‘Artvangogh’

It is travel season.  I am recently returned from California and while away, my studio window robins hatched and grew.

Mere seconds after this photo was snapped, this last one fledged.  It’s a bit like life itself.  How fast they grow.  Though our fledglings double back on occasion and for this we are grateful.

California was rewarding in her splendor as always, but had a few weather related tricks up her sleeve which complicated things for my workshop days.  That said, I packed in a lot in just a short time, both as a traveling artist and as a teacher.

There were many highlights….

After a class with nature journaling artist Kristin Meuser, (if you are ever in California, take a class from her! She’s lovely!) Rosemary and I headed to Berkeley where we met glass artist Alexis Berger, visited a lovely new shop called Etui, and gazed at magnificent fabrics at a place called Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics.

We had an appointment to meet watercolor maker Amanda Hinton of Limn Watercolors where we got to see how her fabulous paints are made from scratch.  It’s a fascinating brand of magic she does and we were smitten with all the colors.  And with Amanda herself.

Amanda Hinton of Limn Colors shows us around the room where it happens.
All the juicy colors

Limn colors do the usual fun stuff watercolors are known for, like mixing beautifully and replicating stained glass with their translucency, but some of her colors can separate and bloom in evocative ways that we have found enchanting.  I have a whole row of her colors in my paint set now which afford me abilities I’ve not had in the past.

Pigments awaiting
Half pans, drying
Samples and the muller

It was great fun to try and buy a few new colors to add to our collection and I am so thankful to Amanda for her time and warm welcome.

Also in Berkeley was a wonderful creative re-use arts supply store and the amazing Burma Superstar restaurant.  We even managed to stop into California Typewriter, of documentary fame…..

 

We were warmly welcomed by Ken and Herb and enjoyed looking at the machines currently in store there.

All in all it was a perfect, busy, sunny California day.

The sunny bit was not to continue.  Alas, the weekend forecast was wet. wet. wet.  So we worked indoors with exercises students will be able to take out of doors on their own at a later time.  Not ideal, but neither is sketching and teaching in the rain.  We were at least cosy.

There is plenty to draw in the home of an interesting, artistic friend.  Here’s a small demo drawing of a wee humbled Buddha I did for the workshop.

The following days were to see us dodging rain drops to capture the wild water on the coastline.

The sun did come out for a few minutes so we sat down to sketch on this beautiful spot in Asilomar, only to be foiled by big raindrops. We ran for the car, rain splattering our drawings. It’s a risk we take yes?
I do love a tide pool.

Again, not ideal, but we managed.  Day two of workshops was moved by one day for those available to make it, and we did manage a few hours of sunlight between rainstorms on our day of working together.  We also managed a few more sketches.

Art L-R by Amy Bogard, Sandi Kane, Rosemary Berwald
The trusty art vans! Always on the gogh. 😉

Painting at the sea side is by far one of my favorite things.  I am often torn between the desire to simply sit and stare at the shifting light and color of the ocean and to capture it in my sketch book.  This feeling is magnified by the limited time I always have by the sea.

I find myself wondering why I do not live nearer to big water.

Somewhere where I might take my blue art van and wander down the lane to the sea shore for a few hours to sketch and stare….. maybe daily.

Suffice it to say, time in Santa Cruz is never enough time.  In the same way that time at Ballybunion Beach is never enough.  Or time on Monhegan is never enough.  Alas.  Time marches on…..

Next up is an ocean of a different kind.  An ocean of sage.  In just two weeks’ time I’ll be back in New Mexico for my flagship travel journaling course at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House once again.  Every year is a gift and I am thrilled to be heading back.

The weather seems like it might be more cooperative in Taos than in California, even leaning more cool than in recent years.  We shall see.  But at the very least, sunshine, New Mexico style.

My studio is less a place of making just now and more a place of packing and preparations.

The art van, of course, at the ready.  A new sweater for the (hopefully) cool Taos nights, and maybe a friend or two along for company.

Swag is being readied.

I consider what art supplies to bring for my own making, while making sure that I have all the extras for the workshop participants as well.

It can make one’s head spin to be sure.  But the paint set is clean (after being dusted quite heavily by volcanic ash in Guatemala and a grain or two of sand in Santa Cruz) and refilled (note the lovely middle line of mostly Limn colors!!)

I have a few new pencils to try, including a light blue one suggested by Kristin Meuser during her workshop and a couple of Blackwing pencils all the rage with my illustrator friends.

All of it tucks away into the little van, along with a book or two to draw and paint in.  It’s all quite compact actually.

This year I have made the decision to simplify my packing process for the Taos trip.  I am only bringing a few of my current books, not a box full of past years’ books like I do normally.  And instead of bringing yet another box full of published books for people to peruse, I will bring a list of said books to share with my students so they can explore when they get home via bookstore and library.  We will instead focus on the work at hand.  It’s a strange shift, but I feel good about it.

It’s easy to look at the wonderful empty classroom at Mabel’s and feel like we need to fill it with things other than ourselves and our small packs of art supplies.  This is especially the case for me as facilitator.  But this is not true.  That room fills with laughter and conversation and the joy of working into the wee hours on sketches begun earlier in the day.  WE fill the room.  WE are enough, with just our supplies on hand.

I am so excited to get back to Taos where this whole traveling-art thing began for me so many years ago.  Every year is different, and yet there is the lovely familiarity to lean into as well.  I am open to what I have to learn there year after year and am grateful for the opportunity to go back once again.

 

 

Here ye, Here ye!

I have some work going up in the coming weeks and I may even attend an opening or two as these are very special shows…… Do stop by if you are local to Cincinnati!

Opening of  Mind Gardens is May 3, 5-9 pm.

Poster Art by Ursula Roma

And of course, this show, the opening party of which is a spectacle in and of itself to be sure…..

Poster Art by Jonathan Queen

Hope to see you all there!

