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)

The Holly and the Iris*

There is difficulty in the balancing of things in this season.  Our bodies seek quietude and a hibernation of spirit.  Yet current culture stretches us into the further reaches of the Land of More.

It is nigh impossible to reach these heights.

But there is much to harvest from even the darkest nights and the most bustling of times.  We can (must) find our balance amidst the busy.  This coming weekend has a slew of beloved gatherings on hand – those of a musical and artistic nature, as well as the beginnings of the familial toe-touches we do from year to year.  It is my goal to be present at each.  Fully.

The Holly

This last week finds me in conversation with a familiar physical reminder to keep my own delicate balance.  My Jaw has been giving me great trouble in the the form of TMJ.  This little embodied red-flag rears its head when I’m overly tired, anxious or having trouble expressing myself somehow, and perhaps it’s all of these things just now.  But a reminder indeed.  A reminder to attend all the Holly related activities of the holiday season, but not without stepping outside with my wild Iris Rose at my side to keep in balance.  Today I did a bit of yoga and walked my dog.  The new time-blocking plan is going well, having cut my commute in half to day job and yet I still struggle for balance this time of year.  I suppose we all do.

The Iris

I look forward to the weekend ahead and send my roots down beneath the iciness to more fertile ground awaiting new ideas when the space is there to work on them.

And whether you look to the skies for celebration….

…..or opt to hibernate with friends a little closer to home…

May this season afford you some balance amidst the madness.

Solstice is coming, bringing the light.  Hold tight until then…..

*and for my more “literal” readers, yes, I know it’s “the holly and the ivy.”  But Iris is who she is, and this season can be a bit squirrelly, yes?  So I went with it.

How are you balancing things this season?  Do let me know in the comments…..

Tangled

“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by how (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”

(often attributed to Maya Angelou, but also has been a quote associated with author H. Jackson Brown, Jr.)

The illustration, however, is by me.  I hope your hall decking is coming along smoothly with plenty of music, hot chocolate, and as few tangles as possible.

 

Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

As Solstice nears, let us look to the Peace of the Wild Things to lead us into the light.

Blocking

A new sweater is on the needles.  A pattern whose imagery captured my heart and so I have wrestled it onto some needles, cartwheeling through heavy mathematical calculations to get a proper gauge to suit the finished garment.  My gauge is, as of yet, thoroughly on pointe, yet I find myself worrying that the fit won’t be right and I’ll be living the knitter’s adage of auld….

“As ye knit, so shall ye rip.”

We shall see.  Should the gauge survive my still early-intermediate skills in both crafting cloth and manipulating patterns, and I find myself in the ball park for fit, I will eventually block this new sweater.  An old friend of mine who was an inspiration to me years ago in knitting, art making and living life in general, explained to me that blocking is essentially the notion of “teaching a sweater to be a sweater, or a tam to be a tam, once it’s knit up.”  I have resigned myself to possibly ripping back hours of work on this new sweater as I have invested a good deal of effort into choosing material I love and I want the end product to be as close to just right as I can make it.

Time will tell.

I share all of this with you just now because I’ve been thinking a lot about blocking, but in a different way.  More the idea of blocking time.  One great gift of this recent trip to Antigua and Lake Atitlan in Guatemala was that we were able to slow down to a more human-animal centered way of spending our time.

We sketched a good bit, my hub plowing through his sketchbook much more diligently than myself.  And we admired the color and beauty all around us.  Guatemala as a country is not without its troubles to be sure, but Antigua is fairly cosmopolitan and has a robust tourism industry and so we were encouraged to relax a bit….

Which we did, whilst resting from our country’s tendency toward the rat race of humanity.

I shall comb through the colorful photos and impressions of our time in Antigua and at the Lake in a later post but for today I want to share the big take-away.  Time.  And the managing of it.

Upon returning home, we jumped back into the rat race, hosting our extended family’s Thanksgiving celebration and getting back to work.  I have the great luxury of a part time job with flexible hours.  Provided I do the work I need to do to get our instruments out in a timely manner, I can come and go as I please. This generally works out wonderfully but in recent months I’ve found myself spending inordinate amounts of time in the car stuck in traffic.  There are construction projects and more people in general in our area.  And as anyone with any sizable commute can tell you, traffic is the Devil’s way of sucking one’s soul out, one slow mile at a time.

