Category Archives: sketchbook

Rambling ways

As any of the long time readers among you here already know, much of the focus of my work involves the art of keeping a travel journal.  I am often found wandering the world to my favorite depth-filled places to capture a bit of their magic and bring it home with me, in my journals and on this blog as well.  My travels have shaped who I am since I was a small girl.     Though divorce and poverty curtailed my adventures in later childhood and my teen years, the gypsy spirit of early life remained.  Through more localized years here back in Ohio, I learned to appreciate the magic all around me in the mundane.  I walked barefooted in the creek behind my friend’s house and searched for fascinating crawdads.  For vacations we camped and hiked, and once even took a “Big Trip” up to the Great Lakes.

“You pass through places and places pass through you
But you carry them with you on the soles of your travelers shoes.”              ~ The Be Good Tanyas

Like many in the world just now, I do not know what my work will look like in the coming months and possibly years.

There will likely be a curtailment of my rambling ways at least short term .  Time will tell.  But this doesn’t mean that I won’t be working in my sketchbook, or that I’ll quit teaching.  I may need to go back to what got me here in the first place.

“And I’m going to quit these rambling ways
One of these days soon, ooh”   ~be good tanyas

You see, the amazing trips I take and the workshops I teach started off because people would get a glimpse of my sketchbook and say, “you should teach that.”  It took me a long time to take these comments seriously.  For the longest time, I didn’t even know other people made books like mine, filled with thoughts, doodles, sketches, quotes, artful experiments, photos, stamps, etc.  It’s just what I did as a way to check in with myself.  A way to have a history of it all.

“What was any art but a mold to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself – life hurrying past us and running away.  Too strong to stop.  Too sweet to lose.”

~ Willa Cather

The piles and piles of books I have amassed over the years have played a large part in teaching me who I really am at the heart of it all.  My travels are amazing, sure.  But sometimes it’s the bits between the trips where the real work is happening.  The practicing.  The daily dredging for internal inspiration.  The reaching toward a lighter way of being in the world.  Turning away from the constant stream of what the broader popular culture says I should think and care for, and figuring out my own true north.  All of this happened in my books.

How to Make a Travel Journal for Turbulent Times?

There is a lot of content flying around on the internet.  Really great stuff from artists and musicians and writers, interpreting this time in their own way.  Continuing to make art in spite of dire uncertainty.  I’ve also seen many fellow artists admit that they are simply a bit shell-shocked by it all and are finding it difficult to concentrate.  This is where I happen to fall.

We mustn’t be too hard on ourselves.  I’ve been blogging and drawing a bit, but the hum of worry about The State of Things occupies a lot of bandwidth.  I am beginning to settle in to this new normal, this grand and difficult state of unknowing and anxiety and I am beginning to think about my own contribution in the midst of it.

This morning in the wee hours, the words Traveling through Turbulent Times kept weaving and wandering through my troubled mind.  And so I grabbed onto the tail of one of those threads and followed it awhile and came up with some ideas.

Many of us are home bound now, for the near and foreseeable future.  Our mental health might be taking a toll.  Making art is a great way to rewire our brains and get our thoughts pointed in a healthier direction…..

“Do not let the world make you hard.”

old adage via @malakagharib

So, let’s start a travel journal.  Right now.  In the midst of chaos.

An historian I follow over on twitter (wish I could remember which, but I can’t) posted something that stuck with me.  They said something to the effect of:

“Start a journal.  Write all of this down.  What you feel, how you are affected by all of this, all of it.  Historians in the future will thank you.”

I believe this to be true.  Even before all of this started, I have always believed that everyone of us matters.  I still believe this.  Our voices are recognizable on the phone when a loved one or friend picks up on the other end of the line.  This holds true for drawing and writing as well.

“The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs.”  ~the be good tanyas

So below are some tips to get started and links to light the way.  I give you these with a promise:

I will be here.  Reach out to me here on the blog, over on IG or Twitter or Facebook and send me a message.  We can chat about what holds you back, ideas to get a page started or completed, what to do about a drawing.  We can do this, together.  This is my gift to you for the time being….

