Category Archives: travel

aware

The above quote has been on my fridge for years.  It’s one of my favorites and I like to think I personify it in my life, at least part of the time.  Lately I have been thinking a lot about the act of drawing and how it applies to being aware and awake and alive.  A former student of mine and I have been researching creativity, its application in the work place and how the simple act of drawing can enhance, channel and release innovative thinking.  It has been an exciting and overwhelming project which we hope will enable us to bring our ideas into the corporate sphere, teaching people to collect their thoughts and ideas visually, by drawing in a sketchbook.

I have been diligently working in my own sketchbook in recent weeks to practice what I preach in some sense.  As school winds down into summer for the kids, my ideas are brewing for both my new project out in the “Real World”, as well as for studio plans.  My family and I have spent a great deal of time outdoors recently and that has given me fuel for the sketchbook as well as for my more academic research pursuits.  I am not sure how it works, (though I am currently doing a ton of reading about it) but the simple act of drawing, combined with walking and being outdoors is a magic tool for productivity and creative thinking.  It is my hope that I can successfully convey this notion to folks who have never tried drawing.  Drawing is one small way to be joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.  So is hiking and simply being outside.  At least for me.

Here are some Daily Dog Drawings from recent weeks….

We took Iris to the Red River Gorge for a long hike on the Wildcat Trail to Dog Fork Creek.  It was a great time, especially with only one dog.  Caskie is a little old for such a rough hike on difficult terrain, and River is still prone to running off and making a general nuisance of himself.  So we took just Iris and it was wonderful to spend the day just with her.  It turns out she likes fishing.  She would stare into the creek at the small minnows and then pounce on them.  I think given some time, she might have caught herself one.

The day after our day trip to the Gorge, Tony and I went on a rainy kayak trip with some friends, partly so I could test drive a boat that’s my size and for sale.  Paddling in the rain was surreal and sensual and I hope to do it again.  The temperature was warm enough that it was not uncomfortable and we all had a great time.  I am hoping to sell a couple of paintings at an upcoming show at the Art Academy so I can buy this boat…

void

These past few days have been filled with thoughts of Esme.  Last weekend my son Jack and I went up to Detroit with a group of fellow musicians to compete in the North American Midwest Regional Fleadh Cheoil. (and Irish Music Competition)  Unlike Jack, I was only there to compete in one small thing, and yet I was terrified.  I am not one who enjoys being on stage, let alone being judged.  But I go and participate because I like what leads up to it; the rehearsals and figuring out as a group what exactly we will play.  That part of it is fun.  The going on stage part is not.  Most of Jack’s schoolmates seem to take being on stage in stride and show no signs of stage fright or pre-show nerves.  This was not true for Esme.  Cut of the same stage-going cloth as I, she was always a bundle of nerves before a show, and a puddle of relief afterwards.  And yet she always performed just fine.  She’d get up there and do what needed to be done.  I thought of her a lot in the hours leading up to our little band competition and once up on stage, I took a deep breath, and did what I had to do.  It went fine.  We did our best, and I was happy I had made the effort.  We got 3rd out of 3, alas, but we got rave reviews from the crowd!  As a side note, my Jack won the mandolin and banjo competitions, but his best showing was in Fiddle.  A third place out of a huge field of talented kids.  He was thrilled!

Upon returning home from the Fleadh, we hit the ground running this week with concerts and graduation.  Esme was ever present at all of these events.  Many of them were her events where she should have been playing.  She was missed sorely by those of us in the audience, her classmates, and of course, her family.  In the midst of it all I have been embroidering a small quilt square that will go to my favorite local fabric store, St. Theresa’s Textile Trove, where it will join many others like it in a quilt for Esme’s family.  It is a huge labor of love and I can’t wait to see the finished product!  I am proud to be just a small part of it. My square is called Esme Early Bird.  She was always the first one up at our house when she visited.

