Today my harpist friend Jeni invited me to attend a gathering of fellow harpers called a Harper’s Robin. There were 16 harp players of varying levels who were playing music together in preparation for an upcoming concert at the library.
That many harps in one room makes an impressive sound. But it is more than just the music that one hears, it is the vibration that can be felt as the music moves through the room. As a whistle player, it occurred to me that the effect of that many whistles playing in one room would have a completely different acoustic effect!
One of the cool things they did was an improvisational exercise called White Strings. Harpists use color on their strings to help delineate which notes can be found on what string. In the White Strings exercise, the players decide on a time signature and tempo and then play any note, as long as it is a white string. All of the notes “go” together magically creating a piece of music that happens then and there, never to be repeated.
Harps are not only lovely to listen to but really beautiful instruments as well. They are like sculptures, each one different from the next and I enjoyed doing a few rough sketches of the musicians and their instruments.
After the harp gathering I drove over to Homemeadow Song Farm to catch the last bit of the “Honey Bee Mine” sale. Artisans were selling beeswax candles, honey, and pottery just in time for Valentine’s Day. My friend and stellar-multi-instrumentalist Doug told me that there are some connections between honey bees and harp makers. I am guessing that there is some connection to the beautiful vibration made by a well made harp and that of a thriving hive of honey bees. This bears more investigation for sure.
I am still working off the images and thinking that were with me in Olympia. There is a great line in a song by the Be Good Tanyas called The Littlest Birds. “…you pass through places and places pass through you but you carry them with you on the soles of your traveling shoes.” I think this idea is true. Travel, even the smallest trips, has a way of changing a person in small ways. For me, I often feel more alive and awake after a trip. Getting out of town causes me to pay attention to my surroundings a bit more. This is important therapy for a visual artist.
There is a dog in Olympia named Sakima who is a real gem. I took a few snapshots of him while out there this time so I could sketch him a bit when I got home. He has a beautiful wolf-like quality to him, as well as a gentle and open spirit.
One of the souveneirs I like to pick up whenever I am anywhere in the Pacific North-“wet” are the lovely beach pebbles that can be found just about anywhere on the coast. I love to draw them. The colors are endless in scope and I find them beautiful to look at and place around my house in bowls. Often a visitor to my house will ask, “so what’s with the rocks?…”
I’ve been in a quiet, hibernative mode the past few days where pictures seem more interesting than words. Although I haven’t written much, I have been drawing. Above is a daily dog. I have been trying to capture Iris’s wise and worried look she has in her eyes. I have yet to be successful.
Over the MLK holiday, we spent the afternoon in downtown Cincinnati for ice skating and a trip up 48 stories to the top of Carew Tower. It was a bit chilly down on the square, especially in the shade, but I still had to get a sketch of the lovely, newly refurbished fountain.
There are many different kinds of teachers. At the Riley School of Irish Music, my first teacher was Simone, who at the time was only 14. Although I have now outgrown her class and have moved up a level, I still look to her for musical tidbits, suggestions and nuances to make my own playing better. I hope that someday my playing has half the skill and soul that hers does. With my move to the more advanced class, I have had the great fortune of meeting each week with John Skelton, who is not only an incredible whistle, flute and pipes player, but an inspirational teacher as well. I leave his classes, just as I did Simone’s, feeling capable; hopeful in my own ability to pick things up and improve. This is the magic of a good teacher.
Another talented teacher I know is my friend and fellow artist Lisa Siders. I have never taken a class of Lisa’s but she and I have had many chats about teaching philosophy and I have looked to her recently for guidance in structuring my own class at the Art Academy. She also has taught me more skills than I can count simply in passing or in working together. I can only imagine how inspired her students are and hope I can achieve that same level of teaching magic myself.
Today we went for a frigid walk in the woods near our house. It was the first time the pups had been in an off leash situation and so I was hopeful that Caskie would be able to guide them in the proper walk protocol; i.e.- not running away into the woods. Although I was a little on guard, I trusted my instincts and let the lot of them off their leashes and began to walk. My doggie intuition about Caskie paid off. He came to me whenever I asked him to… so did the puppies. He “waited up” whenever I asked him to… soon the puppies were doing the same. They were looking to him for cues in this new situation and he was being a good teacher.
Teachers, and learners, can be found everywhere, if we are open to being a teacher or a learner ourselves. I learned as much in art school from my fellow students and friends as I did from the many wonderful professors I was fortunate to have. My hope is that in the coming weeks, as I head into the classroom as teacher, I will also have the open mind of a learner. Then, just maybe, I’ll be as inspirational a teacher as the teachers I have known in my life.
Happy 2008! I am grateful to be sitting here writing on this snowy January day, finally feeling somewhat human again after the holidays and being down with a cold. Today in the mail my final Christmas gift arrived from Joseph, Oregon. This is the issue of the Moonlight Chronicles by Dan Price that I blogged about a few days ago. What a treat! I have only just glanced at it as I am saving the real pouring over it for later, when I can spend some time with it next to this evening’s fire. The stickers were an added bonus and I have divvied them up among the kids.
