“I don’t want realism. I want magic.” ~Tennessee Williams
There is much coming and going of late. Hither and thither we work and play. I’ll share a bit here as I set aside remembered things to pack away for upcoming workshops. Antigua beckons…..
Narry a week ago, I was working in my own sketchbook in a warm place called Key West. When I wasn’t strolling the colorful streets filled with colorful people, feasting my eyes on color and light, I was bobbing in a pool or better yet, in the sea herself – buoyed by salt, water and sun.
pay no mind to the chitter chatter in the clip above, we were on a sunset cruise. I was captivated by the murky depths. And miraculously I did not get sea sick.
Key West enchants with its embedded quirk round every corner. Some folk come here to drink their cares away, but I for one came to drink in more than just rum. Though to be fair, rum has its place.
If one but stays just off the beaten path, there is charm at every turn and lovely sunsets to behold. And it can be a balm for the soul of a weary, land-locked midwesterner nearing the end of a long, gray winter…..
We paid homage to the sea and to the rich history of the place, even visiting the home of Ernest Hemingway which boasts 55 polydachtyl cats living their best lives on the property.
There is magic around every turn there.
Too soon we must return home once again to the gloom and gray of Ohio. But we look for the quiet magic to be found here.
My daughter and her boyfriend are home for break and he has some new camera gear he is eager to test. He stunningly captures the magic of our yard in the dark. With his extended exposures, our criss-crossing creeks become fully laden with an Otherworldly quality and I am reminded how lucky we are to have this little patch of land of ours.
Art has a way of reminding us of the beauty in the world. Music as well. This week ahead is the high holy season of Irish music and we are quite busy indeed.
Tuesdays there is always a session here in town, even on ‘normal’ weeks. This Tuesday we are at Streetside Brewery on Eastern Avenue. It’s one of our favorite places to play. Saturday March 16, I join the Roving Rogues to play St. Patrick’s Day eve at Arnold’s Bar, Cincinnati’s oldest tavern. and on Sunday, we once again will play in the evening at Palm Court in the Hilton Netherland Plaza hotel. Come on along and enjoy a fancy cocktail. Escape the green-beer fray, won’t you?
I am so grateful for the music.
And this music as well….
Our Jack was part of a concert celebrating the music of Bach which we attended last night. It was divine and captivating, as Bach can be, and we were swept away on this stormy evening to another world indeed. There is more this evening as well, I can’t recommend it enough.
All is not angelic and ethereal round here however. As I mentioned, I am busily getting last minute things in line for my double workshop endeavor in Antigua, Guatemala. This is keeping me on my toes instead of at the drawing table or in the journal where I belong. I embark on that journey later this month.
But before I go to Guatemala, I am attempting to complete a somewhat hefty hand-made project, which in it’s own earthy way is keeping me grounded in work. That of a 3′ X 4′ latch hook rug project for the annual May The Fourth Star Wars Tribute show.
I’m using a grid to help me keep track of my design on the canvas.
All the yarn I am using for this project is either from my own stash of leftover yarns or has been acquired second hand at Scrap-It-Up over in Pleasant Ridge. This has added some complexity to the rug itself and is helping me to make Chewbacca extra fluffy and scruffy.
My studio assistant Ian takes his job quite seriously.
Until he’s ready to leave the room, at which point he rings the bell to let me know.
Working a bit on this rather ridiculous project each day keeps me grounded and working with my hands which is good for my head ironically enough. And this is good.
And so, the fitting in of all the pieces of this life’s puzzle continues. While I must admit to this being a rough winter in many ways, things are looking up now that the light seems to linger longer in the days, even when it’s snowing. The sun is even shining today as I write this. We must always remember that change is the only constant and we must at least attempt to move forward.
I say this as a reminder to myself really. Behind the scenes here I spend a fair amount of time applying to and being rejected by various opportunities such as with publishers (who often don’t/can’t respond, which feels like throwing work into a great dark abyss…. hello- oh – o – o …….. receiving back only the boniest of echoes) This is all part of the process. I will say, while it does continue to smart, it does get easier the more one applies.
Residencies are yet another application process I find myself often involved in, always looking for some way to go somewhere inspirational, seeking a deeper sense of time and place to make and grow my work. I can’t tell you how many of these opportunities I’ve applied to, heart firmly tied onto the application via the proverbial string, only to be denied for my efforts. I really try to envision myself there when I apply and so I do pour heart and soul into each application.
To those who’ve never thought about these things, one has to remember that merely applying is often a great deal of work – writing essays and statements, gathering photos of work, recommendations, tweaking one’s CV, etc. etc. I fit these efforts into the small spaces between the usual goings on of my day to day. And I just keep trying, allowing a bit of grief and maybe some ice-cream when a particular refusal really gets me down.
