Category Archives: work

‘Artvangogh’

It is travel season.  I am recently returned from California and while away, my studio window robins hatched and grew.

Mere seconds after this photo was snapped, this last one fledged.  It’s a bit like life itself.  How fast they grow.  Though our fledglings double back on occasion and for this we are grateful.

California was rewarding in her splendor as always, but had a few weather related tricks up her sleeve which complicated things for my workshop days.  That said, I packed in a lot in just a short time, both as a traveling artist and as a teacher.

There were many highlights….

After a class with nature journaling artist Kristin Meuser, (if you are ever in California, take a class from her! She’s lovely!) Rosemary and I headed to Berkeley where we met glass artist Alexis Berger, visited a lovely new shop called Etui, and gazed at magnificent fabrics at a place called Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics.

We had an appointment to meet watercolor maker Amanda Hinton of Limn Watercolors where we got to see how her fabulous paints are made from scratch.  It’s a fascinating brand of magic she does and we were smitten with all the colors.  And with Amanda herself.

Amanda Hinton of Limn Colors shows us around the room where it happens.
All the juicy colors

Limn colors do the usual fun stuff watercolors are known for, like mixing beautifully and replicating stained glass with their translucency, but some of her colors can separate and bloom in evocative ways that we have found enchanting.  I have a whole row of her colors in my paint set now which afford me abilities I’ve not had in the past.

Pigments awaiting
Half pans, drying
Samples and the muller

It was great fun to try and buy a few new colors to add to our collection and I am so thankful to Amanda for her time and warm welcome.

Also in Berkeley was a wonderful creative re-use arts supply store and the amazing Burma Superstar restaurant.  We even managed to stop into California Typewriter, of documentary fame…..

 

We were warmly welcomed by Ken and Herb and enjoyed looking at the machines currently in store there.

All in all it was a perfect, busy, sunny California day.

The sunny bit was not to continue.  Alas, the weekend forecast was wet. wet. wet.  So we worked indoors with exercises students will be able to take out of doors on their own at a later time.  Not ideal, but neither is sketching and teaching in the rain.  We were at least cosy.

There is plenty to draw in the home of an interesting, artistic friend.  Here’s a small demo drawing of a wee humbled Buddha I did for the workshop.

The following days were to see us dodging rain drops to capture the wild water on the coastline.

The sun did come out for a few minutes so we sat down to sketch on this beautiful spot in Asilomar, only to be foiled by big raindrops. We ran for the car, rain splattering our drawings. It’s a risk we take yes?
I do love a tide pool.

Again, not ideal, but we managed.  Day two of workshops was moved by one day for those available to make it, and we did manage a few hours of sunlight between rainstorms on our day of working together.  We also managed a few more sketches.

Art L-R by Amy Bogard, Sandi Kane, Rosemary Berwald
The trusty art vans! Always on the gogh. 😉

Painting at the sea side is by far one of my favorite things.  I am often torn between the desire to simply sit and stare at the shifting light and color of the ocean and to capture it in my sketch book.  This feeling is magnified by the limited time I always have by the sea.

I find myself wondering why I do not live nearer to big water.

Somewhere where I might take my blue art van and wander down the lane to the sea shore for a few hours to sketch and stare….. maybe daily.

Suffice it to say, time in Santa Cruz is never enough time.  In the same way that time at Ballybunion Beach is never enough.  Or time on Monhegan is never enough.  Alas.  Time marches on…..

Next up is an ocean of a different kind.  An ocean of sage.  In just two weeks’ time I’ll be back in New Mexico for my flagship travel journaling course at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House once again.  Every year is a gift and I am thrilled to be heading back.

The weather seems like it might be more cooperative in Taos than in California, even leaning more cool than in recent years.  We shall see.  But at the very least, sunshine, New Mexico style.

My studio is less a place of making just now and more a place of packing and preparations.

The art van, of course, at the ready.  A new sweater for the (hopefully) cool Taos nights, and maybe a friend or two along for company.

Swag is being readied.

I consider what art supplies to bring for my own making, while making sure that I have all the extras for the workshop participants as well.

