May the Fourth Be With You

Kevin Necessary's poster for the Star Wars tribute show
Kevin Necessary’s poster for the Star Wars tribute show

Tomorrow evening, a bunch of us Cincinnati based artists and illustrators will be gathering to celebrate what has turned out to be a fantastic group show featuring all things Star Wars.

I have two small works in this show featuring two of my favorite characters from the original trilogy of my childhood, Master Yoda, and R2D2.  These two are part of my daily life and even serve as dashboard saints on my treks ’round town….

(note that Yoda wields a crystal wand AND a paint brush. Talented, he is)
(note that Yoda wields a crystal wand AND a paint brush. Talented, he is)

Per my obsession with all things embroidery in recent months, when the opportunity came to whip up a little something for this show, I dove into the thread basket to see who might be lurking in there.

Yoda process

Yoda came first.  He’s turned out quite nicely and is at the ready with a lovely complement.  Who couldn’t use a dose of Yoda by the mirror on the way out the door for the day, yes?

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At the last minute, I added some fluffy frizz of hair to this work which really makes it, but I didn’t get a proper photo so you’ll just have to come and see him in person!

Next, R2D2 decided to get in on the fun.  Though he opted for really miniature form.  He started with a drawing and a few stitches.

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He came together quite nicely.

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And eventually was placed into a wearable silver hoop, just his size.

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He’s in a frame for the art show itself, but he is ready for your silver chain, should you choose to make him your own.

Do stop by Wednesday if you are in the area.  All food and drink proceeds from the evening will benefit the Force for Change charity. This should be a fun time!

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Flights of fancy

Luna

I love moths.  Not so much the ones who like to eat up our woolens when we aren’t looking, but rather the more showy ones.

A number of years ago I embroidered the luna moth above.  She remains still one of my favorites.  Although the model for the above moth hailed from West Virginia, all sorts of varieties of marvelous moths can be found in this Ohio River Valley, including the Luna, as we are situated along the very edges of Appalachia where loads of wonderful creatures reside.

I am excited for summer’s warmth to come to us (though not our late-summer heatwaves!) and along with it, perhaps a few more interesting moths to observe in the local woods.  The One-Eyed Sphinx Moth, though not tremendously common, might be found on occasion in our Ohio woods.  Today, however, I found one in my thread basket….

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Well, really she came from my mind’s eye, with the help of a guide book and some source photos, with the eventual plan of being worn as a talisman.  Much like the recent mushrooms growing in the same said basket!

It’s still quite chilly out of doors, so it is no surprise I found her curled up amidst the chaos of my embroidery.

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And as I was home today awaiting some puppy meds for our Iris, I decided to follow this moth’s lead, and see where she might lead me. sphinx midway

Eventually she came together into a tiny, mothlike facsimile with which I am fairly pleased.

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The art of embroidery is a slow and steady conjuring, consisting of the magical ingredients of time, patience, a bit of thread, and perhaps, a dash or two of binge-able Netflix.

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As this work is so tiny, it will be installed into a wearable frame, looking much like a little embroidery hoop.  I shall post it on my instagram feed when it is ready.  Should this lovely moth strike your fancy, let me know.  I’d love her to go to a wonderful home…..

ps… here is the necklace this little sphinx found herself into.  I think it turned out nicely!

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A fungus among us

taodstool embroidery

A number of weeks ago, something grew out of my thread basket as a gift for my niece Riley who is as much a believer in all things magical as I.  For her birthday, I knew some tiny toadstools were in order.

Then, in recent days and much to my surprise, something else grew there as well…

morel embroidery

Delicious and mysterious Morel mushrooms, a spring time delicacy, growing right in my thread basket! Can you even imagine it?  Well, I can.  And I am thrilled with how they turned out.

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Quetzal

Quetzal 1 Just before my recent trip to Guatemala to celebrate our 25th (!!!) anniversary, I drew a little bird  on a bit of cloth, knowing there might be long airport waiting times ahead and that I would  need something with which to keep my hands occupied.

