Category Archives: life

Comings, Goings. Doings, Beings.

Our front creek, captured magically by Imran Nuri.

“I don’t want realism.  I want magic.”  ~Tennessee Williams

There is much coming and going of late.  Hither and thither we work and play.  I’ll share a bit here as I set aside remembered things to pack away for upcoming workshops.  Antigua beckons…..

A sample of the magnets I have designed as give aways for my workshop participants! I figure if they see these on their fridge in the day to day, they will remember to work in their books more often, yes?

Narry a week ago, I was working in my own sketchbook in a warm place called Key West.  When I wasn’t strolling the colorful streets filled with colorful people, feasting my eyes on color and light, I was bobbing in a pool or better yet, in the sea herself – buoyed by salt, water and sun.

pay no mind to the chitter chatter in the clip above, we were on a sunset cruise.  I was captivated by the murky depths.  And miraculously I did not get sea sick.

Key West enchants with its embedded quirk round every corner.  Some folk come here to drink their cares away, but I for one came to drink in more than just rum.  Though to be fair, rum has its place.

If one but stays just off the beaten path, there is charm at every turn and lovely sunsets to behold.  And it can be a balm for the soul of a weary, land-locked midwesterner nearing the end of a long, gray winter…..

Hens, chicks and roosters are to be found everywhere. They are well socialized and cry the song of their people. A lot. Cockadoodledooooooo!!! (and chuk-chuk and peep-peep as well!)
The Young Man And The Sea, our ship’s crewman Dale.
The captain and crew of the good ship Sarah took great care of us on a sunset cruise on the ocean. If you are ever near Key West, I recommend Danger Charters, in spite of their name.

We paid homage to the sea and to the rich history of the place, even visiting the home of Ernest Hemingway which boasts 55 polydachtyl cats living their best lives on the property.

I found Key West to harbor great juxtaposition. The locals care deeply for the ocean, that is clear, and yet single-use-plastics are still the norm at local businesses. We declined all straws/utensils/bags when it was an option.  It’s a small thing, but it’s worth doing.
Cemetery Sentinel

There is magic around every turn there.

Tree guardian being? Or a large fairy fist, offering us a tropical green bouquet?
Our Queen City-scape, with a river running through it. Quite lovely from the sky, though I am not a city girl at heart.

Too soon we must return home once again to the gloom and gray of Ohio.  But we look for the quiet magic to be found here.

My daughter and her boyfriend are home for break and he has some new camera gear he is eager to test.  He stunningly captures the magic of our yard in the dark.  With his extended exposures, our criss-crossing creeks become fully laden with an Otherworldly quality and I am reminded how lucky we are to have this little patch of land of ours.

Our front creek, captured magically by Imran Nuri.

Art has a way of reminding us of the beauty in the world.  Music as well.  This week ahead is the high holy season of Irish music and we are quite busy indeed.

Tuesdays there is always a session here in town, even on ‘normal’ weeks.  This Tuesday we are at Streetside Brewery on Eastern Avenue.  It’s one of our favorite places to play.  Saturday March 16, I join the Roving Rogues to play St. Patrick’s Day eve at Arnold’s Bar, Cincinnati’s oldest tavern. and on Sunday, we once again will play in the evening at Palm Court in the Hilton Netherland Plaza hotel.  Come on along and enjoy a fancy cocktail.  Escape the green-beer fray, won’t you?

I am so grateful for the music.

And this music as well….

Our Jack was part of a concert celebrating the music of Bach which we attended last night.  It was divine and captivating, as Bach can be, and we were swept away on this stormy evening to another world indeed.  There is more this evening as well, I can’t recommend it enough.

All is not angelic and ethereal round here however.  As I mentioned, I am busily getting last minute things in line for my double workshop endeavor in Antigua, Guatemala.  This is keeping me on my toes instead of at the drawing table or in the journal where I belong.  I embark on that journey later this month.

But before I go to Guatemala, I am attempting to complete a somewhat hefty hand-made project, which in it’s own earthy way is keeping me grounded in work.  That of a 3′ X 4′ latch hook rug project for the annual May The Fourth Star Wars Tribute show.  

I’m using a grid to help me keep track of my design on the canvas.

All the yarn I am using for this project is either from my own stash of leftover yarns or has been acquired second hand at Scrap-It-Up over in Pleasant Ridge.  This has added some complexity to the rug itself and is helping me to make Chewbacca extra fluffy and scruffy.

My studio assistant Ian takes his job quite seriously.