It can make one’s head spin to be sure.  But the paint set is clean (after being dusted quite heavily by volcanic ash in Guatemala and a grain or two of sand in Santa Cruz) and refilled (note the lovely middle line of mostly Limn colors!!)

I have a few new pencils to try, including a light blue one suggested by Kristin Meuser during her workshop and a couple of Blackwing pencils all the rage with my illustrator friends.

All of it tucks away into the little van, along with a book or two to draw and paint in.  It’s all quite compact actually.

This year I have made the decision to simplify my packing process for the Taos trip.  I am only bringing a few of my current books, not a box full of past years’ books like I do normally.  And instead of bringing yet another box full of published books for people to peruse, I will bring a list of said books to share with my students so they can explore when they get home via bookstore and library.  We will instead focus on the work at hand.  It’s a strange shift, but I feel good about it.

It’s easy to look at the wonderful empty classroom at Mabel’s and feel like we need to fill it with things other than ourselves and our small packs of art supplies.  This is especially the case for me as facilitator.  But this is not true.  That room fills with laughter and conversation and the joy of working into the wee hours on sketches begun earlier in the day.  WE fill the room.  WE are enough, with just our supplies on hand.

I am so excited to get back to Taos where this whole traveling-art thing began for me so many years ago.  Every year is different, and yet there is the lovely familiarity to lean into as well.  I am open to what I have to learn there year after year and am grateful for the opportunity to go back once again.

 

 

Tecolote Blooming

TECOLOTE

“A nomadic bird, Snowy Owl relocates when the weather changes.  In January 2012 rising numbers of Snowy Owls started migrating  in mass numbers from the Arctic to many parts of the United States.  One leading researcher described the migration as ‘unbelievable’.  Another researcher called this the most significant  wildlife event in decades.

Owls have been seen in indigenous cultures to be predicative of weather changes, and Snowy Owl is now showing us that as the Earth evolves we, too, must move and flow with the changes.

Snowy Owl blended in with the snow of the Arctic but stands out in contrast in more southerly environments.  One message we can interpret from this is that as the Earth changes we need to come out of hiding and be seen.  If you found comfort in blending in with your surroundings, the goddess energies, the feminine, might now be asking you to stand out and make your strengths known.  It is time to share what is bubbling up from deep within you, to show up and be seen and heard.”

~Sandra Ingerman and Lyn Roberts – Speaking With Nature

The flowering trees are a force in our little patch of land. I love how the petals float down the little creek out back

Spring has sprung here in Ohio.  I arrived back only a few days ago, and today must get back into the world properly, spending a few hours at the shop and pursuing a shadow-box style frame for an plants-themed art project due quite soon.

(pssst.  Here’s the start of that project, begun in Antigua…..)

I’ll admit, I miss Antigua and it’s garish semi-tropical plant life.  And I miss my garish semi-tropical self as well.  In spite of the language barrier and the “foreignness” of food and drink, air and sounds, I felt so well adjusted down there.  Even with being “in charge” of things, hosting two separate groups of artists.  It was a lot to be sure, but I slept well and my anxiety was low.  I felt unfurled and properly relaxed, even in the midst of Semana Santa chaos and the weight of responsibility in my work.

Looking back and attempting to find a pattern, I realized that part of this was the time I spent in my garden before leaving for Guatemala. It was time spent tidying up a bit here and there and crafting gentle boundaries for the deer to allow some growth to happen in the plant-life and trees.  There truly is nothing so grounding as digging in the dirt.  So far, these boundaries are holding and things are bursting forth in splendor indeed.

Virginia Blue Bell – miraculously, the deer don’t seem to touch these guys
Weeping cherry on the hillside by the creek
White bud tree near front creek
Crab apple tree in front yard area
Raspberry!

Another important piece of the puzzle I have come to realize is that I didn’t spend very much time checking in on the social media outlets while down there.  I had too much to attend to really.  I’d post a bit on IG which posts automatically to FB and then occasionally I’d drop a sketch or so onto twitter with a hashtag or two.  I know that in this day and age, it’s part of my job and part of how I sell the work that I do so that I can do more of it.

Blueberry!
Elderberry!

