Category Archives: Inspiration

Gifts of Color and Light

The sun drifts down behind volcanos surrounding Antigua, Guatemala, providing the beginnings of the evening’s light show, Sunset.

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….

Decoration,

“Tangled”
Changing a bulb

Reflection,

Celebration,

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.

The world could use a bit of all of these.

See you in Antigua!

From the rooftop of Posada San Sebastian. (oil on Panel, 5×7)

The Holly and the Iris*

There is difficulty in the balancing of things in this season.  Our bodies seek quietude and a hibernation of spirit.  Yet current culture stretches us into the further reaches of the Land of More.

It is nigh impossible to reach these heights.

But there is much to harvest from even the darkest nights and the most bustling of times.  We can (must) find our balance amidst the busy.  This coming weekend has a slew of beloved gatherings on hand – those of a musical and artistic nature, as well as the beginnings of the familial toe-touches we do from year to year.  It is my goal to be present at each.  Fully.

The Holly

This last week finds me in conversation with a familiar physical reminder to keep my own delicate balance.  My Jaw has been giving me great trouble in the the form of TMJ.  This little embodied red-flag rears its head when I’m overly tired, anxious or having trouble expressing myself somehow, and perhaps it’s all of these things just now.  But a reminder indeed.  A reminder to attend all the Holly related activities of the holiday season, but not without stepping outside with my wild Iris Rose at my side to keep in balance.  Today I did a bit of yoga and walked my dog.  The new time-blocking plan is going well, having cut my commute in half to day job and yet I still struggle for balance this time of year.  I suppose we all do.

The Iris

I look forward to the weekend ahead and send my roots down beneath the iciness to more fertile ground awaiting new ideas when the space is there to work on them.

And whether you look to the skies for celebration….

…..or opt to hibernate with friends a little closer to home…

May this season afford you some balance amidst the madness.

Solstice is coming, bringing the light.  Hold tight until then…..

*and for my more “literal” readers, yes, I know it’s “the holly and the ivy.”  But Iris is who she is, and this season can be a bit squirrelly, yes?  So I went with it.

How are you balancing things this season?  Do let me know in the comments…..

Peace of Wild Things

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.

As Solstice nears, let us look to the Peace of the Wild Things to lead us into the light.

Blocking

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.

Maximón’s house, Santiago De Laguna, Guatemala

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.

Mural in San Juan La Laguna, attibuted to jovenarte (near as I can tell, as it was not labeled and I’m relying on the interwebs…)

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!!

 

 

Save the dates!! (The future’s so bright)

2019 travel journal WORKSHOP DATES are officially posted and open for registration!  (Click on the linked pages below for all the specifics!)

Antigua, Guatemala: March 30- April 5, 2019    OR    April 7 – April 13, 2019  (note, these are two separate workshop weeks which I’ll offer back to back.)

Taos, New Mexico:  June 9- 15, 2019

For my friends out west, there is also a weekend sketch workshop with me in the Santa Cruz area slated for May 18 and 19, 2019.  Send me an email if you are interested!! (linked is my post about this year’s trip, which was wonderful!)

And below, I’ll catch you up a bit on the landing home after a most wonderful summer……

The future is indeed very bright around here.  We ‘gotta wear shades’ as they say.   This magical gypsy summer of serious traveling has left me feeling newly and deeply inspired, even unmoored and untethered at times.  Summer is always a a season of churning and  resetting, but this year these feelings are exceptionally poignant and rich.  I’ve had so much time to think about things, what with all the flying and driving and waiting and watching along the way from place to place to place.

A bit of art was crafted here and there while on the road, but mostly I found myself in a place of keen inner observation, a bird’s eye viewing of the self just now and the work currently at hand.

This summer I pondered a great deal about what in the world I am up to in this artful life (age appropriate behavior, as I just turned 49 the other day!!).  So many proverbially spinning plates all going at once, and there’s me, the mad, rushing spinner, jumping from thing to thing, spin, spin, spin, lest it all come crashing down around me.  At least, that is how it feels some days.  On other days, the balance of things settles deeply into my heart and I just know I am on the right track, in spite of all the wobbly plates.

