Monday, October 2, 2017

Inspiration from the land-Artist Residency, Iceland

In an earlier blog post, I wrote about breathing in the spirit of place. Some places however, resonate with us while others do not, for whatever reason. I remember travelling once by sail boat to the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii), off the west coast of Canada. We anchored at the abandoned Haida villages along the way and took a dingy into shore to walk the land. I had brought along painting supplies, fully intending to sit and paint along the way. I found that I couldn't. Perhaps it was the energy of the land that had a long and sad history. I never did any work from that trip.

I resonate with Iceland––the space and the solitude here on this remote horse farm and artist residency in Northern Iceland.

“We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness… True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation." Wendell Berry 

In the painting workshop I taught here two weeks ago, I had a goal of trying to encourage resonance with the land. I'm not sure if one can do that but I thought I'd try to teach what works for me. I asked the students to walk the land in solitude and I read them this quotation by Irish poet and priest, John O'Donohue:

"It makes a huge difference when you wake in the morning and come out of your house....whether you believe that you are walking into a dead geographical location which is used to get to a destination, or whether you are emerging out into a landscape that is just as much, if not more, alive as you but in an totally different form.  And if you go towards it with an open heart and a real watchful reverence, you will be absolutely amazed at what it will reveal to you. That was one of the recognitions of the Celtic imagination: that landscape wasn't just matter, but that it was actually alive. Landscape recalls you into a mindful mode of stillness, solitude and silence where you can truly receive time." 

Iceland Works 12x12"  Oil/cold wax/sand on paper © 2017 Janice Mason Steeves

Iceland Works 12x12"  Oil/cold wax/sand on paper ©2017 Janice Mason Steeves

Iceland Works 12x12"  Oil/cold wax/sand on paper ©2017 Janice Mason Steeves

" I'm outside, standing or sitting on a stone. I look around, toward the horizon, at the amplitudes and the mountains. Some stand close by, others further away. Automatically, the mind starts roaming or perhaps gliding around. I go into the distance, into eternity, where the mountains have impenetrable tranquillity, where they cease being mountains and become aeriform. I enter and pass through them. What exists in the mountain exists also outside of it, and in the surrounding quietude both dread and gloom reside. And in the air all all the thoughts of the world can be accommodated." Georg Gudni, Icelandic artist. From his book, The Mountain.


  1. Beautiful work Janice. You have certainly been inspired by the landscape of Iceland. Helen

  2. Thanks Helen. I certainly am inspired by the raw landscape of Iceland. Good to hear from you.