At SCPA’s graduation performance, Esme’s spirit was with us all as we held a beautiful moment of silence before the ceremony, and quotes from her blog graced the speeches of some of the Seniors.  Tears have been close to the surface for me and even though I just got back from Detroit, I am hitting the road again tomorrow for Rochester to see Kristin before her baby arrives.  It will be wonderful to see her and spend some pre-baby time with her, but it will also be great to get a few hours of solitude in the car to gather my thoughts about things, maybe have a good cry, and simply be alone.  I am happy to know the need for balance and to seek it, without too much drama.

Kim’s song Days Like This was on a popular television show last night and so has been rolling around in my head.  The lyrics have a bit that goes “days like this, yeah, you think about the ones that went before you.”  I do think about them.  Knowing the people I have lost in recent years, only makes loving the ones still with me that much more poignant.  I am really missing lost loved ones, especially most recently Esme and my dear friend Mia.  But I am grateful for the gifts they continue to give in spirit.

Back in the saddle, so to speak

There is nothing like a road trip to shake things up artistically, especially when things have been hard on the home front.  My trip south with Kim went off with out a hitch and we had a great time.  It was so good for me to hang out on the edge of things and just take it all in. It was restful, at least for me, although touring is hard work for the musicians.  The “lads” with whom Kim was touring were a great bunch of guys.  My favorite venue they played was Eddie’s Attic, the premier singer/songwriter listening room in the Atlanta area.

Not all of our time was spent working however.  We managed to find some wonderful second hand clothing shops in Atlanta and Greenville, SC and an amazing toy store in downtown Greenville.

The trip was only 2 overnights and was over in a flash.  I personally, could have used a few more days on the road and will have to plan accordingly next time and join the tour sooner!  A good chunk of our time driving home through the mountains was spent in the fog, which was a nerve wracking for driving, yet beautiful at the same time.

Upon arriving home I put the finishing touches on a quilt I have been working on for one of my dearest friends who is having her first baby.  The design is based on the notion of “friendly monsters” which the kids drew out on paper, and then I interpreted into a quilt.  The result is amazing and like nothing I have ever made.  Below are some photos….

Now that the quilt is done and has been presented to its new home, it’s back to the wax table for me.  Below is my latest painting in encaustic.  It’s 12 X12 inches and seems to be heading into different thematic territory for me.  I have only briefly touched on my own past experiences to make art, choosing more often to work from my present surroundings, or broader collective inspiration such as Nature or the idea of Place.  But recently, my interesting and at times wild life and upbringing have been bubbling up and begging to be interpreted into art.  Most specifically, an earthquake that my family and I experienced in 1976 in Guatemala City.  I have only made a couple of pieces of art work based specifically on that terrifying experience but I think I am ready to tackle this idea a little more head on.  I’ll see how it goes.  Processing old stuff is hard, but necessary sometimes, and powerful, especially artistically.  I’ll keep you posted…

Changes in latitude

This past weekend my mom, sister and I flew to Key West, Florida for an annual girls getaway.  As usual, Key West had much to offer just about any interest.  Like any tourist town, there are galleries, museums, shopping, restaurants and bars .  I avoided most of the trappings (except perhaps the bars) and instead spent much of my time outside.  Walking, looking, drawing, exploring, soaking up colors and textures and people so different from what we have here in Ohio (especially this time of year!).  Every day I spent a few hours at the man-made (but thoroughly wonderful) beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.  Here I could soak up a little sunshine but also explore the fort and walk the nature trails.  Key West was experiencing a winter’s chill last week that had the locals feeling a little grumpy, but for me, it was plenty warm enough.

We stayed at a lovely guest mansion called Marrero’s, famed to be haunted by a friendly ghost named Enriquetta.  This was the first time we stayed in the downtown area and we will never do it differently.  Marrero’s is close to everything and a nice quiet place to experience the atmosphere that personifies Key West.

