Category Archives: Inspiration

Let us keep courage

Fine Folk grace the pages of my sketchbook, along with wise words from the wisdom keepers I trust.  I look to these wisdom keepers as beacons, following their light,  as will-o-the-wisp….. into the darkness.

One such beacon, writer Robert Macfarlane, was featured in an interview with Krista Tippett of the program On Being.  They discuss a recent book of his called Underland which is a gorgeous, lengthy tome; an exploration of the world beneath our feet as seen and sensed from a variety of angles.  It’s the kind of book that deserves to be by one’s bedside to fill the mind with juicy and delicious language as a doorway into dreaming.  This book apparently took Macfarlane 6 years to complete.  He dipped into other projects along the way of course, but this one crept along, under everything else it would seem.  It was worth the wait.

Underland explores a concept of Deep Time, one that is beyond human, but which can be tapped into by those of us with the proper notions to do so.  If you have been reading my ideas here over the years, you know this is something I hold dear, this time-bending.  I believe it is at the heart of the things we treasure as human beings.  Good art, rich poetry, the ability to go beyond the day to day.  To send our cultural tap roots down into the flow of All Things and perhaps channel something up.  All of this of course takes time and practice.  And there are no guarantees.

“CAESURA”

‘In verse, a pause in the rhythm of a line after a phrase; in choral work, a moment where singers might catch their breath.’

via Robert Macfarlane on twitter

I really admire the depth of the work of writers such as Macfarlane, and I look to them for clues as to how to dig deeper into my own work.  Art as well as writing.  Even on social media channels, he and others like him make places like twitter and instagram into arenas of culture and idea-weaving.  I aim to do the same, having curbed my own use of such channels into avenues of art and music.  It’s a tricky balance in a world filled with instant sound-bytes and the next great and funny thing.  Last week Macfarlane announced he will be off of twitter for a while with the word caesura and its definition.

I thought to myself, ‘I’d like to do that.’

The idea of taking a break from social media is by no means a new one, by myself or anyone else for that matter.  There are books on digital detoxing which I have looked to when desperate for a break from it all.  Lately, thankfully, I have not felt desperate to leave the online arenas of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.  I have them fairly well and carefully “curated” in order to see things which inspire me.  New books to read, artists to research and learn something from, science to pique my curiosity and better my stewardship of my little part of the world.   I choose when and how to get my “news” as that can be fraught with peril in this day and age.  We must be careful what we feed ourselves, body and mind.

And yet, although not desperate to leave per se, I could use a break.  What keeps me tethered to the usual channels is the business end of things.  Usually, I am in marketing mode this time of year.  Selling my classes to Taos and Guatemala.  Hustling to show the world that yes, we go to beautiful places, have an amazing time together and make a bunch of gorgeous work.  (WE DO!!!!! )  And this is all part of my job.  But this year, I have been given a great gift…..  My classes for 2020 are mostly sold out (there are two slots left in the second week of the Antigua offering. That’s it!)  For once, I can relax a little bit.  And so I am considering a break over the holidays.

If this idea comes to fruition, I’ll be off of twitter, facebook and instagram from Nov 29 – Jan 1.

I wonder sometimes, if I make something, or write something, but I don’t shout it into the void of the social media platforms, have I really created anything?  This is the culture we are sold in this modern age.  I would like to confront this culture, especially in my own mind.  I’d like to follow some breadcrumbs of my own making just to see where they may lead.  Without the pressure to report.

This will be an interesting experiment.  I just began a weekly story idea which will continue to grow here, but folks will have to come find it, or wait until the New Year when I get back into the swing of things of sharing.  Soon, I’ll be packing for Guatemala and sharing via instagram sun-kissed, color-washed images of our time in Antigua.  It is in this way I beckon to future students to step into the sunshine with me and come on along!!  But with the classes filled to brimming, and a lovely waitlist padded out for Taos, I feel I can take the social media break I’ve been craving for years, without having to crash and burn mentally to get it.  It’s a good place to find myself.

So we shall see.  It is always a balance.  I may yet shift this plan into something less stringent.  But I am always leaning toward trying a new tactic with regard to my presence in the online world.  And for once I have the space to do so.

In other news…….

