Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Behind the Scenes

For the past six months I've been focused on organizing a travel workshop program. I've been researching remote locations in small comfortable lodges where there is immediate access to the land. The idea is for artists  to spend time on the land and through various contemplative activities, discussions, and creative exercises, to develop an artistic response to the environment. The idea began in January of 2018 when I was meeting with my good friend, the artist  Rebecca Crowell in her home in New Mexico. We thought of the idea of continuing to teach together, as we will be doing in our upcoming workshop in a retreat centre on the Camino in northern Spain. We had such fun planning that workshop that we thought we'd try to do the same in another location, but in New Mexico this time. We searched for possible retreat centres but couldn't find any that were suitable: one had only outdoor toilets, one said to beware of scorpions on their website (yikes!), another has a long dirt driveway and suggested the need for 4-wheel vehicles. The last we looked at (among many others) had very little land to explore and when we later learned that it was for sale, we abandoned our efforts. 

I came home and asked myself where in the world I'd like to go and thought of my bucket list. Mongolia was on that list so I began looking there first. Fairly quickly, I discovered a luxury resort called Three Camels Inn in the Gobi Desert. I emailed them and began a dialogue with their contact in the US. Once I had an itinerary and a price, I mentioned the idea to Rebecca as a potential workshop location. She thought it was way too expensive for our group of artists. I had to agree. But when I put out the idea on my blog post and on Facebook, we were overwhelmed at the positive response to Mongolia. Not only to Mongolia, but to all of the workshops.

Three Camels Inn, Mongolia

After our concern about the cost of the Mongolia trip, I moved on to research potential places in Scotland with the idea of teaching a workshop myself in an art centre there. I have visited Scotland a number of times and have family there. During this research, I found a magnificent castle/hotel on the ocean south of Glasgow. I contacted the owner and began a back and forth negotiation that ended up in booking a workshop there for September 2019 which Rebecca and I will co-teach.

Dunskey Estate, Scotland

Energized and encouraged by all this excitement, I then went on to research inns in Newfoundland. Not such an easy task. While there are hotels in larger centres in Newfoundland, there are few inns in the countryside that are large enough to hold 9 people along with space for a painting workshop. I finally found the Doctor's House, a magnificent inn on the shores of Trinity Bay, about an hour north and west of St. John's. Registration is now open for this workshop and there are only 2 spaces still available.

I've found other exciting venues: in Tofino, BC (Storm-Watching) for November of 2019  and Nova Scotia (Forest Bathing and Star-Gazing) for September 2020.

Long Beach Lodge, Tofino, BC

Trout Point Lodge, Nova Scotia

But what most excites me about these locations is that I'm interested in inspiring artists to create a whole new response to the environmental crisis that goes beyond facts, pessimism, arguments, and blame, and instead offers up what nature means to our spirits; the love of it. With this in mind, my initial workshop idea has developed into a program I've called Workshops in Wild Places. It offers the opportunity to travel to remote locations throughout the world to experience the beauty, energy and power of the wild landscape, to deeply and joyfully connect with it, and then–– through a facilitated contemplative and creative process–– translate that response into abstract paintings. 

You carry Mother Earth within you. She is not outside of you. Mother Earth is not just your environment. In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer. Thich Nhat Hahn

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