Balance. It was all about balance. That had been one of the first things that she had learned: the centre of the seesaw has neither up nor down, but upness and downness flow through it while it remains unmoved. You had to be the centre of the seesaw so the pain flowed through you, not into you. It was very hard. But she could do it!”

― Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight

Recently, I was listening to a lovely chat between Krista Tippet and Liz Gilbert on the nature of creativity and the notion of choosing curiosity over fear.  (I like this notion a lot.)  There are many quotable gems throughout this interview and I highly recommend you take a listen to the unedited version of it.  There was one small thing though that made me stop the recording at one point and run for the journal to write it down.  Gilbert was talking of an inspirational favorite poet of hers called Jack Gilbert (no relation) who was described by his students at one point as being a teacher who –

“didn’t necessarily teach us so much HOW to write a poem, but rather WHY to write a poem.”

This statement stopped me in my tracks.  In some strange way, this philosophical shift encapsulates the work I do with travel journaling in my own workshops.  Yes, of course we do a bit of Drawing 101, and Basic Use of Watercolors, and etc.  But more importantly, we work together to get to the why of it all.  Why even bother to draw or paint or capture quotes in a little book which no one besides our patient loved ones will ever see?

Somehow, through the experiences shared as fellow artists, we distill these notions into the inspiration to do the work and figure out why along the way.  It is all about enchantment.  

And so, while I do teach the how-to along with my fellow sketchers locally, my heart of hearts is invested in the why  of it all, which is at the core of my travel based workshops.

Coming to this realization has helped me connect the dots a bit in the work that I do.  How the practice of local “Urban Sketching” might relate to and feed my passion for making anthropomorphic illustrations of animals having people-like adventures.  How these illustrations might also be “serious” enough to feed the fine-art branch of my artistic interests (i.e., paintings, sans hamsters).   How the fiber-based arts of embroidery and knitting might serve as idea-hatching meditations (whilst on the surface they may look like netflix-binging in my pajamas).  And how all of these varied practices might actually come together to make the workshops I teach quite different than others because they come from a very unique place,  me.

And as they say in Maine, ‘different is good‘.

And now here it is, not even the end of August, and I am already a feeling a little less angsty about work.  A bit more centered in forging forward in all of it, varied though it may be.  I am excited to have the dates and costs set for 2019’s offerings so get those checks in the mail lads!!

It feels good to be back home in this ol’ river valley of ours for a couple of months before the need to escape it all once more overtakes me and I hit the road again.

But for now, I am settled in my little nest, catching up on work at the shop, drawing and painting and writing every day possible and trusting that all will be well.

ps. Many of you have been asking when an Ireland based workshop might happen.  As of this writing, the right place has not quite found me yet.  And place is important.  We’d need a home base, something with space for us to live while we work (lodging AND classroom space); a place which has available local meal-catering options we could hire in if needed, walkability to a local village (because, MUSIC!) and preferably near the sea.  If you have any places on the emerald Isle to suggest, do let me know!  In the meantime, I plan to get back to Ireland on me own via artist’s residencies and visits to friends when at all possible.  I’ll keep you posted! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flying

In a mere week’s time I fly west once more for my annual trip to Taos NM.  Much of the rhythm of things here at home just now is akin to years past.  I work diligently at Day Job to get my little to do list settled.  No one wants to be the bottleneck there.  I stack the specially made instrument cases, one by one, and polish ever so many little silver and brass buttons and other necessary miniscule sundries for these lovely instruments we craft day to day.  It’s great fun, actually.  I am deeply grateful for a “job” which affords me the temporal freedom to make my own hours and simply do the work on my list, which in turn affords me artistic freedom to run my workshops and when possible, make some art as well.

As is often the case when I am up to my gills in to-do lists and packing lists and my mind is aflutter with all the earthly materialistic concerns in preparation for a lengthy journey, I feel called to crawl into a box of paints and swim amidst the colors there, creating my own less complicated world on canvas.

This is my brain on overwhelm.