With Riley School out for break,  I am back to sketching along with my mates in the Cincinnati Urban Sketchers.  Last week we had a “boUrban sketchers” outing where we tasted bourbon at New Riff distillery.  It was great fun!!  Come along with us sometime!

I have a few paintings up at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center’s winter Collective show, EMERGE.  This one below was the belle of the ball.  I received many complements and offers to buy it.  But alas, it was snatched up by a private collector just days before the show.  I think the theme is one I’d like to explore further.  The quietude of this piece seemed to speak to a number of people.

The other work on which I received a good bit of feedback is this little lovely, Bonny Hills,  whose skies are filled with subtle color.  This is a second theme I hope to explore further in more paintings in the new year.  This one has not yet sold….  One of my fellow collective members said to me, I get the sense you were meant to be in Ireland.  How right she is.

In the music arena, the Riley School of Irish music will present its annual holiday program Peace and Merriment,  at 2 pm December 14.  Our address is 2221 Slane Avenue in Cincinnati.  Hope to see you there!  We also play a weekly session out in town: 1st and 3rd Wednesdays we can be found at Ludlow Garage in Clifton, 2nd and 4th Tuesdays , Streetside Brewery on Eastern Avenue.  Stop in and say hi!

 

On Crafting One’s World

Today I have the great pleasure of presenting a bit of my illustration work and sketchbook process to some college students at a local university.  So I have been collecting a few of my books and drawings and have been thinking deeply how all of this stuff has affected and changed life as I know it.  It’s amazing really.

Yes, I am an artist by trade and vocation.  But I don’t think one has to be An Artist to find one’s path through life in an artistic manner.

Human beings are born makers.

When we pay attention to who we believe we are and we surround ourselves with the things that reflect that story, with all its urges, aspirations and processes, we develop a perspective that’s uniquely ours to share.  In turn we can share that unique perspective and, acting from a place of greater wholeness and awareness, thus become better and more useful members of our community.”

~Khristopher Flack

” I never knew I was creating a world which was an antithesis to the world around me which was full of sorrow, full of wars, full of difficulties.  I was creating a world I wanted, and into this world, once it is created, you invited others and then you attract those who have affinities and this becomes a universe.”

~Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin

Lately

Rain is falling and it is said snow is coming.  What a perfect time to share this……

So excited to finally share with you a little drawing I made in late summer or so.  It is the cover art crafted for a beautiful collection of pre-twentieth century European Christmas carols, all arranged for fiddle and guitar and performed with such delicate grace by Finn MaGill.

You can obtain this music digitally via the link below during pre-order days for just $7 until Nov. 29:

https://andrewfinnmagill.bandcamp.com/album/christmas-carols-for-violin-guitar?fbclid=IwAR3vwHOu5eB5xoZ2SX-ybMINGJv4UJ_EDdvLKD30Cy4b-T4ByUFbHV7FLoE

In a world so mad with the day to day, it is really nice to find a pensive work of music to set the tone.  Especially for the holidays.  Truly, it’s lovely.  Go get it.

In other news, I have been pulling myself up by the bootstraps a bit as I dig back into colder weather and grayer days.  I look back at older work to see where newer work might come from.  My friend Rima Staines posted online a week or so ago a weeklong set of prompts for “Folk Tale Week” and at the last minute, I decided to play along.

It was good for my mood.  Here they are….. (but to read my reasoning behind choosing these particular images for these specific prompts, go to my instagram page.)

  1. HOME
  2. SECRET
  3. PATH
  4. SMOKE
  5. DARKNESS
  6. KEY
  7. CROWN

It really was fun to re-visit some of my older drawings, and fun to feel inspired to make a couple of new ones as well.  New ideas are a funny thing.  We need the space and time in which to create them, and in a busy modern world, finding that is a feat in and of itself.  But we must also seed new work with perhaps pieces of our own old ideas, or maybe some new things from people and things that inspire us.  and so, we strive for balance.

This balance is always up for scrutiny, at least for me.  Too much time alone with my own thoughts can be dangerous.  Too little, is equally or perhaps more so.  But I keep wandering the artful path.  Trusting that time spent playing my flute or learning new things on the pipes is time well spent (let’s face it, no money is being made and in this modern age, that can seem like a waste of time!!).