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The bird who came to alight in my thread basket is a quetzal, the symbolic representation of a country I left behind long ago as a child.  I wasn’t sure I’d have the opportunity to see one in the wild, and as it turns out, we were too far into the lowlands for all that.  But we did see the quetzal bird in all sorts of other intriguing forms such as money and even dangling from the rear view mirror of our taxi cab in Guatemala City.

While still in the comfort of my studio, I got the stitching started by tacking down a bit of background color (most of which would eventually be covered) and by making sure my thread basket had all of at least the basic colors I might need while on the road.

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I worked on quetzal bird a good bit along the way, while also taking the time to do quite a bit of sketching….

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Upon returning home, there was still much to finish on my quetzal bird.  And so, while catching up at the day job, realigning with all things homey, I stitched here and there to tidy it up.

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Quetzal 7

Many colors were used, bold and subtle alike.  I worked off of many source photos, not just one, so that my bird would be like no other, but rather, have a personality all its own, which I think it does.

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I don’t really know how many hours I put in on this project, as it was done in fits and starts, with bits and bobs of time and materials, here and there, to and fro…

And I am not even sure if this bird is ‘finished’ or slated to become a part of something else entirely one day (been a while since I’ve made an art quilt….).  But for now, here is Quetzal.  I am excited to share it with you here in all it’s feathered finery.  If any of you are signed up for the embroidery class at the end of April (which is full but we are planning others!), I shall bring Quetzal to show and share as honestly, photos do not do justice to delicate needlework.  And I for one, think this quite the gem.  (This comes from one not prone to self-congratulatory behavior, generally speaking).

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Below is a quick trip across the needled landscape of this embroidery project….

Edgeness. 3 funerals and a birth

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I have heard it said that in 7 years, a person’s whole body – every bit of it, down to the cellular (and perhaps beyond) level – is replaced in that time by a new set of cells, ready to take on the task of the day to day life of being human.  But what of the soul?

I’ve returned from some magical travels to a more equatorial part of the world with my beloved, and have landed amidst the mud and mire of early spring back home.  Normally a joyful season for most folk, what with the coming of green things and the promise of new fawns in the bulging bellies of the local mama deer, early spring has, in fact, proved challenging for us over the years.  This year marks the 7th anniversary of Esme’s death which was a sea change in the lives of both of my children, in our own lives as parents, and in the collective life of an entire close-knit community.  Not to mention, her dear family.   Everything is now measured against this tragic event.  And in March, we are called back to the season to take stock, re-visit ourselves and our losses and re-calibrate our lives to a certain extent.

And so we did.

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Es’s weeping cherry tree in Spring Grove Cemetery is thriving.  Under the now formidable presence of the tree, little offerings of love and memory are present….

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We were glad to see them.

Madeleine and I drove around the cemetery just to take in the beauty and the years of memorials present there.  It’s breathtaking, the number of stories held by this place.  Just the names and birthdates alone get you thinking, ‘ Why did this person die so young?’  Or maybe even, ‘wow, that guy sure lived a long and hearty life for the time!’.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to any of it.

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There really doesn’t.

It was strange that M. was home for Esme’s anniversary as it was only to mark the passing of another family friend, the loving mama of a dance friend of her’s.  Lucinda, a wonderfully witty, thoroughly engaging fellow dance mom I’d known over the years, passed away from cancer, leaving behind a kid just a year younger than my own, amongst many others she loved and whom cherished her.

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We are all heartbroken.

And so from memories of one to memorializing another, March seems to be funeral season.  We are all glad we have each other.

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Amidst all of this funeriality, I was called upon to play some music with friends at the wake of someone dear to them.  And so we did.

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It was fascinating to me to see the effect of the presence live music has in the environment of grief.  Music, especially live music, seems to punctuate the moments of celebration of a long life well lived, while simultaneously allowing for the pauses for tearful acknowledgement of great loss to a tune perhaps more in the minor key, or slowed down enough to capture the depth of that loss.  I was honored to play a small part in all of it.

And today, M and I attended Lucinda’s funeral.  And then made our way back up to Columbus to plant her back at school where she belongs.

Like I said, it’s been a heavy season.

