Mad Wax

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Last night the kids and I attended the Cincinnati Area Puppetry Guild meeting which was held at the headquarters of Madcap Puppets. We were treated to a tour of the facilities and even got to play with and manipulate some of the incredible creations Madcap is famous for. In the photo above (taken on my cell phone, hence the quality), the “Hunchback” character is actually my daughter Maddie wearing a backpack puppet. She is showing signs of being a good puppeteer…

Also in that picture (next to Maddie holding the fish) is Kevin Frisch, the fearless leader/president of the Puppetry Guild. Kevin brought with him a handsome new marionette he just made for a car dealership commercial. This little guy can raise his eyebrows, move his eyes, sit down and cross his legs. He’s amazing! We were all enchanted, as usual, with Kevin’s latest creation.

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Recently Kevin has been working on a new and improved website for his Frisch Marionette Company. It’s a whole virtual world just waiting for exploration. Check it out!

After the guild meeting, I came home and stoked the fire in the studio and got to work with some wax. I LOVE to work at night and find it is when I am most creative and loose and playful with materials. The tough part about this night owl tendency is that I have my “real life” commitments as mom and worker to which I have to attend the next morning. I am a little sleepy today to say the least. But it’s worth it, I think. I am continuing to play with my new materials and exploring ways to make different things happen. Today I will just drink a lot of coffee and maybe fit in a 20 minute power nap…. so I can stay up late again tonight!!

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I embedded a mirror in the one above which is more successful in person than in this photograph. The mirror is so small that the viewer only sees a small portion of themselves when looking at the painting. In the other two works I used some fish vertebrae (above) and some small knotted bits of thread (below). There is a suture-like quality to this which I think plays well with the skin-ness of the wax. This will bear more experimentation…

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Yesterday a really cool video was sent to me by my friend Amy in Maine. This just goes to show that not a lot of money needs to go into a powerful bit of art work. Another wonderful video shown to us at the puppetry guild meeting is that of the work of Gaia Teatro out of Peru. With minimal props and merely the sensual use of their hands, these puppeteers create evocative characters that are simply magical. These are some things I am finding inspiring these days.

First go

With the encaustic “cakes” all set to go from my efforts this past weekend, I was ready to hit the studio today and try adding some pigment to the wax/resin concoction and see what I could come up with. For lack of a better, more professional artist sort of word, it was just plain FUN! I know already that I need to get away from the palette that I have started with; it still looks fairly out-of-the-box. But I am trying not to be too hard on myself. I made a little painting which measures about 5″ square (sort of). I put a hiding fish in it. I just played.

So here is my first go. I took a few photos with different lighting. Here are two. I am not sure which does the little painting more justice…

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Fire and Ice

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Due to some icy precipitation in the past few days, there have been cancellations left and right. The kids were off of school yesterday, Maddie’s play was canceled last night (much to her chagrin) and even our normal Saturday routine at the Riley School was called off today.

This has resulted in plenty of sleep, extra practice on our musical instruments and some wet sledding time as well as LOTS of activity in the studio. Some of us spent part of the day creating new stamps to put wax seals on important documents of a secret nature, or especially private letters…

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Tony also used his spiral as a regular ink stamp. I really like the effect…

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Meanwhile, my foray into the art of encaustic painting has begun in earnest. My package of supplies arrived yesterday from R&F Handmade Paints. In it were beeswax, damar resin (basically a tree sap sticky stuff), and a basic palette of pigment. I have spent the better part of the afternoon today melting down the resin into the wax and creating little patties of encaustic medium with which to paint in the coming days. I have found many different recipes for this mixture online as well as in books, so I am just trying a basic 5:1 ratio this time and will see where it takes me. Apparently more resin creates a harder surface but is also prone to cracking. So, as with everything, it’s a balance, and will need to undergo some experimentation to see what works best for me.

Below is a picture of the patties cooling in their little muffin tins I got at the thrift store. Once completely cool, they pop right out. I used the back stoop of the studio to speed this along.

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The mail box has been fun to visit the past few days. Yesterday I got a package from the crew out in Olympia. In it were a wonderful facsimile of a drawing by my talented friend Noah of a Crimson Bellied Woodpecker (I love it!) as well as a CD by the Ditty Bops (Moon over the Freeway). Below is a snap shot of Noah’s drawing up on my wall. Peeking out near it is a trading card I got from Tina. I love that too.