I decided that I would attempt to begin to block my time more efficiently, working longer days at the shop, then spending extended hours at home in the studio – painting, writing or doing the administrative duties and marketing to support the workshops.  This is week one.  And so far so good.

I’ve been attempting to wake more early to get some thinking and writing done before I leave the house and the day gets away from me.  I’ve begun to change the direction of the little bits coming at me reckless, faster and faster, attempting to fit them in properly.  (Hence the Tetris reference at the top of the post.)

As a list maker, this is working, but I must take care not to fall into the trap of “trying to get it all done.”  There is a wonderful podcast called “Hurry Slowly” in which host Jocelyn K. Glie discusses with writers and thinkers of our time all the things which make the trappings of modernity tricky territory.  In a recent mini-episode she asks:

“Who are you without the doing?” ~Jocelyn K. Glei

I’ll admit this question stopped me in my tracks.  I, like so many others, am trying to make a good painting, write something inspiring on this blog, earn a bit of money through art, teaching, or work at the shop.  I try to be a good parent, a good friend, a good daughter and wife and etc. etc.  But who am I, when all of this falls away?  Who are you?

Middle age is fraught with existential landmines and I’m happy that I am currently in a pretty decent state in that department.  But I strive to prepare myself for the ultimate journey to the ultimate far away place through contemplation of things that are beyond the day to day, and yet which rely upon and incorporate those very things at the same time.

Maximón’s house, Santiago De Laguna, Guatemala

We are afforded only so much time to take it all in in this world of ours.

The gods do blow the winds of time in mysterious ways – we are left to ponder our options when we land.

Mural in San Juan La Laguna, attibuted to jovenarte (near as I can tell, as it was not labeled and I’m relying on the interwebs…)

I for one will keep tweaking my earthly approach, likening it to the old game of Tetris, which frankly is the best life metaphor.  Even if it’s most stressful music to listen to.

ps. I worked at painting a bit today, limiting myself to three colors and attempting to make something from there.  It was a horrid failure.  But even the worst painting days teach us something and maybe next time I will use a different version of the three colors and see what happens.  How are you spending your time?  I am off to knit on the sweater about which I am not so sure……. more soon.

pps.  a number of spaces are open for both the Guatemala and Taos based travel-sketchjournal trips (but not that many!)  do come along!!

 

 

Red Eye

Bella Vista coffee lives up to its name. Great coffee, a wondrous view of the surrounding volcanic countryside, and delightful and friendly staff.

We are met in Guatemala City by our trusty driver Pablo and are whisked away from the big city to Antigua where Posada San Sebastian awaits us as our home away from home. We stash our things and wander for a cup of coffee (first of many) as our lodging isn’t quite ready for our weary heads. We wander the quiet town as it awakens to an average work day-  shops opening, my favorite coffee place too, Bella Vista, and we some how make it until our room is ready and we can nap .

Arco by morning light

The Posada is bustling but calm and we sleep soundly until well after lunch hour. This is the price we pay for an overnight flight. With more awake minds and bodies we spend some time with our sketchbooks .  I’m well over due for it and feeling rusty but I manage.

Posada San Sebastian has loads of cool objects to sketch. I love these folk art motifs on a box in the courtyard.

A page from the traveling journal

After a while we are famished for a late lunch/early dinner so we head out to town for some local fare. 

It’s delicious and there is even a strolling minstrel who sings to the diners.  It is a magical meal. One of many to be sure .

We wander a bit more, acclimating, looking into the shops, greeting the greeters outside of all of the establishments .

Upon our return, the sun is setting with much fanfare.

We are delighted by this, and even Fuego  itself gives us a small (non-catostrophic) belching light show of lava in the distance .

Though We are weary, we eagerly await the arrival of our fellow travelers with whom we will share the coming days .

More soon, provided we have continued connectivity.

Con Amor, de Antigua Guatemala

 

Lately

Faery magic is strong in the woodland this time of year.

This is a world gone mad.  Too many things to take in, too much heartache for a body to navigate really.  The things I love which carry me into the gentle places of my soul and self and which keep me grounded when the winds do blow have suffered for lack of care.  I look at this little home of mine here on the interwebs and realize that it’s been since August that I’ve written.  It is not as if I have not written, or drawn, or painted in general.  Just not here, where even when no one is reading, it matters most.

