I’m starting a new exploration. I’m starting the Porthmeor Programme at St Ives School of Painting. I’m nervous and excited.
It’s been a long time coming. A while back I promised myself “a year of ‘pop-up’ art school” for my year of Being Sixty. But, the pandemic struck, and lockdown, and next to almost none of the art school happened, apart from a few short courses at the excellent community college at Exeter Phoenix. But at last the time has come and I can make a start.
I’m going to be doing my learning out in the open. I’ve put up a webpage to act as my “living catalogue” of both my visual art and some other creative stuff I get up to – mainly writing. I’m not putting the art up as a display, but rather as part of my commitment to learning out in the open.
I’ll be holding a question as I go through the programme – how do I make art in and of this place? I’m interested in noticing the process of learning as much as the process of making art and the process of being an artist. I’m an action researcher by approach – and indeed that is a foundation for all of our work at GameShift, so it feels important to approach this course in that same spirit.
Over the past years I’ve been particularly influenced by Buddhism in the Insight Meditation tradition, as well as by secular mindfulness practices. For me there’s a close connection between this spiritual work and deep ecology and my sense of “being alive in this place”. But I’ve also become fascinated by monasticism, and particularly by the Benedictines. Over lockdown I worked over a sustained period facilitating a group of monks and have come to know something of the Rule of Benedict. One of my favourite phrases in the Rule is the phrase “always we begin again”. It seems to me a very important principle.
I’m not expecting my learning to be a victory march of constant insight and endless progress. I’m a novice and I have a huge amount to learn. Some of it will be frustrating and hard. Some of it will, for certain, not go the way I’d like it to. That’s where the wisdom of Benedict speaks to me loudest, reminding me that “always we begin again”. Which is a valuable phrase to remember as a beginner in anything, and as a slightly older guy trying to come at this new work with a beginner’s mind. It feels like the right approach.
So, here we go. To beginning again, every day.