Drawing and painting gives us an opportunity to participate in our surroundings in a personal a deeply felt way. When we stop to make art, we begin to see what is before us as if for the first time. The cracks and crevices of a stone wall become lines to be explored, its variegated palette of grey, purple, brown and ochre an invitation to experiment with mixing a range of neutral colors. Fear and worry about what appears on our pages can turn to awe and gratitude, and we walk away with a greater sense of connection with what we have seen.
As guests at La Romita, we have a unique opportunity to cultivate mindfulness and wonder as we explore Umbria, which includes Roman ruins, medieval villages, churches and large cathedrals, mountains and valleys. Without leaving our monastic home we can relish art-making in the former chapel, the words in our journals the sacred text honoring our experience of the place. Faded frescoes on the wall, a mosaic pattern on the stone floor, or a humble olive branch are enough to captivate our attention with paint brush, pencil and pen, and we need not be concerned with the mundane details of preparing food or cleaning house. When the cow bell rings, we walk the few steps to share breakfast, lunch and dinner with our fellow artists, and are nourished by the healthy locally sourced food that is prepared especially for us.
It is hard not to think of the monks who came before us, similarly breaking bread together in communal fashion, tending to their inner as well as outer lives. As it has for centuries, La Romita offers more than the rare gift of sanctuary and community; it is a place for personal transformation. Here art becomes a way of experiencing a deeper connection with ourselves and the world around us.
This article first appeared in our March 2014 Newsletter, Notes from La Romita. You can read more about Sharon Zeugin and see additional examples of her work on her website (http://sharonzeugin.com). Sharon teaches her third workshop at La Romita, Mindfulness and Discovery in Umbria, 22 Sept – 6 October.