Friday, November 9, 2012

St. Andrew's Abbey

Seth's grave (the one on the right)
Benedictine monks order their lives around prayer and work, in an undulating rhythm throughout the day.    The times of prayer are the main event, and work is inserted between them, in the hope that all work becomes infused with prayer, and becomes part of it.  St. Andrew's Abbey is a Benedictine monastery.

I spent four lovely days there, praying with the monks, and doing my work, which in this case was landscape painting.  It was a landscape painting retreat.  This is a genre that I have very little experience with, and no great love for, but I believe that an illustrator needs to be able to put landscapes into illustrations from time to time, and not be afraid of them.  I signed up for this retreat for several reasons: because I love the abbey, to visit Seth's grave, and in order to spend time painting landscape, the desert with its rocks, hills, and grey-green, often prickly foliage.  

This little painting is 8" x 8".  I sat there at the same time on each of two mornings, for an hour & a half or so each time.  Not long, but even so, the shadow from the cross moved quite a lot while I was there.  Plein air painting is tricky.

The curmudgeonly and usually right on target Stapleton Kearns said once (maybe more than once) that landscapes ought to have some mystery in them.  Maybe there's a little mystery here, but in any case I heartily enjoyed painting it.  The rocks and the foreground in particular made me happy; and being near Seth's gravesite always makes me remember the Life that he put into his life, the mindfulness with which he approached every moment of the day.  It's all actually very Benedictine, though at the time neither of us knew it.  


  1. Lovely post, Vicki and beautiful landscape. You've managed to capture something special here.

  2. It is a special spot for me. Thank you Kim.
    Seth's grave is the one with the colored rocks on top, rocks that we have painted every time we have brought his son Tofu up to the abbey.