season of green

Recent weeks have seen a distinct greening on many levels.  There are signs of spring in the warmer nooks of the city, indicated with a few daffodils sprinkled about and some trees gingerly allowing their buds out to play in the warm breezes.  However….

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold:  when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” –  Charles Dickens   (I came across this quote on this lovely blog!)

Yes, we have been fortunate to have some mild days, but in true Cincinnati style, I hear snow is forecast for tomorrow.  sigh.  It will be in the 90’s and humid in no time, so I’ll settle into what this wild season has to offer which is a see-saw of unpredictability.

Grass is not the only green showcased this time of year.  March also brings us the ‘High Holy Season of Irish Music’, the days and weeks surrounding St. Patrick’s day.  Suddenly, if one can play a few jigs and reels, one is pressed into service to play the many gigs around town, serving up the annual dose of Irish music to folks who normally don’t pay it a whole lot of mind.  As musicians of varying levels of skills and reputations, we split ourselves up into groups and hit the town to play and play and play, which is what we do any way!  St. Patrick’s Day itself was a whirlwind of venues and friends and tunes…. Here are some of the highlights:

Gig 1:

A few of us from our beloved Riley School of Irish Music gathered to ring in the day at the Claddagh Pub in Mason. Ohio with a few tunes together.  We played for about 2 hours.

Gig 2:

The next place I headed to that day was a little bar called the B-list, located in Bellevue, Kentucky.  Of all the places to play, the B-list ranks as a favorite among those of us fortunate enough to play there.  The owner of the bar is an old friend of my harp-goddess friend Jeni and we are warmly welcomed as family.  I love it there.  But alas, the show must go on….

Gig 3:

My friend Patrick organized a little gig at the Claddagh in Newport, which is where we like to have our weekly evening sessions.  They too treat us kindly with an occasional pint and access to our favorite corner in which to play.  We were joined here by young James who is turning into quite a fiddle player!!

As the day wore on, things got more chaotic.

The more recognized bands were brought into play at this time with large sound systems (when they could get them to work!) and it was time for the rest of us to go and watch the pros at work….

I doubt the drunken masses had any idea the level of musicianship they were witnessing.  They didn’t seem to care.  But the musicians in the audience did.  The flute player here is John Skelton with whom I am fortunate to study each week.  He is a world class Irish Flute player among many other things.  Dan and Bev of Liam’s Fancy are used to dealing with the chaotic late night bar scene, so they had this wild St. Pat’s crown under their spell in no time.  I simply don’t know how they do it.  In spite of the green-clad crazies, a good day was had by me and all of my fellow Irish music admirers.  My husband asked me at one point if there is such a thing as total saturation of Irish Music (read: “Don’t you ever get tired of playing tunes?”).  The answer is, of course, no!  Never!  Sure we might get physically exhausted by the rigors of pressing and plucking strings, creating a (somewhat) tuned in embouchure, keeping a proper beat, but our souls never really tire of the feeling that a well played tune can bring.  For a good bit of the time on St. Pat’s, I was able to transcend any fear of playing in public, making mistakes, etc and simply play, with my flute or whistle as an extension of myself.  This, I have to tell you, is bliss.  As good as it gets.

And so we have been steeped in green.  Interestingly enough, the green does not stop there.  I have also been getting paychecks (two in one week after months without one!!) and have begun work at my new ‘day job’ at Carroll Concertinas.  For now I am outfitting concertina cases with velvet encased foam which involves a bit of precision and lots of spray adhesive.  It’s fun and I am already learning a lot.  You simply cannot imagine all that goes into creating a well made concertina.  For me, this allows me to breathe a little easier as I go about my fine art work and the work I am doing with the study of creativity and arts-based learning in business.  Someday, sooner than later I think, these pursuits will begin to pay in the form of actual paychecks that can be relied upon to feed us and help with college costs (this notion is bearing down upon is rather quickly I am afraid).  But until they do, it is wonderful to have the structure of a day job.  Especially one where there is creativity and ingenuity bouncing off the walls every day.  Maybe I will even learn a tune or two on the concertina.  I have heard this is something that is expected over time and it makes me happy.  One can never learn enough new things.

