Category Archives: Daily Dog

Ciúin

Yesterday evening I took a break from breaking news.  (not news at all really, more like a collective zoom-based anxiety rave bent on driving us all insane as we wait, feigning a patience we do not feel.)  In the darkness, (’tis the season, what with the time change)  Charlie and I ambled quietly up the drive after her evening meal.

“Ciúin”  (Irish for ‘quiet’)

It was quiet, but for a couple of owls hooting to one another in the trees.

Quiet.

Any bit of true quiet feels like a miracle these days, noise of current events occupying mind and even heart of late. I find my little doses of quiet in these small moments – an evening meander with the dog, a morning wander around the village to put the moon to bed.  I’ve come to treasure these times.

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

~Mary Oliver

Charlie snoozes in early morning moonlight. I get up to walk my miles. She doesn’t move an inch.
Friends, it’s okay to say Hello.
It will likely help us, and we do not do so alone. I also believe God greets us as we greet our days.
Neither I nor the poets I love have found the keys to the kingdom of prayer,
And we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit,
But.
I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway.
So every morning, I sit, I kneel, waiting,
making friends with the habit of listening,
hoping that I am being listened to. . .
There, I greet God and my own disorder.
I say Hello
to my chaos,
my unmade decisions,
my unmade bed,
my desire and my trouble.
I say Hello
to distraction and privilege.
I recognize and greet
my burdens,
my luck,
my controlled and uncontrollable story.
I greet
my untold stories,
my unfolding story,
my unloved body,
my own love,
my own body.
I greet
the things I think will happen,
and I say Hello to everything I do not know about the day.
I greet
my own small world,
and I hope that I can meet the bigger world that day.
I greet
my story,
and hope that I can forget my story during the day,
and hope that I can hear some stories,
and greet some surprising stories during the long day ahead.
I greet God,
and I greet the God Who is More God than the God I greet,
Hello to you all, I say,
as the sun rises above the chimneys of North Belfast.
Hello.
~Pádraig Ó Tuama
As I write this little missive, the democratic process continues to play out and unfold here in this country.  The other day I awoke especially early to play my small part in that unfolding, volunteering at the polls to hand out democratic slate cards on some shifts, and refreshments to all voters on other shifts.  The goodness of donuts and hot cocoa are something both sides of the political equation can agree on. 
Perhaps. 

It was a hopeful day.  A day of feeling like, no matter the outcome, I was doing my part (and had been for much of this election cycle, I should tell you).

It was cold that morning!!!
Mae Mae is a lovely dog who stopped by to check on things.  Her handler was there to help at the Caring Place.

One of my shifts happened to coincide with pick-up day at a local food pantry held at the same location as this particular voting precinct.  It was very interesting to me that the very outcome of this election would hold sway on whether people would or would not have to rely on community support merely to have food to eat.  One woman, both voting AND picking up food, said she relies on the food pantry because between food and her prescription medicines, she has to choose the medicines.  My heart broke.  Another lovely fella stopped in, also to vote as well as to pick up supplies.  He had a large roller  bag suitcase with him to carry what he needed.  He had recently become homeless.

I offered him a donut.

When my sister and I were kids and my mom was a newly divorced single mom struggling to make ends meet, we were, for a time, on food stamps.  I was young and don’t remember too much about the specifics but I tell you this as a snapshot of explanation for my left-leaning, take care of folks when they can’t take care of themselves, kindness-driven view on government.  People struggle.  This is a great truth of humanity.

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
~Maggie Smith
Photo by Maine photographer Peter Ralston. Originally posted in the amazing newsletter offering of Heather Cox Richardson. Her writing is an informed balm to the soul each day.

I’d be lying if I said I was thrilled about the outcome of this election over all.  I had hoped that more people would see through the chaos of the last four years and would see that the Grand Old Party is simply not there for the regular citizen of the good ol’ U. S. of A.  Instead, I am disappointed that nearly half the country is willing to witness an experience another Trump term.  This is where we stand.  In all likelihood, we will see a Biden presidency presiding over a minority rule.  It’s not a total loss, of course it’s not.  There is much to celebrate!

How to move forward?  A big issue for me is climate change and I am figuring out how to be of service to bring this concept  into the collective light more fully.  After all, these changes will affect EVERYTHING in the very near future, in fact have already begun to do so.  We have a lot of work to do.

But first, for now, should things play out as they seem to be headed…..

