Thursday, June 8, 2017

Northwest Originals: The Blessing of Sketching

This is the first in a new monthly series featuring Northwest Originals: Unique Pacific Northwesterners who I think add a special spice to life here.

Roy DeLeon stands rooted in place, still except for the quick and graceful strokes he makes on a sketch pad, which sits on a hands-free holder strapped around his waist. Within 30 minutes he's completed a lovely ink and watercolor sketch of the lush scene before us: a small waterfall pouring into a pond, surrounded by an exuberant collection of ferns, trees, grasses, and other plants I can't name.

While Roy works in ink and watercolor, I decide to join in and draw too. My pencil on paper drawing isn't quite, shall we say, as lyrical and practiced as Roy's. But that doesn't matter.

"What's most important is that sketching is seeing and meditation," says Roy. "The point is to facilitate my seeing and listening to the sacred that surrounds us all the time. Being present. That's what I call prayer one on one." 

As a Benedictine oblate (lay monk), Roy says it's his mission to seek peace and pursue it. He hasn't always been that way.

Roy DeLeon

When I first met Roy in the 1990s, he was a creative, innovative graphic designer for a big multinational engineering firm. We worked together for several years before I moved on, but I remember his quiet intensity.
Inside he was a pretty stressed out guy.

In the early 1970s Roy met his future wife Annie in college then immigrated from the Philippines to the U.S, where he and Annie  were married and started a family (two daughters). Seattle drew them north from California in 1985. Over the years he worked hard to provide for his family, and ultimately the work stress fed into a scary mini-stroke 20 years ago.

To regain his health and lessen the risk for future problems, Roy took up yoga and meditation for stress management. He taught yoga for many years and wrote a book about praying with the body that integrated his yoga practice.

"Done regularly, yoga and meditation transforms you," Roy tells me. It definitely transformed him and led him to the Order of St. Benedict. Today he radiates peace and serenity. It's calming to be in his presence.

Roy sketching at Bellevue Botanical Garden
While Roy doesn't consider himself particularly religious, he says he follows the essence of Christ's teaching: Love.

"I'm on the Catholic bus, but we're all going to the same place. My view of God is cosmic." He reads the Dalai Lama, for example, who said: Don't change your religion, just dig deeper into yours.

Which brings us to Roy's sketching.

Now that he's retired, Roy sketches two hours every day. A year ago he joined a local group of Urban Sketchers, founded by Seattle Times sketcher Gabriel Campanario, and meets up with them occasionally too.

I've been charmed by his daily sketch posts on FaceBook of everyday life with a short blessing. He mixes prayer with humor, poetry, and wise anecdotes. Take this one from the day we sketched together last weekend:

Let there be peace
in London.

Let there be peace
on Earth.

Let there be peace
in the universe.

Let there be peace
in everyone's heart and soul.

(Japanese Tea House, Bellevue Botanical Garden)

"How do I make art Benedictine? By seeking peace and the divine in the everyday and applying it to my daily life," Roy explains. "That's why I sketch and post on FaceBook with a short blessing. I'm being a little sneaky with my art. I'm spreading the good news."

On daily trips to Starbucks with his wife, he used to sketch people there and post with a little story or blessing. Many suggested he approach Starbucks about a book by the "Starbucks Sketcher." But he didn't like the idea of adding money into the mix.

"That would have changed the taste. I want to keep a purity of intention."
At the Bellevue Botanical Garden, by Roy Deleon
I have to interject here that while Roy is all about seeking the divine, compassion, and humanity, he's also a playful and humorous guy.

"A weakness of mine is buying and accumulating art supplies." He loves opening sets of fresh paints and new brushes. "It's my dark side," he jokes. When I pull out my sketch pad, he immediately knows it's an old brand no longer sold.

More Bellevue Botanical Garden by Roy
"For me," Roy says, "sketching is visio divina - seeing the divine. Have a contemplative stance. Be open and ready for the surprise of the divine. What comes of that is being open to what is plunked in front of us, moment by moment."

We've been talking over tea for almost an hour, and after Roy says this, he pauses and then says softly, almost to himself:

"It's such a quiet way of living. Go past the noise and see the blessing."

And from the man himself:

 Roy is currently sketching/recording scenes from the quirky Country Village shops in Bothell, Washington, where he lives. This charming and popular local destination could be sold to a townhouse developer and torn down in the next year.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.  


Suezy Proctor said...

OH MY GOSH...I LOVE THIS JILL! I love it from the very begining, through the narative and photos and ending video, and just EVERYTHING!

I can't wait for the next installment!!


jill said...

Oh thanks so much for your comment Suezy. Your feedback means a lot!

Anonymous said...

Hey, it's Roy. Jill, we both remember the stress load at the multinational corporation. But fun times with a great crew and Roy was a big part of the dynamic bin. Hard at times but also fun times, thanks for tracking Roy down, mary lou