In pipes class the other day we were lamenting the piping path, fraught with peril.  And a new idea occurred to me of a series that might happen showcasing a newish piper, a Badger perhaps, clumsily finding his own way along the road to piperhood.  And so I may have a new friend.  He may look a bit like the fella singing in the album cover above…. John Joe?  is that you?

More soon on all of it.  In the meantime, treat yourself to the quiet beauty of Finn’s new album.  It’s gorgeous.  And for once, I am excited to put on Christmas music.

Enchantment on the edge

” I sat down on the bank above the beach where I had a splendid view all around me.  Dead indeed is the heart from which the balmy air of the sea cannot banish sorrow and grief.”

~Peig Sayers

We are more than a week home to Ohio now.  In this time we have run the gamut of human emotions.  Grief over the loss of and  funeral for Tony’s mom, love and glee at reconnecting with far flung family at said funeral, relief at being in one’s own bed and living space, awe at the turning of the season, as autumn in Ohio carries its own special splendor.  Overwhelm at the return to the reality of regular responsibility.

So often the case, I find my soul lagging behind my body after a trip of such magnitude and so part of my mind’s eye is still fixed on the magical hills and cliffs and windswept beaches of western Ireland.  But I am more fortunate than most who return to the US from a trip to the Emerald Isle.  I have music.

I shall start with that.

This fiddle playing owl graces the doorway of Neligan’s Pub in Dingle, where we happened upon an “open” session in which to play a few tunes.

Irish music has been in my life for a good while now.  Beginning with my son taking on the challenges of the fiddle, which led not only to his life’s work as a musician but also to me forging my own brambled path via whistle, flute and eventually (gods willing and the creek don’t rise) the Uillean pipes.  To say this music is a gift in my life would be a vast understatement.  Everywhere we laid our weary heads whilst in Ireland had something to do with the music.

Our friends in Blackrock, Co. Louth are both musicians.  Through their work over the years, they have come to know many influential people in the relatively small world of traditional Irish music.  And this is how I came to find myself treated to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of a private lesson with a legend.

Things I took away from meeting Seamus: I have good tone (this is really good news) and I need to work on my ornamentation (not news to me of course, and also not unexpected from a Sligo styled player)

Seamus Tansey is a force to be reckoned with.  His playing carries the wild, untamed side of Irish flute music and his mercurial personality matches this fierceness.  He’s a character not to be crossed, from everything I have ever heard about him.  And yet, because I came connected to someone he holds in high regard, I think he took a shine to me.  Our lesson was mostly me being stunned at the musical gymnastics he was asking for and him being patient with my inabilities.  There is nothing more humbling than this music and I have so much to learn, it’s true.  Perhaps this lesson with a legend would have been better spent on one besides myself, one with more knowing of the intricacies of this tradition.  But when one gets this opportunity laid in front of them, one must say, “I accept.”  I am grateful to Seamus and his lovely wife Joan for their gracious hospitality, to Simone and Sean for shuttling me to Northern Ireland for this opportunity and to Lillie whom I took to the airport hotel in Dublin far earlier than maybe suited her so that I could get to Belfast in time for all this.  Life is rich indeed, and we all do things to build each other up, do we not?

One of my favorite evenings of this trip was of a night in a Kerry kitchen, trading very local tunes with my friend Michael, a lovely box player who is a bit too shy to play at the sessions but who has loads to share.  Another favorite memory is that of an open session in a little pub in Dingle called Neligan’s.  Another box player called Michael, along with a few other lovely players and another lovely night of tunes indeed. A shout out to publican Dara who makes all feel welcome and at home in his pub.  Thanks for the encouragement to come along and play!  (We shall catch up to ourselves in Dingle shortly here in this writing…..)

Dingle is quite the touristy place really.  I can only imagine the throngs during the season.  But I think of this music as a bit of a back stage pass. Knowing a few tunes and humbly sitting in (only when invited, of course) at a local session can mean that the local musicians might stick around for a chat after the tunes.  And just like that, one makes a new friend or two.