But every edge has two sides.  Alongside the grief in recent days, was a fair amount of hope-full worry in our family, which has thankfully come to  a bright and beautiful homecoming.

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Our nephew, wee Frank came to us on Monday, just over a week ago.  He arrived early, amidst some worry as to The State Of Things regarding how he was faring.  Sure enough he had a bit of a struggle for a number of days as he caught his breath from his early oncoming.  Eventually, thanks to the tremendously brave parenting and caregiving he was fortunate to receive, Frank went home to get to know his siblings. Things, for perhaps just one wild moment, seemed completely right with the world…. (though in this shot, Big Brother Harry might not be so sure.  I’ve heard he’s come ’round in the mean time. )

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This is the crazy balance of it all.  Walking the knife’s edge of life’s beauty and heartbreak.  Making time for all of this Big Life Stuff, while trying to fit the work of Making a Living, or perhaps even Getting a Little Art Made, into the grooves of life’s floorboards.

Even though I didn’t feel quite up to it with these recent heavy days, I met up with some fellow sketchers to challenge the blustery breeze of Esme’s day with some drawing downtown.  Christina had invited a few of us to join her while WCET filmed her segment for a show on her work.  I can’t wait to see it, and of course share it with you, as her work is fabulous.  Sketching is a strong part of her work and we all enjoy sketching together.  In spite of the chill, we all managed a sketch of Music Hall, as well as some lively conversation…

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Why is it always a lesson?  That making the time and effort for some music and some art, are the things that make sense of a difficult season?  Perhaps because I am only human and by that I mean, I have still much to learn.  This is the development of the Soul.

It is March.  I have many hours to make up at the Shop and many, many more hours to make up to my own solitude and writing and sketching of new ideas.  In times like these when life comes at us reckless, I wonder, how do they do it?  The successful ones.  Those produced, published, and promoted.

Perhaps they just stomp the work into the floorboards of life, between the moments of birth and grief.  I have heard that music happens between the notes.  Perhaps I am onto something…

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More soon…

 

 

 

Those who light the way

It is no secret to those of you who keep up with my work that I am in the daunting process of getting my illustrative work out into the world in the form of one Ginger Small.  We continue to pursue this goal, with the path ahead being lit by those who are a number of steps ahead of us.  I say ‘us’ as Ginger has become a real entity to myself and to those people who have followed her story from the beginning.

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I want to share two of these will-o-the-wisp, Lighters of the Path To Publication with you here today.

First, artist, writer and maker-of-beautiful-books, Jackie Morris has announced that her book The Seal Child, difficult to find for many years now, will be back in print come this April, and I for one will be one of the first in line to acquire it.  Not only do I admire her work tremendously, but the Selkie legend is one very close to my own heart for a variety of reasons.  You can read about the journey this book has taken and see some images from the book in Jackie’s post here.  

Seal Children Cover

I simply can’t wait to get my own copy!

Another tome I am anxiously awaiting is a new book, not yet published, by the name of Tatterdemalion written by Sylvia Lindsteadt and graced with art work by Rima Staines.  Rima’s images were a doorway into Sylvia’s stories and from everything I have read online thus far, the stories were simply waiting for someone to find them.  They are older than time, these earth-told mythologies and they have tracked down those necessary to share their stories with the world as it is now.  But we all know there are other worlds alongside ours, if only we pay attention….

I am so grateful for the writers and artists out there who have found their audience and are walking the walk, so to speak.  It’s inspiring to those of us yet to find homes for the stories and ideas lurking in our hearts.  It is a reminder that this world is big enough for all stories to be told, should we just keep at it.  Best of luck to Rima and Sylvia as they get the last few readers they need to publish their book.  Do visit the Unbound publishing site to toss a few coins into the hat and await your own copy of this exciting glimpse into another world…..

 

Flux and Catch-up

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It’s a delightfully cozy morning here.  I am just landed from a wonderful weekend away to Oak Ridge, Tennessee for the 8th annual Tune Junkie Weekend where a few of my normally more summery connections gathered to play music and catch up and play more and more and more music.  We are indeed junkies of a sort, fairly obsessed and addicted to this delightful folk tradition.  The weekend is mostly a ‘session-centric’ event but there was a concert put on and a few of us flute players played a few sets with the help of a couple of fiddles and a piano.

