Summer at Bon Secours......the frogs sing at night!
Here we go again!
August at Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center means Skip Lawrence is teaching his unique approach to art composition and intentional design in his
What a great group!!! I am still surfing the wave of creative mojo!!
Believe me - I see a lot of workshops and groups. Some groups work well together and some...well, not quite synergistic.
This group of artists, from all over, as far as UK and Michigan, got right in step and had a very productive week.
Skip presented his foundations of intentional design-design that communicates what you intend it to- through demos and lessons and exercises.
This class is more structured than his mentored workshops in March and October.
Every day was full and challenging. The camaraderie and adventurous spirit of everyone in the class kept the work from feeling overwhelming. Having specific exercises to do each day kept everyone on track.
The group critiques are so helpful to see how each artist approached the lesson differently.
The diversity of work and styles is very inspiring.
In "Not-So-Basic-Basics", Skip addresses some of the advanced principles of design, the elements that can really identify an artist's intention and create a personal style. If you think you have covered all the basics, and you still feel like there is so much you DON'T KNOW, this is where to start. Do you feel like every successful painting is a happy accident that you can't replicate? Do you consistently get caught in the weeds and wonder if the painting is resolved or...what does it need? The "Not-So-Basic-Basics" workshop helps you identify the design elements that resonate with your narrative, that express your story. Once you learn them, you can clarify your intention and your paintings will tell your story!
Why paint like someone else? The world is waiting for YOU!
This workshop will give you the tools to evaluate your own work and decide how to get it closer to your personal intention.
Everyone who has continued studying with Skip over the years, over the decades, has started with these principles. Whether you are a beginner or a long time artist, this workshop is a great way to bring your work home!
As always, Bon Secours is the perfect place for our workshops. There is attention to every detail and the staff cannot do enough to make sure you are comfortable! Just walk around the pond, around the grounds and notice the lovely landscaping. This is a special place! So beautiful and peaceful! It is always a welcome homecoming for our groups to come to Bon Secours! We are on our eleventh year of hosting our workshops here and we really feel like it is a family reunion, every time we do a workshop!
Wouldn't you love to spend a week focusing on your art, digging deep, exploring what you want to say and how to express your unique vision?
If you are interested in Skip's workshops, check his website for his schedule, www.skiplawrence.com, or email me here, firstname.lastname@example.org or through the contacts page on their website.
I'd like to welcome Artist and Teacher Skip Lawrence to my blog!
Skip has shared a bit of his wisdom and perspective on making art in this Guest Post,"Poetry or Craft."
Follow Skip Lawrence on Facebook or check out his website, www.skiplawrence.com
His next Mentored Workshop at Bon Secours Center, Marriottsville, MD, runs
March 18-24, 2018. We have a few spots open. Start 2018 with a boost of inspiration!
Email me, email@example.com for enrollment info and details.
In reference to making art, I recently heard David Hockney say that, “craftsmanship is a must.”
From the Renaissance to the Abstract Expressionists art students began their apprenticeship by learning the craft of their chosen media.
“We can teach craft, it’s the poetry you cannot teach.” Hockney goes on to say,
“Now we teach poetry and forget craft.”
There is enough truth in that statement to make one stop and think.
A Chinese philosopher proclaimed art is a matter of,
“the Hand, the Eye, and the Heart”.
Many artists new and experienced alike, seem to shift back and forth from working primarily with the hand, the eye and the heart, rarely giving equal measure to all three.
When I look at the latest paintings in watercolor society shows I am more than impressed with the polished technique exhibited: skills of the hand and the eye.
What I most thirst for, though, is to see the reason behind all the technical skills:
more heart and soul.
I know how challenging this is as I fight for a balance of ideas, feeling and form in every painting I do. I have come to realize that in making art, usually one aspect (the hand, or eye or heart) is primary and the other aspects might be missing in the process or have minimal influence.
I think this is well worth giving some thought...ask yourself...
