I had always wondered what it would be like to go on a “painting” holiday, and listening to others at the Glasgow Buddhist Centre talking of the meditation retreats they had been on I always wondered what that would be like too (this is why they call me The Wonder Boy). Last week I finally fulfilled both these things by going on a Painting and Meditation Retreat at one of the WBO’s centres in the Scottish Highlands at Dhanakosa on the shores of Loch Voil.
And I am cured. The boxes are ticked but never to be repeated.
On arrival, Friday evening, the first thing I was asked to do was put my name down for six (that’s right, 6) work activities ranging from breakfast prep and tidy away, food prep with the cook (vegetarian), dishes wash-up, kitchen cleaning, toilet cleaning, hoovering, etc. I agreed to do dishes wash-up on Saturday and Monday, morning noon and night. As luck would have it I actually only carried out one of those duties since two sisters, who arrived late, (both young, lively, and very beautiful) offered to take over all but one of my duties. Must have been my boyish charm! Sadly they then both left after a few days unable to stand it any longer, and I can’t blame them.
Instead of focusing on the negative aspects, however, I prefer to just tell you about the drawing and painting I did. Well, that’s what this blog is supposed to be about, ain’t it?
Saturday was the first full day of drawing activity starting with drawing flowers brought in from the garden. A pleasant enough activity and interesting to see everybody’s drawing capability but there were the seeds of my discontent right there: working alongside other people. I thought that I would like to do that kind of thing but when it came to it I was disconcerted. I couldn’t concentrate on the work for chatting - theirs, and mine!
Centaurea, pencil and watercolour on paper, A2
In the afternoon, even though it was quite wet we were allowed out to play and the task was to use charcoal and consider the landscape in tone:
Value Study #1, charcoal on paper, A4.
Value Study #2, charcoal on paper, A4.
Value Study #3, charcoal on paper, A4.
The sky was alive with swallows and martins swooping and diving. It's a long way to come from Africa just to catch our midges, but good on them I say!
Value Study #4, charcoal on paper, A4.
Value Study #5, charcoal on paper, A4.
Beginning to feel the more abstract qualities already after just a few sketches.
Value Study #6, charcoal on paper, A4.
Value Study #7, charcoal on paper, A4.
Moving on from just using charcoal I began to introduce some lines in ink:
Value Study #8, charcoal and ink on paper, A4.
Then, finally, I dispensed with the charcoal and just made these two ink drawings:
Hill and Sky Study #9, ink in sketchbook, A6.
Mountain Stream Study #1, ink in sketchbook, A6.
The best thing about it all was being out again in the living landscape (after months in the studio) with mountain, loch and sky before me and a rucksac of art materials and a fold-away chair.
This is my kind of meditation.