 

Tecolote Blooming

TECOLOTE

“A nomadic bird, Snowy Owl relocates when the weather changes.  In January 2012 rising numbers of Snowy Owls started migrating  in mass numbers from the Arctic to many parts of the United States.  One leading researcher described the migration as ‘unbelievable’.  Another researcher called this the most significant  wildlife event in decades.

Owls have been seen in indigenous cultures to be predicative of weather changes, and Snowy Owl is now showing us that as the Earth evolves we, too, must move and flow with the changes.

Snowy Owl blended in with the snow of the Arctic but stands out in contrast in more southerly environments.  One message we can interpret from this is that as the Earth changes we need to come out of hiding and be seen.  If you found comfort in blending in with your surroundings, the goddess energies, the feminine, might now be asking you to stand out and make your strengths known.  It is time to share what is bubbling up from deep within you, to show up and be seen and heard.”

~Sandra Ingerman and Lyn Roberts – Speaking With Nature

The flowering trees are a force in our little patch of land. I love how the petals float down the little creek out back

Spring has sprung here in Ohio.  I arrived back only a few days ago, and today must get back into the world properly, spending a few hours at the shop and pursuing a shadow-box style frame for an plants-themed art project due quite soon.

(pssst.  Here’s the start of that project, begun in Antigua…..)

I’ll admit, I miss Antigua and it’s garish semi-tropical plant life.  And I miss my garish semi-tropical self as well.  In spite of the language barrier and the “foreignness” of food and drink, air and sounds, I felt so well adjusted down there.  Even with being “in charge” of things, hosting two separate groups of artists.  It was a lot to be sure, but I slept well and my anxiety was low.  I felt unfurled and properly relaxed, even in the midst of Semana Santa chaos and the weight of responsibility in my work.

Looking back and attempting to find a pattern, I realized that part of this was the time I spent in my garden before leaving for Guatemala. It was time spent tidying up a bit here and there and crafting gentle boundaries for the deer to allow some growth to happen in the plant-life and trees.  There truly is nothing so grounding as digging in the dirt.  So far, these boundaries are holding and things are bursting forth in splendor indeed.

Virginia Blue Bell – miraculously, the deer don’t seem to touch these guys
Weeping cherry on the hillside by the creek
White bud tree near front creek
Crab apple tree in front yard area
Raspberry!

Another important piece of the puzzle I have come to realize is that I didn’t spend very much time checking in on the social media outlets while down there.  I had too much to attend to really.  I’d post a bit on IG which posts automatically to FB and then occasionally I’d drop a sketch or so onto twitter with a hashtag or two.  I know that in this day and age, it’s part of my job and part of how I sell the work that I do so that I can do more of it.

Blueberry!
Elderberry!

This is all well and good of course, as we do live in a modern world.  But some of us, those who live close to the bone when it comes to mental health, must walk a careful balance when it comes to such temptations.  It can be all too easy to get hooked on who likes what has been posted, who might perchance redistribute it in someway or comment on one thing or another.  It can be all too easy to spend inordinate amounts of time looking at the work of others, while one’s own ideas wither and die beneath the surface of it all.

Social media makers have crafted a system that keeps us glued to our screens more than we should be and upon arriving back home, I melted back into those old habits.  I’d be lying if I said I don’t enjoy reading and reacting to comments on my own work, as well as the engagement with the work and words of other artists and writers.  But I realize something has to shift…..

We planted a lovely large willow tree just before I left and it’s thriving.
Wildflowers await transplantation once danger of frost has abated
The hub keeps the mower blade high enough to protect the “weeds” which we actually love. We stick to village tidiness standards, while allowing bee-friendly plants to grow in our “lawn”
Morning glories, getting a head start. I like to grow these lovelies just outside the front door as a way to soften the brick exterior.
Paw Paw…. wonder if she’ll fruit this year?

The nice thing is, I pay attention to these trends in myself and could feel the anxiety creeping back into my bones.  Though I had a good balance with the social media work while I was away, upon returning home to familiar territory I could feel the internal quandary of “not-good-enough” and comparison with everything else on the internet – that sense that I am never, ever doing quite enough to keep up with the rest of the world.  Even as I enjoyed catching up with it all on some level.  All of this is a bit ridiculous, I know, but there it is.

How is it that while in Antigua I could practically feel a proper book pitch bubbling together just under the surface while upon returning home find myself back in the sludge- swamp of insecurities that so marks my day to day?  How can ideas be so clear and firm on one day in one place, only to scatter to the wind when “real life” gets back into gear.

“It is time to share what is bubbling up from deep within you, to show up and be seen and heard.”

A dear friend of mine, who shares my deep love of metaphor and signs, shared the owl quote from above with me yesterday as I was writing up the post about this latest journey.  How was she to know that tecolote (just one of the many Spanish words for “owl”) had featured prominently in our time in Guatemala?  So prominently in fact that I picked up a mask of owl to bring a lovely burst of color to our front entryway….

Not so very long ago, in autumn, I made a painting with owl which was shown in winter at the local art center.  My friend and I decided that perhaps this was just the beginning of my journey to “showing up and being seen and heard” properly, which is at once scary and exciting.  That even then, tecolote was talking to me.

The ever magical Hawthorn tree which is a gateway to the fairy world if there ever was one. With the planting of this tree in the footprint of our old ash tree, I invited the magic back into our land. It seems to be working.
My plant ally, Apple. This year she blooms, which makes me really happy.
Protecting these little blooms from the deer has been a top priority for me in recent years.

I long to burst forth with so many ideas that I’ve literally had for decades but I find I always have time for every-thing and every-one else, while setting aside my own work in the process.  It’s classic avoidance behavior and I am guilty as charged.  And so, with this in mind, I logged off of two of the largest time-sucks in the social media realm – facebook and twitter.  For now I shall leave instagram on so that I can post pictures there and announce when I share a blogpost.  But I am carefully monitoring even that.  My intention is to write a bit more here on the blog.  Sketch more.  Allow the disparate ideas to trust me to bring them to light in their own way, in their own splendor.