A dear friend who knows me well sends along a timely NYT article about some less well-known art work on display just now by Georgia O’Keeffe.  I lose myself in the world of her paintings.  Perhaps I can find the time to bust out some oil paints to settle my soul before leaving.

Are we having the time of our life?
Are we having the time of our lives?
Are we coming across clear?
Are we coming across fine?
Are we part of the plan here?
Are we having the time of our lives?
Are we coming across clear?
Are we coming across fine?
Are we having the time of our lives?
Are we part of the plan here?
We have the driver and time on our hands
One little room and the biggest of plans
The days were shaping up, frosty and bright
Perfect weather to fly, perfect weather to fly
Pounding the streets where my father’s feet still
Ring from the walls, we’d sing in the doorways or bicker and row
Just figuring how we were wired inside
Perfect weather to fly
So in looking to stray from the line
We decided instead we should pull out the thread
That was stitching us into this tapestry vile
And why wouldn’t you try? Perfect weather to fly
We have the driver and time on our hands
One little room and the biggest of plans
The days were shaping up, frosty and bright
Perfect weather to fly, perfect weather to fly
Pounding the streets where my father’s feet still
Ring from the walls, we’d sing in the doorways, or bicker and row
Just figuring how we were wired inside
Perfect weather to fly
So in looking to stray from the line
We decided instead we should pull out the thread
That was stitching us into this tapestry vile
And why wouldn’t you try? Perfect weather to fly
                                                        ~Elbow
All work and no play makes us dull does it not?  And so on a stunningly gorgeous Ohio afternoon in May, a few of us from the shop take advantage of the perfect weather and head into the skies with our employer Wally, who also happens to be an airplane pilot.
We call this “team-building.”
Wally gets me all strapped into the plane. This is my “I am quite nervous about this but want to put on a brave face.” face.

Soon, we are in the air.  For a brief moment, I hold onto the throttle as Wally captures a most awesome snapshot.
In which I channel Aloha Wanderwell, fearless and free.

Perhaps next time up I will brave the loop-the-loop style acrobatics, but for me, for now,  merely being aloft is enough adventure this first time flying in the open air.

Justin on the other hand is built of more courageous stock and eventually opts for all the tricks.  Bravo Justin!

It is a fine day indeed and we all feel settled, calm and above the fray after flying.  Much like I do after a successful day swimming in the paint box or following a drawing to see where it leads.
One day, I follow a raven on the page…..
Which turns into a little carving with a message….
Having flown, I feel bird like and am reminded that each bird offers something different in the way of inspiration.  If one listens carefully, one might pick up a bit of the conversation….
“Draw, draw.
Draw. “
                  ~Raven
“sketch, sketch, sketch.”
                  ~Magpie
I attempt to translate a bit of what I hear in their chatter, and eventually make a little poem of sorts.
Oops! a typo! Typical for my little letter-shifting self. I opt to leave it. Perfect in its imperfection. Like me.
Pencil bags result and I am happy with them.  I am thankful to speak a bit of Raven.
As time marches on, the stuff of life seems to have no regard for things on my to-do list.  And so we attend an opera our son Jack plays in at Queen City Opera House.  It is entitled Iolanta and the music is by Tchaikovsky.  We enjoy it immensely.
We also journey into nameless far-flung corn-fields toward mid-ohio to visit a newly arrived niece called Flossie.
She is still quite small and ever so lovely.
Her parents are mushroom enthusiasts and so we wander into their woodland for a peek at what might be afoot on the forest floor….
Something about this day away from the city hits a bit of a reset button for us.  Everything slows into stillness and quietude.  We deeply appreciate our niece and her growing family.  Their approach to life in general and enthusiasm for the natural world is infectious and we find ourselves hopeful for the world at large for a change.  News headlines be damned for a day.
Like a slingshot or bow and arrow, I pull back, near ready to launch into summer’s travels.  Yet, at the same time, sink my toes into this fertile valley here so as not to forget what treasures lie here at home.  I’ll be writing from the road whenever possible, opting for merely the i-phone camera and tablet device as blogging tools.  We shall see how it goes.  In between times though, you can usually reach me over on Instagram or Twitter.  Do stay in touch.  I’d love to know what magic is shaping up in your summer.  Whether far afield, or closer to home.  Safe travels!

