Stan white

Stan was a wild and free wheeling spirit, bringing an abundance of joy and suffering into this word, for himself and for others.  He personified the classic zen outlaw, present, alive and cool, sometimes challenging, intense and exotic, often quite brilliant, sometimes a bit crazy, even a pain in the neck. When in a good mood, he could entertain a whole crowd, dancing on the tables, being charming to the ladies, playing a strong game of chess and billiard. When in a bad mood, it was best not to get too close, to leave him alone. Sun faced Buddha, moon faced Buddha. From the moment we met at 300 Page Street in the early 70th, we recognized each other as old friends, soul mates, and he became the godfather of our daughter Simone.


I have very little and only sketchy information on Stan’s biography, and hopefully somebody will fill in here at some point. But even the most thorough and complete account will not be able to bring it more to the point than his own summery on the subject, when he was already 90: „… if a bio on me is called for, just say that I am still a zen student“. With the precision and sparseness worthy of a haiku writer, or, as is the case, a sumi painter.

Anyway, here is what I have thus heard:


Stan was born ca. 1920 in Boston into a - he called it ‚uptide’ - Jewish family, his father was a graduate of West Point. There must have been some fall out with him, because Stanley got disinherited. His father lived close to 100 - the mother lived to 106. The one sister he had supported him a bit most his life. He married a black woman and had 3 (?) sons with her, though the marriage did not work out and Stan mutated to ‚Sebastian‘ in the North Beach beatnik scene, making a living by painting signs, murals in restaurants, or personal portraits of passing by tourists, one Dollar a sketch. For a year or more he lived with some Indians in Mexico, before moving back to the Bay Area and meeting Zen practice though Suzuki Roshi and Kobun Chino Roshi www.kobu-sama.org, who became his teacher and, as he pointed out several times, ‚saved my life’. In the 80th, when living at Jamesburg, he had another son with a lady living at Carmel Valley, but they never lived together.


Stan told me, that he was drawn to drawing from a very early age on. He recalled ripping out the blank pages at the beginning and the end of the books in his father’s library to paint on them. As a young man, he was able to study art in Paris for a year. When traveling through Spain he was obviously very impressed by the young Picasso’s practicing his own signature, apparently over and over and over. When we met in the early 70th, he was already totally emerged in the Japanese Sumi style that became his trade mark and represents the bulk of the surviving art. Stan gave his paintings away as soon as the ink got dry, he did not keep a single one to himself. I remember a particularly productive day at Tassajara, where he ended up drawing and handing me at least 25 pictures, some of them really genius / funny, asking me to distribute them among the Sangha. 


In 2013, Donnalyn Chase put together and published a small booklet with some of Stan’s art. A few years later, Kaz Tanahashi set out to get together a more comprehensive collection of his work, made the effort to visit Stan in Taos, NM to interview him, found a publisher. However, when it was time to put it all together, including signing a contract, Stan was in a foul mode and didn’t want any part of it, effectively blocking the process. Stan entered paranirvana in December 2016 in Santa Fe, NM, his ashes are at Hokoji, NM, where he lived as the resident priest for many years.


This web-site has a double function: On the one hand, we want to make his art available to a wider circle of potentially interested people, on the other hand, we hope that some folks have one or more drawings of Stan themselves and are willing to share them with the larger community. All you have to do is to take a picture of it/them and send it to us and we will add it to the website. Maybe, eventually we will put a book together, print and publish it.


Thank you very much for your cooperation. I hope that you will enjoy the drawings of Stan, and are inspired by the wisdom and humor that speak through them.


Vanja Palmers,


Felsentor / Sekimonji, Dezember 2018/2562