Today I took to the woods with one of our trusty dogs, the one and only wild Iris Rose, to ponder a plan of how to negotiate the dangerous waters of our time in a sustainable balanced manner.  It is October, my most favorite month of the year.  I adore autumn and all it has to offer in the way of cooler temperatures, misty mornings and the desire to get the knitting needles clicking once more….

A little drawing in response to Rob MacFarlane‘s word of the day “die Füchse kochen Kaffee” which translates literally into “the foxes are making coffee”; German regional phrase for morning mists….

I’ve recently taken to fair isle color work and I am fairly in love.

Iris and I walked the golden woodland…..

We paid homage to those who’ve been before us in this well loved place.

This lovely bronze plaque was placed in memory of dogs who’ve hiked here well before our time.

We admired the colors signaling a late but welcome change of season….

I played a bit with my fancy camera which, like this blog space, has grown a bit dusty with disuse.

The pace of things in the world has me feeling a bit weary.  All this running and seemingly little to show for it.  The season and my soul alike beg for a backing off, a swing toward the internal to come once more to the still point of my personal center.  This country, and the world at large could stand the same I believe.

With the dark season ahead, one often fraught with personal mental health challenges, I am looking back with pride on a few months of wondrous productivity and activity whilst simultaneously crafting a structure of future quietude to keep the wolves at bay in the months ahead.

The Resistance, as it stands, is in full swing and its toiling does take up space and energy.  I quite mindfully make the space necessary to be of service in these dark times but must balance that of course.  There is canvassing and volunteering and much reading to stay informed.  The news is too much to keep up with and it can drag a soul down to low places, but I do my best.  I am careful to turn it all off and hit the paints or the road when I need a break.

The flurry of work and words in the past couple of months have been exciting to birth forth.  Here I share a few things that have been occupying my eye, my keyboard and notebook, my interest and my heart.  It is my hope that I take to engaging more here in this space in the coming months as it forces me, in the best way possible, to slow down.  To think about what I am writing and the images I share.  Social media channels are wondrous in their own way, and I certainly find myself lurking in the more creative corners of their hallowed halls.  There is so much to inspire.  But here, in my own designated space, I can think through my fingers….

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”
Isaac Asimov

….and maybe go a little deeper.

So, last I left you dear reader, it was August, and so very hot.  September came along and while the heat gave no break,  I encountered a small challenge to make a drawing a day in 1″ square scale.  This painterly adventure, combined with a whirlwind trip to Taos, NM was balm indeed to a tired soul….

The Reluctant Trapeze, inspired by the amazing tune Le Funamble,  (do click the link!!) composed by Gilles Le Bigot and played by Nuala Kennedy.
“But we haven’t even covered redcaps and hinkypunks!” ~Hermione Granger
“When encountering a new soup recipe, one must proceed with caution.”

These drawings were part of a month long 1×1 challenge put forth by the House of Illustration in the UK.  An artist they showcased, John Vernon Lord, had completed a year of them.

“He dreamed himself very, very small.”
“The harvest is in, and I am feeling too small to deal with it.”
“I can’t fly but me pigeon can.” ~Charlie

I completed the challenge and made 30 of these little works.

Even when the news did say there were magnificent displays of ill will and malevolence.

“I read the news today, oh, boy.”

Toward the end of the month of September, my long time, dear friend Kristin (whom you may remember from this post) and I somehow managed to make our way from Ohio (me) and Vermont (she) to Chicago for a seamless meet-up at O’Hare and on to a quick flight out to New Mexico.  The opportunity to introduce a dear one to one’s soul home is a gift indeed and we savored every second.  Not much was catalogued of our time there, but we did manage some image captures…..

Photo by Kristin McCole.

“It’s the most wonderful place you can imagine.  It’s so beautiful there.  It’s ridiculous.”  ~Georgia O’Keeffe

Photo by Kristin McCole
Koshares, uniting shadow with darkness; playfulness with survival; divinity with debauchery.  At least that is how I interpret it.

We timed our visit with the Feast of San Geronimo at Taos Pueblo (every year on September 30th, you should go) which enabled me to see and visit with some dear friends there at a very sacred time.  It was a gift and blessing to share these folks and this place who are so dear to me, with an old friend from the way back, equally as dear.  Kristin said to me at one point, “You’ve built a whole world here, Ames.”  I do believe I have.  I am deeply grateful.

Majestic Taos Mountain

Our journey was far too short for a proper catch up.  To be honest, in spite of the splendor we encountered, we spent a good deal of time in a state of deep grief over the recent goings on at the Supreme Court.  There is a collective, primal scream of rage emanating from  the women in my life over doing this all over again.  How many times has this story been lived, eh?  Though this time is was so public, and so top-level.  I am still grieving.