Gardens must be tended.  With each journey to far away lands, I learn more about how better to tend to my very own garden, both literally and metaphorically.  I’d love it if you drop me a line here now and then, and let me know what you think as I sink my roots into deeper soil.  I’ll admit I do still enjoy a nod from outside myself now and again.

I do not know how to make a “real” book pitch.  I have 11 years of writing on this blog and I am told it is of value and worthwhile.  And so perhaps I shall spend some time reading my own writing and sampling that to send off to agents and publishers.  So far, I have only really been sending off illustrations here and there.  If I were to state it clearly, I’d love to see a little published book with my thoughts and sketches of my reacquaintance with the country of Guatemala.  A little book that might inspire others to dig into the wildness of their own past and see it bloom through new eyes.  I do not know.  I only know, I must do a better job of trusting in my own vision, instead of always permitting myself to view the world through the vision of others. *

*don’t worry, I will still keep track of things which make my heart sing and I will always share them here.  The world is too filled with beauty to spend all one’s time narcissistically navel-gazing.  🙂

The other day on NPR I heard that *strangely*, the world’s collective attention span is getting shorter (I know, *gasp!*)  I know this to be true for myself and it’s another reason for paring down my social media usage.  Here’s to trusting one’s own vision and forging forth on longer term, deeper projects – and bringing them to fruition.   I’d love to know if you are doing something similar in your own relationship to social media, and how you find and keep that balance.

More soon…..

Awakening, gradually

A word from Mabel…..

“One could really learn only by being, by awakening gradually to more and more consciousness, and consciousness is born and bred and developed in the whole body and not only the mind, where ideas about life isolate themselves and leave the heart and soul to lapse inert and fade away.  Yet never to cease watching was imperative also; to be aware, to notice and observe, and to realize the form and color of all, the action and result of action, letting the substance create the picture out of abstract consciousness, being always oneself the actor and at the same time the observer, without whom no picture can exist.”

~Mabel Dodge Luhan

And from Mary:

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
~Mary Oliver

Upon flying away from Guatemala City, Volcán del Fuego poofed a breathy goodbye there in the distance. I’ll admit it had me a bit misty eyed.

Just a couple of days ago, I weathered a 20 hour (door to door) day of travel from Antigua, Guatemala back home here to Ohio to begin re-entry into my “real” life and to prepare for summer workshop season.  This latest trip to Antigua has gotten it all started in fine fashion.  Two weeks of facilitation and friendship; a welcoming of the Lenten season – even for the least religious among us;  and a passport to spring.

Now home, I weather the chain saws and leaf blowers which mark the fair weather season in these parts and I wonder what could be made different in this world.  I let these ponderings simmer on the back burner of my mind as I revisit what was, yet again, a life changing visit to a magical other-world.

Last I left you here I had arrived at the Posada a little heart-weary after a visit to my childhood home in Guatemala City.  I am still sifting through that heavy luggage, but not without curiosity and joy that I have as much information and inclination as I do with regard to it all.   It was, after all, a lifetime ago.  What does it even matter?  The words “make a book” keep coming around, though I have no idea how to go about it.  So many great memoirs exist in the world.  How does one even begin to make a semblance of a memoir with so few memories?  But I continue to investigate.  Perhaps living memories through the lens of a vivid imagination is enough.  Guatemala is worth exploring, I do believe.

But first, THE WORK.

I crafted this sketch-journal trip to be one framed in intimacy and quietude. No big groups here.  The goal being to come to a beautiful place, make some art, work at making it the best we can make it here and now – nothing more than that really.  Beyond that goal, the rest was travel gravy.  Each week there were 6 of us, (next year I’ll allow no more than 8 total – 6 participants at most) to allow for ease of movement about town as a group, ease of meal taking and decision making, to encourage a sense of deep work and seriousness of purpose.  This approach worked beautifully and set such a lovely tone all around for both weeks.  I marveled.

Volcano Medicine

my people

were fed by volcanoes

that fire milk

piercing the surface

like spirit

unrelenting

pierces our facade

to get in

and feed our souls

~Lisa Fazio


By morning we would admire the volcanoes, if they were up for viewing, and then we’d wander through town to breakfast….

One could spend the entire week with this series of arches on route to breakfast alone and not get bored with sketching.

The rooftop at Bella Vista Coffee Company is one of the best places to begin the day, and it has some of the best coffee the world has to offer.

We are greeted as friends, always.

The staff at Bella Vista was so excited to see what were up to in our books

Each day would see us tackling a new-to-us ruin in this gorgeous city, sketching and taking it all in along the way.

Sketch from San Francisco church ruins, Rosemary Berwald
Sketch from Conventa De Las Capuchinas, Joan Youngberg
Sketch of San Francisco church ruins, Connie Ware
sketch of San Jeronimo School ruins, Astrid Otey-Mast

 

sketch of San Jeronimo School ruins, Amy Bogard

By afternoon we would work back at Posada San Sebastián, tidying up sketches we’d begun in the morning…

A “throwdown” of sketches from week one. So much great work!!
Cindy touches up her sketch from the Capuchinas ruins
Sketching in the breezeway

and perhaps capturing a bit of our home-away-from-home at the Posada as it’s filled with all sorts of sketchable fare……

 

Cow and Donkey in a Candy Dish by Rosemary Berwald
Using blind and semi-blind contour drawing techniques to capture the wonky child’s chairs at the Posada.
I think laundry drying on a line is a beautiful theme. Ever changing yet always the same. It speaks of home.

I hope to make some proper paintings of the shifting light in the laundry area.

Sketch of Volcán de Agua by rosemary
so many blue kettles. so little time!!!

There was so much to see and take in and draw from and speak to and listen to and experience.  Each day was filled to the brim with a special kind of magic only found in this amazing Unesco World Heritage city of Antigua, Guatemala.