Step 1:  Get yer materials together.  

A book, a little set of watercolors and a few things to write/draw with.  That’s it.  Most of us have some sort of blank book we “don’t want to ruin” lying around on a shelf somewhere.  Get it out and mess it up.  As for watercolors, if you don’t have them, try to order them, or, send out the proverbial bat signal in your local community.  Some one is bound to have something lying around.  We will work together with the materials YOU have.

Step 2:  Set an intention (and optional step 2.a, collage the cover of your book.  Nothing fancy, just some cut out stuff you like.  Get some glue all up in it.  Allow to dry.)

Pick a quote that you like.  If you find this overwhelming, let me know, I have a stash of them.  A good one for the time we find ourselves in is:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

~JRR Tolkien, Fellowship of The Ring

Now write or type or print this quote into the front cover or first page or so of your book.

a few volumes with collaged covers.

Step 3: (the scary step)  Begin

This is the hard part.  The part where you will not like your drawings for a while perhaps, or you might notice your handwriting has tilted one way or another, you might “mess up” a page.  Keep going.   Trust me.  And here are a few ways how as you move forward…….

Make lists.

Seek the words of the wise ones.  Write or type them out on an old typewriter or print them out to glue into your book.  (not just for the intention page, but wherever you feel like sprinkling them throughout your own book.)

Don’t be afraid of the dark stuff.  You can always paint over it if you need to later.  But get it out.  Write that shit down lads.  Get. It. Out.  On to the page.   Look at work by Amanda Grace, Julia Cameron, and others.

Slow down and savor the small things.  Make a cup of tea in your favorite cup.  Try drawing it.  Then do it again.  Notice the differences in your drawings.  Make notes.  Do it again.  Look at the work of Dan Price and Danny Gregory.

If you are new to watercolor, begin by just making colors.  See how much water is too much, too little.  See how far you can stretch a color out with just water, thus creating value.  Make little color swatch squares, page after page after page of experiments.  Make a day of it.  Try to match some colors in your home or yard if you are permitted out of doors.  There are so many greens and grays in the world it might make your head spin.  (Hit me up if you are struggling, and we can do a zoom chat and make some colors.)

Time travel!!  Use old photos of past trips, or online photos of dreamed of journeys as inspiration and source photos for drawings.   Approach these drawings in a variety of ways.  Contour drawing, just paint, paint and ink, pencil.

Add text/words to your page.  Try your hand at Haiku or The American Sentence.

Make a note every day of something that makes you go *gasp*.  Pay attention to these things.  They will light the way.

In spite of the world seeming dim just now, write down the things you see, hear, read that are positive.  Our brains are hardwired as a survival trick to follow the negative.  We must circumvent that to stay mentally healthy.

Pay attention to what you pay attention to.

Pick a color, and draw/ paint/ list 3-5 things that are of that color around you.

For 1 week, make a page of what you eat each day.  Draw or print pictures to put in your journal.

If you are able to get outside at all, either on a hike by yourself, or just out in your own garden, make a nature journal.  Get to know the work of my husband Tony over on instagram.  He “doesn’t consider himself an artist.”  But I beg to differ.  He just began, and kept going……

Keep track of which birds are coming or going, what plants are popping up.  Learn your weeds and your mushrooms.  Draw them.  There is no better way to get to know them.

Note that Cathy Johnson is offering her book about keeping an artist’s nature journal for free viewing online.

“copy” the work of artists you admire.  Do this in your sketchbook as a great way to learn.  Make a note on your drawing of who you are “working in the style of” and what you learned.

Don’t be afraid to be silly, get into your imagination a bit now and then.

Step 4:  Keep going, enjoy the journey.  

Hook up online with your local chapter of the Urban Sketchers.  If you don’t have a chapter near you, come join us Cincinnatians.  It’s a wonderful, inclusive community.  All chapters around the world just now are working virtually.  It’s a great time to practice from the safety of your desktop while getting to know your fellow sketchers online.  Join us!

