The ups and downs and ups of March

March 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

March is a heavy time.  In spite of the St. Patrick’s Day hoopla, which our whole family enjoys, it’s still a month tainted with grief and sadness we must simply trudge through. As the kids grow, each year is a little different.  Navigating the tragic loss of our dear friend Esme has presented challenges and unexpected gifts as a parent.  Maddie was 12 and Jack only 14 when Es died, so they grapple with the loss each year in a new way.  The depth of this loss is simply unfathomable and so the gift of it is that we have some pretty deep conversations about grief, loss, what might have been, how short life truly is…. We are fortunate that we have teenaged children who actually talk to us, as I know that is not the case for all parents at this stage.  It’s been 5 years.  My kids are young adults now and their take on things is vastly different than when this tragedy happened.  The very public, community based outpouring of love and grief has given over, for our little family at least, to a more private version of it all. Almost deeper in a way. This suits me and it suits my kids.  As everyone who grieves Esme moves on through what lives we have left here in this world, we all must do it in our own ways through work, new places to live, finding our centers.  And so, March is heavy in so many ways, but it is also tinged with the joys of this season.

This year’s March has been a particular roller coaster.  We seem to be (maybe) coming to the end of what feels like a 100 Year Winter, I seem to be (maybe) coming to the end of a month-long chest cold.  We were gifted with a beautiful spring-like day for Esme’s anniversary and a few of us quietly paid tribute to her at her tree in Spring Grove Cemetery.  I made a sketch…

esmes tree

Lately, I am simply teeming with new ideas in my work, fueled by my pull toward the sea…. as well as more homespun inspiration in the form of a visit to Shakerdale Farm.  Last time I went to Shakerdale, it was a little warmer and greener but this year we visited a little earlier to meet some new lambs.

mama and baby

Sheep, lambs and most things farmy have always appealed to me, both artistically and as a lifestyle perspective.  I am not sure if I will ever be a part of a small farm in this lifetime, but I am glad of the opportunities to visit local farms like Shakerdale and be inspired by those from around the world (current swoon-worthy obsession online is the farm photography site of Ben Hole, Isle of Purbeck, England!)

March is also the time of year that focuses on all things Irish and for us, as Irish muscians and a dancer, it’s high holy season for what we like to do all year ’round! I had the honor of playing an actual paid gig this year for St. Patrick’s day and though it was cold at our outdoor venue downtown, we had fun!  We followed that Official Business with a few hours of pure tunes at one of my favorite local venues, the B-List neighborhood bar in Belleview, Kentucky.  We are welcomed so warmly there by the bar’s owner Ben, and by the friendly patrons as well, faces who are now familiar from playing there for them each year.  The general sense of warmth, community and all around good fun was palpable.  St. Patrick’s Day fell upon a Monday this year which may have contributed to the more laid back feel of things.  But regardless of the reasoning, there seemed to be a special spark of magic to the day.

This long month is still, surprisingly, only barely half over.  I have much work to do to begin readying for Taos in June (deadline has passed, but if you are still interested, send me a message and we will see what we can do!).  And, honestly, I am tired and in need of some respite.  I will seek that in the coming weeks and will be sure and take a few snapshots and sketches to share with you here to keep you posted…..

~~~~~  UPDATE: I’ve been trying for a few days to get specific photos to load here and they just aren’t.  But do swing on over to my instagram page (@abeefrnd) or the twitter/facebook feeds (@micromovements) to keep up with recent snaps. I am off to travel for a few days.





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March 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

Outside, the sky is falling.  Pieces of it, in the form of ice crystals, go pitter patter on the roof and windows.  We are weary of winter here in Ohio, in a way we haven’t been for many years.  Spring will be a welcome phenomenon, once it arrives.  I have faith that it will.  In the meantime, indoor activities beckon, as well as Life in Our Imagination, which is not at all a bad place to spend time.