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Today’s mail brought the latest issue of Dan Price’s Moonlight Chronicles. Dan continues to inspire much of my own sketchbook work and I plan to show this video to my sketchbook/ journal class next week (oh, yeah, that got postponed too. Yep. The weather was to blame for that one too!)

With the wax melting on the griddle (door cracked with a fan going for ventilation), and a fire in the fire place, it has been remarkably cozy out in this technically-3-season room. The puppies are curled up on the couch napping. Being irresistible, I took 5 minutes to do a quick “daily dog” sketch of them looking so peaceful. Normally these days they are creatures of perpetual motion.

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Studio Tour

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Major doings in the studio here at Chez Bogard. I have spent much of the past few days re-configuring and re-organizing my workspace, in spite of the winter cold that makes my favorite room in the house unusable this time of year. Tonight I built a roaring fire, plugged in a space heater, bundled up and spent the evening getting the final push on this project which was inspired by our upcoming household renovation which should happen this spring.

There were other things spurring this space-overhaul. One thing is my plan to get back into working with wax again on a more regular basis. I used to have a studio outside of my house at Essex Studios which was great but my end of the shared space didn’t really have any windows. I got the benefit of the light from the windows, but no ventilation. I often left there with a sore throat when I was working with wax. Probably not healthy. This new set up allows for direct access to the sliding glass door, and fresh air.

The other thing driving this effort is the general malaise that is Winter for me. I battle it every year. Over the years I have learned things about myself and my surroundings that enable me to get through to spring. Sometimes changing up my living or working spaces is just the ticket to give me the momentum to keep plugging on through one more cold, gray day (although today was blissfully bright… but still pretty brisk!).

Later this week I start teaching my class at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. I am excited to meet my students (some of whom I already know well) and begin the process of passing on this notion of taking the day-to-day just seriously enough to get the essence of it down into a sketch book.

So that is what is happening here. I’d love to hear what’s happening in the studios or even just the sketch books of you other artists out there. I know Lisa is making movies with Denise again, Elle is making her own clothes and composting…. in the middle of NYC. Still others are involved in projects which I know will eventually lead to work, though it’s difficult to see that when one’s in the thick of it. This is what we do; live, work and rearrange. Then do it all again.

Perhaps through the cold nip in the air there is something more; a quickening, ever so slight, of Spring.

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The past few days I have been lucky enough to have my sister’s kids, Riley and Lincoln join our daily routine here while she and her husband went to Mexico. This was a work trip for him… technically, but since spouses were invited to come along, I am sure they are having at least a little bit of fun and soaking up a few sunrays so scarce here in Ohio.

I took the kids out to the local favorite ice-cream store, Graeter’s one day. Collectively, the best flavor seems to be black-raspberry chip (though Jack is partial to the mint chocolate chip). We also got to reap the benefits of Valentine’s Day together. A good time was had by all.

It is hard to say where my days go sometimes. Suddenly this week is gone and I did not blog or draw as much as I thought I might have. While the kids were at school I busied myself with gearing up for my spring time puppetry gig with the Cincinnati area chapter of the American Red Cross. As tornado season approaches, my friend Jeni and I will be spreading the word to young kids about how to be prepared and stay safe…. with the help of some puppet friends. More to come on that.

I have also been continuing to spend a bunch of time with my head buried in books with my new obsession regarding the concept of mapping. Many thanks to Fiona for suggesting Katherine Harmon’s You are Here – Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination. I have ordered this book online along with The Power of Maps by Denis Wood. Both look to be good reads.

The question of how to interpret all of this new artistic fodder has not escaped my thinking. I have also been scouring the local thrift, art and home stores for the gear and supplies needed to try my hand at an art process called encaustic. I have used beeswax for years in much of my sculpture. But to add pigment, and paint with it…. now I am into new territory, and terribly excited!

Today was a long awaited snow day for the kids. We all enjoyed the day off from our normal routines and spent time sleeping in, practicing music and reading. It was a gift. After things thawed out a bit, my daughter, who hopes to someday be a marine biologist, and I ventured out to go to the Newport Aquarium. We were rewarded with the place pretty much to ourselves. My favorite exhibits are the otters and the jellyfish.