Thankfully for Tony, all was not incessantly musical.  There was much touring to be done in our short time in Ireland. I was keen to hook him on this country I hold so dear with the hopes of luring him back once again.   I will be there next year for a whole month of course and I hope for him to tag along for a bit of November perhaps….. we shall see.

We took in the windswept Cliffs of Moher where there was not only natural splendor…..

One can see the rains coming in just in time to take cover….

Small beauty, amidst the majestic.

 

The wind makes drawings in the grasses.

Dizzying heights.
Classic cliffs. There is a reason this place is famous.

But the splendor of quirky humanity as well which made my heart swell.  There was an intrepid couple from away, maybe Portugal or Italy (difficult to hear with the wind blowing) who were keen to get some iconic wedding photos made….

Her veil blew in the wind and the rains did fall.  Everyone seemed to be good sports about it all.

Others got in on the fun and had their own impromptu wedding shoots….

It was one of those rare, feel good moments when one feels a part of things and good to be a human.  These kids might have been from Germany (again, so hard to hear with the wind as it was).  But strangely, all seemed right with the world for the moment.

Eventually, the next day, as you know, saw us headed further south, further west to the Dingle Peninsula, “Corca Dhuibhne”.  We soldiered on through rain and fog and down impossibly small roads which found us over impossibly foggy mountains.  The skies did clear and Dingle did cast her spell eventually and we found the music there that night at Neligan’s.  Sadly we barely had 24 hours to explore this amazing peninsula, but we took in what we could.

All around there was a feeling of being in an “other” world, of being blessed by those who exist in a greater beyond.  Things seem chancey and strange here.

An old “famine cottage” along the Slea Head Drive. Although it was €3 to enter, we found it fascinating and ghost like.
Mary, ever present. The Goddess in modern vernacular.

“Then I went to Ireland.  The conversation of those ragged peasants, as soon as I learnt to follow it, electrified me.  It was as though Homer had come alive.  Its vitality was inexhaustible, yet it was rhythmical, alliterative, formal, artificial, always on the point of bursting into poetry.”

~George Thomson, The Prehistoric Aegean

Language, in English as well as Irish piles up like stones.  Every nook and cranny, every stream and small strand has a name.

we begin to see where the swirls come into play….

The sheer breadth and depth of such a small place is difficult to capture and express.  It is said that Ireland is the size of our Indiana.  And yet, it carries aeons of legends and myths, tales of wonder and woe.  It would take a life time to learn and unpack it all.

We start with small words, easy to learn.  Familiar concepts.

Creatures we know we love already.

Looking out to the Great Blasket Island from the Blasket Cultural center. An amazing place to visit should you get the chance.

Perhaps through painting the sights we see, learning the tunes which waft through the air, and engaging in a word or two of Irish here and there, we might find our way to being accepted by this land I feel so drawn to.  I am keen to spend more time in Ireland.

I like the idea of being able to walk to the sea, and to the local bookstore, and the local pub, which might not only feature a warming bevvie, but also a nice cup of soup on an evening I don’t feel the urge to cook.

I actually don’t even mind the backward driving….

I love the constant presence of ravens and crows (kind of like in New Mexico).

But alas, here I am, now, in Ohio.  And I do not grieve this.  I have an amazing inlet and outlet for music via the Riley School, I have a wonderful community of fellow artists.  We have a patch of land where I am about to go set some garlic in for the winter and batten down the hatches against the squirrels.  Life is good wherever we are.

But I am glad to know of a few places, one especially, which make my heart sing.  Most folks might go a whole lifetime and not find this.  For this I am grateful.

 

 

 

Bog Silence

Did you know, my middle name is Heather?

Today my Kerry companions and I head north on a little road trip to Ennis in Co. Clare, endlessly chasing the music.  There is a gig to attend by a friend who makes this music professionally and a session in the works up the road after the concert.  And so, this day will be a traveling day.

I know I am not painting “enough” in recent days but writing feels like the art this week.  Gathering imagery and words.  Following the threads of inspiration.  This is “enough”.  Whatever that means.

As I left this space in my last post, I was off to don wellies and wander up the road with my hosts here to visit a bit of bog land that has been a part of their family and culture for generations.   The bog road goes well off the Ballybunion road and so traffic, if any, is light, and consists of other walkers and wanderers seeking a bit of quiet time in Nature.