But I do keep trying. And sometimes, like throwing spaghetti at the ceiling, something sticks……
I am beyond over the moon to announce that my Maine based friend Julie Persons of Adventures of Claudia and Chicks In Hats fame and myself have been selected to share a month long residency in Ireland next year for the month of October. We are thrilled!!!!
We have put up the party flags and are doing a little happy dance, albeit virtually for now.
I’ll share more about this exciting news as things formulate into firmer plans. But for now it is enough to have the invitation from Olive Stack in lovely Listowel and to know the dates we are to be working there.
So much rich stuff ahead. And the challenges too that we face in this world on a personal level of course, and globally as well. I said to someone the other day that this is the new normal for artists – to be able to hold in our hearts and minds, at the very same time, the dual notions that all will be well, and that things are really wrong too. – This is not an easy task. But I aim to try, as I have for years now. To highlight and showcase beauty, to work for positive change. It’s what the artists I most admire do best.
Baby steps, Micromovements (as this blog has long been named) is how we move things along, how we take the leaps to grow into new opportunities and to try new things that challenge us. It’s terrifying really. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”
New album, Songs of Instruction, by Kim Taylor, is now streaming…… I highly recommend it.
The wind blows and blows and blows today. The sort of ill-wind which sets my teeth on edge and often brings on a seizure spell in poor old Iris Rose, our resident canine barometer. Mother Nature seems to be telling us that she’s none-too-pleased with the state of things. And who can blame her.
“Cover me, cover me, cover me, cover me. All the leaves, all the trees, the storms and seas, just cover me.
Cuz I’m troubled by this world. I’m troubled by this world.”
~Kim Taylor (from her new album, Songs of Instruction
Today a random peek at my social media feed provides the gift of a beautiful new rabbit hole down which to venture. The evocative nearly 3 acre world of Bealtaine Cottage, a permaculture life and project of one Colette O’Neill of Co. Roscommon … (I know, I know, more Ireland…. but I don’t seem to be able to find quite the same specific, familiar magic here in the states – Ohio specifically. So here we are, in Ireland, once again.)
O’Neill seems to have a direct picc-line into the heart of all-earthy-things through her blog and video presence online. In her nearly 14 years of living with and on her land, she has documented her journey and now carries an enthusiastic following from like-minded folk around the world. I now consider myself one of them.
To watch and listen to a video post of Colette’s is to enter into another realm of sorts. She is not just a gardener. She is a guardian-er. She is the Bob Ross of Guardian-ing. (seriously, just go listen to her.) Today as I worked at the drawing table, I had her YouTube channel on, going from one meandering, thoughtful video to the next and I found myself transported. These are ad-free videos I might add. Which adds (no pun intended) to their appeal.
Long ago, when I first began this wee artful place of my own here on the inter-webs, a few kind souls, eager to see my art work and writing take flight, suggested I engage in making a bit of money here and there by allowing some thoughtfully chosen ads to roost in this online nest along side my own work. I’ll admit I thought about it.
The push to make money is a strong one in our society. But I realized that those ads might be like the greedy cowbird who comes into the nest seeking refuge and an easy birthing place, only to kick the original egg or fledgling inhabitants out onto the pavement replacing them with their own agenda. In the end, I decided to be ad free from the beginning, much like Keri Smith, whose blog and art I have also admired for many a moon. I have yet to regret this decision though it has meant only the slowest of growth in a world obsessed with scaling things to the next level.
Travel season is coming. I look forward to this, though I have mixed feelings about it to be honest. The workshops I teach involve my going far afield and this means flying- which isn’t the best way to treat the planet just now. But, for the time being, this is just how it has to be as I build things in my work. To mitigate this damage, I’ve taken to driving way less where I can here at home (have cut the day job commute to 2 days at most!) and keeping things as local as possible when I am in town. Small moves such as moving our family medical practitioner to one just up the street, versus clear across town, to name one example. Little things add up, I do believe. And it’s a start.
Our little patch of land has seen a great deal of change in recent years with the loss of trees suffering death and damage from the emerald ash borer, (to name just one culprit.) We have begun the replanting with apples, a new hawthorn tree and some berry bushes (who were nearly decimated by deer last season and so we will be fencing more properly this year).
As I begin to fly hither, thither and yon for my work, I will come home in between trips to plant trees. Willow, oak, maple. More fruit trees as well. We will have to protect them from the deer who can destroy everything in their path – this being no fault of their own really, just a sign of how out of balance things are in our little corner of the world. I am hopeful to put a fence around a small front garden patch to attempt a bit of a kitchen garden at least. With perhaps a trellis of sorts to provide a bit of shade on the front door now the trees aren’t there any more……. I can just picture how happy the morning glories and clematis might be there…….