Vanessa utilized her excellent Spanish skills to get to know this fella who’s vessel on back there is for carrying water.
Richard spent a fine morning here in this shaded doorway tackling a difficult scene at Capuchinas.
Later he came home to sketch a “Cucurucho”, one of the Lenten flavored purple-costumed guys who populate the town and the Procesións this time of year.  Richard had purchased a little candle  representation of a Cucurucho which made us all laugh a bit, and so he drew it in his book!
Shade is hot territory on a sunny day.
Kudos to Connie who kept her focus in spite of many young onlookers as she drew the San Francisco ruins. We all remarked later that day on how polite and genuinely enthusiastic these kids were about what we were up to.
sketching at the Tanque. (Connie and Astrid)

A Sacred Season.

This year’s workshop abutted a very Holy Season indeed.  That of Lent.  In fact, at the end of the trip, Rosemary and I stole away in the wee hours of the morning of Palm Sunday.  Otherwise there might have been no escape.  For Lent is a busy time in Antigua.

Some days the incense was near stifling.  Reminiscent of growing up old-school Catholic, it was at once, unsettling and nostalgic.

Carrying Mary. It’s heavy work to bear the feminine through a distinctly male-dominated culture. But Mary prevails. As does the strength of the women of Guatemala.

A guardian of the Procesión.

The locals weren’t the only ones feeling a sense of the season. …

“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.”
~Mary Oliver

Irish Music is my sanity and it was my great fortune to have Doug and Astrid along for a tune now and again.

“I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.”     ~Mary Oliver

Next year we hope not to be quite so close to Easter. (Stay tuned.  I am announcing the dates for 2020 to those who’ve been on the trip up to now and who’ve expressed interest even before that….. I’ll open it further soon to others but I expect it all to fill quite quickly if this year was any indication.)

Though I’ll admit it is thrilling to be near this level of faith.

This is Joseph Barry. Named so because as a Santo, he is Saint Joseph, but because he is from the Posada, he reminds me of the Bee Gees. He came home with me as a gift from our loved ones at San Sebastián and as a reminder to keep to the work at hand. And to have faith.

And so, here we are now, at the height of spring in Ohio, making lists and travel plans for my California Trip in May (contact me for details if you are interested) and the Taos based workshop in June (now full!), which is my flagship class and holds a truly special place in my heart.

This time of year always has me feeling a bit tossed about in the world.  I am not a speedboat in this modern world, but more of an old fashioned ocean liner of sorts.  It takes me some time to shift gears and change course of direction.  But I manage to get there in the end.

If you are curious to see more of my own work from our time in Antigua, head over to my Instagram.  There is plenty there.  I aim to keep working from source photos as well.  Sketching my way through misty memories of a tumultuous time and of course from more recent times as well, a tad less tumultous.

Seems the best way.

Vantigua!! At the ruins of San Francisco
Vantigua!! the art vans were dragged up to San Cristobal to get a view of Antigua from above. it was a delicious adventure!
The presence of Agua
Cupolas!
Color and Line. What more could an artist ask for???
The dangling flowers at Canela Bakery.
Fruit vendor. Sights. Smells.
evenings are gentle at the posada
Candles. always.
cupolas for the queue.
Dinner at Angie Angie. Sundays are two for one pizza night. Just fyi
“No bread please. Just cheese. Or meat.  Sauce is ok. If it’s on cheese or meat”     Sweetness, the street dog.
Back home with a handful of cut flowers for a garden themed show coming in May. Need to make more. and get a frame….. (One mustn’t bring true flowers into the country, but surely hand painted paper ones are ok, yes?)
Always important to have a map to find your way home……

PS.  There is a gorgeous telling of week one over on the blog-space of artist, printmaker, photographer and no-longer-practicing bear biologist (she has amazing stories fit for a proper campfire) of Vanessa Sorensen of Nessy Designs.  I adore her work, words and over all being really.  Thank you Vanessa for this lovely post:  http://nessydesigns.blogspot.com/2019/04/guatemala-sketchbook-workshop-2019.html

Do go visit her website and blog.  It’s a treasure to behold.

 

 

Arrival

(headphones in. Listen for the tone of the post below…….)

I arrived late in the day yesterday to my home away from home here at Posada San Sebastian in Antigua Guatemala.  Perhaps they say ‘welcome home’ to all their beloved guests, but it feels so great to hear it any how.  I awaken to hazy sunlight in the courtyard after 11 solid hours of unbroken sleep.  I am the first to arrive of our group.

My bedside window view is peaceful and familiar.  I bundle up in a shawl and socks to wander down the hall to boil water for coffee.  Coffee before coffee.

Arrival to Antigua is generally none too difficult.  Though traffic can be an issue at times getting from Guatemala City where the airport is to be found.  Yesterday I opted to complicate matters just a bit to endeavor a side trip on route to Antigua .

When I was a kid (ages 5 – 7 or so) we lived here in Guatemala, in the city.  My dad was a machete weilding geophysicist who enjoyed field work more than academia and so we came here for his work. There are many firm and pleasant memories from our time here.  And there are many gaps in that memory bank as well, for trauma did leave its mark in the end.

An earthquake and the seismic dismantling of our family shortly thereafter meant this place carries some scars in my little-girl psyche. I’ve been unpacking that heavy suitcase bit by gentle bit upon coming back for the first time with my hub for our anniversary  few years back.

Memory and the reptilian bits of our brain are a fascinating soup of interpreted facts.  Mixed in alongside the sanity-saving memory gaps,  desire to take flight, flee and save oneself at all times, trauma can cement things into a body and make a life we run from for the rest of our lives . For me, I am interested in going back in, from a place of safety, the present moment, and revisiting.

My side trip on route from the airport was to my childhood home where we found ourselves in 1976.  My patient shuttle driver put the sat nav on and we wound our way through the diesel and the oppressive midday heat and traffic to find my old home.