Left coast musings

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.

Sketch of Natural Bridges State Park, Santa Cruz CA

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.

Rosemary’s gorgeous new sketchbook. I was delighted she used a facsimile of an old sketch of mine to collage the cover.
My new summer season sketchbook with some found imagery and art lent to me by my dear fellow artist-friend Tina Westerkamp. I love cross-pollination between fellow artists.
Mushroom washi tape is among my favorite little things just now.
These pages will have much to hold in the coming months

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.

Karen starts out her page with a study of the colors to be found on this day, in this place. This is a great way to get to know a new place.
I really admire folks who like to draw architecture.
Sandi did an exquisite job on the trunk of this wisteria

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.

I demo-doodled a few birdhouses in pencil. There are many ways to capture a sketch.

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!

The girls look off into the distance to see the colors I am getting down onto the demo page. Once you really begin looking with an artist’s eye, you’ll be amazed at the variety of colors you see, even on a seemingly gray day. (photo courtesy of Rosemary Berwald)

Photo courtesy of Magdalena Cabrera
Photo courtesy of Magdalena Cabrera

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.

Our youngest sketcher, Tess, paints a lovely little circular landscape to install into her sketchbook.
Here Waller discovers the subtleties of the shifting seascape grays of the day.
Rosemary has perfected the art of the tiny landscape painting!
By just Day 2, Robin had really hit her stride!!
Robin had a small admirer of her work so she showed her what we were up to. Sketching brings everyone together.
Magdalena studies the ever changing hues of color in the sea and beyond.
Lani managed to capture the essence of the poppies around some stones where we were sketching. It’s a tricky color!
Joan found herself captivated by the distant sailboats who’s sails were billowing in the breeze. She captured it perfectly in this tiny landscape painting, later installed in her new sketchbook.
Here Rosemary demonstrates her tinies prowess.
Connie spent a great deal of time on the stones with the poppies and really managed to capture the subtlety of stone and the pop of poppy color.

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…..

Pretty sure this storm trooper was with the rebel alliance and in disguise. He was exceptionally polite and kind.
This pint-sized Rey has apparently been dressing up for May the Fourth since she was a tiny baby. Her parents said I could post this adorable picture of her.

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.

Til next time…..

 

 

A Galaxy Far, Far Away

(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.

Endor
Naboo
Fourth moon of Yavin (filming location at Tikal in Guatemala where we visited a while back!)
Degobah
Crait
Kashyyyk (Chewbacca’s lush homeland)
Hoth
Tatooine

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.

 

Between

This time just last week I found myself still in Antigua, Guatemala, soaking up the last bit of sweetness and sunshine of a truly remarkable artistic adventure.

Today, at least according to calendars, spring has arrived.

Charlie is not amused, but I assure her that this will pass quickly.   For while the snow falls and is apparently due to drop 4-6 inches on our fair river valley, the birds do sing, the buds do promise a show, and so I admire the loveliness, and sift through sketches and photographs of a time well had down south….. now while sipping hot bevvies.

It is always a bit of a journey to truly move between one place and another, each beloved, each so different from the next.  And so I have taken my time getting back into the swing of things here at home.  There has been work to catch up on at the shop (this is my day job where I help craft world class concertinas and the cases which house them).  Not to mention unpacking, much laundry and the defragmentation of lists and accounting.  And oh yes, St. Patrick’s Day nudged itself in there as well.

All good and fine things, but I’ll admit to being a little more on the ‘busy’ end of the activity spectrum in recent days than I would normally care to be.  It is a gift to have a bit of time on a snowy morning to share a bit of this latest Guatemalan adventure here.  What a time we had!

After a quick visit to foggy, rain soaked Chicago, I traveled for a lengthy but uncomplicated day, arriving in Central America at sunset.  By the time I made my way to Guatemala City, it was fully dark, but there was full moon splendor for the first few nights of my stay.  I spent a number of evenings just marveling from the rooftop as la Luna came up and over the horizon.