Until he’s ready to leave the room, at which point he rings the bell to let me know.

Working a bit on this rather ridiculous project each day keeps me grounded and working with my hands which is good for my head ironically enough.  And this is good.

And so, the fitting in of all the pieces of this life’s puzzle continues.  While I must admit to this being a rough winter in many ways, things are looking up now that the light seems to linger longer in the days, even when it’s snowing. The sun is even shining today as I write this.  We must always remember that change is the only constant and we must at least attempt to move forward.

I say this as a reminder to myself really.  Behind the scenes here I spend a fair amount of time applying to and being rejected by various opportunities such as with publishers (who often don’t/can’t respond, which feels like throwing work into a great dark abyss…. hello- oh    –      o         –    o   …….. receiving back only the boniest of echoes)  This is all part of the process.  I will say, while it does continue to smart, it does get easier the more one applies.



Residencies are yet another application process I find myself often involved in,  always looking for some way to go somewhere inspirational, seeking a deeper sense of time and place to make and grow my work.  I can’t tell you how many of these opportunities I’ve applied to, heart firmly tied onto the application via the proverbial string, only to be denied for my efforts.  I really try to envision myself there when I apply and so I do pour heart and soul into each application.

To those who’ve never thought about these things, one has to remember that merely applying is often a great deal of work – writing essays and statements, gathering photos of work, recommendations, tweaking one’s CV, etc. etc.  I fit these efforts into the small spaces between the usual goings on of my day to day.  And I just keep trying, allowing a bit of grief and maybe some ice-cream when a particular refusal really gets me down.

But I do keep trying.   And sometimes, like throwing spaghetti at the ceiling, something sticks……

 

I am beyond over the moon to announce that my Maine based friend Julie Persons of Adventures of Claudia and Chicks In Hats fame and myself have been selected to share a month long residency in Ireland next year for the month of October.   We are thrilled!!!!

In which Amy and Julie get together for a cup of tea once each summer.  Don’t mind my lake hair – we are usually at camp!

We have put up the party flags and are doing a little happy dance, albeit virtually for now.

I’ll share more about this exciting news as things formulate into firmer plans.  But for now it is enough to have the invitation from Olive Stack in lovely Listowel and to know the dates we are to be working there.

So much rich stuff ahead.  And the challenges too that we face in this world on a personal level of course, and globally as well.  I said to someone the other day that this is the new normal for artists – to be able to hold in our hearts and minds, at the very same time, the dual notions that all will be well, and that things are really wrong too. –  This is not an easy task.  But I aim to try, as I have for years now.  To highlight and showcase beauty, to work for positive change.  It’s what the artists I most admire do best.

Baby steps, Micromovements (as this blog has long been named) is how we move things along, how we take the leaps to grow into new opportunities and to try new things that challenge us.  It’s terrifying really.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”                   

                                   ~Georgia O’Keeffe

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…..

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!!

 

 

Red Eye

Bella Vista coffee lives up to its name. Great coffee, a wondrous view of the surrounding volcanic countryside, and delightful and friendly staff.

We are met in Guatemala City by our trusty driver Pablo and are whisked away from the big city to Antigua where Posada San Sebastian awaits us as our home away from home. We stash our things and wander for a cup of coffee (first of many) as our lodging isn’t quite ready for our weary heads. We wander the quiet town as it awakens to an average work day-  shops opening, my favorite coffee place too, Bella Vista, and we some how make it until our room is ready and we can nap .

Arco by morning light

The Posada is bustling but calm and we sleep soundly until well after lunch hour. This is the price we pay for an overnight flight. With more awake minds and bodies we spend some time with our sketchbooks .  I’m well over due for it and feeling rusty but I manage.

Posada San Sebastian has loads of cool objects to sketch. I love these folk art motifs on a box in the courtyard.

A page from the traveling journal

After a while we are famished for a late lunch/early dinner so we head out to town for some local fare. 

It’s delicious and there is even a strolling minstrel who sings to the diners.  It is a magical meal. One of many to be sure .

We wander a bit more, acclimating, looking into the shops, greeting the greeters outside of all of the establishments .

Upon our return, the sun is setting with much fanfare.

We are delighted by this, and even Fuego  itself gives us a small (non-catostrophic) belching light show of lava in the distance .

Though We are weary, we eagerly await the arrival of our fellow travelers with whom we will share the coming days .

More soon, provided we have continued connectivity.