We take a deep breath.  We drink medicinal teas complete with tinctures  (and possibly some bourbon this evening) to ease our anxieties.  We shed some long over due stress tears.  We listen with hope to someone who might be able to provide unity in our divided land.  Democrats should waste no time in appointing Stacey Abrams as their new leader to forge a new path – a path that speaks for everyone.  We as a country must learn to slow down and really see each other, person to person.  We must do some difficult soul searching and come to a reckoning with ourselves and with one another.  It is my hope we get this opportunity.

But, like so many – around the world even – I wait.

Just be quiet and patient.
Let evil and unpleasantness pass quietly over you.
Do not try to avoid them.
On the contrary, observe them carefully.
Let active understanding take the place of reflex irritation, and you will grow out of your trouble. People can achieve greatness only by surmounting their own littleness.
The main thing is not to hurry.
Nothing good gets away.
Patience is the master key to every situation.
One must have sympathy for everything, surrender to everything, but at the same time remain patient and forbearing…
There is no such thing as bending or breaking.
It’s a question only of overcoming, which begins with overcoming oneself.
That cannot be avoided.
To abandon that path is always to break in pieces.
One must patiently accept everything and let it grow within oneself.
The barriers of the fear-ridden can only be broken by love.
One must, in the dead leaves that rustle around one, already see the young fresh green of spring, compose oneself in patience, and wait.
Patience is the only true foundation on which to make one’s dreams come true.
— Franz Kafka
Meanwhile, like so many things during this strange era in which we find ourselves, there is a juxtaposing personal angle to this concept of waiting and patience.  We are officially looking for a new dog to welcome home to us.  I’ve put some heeler-feelers out and have filled out some forms to local rescues.  We have a bit of house work and building beginning next week here and the pup will hopefully arrive as that process ends sometime in December.  We shall see.  We don’t have an actual, specific dog in mind.  But we have narrowed to a blue heeler girl dog if we can find one.  I can just about picture her in my mind….
As we navigate these uncertain times, may we find moments of stillness, moments of joy amidst the seemingly overwhelming largesse of the world just now.  Yes, things are hard.  But there are dogs in the world.
And maybe, just maybe………..eventually…………..a new path forward.
Yours in patience and quietude,
Amy

 

a good ‘un too

“My fashion philosophy is, if you’re not covered in dog hair, your life is empty.” – Elayne Boosler

My grandparents had been married for 64 years when they died less than three days apart from one another.  Something about this closeness in the timing of their passing brought us a small semblance of comfort in a time of great chaos and grief.  I look to that phenomenon to help us through the latest news here in this dark winter of doom (as honestly, it’s beginning to feel like lately).

Alas, this morning our dear old dog, our Wild Iris Rose, finally succumbed to her recent illness and is now at home in the stars with River, the accidental and constant companion of her lifetime.  I think dogs are more like people than most folks give them credit for.  Iris especially, with her wise eyes and knowing look.

“I love my dog as much as I love you
But you may fade, my dog will always come through”

~Cat Stevens

Perhaps she simply couldn’t be on this plane without River.  I do not know, as this is the depth of mystery, this ‘why’ of everything.  I have always thought Iris knew more about the ‘why’ of everything, and perhaps now she does.

So much of the content in this lowly old blog has been devoted to the dogs in my life over the years.  The puppies came along shortly after I began this online diarizing, and they fit right into it all with their antics and photogenic, sketchable qualities.

Even with all the complexities having multiple dogs brings to a household, I wouldn’t trade any of it.  Even these final, messy weeks.  Dogs remind us of our own innate physicality and, of course, our mortality.  They are constant reminders of the following:

We mustn’t take ourselves too seriously.

Time is of the essence.  The moment is now.

To be joyful is a gift, and it’s ours for the taking at any moment.

Love with abandon.

When you rest, just give into it, like it’s your job.

Give your keen attention to anything you find interesting.

Take a walk.  Everyday.  Twice if possible.

Love your fellow beings.  Even when you find them to be curiosities quite unlike yourself.

“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born”.

~Mary Oliver

“But then I looked in your eyes
And I was no more a failure
You looked so wacky and wise
And I said, lord I’m happy
’cause I’m just a walkin’ my dog
Singin’ my song
Strollin’ along
It’s just me and my dog
Catchin’ some sun
We can’t go wrong
’cause I don’t care ’bout your hatin’ and your doubt
And I don’t care what the politicians spout
If you need a companion
Well just go right to the pound
And find yourself a hound
And make that doggie proud
’cause that’s what it’s all about”

~Nellie McKay

You can imagine the quiet state of things around here.  I honestly don’t know quite what to do with myself.  So here I am, writing, which strangely, is what I do in times of crisis.  There is a nap of escape in my future.  I’ll take Charlie with me, and maybe the cat too (but that’s up to him).   Beyond that, I am doing my best to simply make space for this grief.  A grief that feels bigger than a couple of good dogs gone too soon.  I’m giving it space, and hoping it doesn’t move in permanently in a darker, blacker form.