*special thanks to Astrid and Doug Mast, dear friends and fab musicians who were inspired to write Ginger her very own original waltz. I find it to be very catchy and a lovely little tune to accompany any day’s adventures. Enjoy!*

When not pursuing the adventures of Ginger Small, my mind and hands and eyes have been thinking a great deal about life under the sea.  One of my favorite books of all time is Sensitive Chaos by Theodor Schwenk.   It is a lovely tome visually showcasing how the design of all things natural may be observed to be similar, connected, all part of one system of harmonic beauty be it air, water, human tissue, sea creatures, tree bark, land, etc.  This harmony can be heard and observed mathematically in music and movement as well.  Now I am no mathematician, and I can barely call myself a musician, but I find these connections not only fascinating, but heartwarming.  The patterns of these Mysteries relate to one another to create what we know of as earthly beauty.

I am fortunate to spend much of my time around Irish musicians, whom I believe are some of the smartest people around.  I am not sure whether smart people are attracted to the music, or if the music might make one smarter in some way (or perhaps it’s a combination of both things) but suffice it to say, there is usually a critical mass of PhD types around the table at the weekly session.  Recently at one of these musical gatherings, my exploration into Spirographs as related to patterning in doilies came up in conversation.  Our friend Peter, who plays a mean concertina, mentioned that he had a handmade (by himself!) harmonograph at his place and that I was welcome to pay a visit any time to see it work.  Related to spirograph imagery, harmonograph drawings are more three dimensional due to the entropic nature of their production.  As the pendulum slows, the lines move inward toward center and a sort of topographic quality emerges.  I had to go see this for myself.

The harmonograph is called such because the relationship between the pendulums which create the movement work best when related to one another in a harmonious way.  Too off kilter from one another and the image becomes cacophonous.   So Peter set the pendulums into a proper relationship to each other and we set it off to make its drawings.  Here are just a few of the enchanting images…

harmonograph 1 Harmonograph 2 harmonograph 3 harmonograph 4 Harmonograph 5

To me these images evoke sea creatures, turning inward on themselves like anemones, sea cucumbers, shelled animals and beyond.  Then again, that’s where my brain is these days.  They might also remind us of murmuration…

Murmuration from Islands & Rivers on Vimeo.

The weather being what it is outside, thoughts often turn this time of year to the embroidery basket.

thread mish mash

And other collected sundries I might have laying about.


And I begin to think of what they might like to mimic as I work with them…



upsidedown jellies

Soon, doilies (which remind me a good bit of spirograph drawings!) begin to think about becoming jelly fish, or barnacles who’ve maybe hitched a ride on a leviathan.



Stitches find their way into patterns of light and how it plays so differently under the water.



These works are still in progress and will be unveiled later this spring.  It is my hope they might have the honor of being a part of a local art show at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center called Splash, but we shall see.  It it not up to me to worry where the art will end up.  For now, my job is just to make it.

{The call to artists is out now and I encourage you to enter your interpretation of the concept of splash.}  

I continue to fill my well as best I can, even on icy days.  One place nice to spend time in on a bitter day is the Newport Aquarium.  This will also be a great place to escape heat and humidity come summer so I picked up a membership the other day, grabbed some fellow artists who enjoy sketching (Vanessa, Christina and Monica!), and paid a visit to the underwater world,  just across the river.

These little eels have a distinct muppet quality to them I believe….

photo 1

photo 2

photo 3


I struggled to make this drawing of an octopus.  It’s very dark where it lives so I did my best to get the pencilled in impression on location, then filled in with watercolors later once home in the studio.  Impressive creature, the octopus.  Along with whales and dolphins, I am not sure such a sentient being should be held in captivity.  But that is just my opinion…

photo 4

And so, as the sky continues to fall, I snuggle into my cozy work space to stitch and sketch, to ponder and marvel at things I barely understand, and to sludge through my first head cold of the season (I’d say I’ve been quite fortunate, wouldn’t you?)