We dodge raindrops and keep an eye on the horizon for rainbows.  Of course there are rainbows.

The bog is quiet with only the sound of the breeze, the rain falling, bird song and a an occasional gentle mooing of a far off cow.

Bogs are natural wonderlands, filled with all kinds of flora and fauna for those with eyes to see.  Ferns and heather, native grasses and mosses.  It is a lovely place to behold.

The silence of the bog is infectious and exactly what I have been craving.  I find it interesting that this segment of Brain Pickings is about silence and it comes across my digital path this morning as I build a little blog post before hitting the winding road to Clare.

Turf is cut from the bog and stacked to dry for use. This is called “footing the turf” and the structures are like sculptures.

This bog is a working bog and local folks have utilized the turf to heat their homes and light their hearths for years.  This is all now up for discussion nowadays as bog turf holds a great deal of carbon.  My companions are gentle stewards of this patch of bog as well as of the land which holds their cottage and grows much of their food.  They know this place well and appreciate its limitations.   I for one hope that a least a bit of turf can be burned here and there in future as the smell is divine.

After the bog walk, we return to the cottage for a cup of tea and a game of fetch with Pancake, a lovely pup indeed.

I am treated to a bite to eat and evening descends upon us.  Tea turns to wine, conversation turns to tunes, just myself and Michael – flute and accordion – and I hear slides and marches which are new to my ears.  They are local to this place and I wish for them to be collected and played back home, to celebrate this beautiful quiet patch of Kerry.  Mike and I talk about how the old tunes are really the best tunes.  Flash and musical prowess are lovely to behold, but there is something so rich and lovely about a few solid tunes in the kitchen with a local farmer.  I am blessed beyond belief.

Later I return home, my head fairly swimming with music (*finally!*) and I am reminded of the date.  It is the anniversary of the death of one of my best and most influential friends of this life time – Mia.  If she could see where life has taken me, she would beam, I am sure.  When she was ever so ill, I had just begun on the whistle – awkward and shy about it.  But she insisted I play what I knew for her and so I did.  She laughed and clapped in delight and told me never to stop playing.  I haven’t.  I miss Mia on a regular basis and think that perhaps the magic of this special day, from pre-dawn beach time, to a bog-walk under a watery sun and into the evening with new tunes and dear friends may have just been a blessing from the beyond.  I am deeply grateful.

 

A ballybunion morning

Ballybunion is a bustling seaside town in the summer, but it quiets down quite a bit in the ‘off season’, as many of the best places do.  There is a sweet sign in the park which overlooks the ocean, reminding us not to take ourselves so seriously, something time spent at the beach can often do.

Slow Dance

Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round, or listened to rain slapping the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight, or gazed at the sun fading into the night?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast, time is short, the music won’t last.

Do you run through each day on the fly, when you ask “How are you?” do you hear the reply?

When the day is done, do you lie in your bed, with the next hundred chores running through your head?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast, time is short, the music won’t last.

Ever told your child, we’ll do it tomorrow and in your haste, not see his sorrow?

Ever lost touch, let a friendship die, cause you never had time to call and say hi?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast, time is short, the music won’t last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere, you miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry through your day, it’s like an unopened gift thrown away.

Life isn’t a race, so take it slower, hear the music before the song is over.

David L. Weatherford

There is nothing like the sea and time spent near it to calm the inner storms and frustrations which plague.  Yesterday my companions and I drove out to Ballybunion and braved a bit of rain and wind to take in the fresh sea air.  We were not disappointed.

 

After a lovely, misty wander up and down the beach, we walked back up to the village and warmed up by the fire with Guinness and Wine for some, tea for me.  I am quite proud that I can drive here in Ireland and have thus far done fairly well.

This morning I opted to steal away before dawn for a few more source photos and merely more time by the sea.  If I lived just 10 km down the road from this place, might be found there almost daily.

It rained nearly all the way from Listowel to Ballybunion but the clouds did eventually part and I was treated to a magnificent morning indeed.

As I walked and took pictures, I swept the beach for bits of plastic I might be able to pick up.  There was more than I’d hoped for, but all in all it is such a clean beach.  Still, we must do better.