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Lately I have been doing a lot of reading, much like I did when in school; lots of books on many, varying subjects. A couple of my current favorites are Lucy Lippard’s The Lure of the Local: The Sense of the Place in a Multicentered Society, and Yi-Fu Tuan’s Space and Place: the Perspective of Experience. Both are books that address the human desire to find a home of sorts, and to place oneself in the world at-large in context to the sense of place one feels in belonging somewhere.

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This is all sort of floating around in my head with the notion of maps and mapability and finding one’s way, both physically and spiritually. Is there a way to make this into art? I think so. And so I read, and sketch and stew. I’ll keep you posted…

Harp Gathering

Today my harpist friend Jeni invited me to attend a gathering of fellow harpers called a Harper’s Robin. There were 16 harp players of varying levels who were playing music together in preparation for an upcoming concert at the library.

That many harps in one room makes an impressive sound. But it is more than just the music that one hears, it is the vibration that can be felt as the music moves through the room. As a whistle player, it occurred to me that the effect of that many whistles playing in one room would have a completely different acoustic effect!

One of the cool things they did was an improvisational exercise called White Strings. Harpists use color on their strings to help delineate which notes can be found on what string. In the White Strings exercise, the players decide on a time signature and tempo and then play any note, as long as it is a white string. All of the notes “go” together magically creating a piece of music that happens then and there, never to be repeated.

Harps are not only lovely to listen to but really beautiful instruments as well. They are like sculptures, each one different from the next and I enjoyed doing a few rough sketches of the musicians and their instruments.

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After the harp gathering I drove over to Homemeadow Song Farm to catch the last bit of the “Honey Bee Mine” sale. Artisans were selling beeswax candles, honey, and pottery just in time for Valentine’s Day. My friend and stellar-multi-instrumentalist Doug told me that there are some connections between honey bees and harp makers. I am guessing that there is some connection to the beautiful vibration made by a well made harp and that of a thriving hive of honey bees. This bears more investigation for sure.

traveling shoes

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I am still working off the images and thinking that were with me in Olympia. There is a great line in a song by the Be Good Tanyas called The Littlest Birds. “…you pass through places and places pass through you but you carry them with you on the soles of your traveling shoes.” I think this idea is true. Travel, even the smallest trips, has a way of changing a person in small ways. For me, I often feel more alive and awake after a trip. Getting out of town causes me to pay attention to my surroundings a bit more. This is important therapy for a visual artist.

There is a dog in Olympia named Sakima who is a real gem. I took a few snapshots of him while out there this time so I could sketch him a bit when I got home. He has a beautiful wolf-like quality to him, as well as a gentle and open spirit.

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One of the souveneirs I like to pick up whenever I am anywhere in the Pacific North-“wet” are the lovely beach pebbles that can be found just about anywhere on the coast. I love to draw them. The colors are endless in scope and I find them beautiful to look at and place around my house in bowls. Often a visitor to my house will ask, “so what’s with the rocks?…”

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The Little Town of Spirals

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As I may have mentioned before, I have always loved the idea of making a children’s picture book. I have a few ideas as well as a few sketches and figure that at some point, I’ll focus in on a specific project and make it happen. When that time comes, I won’t have to look far for advice on how to get the job done.

My friend and fellow Irish Musician here in Cincinnati, Cindy Mayti has been navigating the birthing process of her first children’s book called The Little Town of Spirals. Inspired by her travels in Ireland, Cindy’s book features a town where spirals are everywhere and readers, young and old alike, can look for repeating patterns in the town as well as in nature.

It has been so exciting to check in with Cindy as she received copies of what the pages would look like; the printing and the layout. She has described the entire process as something like getting married and giving birth all in the same fell swoop!

So even though I am feeling a little sluggish in my own art-making in recent weeks (ah the quiet beauty of winter time!) I am fortunate to be constantly surrounded by other artists from whose work I can take a bit of inspiration. Congratulations to Cindy and to every artist who is seeing hard work come to such measurable fruition.

I think I’ll go draw a sleeping dog…