Crawford's Flutilla and friends, photo courtesy of TJW organizer, Chad Beauchaine
Crawford’s Flutilla and friends, photo courtesy of TJW organizer, Chad Beauchaine

It was, overall, just a fantastic time and my musical cup is full.  I am grateful for this last weekend as it helped pass the time that I must wait for the next Big Trip coming down the pike.

Very soon, my long-time honey and I are off on an adventure to places of a more tropical sort and I almost can’t stand the wait!  But for now, I must catch up on work both here in the studio, and at the shop.    There are exciting things brewing!  I’ll share a little bit of it all here…

First up, a dear friend of mine is in the process of putting together an online marketplace which will feature some of the arts and creative wares from our general vicinity.  There is so much talent and creativity here in this rich Ohio Valley.  I am proud to be a part of it and thrilled to have a few of my cards and other small works soon available for sale through her efforts.  Business acumen is not a strong suit of mine and being a part of this marketplace is an opportunity I am really grateful for!!  I will certainly keep you posted when the shop is open for business which is slated to be in March.  More soon!!

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Meanwhile, the annual Taos Trip registration process is chugging along briskly.  I have a lovely group put together already, but there are a few slots left.  Do contact me if you are interested in learning a bit about my journaling process which includes drawing, watercolor painting, and collecting the beauty of the travel experience.  And, while I’m at it, the beauty of day to day life really.  All of this is enhanced by making note of what captures our fancy in a little book. This is a process I have found to be life altering.  And I don’t say that lightly.

While not running hither and thither with a sketchbook, my studio based work has been essentially two pronged.  On the drawing table, Ginger Small has a little dummy book put together that I have been shopping around.  This process of putting my book ideas out there is daunting, as one doesn’t get much response beyond the occasional ‘no, thank you’.  But I know that this is all part of the process.  I have so many ideas!!  Like spaghetti thrown at the wall, something eventually has to stick!!  Best of luck to sweet Ginger and her stories and pictures….

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Also from the drawing table, my artwork now covers the gorgeous new album by Nuala Kennedy.  We worked together to capture the magic and adventuresome, seafaring spirit of many of the songs and tunes she’s collected in her latest work.  It’s a delightful listen and I am proud to have helped put visuals to the stories she tells.

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The other prong of my art making process has been lately centered around the sewing basket.  Perhaps it’s the time of year.  Or the fact that embroidery is super hot right now, but that’s primarily what I have been working on.  Needled pictures which are time consuming but great fun to produce.

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I’ve been revisiting some older embroidered works of mine over on my Instagram page, as well as creating new works like the Quetzal in process (above) and a little otter friend too….

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With all this stitching going on, someone was bound to notice and so I am very proud to say that my large scale embroidery, Leviathan,  is now Whale-in-Residence at my favorite fibery haunt of late, Fiberge Knits and Bolts, located in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood of Cincinnati.  If you are local, do stop by and visit her!!  It was sad that she was trapped in my studio behind the door.  Now she swims the walls at this beautiful little shop.  There are some rumblings about a possible spring class I may offer at Fiberge about the art of pictorial embroidery.  I will post more on that here on the blog when we settle the details.

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And that, as my mom says, is all the news that’s fit to print.  I will certainly be sharing my upcoming adventures via stitches and sketches in the coming weeks.   For now I will ride the wave of flux and change and ebb and flow that this life seems to be offering me just now.  I am filled with gratitude for it all.

 

 

 

 

 

An Urban Sketch Adventure

bird of paradise

Hello there dear readers and a long time no post!  I have been relying on the very quick and simple avenues that are the worlds of instagramming and twittering about with the gentle, fair folk of the book of faces.  But it really is not enough.  And so I come back to this online space with a tale of a trip west.  To a magical land where miraculously, there are lemons and grapefruit and oranges hanging from the trees, and where fog fingers in from the nearby ocean almost daily, when it is not raining.  Where plants that only merely subsist on my winter windowsill in Ohio are in full and happy flowering on the side of the road.