This is the only thing I know how to do as we move forward. The world is in trouble. There is no denying this, though so many – especially within the current leadership of this country in particular – do deny it. But we can all play our part. I am inspired by those walking the walk far better than I just now. And I follow blindly in their footsteps. Balancing the cliff’s edge of my own mental health, the need to do my work, and the necessities of next-steps-forward for the planet. It’s a tricky tightrope trek to be sure.
I welcome your thoughts on balancing things as we move forward as human beans – with the best options for this place we call home. There’s going to be a lot of trial and error. I find inspiration abroad but closer to home here as well…
It is winter in Ohio. Today, at least, we have some sunshine and some not so bitter temperatures. I will go outside with a dog in a bit to attempt to shake some of the doldrums nipping at my heels just now. A heaviness borne of annoyances mostly. Demands of the season and the length of daily darkness have ground me down in recent weeks. I know this will pass. I look forward to Solstice next week and keep my soul facing the light as best I can, while making friends with the dark as needed.
Gifts are being crafted, alighting to celebrate the return of longer days. Although it will be a good many weeks before we see the changes and shifts properly, our hearts know – and sometimes that is enough to lighten the spirit.
Last weekend there was a concert – a sharing of musical gifts in the form of our annual Peace and Merriment concert at the Riley School. Our hearts were lightened by an afternoon of tunes and a few stories by our Master of Ceremonies, who is also my flute instructor, John.
All things seasonal are underway….
Sharing light with the world,
I have lists made of gifts to gather for the kids in my life, most of whom like books, even the older ones. Perhaps we can be like Icelandic revelers and lie around reading all day on Christmas! As for the adults, we all seem to feel a distinct pulling away from the “stuff” of it all, opting more for subscriptions, memberships, classes – “things” which aren’t things and which brighten the experience of simply being human.
Perhaps you know someone close to you who feels similarly. Perhaps this someone is feeling the darkness of winter, (which even on the brightest of winter days has a muted spectrum of color). Perhaps, they might like to look forward to more light and color in the not-so-distant future.
Registration for my travel journal workshops in Taos, New Mexico and Antigua, Guatemala are officially open and Taos is nearing capacity (yay!). Antigua, being international and a newer offering, still has a few spaces left in each of the two weeks available (click the link for details!)
I can’t say enough about what a dose of vivid color and warm air can do for one’s soul and body after a long winter and I find myself looking very forward indeed to the spring trip to Antigua in particular.
And the coffee. You simply wouldn’t believe the coffee…
Our classroom is in the form of where ever we find ourselves each day, from rooftops to ruins.
We immerse in culture through some shopping and exchange of language.
Through it all we gather it all into a travel journal.
While I encourage the use of cameras and smart-phones to capture “source photos” for later work, there is simply no better way to really soak into a place than through the lens of a travel journal. Merely taking the time to draw something, perhaps even multiple times, creates a broader understanding of place. A broader understanding of our place in the All of Everything. This can be difficult to pin down in our hectic world. By cataloguing a travel experience in a little book, our travels are enhanced and brought to life in a new and richer way.
We notice the little things…..
….while standing in awe of the bigger things as well.
We immerse in the day to day of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which holds beauty, color and light at every turn.
There are a million different yellows….
Pinks as well.
Blues and greens are well represented.
Our palette here is bright and beautiful and I help you figure out how to recreate these vibrant hues on the pages of your journal with a simple set of watercolors.
As the end of the year draws nigh, with one major gift giving holiday behind us (gosh Hanukkah was early this year!!) and another too close for comfort, consider the gift of one of my workshops. This might be a gift for a loved one or friend, or simply, and perhaps most importantly, to yourself, setting the tone for 2019 to be filled with close attention paid to beauty, light and color.
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
A new sweater is on the needles. A pattern whose imagery captured my heart and so I have wrestled it onto some needles, cartwheeling through heavy mathematical calculations to get a proper gauge to suit the finished garment. My gauge is, as of yet, thoroughly on pointe, yet I find myself worrying that the fit won’t be right and I’ll be living the knitter’s adage of auld….
“As ye knit, so shall ye rip.”
We shall see. Should the gauge survive my still early-intermediate skills in both crafting cloth and manipulating patterns, and I find myself in the ball park for fit, I will eventually block this new sweater. An old friend of mine who was an inspiration to me years ago in knitting, art making and living life in general, explained to me that blocking is essentially the notion of “teaching a sweater to be a sweater, or a tam to be a tam, once it’s knit up.” I have resigned myself to possibly ripping back hours of work on this new sweater as I have invested a good deal of effort into choosing material I love and I want the end product to be as close to just right as I can make it.