Since this was the 4th time we had been to Key West, mom decided it might be fun to do something a little bit different and head out for a sunset cruise.  We took a ride on a beautiful sail boat called the Western Union sunday evening.  What we all thought would be a nice, though rather touristy, couple of hours, turned out to be the pinnacle experience of our trip.  The weather was perfect, the wind just right for sailing.  The captain mentioned that we might see a few dolphins while out on the water… sure enough, right on cue, there were dolphins, just before sunset.  I now know the meaning of the word frolic as that is what personifies dophins in the wild, something I hadn’t experienced before.  They were beautiful.  The passengers on the ship were encouraged to help get the sails up (in fact, the captain said, “no sails, no bar”, so most people pitched in!) My sister and I heaved and hauled with other passengers while the crew shouted out directions.  It was exhilarating!  Sunset could not have been more lovely, with just the right amount of clouds in the sky to play with the colors.  One of the couples on board got engaged at that moment.  The energy on board was peaceful as people chatted and listened to the boat creak and groan.  As we headed back into port, the crew replaced the sails for next time and we ended our short journey. It was an experience I won’t soon forget.  I think I may have left a little piece of my soul on that boat.

After dinner, we headed once again to our favorite Key West watering hole, The Green Parrot.  It seems no matter where we wander through the evenings, we always wind up back at this place.  Slightly off the beaten path of the nauseatingly touristy Duval St., the Green Parrot is a place we always meet the more intrepid tourists such as ourselves, along with colorful local “Conchs” who are fortunate or crazy enough to carve out a living in Key West. I could go on and on with stories of our wonderful trip to The Conch Republic, but that would be a waste of precious art time.  I am now loaded with images and ideas that need to be born into some artistic form.  I have tons of drawings in my sketchbook and have plans to do more.  My well is full for the first time in months.  This is all very good.

Winter Green

Holiday Season is in full swing here in Cincinnati.  We have even had some recent snow and ice to liven things up a bit and remind us that it is, indeed, Winter.  With winter comes a raw, dry harshness that is difficult to escape.  Even with the presence of humidifiers, houseplants and an aquarium, I still find myself cracking at the seams and zapping everything I touch.

Yesterday afternoon my son Jack and I had some time to spend after school while my daughter was at a play rehearsal (this will be a frequent theme in the next couple of months).  So we wandered up the hill to the Krohn Conservatory to immerse ourselves in the moist tropical air of this beautiful glass hothouse.  The Conservatory is a favorite place of mine to draw for the sake of drawing and I am rewarded with moisture and quiet while I work.  It’s lovely.  Jack got a new camera this past fall for his birthday.  With this new toy and his natural eye for photography, he managed to capture a bit of the winter green magic that can be found at this Cincinnati treasure…

Lately, with my schedule being somewhat more open with fewer teaching gigs and such, I have been reconnecting quite a bit with my studio space and my own personal art work.  I have so many ideas recently that it is hard to pin them all down.  This is a wonderful place to be and I write it here so that when an Art Desert scenario returns someday (which it will), I can remind myself of the ebb and flow that is the life’s work of a creative.   There will be dry spells I must work through, usually by simply maintaining my sketchbook and feeding my spirit with little field trips like yesterday’s Krohn visit.  Author Julia Cameron calls these little field trips “Artist Dates” and I like that notion.  Like one is wooing the inner artist out of her shell a bit.  It works.  I have always known that work begets work and yet I am often guilty of the self sabotage that is easy to fall into when life intervenes.  There is often not enough time to just wander and take in the world.  Recently I find myself blocking out time in my calendar as simply “Studio Time”.  Often this time is most fruitful when spent not actually in the studio, but rather out in the world, exploring.  Through my own practice and in my classes, I have become accutely aware of the power of keeping a sketch journal alive and well.  I am swimming in the power of this practice right now, and it feels right.

“Go outside, move deliberately, then relax, slow down, look around.  Do not jog. Do not run…Instead pay attention to everything that abuts the rural road, the city street, the suburban boulevard.  Walk. Stroll.  Saunter.   Ride a bike and coast along a lot.  Explore.”

John Stilgoe, Outside Lies Magic

Playing Catch Up

It’s hard to believe sometimes how time flies.  I know that sounds pretty cliche’ but there it is.  20 days have gone by since our country’s miraculous election and things have been rather busy round here at Chez Bogard.  Busy is good.