Which of these do you primarily work with; the hand, the eye or the heart?
Do you start a painting aware which is going to primarily direct the process?
Which are you most comfortable working from: the Hand, the Eye or the Heart?
Do you resist letting one or another take the lead?
When you are most satisfied with the results of your work, what is the ratio of hand/eye/heart?
If you get stuck or a piece seems to fail, does it rely too much on one aspect at the expense of the others?
What if you tried switching it up...?
I know I shift between as I am working, but I do try to find a balance. Or at least a workable combination of hand/eye/heart.
I believe when all three aspects work in a sort of equanimity the resulting artwork has a stronger presence.
You know when you see it: the piece of artwork engages intellectually, moves you emotionally and the craft impresses or intrigues you.
It just works.
Where is the silence inside the sound?
Where is the sound around the silence?
What is the space between snowflakes?
When I began taking swim lessons last February, the concept of actually swimming was a complete unknown to me.
Because of past failures, traumas and a lifelong storehouse of fear, any 'swimming' skill I had was self taught and very fragile. So I was starting from scratch. From Zero.
Fast forward to now, nine months, a lot of lessons and dedicated practice later, and I am at the point where I feel like I am at a plateau. (Amazing, right? To get so 'good' as to be bored? Take that in!! Wow!)
I have worked to a certain level of competence, and now I am not sure how to progress forward, how to get better, raise the bar and tackle the next level of challenge.
As luck would have it, Kathy, my swim guru, was at the pool Tuesday, when I was there for my swim.
I told her my concerns, and she gave me some new drills to work on new skills, to move me forward.
So today, when I was swimming, I drilled with a pull buoy and hand paddles...
In other words... In the Big Picture... New Tools, unfamiliar tools, different muscles being engaged, focus on new patterns of movement.
In short: awkward, clumsy, frustrating.
But also, enlightening, liberating and exciting!
As tough as it was using the new tools, doing the drills, I could immediately feel the potential to move to another level of skill. Because of my prior practice, the next level will come faster. I will strengthen areas of my practice...which will strengthen my oveall skill.
Isn't this always how it is when you move to a new level of exploration in any discipline?
Be it, swimming, making art, meditation, relationships, writing,
You will start from knowing nothing, build your skills, then reach a level of competence, of confidence and comfort. Or stagnation and boredom... Then what?
Do you crave challenge? Or do you just keep doing the same old, same old, until you can repeat it in your sleep, safe in the knowledge that you have reached a comfortable level of skill. You can can swim in the shallow end, as long as your feet can touch the bottom..
Any time you push to the next level of achievement you have to let go of the edge of the pool. You have to go into deeper water, all over again. Become a beginner...let go of certainty. It takes a little dose of courage, and the faith that you can do this.
While I was swimming today, I was so grateful that I have found an activity that challenges me to be a total beginner. At this age, we think we know so much! To be humbled by one's ignorance, to be motivated by a childlike desire and an open heart and mind, really is a GIFT!
I try to keep this awareness when making art. The more I know, the more I realize how much I don't know!! Instead of seeing this as a failure, I see it as an opportunity. A fresh challenge.
There is so much more to discover.
Whenever one moves to unfamiliar territory in a art- be it new materials, techniques or content-there will be growing pains. Clumsiness. Frustration. New muscles being challenged.
If one can keep the humility of the beginner, the Know Nothing, everything is a fresh discovery.
There is no failure as a beginner, only fresh starts.
The expert has an investment in certainty, maintaining the known, the repeatable, quantifiable outcome.
I choose to always be a beginner, to let go of certainty, to try new things, to be clumsy, frustrated, to fail and start again...to grow and learn... and start all over.
I'd rather make a blazing, risky mess, than repeat a dull, uninspired formula.
So sad and limiting to be an expert, to be certain, to outgrow the glorious potential and wild openness and uncertainty of a beginner!