Time will tell.
I share all of this with you just now because I’ve been thinking a lot about blocking, but in a different way. More the idea of blocking time. One great gift of this recent trip to Antigua and Lake Atitlan in Guatemala was that we were able to slow down to a more human-animal centered way of spending our time.
We sketched a good bit, my hub plowing through his sketchbook much more diligently than myself. And we admired the color and beauty all around us. Guatemala as a country is not without its troubles to be sure, but Antigua is fairly cosmopolitan and has a robust tourism industry and so we were encouraged to relax a bit….
Which we did, whilst resting from our country’s tendency toward the rat race of humanity.
I shall comb through the colorful photos and impressions of our time in Antigua and at the Lake in a later post but for today I want to share the big take-away. Time. And the managing of it.
Upon returning home, we jumped back into the rat race, hosting our extended family’s Thanksgiving celebration and getting back to work. I have the great luxury of a part time job with flexible hours. Provided I do the work I need to do to get our instruments out in a timely manner, I can come and go as I please. This generally works out wonderfully but in recent months I’ve found myself spending inordinate amounts of time in the car stuck in traffic. There are construction projects and more people in general in our area. And as anyone with any sizable commute can tell you, traffic is the Devil’s way of sucking one’s soul out, one slow mile at a time.
I decided that I would attempt to begin to block my time more efficiently, working longer days at the shop, then spending extended hours at home in the studio – painting, writing or doing the administrative duties and marketing to support the workshops. This is week one. And so far so good.
I’ve been attempting to wake more early to get some thinking and writing done before I leave the house and the day gets away from me. I’ve begun to change the direction of the little bits coming at me reckless, faster and faster, attempting to fit them in properly. (Hence the Tetris reference at the top of the post.)
As a list maker, this is working, but I must take care not to fall into the trap of “trying to get it all done.” There is a wonderful podcast called “Hurry Slowly” in which host Jocelyn K. Glie discusses with writers and thinkers of our time all the things which make the trappings of modernity tricky territory. In a recent mini-episode she asks:
“Who are you without the doing?” ~Jocelyn K. Glei
I’ll admit this question stopped me in my tracks. I, like so many others, am trying to make a good painting, write something inspiring on this blog, earn a bit of money through art, teaching, or work at the shop. I try to be a good parent, a good friend, a good daughter and wife and etc. etc. But who am I, when all of this falls away? Who are you?
Middle age is fraught with existential landmines and I’m happy that I am currently in a pretty decent state in that department. But I strive to prepare myself for the ultimate journey to the ultimate far away place through contemplation of things that are beyond the day to day, and yet which rely upon and incorporate those very things at the same time.
We are afforded only so much time to take it all in in this world of ours.
The gods do blow the winds of time in mysterious ways – we are left to ponder our options when we land.
I for one will keep tweaking my earthly approach, likening it to the old game of Tetris, which frankly is the best life metaphor. Even if it’s most stressful music to listen to.
ps. I worked at painting a bit today, limiting myself to three colors and attempting to make something from there. It was a horrid failure. But even the worst painting days teach us something and maybe next time I will use a different version of the three colors and see what happens. How are you spending your time? I am off to knit on the sweater about which I am not so sure……. more soon.
pps. a number of spaces are open for both the Guatemala and Taos based travel-sketchjournal trips (but not that many!) do come along!!
Recent days have seen me traversing the country, jetting between varying worlds, and even escaping to far, far galaxies on occasion.
I found myself suddenly in California just over a week past, admiring the coastline and it’s intrepid surfers, breathing in the brisk sea air, sketching the magnificent scenery. Many thanks to my friend Steve who took me on a California field trip to Natural Bridges State Park.
I took a couple of days to acclimate to time and space there and to catch up with dear ones who live too far from my particular holler. We made books together.
Soon it was workshop time. The Saturday portion found us at Montalvo Center for the Arts in Saratoga, California. It was a bit chilly and there was tree work on the grounds dramatically making itself known with saws and a chipper, but we found a somewhat quiet corner to begin our day.
There was a wonderful wisteria tree which caught the eye of many of the sketchers who found their own way to interpret it. It was early in the workshop so we talked a lot about capturing color and the basics of tackling a complicated scene.
Later we went out in front of the main house where an artist’s installation of birdhouses makes one special tree very different indeed.
Alas, I did not take many photos that day, as I was too entranced by teaching!
After our sketch day, we went back to the lovely and artful home of Rosemary who hosts this event each year to visit with one another and toast the day with a bevvie or two. I even managed to have a quick tune with my friend Tim who’s family had spent the day sketching with us.