How are you surviving this winter? Or perhaps you are Down Under, in the Land of Oz, dodging summer’s fiery wrath.  Wherever you are, I wish you creature comforts, real or imagined, such as they may be…. (I think I’ll go to the beach with Ginger)


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The latest addition

February 25, 2014 in sketchbook



We are delighted with our latest baby to join the family.  My nephew Harry was born today, weighing in at 8lbs, 4oz.  What a blessing.  With my own in late teens themselves, it’s a wild and wonderful thing to greet a new being so new to this life.  Welcome to the world Harry!  We love you to the moon and back already.


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Icy invasion

February 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

In recent days we have spent the afternoon time attempting to stem the onslaught of water streaming into our house…. (click play for the soundtrack to my afternoon’s duties)



When the sun comes out to do a little melting, for some reason, that melting is heading right into our house.  The walls are a mess.  The ceiling is bowing.  I am grateful to have saved our art work and photographs from too much damage when it really started pouring in in earnest yesterday.  The day before had been just the placement of a bucket or two here and there.


We have towels laid out behind the piano to catch the rivulets streaming down the walls.



And for a couple of hours, I followed the drips with various buckets and bowls as the water made its way to whatever its destination might be down the beams of our ceiling.


This is all utterly disheartening as this is part of the space we had refinished when we moved in years ago.  Something in the recent ice storms has made our roof into a non-roof.


Thankful for insurance, hopeful for a good roofer and a break in the weather, we soldier on.  Hard to get much work done.  Though I am doing some recent embroidery which I will share here when it’s completed.   Stop by the facebook and twitter spaces for sneak peeks.

I hope wherever you are, you are warm and dry.  Keep in touch!




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January 30, 2014 in Fine Art/ Studio work, sketchbook, sketches

photo 5


You are used to seeing quick drawings of dogs here on this blog, as they are the creatures nearest at hand, and I am comfortable drawing them.  Whether lying still in their beds, or romping around the house or yard, they are just fun to doodle.  People, on the other hand, are difficult to draw, at least for me.  I am reminded of my failures in drawing class (so acutely brought to my attention by a haughty graduate student who may have been a decent artist but had much to learn about teaching).  And so usually, I will admit to avoiding drawing people.  There is so much more to the world, yes?

But yesterday a wonderful opportunity came around that I couldn’t resist.  The folks at Modern Makers have been creating little sparks of magic all over town lately, bringing art out into the community, breaking down traditional silos that exist between different avenues of art.  Dance and Draw was the latest of these events where the Cincinnati Ballet had a few of their dancers on hand for artists young and old to observe, draw, sketch, photograph.  No fancy costumes, just some music and the beautiful, graceful lines and shapes created by the bodies of these amazing dancers.

ballet 3




We drew them while they warmed up and then they performed a few basic* routines for us. (*basic to them, extraordinary to us)

ballet 2


The event was extremely well attended by artists of all ages.


sketchers 3


My friend and fellow sketching devotee, Christina Wald went with me and we sketched and sketched and sketched….


sketchers 2


My nerves over drawing people soon melted away into the gesture drawings of the dancers.  They weren’t holding poses, just moving.  At this point, it’s the job of the artist to capture the essence of these movements.  And so for a few pages in my new sketch-journal, I did just that.  First with some toned paper and white crayon…


photo 1


And then, onto my beloved watercolors.


photo 2

I used dried paint from my palette so my lines weren’t any one color, rather a combination of the colors on hand.


photo 3


After the ballet dancers finished we were treated to a lovely improvisational dance by a dancer from CCM and her musical partner who created music in response to one another.  It was captivating!!  She was a joy to observe and to sketch!!


photo 4


I was a little sad I didn’t have my ‘good’ camera with me to take better source photos for longer drawings later, but the upside of this is that I drew more than I thought I would.  And I can always mine some of the images Christina managed to capture with her camera!

Last night was just one more example of the vibrant ‘creative class’ so very much alive and well in our Queen City, who just a few years ago was criticized for it’s stodginess and lack of luster.  I love what’s happening here in this town and am glad to be living here for its renaissance.  Bravo to Modern Makers and to all the partnerships and collaborative groups around town working so hard to put together evenings such as Dance and Draw.  I had a blast and can’t wait to do it again!