I am grateful that the pool is open today, Thanksgiving.
I am grateful that there is only one other lap swimmer and that the pool is quiet.
I am grateful that the pool water is almost warm.
I am grateful that my back feels pretty good today.
I am grateful that my goggles don't leak.
I am grateful that I finally learned to swim.
I am grateful that I persisted despite anxiety and old trauma.
I am grateful for Kathy, my good and sensitive teacher.
I am grateful for the support of the buoyant water, beneath me.
I am grateful for all the air to breathe, above me.
I am grateful for the black line on the bottom of the pool, straight, consistent, repetitive little tiles, counting breath, like a mantra.
I am grateful for a long reach. I am grateful for a strong pull. I am grateful for flutter kick and hip rotation and high elbow.
I am grateful for the sensuous pleasure of the water flowing over my skin, my muscles.
I am grateful for the whoosh of water past my ears, the slight tang of chlorine in my mouth.
I am grateful to float in stillness, to surrender tension to the water and feel restored.
I am grateful that swimming has triumphed over pain.
I am grateful, every moment, for what the water has given me.
Here is a piece that a friend shared on Facebook.
I found it to be such a call to awareness that I had to share it with you.
It is this quality of "seeing" that makes Skip's teaching such a powerful experience for many students. It is what I aim for with each interaction with my massage clients:
a sacred space where one is seen and respected, not judged.
Often, it is a rare experience for people to be treated with such singular, focused respect.
When one authentically and unconditionally experiences it, it is profound.
The 4 Critical Questions We're All Unconsciously Asking Each
by Katherine Schafler, NYC-based psychotherapist, writer and speaker.
from: TIME WELL SPENT // November 7, 2017
Maya Angelou suggests there are four questions that we’re all unconsciously asking each other all the time.
We ask the people we love, we ask the people who matter to us professionally, and on a broader level, we ask the people we encounter as we go about our everyday lives: the cashier who takes your coffee order, the jogging neighbor you wave to from the car on the way to work, the elderly woman sitting across from you on the train.
The four questions rarely get asked with words, just as they're rarely answered with words.
They're almost always silent questions, because they're almost always unconscious.
When the silent answer to each of the four silent questions is a definitive YES, the love (or basic sense of humanity, in the broader examples) in the relationship becomes more palpable and is in turn immediately felt.
In a romantic context, when the questions go unanswered, the person unconsciously asking them typically becomes increasingly distant, grows restless in the relationship, and often starts seeking drama and distraction to get attention and feel more alive.
In the broader context, people who don't get an answer to these questions (or worse, who receive a 'no') feel increasingly disconnected from any sense of community.
Here are the 4 critical questions:
Do you see me?
Do you care that I’m here?
Am I enough for you, or do you need me to be better in some way?
Can I tell that I’m special to you by the way that you look at me?
Whether it's your kids, your colleagues, your partner, or really anyone in your community, when someone feels genuinely appreciated by you, it’s because you treat them in such a way that affirmatively answers each question pretty consistently.
It's because when you look at them, you actually take the time to see them.
One reason why some people love dogs so much?
Dogs answer the four questions with a big, “Yes!” near constantly. Those furry little spiritual masters are always in the present moment, so their quality of connection is always heightened (subsequently, so is the level of palpable connection they emit).
Unlike our K-9 counterparts, we regularly slip out of the present moment and go somewhere else.
It at least makes more sense when we evade the present moment during ostensibly mundane activities, like an unnecessary meeting, doing laundry, our commute, etc. But invariably, the habit of not being present spills over into the moments we really mean to be present for:
- The love of your life walks into the room before bed and you barely look up from your phone.
- You meet your best friend for brunch and go through the motions of the hug, the ‘you look so cute’ and the ‘it took forever to get here!’ without actually feeling much.
- You’re tying your daughter’s shoe and when you’re done, you get up to reach for her packed lunch and hand it to her while you’re simultaneously grabbing your bag and keys, all without ever looking at her.