Day Two of the workshop was here before we knew it and the morning had us up and over the mountain, bundled up along the shoreline of Santa Cruz. The weather was cold that morning but this did not bother my intrepid group of sketchers! We even dodged a few rain drops!
Everyone quickly got to work. Eventually we moved places, closer to the local lighthouse and lunching spot for more drawing.
We played with color and scale. And the sun even came out for us in the afternoon. A day on the seaside is an ever changing adventure.
Soon the weekend was over, and we said goodbye to this group of amazing sketch artists who will now go forth and doodle in their own daily lives. I opted to stay an extra couple of days to do a little work in my own books. We traveled to Point Reyes Station for lunch and wandering, then headed into the hills to sketch this mystical region.
The next day found us admiring the new vine growth at a local vineyard called Savannah Chanelle. It was quiet with bird song and chickens cooing and clucking in their coop near the villa. The vintner admired my drawing and offered to trade a bottle of wine for it. But alas, it was trapped in my sketchbook. Perhaps I’ll send along a proper painting to trade for next time. The wine is quite tasty there!
Alas, soon it was time to once more travel toward home here in the Ohio River Valley. But I felt as though my teaching self was reinvigorated and reminded of it’s true purpose. I was reminded of mindfulness and how this practice is a direct line into being truly present.
This poem came to me via Shippenverse a day or so before the weekend workshops and it seemed like the perfect thoughtful intention with which to begin the time together. So we typed up a copy for each participant and gave them as little favors. I kept the one with the most typos.
I have a small thing for real typewriters. Upon returning home to Ohio, I was alerted by my Hub, who knows good things when he sees them, of this little gem awaiting me at the local antique mall. Of course I had to get it.
I suppose I might have opted to stay in California forever but alas there was a great event to attend back here at home. A number of local rebel artists banded together to craft an art show so magnificent, it was literally out of this world….. in a galaxy far, far away…..
A good time was had by all that evening and the art came in all shapes and sizes be it sculpture, painting, or cosplay. I displayed 8 tiny landscapes from this captivating world created by George Lucas and by the time I arrived, 3 had already sold. The work is on display at local rebel watering hole, Brew House here in Cincinnati through the month.
It is finally spring here. Our aging cat Ian took down a mouse the other night which surprised all of us, likely Ian most especially of all! There is finally life and blooming and even, as of today, a bit of sunshine. I have a to-do list a mile long as I gather everything needed to launch the 8th year of the Taos Illuminated Journaling workshop. This is my flagship class in this process and each year I look to it as a true indication of how things have shifted and changed over the past year and I come home once again full circle to the things I know to be central to the work. I am brimming with gratitude that this is even my job and I know I can’t do it alone. So, thank you to those intrepid souls who take a leap and attend one of my workshops – a week or a weekend, at home or abroad – Thank you.
And to my husband Tony who manages things here at home when I am away and keeps spreadsheets like a boss. My friends and family locally who step up to help him when things get crazy -Y’all know who you are. And then of course a big virtual hug to my art-pal and fellow typewriter enthusiast, Rosemary, who so loves this work as much as I do that she helps me figure out where to go next! Thank you friend. For everything.
I am really looking forward to getting back to Taos as well in a matter of weeks to the folks who make my work possible there. Friends who have become like family over the years. You are deeply appreciated. all of you.
(dangling from the shepherd’s hooks are little water wells which help keep hummingbird feeders from becoming overladen with bad bugs when the feeders are out. but at this point who knows if bugs, or hummingbirds for that matter, are anywhere in the neighborhood at the moment.)
I am laid out flat and irritated with an unexpected spring cold, the likes of which I’ve not seen this year. Cheekily I thought I was in the clear of winter’s ailments when the blossoms began arriving and we found ourselves sketching in the cool, but sunny breezes.
We managed some hiking with the dogs, were taking note of things beginning to grow and bloom and even my spring allergies had taken root.
We were celebrating.
It was not to last.
“Spring” has other ideas.
With spring allergies comes a lowered immunity, which is part of being human I suppose. And so, here I am with a roaring head cold. (and a cough to wake the dead, some sunken eyes and seriously productive sinuses.) Meh. Insert healthy dose of self-pity.
My mom always says, ‘this too shall pass.’ And she is, as moms are, absolutely correct. To pass the time, I have clung to escapism in the form of Netflix shows, a bit of whisky to clear the head (I’m not a huge fan of the regular medicines) and some time, when I feel up to it, to finish a couple of little paintings. I am grateful for this spaciousness.
There is no escape quite like the escape to other worlds entirely. I’m pleased to say that I have managed to finish a small series of eight tiny paintings which will go on sale at the local incarnation of May the Fourth, a day which celebrates all things Star Wars around the world.
I join a number of other local artists at Brew House, May 4th for the opening of this eclectic show.
