Each Day Like The Previous How time in a monastery shaped my studio life
When I was in my 20s, I had the opportunity to join a monastery and become a monk – and I took the first few tentative steps along that path.
Had I gone further, of course, my life would have been entirely different.
But, a little direct experience and some honest contemplation convinced everybody that I was not suited for it.
So I kept following the path I was on, and for the most part my existence is decidedly suburban and un-monastic.
And yet… the life I’ve ended up with is not so different in a few meaningful ways.
I spend my days alone, quietly engaged in my work – I even call my studio “The Scriptorium”, after the rooms where medieval monks labored to produce their beautiful manuscripts.
And when the normal chaos of my mind settles down a bit now and then, the atmosphere becomes entirely meditative, and I am sure monastics from any tradition would recognize the silence that prevails.
For me, painting is above all else a spiritual exercise – bringing beauty into the world with an eye towards enriching and uplifting others is sacred work indeed – work that improves me most of all.
The act of producing a painting is a series of endless small corrections – each one may be trivial, but added together they produce stronger and stronger paintings.
On a deeper level, I feel like all those little corrections on the canvas end up correcting me as well – making me a better painter on a technical level, but more importantly, making my eye and heart more open and sensitive to the beauties around me.
And there is a profound comfort and reassurance knowing that most days will be spent down in my studio, thoroughly engaged in this inner and outer work.
One of the monks once said to me: “If you want a happy life, make every single day exactly like the previous one”.
He was right, of course, and the more I follow that guidance, the happier I am.