A bit of time was also spent just marveling once again at the collection of trinkets and santos and other such things at our beloved Posada San Sebastián in those first few days.

Eventually, we did spend time out in town as well.  Antigua does not disappoint with it’s charm.

When I shared this drawing with our inn keepers, they knew immediately who these guys were and were thrilled to see them!

The local active volcano, Volcan de Fuego, was quite active indeed.  Breathing it’s blessings upon us by day and by night.

“We are volcanoes, when we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change.  There are new mountains.”

~Ursula K. LeGuin

We enjoyed working in our books a bit before workshop participants began arriving.  I was thrilled to see them!  Old and new friends alike.

Photo by Vanessa Sorensen

They turned out to be very hard workers!  Some folks came with a fair bit of know-how and skill, while others brought a beginner’s wonder to the table.  All worked beautifully together which was fantastic and not unexpected.  Somehow, I manage to attract the most amazing people to these Sketch Journaling adventures.

As luck would have it, before we even began working, our group was treated to a front row viewing of a local Lenten Processión just after our first dinner together….

We spent the coming days soaking up everything Antigua had to offer, both out in town and close to home, depending on mood and how warm the weather might get on any given day.  The days flew by and yet stretched endless with possibility.

I drew the Joseph Santos at our Posada a couple of times.

My friend and fellow artist Vanessa Sorensen took a fancy to the Santos as well.  Take a look at her gorgeous sketches and blog posts about the trip here and here.

There is color and community at every turn in this ancient city.

Check out sketches by Christina Wald from the trip at her Instagram page!  She of course had to draw the iconic Arco!

A brief note:  Having lived in Guatemala as a child, I have a deep regard for the complexities of the variety of communities to be found in the country.  When looking to acquire textiles and other forms of handicraft, it’s important to me to buy second hand and to pay a fair price.  If I get anything first hand, I like to, again, pay a fair price to the artisan responsible.  In recent years, thanks to my friends Rosemary who’s an amazing sketcher and mixed media artist (and a dear dear friend, pretty much responsible for this trip happening) and Mari Gray over at Kakaw Designs, I’ve gotten to know some weavers personally and I’m slowly learning a bit about what makes Guatemalan textiles.  Below is our friend Lidia Lopez talking a bit about her work and how she teaches others about it.  I always enjoy a visit to see her.  She is constantly offering new things to admire and perhaps purchase and she’s always great about helping us practicing our ever-evolving Spanish.  

And yet there was always a chance to duck into a cool and shaded corner for some quietude or to escape the sunshine.

photo by Vanessa Sorensen

There is a deep spirit of reverence at every turn.  Santos on santos on santos.  Religion is a very visceral and real thing in Latin America.  It’s refreshing.

she’s carrying a skull. it doesn’t get more real than that!

I prayed to the gods of all things in my own way.  Best I know how.

We drew and drew, sketched and painted.  Some just quick captures here and there.

Other longer drawings, begun in place and tweaked and worked (perhaps overly so) back at home at our posada.

The quirky festival atmosphere in Antigua lingered on.  Lovely evening light delighting photographers day after day after day.

As all trips do, this one eventually had to come to an end.  I traveled back home to family and day job responsibilities, friends traveled on to other places in Guatemala to do work in the realm of Speech Pathology.  While I sit here with tea and a wool hat and extra socks on, they informed me this morning that they grapple with 100 F degree heat for their work this week.  What a difference a week makes.

Meanwhile, I heard from the lads at the Posada that the new courtyard being installed in my last couple of days there is now complete and the results are stunning.  The outdoor space there has always been captivating, but now it’s truly expanded in its usability.  I can’t wait to get back there with workshop groups to sit and draw all day!  The dates for next year are approximately the first 2 weeks of April.  I’ll craft a specific page here on the blog soon with specifics and you can choose one or both weeks, both will be essentially same, but no two weeks are ever the same so if you attend 2, you’ll get 2.  More soon on all of that once the numbers are crunched.  If you are in the Northern California realm of this world and want a taste of this process, I’m doing a 2 day workshop outside of San Jose and Santa Cruz the last weekend in April.  You can sign up for one or both days.  Send me an email at abeefrnd@gmail.com if you are interested and I’ll get you the specifics.  And, while I’m on the topic, there are still a few slots left in the annual Taos, New Mexico trip which is a week long…..