I went to California.

A number of months ago, a good friend of mine who has attended the Taos workshop for a few years now,  suggested I should come to the San Jose area to maybe do some sketching with a few artist friends of hers.  And so we put a weekend together to see how it might work out.

The plan was to sketch in San Jose city proper one day, and attend and sketch at the Campbell city farmer’s market the next day.  Aside from some cool temperatures and a little rain, we pretty much did just that.

sketching on the train

We drew on the light rail on the way into town, where there were funky lines and shapes to doodle, and some funky people as well!

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There were a few experienced sketchers in our group, but a fair number were new to the practice, or rusty at the very least, and so working out our jitters was the first order of business.  While the internet is a wonderful tool for sharing and exploring all the wonderful artistic things in the world, it’s also an easy place to get discouraged when one goes online and enters ‘urban sketching’ in an image search.  The drawings are beautiful and daunting!  But there is no better thing to do than to simply begin.  After a couple of stops on the light rail, we got off at the larger train station to talk about perspective a bit.

I quickly demonstrated a sketch of an amtrak train which faded into the distance on my page.  Sometimes in a complicated environment such as a train station the key is to simplify what you want to draw and then figure out what direction your lines are going.  This can be a challenge even for those of us who draw a lot!!

train sketch

From there, our group walked on a bit further into downtown San Jose.  It’s a lovely city with some cool buildings, and even cooler people.  downtown san jose

In spite of some cold and drizzle, we settled into Ceasar Chavez Park to watch the skateboarding teenagers and do some gesture drawing.  I must say that these kids were one of my favorite parts of the day.  They didn’t mind us drawing them and offered to take a picture of our group on one sketcher’s phone.  Watching them skate was like watching dancers and I enjoyed trying to capture quick sketches of their movements in space.  To the parents of San Jose’s skateboarders, you’re raising some nice kids.  Well done!

san jose people studies

Soon our first day was done and we gathered back at Rosemary’s house to debrief a bit about how the day went, frustrations folks may have had and what we might change next time.  Overall, even the people in our group who were really nervous about the notion of sketching in public, had some really fantastic little drawings in their books.  Some were more painterly, while others more focused on the drawn line.  All were beautiful in their own way.  (I wish I had more pictures of everyone’s sketches!!)

(drawing by Sally Hickerson who is shaping up to be the next Dan Price in the sketching department)
(drawing by Sally Hickerson who is shaping up to be the next Dan Price in the sketching department)

As we headed into day two, the weather was a little more sketchy (for lack of a better word) but we went out anyway.sketching at the parket

The Campbell city farmer’s market is an amazing array of interesting vegetable and food vendors and even some art.  I hear that on pretty days it’s a veritable feast!  Alas, it was cold and a little drizzly again but our sketch group was undaunted!  We watched the people and the dogs and captured what we could.  Faces are difficult, but practicing drawing them is good for our sketching skills!

faces and places

Campbell has a sweet little water tower that is a bit of a land mark for the town and a number of us attempted to sketch it.  At first blush it seems simple, but I know I worked a bit thru some rough sketches first before getting the proper proportions of the tower.  Here is my most presentable doodle of this local icon:

campbell water tower

(ps. my given sir name is Campbell and I found myself flinching pavlovian style as to how often if came up visually in my travels around town!!)

Again we gathered back at Rosemary’s who so graciously hosted this sketch-a-palooza and we worked in our journals at the tables next to her sweet courtyard while warming up with a bit of tea.

Sally works

Suddenly, our group sketch weekend outing was complete.  I wish I had more time with each of these talented women, and more time to work with them to get the sketches they wanted onto their pages.  But alas, tempus fugit, yes?  We already have plans for the next sketch workshop there, and it’s my goal that it be a little less urban and more of the seaside variety, as much as I adore San Jose and surrounds.

I had now, one full day left in California to explore the possibilities of this idea.  And so, we did.