There is such a sense of history layered upon history here in Ireland and there is no escaping it.  There is the Renaissance era Ballybunion castle ruins which are so iconic, and the old escape hatches sometimes found niched into the cliffs that some say may have predated the castle and began in the Iron Age as food storage cellars.  It’s fascinating!  And I realize, we are only temporary.

Nature will, eventually, take everything back.

There shall be more here, but for now I must find my woolen socks and ready my camera as I am due to be picked up for a visit to the bog with our hosts here in Listowel.  Taking in all I can, while I can.

ps, I am told that the way the woman in this video lives is very much like how my friends here grew up in the very cottage we stay in now, which has been updated with a few modern amenities…..

 

 

 

 

San – G

“Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine” 

~Irish saying that translates literally as “People live in each other’s shadows.”  (via @nualamusic)

Today is the 30th of September, and the facet of my heart that shines brightest in New Mexico sunlight beats in time with those of my soul family there as they celebrate the Feast of San Geronimo.

This celebration is sacred to my friends, and we don’t talk much about the meaning of it all.  Rather we bask in the company of one another, we celebrate a successful harvest with food and community and we encourage the Lady of the Mountain to don the golden colors of autumn.

There is talk of Shadows when the Koshares appear to wreak a bit of havoc, which adds to the festival atmosphere.

It is a day to sit in communion with the land and the mountains and the folks who live on and with it.  Today I send a lot of love out into the cosmos, especially to my beloved Land of Enchantment.

view from the point

“We withdraw not to disappear, but to find another ground from which to see; a solid ground from which to step, and from which to speak again, in a different way, a clear, rested, embodied voice we begin to remember again as our own”

~ David Whyte*

                                                                    *came across this quote via @lachanterie

We find ourselves in Maine, where once upon a long time ago, many many lifetimes ago actually, we came as newly fledged adults to begin finding our way in the world.  Much like recently hatched ducklings, we imprinted on this land then and have returned year after year in pilgrimage to this place which so shaped us in those early days.  The smells, sounds, color and light here are different from all else and they speak in a soul-full tongue indeed.  We are grateful to be here.

As it is a “workaday” sort of day for many of us here, I crept away to a local point to give my paint brushes a little spin, they having collected a bit of dust during my time down other, more musical pathways recently.

I found a perfect spot under a shade tree, at the end of a lane one can find only by foot.  There were welcoming spots in the form of benches and water accessible paths.  I opted for a space at a picnic table and set about to sketch a bit.  It was clear that other artful efforts had occurred in this very space as there was evidence.

So I began with the watercolors, of course.

Eventually moving over to oils…..

…..which are not without their frustrations, but I mixed and painted and observed and corrected and painted some more.  And got the bones of a painting down which I can perhaps work with later in the week once we are settled at camp.

note the stripe up the right side, this is due to the little carrying rack I built (which works a treat actually!) and I will fix it at a later time.

All in all, it was lovely exercise on this, my first day back here in Maine where we are settled in for awhile, nestled by the sea.

 

tools, upgraded

Snow, in summer, at Independence Pass which had just opened up a couple of weeks before our arrival in Colorado.

I am between traveling.  Home from a brief visit to Aspen, Colorado, where our son Jack is part of the Aspen Music Festival, living his musical dreams to the fullest.  It is truly something to witness, one following their truest path.  He is at home in music.

Pictures and video were not permitted during the concerts in Aspen, but I did capture a couple of snapshots during warm up.

While he worked and practiced and performed, we took in the natural splendor of Aspen and surrounds, grateful to Jack’s wonderful hosts who took us in and treated us like family.

It occurred to me while sitting at the base of the Maroon Bells that the best people in our lives, many of the most important connections moving us ever forward and truer in our own lives, have come from a few simple things – art, music, and the pursuit of what makes our souls sing most heartily.

I think about the time years ago, sitting at the base of those same iconic mountains, when I made the decision to pursue a proper art degree upon returning home from a metalworking class I’d taken at Anderson Ranch in Snowmass near Aspen.  What is it about the clear mountain air and the presence of a stately, ancient mountain which affords us such lofty notions?   I do not know.  But I’m beginning to pick up on the fact that if I have something to think about, I should find myself at the foot of Taos Mountain, Volcan de Agua, or perhaps those lovely iron-laden Maroon Bells to find my answers.