There is much I miss about Guatemala as I gaze out upon our, for the moment, snowy landscape.   I miss the color and timelessness, the quick smiles of locals one sees every day on the street on the way to breakfast.  I miss the sense that just beyond the veil there is a part of myself I lost along the way somehow and which, with every visit, I begin to recapture.

There will be more about Guatemala on this lowly blog to be sure.  I hope to bring The Hub back there in November to share with him all I have discovered since our trip there for our anniversary.  I have many more drawings to make and musings to consider as well.  Something about this place feels like it can unlock a lot of what makes me tick as a person.  This is something I seek to explore.  We all have complicated histories.  Mine includes this marvelous place.

Amidst quietude, color and beauty, I am ready to begin unpacking it all….

Til next time Antigua.

 

Mind on Fire

Difficult to believe that at this time just last week, we found ourselves in the magical, mist-ical lands of coastal California -my hub just barely cracking through his shell of over-work, only to have to dive straight back in again.  But it was good to see a glimpse of himself to be sure.  I am hopeful he could be coaxed back to this real life once again soon.

It is always a strange thing to return back to our regular doings back here at home in Ohio.  For me, the mark of Good Travel is that it makes for a yearning and a churning of the soul, a fire in the mind, which keeps us asking questions of ourselves about how we are living this One Wild and Precious Life of ours.  While we balance chores and responsibilities, work and dreams of what can be, time marches on ever faster.  We must make sure we are on the right track.  Travel and all the soul-nudging it brings with it, is one sure way to track our proper path isn’t it?

Yesterday my daughter sent along a new song to add to a running playlist I get going each year which tends to set the tone for the up and coming Taos sketch trip.  This annual trek to the high desert is a flagship workshop for me as an instructor/facilitator.  And the yearly playlist often carries a loose theme through the songs which happens strangely and organically.  One year it was about light, especially Golden light, as I found myself craving the sparkling quality of light that is found in places such as northern New Mexico.  Yet another year the loose theme seemed to be about the heart of the matter  – on finding ones heart beating below the surface of all that is thrust upon us in the drudgery of the day to day.

On a whim, I sent along this new song to a dear musical friend of mine, also the parent of a young adult daughter, knowing the both of them might appreciate it.  He asked how I found myself relating to this new song and it got me thinking about my playlists in general and how I use and relate to them.  About why I gather songs and how they capture a moment in time.  Like the old mix-tapes we might have traded around in our teens, these playlists relay a certain kind of longing.  Today’s longing is a more complex, multifaceted thing than my middle school obsessions.  Now, I find myself pining for wilder places versus people, be it a sea of salt-water or a sea of sage.  I suppose my yearly playlists are a listing of love songs to landscapes that are out of reach to me in my daily life.

“Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”  ~Terry Tempest Williams

Once upon a time, I dreamed of being a scientist. I love all animals and could spend hours upon hours in observance and wonder of them.  Alas, I do not have the mind of a proper scientist which remembers long and (to me) complicated names and specific facts and figures, and so my observance skills took a different path to that of artist.  Now, my very favorite thing is to go to a wild place and watch, and draw, and wonder.   Just a different kind of scientist really.

We had the great fortune to obtain access to a beach near Santa Cruz which the majestic elephant seals come home to for a season each year to go about the Business of Life.  Here they mate, struggle for territory and status, give birth, nurture and nurse, grow and learn, rest and recuperate.  We were fortunate to have a patient guide on our tour who allowed us to tarry a bit longer than other groups so as to take it all in properly.

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”  ~Aristotle

And amidst all of this marvelous wildness, we had also the comfort of dear friends who welcome us to this wild land with open arms.  In the evenings there was a warm fire in the hearth and plenty of tea and long over-due conversation.

The ocean and it’s splendor was a indeed big player in our whirlwind trip west.  I had a run on the beach one morning and we sketched the waves.  I was captivated by the variety of dogs to be found having their daily walks along the shore.