These are all tiny landscapes of worlds you might escape to yourself, should you like, (penny for scale). As for me, once recovered I will be escaping next week to the wilds of California for a weekend of travel journaling workshops in the San Jose area and surrounds. But for now, it’s back to the Netflix.
“Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.” ~D.W. Winnicott
It’s so tempting to run for the hills. To hide. To make the work, but never show it – feeling it to be not good enough, not ready enough, ever. But this is not an option really. And so we forge on.
“Always go a little further into the water than you feel you are capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about at the right place to do something exciting.” ~David Bowie
After a time of being comfortably down the proverbial rabbit hole, alas, I must come up for air and here is the latest. Like some sort of proverbial Icarus, I’ll admit to flying a bit close to the sun of late. But needs must, and rest will come…..
On top of readying my own art work to present to the world, I have also been doing some writing on the work of others. The September and October issues of the online publication Aeqai feature articles of my impressions on some really wonderful locally produced and curated work from lands far away. It has been interesting to pull together art and writing in this way, as I usually write merely here on my blog or craft the odd artist’s statement now and again. To write about the artwork of others and to ponder it through a lens of critique is to more fully grasp it in a sense. Knowing I was to be writing about these shows made me a better viewer of them. I hope to continue writing for Aeqai in future months, adding my voice to those of others shining light upon recent work they have seen.
And what about that work being presented to the world? Well, the stars have aligned to see my work showing in three different venues in the coming weeks, and here they are.
“Transience is the force of time that makes a ghost of every experience.”~John O’Donohue
“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”~Simone Weil
First, Transience, a solo show at the Park National Bank Gallery at University of Cincinnati’s Clermont campus. It’s a lovely space and I’m thrilled to have a number of older works dusted off from the archives and showing once again, right alongside some newer work as well. (Yes, the ever so popular Animal Alphabet from Inktober is being displayed in full and the drawings look great all together!) At the heart of the show is my process of gathering from the world and from my experiences to create art along the way in sketchbooks and finished studio work.
It is interesting to see threads of continuity in work through the years which I didn’t notice before. For example, I’m once again showing my painting Selkie which is a bit of a self-portrait-meets-personal-mythology work.
You’ll notice that Selkie offers a rather raw heart to the viewer (my mom has always thought this painting is rather creepy but I rather like her). What I didn’t realize is that I had created some of this same imagery in the three dimensional realm as well in the form of a hand stitched fiber heart, and a cast of my hand in plaster.
These objects were part of other work at other times and I hadn’t realized how they mirrored the Selkie imagery until I went to install this show. My subconscious self clearly has some ideas and themes working themselves out amidst its subterranean depths. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to this work once again, on a deeper level and to share it with the students at UC Clermont.
A second show to open with just one piece of mine in it is an artistic tribute to the writings of Neil Gaiman.
I crafted an illustration of Nobody Owens from Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book which I found so captivating. I am excited to have my little painting alongside those of other illustrators from around town and am honored to be a part of the show!
This show opens this week on Thursday evening. Stop by the Know Theatre if you are in town and say hello! (Be sure and get your tickets to Neverwhere as well!)
My painting I Grew A Pair (Apples) will be part of the Off The Wall installation and I have three other works submitted as well. This group show features new work by members of the Kennedy Collective and is an annual treat for the local community. That opening is November 18. There will be cookies. I can promise that.
By tomorrow I shall have all work delivered and by next week, all will be properly installed for viewing in their gallery spaces for the following few weeks. While this all has taken a good amount of time and effort to pull off, I have been careful not to fall into the mindset of busy in the midst of pulling it all together. And I believe I have been successful in that endeavor. Sylvia Linsteadt of Tatterdemalion fame posted an article the other day about the notion of Resisting the Commodification of Time, with which I firmly agree on every level. The article speaks to a level of mindfulness which I believe is desperately lacking in our world just now. Everything so fast and furious, so new and shiny. Mindfulness is at the very heart of my sketchbook practice and the workshops I teach. Just the simple act of slowing down to draw something pulls us back into a better relationship with time, back into our bodies. The world needs us to do this work.
by Mary Oliver
I see or hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
It is what I was born for—
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world—
to instruct myself
over and over
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant—
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?
And so we do. If you google “urban sketching”, you will see that the practice of drawing in a little book has truly gone globally viral. People all over the world are doing it. Here in the Queen City of Cincinnati, we have joined the ‘official’ ranks of Urban Sketchers and are getting our drawings out there along with other artful places such as Manchester and Hong Kong. If you are coming to town and are looking to sketch with us here, let us know!! We can be found over in the wonderful online world of Twitter and we’d love to meet you!