Yesterday I took a friend of mine to the Cincinnati Art Museum to see Madcap Puppet Theater’s production of The Firebird. This show was done in the style of shadow puppetry using light and flat puppets to create the illusion of space.  What was interesting to me about this particular production was the use of color.  The puppets were created with a heavy duty plastic and painted with the “stained glass” paints that are found at the crafty stores.  The effect was exquisite and magical.  Adults and kids alike at the show were enchanted.  Being a member of the Cincinnati Area Puppetry Guild, I knew some of the performers and got to go backstage after the show to see how it all works.  Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me but here is a shot from my phone taken during the post-show Q&A.

The holidays are officially upon us and they seem to come earlier every year.  Case in point, we had the Riley School of Irish Music‘s 3rd annual Peace and Merriment Concert on Saturday night.  We did it early this year to avoid clashing with too many other Christmas-ey shin-digs coming up and also to coincide with the end of fall quarter at the school.  Students and Instructors alike performed various holiday/ harvest related tunes and the audience seemed to enjoy themselves.  I hid in the back row of the ceili band performance and played my tunes as best I could.  Stage-fright is less and less an issue with me as time rolls on, but I still am not keen on the idea of playing in front of people.  Below is a shot of some of the Riley kids who are not shy about playing for people.  They pretty much rock, those kids!

As Riley School finished up, it occurred to me that a number of things are freeing up precious time for me in the coming weeks.  The Carnegie Center has changed its regular Family Saturday activities from Dec. 13 to Dec. 6  to accommodate a participatory arts day planned for that day.  I won’t be able to make it that day so  I’ll see all of my regular Family Saturday folks again in January!  Meanwhile, this past week was my final class for the semester at the Art Academy.  I am slated to teach the class again in the Spring, Feb 21- March 6. (6 weeks this time!)  I will post details for registration when I have them.  My hope is that I will have some returning students next time who will keep pushing the limits of tending their sketchbooks. Spring will also be a perfect time for taking any interested students slightly farther afield for a day (or 2?) to practice their sketching skills.  I have for some time entertained the idea of leading a travel sketchbook course.  I have a handful of folks who have expressed interest in participating and so I’ve begun to make plans.  I will be sure to post any destination ideas I have here and would love any feedback or requests for fun places to visit and draw.  Anyone up for Madison, Indiana?

So with some extra hours available to me I plan to play in the studio with wax and clay, reacquaint myself with my own neglected sketchbook (update my Daily Dog collection), and perhaps finish a pair of socks I have been knitting for far too long.  I have a new heater in the studio which should help take some of the chill out of the space (thanks to Dave for that suggestion!)

Although I haven’t been too active at the wax table in recent weeks, I have been working on some clay tiles I plan to install as a back splash in our new kitchen.  I am making them in pieces which will eventually come together to create an artistic take on the foot print of the Ohio River in our region (approximately from the Indiana border out to Maysville, Ky, a favorite river town of ours).  Kudos to my kayaker hubby for that brilliant idea.  It seems to be turning out nicely….

Last but certainly not least in today’s post, some wonderful doggie news:  The puppies have graduated out of their kennel and are now sleeping upstairs with us at night!  For some months now they have had the run of the upstairs hallway when we would leave the house.  They just chill out on their beds in Tony’s office and wait for us to come home.  At night however we were still putting them into their kennels to avoid morning chaos.  Last week we decided to try putting them to bed upstairs with us after a long walk to see how they would do.  Amazingly, they did great!  They have learned fairly quickly to just lie down in their beds when we are in ours and that just because we get up to go to the bathroom, doesn’t mean they need to get up too. (Caskie learned this years ago and likes to sleep in Maddie’s room).  It’s working out wonderfully.  During the day, their recent favorite hang out is in the kitchen…. sprawled out on the heated concrete floor!

Got Hope?

Today is Election Day and I, along with millions of other Americans, am casting a vote today for my pick for President.  Let me just say, it’s time for a Change, yes we CAN.  ‘Nuf said.

Meanwhile, life goes on in spite of the world being a crazy place, or perhaps because of it.  I have been working a bit more in my sketch book recently, trying to make a positive example of myself for my wonderful students.  Like any good-for-you exercise, it feels great to be doing it….