I had an old letter from my mom to her parents which has the whole harrowing tale from her perspective and the address as well and so off we go. With the traffic being what it is and this being an unusual shuttle driver request, I only manage to stay litle while. Snapping photos for my mom, noticing differences and familiarities in succession. Had I noticed anyone around I might have scraped up the courage to ask if I might come in and take a peek. Alas maybe next time. My Spanish improves with every visit here and I managed to share with my driver a bit of why it was important for me to visit this place.

There are many changes of course. Our neighborhood is now a guarded, gated community.  There are big black garage doors on what used to be an open and breezy car port. My host here said that with the violence suffered awhile back, many places circled their wagons in a sense to keep themselves defended. Guatemala has a complicated history, one I hope is shifting into a new era of eco-tourism, prosperity and fair pay for artisans living and working here. That is a tale for another day.  But suffice it to say, change is inevitable and truly the only constant.

Above is a sketch I made of my old house. With it’s unfamiliar doors and additions up top. Overlooking the gorge across the street, the trees are taller but the view is strangely familiar.  I remember the days just after the quake as the earth settled back into place with aftershocks and constant tremoring.

I’m ever so grateful to get a glimpse of this old place and hope to go back again.  I love my new relationship with Guatemala which involves textiles and painting and new memories being made with friends and loved ones in this magical mystical place.

As time passes and I dig deeper into the past while continuing to focus on the present, I’ll share more of what I dig up. Perhaps there is a book in all of this . I do not know. I just know, that right now, on this first morning in Antigua, I’m deeply grateful.  For my past which has made me who I am and for my present which helps me forge that self in the best way possible .

A note and apologies for the photos in this post. My devices aren’t talking to one another. So I had to use the crappy camera on this tablet to add the visuals. Its time for a new laptop for my travels so I can blog more easily from the road. If you dip over into instagram, find me at @abeefrnd and I’ll share a few old photos there which will add to the story .

As @doodleyboo on IG posted this morning…

” You might not work well everyday.  But you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”

—Jodi Picoult

and so, in the spirit of the quote above, I offer you this imperfect blog post, for now .

 

Mapping the weeks ahead

Antigua beckons…..

But first, there are tunes to play (yay!!… below I’ll list where we are playing locally in coming days) lists to attend to, errands to run.

In the meantime a favorite part of the work I do is to collect bits of ‘swag’ to present to my students upon arrival in whatever destination we may find ourselves.  For the Antigua trip, I’ll gather a few things once I arrive to combine with things I’ve gathered here in Ohio- like little altoid watercolor sets to work with (this allows people to try new colors which might not be available in their own sets and to play with limiting their palette as an exercise).

I’ve crafted a keepsake illustrated map of some of our favorite haunts in Antigua which I’ll reproduce for my students.  It’s fun!  It is my hope that not only will this come in handy to know where they are as we sketch the city, but will also encourage them to create their own version in their own travel journals.  We must always map our own course, I do believe.

There are stickers…. always stickers…..

….which encourage a bit of ‘mixed media -ness’ in our books.  I’m sure to have a few more tricks up my sleeve but really the true gift will be that of spending time together, slowing down and enjoying this World Unesco Heritage city in all its glory.  To say I am excited to return would be an understatement.

Here at home I have been gifted some tree cuttings to root as I re-think the stewardship of our little patch of land.  I am mindful of what needs to be done in the garden, and perhaps more importantly, what needs NOT be done as well.  Do check out the work of We Are The Ark in the hopes of re-wilding small places to create a network of healing in these times.

Art by Ruth Evans for www.wearetheark.org

While I was making stickers at the library today for my workshops, I saved a bit of time to make some stickers for this cause as well.  I’ve mentioned this notion of holding two things at once in our hearts, yes?  We must do the work we do in the day to day, while also tending the wild places in the corners of our gardens and spreading the word about the need to be more mindful in this world.  Limiting consumption where we can.

In this same spirit I am following closely the work of young activists who are striking from school when and where they can (usually Friday’s but I know it can vary region to region).  Emma Reynolds has pulled together a number of illustrators to show solidarity with these brave voices and here is my little drawing…

That is the news from today.  For now I am off to rehearse tunes with my musical mates.  We don’t often have microphones thrust in front of us, and so we take a bit of time to practice for these once-yearly gigs.

You can find me here in the coming days……

Saturday:  Arnolds Bar and Grill 8-1130 pm

Sunday:  B-List Bar in Bellevue KY 4 pm-730 ish then Palm Court at the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel 9-12 (this is quite fancy)

I hope to see you there if you are local to this little river valley.  More soon as I get set to hit the road very soon…..

 

Comings, Goings. Doings, Beings.

Our front creek, captured magically by Imran Nuri.

“I don’t want realism.  I want magic.”  ~Tennessee Williams

There is much coming and going of late.  Hither and thither we work and play.  I’ll share a bit here as I set aside remembered things to pack away for upcoming workshops.  Antigua beckons…..

A sample of the magnets I have designed as give aways for my workshop participants! I figure if they see these on their fridge in the day to day, they will remember to work in their books more often, yes?

Narry a week ago, I was working in my own sketchbook in a warm place called Key West.  When I wasn’t strolling the colorful streets filled with colorful people, feasting my eyes on color and light, I was bobbing in a pool or better yet, in the sea herself – buoyed by salt, water and sun.

pay no mind to the chitter chatter in the clip above, we were on a sunset cruise.  I was captivated by the murky depths.  And miraculously I did not get sea sick.

Key West enchants with its embedded quirk round every corner.  Some folk come here to drink their cares away, but I for one came to drink in more than just rum.  Though to be fair, rum has its place.

If one but stays just off the beaten path, there is charm at every turn and lovely sunsets to behold.  And it can be a balm for the soul of a weary, land-locked midwesterner nearing the end of a long, gray winter…..

Hens, chicks and roosters are to be found everywhere. They are well socialized and cry the song of their people. A lot. Cockadoodledooooooo!!! (and chuk-chuk and peep-peep as well!)
The Young Man And The Sea, our ship’s crewman Dale.
The captain and crew of the good ship Sarah took great care of us on a sunset cruise on the ocean. If you are ever near Key West, I recommend Danger Charters, in spite of their name.