This is all well and good of course, as we do live in a modern world.  But some of us, those who live close to the bone when it comes to mental health, must walk a careful balance when it comes to such temptations.  It can be all too easy to get hooked on who likes what has been posted, who might perchance redistribute it in someway or comment on one thing or another.  It can be all too easy to spend inordinate amounts of time looking at the work of others, while one’s own ideas wither and die beneath the surface of it all.

Social media makers have crafted a system that keeps us glued to our screens more than we should be and upon arriving back home, I melted back into those old habits.  I’d be lying if I said I don’t enjoy reading and reacting to comments on my own work, as well as the engagement with the work and words of other artists and writers.  But I realize something has to shift…..

We planted a lovely large willow tree just before I left and it’s thriving.
Wildflowers await transplantation once danger of frost has abated
The hub keeps the mower blade high enough to protect the “weeds” which we actually love. We stick to village tidiness standards, while allowing bee-friendly plants to grow in our “lawn”
Morning glories, getting a head start. I like to grow these lovelies just outside the front door as a way to soften the brick exterior.
Paw Paw…. wonder if she’ll fruit this year?

The nice thing is, I pay attention to these trends in myself and could feel the anxiety creeping back into my bones.  Though I had a good balance with the social media work while I was away, upon returning home to familiar territory I could feel the internal quandary of “not-good-enough” and comparison with everything else on the internet – that sense that I am never, ever doing quite enough to keep up with the rest of the world.  Even as I enjoyed catching up with it all on some level.  All of this is a bit ridiculous, I know, but there it is.

How is it that while in Antigua I could practically feel a proper book pitch bubbling together just under the surface while upon returning home find myself back in the sludge- swamp of insecurities that so marks my day to day?  How can ideas be so clear and firm on one day in one place, only to scatter to the wind when “real life” gets back into gear.

“It is time to share what is bubbling up from deep within you, to show up and be seen and heard.”

A dear friend of mine, who shares my deep love of metaphor and signs, shared the owl quote from above with me yesterday as I was writing up the post about this latest journey.  How was she to know that tecolote (just one of the many Spanish words for “owl”) had featured prominently in our time in Guatemala?  So prominently in fact that I picked up a mask of owl to bring a lovely burst of color to our front entryway….

Not so very long ago, in autumn, I made a painting with owl which was shown in winter at the local art center.  My friend and I decided that perhaps this was just the beginning of my journey to “showing up and being seen and heard” properly, which is at once scary and exciting.  That even then, tecolote was talking to me.

The ever magical Hawthorn tree which is a gateway to the fairy world if there ever was one. With the planting of this tree in the footprint of our old ash tree, I invited the magic back into our land. It seems to be working.
My plant ally, Apple. This year she blooms, which makes me really happy.
Protecting these little blooms from the deer has been a top priority for me in recent years.

I long to burst forth with so many ideas that I’ve literally had for decades but I find I always have time for every-thing and every-one else, while setting aside my own work in the process.  It’s classic avoidance behavior and I am guilty as charged.  And so, with this in mind, I logged off of two of the largest time-sucks in the social media realm – facebook and twitter.  For now I shall leave instagram on so that I can post pictures there and announce when I share a blogpost.  But I am carefully monitoring even that.  My intention is to write a bit more here on the blog.  Sketch more.  Allow the disparate ideas to trust me to bring them to light in their own way, in their own splendor.

Gardens must be tended.  With each journey to far away lands, I learn more about how better to tend to my very own garden, both literally and metaphorically.  I’d love it if you drop me a line here now and then, and let me know what you think as I sink my roots into deeper soil.  I’ll admit I do still enjoy a nod from outside myself now and again.

