I have always been rather reluctant to draw or paint in public. I am happy enough in my studio, or in a discreet place, away from view, in my garden; but being outside, potentially being seen by the public, have been avoided at all costs.
My painting has always been a private activity, where I get lost in my own world, and that has simply not been possible when painting outdoors, where someone could interrupt me at any moment, and perhaps pass comment, and throw me completely off course. But something has changed.
Over the past few weeks I have been venturing forth at the fen, equipped with a portable chair and a bagful of pencils and paints. I have placed myself off the beaten track and have tried to capture my response to the landscape. I have discovered that I no longer fear the approach of walkers, but instead am able to say hello and then carry on, utterly absorbed in what I am doing.
It has occurred to me that when I am drawing in such a situation, I am absolutely in the present moment. My mind does not wander or dwell on other concerns; I am absolutely focused on what I am doing. This may sound obvious, but for me it is a minor miracle. As someone who endlessly worries, and finds the conventional form of any meditation completely impossible, I have realised how extraordinary this is.
I have spent the last two afternoons drawing the extraordinary trees at Helmingham park land and have felt absolute peace. The drawings are far from perfect, but I am enjoying the vigour and challenge of big subjects. I am currently just making sketchbook drawings, and I am not sure where this is going to lead, but I am finding it exhilarating and inspiring.
Further to this, by sitting so still for long periods, the birds and wildlife begin to come closer. Yesterday, I suddenly realised that a herd of Fallow deer had moved to no more than twenty feet away, and were watching me with such curiosity. Such unexpected moments have added another joy to the mix.
With winter approaching, I am hoping that I will be able to continue, if only for a short periods. It is such an enriching and joyful activity that I am not sure I can stop whatever obstacles the weather brings.