We paid homage to the sea and to the rich history of the place, even visiting the home of Ernest Hemingway which boasts 55 polydachtyl cats living their best lives on the property.

I found Key West to harbor great juxtaposition. The locals care deeply for the ocean, that is clear, and yet single-use-plastics are still the norm at local businesses. We declined all straws/utensils/bags when it was an option.  It’s a small thing, but it’s worth doing.
Cemetery Sentinel

There is magic around every turn there.

Tree guardian being? Or a large fairy fist, offering us a tropical green bouquet?
Our Queen City-scape, with a river running through it. Quite lovely from the sky, though I am not a city girl at heart.

Too soon we must return home once again to the gloom and gray of Ohio.  But we look for the quiet magic to be found here.

My daughter and her boyfriend are home for break and he has some new camera gear he is eager to test.  He stunningly captures the magic of our yard in the dark.  With his extended exposures, our criss-crossing creeks become fully laden with an Otherworldly quality and I am reminded how lucky we are to have this little patch of land of ours.

Our front creek, captured magically by Imran Nuri.

Art has a way of reminding us of the beauty in the world.  Music as well.  This week ahead is the high holy season of Irish music and we are quite busy indeed.

Tuesdays there is always a session here in town, even on ‘normal’ weeks.  This Tuesday we are at Streetside Brewery on Eastern Avenue.  It’s one of our favorite places to play.  Saturday March 16, I join the Roving Rogues to play St. Patrick’s Day eve at Arnold’s Bar, Cincinnati’s oldest tavern. and on Sunday, we once again will play in the evening at Palm Court in the Hilton Netherland Plaza hotel.  Come on along and enjoy a fancy cocktail.  Escape the green-beer fray, won’t you?

I am so grateful for the music.

And this music as well….

Our Jack was part of a concert celebrating the music of Bach which we attended last night.  It was divine and captivating, as Bach can be, and we were swept away on this stormy evening to another world indeed.  There is more this evening as well, I can’t recommend it enough.

All is not angelic and ethereal round here however.  As I mentioned, I am busily getting last minute things in line for my double workshop endeavor in Antigua, Guatemala.  This is keeping me on my toes instead of at the drawing table or in the journal where I belong.  I embark on that journey later this month.

But before I go to Guatemala, I am attempting to complete a somewhat hefty hand-made project, which in it’s own earthy way is keeping me grounded in work.  That of a 3′ X 4′ latch hook rug project for the annual May The Fourth Star Wars Tribute show.  

I’m using a grid to help me keep track of my design on the canvas.

All the yarn I am using for this project is either from my own stash of leftover yarns or has been acquired second hand at Scrap-It-Up over in Pleasant Ridge.  This has added some complexity to the rug itself and is helping me to make Chewbacca extra fluffy and scruffy.

My studio assistant Ian takes his job quite seriously.

Until he’s ready to leave the room, at which point he rings the bell to let me know.

Working a bit on this rather ridiculous project each day keeps me grounded and working with my hands which is good for my head ironically enough.  And this is good.

And so, the fitting in of all the pieces of this life’s puzzle continues.  While I must admit to this being a rough winter in many ways, things are looking up now that the light seems to linger longer in the days, even when it’s snowing. The sun is even shining today as I write this.  We must always remember that change is the only constant and we must at least attempt to move forward.

I say this as a reminder to myself really.  Behind the scenes here I spend a fair amount of time applying to and being rejected by various opportunities such as with publishers (who often don’t/can’t respond, which feels like throwing work into a great dark abyss…. hello- oh    –      o         –    o   …….. receiving back only the boniest of echoes)  This is all part of the process.  I will say, while it does continue to smart, it does get easier the more one applies.



Residencies are yet another application process I find myself often involved in,  always looking for some way to go somewhere inspirational, seeking a deeper sense of time and place to make and grow my work.  I can’t tell you how many of these opportunities I’ve applied to, heart firmly tied onto the application via the proverbial string, only to be denied for my efforts.  I really try to envision myself there when I apply and so I do pour heart and soul into each application.

To those who’ve never thought about these things, one has to remember that merely applying is often a great deal of work – writing essays and statements, gathering photos of work, recommendations, tweaking one’s CV, etc. etc.  I fit these efforts into the small spaces between the usual goings on of my day to day.  And I just keep trying, allowing a bit of grief and maybe some ice-cream when a particular refusal really gets me down.

But I do keep trying.   And sometimes, like throwing spaghetti at the ceiling, something sticks……

 

I am beyond over the moon to announce that my Maine based friend Julie Persons of Adventures of Claudia and Chicks In Hats fame and myself have been selected to share a month long residency in Ireland next year for the month of October.   We are thrilled!!!!

In which Amy and Julie get together for a cup of tea once each summer.  Don’t mind my lake hair – we are usually at camp!

We have put up the party flags and are doing a little happy dance, albeit virtually for now.

I’ll share more about this exciting news as things formulate into firmer plans.  But for now it is enough to have the invitation from Olive Stack in lovely Listowel and to know the dates we are to be working there.

So much rich stuff ahead.  And the challenges too that we face in this world on a personal level of course, and globally as well.  I said to someone the other day that this is the new normal for artists – to be able to hold in our hearts and minds, at the very same time, the dual notions that all will be well, and that things are really wrong too. –  This is not an easy task.  But I aim to try, as I have for years now.  To highlight and showcase beauty, to work for positive change.  It’s what the artists I most admire do best.

Baby steps, Micromovements (as this blog has long been named) is how we move things along, how we take the leaps to grow into new opportunities and to try new things that challenge us.  It’s terrifying really.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”                   

                                   ~Georgia O’Keeffe

Cover me

New album, Songs of Instruction, by Kim Taylor, is now streaming…… I highly recommend it.

The wind blows and blows and blows today.  The sort of ill-wind which sets my teeth on edge and often brings on a seizure spell in poor old Iris Rose, our resident canine barometer.   Mother Nature seems to be telling us that she’s none-too-pleased with the state of things.  And who can blame her.