One last note before I sign off here.  I have timidly put my foot into the strange pool that is Twitter in recent weeks and have begun ‘following’ folks who are doing similar work to mine or whom I find interesting.  This has paid off with connections and opportunities that I couldn’t have seen coming.  Mary Gordon at Creative Voyage has a brilliant blog about the ins and outs of living and working creatively.  She does not shy away about the green elephant in every artist’s room – money – and her blog has plenty of uplifting and useful advice for anyone pursuing an artful life, part time or full time.  I had the opportunity to be a part of her ongoing series of interviews with artists who have had experience with the series of books called the Artist’s Way. You can read my interview here.  It was great to ponder these questions about my own creative journey which has been so rich and relatively quick in coming forth.

Although I do not spend too much time online with everything I have going on, I do attempt to keep up with artists and writers I find inspiring.  I also try to stumble upon a new one or two each week.  Discovering these fellow artistic spirits in the virtual-ether-inter-world is enriching and creates a feeling of community in a sometimes lonely profession.  For this I am grateful.  I encourage you to seek out other artists who inspire you.  But don’t forget to spend some time with the one most worth getting to know….. you.

*a note about the pictures.  I have been playing around with filters and actions and such in photoshop.  the current craze in i-phone hipstamatic options inspired me to find some ways to do this on the computer.  I love how the photos look a bit like my dads old photographs looked when I was  just a little gypsy child in the jungles of Guatemala…..

High Holy Season

We awoke yesterday to a spring snow blanketing the world.  Iris and River did not let this dissuade them from tracking down squirrels in the ash tree out front.  Iris is especially dedicated to the study of rodents.

Once the roads cleared, it was time to head to Springfield, Ohio for what for me was essentially the beginning of the High Holy Season of Irish Music. (The weeks surrounding St. Patrick’s Day)  For the next couple of weeks, the opportunities to play, and listen, to Irish Music are abundant.

My good friend (and amazing singer) Kathy and I arrived in Springfield with some time to spare so we had a delicious sandwich and some tea at Un Mundo Cafe, a quaint place which seems to represent the renaissance happening in this little town.  It was nice to have a few minutes to sketch before heading off to meet and have a couple of tunes and some conversation with the band members of Solas.

This wonderful meet and greet opportunity was brokered by some folks at Cedarville University.  It was interesting to have a dialog about the intersection of Irish Music, a very oral tradition, and classical music, a much more rigid and paper based form of art.  The band members have a mix of classically and traditionally trained musicians and they are all brilliant.  I really enjoyed hearing their opinions about the fluidity of the music.  At the end of the day, Irish music is about a spirit of play and a chance to have a few tunes among friends.  And so we did…

Part of our experience was to be able to sit in on the sound check which is always interesting.  To get sound to bounce around the right way in each new concert environment is a tricky thing.  I enjoyed watching, listening, and drawing.

The concert itself was fabulous.  (Solas never disappoints.)  There was a large crowd of enthusiastic supporters which included some of the members of a Red Hat Society.

After the concert, we thanked the band and got CD’s signed.  (I had them dedicate mine to Maddie who has been sick much of this week).  I am so grateful to have gotten to spend a little time with these amazing musicians. They were all incredibly gracious and encouraging to all of the musicians who attended the event.   It’s a truly wonderful thing to be a part of a musical tradition where one can meet the ‘rock stars’ of the genre.  I sincerely wish the members of Solas safe travels as they go about their musical business.

As for me, I am off to have some tunes with a few friends in the coming days…. I’ll keep you posted.

Priceless?

We’ve been working a bit on the 2010 household tax returns in recent weeks.  Last night it was time to add up all of my receipts and measure them up to my earnings from the year.  It was a dismal year to say the least, at least monetarily.  Even with the mural work early last year, the loss of two of my jobs has changed my earning landscape quite a bit.  I feel a tremendous, albeit slow, shift in my work life and the growing pains are difficult.  Last month’s trip to the Arts Enterprise Summit really opened my eyes to where I am along the journey of making a name for myself in the business of art-making.  I am by no means a newbie.  I have an established blog with a distinct voice to it and a loyal, though quiet, following (‘fans’ of my work are more prone to emailing than commenting).  The work I do in my Drawing Down the Vision partnership with Adam has further opened me up to the idea that what I bring to the table with my creative skill-set is of value and could provide me with some income.