We all do this. We blaze through darling moments every single day.
Sometimes we don’t really remember much about our week because we just weren’t fully there.
But how do we answer these questions constantly?
I’m not encouraging intense stare downs with every single human you encounter, but what I do hear so often in my work is this:
She’s looking at me, but it’s like she’s looking past me.
I know he cares and I objectively know he loves me more than anything, but he’s so checked out.
I just want to shake him sometimes like, wake up!
If you see someone, let them know you see them.
Slow down, and though it feels strange to write because it's so simple: take a second to actually look at another person.
Just one extra second. Literally.
And on the topic of literally, certainly if you love someone, show some love! Literally. Let the love you feel show on your face, in your eyes and in your quality of presence.
Slowing down and taking the one extra second is how you connect.
It's this incredibly simple part of the human experience that's getting lost in the modern rush. Taking the one extra second is the kind of quality that shapes your mood for the better after a bad news day (or bad news week, or bad news year), it's the secret to the people we find so charming, it's what the best leaders do -- helping people feel seen and valued will totally shift your life.
We can all get by without connection, at least for a little while, but if we really want to thrive, we have to connect to each other.
Connection is not based on how much time we spend with someone or what we do with them, connection is always based on quality of presence.
This is why we fall in love with people who make us feel alive, because on some level, we're all desperate to be more present.
Being present doesn’t require meditation, deep breaths, or anything like that. It’s just a one second decision, “Ok, I’m gonna be present now.”
It’s not a decision you make in the morning and then never have to think about again, it’s a decision you make over and over and over again throughout the day. Ooops, wandered away from the present moment? No probs. The return flight is one second long.
The four questions are impossible for you to answer unless you’re present.
If you’re at all interested in experimenting with the idea that people are always asking the four questions, for one week, use an image of the number “4” as the wallpaper on your phone. Let the number be a cue to help you remember to answer the questions, not out loud, but on your face, in your touch, in your eyes, with the quality of your presence.
Taking the one extra second doesn't have to be constant to be successful (i.e. to have an impact on your quality of connection to yourself and others).
Just do it as you remember to, do it as you please, and that will be enough.
Katherine Schafler is an NYC-based psychotherapist, writer and speaker. For more of her work, join her newsletter community, read her blog, or follow her on Instagram.
"Sometimes, looking back can help one to see ahead.
This is adapted from a post, "everything I know," I published in the original ART / LIFE blog, 9-1-10.
I am working on a series of nonrepresentational paintings inspired by the oyster shell.
They are based on the lovely mysterious shells, and on the process of painting them. About the feeling, the alchemy that happens when the materials, the vision and the presence all combine to become something else, that something being a painting.
The painting, the process of painting it, and the experience of seeing it. Oysters.
I said to a friend that this series is like a doctoral thesis, I am putting everything I know into these paintings.
All the variations, experiments, explorations over the years, I have distilled the essential quality that is mine and am putting that into these pieces.
We may think we are changing form(in our art), using different materials, different handling, but the essential, consistent signature of the maker will emerge.
This really hit home when I recently went back through some of my very early work, up to the stuff I am doing now.
I am so focused on what is ahead, the struggle to achieve something new that I often forget what I have accomplished along the way, fail to give myself due credit.
What I found in those past works was startlingly familiar. Some of the paintings I had done 15, 20 years earlier look so much like what I am doing now.
Yes, the skill was less developed, the styles are broad and experimental, but the impulse, the line, the core feeling is utterly consistent. .
I could really recognize a personality emerging in all the years of work: Me.
Honestly, I have to say, I was a bit taken aback to meet... Me.
And, to appreciate Her.
I could see a consistent sensibility developing, surfacing, whether the work was traditionally representational, abstract, covered in plaster, scratched and splashed, collaged, or whatever.
There I was...and am, still.
It was very interesting, and nice, really, to see this.