Aspen felt like a proper vacation after the rich and deep work done in New Mexico.  While the Hub and I did sketch quite a lot in some gorgeous locations, there were often times I personally just sat and took it all in.  Jackie Morris of The Lost Words  fame recently stated on an episode of Folk On Foot that one of the most difficult things for her to learn as an artist was that the sitting and thinking and looking and thinking some more, are as important to her job of Artist as the pencil and paint to paper practicalities of her craft – perhaps even more so.  Having not come from a background and family of practicing artists, she’s found this notion difficult in past, and has only recently begun to truly take it on board.  I feel much the same.

That said, the watercolors and pencils do beckon in beautiful places, and I did make a few drawings.

Aspen is steeped in the arts, with ties to the taste and aesthetic of the Bauhaus tradition in its design and of course in the music festival itself held there each summer.  Everything is better with the arts involved.

Today, just now, I write to you here fairly giddy with relief, gratitude and a sense of overwhelming possibility.  I have *finally* (after literally years of frustration and hemming and hawing) upgraded my tech tools here in the studio.

I’ve invested in a more travel worthy laptop machine for writing and photo-manipulation on the road, and even opted for a large home-base monitor when I am at my desk in the studio.  Sometime today (*hopefully*) a little scanner will arrive and I’ll get that set up as well.  All of this is in keeping with the plan to get more work made and into the world.  Let’s be fair, I work.  I work a lot.  In some ways I am never NOT working.  But so much of my energy was going into technical glitches and the waiting and slowness of manipulating photos on outdated technology.  If I was to engage in a blog post, I needed a solid day to get it made.  And so, I found myself putting off writing.  I have so much work to share, but with an old scanner, my work never translated well to digital, and so it took a lot to get it tech-ready for sharing online or presenting for publication or applying for grants and residencies.  With some encouragement from Vanessa at NessyPress and moral support from the Hub, I took the plunge and threw the necessary gold coins into the abyss to get the tools I needed.

It took some doing, and a few trips to the computer store and calls to the tech folks at apple, but we managed to get it sorted.  And here I am, knocking out an update here in a more prompt and succinct manner.  This feels sustainable.  It was time for this investment.

But tech tools aren’t the only important thing, of course, merely being the vehicles by which the work is dispersed in this world.  I also took a bit of time to make a traveling oil paint set up.

Watercolor is generally my go to travel companion.  I have the set up I love, a little traveling “van” in which to cart it all, and it really works.  Even so, I pine for the oils when I find myself in beautiful places.  Our family trip to Maine, coming up later this summer, is a perfect combination of loads to do combined with plenty of “down time” to just play.  That play might be on the water, catching up on books we’ve been meaning to read, or perhaps trying new recipes with one’s best friend in tiny kitchen at camp.  But there is always more time, and that is when I start feeling restless, wishing I’d brought some oil paints to play with.

So I put together a handmade pochade box of sorts, crafted from an old wooden cigar box, plus a little carrier for any wet panels I may want to bring home.

The pochade box is pretty sturdy, and the wet panel carrier will do until I decide if this is something I may do again and again.  All in all I spent about $20.  A worthwhile investment on vacation satisfaction I do believe.

Upon returning from Aspen, I felt overwhelmed with home chores and the work needing caught up on at the shop and in my own studio.  And so for the first day or so, I just painted and played music.

This practice set my head on straight and I was then able to sink into the tasks at hand.  I am deeply grateful for all of it.  I often think that in this day and age, it is difficult to remember to take a few minutes to breathe.  To play a tune, paint a picture.  There are Big Things we must tackle (did you hear Amy McGrath is taking on Mitch McConnell??),  situations we must face, as heartbreaking as they are (there has to be a better, kinder, more humane way forward at the border, don’t you think?).  Life is complex, and tormented at times, but it is also beautiful and simple in many ways as well.  It always has been.