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The New Book

January 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

I’ve been putting together some instructional videos for my Taos students in order to get everyone ready to hit the ground running when they arrive in June.  Since the latest volume of my own Illuminated Journal is nearly completed, it’s time to do up a new one.  So I did just that in today’s video.  Here are the results! I like to have a pocket for ephemera to land in.  Since the brand of book I use doesn’t come with a pocket (and the brands that do come with pockets don’t have the paper I like) I usually make one myself.  Here I used an old paint cloth

The pocket

Each precious volume acts as a container for a specific time of my life, and so each book gets a quote of intention, something that speaks to me at the time.  Looking back over old volumes, the quotes really seem to set the tone of an entire journal.  With my fine art leaning toward the oceanic world lately, I picked an ocean quote.

the quote of intention

Lastly, I collaged the cover.  Every book is different and I always have fun putting together the covers.  I never know what it’s going to turn out to be, and I never have any intended plan for things.  Here’s the latest!!

The cover


If you want more information on my process of putting together an illuminated journal, sign up for the Taos trip!!  You’ll get access to some beginner level instructional videos I’ve made to get you started and then in Taos we will get to the real work of filling the pages with your adventures!!  For more information, click HERE

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In other news…

January 21, 2014 in Fine Art/ Studio work, Ginger Small, Oil Painting, sketches, TAOS

Bogard_Amy_Murmuration (Once We Flew)


The above work entitled, Murmuration (Once, We Flew) (oil on paper, found frame, fish bone) has been accepted to be part of the 50/50 Art Show and Sale next month at Covington Arts!  I’m thrilled to be a part of it as the sale always draws a crowd and there is a nice shuffle for purchase by the attendees.  If you are local to us, and would like a one-of-a-kind gift for your Valentine, this is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy an evening out with some wonderful art, and maybe even purchase a piece or two!

Also in February, the 2nd to be exact, the class I’m offering in partnership with Diane Debevec at Women Writing for a Change has been met with great interest!  We are a slot or two away from selling out, last I checked, so if you are interested, do get in touch with us via the link and join us for an afternoon of Illuminated Journaling practice and techniques! I’m excited to work within the WWfaC technique base and to incorporate writing practice into keeping the illuminated journal!  With St. Bridgid as inspiration, we will have much subject matter to draw upon.




st bridgid


Rumor has it there may even be some collage exercises happening to get the creative juices flowing!!



Ginger Small has also been hard at work.  She and I have started a Society6 page with a few Ginger products available for sale.   These too, have been met with great fanfare by Ginger enthusiasts.  If you are a fan of Ginger and would like to see a favorite image of hers upon a mug or a phone case or some such, just drop me a line!  I’d be glad to upload more images as time goes on!

Some folks love when Ginger is all bundled up for a winter’s day, (much like today!) and have invited her for cocoa.

Ginger comes to cocoa

Others appreciate Ginger’s love of the ocean and a lovely tropical breeze.  The perfect scene to keep your mind off your computer work, yes?




Speaking of the ocean, this continues to be where my art brain resides, and therefore, some of my sketchbook resides there as well.  It’s difficult to stay primed in our illuminated journals when the wind howls outside and the snows cover most anything that might normally be of interest.  At times like these, look to your imagination, (Ginger drawings), or online for seemingly magical (but very real indeed) creatures of the deep… (this one I drew from a photograph)

Weedy SeaDragon


…or perhaps no further than your windowsill for a find from last summer or the last time you were at the beach.  Around here there are always bits of this and that laying around, usually with a magnifying glass to notice the details.  Here’s a page I did with a  few of these finds. (not from a photo)



No matter how you are keeping your sketchbook alive, I’d love to see it!  There are just over 6 weeks left to sign up for the Taos trip happening this june.    While we may have a few slots left for latecomers, signing up before this deadline is the only way to guarantee at room at the inn as well as a slot in the class.  Part of the magic of this course is spending a week at the magical, mystical Mabel Dodge Luhan House.  While there is more than enough room for a conference at Mabel’s, they do open any extra rooms after our deadline to people who may not be attending a workshop but want to lodge at the inn.  And so, after March 15th, much will be left to chance.  If you have any questions about the trip, feel free to message me in an email and I will answer them for you as best I can.  I hope you can join us!