There... I... Am.
Matisse went back in his later years and looked at one of his first student, brown and grey Flemish still-lifes, and realized that that painting came close to containing everything he ever was. All there, already.
We all know his form changed, his style expanded and developed, but he could see, in that chrysalis of a painting, himself, already fully there. "I realised, thinking about it, that what I recognised in it was my personality. But I told myself that if I had only ever done that canvas, this personality would have remained unnoticed because it would never have developed." Matisse said.
Sometimes, looking back can help one to see ahead.
Everything I now know is there.
I feel like I have been wrestling an anaconda for the last...month?
I've lost track of how long I have been working on this website.
In my bathrobe, in the wee hours of the morning, on my trusty macbook air.
In my bathrobe as it rolls over to noon, drinking cold coffee, tapping away.
Still in my bathrobe, wrestling the anaconda at 1:00!
And I'm done.
I did it!!! I managed to Weebly my way onto the interwebcyberverse!!
So here it is folks, www.dianesantarellalawrence.com, art pages and all.
It will undergo a constant updating and refreshing, of course, but I have
the basics down.
I'd love to get your impressions.
Have a look at the site and let me know what you think.
I feel pretty damned proud of myself.
I am going for a swim now.
Turn my brain off and
let the water restore me.
Have you read Hilary Spurling's two volume bio of Matisse ?
I highly recommend it. I love biographies of artists and creative people. The bio of Matisse is lengthy, but I found it a fascinating read. His long life spanned two world wars and a sea change in culture and the arts.
Anytime I read an artist's biography I take notes to see where their process might feel familiar, to see what I can take into the studio myself.
It is tempting, especially with someone like the immortal Henri Matisse, to think,
”This is it - they have it ALL FIGURED OUT. If I just do what they did, I’ll discover the BIG SECRET for myself!” But the lessons are so much more relevant if one can view their journey through the prism of one's own experience. That particular artist mastered the lessons of their lifetime in the context of their culture, their moment in history, their karma. Our journeys may share a few similarities as artists, but that is usually where any overlap end.
There is a lifetime’s worth of wisdom to glean from Matisse’s fearlessness and dedication to his own vision.
Here are a few nuggets that I saved to help me along my way.
TEN THINGS I LEARNED FROM HENRI MATISSE
1) Say more with less.
2) Say more with more.
3) Changing form is not artistic schizophrenia, it is creativity.
4) Try everything, but only keep what serves your vision. In other words, don’t follow a popular style or material at the expense of your own authentic narrative.
5) Beauty isn’t always pretty
6) but, Pretty can be powerful when imbued with great feeling and originality.
7)Making creative choices and decisions is more important than just depicting/describing something.
8) Any subject/object can be the starting point for making art.
9) Age is no excuse for laziness.
10) Find joy in the process.
That last one is a very important piece of wisdom.
Matisse worked in an almost relentless state of self-imposed pressure and anxiety. Sometimes the public loved the result, often it did not, at least in Matisse's lifetime. There are no guarantees of success when making art, so if there is any satisfaction to be had, it had better come in the creative process.
When I look at the carnival of color and apparent joie de vivre in Matisse’s work,
I wonder what a little dose of relaxation and joy might have done for him.
Would he have had the compulsive perseverance to push ahead in his work if he had "lightened up" a bit? History's gain was his loss. He suffered insomnia, sickness, and was plagued by constant anxiety while making his glorious art.
I guess I can rest assured that I am not rewriting the course of Art History, so I can afford to enjoy the ride. Any of us who have the opportunity in this life to make art are truly fortunate. To get all angsty about is seems so small and self-important, as if to throw the gift back to the gods.
I hope that Matisse took some satisfaction in knowing that he was always true to his own vision. That is the the main thing I took from Matisse, and if I can say that, at the end of my days, I will feel like a real success.
So, to Life, to Art, to Matisse! Enjoy!
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.