As a global community, we are collectively on entirely new ground.  There will be discomfort and grief.  And possibly a lot of it.  I can only say that a practice of sitting with a simple sketchbook set up and taking stock, even in, and perhaps especially in, the roughest times, can be a bit of a soothing balm to a weary soul when all is said and done.  These personal impressions of ours are important to express.  And one day we may even want to share them.

We will get through this, alone, together.  I’m off now to get out of my pajamas (it’s 2 pm.) and to make a pot of soup and some cookies.  I plan to wrap these up to deliver to neighbors as a way of saying hi, I love you and to connect in a way that isn’t online.  Then likely I’ll play a few tunes, write a bit in my journal, make a painting.  Join me.

With love,

amy

 

Processing carrots

How to go from this….
……to this!!

Start with the shape of a carrot.  “ish”.

Add a “head” to your carrot shape.

And then a wee shadow to ground your developing figure in space….

(for the record, my sunshine is found in the left of my little world.)

Once your carrot is feeling like a figure, time to clothe it a bit.  This is done with some basic shapes, like rectangles.  The vendors here in Guatemala with their traditional outfits (the word for these is “traje”) are lovely to sketch in this way as the forms found in their clothing can be broken down to simple shapes.

Next I begin to add some appendages for this particular figure.

I then add a bundle on her head.  Folks here work so hard!  They carry their wares for peddling on their backs, heads, arms and then walk and walk and walk to make a sale.

I begin to find light in the bundle….

Then some patterning in her corte…..

And added some color therein….

I darken her outfit, showing the shadow beneath her heavy bundle….

a little more personality to her shadow.

Then I begin to add more wares for her to sell to the tourists here in Antigua.  Necklaces which will dangle from one arm whilst her other balances the bundle above.

More colors on the necklaces and some threads too.

She’s looking good I think!

So very tiny, but these little portraits really have a ton of personality and I enjoy creating them!

I am SO inspired by the Guatemalan people.  So very patient with us often clueless tourists with our clumsy spanglish.  Quick with a smile and a “buenos días” on the sidewalk.  The traditional textiles worn around town are a feast for the northern-most among us so thirsty for color.  It is such great fun to learn about the various patterns and places represented in these weavings and embroideries.  And great fun to explore them in a variety of ways in my sketchbook….

Una semana mágica

Volcán Fuego gave us quite a show this week here in Antigua.

“Deep peace of the running wave to you.

Deep peace of the flowing air to you.

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.

Deep peace of the shining stars to you.

Deep peace of the infinite peace to you.”

A Gaelic Blessing.

Even to witness warmth and light and open sky without bundling up against winter’s wrath has been a gift beyond imagining.

It is a liminal time.  Alone with my thoughts and a well earned glass of wine, I straddle two weeks of this travel journaling workshop process.

Bittersweet, this saying good bye to new and old art friends alike.

It has been una semana mágica – a magical week, indeed.

Together we glimpsed enough of the city to capture our hearts and imaginations.  Those new to this mystical city found themselves captivated by it, and those of us returning, renewed our love affair with color, light, a vibrant, smiling community of people of all walks along with rich history, sound and beauty.

A great deal of work was accomplished in our sketchbooks and within our eyes and minds which were opened to places previously untapped.   Of course this was not possible without spending time out in the city itself.  Walking, dining, shopping, meeting new friends, observing the comings and goings of people, light, color, tuk-tuks, motorbikes, vendors, joggers and fellow tourists.

We came to this trip not without our own troubles, this is to be sure.  The world has some really hard stuff going on just now, and the hope was we might delve into the beauty here for a respite.  A refill.  In order that we might better serve others upon our return to regular life.

“Lovers find secret places inside this violent world where they make transactions with beauty.”

~Rumi

I wish the fellow artists of week one fair winds and following seas in their journeys back into their work-a-day lives.  That they might bring some color, slowness, and beauty back home with them.

One of our kinds hosts here in Antigua is Hugo Espinoza, manager at Posada San Sebastián as well as a brilliant photographer.  We commissioned him to give us a tour of his  Antigua, the city he was raised in.  He thankfully obliged.