Con Amor, de Antigua Guatemala

 

Lately

Faery magic is strong in the woodland this time of year.

This is a world gone mad.  Too many things to take in, too much heartache for a body to navigate really.  The things I love which carry me into the gentle places of my soul and self and which keep me grounded when the winds do blow have suffered for lack of care.  I look at this little home of mine here on the interwebs and realize that it’s been since August that I’ve written.  It is not as if I have not written, or drawn, or painted in general.  Just not here, where even when no one is reading, it matters most.

Today I took to the woods with one of our trusty dogs, the one and only wild Iris Rose, to ponder a plan of how to negotiate the dangerous waters of our time in a sustainable balanced manner.  It is October, my most favorite month of the year.  I adore autumn and all it has to offer in the way of cooler temperatures, misty mornings and the desire to get the knitting needles clicking once more….

A little drawing in response to Rob MacFarlane‘s word of the day “die Füchse kochen Kaffee” which translates literally into “the foxes are making coffee”; German regional phrase for morning mists….

I’ve recently taken to fair isle color work and I am fairly in love.

Iris and I walked the golden woodland…..

We paid homage to those who’ve been before us in this well loved place.

This lovely bronze plaque was placed in memory of dogs who’ve hiked here well before our time.

We admired the colors signaling a late but welcome change of season….

I played a bit with my fancy camera which, like this blog space, has grown a bit dusty with disuse.

The pace of things in the world has me feeling a bit weary.  All this running and seemingly little to show for it.  The season and my soul alike beg for a backing off, a swing toward the internal to come once more to the still point of my personal center.  This country, and the world at large could stand the same I believe.

With the dark season ahead, one often fraught with personal mental health challenges, I am looking back with pride on a few months of wondrous productivity and activity whilst simultaneously crafting a structure of future quietude to keep the wolves at bay in the months ahead.

The Resistance, as it stands, is in full swing and its toiling does take up space and energy.  I quite mindfully make the space necessary to be of service in these dark times but must balance that of course.  There is canvassing and volunteering and much reading to stay informed.  The news is too much to keep up with and it can drag a soul down to low places, but I do my best.  I am careful to turn it all off and hit the paints or the road when I need a break.

The flurry of work and words in the past couple of months have been exciting to birth forth.  Here I share a few things that have been occupying my eye, my keyboard and notebook, my interest and my heart.  It is my hope that I take to engaging more here in this space in the coming months as it forces me, in the best way possible, to slow down.  To think about what I am writing and the images I share.  Social media channels are wondrous in their own way, and I certainly find myself lurking in the more creative corners of their hallowed halls.  There is so much to inspire.  But here, in my own designated space, I can think through my fingers….

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”
Isaac Asimov

….and maybe go a little deeper.

So, last I left you dear reader, it was August, and so very hot.  September came along and while the heat gave no break,  I encountered a small challenge to make a drawing a day in 1″ square scale.  This painterly adventure, combined with a whirlwind trip to Taos, NM was balm indeed to a tired soul….

The Reluctant Trapeze, inspired by the amazing tune Le Funamble,  (do click the link!!) composed by Gilles Le Bigot and played by Nuala Kennedy.
“But we haven’t even covered redcaps and hinkypunks!” ~Hermione Granger
“When encountering a new soup recipe, one must proceed with caution.”

These drawings were part of a month long 1×1 challenge put forth by the House of Illustration in the UK.  An artist they showcased, John Vernon Lord, had completed a year of them.

“He dreamed himself very, very small.”
“The harvest is in, and I am feeling too small to deal with it.”
“I can’t fly but me pigeon can.” ~Charlie

I completed the challenge and made 30 of these little works.

Even when the news did say there were magnificent displays of ill will and malevolence.

“I read the news today, oh, boy.”

Toward the end of the month of September, my long time, dear friend Kristin (whom you may remember from this post) and I somehow managed to make our way from Ohio (me) and Vermont (she) to Chicago for a seamless meet-up at O’Hare and on to a quick flight out to New Mexico.  The opportunity to introduce a dear one to one’s soul home is a gift indeed and we savored every second.  Not much was catalogued of our time there, but we did manage some image captures…..

Photo by Kristin McCole.

“It’s the most wonderful place you can imagine.  It’s so beautiful there.  It’s ridiculous.”  ~Georgia O’Keeffe

Photo by Kristin McCole
Koshares, uniting shadow with darkness; playfulness with survival; divinity with debauchery.  At least that is how I interpret it.