We also took part of a day to meander down the coast and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium where we watched, entranced, the displays of Jellyfish and other watery wonders.

“Jellyfish: The sea offers up flowers of glass like thick light.  They are transparent landscapes.”  ~Raquel Jodorowsky

I was reminded of some old work of mine with the jellies, and vowed to come home and make more.

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”  ~Loren Eiseley

“…the sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonders forever.”  ~Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Amazing bronze drinking water fountain in Santa Cruz.

But the trip was not all ocean all the time.  I was invited to an Irish music session at a local home of a friend of a friend of a friend, which is how it works in musical circles, and was welcomed with open arms to share a few tunes.

Welcomed with open arms is also how we felt in the Redwoods just minutes inland from the sea.

To walk and wander in a forest of these trees is to experience the notion of Cathedral.  We found ourselves whispering in hushed tones out of respect. Even the local wildlife is quiet.  With the trees comprised of naturally inherent tannins, they are insect-repellant, and therefore even the chatter of birds is kept to a minimum.

We sat and sketched a giant for a good long while.  It was cold and quite humid.

All in all, it was a wonderful getaway.  January in Ohio is not for the feint of heart.  A friend of mine, also from the world of Irish music, was saying last night that while she has lived in places with reputations for the harshest weather winter can throw at us (i.e. Alaska, Montana) she has found that winter here in SW Ohio/ N. Kentucky is particularly draining for it’s gray heaviness.  Difficult to convey to anyone who hasn’t experienced it, we here in this river valley trudge through the winter months as best we can, thankful for the opportunity to get out of town when we can.

I left the Hub in California to do his work and I to come home to do mine.  The temperatures were in single digits upon my arrival which was shocking to the system to say the least, considering I had had my toes in the pacific ocean just days before.  But, I made some little woolen boots for my smallest dog, brewed a lot of tea, and carried on.

“Have you seen the girl with the mind on fire?”

“Have you seen the girl with the heart as big as the sea?”

I am not the only one with a big heart and a mind on fire, yearning and churning for a bit of change.  The world at large is calling for it as well, at least women and those who love and respect them.

This past weekend marked the 1 year anniversary of the Women’s March and we did it again.  While the news didn’t make much of it, the numbers appeared to be as large if not larger this year.  I was at our march here in Cincinnati and while the palpable shock of the election of a vile predator-in-chief was not as present this year, a continuing sense of outrage was.

The energy was palpable.

These strange times seem to have unleashed a free for all on many levels.  On the one hand, the highest levels of power, especially in this country, are seemingly above all scrutiny.  Politicians who once would have run a president out on a rail for the kinds of shenanigans ours pulls off, merely turn a blind eye and shrug off the behaviors of the current administration.  I marvel.  But the flip side of this coin is the notion that really, anything is possible.  And I find a bit of hope in this.

I find that there is a fire in my own mind of late.  The travel bug is turned on full-force by this most recent trek to the fair state of California.  Guatemala is right on it’s heels, a mere 37 days away for me, with workshop participants arriving shortly there after.  And there are more adventures to follow.  Traveling shifts perspectives and asks us to consider hard questions.  Questions such as, should we give up this little track of land, with is gardens and trees and lovely, soul-nourishing green space and quietude, for a condominium with less upkeep?  Could doing so free up even more time and money for travel? Or would we regret giving up this amazing space?  Do we want to even stay in Cincinnati?  For me the draw of my family and friends (this includes my art and music family) is a big one.  But part of me feels my studio practice could really use a daily walk in the wild, versus the familiar suburban paths here in Ohio.  These are all the questions burning just now.  And likely they will continue to do so for a while.

One could go a little off the rails with these ponderings, but the work will always bring me back to center.  Sitting down to write a bit here settles my bones.  From across the room, the paints call to be mixed up to craft some new paintings.  Who knows where they will lead.  Story ideas come and go, flitting and floating in clouds of doubt and fear.  Rays of light amidst the dust particles.  Today on this day of endless gray, I’ll follow the words, follow the paintbrush, follow the breath to whatever comes next.

I could live in condos such as these, couldn’t you?