Meanwhile, my own sketchy work continues. I have been breaking in the new sketch book by installing my signature pocket in the back of the book and making a design of sorts on the front cover. Since I made this book from scratch this time, “messing with it” to really make it my sketchbook was a more difficult task than just altering the average blank book. Now that I have done it however, the book feels even more my own and I have once again tackled that new-blank-book-syndrome that so many people feel when starting a new journal. Here’s the cover. I drew on it and glued some threads I had laying around.
And lastly, here’s a daily dog. Caskie is still my favorite to draw, simply because he is so darn scribbly himself.
To the folks who read my blog on a regular basis, thanks again. Your support and well wishes are what make it a pleasure to blog at all. Best wishes for a safe, prosperous, healthy New Year.
The other night I had a dream about sketchbooking and in the dream, some of the pages were cut out with squares, like little windows that gave a peek into the images on the following pages. I love this idea and decided to try it in the “real world”. I’m happy with the results and plan to use this nifty idea again in the future.
Here are River and Iris on the towel where we set all the puddle boots when we come in from out in the yard, which is, currently, a boggy, muddy mess. (as are all three pups, much of the time!)
The gifts are all opened here at Chez Bogard and we are settling into the quietude of Christmas vacation. No work or school schedules to worry about for a few days and we all have our new presents to play with. However, one of my favorite gifts has yet to arrive. My husband sent away to Dan Price to get a copy of his long-running sketch series, The Moonlight Chronicles.
When I first began keeping a sketchbook in earnest years ago, we stumbled upon Dan’s delightful work in Backpacker magazine. Over the years I have collected his numerous books about his art and life and have admired his “hobo-artist” approach to things. Dan is one of the artists upon whose work I have kept an eye while developing my own style of sketch journaling. I have given countless copies of his How To Make a Journal of Your Life to various fellow artists in the hopes that his down-to-earth approach to successfully keeping a sketch book will inspire folks to make their own. I am looking forward to getting a “real” copy of The Moonlight Chronicles in the mail from Dan himself.
Yesterday I dipped my toes into the very rich and ancient art of book making. My friend and fellow artist, Lisa introduced me to one version of book making, the end result of which is a classic looking “real book”. My plan for this book is to keep it as my new sketch book. Having a totally hand-made-from-scratch book as my sketch book will be a new thing for me and I am thrilled to engage it and work with it in the coming months. My hope is to make a few more of these lovely books to get better at the involved process and improve my craft.
Meanwhile, things are looking up in the dog world, at least at my house. Even as the weather gets icier, at least some things seem to be thawing….
An exciting thing occurred to me today. I was at a local art store getting some Christmasey gifts for some of the children in my life (I believe early artistic infection is a positive thing…) and I glanced at the piles of catalogs, brochures and such at the end of the counter. There among the stacks was a purple catalog from the Art Academy of Cincinnati listing the winter/spring courses available in their Community Education program. I grabbed the catalog to check….and there it was…my sketchbook course! I will be teaching a four-week, one evening per week course on creating and keeping a Journal / Sketchbook.
My own sketchbook is something that I share on a regular basis with those who know me and those who just happen to catch me in the act of drawing and come to look over my shoulder. It is a place where I capture interesting moments and images, big and small, momentous and meaningless. It is a place where things come together and begin to make sense. In my sketchbook I collect quotes and photos, sketches and thoughts. It is an extension of myself and my process. It is the place where my life and my art work meet and mix, with unpredictable results. It’s my stew pot for ideas and memories.
Over the years I have kept a fairly steady number of books, each one better than the last, I think. I take chances and experiment more now than I did even a couple of years ago. In my Art Academy class I plan to share with students how I got started sketch-journaling, and how I start each new book. I will help them get their own books started and encourage them to begin collecting their own life bits. Everyone’s individual life has purpose and meaning and this is often forgotten in our fast paced world these days. This is why I blog. And this is why I keep a sketchbook; not just for art work, but for the life moments in between the work.
So here’s hoping at least a handful of folks sign up for my class so it can move forward. I am excited to get more “sketchy” people out into the world at large!
I am fascinated with other people’s sketchbooks. Over the years I have gathered a collection of sorts of published artist sketchbooks, the latest of which arrived yesterday. This new one is a book called Sara Midda’s South of France; A Sketchbook. It was published in 1990 so it is by no means new, but I hadn’t ever come across it and bought it used on the advice of a friend.
This book is a delight! Midda’s drawings convey the sense of light and colors and tastes that she experienced in her year there. Like myself, she makes most of her drawings using watercolors, and goes on to name different colors by what they represent to her in her sketches. Blue, gold, and green become sky at midday, stucco, and fishing boat. The list is evocative and endless.
In spite of a wonderful color theory class in art school, I have never been very scientific about my use of watercolors. They have always been more about play for me than about formula. I hope to keep it that way. But Midda’s work has me thinking about my 14 color travel watercolor set in a broader field today as I try to make as many shades of lots of colors as possible.
Also, here’s a daily dog from yesterday….. meet Arp.