Art by Tracey Harris spied at Wally Workman Gallery in Austin Texas.

“The bond with a true dog is as lasting as the ties of this earth will ever be.”

~Konrad Lorenz

Here’s to you, my wild Iris Rose.  Long may you run.

PS~  As heartbroken as I am, I want to just say thank you to the vets and techs at Cincinnati Animal Medical Center.  They have seen us through many a beloved pet and this time was no different.  They treat us like family and I know they grieve along with us.  If you are local to the Cincinnati area, I can’t recommend them enough.  

January

This time last week I was in Austin, Texas, visiting artful friends, meeting new trees and dogs.  A good time was had by all and I was (and always am) deeply inspired by time spent with these women and their loved ones.

Austin has been described as a blueberry in a big bowl of tomato soup, culturally, politically and it was great fun skimming even the surface of this amazing capitol city.

One can read countless articles about the food in Austin, or the music in Austin.  But honestly, I really loved the trees.

There were two in particular which captivated my imagination.  The first being the famed Treaty Tree – an old, intrepid Council Oak utilized by Native Americans long before our misguided United States was even a glimmer on the horizon.  You can read the full story here about how this poor tree was poisoned back in the 80’s and nearly died.  But it survives to this day and is loved and protected and shored up and supported in its growth.

The day we visited it, there happened to be officials on hand, measuring and taking stock of the tree and I asked permission to come inside the fence and place my hand upon its trunk.  I was permitted and nearly cried when I touched it.  Trees are truly miraculous beings and I have a bit of a thing for them.

A second tree which I befriended just happened to be in the back yard of the very friends we were visiting.  This tree, now called Bonnie, was a primary reason my friends chose this of all houses and they brought in an arborist to make sure they could care for her properly in the coming years.  I think they are glad to know Bonnie.  And perhaps Bonnie is glad to know them.

I am guessing there will be more paintings of Bonnie.  I spent a bit of time just watching how the evening light played upon her stately form.  She’s lovely indeed.

But Austin is not all trees, there are the dogs.  One dog especially seemed to sum up all of Austin’s playfulness.  Mr. Pickles.

One cannot NOT sketch a spectacle such as Mr. Pickles.  Apparently his mom works in the mobile dog grooming world, hence the painted on color.  I think Mr. Pickles knows how cute he is as he greeted us with enthusiasm on our visit to the Contemporary Austin art museum.

There was much more to tell of Austin.  A beer garden in a grove of trees in the hill country, cocktails made of a desert plant….

Vintage finds in the second hand shops.  But mostly we merely enjoyed one another’s company.  And this was enough.  Even in a city as cool as Austin.

And now I am home.  Nursing a cold…..

And deeply worried over our own pup Iris.  Our Wild Iris Rose has been unwell of late.  Deer poo is nasty stuff and we can only guess that she may have sampled some in the yard leading to intestinal distress.  We got her sorted out last week and were in the clear, but this week, among everything else, she was overcome again.

Tonight she is hospitalized and getting fluids.  We are hopeful for the best, but it’s up to her.  And so tonight we wait.

I’m finding it difficult to concentrate on anything, tea is helpful, yes.

And good books to pass the time…

A bit of light reading…..

Scribbling a bit helps to pass the time sometimes. I learned this style of doodling from my friend artist Kim Rae Taylor

But it’s worrying, to put it mildly.  She has been greatly weakened by this latest illness and we are giving her the best care we know how.  And only time will tell.  Of all the dogs, Iris is really my girl and I miss her presence here in the studio tonight as I write this.  Hoping she’s back home resting comfortably tomorrow perhaps.  But we shall take it all as it comes.

As we must.

Ode to a good dog

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

Anatole France

We’ve been wandering a bit close to the proverbial bone in these parts of late.

We always think we have more time…..

Once upon a time, we went for one puppy, and came home with two.

We didn’t really intend to, it just happened.  And it was perfect.

River was the unexpected one.  And he lived a life of such heart….

“If you’ve been thinking you’re all that you’ve got,
Then don’t feel alone anymore.
When we’re together, then you’ve got alot,
‘Cause I am the river and you are the shore.”