But, and this is the thing, somehow we must keep going……..

And so, once home, early autumn life began with a focus toward music each weekend at the Riley School of Irish Music.  Those of us who love the music aim to bring just a smidge of this video below to our own playing….

Little Sea Folk Festival – Open The Door For Three – Church Hill / Monaghan Jig from Dean Merrill on Vimeo.

While we may never reach this level, we did manage to play our annual ceili dance once more and folks who attended seemed to enjoy it.  Chatting with our caller, Éamonn  de Cógáin after the dance, he remarked, “This is growing!!” And indeed it is.

This gathering was such good medicine just one day after the horrific news from Pittsburgh.  Just one more act brought to bear by the hateful rhetoric spewing across the nation from the White House.

so much musical love

The season brings with it, as mentioned before, a renewed commitment to new needle bound adventures.  I’ve invested in some gorgeous wool from my local knit shop to attempt the crafting of a sweater.  We shall see…. But in the meantime, it’s always fun to get to know the source of all things wool.

And maybe even attempt a sketch or two.

Perhaps you too are experiencing a bit of whiplash of the soul.  One minute darkness and rage – the next minute, a shaft of light to pierce that darkness and provide a respite.  We here are fortunate to have these moments of lightness.  To make art and craft worlds with words is a privilege indeed, and one I do not take for granted.  I believe to my core that it is an act of resistance to play music, and craft beauty with line, paint and words.  I am fortunate to have the support of family and my day job that enable me to live this artful life.  Not everyone can.  Yet somehow, artists get the job done, one way or another.  Here are just a few whom I support and so should you…..

Claudia: here, here, and here

Folk On Foot

Terri Windling

Four Way Quartet (Did I mention we hosted a house concert???)

The list goes on.

And so where does this all leave me?  As you can see, there’s been a great deal of output here in the form of energy and a good bit of intake as well which is wonderful.  But my hope is that I can slow it all down a bit.  To corral things to more depth and to a more manageable realm for me as an artist.  I like to say that I am a crock pot in this world of microwaves.

I’m being careful to begin my day with thoughtful words, such as the lovely poetry by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland or stories by Sylvia Linsteadt who’s recent book The Wild Folk  inspired a tiny sketch…..

Which led to a larger painting….

The Offering, 24″ x 36″, acrylic on canvas

My hub and I are running away a couple of days after the election to Guatemala to visit friends and make some art – to shore up our souls for what’s to come in our lives personally and collectively, good or ill.

We will get home just before Thanksgiving (yes, I’ve ordered the bird from our favorite market vendor.)  I plan to write here on this blog-space from down there if I can connect, as it’s one of the most inspiring places.  So do stay tuned.

If you are interested in my travel journaling workshops based in Taos, Nm, Antigua, Guatemala and a few other smaller venues, do get in touch and we can talk about the best options for you.

Wherever this reading finds you, I hope you are finding some gentility in this rough world.  We are at a crossroads as human beings and we have some decisions to make as to the path ahead.  For me, it’s one of kindness and art making.

“Hang in there, make art, be kind.” ~Neil Gaiman in response to the news of Brazil’s election of a nationalist, right wing president.  To my friends in Brazil, we are here for you.

Love,

Amy

ps.

Save the dates!! (The future’s so bright)

2019 travel journal WORKSHOP DATES are officially posted and open for registration!  (Click on the linked pages below for all the specifics!)

Antigua, Guatemala: March 30- April 5, 2019    OR    April 7 – April 13, 2019  (note, these are two separate workshop weeks which I’ll offer back to back.)

Taos, New Mexico:  June 9- 15, 2019

For my friends out west, there is also a weekend sketch workshop with me in the Santa Cruz area slated for May 18 and 19, 2019.  Send me an email if you are interested!! (linked is my post about this year’s trip, which was wonderful!)

And below, I’ll catch you up a bit on the landing home after a most wonderful summer……

The future is indeed very bright around here.  We ‘gotta wear shades’ as they say.   This magical gypsy summer of serious traveling has left me feeling newly and deeply inspired, even unmoored and untethered at times.  Summer is always a a season of churning and  resetting, but this year these feelings are exceptionally poignant and rich.  I’ve had so much time to think about things, what with all the flying and driving and waiting and watching along the way from place to place to place.