Money and art-making are a tricky partnership psychologically and I have worked hard in recent years to come to grips with the issues.  I have come across many artists who have turned their art work or their blog or other creative skills into a living and I look to them as guiding lights on my own career path.  Remember yesterday’s fellow smoothie drinker from Wales, Michael Nobbs?   He has done extensive research on creativity and how to foster it and sustain it.  He has recently come out with a subscription to his thoughts and writings for a mere $2 a month.  Today I subscribed to his newsletter, figuring it’s about the cost of a cup of coffee, only once a month.  I really love what I have read on his blog thus far, I appreciate his rather no-non-sense approach to art making (like the idea of just making it a habit, like coffee) and frankly, I am willing to pay this small price to get more in depth into his take on creating and sustaining an artful life.  I highly recommend you check out the work he is doing and support it if you are ready to move your own work along a little further down it’s distinct path.  After all….

Today you are you, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is youer than you!”  ~Dr. Suess

Another artist who has a blog so juicy you could pay for it is Rima Staines.  I’ve linked to her website here before so you already know, I am a fan.  Recently Rima added a ‘donate’ button to her site encouraging readers to contribute if her ‘Hermitage has rung bells in your spirit’.  I am here to tell you that when I am once more gainfully employed again (new part time job starting soon…) I will be throwing a coin (or two) into her hat to keep her ‘in teabags and ink’.  I am contemplating going the same route with this blog and would love to hear some thoughts from readers about this idea.

While I have been fortunate to be able to take my career one tiny baby step at a time, many artists have had to make tough financial decisions around their art work just to pay the rent and keep the wolves from the door.  My long time friend Michelle Ann Miller, an artist living and working in Sheboygan, Wisconsin is one of these artists.  Michelle created the Nothing New Project a number of years ago and set about documenting a year where she did not purchase anything new that she could not otherwise obtain used, or create herself.  This practice served her well by keeping her expenses down and giving her a platform and structure from which to create some interesting work.  She is still blogging and still finding creative ways to make a living and documents them in the newer version of her blog, {almost}nothing new.

So these are just a few of my thoughts on the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ that is Making a Living as an Artist.  But it’s not all seriousness all the time around here.  There is always time for puppy play time and a doodle or two…

Trends

Iris and I took a walk today in our local favorite woodsy place.  While most of what you’ll see in the woods right now is grey and brown (think mud…)

There are hints of green here and there and signs that our area might be trending toward spring.  This makes us very happy.  Especially when the sun is shining.

And so we explored the creek bed to see what recent torrential rains had rearranged.

We discovered what some site specific local sculptors had been up to.

All of this exploration lead to a really tuckered pup.

And a hungry me.  Thanks to a wonderful new friend (via another dear one – I am blessed with the best people in my life!), I have been on a bit of a smoothie kick lately.  The craving for green this time of year is more than in the woods or the cold frame.  It is in our very own bodies.  And it’s not just me, or Julie, or my family.  This trend is also alive and well across the pond where it is possibly grayer in winter than it is here.  I have been admiring the work of artist Michael Nobbs recently whose blog I discovered online.  His thoughts on creativity and working within one’s limits and boundaries are worth reading.  Wouldn’t you know, that as I was doodling the smoothie recipe below, a twitter post comes across that his blog for today is up…. and it’s about smoothies among other things.  Well Michael, I’m right there with you.  Here is the Jakk’s Magic Beans Recipe that is now in my sketchbook…

This all goes in a blender and get’s good and juicy.  The New York Times Style Magazine out last weekend showcased a place that sells this sort of green goodness to New Yorkers called the Juice Press.  People line up around the block to get one!  Yes, the trend toward green is definitely in fashion.

And so is watercolor…. This article from the Tate in the UK introduces us to a British man who painted watercolor paintings of the natural world around him.  These were shown only to close friends and never sold. Only recently have they become available for viewing.  According to broadcaster, naturalist and the article’s author, David Attenborough, these paintings were made for only one reason, and that is LOVE.  Love of the garden, love of painting.  Just love.  What a great reason to do anything.

Wishing you more green and sunshine in days to come.  (and some watercoloring should you be so inclined.)