“Cover me, cover me, cover me, cover me.  All the leaves, all the trees, the storms and seas, just cover me.

Cuz I’m troubled by this world.  I’m troubled by this world.”

~Kim Taylor (from her new album, Songs of Instruction

Today a random peek at my social media feed provides the gift of a beautiful new rabbit hole down which to venture.  The evocative nearly 3 acre world of Bealtaine Cottage, a permaculture life and project of one Colette O’Neill of Co. Roscommon … (I know, I know, more Ireland…. but I don’t seem to be able to find quite the same specific, familiar magic here in the states – Ohio specifically.  So here we are, in Ireland, once again.)

O’Neill seems to have a direct picc-line into the heart of all-earthy-things through her blog and video presence online.  In her nearly 14 years of living with and on her land, she has documented her journey and now carries an enthusiastic following from like-minded folk around the world.  I now consider myself one of them.

To watch and listen to a video post of Colette’s is to enter into another realm of sorts.  She is not just a gardener.  She is a guardian-er.  She is the Bob Ross of Guardian-ing.  (seriously, just go listen to her.)  Today as I worked at the drawing table, I had her YouTube channel on, going from one meandering, thoughtful video to the next and I found myself transported.   These are ad-free videos I might add.  Which adds (no pun intended) to their appeal.

Long ago, when I first began this wee artful place of my own here on the inter-webs, a few kind souls, eager to see my art work and writing take flight, suggested I engage in making a bit of money here and there by allowing some thoughtfully chosen ads to roost in this online nest along side my own work.  I’ll admit I thought about it.

The push to make money is a strong one in our society.  But I realized that those ads might be like the greedy cowbird who comes into the nest seeking refuge and an easy birthing place, only to kick the original egg or fledgling inhabitants out onto the pavement replacing them with their own agenda.  In the end, I decided to be ad free from the beginning,  much like Keri Smith, whose blog and art I have also admired for many a moon.   I have yet to regret this decision though it has meant only the slowest of growth in a world obsessed with scaling things to the next level.  

Travel season is coming.  I look forward to this, though I have mixed feelings about it to be honest.  The workshops I teach involve my going far afield and this means flying- which isn’t the best way to treat the planet just now.  But, for the time being, this is just how it has to be as I build things in my work.  To mitigate this damage, I’ve taken to driving way less where I can here at home (have cut the day job commute to 2 days at most!) and keeping things as local as possible when I am in town.  Small moves such as moving our family medical practitioner to one just up the street, versus clear across town, to name one example.   Little things add up, I do believe.  And it’s a start.

Our little patch of land has seen a great deal of change in recent years with the loss of trees suffering death and damage from the emerald ash borer, (to name just one culprit.)  We have begun the replanting with apples,  a new hawthorn tree and some berry bushes (who were nearly decimated by deer last season and so we will be fencing more properly this year).

As I begin to fly hither, thither and yon for my work, I will come home in between trips to plant trees.  Willow, oak, maple.  More fruit trees as well.  We will have to protect them from the deer who can destroy everything in their path – this being no fault of their own really, just a sign of how out of balance things are in our little corner of the world.  I am hopeful to put a fence around a small front garden patch to attempt a bit of a kitchen garden at least.  With perhaps a trellis of sorts to provide a bit of shade on the front door now the trees aren’t there any more…….  I can just picture how happy the morning glories and clematis might be there…….

This is the only thing I know how to do as we move forward.  The world is in trouble.  There is no denying this, though so many – especially within the current leadership of this country in particular – do deny it.  But we can all play our part.  I am inspired by those walking the walk far better than I just now.  And I follow blindly in their footsteps.  Balancing the cliff’s edge of my own mental health, the need to do my work,  and the necessities of next-steps-forward for the planet.  It’s a tricky tightrope trek to be sure.

I welcome your thoughts on balancing things as we move forward as human beans – with the best options for this place we call home.  There’s going to be a lot of trial and error.  I find inspiration abroad but closer to home here as well…

Thistlehair Farm in Northern Kentucky

The local Slowfood Movement

This is to name but a couple.

 

 

 

 

Think Less, Breathe More

Ginger Small and I have been playing a bit with stop-motion

It is a blustery day in the Hundred Acre Wood, proverbially speaking.  Blessed with a studio day,  I seek escape from the confines of my over-working monkeyed mind in the form of writing and perhaps some play with materials on hand.  It is important to dance with winter in anyway we can.

Once upon a time, I was a working puppeteer. Many wild characters were met while touring.

Craving coastline and a gentler breeze on this Polar Vortex day, I dip back into collected imagery from a whirlwind trip west not weeks ago, marveling at the light and magic to be found in California.

It blows a frozen, (though thankfully sunny) gale outside my window here, but if I just climb into my imagination a bit more deeply, I can remember what unfrozen air feels like, though it was brisk and cool.

Time with those beloved to us is magic time indeed.

Self doubts, once seemingly frozen into place, thaw.  The black dogs of recent depression recede, if only for a couple of days.  I realize that as much as I love woolen wear, and hot tea and buttered rum and life in general here in the Ohio River Valley, journeys which afford escape to more temperate climes in winter months keep my wheels on.

I am steeped in gratitude.

Guardians, ghosts and gods are easier to spot near the sea.  Sometimes they lean back and bend to the breezes.

As our wanderings take us farther down the coast we meet them more and more often, in many forms.

Through the mists we find them.

Those who light the way and *remind* us.  With words, color, hospitality, love.

“To paint is to love again.”

~Henry Miller

Emerging Hills, by Nepenthe based artist and new friend, Erin Lee Gafill
Blue Hills of Big Sur, by Nepenthe based artist and new friend, Erin Lee Gafill
A painting in Steve’s cottage by Jack Wilson. The light in it pure magic to my eye.
sketching fog, by Amy Bogard
A totem in it’s wild habitat, by sculptor and new friend, Stan Young

Through mists and moonlight, we come back to our animal selves.