Along with water color and mud, my book has a couple of polaroids in it.  I have been trying to figure out how to do polaroid transfers with not much luck.  I got this camera for 75 cents at a garage sale and have invested $17 for a strange 3V battery and then another $15 for a box of 10 exposure Fuji film that works with this camera model.  The guy at the shop where I bought the film told me this might not be the best for transfers, but by toying with the development time I might have some success.  It has been hit or miss thus far but I plan to keep trying and experimenting.  At the very least, I am having fun capturing these images and plan to hang on to the camera as yet another tool for making my sketchbook come alive in new and exciting ways.  I suppose there are cures for mild boredom.

If you have voted today, which I hope was tops on your to-do list, then get out into the world and experiment with some new art-making/ life-cataloguing stuff that you haven’t tried.  Polaroids are great, but so are digital photos and plain ol’ drawing.  I’m headed back out there to go live a little myself.

I’ll keep you posted.

Offline

Last week my Hub went out of town on business and unfortunately found himself without power cords for his laptop upon his return. Said cords are being shipped from Hong Kong and may be a few days which renders his laptop out of service due to a lack of power. The good thing is, he has my laptop as back up and can do his work as needed. The bad thing is, he has my laptop as back up…

It is interesting to me how much I turn to my computer during the day, to quickly research an idea, keep track of my images, blog, and keep in touch with friends and family. I have felt a little lost in recent days with out this electronic security blanket. Even so I am still painting every day, practicing music everyday (Augusta is fast approaching!), keeping up with my dogs, my family, my renovation. Life moves on. The past week is perhaps a good preparation for the up-coming weeks when I will be out of the electronic loop while at Irish Music camp and vacation in our beloved Soul Home, Maine. It is possible I may not check in with my virtual self until Mid-August. Life moves on.

In the meantime, below is what has been happening around here recently and I am certain to post something about my summer adventures when I return, or on route, if I am so inspired. It is summer after all, and the living is supposed to be easy….

Last night Tony and I went on a sunset dinner cruise on the Ohio River for our anniversary which is coming up in a few days. We were blessed with beautiful, soft weather and enjoyed ourselves immensely.

I have stuck to my commitment of making a tiny painting every day and have even managed to photograph each piece. It’s amazing to me how they pile up. Below are the results…


I am pleased with the results but more importantly with the process. There is just not a lot of pressure in one tiny painting. It’s a lot like the theme of this blog, a little every day… for most days. But play at the wax table is not all that’s happening. After some concrete related hold-ups (the end result is even better than the first version) our cabinets are finally being installed. I don’t think we’ll have a kitchen until way after vacation, but at least we are still moving forward again after a couple of weeks in a holding pattern (note: Concrete takes patience, don’t ever rush it. Our guys did and had to do a LOT of work to fix it!)

Puppy Boot Camp (at least my gentle version of it) is still going on. We walk twice a day which they love. When at home all members of the family, and guests as well, are learning how to teach all three to keep all four paws on the ground and mind their place in the pack. All of us are benefiting from this wonderful structure. They are even lying still enough sometimes that I have gotten a couple of daily dog sketches done!

Yes, indeed life moves on… I’ll keep you posted, when I get the chance!

Road Trip Season (episode 1)

This past Saturday was the Detroit Feis, an Irish Dance competition where my daughter Maddie competed in a number of different dances. She won first place in her Reel which gave everyone cause to celebrate. Her best buddy and fellow dancer Camille also won her Reel (they are in different age/ skill level categories), and her Treble Reel and placed 4th in her Treble Jig. These girls never stop dancing, especially with all the music that surrounds them, so it’s nice to see them reap the benefits of all their hard work.

While in Detroit we were fortunate to have a place to stay at my friend Dave’s house. Dave is a potter who lives and works in Ferndale, Michigan. He has his studio set up in his basement and the kids spent much of their free time making clay pots.