I do not know how to make a “real” book pitch.  I have 11 years of writing on this blog and I am told it is of value and worthwhile.  And so perhaps I shall spend some time reading my own writing and sampling that to send off to agents and publishers.  So far, I have only really been sending off illustrations here and there.  If I were to state it clearly, I’d love to see a little published book with my thoughts and sketches of my reacquaintance with the country of Guatemala.  A little book that might inspire others to dig into the wildness of their own past and see it bloom through new eyes.  I do not know.  I only know, I must do a better job of trusting in my own vision, instead of always permitting myself to view the world through the vision of others. *

*don’t worry, I will still keep track of things which make my heart sing and I will always share them here.  The world is too filled with beauty to spend all one’s time narcissistically navel-gazing.  🙂

The other day on NPR I heard that *strangely*, the world’s collective attention span is getting shorter (I know, *gasp!*)  I know this to be true for myself and it’s another reason for paring down my social media usage.  Here’s to trusting one’s own vision and forging forth on longer term, deeper projects – and bringing them to fruition.   I’d love to know if you are doing something similar in your own relationship to social media, and how you find and keep that balance.

More soon…..

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

Think Less, Breathe More

Ginger Small and I have been playing a bit with stop-motion

It is a blustery day in the Hundred Acre Wood, proverbially speaking.  Blessed with a studio day,  I seek escape from the confines of my over-working monkeyed mind in the form of writing and perhaps some play with materials on hand.  It is important to dance with winter in anyway we can.

Once upon a time, I was a working puppeteer. Many wild characters were met while touring.

Craving coastline and a gentler breeze on this Polar Vortex day, I dip back into collected imagery from a whirlwind trip west not weeks ago, marveling at the light and magic to be found in California.

It blows a frozen, (though thankfully sunny) gale outside my window here, but if I just climb into my imagination a bit more deeply, I can remember what unfrozen air feels like, though it was brisk and cool.

Time with those beloved to us is magic time indeed.

Self doubts, once seemingly frozen into place, thaw.  The black dogs of recent depression recede, if only for a couple of days.  I realize that as much as I love woolen wear, and hot tea and buttered rum and life in general here in the Ohio River Valley, journeys which afford escape to more temperate climes in winter months keep my wheels on.

I am steeped in gratitude.

Guardians, ghosts and gods are easier to spot near the sea.  Sometimes they lean back and bend to the breezes.

As our wanderings take us farther down the coast we meet them more and more often, in many forms.

Through the mists we find them.

Those who light the way and *remind* us.  With words, color, hospitality, love.

“To paint is to love again.”

~Henry Miller

Emerging Hills, by Nepenthe based artist and new friend, Erin Lee Gafill
Blue Hills of Big Sur, by Nepenthe based artist and new friend, Erin Lee Gafill
A painting in Steve’s cottage by Jack Wilson. The light in it pure magic to my eye.
sketching fog, by Amy Bogard
A totem in it’s wild habitat, by sculptor and new friend, Stan Young

Through mists and moonlight, we come back to our animal selves.

Once returned, we seek not to deep dive back into old familiar patterns of busy-ness and not-so-aliveness, flitting about in our heads like trapped songbirds.  Though we do.

a bit.

I am thankful for reminders.

Words of advice worth typing out and keeping on hand from Stan Young 

But wouldn’t you know it, a guardian god did follow us home….

A Maximón of legend, lovingly crafted as a gift for us by Steve Worley who fancies himself *just* a craftsman, though we all know he is an artist to be reckoned with.

For now, Maximón watches over our doings and comings and goings from his perch on our kitchen counter.

But we will one day provide for him a proper altar of sorts, much like the blast of color, taste and smoke to be found in Santiago Atitlan.

More adventures are on the horizon, I can just see them through the bursts of icy snow – shining, beckoning like soul beacons.  A small personal getaway with the women in my family before workshop season gets underway in full force.  Last minute sign-ups for the Guatemala trip have both weeks *at capacity*. 

I marvel.

Just last year I wondered if I could possibly work out two back to back workshops.  The work speaks for itself and somehow, here I am now.  Not with out much needed help, encouragement, and proofreaders for my dyslexic, prone-to-wander brain.

The California based weekend workshop is officially OPEN.  Do send me an email if you are on that lovely Left Coast and care to join us to sketch May 18/19, 2019.  You can choose one or both days.  Each is different.

Taos, my flagship course is also *at capacity*  and I am already dreaming and scheming what to share with my class this year.   Again, I marvel.  And I am not without what every single successful person I know of deals with…. a (not-so) healthy dose of imposter syndrome.  Yes, there it is.  The beast in the room.