Of course on this day, the sun was out in full force, though the fog would come back later in the afternoon.  monterey aquarium

A long time ago, when I was a little girl, I worshipped an explorer called Jacques Cousteau (as so many of my generation did) and I dreamed of places like the Monterey Bay Aquarium and what work I could do there.  cousteau

Alas, the science of art making would be the path I would eventually take, but my little inner explorer still lives on in my heart and she was very happy to pay a visit to the aquarium.

What an amazing place this is.  It is, on the one hand, a zoo of sorts; with creatures great and small educating generations of average citizens on the intricacies of the sea.  But it is also an artistic place of great beauty and history.  The combined effects of the Pacific coast and the old Cannery Row make for a space that is simply a delight to wander.  I could have stayed all day.  Even just at the otter exhibit.

ottersea otter and friends

There was an otter making the rounds in the tank who worried a small bit of kelp on his chest as he came by the window.  It was difficult to pull myself away.  But there is so much to see.

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The ocean had kicked itself up into quite a lather in the days I was there and we were treated to some spectacular scenery just down the road at Point Lobos State Park (this is where I get a little bitter at what the notion of ‘state park’ means from place to place)

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The fog was rolling in and we sat amidst it, quietly, and drew and observed and painted and admired.

point lobos sketches

point lobos

There were seals to be admired on their private beach just below us, and we all know how I do love seals.

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But really, the three of us just sketched and were quiet.  My favorite way to commune with other people.  Except for maybe music.

This was a wondrous trip.  I was overwhelmed by it at every turn, and perhaps didn’t take enough photographs to make a proper blog post.  But that also means that I was fully engaged in it.  Drawing when I could, soaking it up, even swiping a few tears away at the aquarium.  Travel, if you can do it, is crucial to growth as a human bean.  Sketching during that travel, will widen the beauty of your experience.  I highly recommend.

Stay warm my friends.

 

Learn to keep a travel journal

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Join us, won’t you?  Taos, New Mexico and the surrounding countryside offer an abundant array of beautiful things, hither, thither and yon, to inspire sketches and paintings in your travel journal.  We will work together with some simple drawing supplies, a little watercolor set, and a sketchbook to bring out the drawings you have always wished you could capture while traveling.  This workshop is a shot in the arm for practiced artists, and a great leaping off space for those new to sketching and drawing.  Capture your travel experiences by learning to create an illuminated travel journal.

For more information, send me an email or visit the Taos trip page.

Connecting through sketching

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It’s a funny thing to go out into the world with a sketchbook, some pens and pencils and a little paint set.  My friends from the Cincinnati Illustrators group and I routinely set out around town to practice our on-site rendering skills and one of our favorite colder-weather places to sketch is the Krohn Conservatory.  Today was, indeed, a cooler day to be sketching and so we visited the conservatory where their annual holiday display is on.  There are lovely little  woodsy buildings made of natural materials, depicting many local landmarks and iconic places.  And of course loads of gorgeous plants and flowers.

I sat for a good bit watching this little incline go up and down the hill to ‘Mt. Adams’ while I drew the scene.

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After drawing for a while, I took out my paint set to add some color to my sketch.  Soon, I realized that I had a mesmerized young admirer of my work.

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and so I drew her.

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She was delighted with the results and when her Gran asked her, ‘what’s she painting there, Peyton?’, my new friend answered, ‘that’s Peyton!’

Peyton’s Gran sent me the snapshots she took of our sweet exchange and I share them here with her permission.  It was so wonderful to interact with guests of the Krohn, many of whom were fascinated by watching us draw.

Years and years ago, when I was a more shy sketcher, this notion filled me with dread.  I am often asked by students, ‘what if someone wants to see what I am drawing?’  (!!!)  And my answer is, ‘Let them!!’

We should all share our creative endeavors now and then, even when they might be new to us or feel clumsy.  I’ve been sketching for years now.  And each time I go out, I marvel at how curious and engaging folks are when I bring my sketchbook out.  I no longer mind folks looking over my shoulder as I draw, since now I teach the process.  I truly enjoy meeting the wonderful people who take a moment to say hello and ask what I am up to.  An active sketchbook is a lovely way to experience the world.

 

part rabbit warren, part spin on art & life & etc. art, illustrations & workshops by amy bogard