Koans originated in China over a thousand years ago, but are most often associated with the Japanese school of Zen known as Rinzai. Koans are stories and dialogs dating back to 10th century China. Buddhist teachers employ koans to wake their students up to the true nature of reality as fundamentally impermanent, interconnected, and empty of any fixed identity. 
Although there has been renewed interest in koan study in the West, most people find it difficult or impossible to practice in the rigorous traditional manner of face-to-face meetings with a teacher over a period of years. However, koans maintain their vitality and fascination even outside of the original structure of master and student, as demonstrated by several recent books and teachings on the subject.
My particular approach to koan study is based on my background as a visual artist. I hope it will inspire others to explore non-traditional methods of working with this rich legacy. See the ABOUT ME page for more information about my process.
In January, 2006 I decided to work primarily with The Book of Equanimity:Illuminating Classic Zen Koans, with new commentaries by Gerry Shishin Wick, and translations by Taizan Maezumi Roshi.  I started with Case One. My idea was to work intensively with one case each month. There are one hundred cases in the Book of Equanimity, so this project could go on for a long time.  Thomas Cleary translated the hundred cases, along with extensive commentaries in an edition called The Book of Serenity.   And here is a link to the a third translation of the complete collection: http://perso.ens-lyon.fr/eric.boix/Koan/Shoyoroku/index.html
I was a bit stunned at both the clarity and the breadth of ideas that came to mind, and to my hands, as I began focusing on the words “as is” from Case One. I didn’t expect to be so captivated by both the process and by the insights that resulted as I repeated the words during sitting meditation and during the brush practice that followed. Writing the words, in addition to repeating them mentally, also relates to the centuries-old tradition of copying sacred texts as a method of gaining insight into their many levels of meaning.
 Here are some links to websites of Zen practitioners who are encouraging the study of koans through their writings and teachings:
   www.zencenter.org. Los Angeles Zen Center, founded by
 Taizan Maezumi Roshi, Wendy Egyoku Nakao, Abbot.
   www.everydayzen.org. Norman Zoketsu Fischer, founder.
   www.gmzc.org. Gerry Shishin Wick, Abbot, author of 
The Book of Equanimity: Illuminating Classic Zen Koans.
   www.pacificzen.org. John Tarrant, founder and author of Bring Me The    Rhinoceros and other Zen Koans to Bring You Joy
   www.zen-mtn.org. John Daido Loori, Abbot, Zen Mountain Monastery.