But the advice to *think less, breathe more* (I think these words set to music from Hamilton) is good advice.  And also, to just make work.  Surely this will calm the beast a bit, yes.  Especially certain types of beasts…

I have embarked on a project with a fairly tight deadline for the annual May the Fourth show.

Like many beasts, he is large, imposing, but once you get to know him, he softens up and becomes an exercise in mindfulness.

Stitch, by stitch.  Hook by hook.

Snow. I solemnly swear my dog Charlie is not involved.
In which chewy’s face begins to take shape…..

I shall breathe more, think less.  (And watch a bit of Netflix along the way I am sure.) while the beasts in the room get as close as they can to the space heater.

Thanks for reading as always.  More soon………

 

 

Gifts of Color and Light

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

It is winter in Ohio.  Today, at least, we have some sunshine and some not so bitter temperatures.  I will go outside with a dog in a bit to attempt to shake some of the doldrums nipping at my heels just now. A heaviness borne of annoyances mostly.  Demands of the season and the length of daily darkness have ground me down in recent weeks.  I know this will pass.  I look forward to Solstice next week and keep my soul facing the light as best I can, while making friends with the dark as needed.

Gifts are being crafted, alighting to celebrate the return of longer days.  Although it will be a good many weeks before we see the changes and shifts properly, our hearts know – and sometimes that is enough to lighten the spirit.

Last weekend there was a concert – a sharing of musical gifts in the form of our annual Peace and Merriment concert at the Riley School.  Our hearts were lightened by an afternoon of tunes and a few stories by our Master of Ceremonies, who is also my flute instructor, John.

All things seasonal are underway….

Decoration,

“Tangled”
Changing a bulb

Reflection,

Celebration,

Sharing light with the world,

I have lists made of gifts to gather for the kids in my life, most of whom like books, even the older ones.  Perhaps we can be like Icelandic revelers and lie around reading all day on Christmas!  As for the adults, we all seem to feel a distinct pulling away from the “stuff” of it all, opting more for subscriptions, memberships, classes – “things” which aren’t things and which brighten the experience of simply being human.

Perhaps you know someone close to you who feels similarly.  Perhaps this someone is feeling the darkness of winter, (which even on the brightest of winter days has a muted spectrum of color).  Perhaps, they might like to look forward to more light and color in the not-so-distant future.

Registration for my travel journal workshops in Taos, New Mexico and Antigua, Guatemala are officially open and Taos is nearing capacity (yay!).  Antigua, being international and a newer offering, still has a few spaces left in each of the two weeks available (click the link for details!)

I can’t say enough about what a dose of vivid color and warm air can do for one’s soul and body after a long winter and I find myself looking very forward indeed to the spring trip to Antigua in particular.

And the coffee.  You simply wouldn’t believe the coffee…

Our classroom is in the form of where ever we find ourselves each day, from rooftops to ruins.

We immerse in culture through some shopping and exchange of language.

Through it all we gather it all into a travel journal.

While I encourage the use of cameras and smart-phones to capture “source photos” for later work, there is simply no better way to really soak into a place than through the lens of a travel journal.  Merely taking the time to draw something, perhaps even multiple times, creates a broader understanding of place.  A broader understanding of our place in the All of Everything.  This can be difficult to pin down in our hectic world.  By cataloguing a travel experience in a little book, our travels are enhanced and brought to life in a new and richer way.

We notice the little things…..

….while standing in awe of the bigger things as well.

We immerse in the day to day of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which holds beauty, color and light at every turn.

There are a million different yellows….

Pinks as well.

Blues and greens are well represented.

Our palette here is bright and beautiful and I help you figure out how to recreate these vibrant hues on the pages of your journal with a simple set of watercolors.

As the end of the year draws nigh, with one major gift giving holiday behind us (gosh Hanukkah was early this year!!) and another too close for comfort, consider the gift of one of my workshops.  This might be a gift for a loved one or friend, or simply, and perhaps most importantly, to yourself, setting the tone for 2019 to be filled with close attention paid to beauty, light and color.

The world could use a bit of all of these.

See you in Antigua!

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

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! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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