Once returned, we seek not to deep dive back into old familiar patterns of busy-ness and not-so-aliveness, flitting about in our heads like trapped songbirds.  Though we do.

a bit.

I am thankful for reminders.

Words of advice worth typing out and keeping on hand from Stan Young 

But wouldn’t you know it, a guardian god did follow us home….

A Maximón of legend, lovingly crafted as a gift for us by Steve Worley who fancies himself *just* a craftsman, though we all know he is an artist to be reckoned with.

For now, Maximón watches over our doings and comings and goings from his perch on our kitchen counter.

But we will one day provide for him a proper altar of sorts, much like the blast of color, taste and smoke to be found in Santiago Atitlan.

More adventures are on the horizon, I can just see them through the bursts of icy snow – shining, beckoning like soul beacons.  A small personal getaway with the women in my family before workshop season gets underway in full force.  Last minute sign-ups for the Guatemala trip have both weeks *at capacity*. 

I marvel.

Just last year I wondered if I could possibly work out two back to back workshops.  The work speaks for itself and somehow, here I am now.  Not with out much needed help, encouragement, and proofreaders for my dyslexic, prone-to-wander brain.

The California based weekend workshop is officially OPEN.  Do send me an email if you are on that lovely Left Coast and care to join us to sketch May 18/19, 2019.  You can choose one or both days.  Each is different.

Taos, my flagship course is also *at capacity*  and I am already dreaming and scheming what to share with my class this year.   Again, I marvel.  And I am not without what every single successful person I know of deals with…. a (not-so) healthy dose of imposter syndrome.  Yes, there it is.  The beast in the room.

But the advice to *think less, breathe more* (I think these words set to music from Hamilton) is good advice.  And also, to just make work.  Surely this will calm the beast a bit, yes.  Especially certain types of beasts…

I have embarked on a project with a fairly tight deadline for the annual May the Fourth show.

Like many beasts, he is large, imposing, but once you get to know him, he softens up and becomes an exercise in mindfulness.

Stitch, by stitch.  Hook by hook.

Snow. I solemnly swear my dog Charlie is not involved.
In which chewy’s face begins to take shape…..

I shall breathe more, think less.  (And watch a bit of Netflix along the way I am sure.) while the beasts in the room get as close as they can to the space heater.

Thanks for reading as always.  More soon………

 

 

Gifts of Color and Light

The sun drifts down behind volcanos surrounding Antigua, Guatemala, providing the beginnings of the evening’s light show, Sunset.

It is winter in Ohio.  Today, at least, we have some sunshine and some not so bitter temperatures.  I will go outside with a dog in a bit to attempt to shake some of the doldrums nipping at my heels just now. A heaviness borne of annoyances mostly.  Demands of the season and the length of daily darkness have ground me down in recent weeks.  I know this will pass.  I look forward to Solstice next week and keep my soul facing the light as best I can, while making friends with the dark as needed.

Gifts are being crafted, alighting to celebrate the return of longer days.  Although it will be a good many weeks before we see the changes and shifts properly, our hearts know – and sometimes that is enough to lighten the spirit.

Last weekend there was a concert – a sharing of musical gifts in the form of our annual Peace and Merriment concert at the Riley School.  Our hearts were lightened by an afternoon of tunes and a few stories by our Master of Ceremonies, who is also my flute instructor, John.

All things seasonal are underway….

Decoration,

“Tangled”
Changing a bulb

Reflection,

Celebration,

Sharing light with the world,

I have lists made of gifts to gather for the kids in my life, most of whom like books, even the older ones.  Perhaps we can be like Icelandic revelers and lie around reading all day on Christmas!  As for the adults, we all seem to feel a distinct pulling away from the “stuff” of it all, opting more for subscriptions, memberships, classes – “things” which aren’t things and which brighten the experience of simply being human.

Perhaps you know someone close to you who feels similarly.  Perhaps this someone is feeling the darkness of winter, (which even on the brightest of winter days has a muted spectrum of color).  Perhaps, they might like to look forward to more light and color in the not-so-distant future.

Registration for my travel journal workshops in Taos, New Mexico and Antigua, Guatemala are officially open and Taos is nearing capacity (yay!).  Antigua, being international and a newer offering, still has a few spaces left in each of the two weeks available (click the link for details!)

I can’t say enough about what a dose of vivid color and warm air can do for one’s soul and body after a long winter and I find myself looking very forward indeed to the spring trip to Antigua in particular.

And the coffee.  You simply wouldn’t believe the coffee…

Our classroom is in the form of where ever we find ourselves each day, from rooftops to ruins.

We immerse in culture through some shopping and exchange of language.

Through it all we gather it all into a travel journal.

While I encourage the use of cameras and smart-phones to capture “source photos” for later work, there is simply no better way to really soak into a place than through the lens of a travel journal.  Merely taking the time to draw something, perhaps even multiple times, creates a broader understanding of place.  A broader understanding of our place in the All of Everything.  This can be difficult to pin down in our hectic world.  By cataloguing a travel experience in a little book, our travels are enhanced and brought to life in a new and richer way.

We notice the little things…..

….while standing in awe of the bigger things as well.

We immerse in the day to day of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which holds beauty, color and light at every turn.

There are a million different yellows….

Pinks as well.

Blues and greens are well represented.

Our palette here is bright and beautiful and I help you figure out how to recreate these vibrant hues on the pages of your journal with a simple set of watercolors.

As the end of the year draws nigh, with one major gift giving holiday behind us (gosh Hanukkah was early this year!!) and another too close for comfort, consider the gift of one of my workshops.  This might be a gift for a loved one or friend, or simply, and perhaps most importantly, to yourself, setting the tone for 2019 to be filled with close attention paid to beauty, light and color.

The world could use a bit of all of these.

See you in Antigua!

From the rooftop of Posada San Sebastian. (oil on Panel, 5×7)

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