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Meet the Owners of a Retreat Centre on the Camino

In the fall of 2018, I co-taught a painting workshop at Flores del Camino, a retreat centre in a tiny historic village in the north of Spain that's built entirely of warm-coloured stone. Located on the Camino de Santiago, the owners, Basia Goodwin and Bertrand Gamrowski are the heart of the retreat centre, focusing their energies on holding workshops with a sacred focus and serving the pilgrims who walk the 750km route. Basia and Bertrand have infused their retreat centre with such beautiful loving energy that I'm returning to Castrillo de los Polvazares in May to teach a second painting workshop. I thought it would be lovely to interview them and learn their stories so I sent them a questionnaire. They have answered it in the form of a conversation between themselves which I am privileged to share here.

Bertrand: We met each other at a turning point in our lives. Basia was wanting to move to Northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago. Soon after we met she sent me to walk it. In…
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Exploring Awe in Life and Art

I have had many experiences of awe in my life: the birth of my third grandchild last summer was a highlight. I actually experience awe each time I see him. But other than that miraculous experience, I felt awe when I taught a Workshops in Wild Places workshop recently in Tofino, BC. Our group went one day into Tofino where we caught a boat to Meares Island, just off the coast. We wound our way past tree-covered islands until we came to the Meares Island dock. The island supports an old growth forest and is designated as a Tribal Park, an indigenous-led protected area. Led by our guide, we walked in single-file, slowly and reverentially on the roughly hewn boardwalk that winds through the forest. At the end of the walk, stands a magnificent, gigantic 1000 year-old yellow cedar. We let out a  collective gasp when we saw it. We  felt humbled in the presence of such a being.

I felt awe as well, in my Newfoundland workshop that took place last June at The Doctor's House. We were on the …

Ask yourself: Why am I alive?

Painting in Scotland with Words

Dunskey Estate in Scotland was rugged and head-over-heels luxurious at the same time. I've just returned from teaching there-the second workshop for Workshops in Wild Places. The aim of these workshops is to encourage a deep connection with the land through meditative walking, hiking, reading poems outdoors, having happy hour on the beach at sunset, and other such important exercises, then coming into the studio to create an abstract response to the land.

While an imposing structure on the outside, the castle was cozy and sumptuous inside, with comfortable furniture, large and thick antique rugs, and fires blazing in each room we occupied. Our group took over the entire castle, eating gourmet dinners in the great hall, breakfast and lunch in the dining room and having meetings and discussions in the Drawing Room. 

Set upon 2000 acres on the sea, this opulent estate has a wildly rugged side, with beech and pine forests and a long rough path edged with ferns that winds over a river…

A Longing for the Sublime: Painting the North

Recently I attended a beautiful art exhibition by Oxanna Adams and Barbara Shaw at Silence, an art gallery/exhibition space in Guelph, Ontario. The exhibition entitled North, featured paintings that were inspired by the travels of each artist to northern countries, including Sweden, Iceland, Estonia, Yukon and Northern Ontario. 

At their opening, each artist described her experience of being influenced by the wild landscape of northern countries. I had the deep sense that these places were profoundly inspiring for both women. I know that my work is also strongly influenced by remote, wide-open landscapes and I find it so difficult to describe that sense of awe in words.  

I feel that painting can get closer to describing that sense of wonder than either prose or poetry. Still, I delight in finding writers and poets who stretch language into forms that approach the ineffable. And it's painting and words together that make my heart sing.

There has been much discussion and many papers w…