A bit of art was crafted here and there while on the road, but mostly I found myself in a place of keen inner observation, a bird’s eye viewing of the self just now and the work currently at hand.

This summer I pondered a great deal about what in the world I am up to in this artful life (age appropriate behavior, as I just turned 49 the other day!!).  So many proverbially spinning plates all going at once, and there’s me, the mad, rushing spinner, jumping from thing to thing, spin, spin, spin, lest it all come crashing down around me.  At least, that is how it feels some days.  On other days, the balance of things settles deeply into my heart and I just know I am on the right track, in spite of all the wobbly plates.

Balance. It was all about balance. That had been one of the first things that she had learned: the centre of the seesaw has neither up nor down, but upness and downness flow through it while it remains unmoved. You had to be the centre of the seesaw so the pain flowed through you, not into you. It was very hard. But she could do it!”

― Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight

Recently, I was listening to a lovely chat between Krista Tippet and Liz Gilbert on the nature of creativity and the notion of choosing curiosity over fear.  (I like this notion a lot.)  There are many quotable gems throughout this interview and I highly recommend you take a listen to the unedited version of it.  There was one small thing though that made me stop the recording at one point and run for the journal to write it down.  Gilbert was talking of an inspirational favorite poet of hers called Jack Gilbert (no relation) who was described by his students at one point as being a teacher who –

“didn’t necessarily teach us so much HOW to write a poem, but rather WHY to write a poem.”

This statement stopped me in my tracks.  In some strange way, this philosophical shift encapsulates the work I do with travel journaling in my own workshops.  Yes, of course we do a bit of Drawing 101, and Basic Use of Watercolors, and etc.  But more importantly, we work together to get to the why of it all.  Why even bother to draw or paint or capture quotes in a little book which no one besides our patient loved ones will ever see?

Somehow, through the experiences shared as fellow artists, we distill these notions into the inspiration to do the work and figure out why along the way.  It is all about enchantment.  

And so, while I do teach the how-to along with my fellow sketchers locally, my heart of hearts is invested in the why  of it all, which is at the core of my travel based workshops.

Coming to this realization has helped me connect the dots a bit in the work that I do.  How the practice of local “Urban Sketching” might relate to and feed my passion for making anthropomorphic illustrations of animals having people-like adventures.  How these illustrations might also be “serious” enough to feed the fine-art branch of my artistic interests (i.e., paintings, sans hamsters).   How the fiber-based arts of embroidery and knitting might serve as idea-hatching meditations (whilst on the surface they may look like netflix-binging in my pajamas).  And how all of these varied practices might actually come together to make the workshops I teach quite different than others because they come from a very unique place,  me.

And as they say in Maine, ‘different is good‘.

And now here it is, not even the end of August, and I am already a feeling a little less angsty about work.  A bit more centered in forging forward in all of it, varied though it may be.  I am excited to have the dates and costs set for 2019’s offerings so get those checks in the mail lads!!

It feels good to be back home in this ol’ river valley of ours for a couple of months before the need to escape it all once more overtakes me and I hit the road again.

But for now, I am settled in my little nest, catching up on work at the shop, drawing and painting and writing every day possible and trusting that all will be well.

ps. Many of you have been asking when an Ireland based workshop might happen.  As of this writing, the right place has not quite found me yet.  And place is important.  We’d need a home base, something with space for us to live while we work (lodging AND classroom space); a place which has available local meal-catering options we could hire in if needed, walkability to a local village (because, MUSIC!) and preferably near the sea.  If you have any places on the emerald Isle to suggest, do let me know!  In the meantime, I plan to get back to Ireland on me own via artist’s residencies and visits to friends when at all possible.  I’ll keep you posted! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between Worlds – Shifting

I’ve a layover to occupy here at the Philadelphia airport.  My system in a bit of a shock as to how tremendously noisy it is here back in the States – volume on all things up to 11.  Dublin, even its bustling, modern, state-of-the-art airport, pales in comparison to the noise of my home country and I am deeply grateful for sound-cancelling technology and the escape route of this blog space on my little device to help pass the time here.  These and some guacamole and a spot of wine (oh, avocados, how I have missed them!).