Hugo, accompanied by his camera showed us around Antigua, complete with intoxicating samples at the local chocolate museum, glimpses into the back courtyards of some of the higher end hotels, meetings and greetings with local artisans….below is a glimpse….

Just one stunning view from the roof of hotel Don Rodrigo
At Hotel Santo Domingo, there are rescued parrots living in the lap of luxury, well cared for, but of course.
Hugo graciously answered so many of our questions about his home town.
One of my favorite places to visit was an artists cooperative called Casa Para Las Artes where I obtained a painting from a fellow artist with a “colibri” soul.
Hugo made friends with the little dog who plays hostess at the cooperative. She was not sure if she was ready to share her bone with him or not. I think they are still working it out.

Gosh I miss my dogs. 🙁
There are two choco museos here in town. We swung by them on multiple occasions. We like their philosophy.
While Mari was not part of our Hugo tour, she did lead us to a number of lovely treasures. We hope she hits send on that pesky thesis in a day or two so we can paint together more next week!!

And so the week flew along, at once fleeting and expansive.  So much work.  It is a wonder we hadn’t split ourselves into multiple selves to get it all accomplished.  Such is always the case with these magical places, is it no.

Tara sketched at lovely Capuchinas in the early days of the week.
Penny did as well. Penny’s big victory this week was tackling many many many arches and figuring out perspective along the way.
A favorite place of everyone was the rooftop coffee place we adore called Bella Vista. We are always welcomed home like old friends. So grateful. Also, best coffee around!!
Rosemary set a goal to do up one whole half of this accordion book during week one (with the back side saved for week 2!!) She was successful! I’ll post a video soon!
Mary’s work is exquisite. She comes to every workshop with a book already primed with things she finds inspiring from past visits. Such beautiful creativity.
Lily described herself as a “total beginner” but quickly took to the lovely “basics” (ahem, never basic) of perspective, light and shadow. Well done Lily!
Tara makes gorgeous drawings always, but I loved this interpretation of the land being held. So beautiful.
Before I left Ohio I attended a little workshop at the Art Academy featuring the fabulous CF Payne who showed us a bit about his technique in painting and drawing. Rosemary attempted the process which I brought down here with me and found a beautiful result for her efforts!!
I absolutely adore this sketch by Penny. She often chooses quiet beauty as her subject matter and it never disappoints.
I didn’t sketch a ton this week, but I managed some of my tiny paintings.
Lily works in the court yard at the Posada
Mary’s exquisite sketch of the coffee set up at Choco Museo
Jo is an accomplished artist who stepped out of her comfort zone on multiple occasions this week. Also, she kept us in stitches with comedic hilarity.

All in all it was a tremendously successful week.  And now I am part celebrating, part resting, part readying for week two which I am sure will find it’s own brand of Antigua magic.

It’s fun toward the end of the week to begin doing occasional “throw downs” where we all share our work.  This can be intimidating of course, but with such a small tight knit group, sharing was fun and inspiring.

We all learn so much from one another.  I simply provide a container of space and place in which to foster it all.  Art doesn’t have to be a competition.  We all begin some where, do we not?

There is a sacred quality to the creation of something which wasn’t there before.  Even if it’s “just a sketch”.  There is a special magic to spending time, real, slow time with a scene, a place, a person we find inspiring, and following the bones of it with our pens, pencils and paints.

It is this slowness in the travel experience which really shines in this process.  I am deeply grateful to facilitate this amazing work in a small way here in Antigua, Guatemala.  Dates are set for next year.  Let me know if you are interested.

For what do you use your hands?
What sacred job do they do?
And what are your tools to change the world? It doesn’t take much…..

Stay and Wonder

There is a lovely and welcoming new gallery space situated right downtown where things are busy and fancy like.  Some of us “urban sketcher” types have wrangled a few of our recent drawings into proper frames and are having a show.  There is even an Opening.

Join us from 4-7 this Thursday afternoon at Columbia Plaza for the festivities.  And maybe you’ll be inspired to come draw with us sometime….

A measure of quiet

Special thanks to Julie over in the Adventures of Claudia world for sending along these lovely words attributed to Brother David Steindl-Rast.