When we travel to another city to attend an Irish Dance competition, part of the fun is hanging out afterwards with the musicians who were hired to play for the dancers as well as those who live in that city. Having just attended the Fleadh held in Detroit this year, it was great to meet up with some of those Detroit musicians once again and have few tunes. I played only a little bit on Saturday night at the Feis Musician’s hotel.

Sunday’s tunes were to be had at Conor O’Neil’s pub in Ann Arbor Michigan and I have to admit, I am a chicken. My whistle stayed hidden in my bag during this session which was filled with amazing musicians and great Irish Music. Sometimes there’s value in simply listening.

Not all weekend was spent at Irish cultural events. We had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with my friend Jeni’s brother who has a pool and two amazing golden retriever dogs. Bailey, the younger of the two, likes to swim but she doesn’t do it like any other dog I have ever met. She stays vertical, like a person, and keeps her back paws on the floor of the pool. It is hilarious. She could probably win some money on America’s Funniest Home Videos or something.

Allie is Bailey’s older sister. She doesn’t swim a whole lot but rather lies in the shade like a big ol’ carpet dog. I sat and drew a picture…

Before the session on Sunday at O’Neil’s, we walked around Ann Arbor and looked at all the cool shops there. One phenomenon I was excited to check out was that of the Urban Fairies, reputed to be found in Ann Arbor. Sure enough, we found them. Little tiny doors behind which lay another world. I left a button and a New Zealand coin as my offering to the Fairies at Peaceable Kingdom gift shop, glad to participate in this sweet Ann Arbor tradition.

coming up for air

My friend Doug reminded me the other day that I had not posted any fleadh results on my blog as I had promised before heading to Detroit for the big weekend of Irish Music. It was indeed a weekend filled with music and very little sleep. It was a chance to catch up with friends from other cities whom we only get to see at such events. Someone was quoted as saying “would we even get together for such a weekend if we didn’t have a poor excuse such as a competition?” After it is all said and done, most of us here in Cincinnati agree that it is not about the results of the competition. We have a very closely knit community of Irish musicians here in our area, but we don’t have the numbers that some of the bigger cities have. That said, the Riley School kids ceili band was awarded 2nd place in that competition. Lots of Riley kids also placed in the many solo competitions available to them (Jack got 2nd in Mandolin!). It was a successful weekend on many fronts. Unfortunately, the one thing that went wrong is my forgetting to bring a camera! But if you click the link above, you can get the general feel for the weekend from those wonderful photos. Oh, and by the way, the over 18 “adult” ceili band (i.e. “The Little Ceili Band that Could”) didn’t win a prize. But we got up there and played fairly well, despite our nerves.

Once we got home and settled from the Fleadh weekend, the wild end-of-the-school-year pace set in and I have been trying simply to just keep up! There have been lots of concerts and recitals, and celebrations for the older kids moving onto their next adventures. Jack, my 7th grader, was just fitted this week for a pair of glasses. Maddie is slowly putting together her new Irish Dance ensemble since she just acquired her first solo dress. Tonight we worked on a crown which will mach the dress. I think we had success…

fairycrown.jpg

In spite of what seems like an endless spring puppetry schedule, I have managed to make a little art here and there. There is an area of Downtown Cincinnati called Over-The-Rhine which is filled with the most amazing architecture and a varied assortment of residents and businesses. My kids go to school in this neighborhood and so as a family, we spend quite a lot of time there. As many inner city areas do, OTR faces some challenges in dealing with crime and poverty, but a core group of dedicated individuals are working toward making OTR the best it can be. One recent project is the GreenBird House project. These wonderful “green” bird houses were distributed to local artists who then in turn put their own mark on them. The newly decorated bird houses then go up for auction, proceeds going to the Over-The-Rhine Community Housing project. Below is my bird house. Perhaps it’s the presence of all the shiny Irish Dance stuff laying around, or the fact that it’s spring, but I stepped out of my usual aesthetic to make something just this side of ridiculous. I had a lot of laughs working on it!

birdqueen.jpg

birdqueen2.jpg

Just a few more days of puppetry and being chained to a school schedule. I need a dose of artistic meandering and allowing time to flow as it should. More time to sketch and blog and notice the little stuff.