And that is all for now. I have ghostly beings creeping into my bedtime sketchbook lately who are begging to be fleshed out further into more oil paintings. I have knitting projects sitting idle as well which could use some finishing up. It’s a time of year for walking in the woods amidst the fallen leaves, brewing more and more tea, and gently, ever so gently, slowing down.
My yearly pilgrimage to the Land of Enchantment began with a few days of solo travel, enabling my body and soul to sink back into this place. The last year has been a challenging one in many ways, not without its bright spots as well, and I had been craving time and space to sit with the everything of all of it. New Mexico has a way of giving us what we need.
I drove and drove, many long, mindless miles, embracing the quietude that comes with such spacious landscape.
Chaco Canyon is a vast and far-flung destination but worth the effort it takes to get there. With a near full moon upon us, the regularly scheduled star gazing tour provided by the National Park Service, instead became an evening walk amongst the ghosts of this strange land. Haunted and beautiful, indeed.
By the time I made my way to a charming little Super 8 in Bloomfield, NM that night, I had been up for 22 straight hours and slept, dreamless.
I found Chaco to be a mixed bag of ancient history, natural splendor and cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, I was grateful for the opportunity to visit and experience this Unesco World Heritage site, and to the NPS for their careful and respectful stewardship. And yet, more than one ranger remarked that native people in New Mexico and beyond have stated that these places are meant to fade back into the ground after they have served their purpose – all of their great mysteries, feats of architectural engineering and ghostly human stories lost to the sands of time.
I left Chaco a bit conflicted about it all yet enchanted all the same with wonderings about what sorts of people lived or worshipped here and what we might have in common. It was so good to be out in the wide open spaces of New Mexico with the vistas both outward and inward it provides to a tired soul. Grateful for my solitude and art supplies, I soaked it all up.
Then, just like that, it was time to head to O’Keeffe country….
I was fortunate enough to snag a ticket to a “Special Tour” of Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and studio led by a personal caretaker of Georgia’s and her brother, who worked the gardens in her later years. This tour worked magically into my schedule for traveling to Taos to teach the following week and so I invested in it.
There is such serenity to O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu home. Her aesthetic was modern yet earthy – timeless, really. No photos were permitted of her indoor spaces but I was captivated by the light, the serene colors, and the fact that she too kept jade, aloe and other such plants that many of us keep in our own homes. She collected stones and bones and other things she found beautiful and surrounded herself with them. Knowing this about her and seeing these collections in her home and just outside felt very personal, artist to artist.
I was captivated by the sense of this place.
Eventually, upon arrival back home here in Ohio, I chuckled to see that my own hollyhocks had bloomed while I was away, and I was welcomed by my own ghostly skull….
I’ll admit to geeking out a bit while in the home and gardens of this iconic artist. I stood in the very doorway Georgia herself had found compelling enough to paint again and again, exploring its shape and form and depth.
It was like standing in a portal of history. And I have always been a lover of doorways to other worlds.
These few days could have been ‘enough’ to fill this empty artist’s cup and set me to painting once again. But alas, I had not come to New Mexico for the making of my own work. I was here to teach.
Taos has become my home away from home in the years I have spent teaching there. Much like Georgia O’Keeffe herself, the lure of New Mexico brings me back time and again, every summer, and each year I discover more captivating beauty and I continue to build community as well. Mabel’s family has grown and changed with the newly employed and the newly born, yet Mabel herself is still in charge of the place and I was welcomed home with open arms.
I took to getting settled, washing the dust of the road off in my familiar claw foot tub in Tony’s bathroom upstairs, and unpacking all of my boxes of books and supplies – readying the classroom space for a week ahead of work and wonder.
By day I worked and by evening I caught up with dear friends. It had been a year since my last visit and that is far too long. I was caught up on the latest dog walking paths, and introduced to new dirt roads and rushing riverbeds. I held a new Little Bird and gleaned a small smile from her. I was told with a wink and a smile that if we only found a little slice of land, that we too could build a small adobe space of our own near town, and that I’d have all the help I’d need for this handmade home. I’ll admit I am tempted.
Soon the beautiful people attending my workshop arrived, some new to me, others who’ve been before and return home to Mabel’s to renew their contract with what has become sacred work. I no longer question this truth -that what I do in these workshops is indeed a sacred kind of work.
What started out, for me at least, as a way to get to know the world and to slow down and take it all in with the wonder that befits it, has become an intense practice of creative mindfulness. On the one hand, I’m introducing and sprucing up the old lessons of composition and perspective, line quality and color theory. And yet, on a much deeper, richer level of the soul, I am working with people to disengage their inner critic (just give her a cookie and a window to sit by, she’s been hard at work and deserves a break, don’t you think?), to tap into their birthright of creativity and the act of making something which makes a heart sing.
