There are many things to love about autumn,
and one of my favorites is the annual return to Bon Secours Center in Marriottsville, MD, and Skip's October Mentored Painting Workshop.
It is hard to think that 10 years has passed since I first found Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center. My goal was to find the perfect environment for the best art workshop experience one could have.
I already had the best teacher lined up! Skip Lawrence, obviously!
This location would be, ideally, within commuting distance from our home in Central Maryland. This location should be all inclusive, so one could arrive and need for nothing while concentrating on the art workshop, free to stay with their process without having to leave or worry about meals or commuting. It would be nice if the place was in an attractive setting. Of course, price and value are considerations, too...
From the first time we entered Bon Secours, we knew we found the perfect place.
It is rare that something highly anticipated actually meets your expectations. It is a 'unicorn' when it exceeds your expectations. And to do it consistently after 10 years and 18 workshops is a polka-dotted, roller-skating talking unicorn!
We added an annual March workshop in 2009, and another workshop in August
of last year.
The grounds are like a private park with 330 acres, meadows with deer, woodlands, Zen peace garden, a labyrinth to walk, an ever-changing landscape, beautiful at any time of year.
The facility is a comfortable, quiet, accomodating haven in a busy world.
The staff is superlative. The fact that we see the same people, for 10 years on, smiling as they ask "what can we do for you?" speaks volumes! It is a homecoming every time we arrive the Center and set up for another workshop. The students who return time after time feel the same way.
I know how important the space is for supporting one's best work. This is magnified exponentially when it is a workshop with two dozen people, all digging in and doing honest, soul-searching, risk-taking artwork, when Skip Lawrence is at the helm challenging one to do, to be, one's best. The workshop experience, for me, is a sacred space, and our workshops at Bon Secours are exactly that.
Thank you, Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center for ten great years of creative synergy! We look forward to many many more!
One year ago, tomorrow, we broke ground for the construction
of my art studio.
I moved in and started working in the completed space February 1 of this year.
I love my studio. LoveloveloveloveLOVE my studio.
I took months to think about exactly what I needed and wanted in the space, how I wanted it to work, how I would work within it. I filled a sketchbook with drawings, layouts, floor plans, lists... Filled a Pinterest board with ideas. I interviewed and communicated with multiple builders and architects.
Materializing this dream was a major investment and I was acutely aware that I needed to clarify down to the minute detail, specifically, exactly, perfectly what I wanted.
If you have never had a project that demanded that you deeply contemplate and prioritize your wants and needs (and, wants vs. needs) then I recommend you take one on. It is a revelation.
It reveals not only what those priorities and preferences are, but who it is that wants them.
Our dreams and visions are reflections of us, how we go about achieving them becomes a self-portrait.
Who designed my studio? Someone who is quite practical and pragmatic, someone who is willing to pay top dollar for state of the art lighting and HVAC, but will forgo fancy finishes. She likes to recycle, re purpose and score craigslist finds. She wants the space to primarily serve the art and the artist, but be beautiful in a quiet way. Function and form, simple and effective. Me.
One of my challenges in the process was to step up and claim what I wanted, and stick to my guns.
I have had a lifelong tendency to defer my judgement to the seeming better wisdom or experience of others. (Usually male others. Sadly, a trait many women have been conditioned to do.) Usually, it has led to disappointment,and a bitter sense that I had let myself down. It has taken a lot of self awareness and work to assert my own judgment and needs.
I knew the stakes were high on this project and I wanted what I wanted, no re-do's, so I had to claim it, full stop.
Of course, it helped that Skip was entirely supportive. He pretty much deferred to me in terms of designing the studio. The end result is a project that is fully my vision realized. I stand in the space and feel such satisfaction, it is my work of art. There is nothing I wish I had done differently, nothing I feel I overdid or cheaped-out on.
It works exactly as I want it to work. And working in the space is pure joy. It is perfect.
It may be the first time in my life that I can say that!
Our builder, Greg Allen was a perfect fit for us. He and his team were outstanding: responsive, professional and a lot of fun to work with. I count them all as friends.
I will write further posts about building the studio and the design decisions and materials I used. I put a lot of research into it and it may be helpful information to you who are planning or upgrading your own work spaces.
There is nothing easy for me about
It is not my natural element.
Not having grown up with the ubiquitous technology that seems to be part of the younger gen's DNA, I am leery of it and slow to catch on.
I am not a luddite by any means, just not a native speaker of the language.
Putting together this website has been quite a challenge. Disclaimer: it is a work in progress.
So far, so good. I can learn. Once I commit to something I can be relentless.
And bless Weebly's heart, it is pretty much the Playschool version for we cyber-challenged!
You may remember my original blogspot blog, ART / LIFE that ran from 2008-2013. This reboot will feel familiar in many ways. A lot has happened in the intervening years, so there will be a shift in emphasis of the blog posts. But it is still me. I promise to write honestly, from the heart, about the things that move me.
The big news is the building of my own art studio and what that has enabled me to do, art-wise. This new ART / LIFE blog will feature a lot more ART.
I am definitely doing more art making and less bread baking than I was in the old
Welcome, and Welcome Back. Feels good to be blogging again. I've missed you.
Artist, writer, workshop planner, swimmer, dog-mom, wife...I find inspiration in the serendipitous connections between making a meaningful, beautiful life and making honest art.
All work on this site is original by Diane Santarella Lawrence, unless noted, and is
The nature of social media is sharing, so please share respectfully and responsibly and
give credit where credit is due.
Many of the beautiful images taken in the studios of Skip and me are by Joel Kiester and Brian Eiseman of 1513Photo. Many thanks, Guys, for your friendship and elegant work!
And Thanks to my two biggest fans, my husband Skip Lawrence and Rothko the Wonderdog for constantly surprising, challenging, inspiring and supporting me.