I find it hard to believe a trip I have so longed for, a trip years in the making really, is actually done and dusted.  In a way, I feel I’ve been away forever and a day (and my family and dogs likely would agree) and yet, as good trips often do, it all went by too fast for my liking.  I found moments when I wished to split myself into many pieces so as to take it all in properly.  One bit might step back in to the shadows and draw and paint it all, quiet as a church mouse there in the corner, forgotten.  Another bit of me might not be so shy when the tunes begin and would dive in with full confidence.  Still another me might sit in coversation with the lads from the village, soaking up their vernacular and storied ways (while painterly me takes careful notes on just what tweed each particular waistcoat consists of).  There is simply too much to take in.

Sketcher me does get a few things at least begun on paper, early in the trip, between raindrops one day and bus schedules the next.  These I shall eventually finish and post, but for now, frustrated with the paper in my book, they rest, awaiting proper studio attention once I get home.

A brief sketch pencilled in at the historic General Post Office in Dublin. It’s eerie to walk the hallowed halls of a place in which freedom was so markedly striven for.  Valiently.

My journey to Blackrock, Louth, ever so charming and lovely is over far too soon for my liking and I must make my way west into unfamiliar territory.  Green, rural, beautiful.  Navigating buses, trains, and the like, I eventually make it into Listowel where friends old and new await my arrival.  I am to participate in the inaugural Listowel Visual Arts Week, not as a teacher this time, but as a student!  This is a welcome breather to me after a week of intense facillitation in New Mexico.  My first evening is spent enjoying a Pecha Kucha presentation by artists in town as instructors, as well as some locals who seem to represent the very depth of creativity to be found in Listowel and surrounds.

The presentation ends and I am shuttled off to a pub called John B. Keane’s which is the center of all things for the rest of my time in town.  John B. Keane was an author and playwright known for shaping the local flavor into the compelling stories they surely are, for those with ears to hear and I was captivated by the spirit of the place, as well as by the songs and tunes to be had there throughout the week.

Days shift into days and soon it is the weekend when I attend a workshop put on by my multi-talented friend Lillie Morris who hails from Augusta, Georgia.

Lillie works in mixed media and paper collage and the following two days result in a great deal of work by all involved.

The work I myself produce is very much in keeping with Lillie’s iconic style, and yet, my own voice shines through as well.  The sign of a good teacher I do believe.

These days are over before we know it and suddenly time feels crunched.  So much we want to accomplish and yet the week is flying by.  Lillie has been traveling to Listowel for many a long year and is greeted and treated like family there.  I am welcomed into this fold like a long lost cousin and our lovely hosts whisk us off to County Clare for a peek at the iconic Cliffs of Moher and perhaps a tune or two in Ennis.  We both, Lillie and I, are also on the prowl for a place to teach in future.  This may happen in tandem as our work might fit nicely together, but we are both open to any and all possibilities.  Time will tell.

Our trip to Clare begins auspicously with a blessing from a raven himself.  (Though likely he just wants a snack from the tourists on the ferry from Kerry to Clare.)

Either way, he is a handsome fella indeed.

Cliffs of Moher do not disappoint, though I could do with fewer fellow tourists along the way.  All seem to be taking full advantage of the weather, which we hear tell is the longest sunny/dry spell since the fateful summer of 1976.

Ennis as well is lovely beyond belief and we enjoy tunes with friends of Lillie’s from over the years, tucked away in a local pub called Michael Fawl’s.  Unlike the mic’d up splendor of the session for the masses up the street, ours is in the back room, keeping ourselves to ourselves and it is indeed lovely in pacing, tune selection and over all company.

Ennis is, alas, merely an overnight adventure but we take in what we can, finding history and color and music along the way.

We even manage to meet a man who, along with his lovely wife Natasha run a retreat space geared toward artists so we head off to take a look.  It seems promising and we plan to keep in touch.

Soon we board our ferry back to Kerry and arriving on its shores feels like coming home.

Though to be fair, the shores of Clare are spectacular as well.

Home we go to Hannie’s House.  A place that is truly a step back into time and family.

A place where turf is still harvested and burned as fuel on cooler nights…

There is nothing like the smell of peat on the breeze to welcome one home to the cottage, is there not?

Listowel continues to open its arms our way, with new-to-me paths being introduced by Dan, Mike, Lillie, Diane, Noreen, Sean, Michelle et al.  I marvel at it all.

One day we drive just outside of town to a smaller seaside town called Ballybunion.  Along the way are many very Irish things to see.  Thatched cottages, turf being footed to dry, and a number of cows.