We timed our visit with the Feast of San Geronimo at Taos Pueblo (every year on September 30th, you should go) which enabled me to see and visit with some dear friends there at a very sacred time.  It was a gift and blessing to share these folks and this place who are so dear to me, with an old friend from the way back, equally as dear.  Kristin said to me at one point, “You’ve built a whole world here, Ames.”  I do believe I have.  I am deeply grateful.

Majestic Taos Mountain

Our journey was far too short for a proper catch up.  To be honest, in spite of the splendor we encountered, we spent a good deal of time in a state of deep grief over the recent goings on at the Supreme Court.  There is a collective, primal scream of rage emanating from  the women in my life over doing this all over again.  How many times has this story been lived, eh?  Though this time is was so public, and so top-level.  I am still grieving.

But, and this is the thing, somehow we must keep going……..

And so, once home, early autumn life began with a focus toward music each weekend at the Riley School of Irish Music.  Those of us who love the music aim to bring just a smidge of this video below to our own playing….

Little Sea Folk Festival – Open The Door For Three – Church Hill / Monaghan Jig from Dean Merrill on Vimeo.

While we may never reach this level, we did manage to play our annual ceili dance once more and folks who attended seemed to enjoy it.  Chatting with our caller, Éamonn  de Cógáin after the dance, he remarked, “This is growing!!” And indeed it is.

This gathering was such good medicine just one day after the horrific news from Pittsburgh.  Just one more act brought to bear by the hateful rhetoric spewing across the nation from the White House.

so much musical love

The season brings with it, as mentioned before, a renewed commitment to new needle bound adventures.  I’ve invested in some gorgeous wool from my local knit shop to attempt the crafting of a sweater.  We shall see…. But in the meantime, it’s always fun to get to know the source of all things wool.

And maybe even attempt a sketch or two.

Perhaps you too are experiencing a bit of whiplash of the soul.  One minute darkness and rage – the next minute, a shaft of light to pierce that darkness and provide a respite.  We here are fortunate to have these moments of lightness.  To make art and craft worlds with words is a privilege indeed, and one I do not take for granted.  I believe to my core that it is an act of resistance to play music, and craft beauty with line, paint and words.  I am fortunate to have the support of family and my day job that enable me to live this artful life.  Not everyone can.  Yet somehow, artists get the job done, one way or another.  Here are just a few whom I support and so should you…..

Claudia: here, here, and here

Folk On Foot

Terri Windling

Four Way Quartet (Did I mention we hosted a house concert???)

The list goes on.

And so where does this all leave me?  As you can see, there’s been a great deal of output here in the form of energy and a good bit of intake as well which is wonderful.  But my hope is that I can slow it all down a bit.  To corral things to more depth and to a more manageable realm for me as an artist.  I like to say that I am a crock pot in this world of microwaves.

I’m being careful to begin my day with thoughtful words, such as the lovely poetry by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland or stories by Sylvia Linsteadt who’s recent book The Wild Folk  inspired a tiny sketch…..

Which led to a larger painting….

The Offering, 24″ x 36″, acrylic on canvas

My hub and I are running away a couple of days after the election to Guatemala to visit friends and make some art – to shore up our souls for what’s to come in our lives personally and collectively, good or ill.

We will get home just before Thanksgiving (yes, I’ve ordered the bird from our favorite market vendor.)  I plan to write here on this blog-space from down there if I can connect, as it’s one of the most inspiring places.  So do stay tuned.

If you are interested in my travel journaling workshops based in Taos, Nm, Antigua, Guatemala and a few other smaller venues, do get in touch and we can talk about the best options for you.

Wherever this reading finds you, I hope you are finding some gentility in this rough world.  We are at a crossroads as human beings and we have some decisions to make as to the path ahead.  For me, it’s one of kindness and art making.

“Hang in there, make art, be kind.” ~Neil Gaiman in response to the news of Brazil’s election of a nationalist, right wing president.  To my friends in Brazil, we are here for you.

Love,

Amy

ps.

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 book and a box of colors.

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

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

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

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

Sketching in the field

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

 

photo by Tom Spatig of Bat Cave Studios

What you need:

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

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

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

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

Now What?

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

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

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

Mapping out a Place.

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

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

student work

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

Lawrence Tree Sketch, Amy Bogard

 

Foggy Monhegan, Sketch by Amy Bogard

But wait, I’m still not drawing anything!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Forth and Doodle.

Kelley’s Island, Ohio – Sketch by Amy Bogard

 

 

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.