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Painting Place

Of the Camino  3  20x21"  Oil/earthen pigments on panel

In the workshop I recently taught in Spain, I gave a slide show where I presented a survey of my work from the past 12 years of my 35 year art career. I hadn't seen the slide show for a while. The last time I'd presented it was for a talk at a public gallery a few years ago in conjunction with my show.  It's a good exercise to look at the development over time of your work now and again. I realized again how important place is in my work. Place and light. Both. And travel.

Of the Camino 1  8x40" Oil/earthen pigment on panel

 While I love coming home, I equally love to travel as you might know from my recent introduction of Workshops in Wild Places. I expect my work will continue to grow and change as I travel to the various places where I've organized workshops. Connecting to place is something that's done with the heart. Not all places resonate with my heart. I'm happy to see them and take photos, but not all places make me squeal with delight to be there. The workshops I'm planning are in places that make me squeal (silently) with excitement!

Pigment (soil) found on the roadsides in northern Spain

Once I got over the awe of walking into the16th Century stone village in Spain where we were staying for our workshop, I felt that kind of squealing excitement. Grinding up the soft coloured stones that we found on a riverbank and collecting the richly pigmented soils gave me the same thrill! Working with the pigments was magical and made me feel a deep connection to the land.

It reminded me of the time I was at a month-long artist residency near Barcelona. I had gone with few supplies, hoping to find some materials to work with. I intended to make some connection in my work or in the materials I hoped to find, to the Black Madonna in the Basilica of Monserrat in the nearby mountains. I had such incredible luck. In the residency I found a shelf with small plastic bins of various pigments. I asked about them and found out that these pigments had recently been used to paint the Basilica. Not only that, but the pigments had been donated to the residency for the artists to use!

Pigments from Basilica Monserrat

In Castrillo, I was enamoured both with the earth pigments we came across which I began to use in my work, and also by the very idea of the Camino. It's a journey of light, of enlightenment, of transformation, of walking mindfully. It's a pilgrimage to integrate the disparate parts of our lives into a whole. A similar integration takes place on the physical plane in this village, where the walls and homes are made of stones cemented together and the road through this small town is made up of individual stones carefully embedded side by side, on which you need to walk mindfully in order not to fall. Castrillo and the Camino seem to be carrying a similar message of unity, of integration. I've been processing these ideas since I've been home. I find that I work very intuitively at first, just flowing along, letting the work lead the way. And then I sit back and ask it what it's telling me. These are the words that came to me and these are the images that came to me.

Of the Camino 2   Oil/earthen pigments on panel ©2018 Janice Mason Steeves


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