“Winding and swirling and dancing along,
We pass by the old willow tree”

“And it goes on and on, watching the river run,
Further and further from things that we’ve done,
Leaving them one by one.
And we have just begun watching the river run.
Listening and learning and yearning.
Run, river, run.”
Iris and River have been together from the beginning.  Though not litter mates, they came home to us as a pair and have been inseparable.  We will have to keep an eye on our old girl now, and give her some extra love and attention and patience.  Tonight, before River left us, she crawled into bed with him, as she’d done a thousand times before…..
Within an hour or so after that, he was gone.  He had had a stroke in the afternoon, but seemed ok.  Sure we are used to seizures in Iris and maybe with a little rest he’d be fine.  But alas, he slipped away peacefully.  For this peaceful passing we are deeply grateful, but it will be a long while yet until his presence has truly left our home.
Rest in Peace sweet pup.  Run, River, run.

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.

A book and a box of colors.

“I travel a lot.  I hate having my life disrupted by routine.”  ~Caskie Stinnett

A temptuous siren’s call beckons from the open road.  Once again, I comb maps of places yet to be explored, finalizing flight paths,  formulating rail patterns and charting the wheeled paths where travels may take me this season.  It’s once again workshop season.

Second only to sitting absorbed in my own book and box of colors while on the road is my love of teaching the Art of Keeping An Illuminated Travel Journal to students who range from intrepid beginners to like-minded artists already brimming with their own artistic tricks of the trade.    There is truly no wrong way to capture one’s travel adventures.  For some folks, merely snapping a photo with a cell phone or even a  proper camera might be enough of a record of time and experience. But for many many others, a new trend of mindful travel is all the fashion these days.

Our world spins madly on at hyper speed.  Many of us look for ways to slow it all down.  To step off of this merry-go-round – to hit the reset button and come back once again into our physical bodies.  Travel is one way to do this of course, but if we are not careful, we may find ourselves careening through our travel experiences at the same breakneck speed we do the rest of our lives.  A travel journal is one such way to ever-so-gently pull the reins back a bit on time itself.

Sketching in the field

As an artist, I have dwelled in the world with a sketchbook of some sort or other tucked under my arm or in my knapsack since before I can remember.  But one doesn’t need to self-identify as an artist to experience the magic of a little book and a box of watercolors.  While spring drags its heels here in the midwest, travel season must surely be on its way eventually, yes?  As we plot and dream of summerly adventurings, my friend and fellow creative spirit Margot Madison, Empress Queen Bee of Creative Juice asked if I might have a few suggestions related to the art of keeping a travel sketch journal.  Not able to contain this amazing practice, I opted to put together a blog post here which might give folks a taste of what I do and teach along with heaps of links and ideas to get you started.

 

photo by Tom Spatig of Bat Cave Studios

What you need:

Not much really.  A book, something to draw with and a little set of watercolors.  For the book, opt for something not too cumbersome.  Stillman And Birn have lovely books in all shapes and sizes.  The Alpha Series features good paper which can take a watercolor sketch without falling apart.  Moleskin books are also classically wonderful to work in, just make certain to obtain one with watercolor paper.

For drawing, I like both pens and pencils, depending on how I am working.  Nothing fancy necessary in the pencil department, though mechanical pencils are nice to have on hand.  Recently I have taken to using fountain pens for ink drawing as I was tired of the waste of an empty marker heading to the landfill.  Artist Liz Steel has some lovely ideas and suggestions on which pens and inks to try, but my current favorites are the Eco-pen with Noodler’s Bulletproof inks.

Next you’ll want to choose a watercolor set.  Over the years, I have steered students toward the Winsor and Newton field sketching sets and they have held up over time.  There are countless options out there to be had from the world renowned Schmincke brand to handcrafted ones from Greenleaf and Blueberry out of Colorado.

Tuck all of these new found treasures into a comfortable little bag or backpack along with a container of water, a cloth for blotting and you are ready to Go Forth And Doodle!  If you are to be out in the sun, consider a sunhat and glasses, and maybe a little portable chair if need be.  (Though I find that most beautiful places tend to have a bench or two.)

Now What?

But “I can’t draw a straight line”, you say.  Well, first off, straight lines are overrated.  Drawing and painting is more about learning how to really see than anything else.  A wonderful, playful way to settle into a new place and to get your eyes seeing in vivid color, without the pressure of ‘making something’ is to make little color swatches.