After lunch we head for the beach as I am keen to swim.

The day is filled with the collection of many sensory impressions- colors, light, stories ancient and recent, and of course, as much time as possible bobbing in the waves.  My Selkie nature shines through a bit on this day to be sure.

Alas the next day sees the end of time in Listowel and I once again traverse this green country to line up nearer to where I began this Irish adventure, Dublin.  Goodbyes are sad but I have a feeling I’ll be back quite soon.  And of course Lillie and I will soon be in our own version of Brigadoon at the Swannanoa Gathering sooner than later.  I am deeply grateful for my new friendships and inspirations found in Listowel.

Swords sees me tucked into a little hotel, up the street from a nice castle.

And just like that the trip is over.  My flight from Philly to Cincy is near to boarding so I shall post this now…… But know there is always more to share soon..

With deep gratitude.

 

 

 

Tessering

“It was the morning after the night before….”  ~Ciaran Carson

Miraculously, I find myself landed in Ireland somehow, having traversed time and space, desert, mountains, oceans along the way.  Last week the Taos-based workshop was in full final-days mode. Marathon days featuring visits to the buffalo on sacred Taos Pueblo land, aha moments of drawings well crafted, friendships solidified over laughter and late night story-telling and wine.  And work.  So much gorgeous work.  For me this means the gifts of facilitation and teaching kinds of work, for my workshop participants, it was painting, drawing and finding ways to craft color into images to make them sing sketch of work.  It was rich, delicious work, beautiful work. We called it play.

I could wax poetically about it all but instead I’ll merely share some imagery from the journey to Taos to now.  And on further along into magical lands of more art and music.  Brew a cup of tea and have a look…

So much of the west burns this summer. I wonder and worry over the health and safety of my workshop friends. But alas, we were blessed with a brief dying down of winds and even a couple of rainy days later in the week. Much needed, much celebrated.

 

 

I’m greeted upon arrival by the welcome of dear ones in Albuquerque. So caring and nourishing and generous. And on up into the Sangre de Christo mountains to Taos. It is good to land. See old friends. Rest. The calm before the storm of busy-ness.
There is even some time to see new places and sketch them in my book before the demands of teaching ensue.
The Taos light stops me in my tracks at every turn.

Words of The Wise Ones help set the tone day to day as we work. We jot them into our traveling journals next to inspired drawings.

Often we are given the great honor of visiting our friend Harold’s gorgeous herd of semi-wild buffalo. They are spectacular beasts and we enjoy making their acquaintance early on two different mornings.
Capturing the textures and colors of this place allow us to sink into its intricacies.

Most demos by yours truly are done on larger formatted paper for visibility, but occasionally my poor forgotten book receives a bit of love in the form of color.

Always I leave a small token of love, thanks and admiration for the cultural force that was our dear Mabel Dodge Luhan. This time I have an empty pocket as I merely took a student to do a quick grave rubbing. So I opt to give her my blotting cloth from class, richly coated with paint.

 

Oh these ladies of the canyon. How we laugh! We are sisters in creation. Laughter is a form of creation.

Beauty at every turn.

Fechin’s workspace. I’m called to paint.
In my departing days of packing up and shifting gears, rains come. Ireland seems to be quietly whispering, “It’s time.”
Goodbyes are sad. Some feeling more permanent than others as the shifting sands of time craft change even at Mabel’s. But I have a soul home in Taos. I’ll return soon.
A brief dip into reality as its called, via the airport, and the returning of my small, dusty but trusty desert chariot. I board the planes as necessary and sleep my way across the Atlantic. Awakening to find myself here on the emerald isle.
Dear friends from here and home together make my arrival and transition an easy one. The village of Blackrock, Louth is charm itself. I’m suddenly in outerwear defense with a bit of rain, my skin and soul drinking in the freshness after a week or more in the high desert.

Teacher-self gives into artist-self in spite of post-workshop and transatlantic exhaustion. The colors here are so very different. Vivid in their own way.

We beachcomb by day, catching up by night, with errands thrown in to the mix as well. My Blackrock based friends are due for their own transatlantic trek back to the states and it is time for me to make my way to Listowel….

There is so much more to tell. About my day in Dublin at a museum, and yet another traversing this green country  to find myself here. About arriving Listowel and immediately attending a Pecha Kucha event and a local music session immediately following. But for now I hear an accordion and can smell peat on the air. I must step back into the present.

More soon….

 

 

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