Raw December day, wet, dripping with rain and fog.  Last night’s few inches of snow turn to slush and mud.  I opt for a day home sketching and drinking tea after a busy weekend of music-making, and other such peopling.  I am deeply grateful for a flexible schedule.

The paints have been fairly ignored recently, my hands opting for other activities.  I know this is simply my way and the paints do call again eventually.

I work diligently on a set of mittens, maybe a second set if there is time.  Gifts of heart and hand.

Iris rests in the studio room with me, both of us vying for the space nearest the space-heater.

The house is cozy, with the season’s usual suspects tucked into their places, remembrances of years past.

The paints have indeed been calling, which is why I take to them for a few sketches today.  I can always feel the tug when it begins.  I see something that I want to interpret.  A scene or a landscape featuring a special light of some sort perhaps.  And I want to delve in.  This often finds me disturbingly out of practice.

Yesterday, before the snow came, I attended an art-book fair.  I found it refreshing to wander the stalls of fellow artists and see they are still keen on political disruption, unable to sit with the state of things, pretending this is all *normal*.  It is not normal and it will “not always be like this”.  I hope this is true.

On route to the fair, I noted the beauty of a pre-snow sky as the backdrop to our city skyline.  Today, I sketch from memory.

My friend Kim and I spend the late afternoon and early evening talking about art and resistance and I am refreshed.  She shares with me the story of artist Charlotte Salomon, about whom she’s been reading and who’s work exploded from her while evading Nazi capture (and sadly, other evils even closer to home).  Her tale has more to it than I can even begin to portray here, and I have ordered the books from the library to dive deeper into it all.  In the meantime, there are many articles about her available which I have been reading today.  Here are just a few along with some of her images…..

Museum Publicity

Smithsonian

The Guardian

The New Yorker

The sheer scale of her making is almost unbelievable.  I think about Charlotte painting as if her life depended on it, with urgency and desperation to tell her story before it was too late and  I am glad the work survived at all.  Indeed, this storied work may very well be the world’s first graphic novel as it is now called.  I simply can’t get enough of looking at these paintings.

I think about other artists whose work has captivated my attention, not only for the caliber in the work itself, but for the stories behind the work.  Artists like Edith Lake Wilkinson and Alice Schille, both of whom I have mentioned in previous posts here and there, and both of whom I have found inspiring for their art-making lives.

And through the lens of the work of these artists who’ve come before me in the Grand Arc of Art History, I think about my own work in the world.  I think about how it continues to evolve, stretched between words and image making, between material studies and experimentation.  How it is never comfortable, and when it is, it gets boring.  I wonder how many women artists, like myself or others, have flown under the radar their entire working lives.  Many more than we might possibly count I would wager.

So on this quiet day, here is where my head is.  I mentioned to a friend of mine the other day how spacious this time without the demands and distractions of social media has felt.  We laughed that it’s a bit like when as a stay at home mother, your children first go to school (or perhaps when they leave for college) and suddenly, there is room in your head to actually think deeply.  We in this world do not spend enough time pondering, wondering, engaging in our own thinking, following the mindful breadcrumbs offered from the gods of creativity.

I wish for everyone to give themselves the gift of this space.  I believe the world at large could sorely use some quiet time.

 

Let us keep courage

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

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

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

“CAESURA”

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

via Robert Macfarlane on twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other news…….

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

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

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

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

 

Sounds of Autumn

This morning, just after my first cup of coffee, an autumnal sonic assault begins.  A murderous whirring of epic proportions.

The gas powered leaf blower.

It is nigh impossible to think for oneself amidst the din of modernity, particularly in suburbia, where the moving of leaves around seems to point to some sort of status.

I wonder, what we might hear if we were afforded an opportunity to listen deeper.  To listen to the miniscule preparations being made by the smallest of creatures….

Roll, roll, grumble, grumble, roll…

The sounds of a gathering of food stuffs for the winter season.  Acorns, walnuts.

Crack, snap, crack, crack, stack…..

Further gathering and arranging of sticks and wood and kindling with which to warm ourselves in the months to come.   Even the smallest of fallen twigs might be of use.