Occasionally, we worked in our books from memory, such as when attending a sacred Corn Dance at the Pueblo and we must only capture images in our mind’s eye. I will note here that all of the images below are now in the private sketchbooks of these artists, as records of the day’s experiences. Very different than taking a photograph, which is prohibited on feast days. We have a deep respect and regard for this notion.
But mostly, we studied from what we had in front of us there and then. The Mabel Dodge Luhan House has much to offer in the way of beauty and things to pull into our sketchbooks and so we did.
We discussed how to capture that sense of ‘hither, thither and yon’ which beautiful landscapes provide us with. Otherwise known as ‘atmospheric perspective’.
We worked and played each day, sometimes into the night. I was a bit manic with the magic of it all to be honest.
But I love this work and the people who are drawn to it. I had to milk the time there for all it gave to me! I even found time to settle in to a tune or two with the local session players who welcome me every visit ever so graciously. For this I am deeply grateful.
As the week went on we sketched and laughed and drew and painted and ate good food. We were treated once more to a visit to my friend Harold’s herd of buffalo which everyone enjoyed. There was a morning visit, and an evening time as well, as the buffalo are shy and do not accept great throngs of visitors. Small groups met Harold at his ranch home where we caught up with him and the herd. Grateful for the grace of these magnificent creatures and that of their farmer/steward.
Too soon, as always happens, it was that time.
Time to toast to a week of work well done. With dinner created for us by chef Jeremiah Buchanan whom we collectively adored!
We shared our books around and traded addresses and gifts such as a wee concert by Marty Regan who is a musician by trade.
It was time to pack up the classroom and mail home my supplies. I was grateful for the help and company of a few students who stayed around for an extra day to assimilate all we had learned together.
And it was time to visit a few more places before we had to leave this Land of Enchantment. Like the breezy hillsides of the DH Lawrence ranch.
I needed to take the time to sit by the river at the Pueblo and promise that I would come back. To memorize the sound of its waters which have come to me in dreamtime at times.
Time to ponder moody skies which seemed to beckon “Come back and paint, quietly.”
On my final evening in town, with all of my company scattered to the Four Directions, the skies opened up with the great gift of a thunderstorm. This brief storm was filled with ethereal pink light that I longed to paint somehow.
A friend of mine asked me the other day during our very ‘middle-age-appropriate’ discussion of “What Are We Doing With Our Lives” if I didn’t think that being a good teacher might be Enough. I had been filling her in on the Taos trip and what a deep success I felt it had been all around. I was telling her how enriching it is to teach something successfully, but that I have been struggling to make the switch back over to being a maker-of-things. More specifically, a painter and maker of pictured-stories for small humans. I feel blocked creatively, as if in all of the beauty found in the creativity of others, my own quiet artist self has taken to the hills. I am seeking to woo her back home to roost. I love being a teacher. And I am so excited that my spring trip to Guatemala next year is already sold out and that next year’s Taos trip already has some takers (and I haven’t even listed it yet!!). But I long to paint. And write. And draw. And I must trust this longing, even as I pursue my work in these amazing workshops. And so, no. I don’t think it is enough.
I think part of this perceived block is just my inner-processing of what was a stupendously amazing trip back to a place which I love dearly and work which excites and challenges me. A painter friend of mine reminded me to be gentle with myself. That teaching takes a lot out of an introvert. That making the switch back to quietude takes time. And so I have been being gentle. I have been holding off making this post about it all because in some way, to write about Taos time is to shut a lid on it until next time. Buttoning that space up so that I don’t lose track of it between now and next year. I hope to get back for a visit between now and then if I can. Perhaps even for a workshop with Solange Leboucher who is a practitioner of Polarity Therapy which I have come to lean on as a tool of the soul when I teach out there.
I don’t know. I do know that if feels good to get back here on this old writing space and share some photos and to attempt to convey in some small way the gratitude that I have for the work that I do. I marvel at the scope of it sometimes, even as I ask more of it.
Til, next time….. enjoy this summer’s travels no matter where you go.
pps. And these words, from Millicent Rogers…..
“Did I ever tell you about the feeling I had a little while ago? Suddenly, passing Taos Mountain I felt that I was part of the Earth, so that I felt the Sun on my Surface and the rain. I felt the Stars and the growth of the Moon, under me, rivers ran. And against me were the tides. The waters of rain sank into me. And I thought if I stretched out my hands they would be Earth and green would grow from me. And I knew that there was no reason to be lonely that one was everything, and Death was as easy as the rising sun and as calm and natural – that to be enfolded in Earth was not an end but part of oneself, part of everyday and night that we lived, so that Being part of the Earth one was never alone. And all fear went out of me – with a great, good stillness and strength.”