Next week I am off once again for my own musical adventure at the Swannanoa Gathering in North Carolina.  On the one hand, this week is truly a get-away-from-it-all Brigadoon of sorts where we forget the world outside, focus on learning tunes and improving our craft and catch up with dear friends who have become musical family over the years.   But on the other hand, it is so much more.

This week at music camp, and for that matter, my week of teaching in Taos each year, are a form of deep magic.  Magic which in some way counteracts all of the darkness we see through our screens in this modern age.   The very human physicality of coming together to play tunes, sing songs, laugh and cry together over the year’s happenings, somehow counteracts the “badness” in the news.  It’s not a cure all to be sure.  But it is the way many of us take respite from it all, if only for a moment, in order to get back out into the world and do the work.

Artists confront the difficult in this world.  Just look online at the work of artists during WW1 who were interpreting the previously unimaginable through their paintings.  I personally have taken to avoiding the echo chambers of social media for my own outrage over the state of things nowadays.  But I have my ear to the ground.  I support candidates who are doing good things in the world.  I take to the streets as needed.  I volunteer with and support the vulnerable.  But I also seek joy.  And beauty amidst the outrage.  For if I, or any of my artist friends begin to lose perspective (and isn’t it so easy to do?) then we amount to nothing.

It is my hope to be a source of light in the darkness in this modern age.  A reminder there is a place by the hearth-fire for anyone who needs a break between difficulties.  We cannot do it all, let alone singlehandedly.  Art and Joy, Music and Friendship, Beauty and Solitude are worthy pursuits, even in this fast paced, crowded,  often seemingly ugly world.  Let us make art and music.

More on the Big Work at Swannanoa here:

Musical Activism

Response on the Eve of Brigadoon

For now, I bid you fare well, and I’ll see you in Maine…….

 

 

 

 

Mapping the weeks ahead

Antigua beckons…..

But first, there are tunes to play (yay!!… below I’ll list where we are playing locally in coming days) lists to attend to, errands to run.

In the meantime a favorite part of the work I do is to collect bits of ‘swag’ to present to my students upon arrival in whatever destination we may find ourselves.  For the Antigua trip, I’ll gather a few things once I arrive to combine with things I’ve gathered here in Ohio- like little altoid watercolor sets to work with (this allows people to try new colors which might not be available in their own sets and to play with limiting their palette as an exercise).

I’ve crafted a keepsake illustrated map of some of our favorite haunts in Antigua which I’ll reproduce for my students.  It’s fun!  It is my hope that not only will this come in handy to know where they are as we sketch the city, but will also encourage them to create their own version in their own travel journals.  We must always map our own course, I do believe.

There are stickers…. always stickers…..

….which encourage a bit of ‘mixed media -ness’ in our books.  I’m sure to have a few more tricks up my sleeve but really the true gift will be that of spending time together, slowing down and enjoying this World Unesco Heritage city in all its glory.  To say I am excited to return would be an understatement.

Here at home I have been gifted some tree cuttings to root as I re-think the stewardship of our little patch of land.  I am mindful of what needs to be done in the garden, and perhaps more importantly, what needs NOT be done as well.  Do check out the work of We Are The Ark in the hopes of re-wilding small places to create a network of healing in these times.

Art by Ruth Evans for www.wearetheark.org

While I was making stickers at the library today for my workshops, I saved a bit of time to make some stickers for this cause as well.  I’ve mentioned this notion of holding two things at once in our hearts, yes?  We must do the work we do in the day to day, while also tending the wild places in the corners of our gardens and spreading the word about the need to be more mindful in this world.  Limiting consumption where we can.

In this same spirit I am following closely the work of young activists who are striking from school when and where they can (usually Friday’s but I know it can vary region to region).  Emma Reynolds has pulled together a number of illustrators to show solidarity with these brave voices and here is my little drawing…

That is the news from today.  For now I am off to rehearse tunes with my musical mates.  We don’t often have microphones thrust in front of us, and so we take a bit of time to practice for these once-yearly gigs.

You can find me here in the coming days……

Saturday:  Arnolds Bar and Grill 8-1130 pm

Sunday:  B-List Bar in Bellevue KY 4 pm-730 ish then Palm Court at the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel 9-12 (this is quite fancy)

I hope to see you there if you are local to this little river valley.  More soon as I get set to hit the road very soon…..