As my mom would say,”that’s all the news that’s fit to print”.  And so it is.  Stay warm dear readers.

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Grateful for The Mountain

January 21, 2014 in Inspiration, Uncategorized


The New Year of 2014 began in much the same way others do.  Lots of discussion and notions regarding things we want to do better, more often, etc. and one such project that caught my eye online was one of the “365 Days of Gratitude” projects floating around.  (There are a number of them).  This particular one focused on the fact that many folks these days carry a camera around with us in the form of our phone and that we might try to utilize this tool to create a greater sense of gratitude in our daily lives.  And so, I quietly began to collect an image or so a day and started a saved blog post here that I would, in theory, share at the end of each month, or perhaps the year, filled with images of what makes me grateful.  And I came to some interesting conclusions fairly quickly.   

The first conclusion is that I already have a gratitude practice.  A practice firmly in place in my day to day, and hour to hour life.  Waking up to “Thank you for this day. Thank you for my health this day. Thank you for work that brings me joy.  Thank you for my family and friends.” is a far better approach to daily life than my now (mostly) long gone inner chatter of negativity.  These statements didn’t even have words wrapped around them until I started really paying attention to my inner dialogue and after years of working to re-wire this dialogue, I am grateful to have a different attitude about life overall.  This gift has been long and independently fought for over the years.  I already HAVE a gratitude practice.  So pinpointing things to be grateful for was a piece of cake.

My next conclusion began to make this project a little more daunting.  I came to the realization that I actually don’t use my phone as much as I might have thought I did. (actually a good thing)  I’d come to the end of a wonderful day, chock full of things that I was not only grateful for, but fully present for as well.  I wasn’t taking the pictures to put into my gratitude post!!  Which leads me to my final conclusion.

As beautiful as this exercise is, and as enlightening and eye-opening it might be for some folks, for me there was a clear indication that this exercise itself was leading me away from the mountain…..

In Neil Gaiman’s now famous 2012 commencement speech at The University of the Arts, he speaks about checking in now and then with how you are doing things and making one clear determination:  Is what you are doing causing you to walk toward the mountain (your goal) or away from it?  I adore this metaphor and have Taos Mountain in my mind whenever I check in to see in what direction I might be headed at any given time.  While the notion of wide-eyed, well-practiced gratitude is something that leads me TOWARD the mountain, the keeping track of the specifics regarding my most grateful moments quickly became something that would lead me AWAY from the mountain.  This was quickly and clearly evident as I would get to the end of the day and fret over not having taken a snap shot that day.  Ridiculous, right?  And so I’ve decided that in this post, I’ll share with you what I have collected up to now, and then leave the exercise at that.  I’ll simply go back to what was already working for me.  That said, I will also enjoy and applaud the daily gratitude efforts everyone seems to be into sharing these days.  It’s infectious.  And beautiful.  And I really believe it changes lives.  It has for me.  I am just not very good at taking pictures all the time!

So here are a few things for which I am truly grateful….. I’d love to hear how you keep track of your blessings.

Friends always willing to gather for a few tunes.


Tony clearing snow off of the cars after a storm.


Healthy feet to carry me on my runs where my best ideas are driven forth.


Mr. John Skelton, who drives over 2 hrs to teach classes at the Riley School of Irish Music each week.


Friend time and Puppy kisses


The courage to make a painting


The power of one small lightbulb to keep the bitter cold at bay

photo 3


Two healthy dogs


A banner trip to the library


My job and a new friend there


Ceili band practice


a magical warehouse frozen in time


Eggs in spite of the cold and gray.  Thank you, girls.