This is a wonderful way to get to know your watercolors, and learn about mixing colors to capture what you see.  The first place I saw this exercise is in the lovely work of Sara Midda.  Her book South of France, A Sketchbook’, is a favorite of mine and serves as a lovely example of how some simple colors can really give one a sense of place.

You’ll find that every place has it’s own distinct and sometimes quite subtle color palette.  Simply beginning with swatches will get you working into a blank page.

Mapping out a Place.

I adore maps of all kinds.  You can paste a small map of a place in your book, or perhaps create one of your own which speaks to where you’ve been along your own route.

They Draw and Travel has wonderful examples of playful ways to map a new place as well as creative usage of text to light up a journal page.  Below is a page from a student of mine.  Notice how she painted the letter ‘T’ which really highlights her drawing from Taos New Mexico!

student work

Another creative way to incorporate text into your capture of a place is to stop into the local post office for a postal stamp.  Often state and national parks will have site specific stamps on hand to play with as well.

Lawrence Tree Sketch, Amy Bogard

 

Foggy Monhegan, Sketch by Amy Bogard

But wait, I’m still not drawing anything!

No worries! You’ve already begun to ‘mess up’ your journal with these beginning exercises.  And this is key to sidestepping one’s inner critic who is so hasty to make commentary on your efforts.  Besides maps and swatches and stamps, keep an eye out for ephemera from your journey.  Ticket stubs and business cards can be pasted into your journal as a reminder of where you’ve been and what you saw along the way.   Perhaps you might begin to tuck in a quick sketch in and around these found objects….

Buffalo Gal, sketch by amy bogard
Selfie Santos, sketch by Amy Bogard
Student sketches around found ephemera in her journal

There is a veritable feast of resources both locally and online that can get you actually drawing.  Artists like Danny Gregory and his Sketch Skool project, Dan Price’s little tome How to Make a Journal of Your Life,  and the local chapter of Urban Sketchers are all great places to pick up ideas about drawing or even take a workshop.  That said, there is no greater way to learn to draw than to just sit and draw.  That may sound tremendously daunting.  But every drawing you make, “bad” or “good”, you will learn something which you will then apply to the next drawing.  Drawing is exercise.  Drawing is mindfulness.  When we sit down and really see something for what it is, in this place, at this very moment, we are in communion with that thing, in this place, at this time.

One great exercise is that of the ‘blind contour’ drawing.  Sit in front of what you would like to doodle, look at it for a few moments.  Allow your eyes to look at the lines that make up what is in front of you.  Now, place your pen or pencil to paper and without looking at the paper, run the pencil around the contours of what you are drawing.

This process is good to utilize, even if you are ‘looking’ at your drawing because it tends to keep drawings loose and scribbly.

Daily dog sketch by amy bogard
Local flavor. Sketch by Amy Bogard
Student work
student work
A quick capture of New Mexico Light with watercolor, Amy Bogard

In the end, whether your travels are taking your far a field this season, or perhaps merely exploring your own back yard, or watching the kids splash about at the local watering hole, a travel journal is a wonderful way to catalog and capture these fleeting moments.

This week I am off to California to guide a new group of sketchers onto this mindful path of gathering experience.  Shortly after that I’ll be back in New Mexico for my flagship class in Taos.  If you are interested in joining me for a workshop, consider Antigua, Guatemala next April (I’ll be offering 2 separate weeks back to back!) or perhaps Taos next June.  Or just dredge up the courage to join your local Urban Sketchers.  I can promise you they are a wonderful, welcoming group of people and you’ll learn a lot just by doing!

Go Forth and Doodle.

Kelley’s Island, Ohio – Sketch by Amy Bogard

 

 

Do what you can do

Today I have taken yet another day to do things slowly, to allow a plethora of new medicinals to take hold of this winter’s cold symptoms.  I stumbled upon a Keith Haring quote on the instagram page of Sketchbook Crafts which I know to be true and which I jotted into my own book, even as I chased the colors around my own sketchbook, doodling my magical canine beings.

Of late, I have pondered the notion of activism.  What can we do in the times ahead which are shaping up to be very different indeed. There are those who will march together on the day following the Inauguration of the vile new leader of the free world.   (Alas, I am signed up to take an art class, but my heart is with the marchers here in my town, and in DC.)

And there are those who use their fame and cultural influence for good (unlike some.)

But there are quieter avenues of activism as well.