Perhaps we hear the click, click, click of knitting needles working woolens into garments for bracing against autumnal winds…..

Maybe we hear the gentle felling of ripened fungi in the forest, so that they might be dried and saved for soup making.

What sorts of sounds do you listen for when the leaf blowers finally run out of gasoline?  How can we better listen to the quietude offered to us by the smallest of woodland creatures?  How might we better listen to ourselves?

 

 

A ballybunion morning

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

Slow Dance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David L. Weatherford

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Nature will, eventually, take everything back.

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

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

 

 

 

 

view from the point

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

~ David Whyte*

                                                                    *came across this quote via @lachanterie

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

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

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

So I began with the watercolors, of course.

Eventually moving over to oils…..

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

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

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

 

2020 – Ten Years in Taos

Recently, while in Colorado visiting one of the (not-so)Smalls, I got a text message from one of this year’s Taos sketch-workshop participants:

“I’m deeply grateful for the opportunities you’ve facilitated through your workshop.  Amy, when you fling open the Juniper House doors and stir the creative pot of Mabel’s legacy, Magic happens.  Unleashed into a space pulsing with anticipation, your energy swirls and settles around us in a joyful and gentle comfort.  We’re home and we’re safe to explore, to express and to grow.  My sketchbook is no longer a project.  It’s now my friend.  Thank you for leading this horse to water and showing me how to drink.  I’ll never be thirsty again.”   

~ Donna A.  

I’ll admit I got a little teary-eyed.  Here I was, back in the mountains and receiving this incredible gift of not just positive feedback, but real soul-bearing words about the experience of someone who’s been a recipient of my work in this world.   It is my hope that anyone working in the world today might get the same gift.  Thank you Donna!!!!

Normally, this time of year, I wouldn’t be even thinking of Taos much.  Forging on ahead with the rest of my summer which is filled with the beauty of family time and musical nerdiness (where I get to be the student!!!).  But this year, Taos has lingered.  I find myself back there in my mind’s eye a little more often, making paintings, touching base with loved ones there, and looking ahead to next year……

The above little marketing video was made for 2014, but it’s still very valid and gives one a sense of what I’m up to in my workshops.  The tone and feel of the thing, if you will…..

Today I got a message from a musical friend who’s partner has been dabbling in the paints a bit and he thinks perhaps she might like to come to Taos next year.  And what are the dates?  And is there space?  So I figured I would quick post the answers to those questions in a little blog post.

Next year, 2020, marks 10 years teaching in Taos, New Mexico at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House.   The dates for the 2020 workshop are June 7-13.  You can find more information here.  (Prices, exact dates and what you can expect, etc)

If you are interested in going, here’s how it happens.  September 1, 2019, I will send an email out to past participants who in this last year have expressed interest in next year’s trip.  They have about a week to decide if they want to send in a deposit.  September 6, I will announce open registration for any slots left.

As I take payment by check in the mail for deposits, I simply use the date of the email or message you send me to hold your slot verbally until your check arrives and we keep a wee list (the Hub calls it a spreadsheet) of the order of incoming requests for space in the class.  As of this writing, I am holding the class in Taos to 16, but that could wiggle a bit depending upon interest.  But I do like to keep it manageable and make sure everyone gets the one:one instruction in their books as needed.

Every new year is a bit special and certainly different from the years past.    As I learn and grow, I bring that to the classroom in Taos.  We try new ideas, we share what the world has brought to us in the year since we last met.  It truly is – MAGIC – for lack of any better word.  I have learned to trust it.

So.  If you are interested in the class next summer, mark your calendars.  Get on my “subscribe” list here on the website.  That is the best way to get the announcements in a timely fashion.  If the dates for Taos don’t suit your calendar, you can consider my trip to Antigua, Guatemala in late Feburary/early March of 2020.  There are still 3 slots left in each week so far and those are likely to fill soon.

Thank you for your interest in exploring Taos, New Mexico with me, whether it’s been in past trips, or if you are only just considering coming along.  There is truly no place like it.

Mabel welcomes us….