Magical gifts to enhance my letter writing practice

jan 14


A visit with Lu



photo 3


jan 20

A dear friend who is cancer free!

jan 15

Home made soup

photo 2

Kids still willing to be kids.

photo 1-1


And a few others of note…..

For folks who support and delight in the adventures of Ginger Small, a long awaited day to spend with a dear one who lives just across town (we didn’t take a single phone pic, we just enjoyed each other’s company), my son who swings by every so often to walk the dogs, for my own room in which to work.  I could go on and on.  And if you follow my twitter/facebook self, you’ll see other things I might take notice of.  But I suppose at the end of the day, I lean more luddite than technoholic.  This suits me just fine.

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January 13, 2014 in Fine Art/ Studio work, Inspiration, Oil Painting

Frames 4


Over the weekend, at the suggestion of an illustrator friend, I visited a warehouse sale at an old factory that once made wooden frames.  This cache of handmade frames had been sitting for almost a hundred years, and now the new owners of the building needed them to go, so some new modern enterprise might grow there.  And so, they held a rummage sale of sorts.


frames 1

These frames were of all shapes and sizes, most of them ovals and oblongs and other semi-circular shapes, and there were thousands upon thousands upon THOUSANDS of them.  It was overwhelming.  I chose a few, with an eye for tiny frames that might be put to service in Ginger Small’s Tiny Art For Tiny Spaces gallery

Frames 3


…and some perfectly circular shaped ones which I will use as portals into my watery work going on in studio.  One frame in particular is quite large and I’m excited to create a canvas made just for it.

frames 2


Having sat so long forgotten in a warehouse, these frames need a bit of tidying up, but I have found that with some sanding a bit of gilding, one can make something of them after all.



Bogard_Amy_Murmuration (Once We Flew)


(above:  Murmuration (Once We Flew), 2014, 4.5″X6.5″, Oil on Paper & found objects)

This sale will happen again, Sunday February 16, 1-3 pm at the Mohawk Building, 2145 Central Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45214.  If you are around and want a bit of an adventure, you should go!

And in the spirit of ‘frames’, here is an old favorite of mine by The Frames…


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January 7, 2014 in Fine Art/ Studio work, getting started, Inspiration, Oil Painting



“What will today bring? I hold my breath, dive down. Come to the surface, gasping, empty handed.  I catch my breath, then dive again.  Maybe this time.  I reach for treasures in this underwater landscape.  Ones that only I can see.  Ones that, should I discover them, will be mine and mine alone.  I suppose this requires a certain kind of courage.  But courage and fearlessness are the the same thing.  Courage is all about feeling the fear and doing it anyway.”  ~Dani Shapiro, Still Writing

Back in the studio painting recently.  This is different than sketching something directly in front my eyes.  Different from the cataloguing that occurs in those day to day documentary exercises.  This is to act as cartographer of my own inner landscape.  To sit with not knowing the outcome of my efforts.  To trust that I am the proper vehicle through which these ideas and imagery should come forth into the world.  I’m diving, once again, into oceanic depths.  Why is this land-locked river-rat of a girl forever with her head and heart in the sea? I do not know. I simply must trust that what calls me there is worth listening to as I conjure paintings and whatever else needs birthing here in this magic workshop space I have hunkered down into for the winter.  I am surrounded by piles of lovely books with oceanic folklore and mythical stories from the land beneath the waves, as well as scientific guide books to the amazing creatures found there.  Have you ever noticed how a murmurations of starlings resemble the swarming behavior of fish?*

It may be a long while before much or any of this work is fit for viewing, but I do like to give you readers a peak into the process of things between proper Ta-Da moments. With temps being well below zero degrees F in recent days, my daydreams of dipping my toes into the ocean on a warm summer day are helping to maintain sanity.
Hoping you are staying warm and snug this winter, wherever you may be. 

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