The mere act of making some art feels like activism to me. As does teaching it to people who may think art is not theirs for the doing.  Open up one’s heart to their own making and there is no telling the sea changes which can occur.   In the coming weeks I am taking some remedial Spanish classes to re-learn a language I once spoke as a child.  This too feels like activism.  The class is in preparation for another trek down to Guatemala to do some sketching and exploring for future workshops there (stay tuned!!).  But I also would like to do more volunteer work in my community with folks who might not know English yet.  Small things, yes.  But perhaps they can stem the tide of where the election seems to be taking us.

So today, I do what I can do.  Everyday the light returns, as does my vim and vigor, and with that, some hope for better days.

 

Homestate Tourism

clifton-gorge-river-3

A couple of days ago I took the plunge to schedule a trip on my own back down to Guatemala to scout out a new sketch trip option, the lovely town of Antigua.  I will meet up with friends there next March who know the area and will be there already on a service trip.  And I will explore the town as a tourist and as an artist and as a teacher.  It’s exciting to think about offering a second sketch-travel option to the wheel of my working year and I will certainly keep you posted as this new workshop develops.  Of course, my Taos based class offered at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House will continue to grow and change on its own as well from year to year, and hopefully for years to come.

All of this booking and planning, along with our recent and up and coming travel has me thinking a lot about the notion of tourism.  My practice of keeping a travel journal, even for the mundane day to day, developed out of a desire to be more mindful and grateful for what is right here in front of me.  It has worked, and continues to work for me, whether I’m doing any actual sketching or not.  I’ve learned to open my eyes to things through this practice.  It’s a true gift.

And so yesterday, with artful eyes wide open, my Hub and I took a day to drive to out to Clifton Gorge, near the town of Yellow Springs, Ohio for a hike, and to be tourists for the day in our own neck of the woods.  Something I’ll admit I forget to do at times being so busy running off to other seemingly more exciting places.

clifton-nature-center

ohio-natural-resources

The gorge is a natural thing, having been created amidst the havoc of the glacial era of our state’s history.  It is deep and mysterious and we could hear the roar of its river as soon as we began our hike through the woods.

clifton-gorge-river-2

 

Often times here in our region, nature has been altered in some way, such as a river dammed up to create the lakes we sometimes kayak, so it’s really nice to visit something that feels so wildly unstructured. And yet, there were nice touches of the man-made along the path, created in the days of the CCC, which reminded us that we weren’t so far from civilization.

ccc-wall

We hiked for a good while on the path, photographing and taking note of things along the way.  It felt good to just move so I didn’t do much sketching until later in the day.  Sometimes knowing when to sketch and when not to worry about it all is part of the fun.

forest-shrooms

forest-shrooms-3

forest-shrooms-2

forest-friends

clifton-gorge-path

clifton-gorge-river

All of the water that rushes through the gorge prompted early settlers to build mills to harness the power of the water.  After our hike we visited the old Clifton Mill, still in operation as a mill and restaurant.

clifton-mill

mill-wheel

inside-clifton-mill

Eventually, we were a bit thirsty, so we stopped for a beer at the local brewery.

yellow-springs-brewery

This place not only has delicious beer but also has a ‘no television’ policy in place which thrilled me.  One of my deepest annoyances with the modern world is this idea that there must be a television going at all times in all places.  One can hardly escape it these days so it was really a treat to enter a place where people were conversing and enjoying each other’s company.  While dogs are not permitted inside the brewery itself, they do have a lovely back porch area where dogs are welcome.   So, now comfortably seated by the bike path, we did pull out the sketchbooks.  I doodled the dogs.

brewery-dogs

brewery-dog

All in all, it was a beautifully spent, perfect October day.  We could have stayed home and done chores, sure.  But instead we opted to be tourists in this beautiful place we call home.  Ohio.

It’s true that I often think of living elsewhere once again, perhaps a place near a pebbly sea-shoreline I could walk each day.  These wishes persist.

wishes

But for now, we are here in Southwestern Ohio.  And, to be quite honest, not entirely unhappy with it.  Being a tourist for the day right here at home was a nice reminder of contentment.

Why we love a snowy day

 

 

Beneath the hill where the Red Wolf Howls….

redwolf howling 

There is a line of trees where Squirrel Folk dwell….

we know youre up there

On a snowy day we can clearly see the paths they have traveled and track their every move amongst the trees….

 

squirrel chase 3

Although we never catch them….

 

squirrel chase 2

We are always up for the chase….

 

squirrel chase

Which is good fodder for the artist’s little book of days.

 

Snowy day dogs sketch

And quite the excuse to nap a bit on the warm, radiant floor in the kitchen.

 

warm concrete is a doggie soul balm.

What do you love about snowy days?