the instructions – a necessary item, it seems. And suddenly I understand why I had bought that big, wooden easel in a recycle shop the week before for no good reason at the time. Part of the early warning.

With no knowledge of paint, canvas or technique, I begin to paint. My first painting, the first-ever painting of my life, is Potential, begun and completed, along with four additional F8 size paintings, on July 10, 2013.

One after another the paintings erupt. I shift from my second floor bedroom to a painting space I create on the third floor of my 300-year-old minka. By August I understand that neither brush nor palette knife suits the way my wrist moves. I begin to use an inexpensive plastic tool I find in a hardware store and don’t even know the name for. I stop using an easel and artist’s palette, preferring instead to kneel on the floor as I directly squeeze out and move paint on the level canvas. As if fused together as one living thing, I and the paint now flow and twist, through layers of color and texture, on a range of canvas sizes – F0, F3, F6, F8, F10, F20. 

I am become an outpouring of sudden artistic output that rocks my life in Japan.

At first I seek explanations. My sudden artistic output is expressing creative DNA hidden until now. It is a spiritual awakening. It is a sudden savant triggering.

But to whom do such explanations matter? My sudden artistic output is what it is. It continues to erupt. My paintings exist, an explosion of color, texture, and physical movement in someone who all her life has worked with words. A joyful dance on canvas that is a dance of the heart and an ongoing connection with the dance of the universe.

More than 200 paintings and several exhibitions later, my paintings are still dancing and I am coming to terms with the sudden genius moniker.


Today my sudden genius paintings invite a personal experience that is contemplative, spiritual, and reminds us of the mystery.

Colors dance in me and the canvas sings in unison – such resonance in my paintings seems able to powerfully remind others of the mystery within themselves.

From the moment of their first sudden eruption, my paintings have rapidly and continuously evolved along four distinct series:

From Source Series
Original, one-of-a-kind acrylic on canvas paintings, signed and numbered in sequence of creation since 2013, on Japanese canvas sizes F3 to F20.

Kirameki (Glints) Series
Original, one-of-a-kind acrylic on canvas paintings, signed and numbered through eight separate phases since 2014, on Japanese canvas size F0 only.

Kirari Collection Series
Since 2015, close-up digital images of mysterious areas within particular From Source Series paintings.

Kakejiku Series

Since 2017, original, one-of-a-kind acrylic paintings as Japanese hanging scrolls.

Kyohmei Series

Since 2019, original, one-of-a-kind acrylic paintings on Japanese canvas F50 size.

More than 100 of my sudden genius paintings now hang in a Buddhist temple in central Japan, where the head priest uses them to help open the hearts and minds of those who come to gaze into the mystery.