Temenos, meaning sacred space, comes from the Greek, and refers back to place that is a sanctuary in the natural world. When I teach for just two days at our local art store, the natural world is far away. How can I create a venerated space in a classroom at the back of an art store?
Of course the first ingredient is having students who are willing– who have some quality of fierceness about making time when there seems to be none, and against all reason, choosing to be unavailable to the demands of the world. The group this weekend jumped in– in spite of my beginning:
All the techniques and tools in the world will not help to create your best work. The most important thing I can teach you is how to see, how to make one line. One line with a beginning, a middle and an end.
I said this knowing it is not likely that a bunch of people are out there waiting to sign up for a class where we work in silence, making lines! But I was so moved by what this kind of attention to a line led to in each student's awareness, and in their work. The subject was "sky: the heavens, stars, moon, celestial bodies". We began with the idea that the simplest way to indicate sky is with one line going across the page.
Just one line becomes the horizon:
We all worked with the same palette, using some of the mineral watercolors from Daniel Smith: Rhodonite Genuine, Sodalite Genuine, Amazonite Genuine, and then Quinacridone Gold Deep for the yellow. The next step toward sky is making several lines with a bigger brush, lines that have some curve to them, to create sky. Joanne dropped her brush, and it made the bird you see below:
(When you're in the zone, every move is the right move):
Most of the students have not had much experience as calligraphers, so I chose a simple form of monoline capitals for them to work with for the text.
How do you create horizon with text?
We made small books to documenting the process with line, palette, sky. Below are some photos of Jessica Singleton's work:*
I realize that one can easily dismiss the difference between a line that is followed from beginning to end, and one that is not. Or spurn the distinction between walking in and out of your studio as you would in any other room– and taking the time to pause, to begin with a clear glass of water, a bell or a candle. And end the same way. The difference is palpable. Creating temenos opens us to navigating the world from an inner compass.
What do you do to create a sacred space?
*For more information on classes in art and yoga with Jessica: http://www.trilliquin.com