Category Archives: work

Stay and Wonder

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

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

A measure of quiet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Museum Publicity

Smithsonian

The Guardian

The New Yorker

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

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

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

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

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

 

Untitled

“So the days slipped away, as each morning dawned bright and fair, and each evening followed cool and clear. But autumn was waning fast; slowly the golden light faded to pale silver, and the lingering leaves fell from the naked trees.” —J.R.R. Tolkien

A week’s time into the hiatus from the more time consuming of social media platforms.  It is surprising to me how little I miss them.  The season of gratitude and a shared meal around the home table is past and we are thrust into the highlight of the capitalist calendar.

We resist.  

We walk in the woods.  We play music and sketch.

a recent Irish Music session, also attended by the Cincinnati Urban Sketchers
Music at my flute maker‘s home. Their dog, Ruby, occupies the best seat in the house as we play and she dreams.
In which the written musical page appears, as happens when our Jack is home for a few days.

We maintain gratitude for the littlest of things.

We tend to them with care and full presence.

Still we grieve.  Also with care and full presence.

Notice how River’s name on the “tower of love” happens to find itself situated beneath that of a Shitty Cat.  I wonder of the story there….

Most of all, we rest.

As promised to myself, I practice the art of slowing down, of diving into deep time.  Knitting, reading, drinking tea.  A gentle but firm pressure on the reset button.  It is good.

“The times are urgent.  Let us slow down.”  ~Bayo Akomalofe

(via Sharon Blackie)

There is still *busy-ness*, as there is in life.  Appointments to be kept, jobs and presentations to attend to.  But it is all a bit less noisy and for that I am deeply grateful.

Here are a few of the delightful things occupying my mind, eyes, ears and heart of late….

This book:

And this one:

I look forward to a catalyst for dreaming due out in the coming months by Jackie Morris.  Even the updates on the process of its creation are delicious.  Consider supporting The Unwinding. (click the link, there is a beautiful video.)

A friend of my daughter’s turned her ears to a podcast….

“Reading fiction doesn’t help us escape the world, it helps us live in it.”  ~Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

I’ll admit to a bit of back and forth between the lovely depth and gentility of this wonderful consideration a favorite series of mine, and the live news coverage of impeachment hearings going on in my own country.  Somehow, the magical world of Harry Potter seems to make more sense than the one here in the not-so-United States, especially when viewed through a blind republican lens.

Via email, I receive updates from another podcaster, Jocelyn K. Glei.  Her show Hurry Slowly began as a mindful methodology toward higher productivity, but has become a meditation on transformation of spirit, so sorely needed in the world right now.  In her newsletters, she collects and shares lovely links which create a rabbit warren of inspiration.  Much like I do here.

Since logging off of social media, I’ll admit that the sensation of “writing for the proverbial no one” is a bit more pronounced.  But I have no fear of missing out as it were.   Instead, I am wondering how I might be able to do these longer breaks more often.  I am glad of the gift of time.

Have you opted for some time off on the social media channels?  How do you balance your online time?  Are there blogs or newsletters to which you subscribe which bring you joy outside of the soundbyte realm?  I’d love to know.

PS, for Mary Oliver…..  coffee and rainy days indeed!!  <3

 

Let us keep courage

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

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

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

“CAESURA”

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

via Robert Macfarlane on twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other news…….

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

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

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

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

 

Autumnal Equity

“It’s all about balance, do you see? Balance is the trick. Keep the balance and – ” she stopped. “You’ve ridden on a seesaw? One end goes up, one end goes down. But the bit in the middle, that stays where it is. Upness and downness go right through it. Don’t matter how high or low the ends go, it keeps the balance.” She sniffed. “Magic is mostly movin’ stuff around.”

~Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith

Skies are moody this morning.  Day-job work and exercise loom on the to-do list, yet pondering the still point of the season feels crucial.  My eclipse siblings of the soul were here last night, a gathering to mark the autumnal equinox.  There was talk of “shedding or casting off that which no longer serves us.” (Thank you for that M.) Which is wise talk indeed.  For me, that is this notion of “busy-ness”,  the internal ‘hurry, hurry!!’ feeling in the center of my chest, a trap of sorts to which society programs us for falling into.  To choose to sit and write or draw for a few moments each morning is a radical act of defiance some days.

The key to it all is balance.  To be the center of life’s seesaw when we can, as Esmerelda Weatherwax and Tiffany Aching do with such grace.  It is a strange thing to be a slow-cooker in a microwave, insta-pot kind of age.  And yet sinking into my own pace, my own slowness, affords me the deeper work I strive for.  In the long run, allowing my own pace magically gets more of my best work done, my best self in the world.  And so, on this Monday, the Autumn Equinox, I look for balance in a world gone mad.  And do my best to center in the midst of it all.

And just like that

SOLD!!!!!!!!

At the beginning of this month, I alerted a few eager early birds that I was about to embark on registration for the Taos 2020 Travel Sketch class at Mabel Dodge Luhan’s.  Then just last week I opened up registration to anyone interested.  After a flurry-filled week of inquiries and emails, text messages and notes back and forth with old and new participants alike, I am pleased to say, the workshop is sold out!!  This is the earliest this phenomenon has ever occurred and I am thrilled.  Thrilled that this work speaks to so many, thrilled to be heading back to Taos next summer with a full roster of fellow artists – both seasoned and newly learning their craft.

I am simply over the moon!!

This sketchbook volume is about to come to an end. It’s been widely traveled and greatly loved.

June 2020 is in some ways, quite far off, but it comes around faster than one might expect and I’ll be ready with exciting new things to try in our sketchbooks by then.  I am already looking forward.  If you missed the call for this workshop, you still have some options.  First, reach out to me and get on the waiting list.  Plans can sometimes change for people unexpectedly which occasionally might open up a slot for someone else.  I am contemplating adding a slot or two extra but need to contemplate this and talk it over with my trusted advisors and the team at Mabel’s.  Those on the wait list would be the first to know if anything opens up for any reason.

Mabel welcomes you!!

You can also join me in Guatemala in early spring.  Details on dates and costs can be found here.  I have limited space in each of the two weeks being offered there and I believe it is only a matter of time before this trip too is sold out.  Antigua, Guatemala is a gorgeous, quite cosmopolitan city which carries color and beauty and an ancient magic all its own.  It is the perfect way to warm up during the depths of winter!  So consider this option perhaps.

Other teaching outings are in the works for California next spring, generally the Bay Area and environs, so if you are local to there, reach out to me and I’ll put you on that mailing list.  Right now we are looking at the first weekend in May and possibly some other dates around that time and in that general vicinity to make it that much more worth a trip to the Left Coast.

And so now, I get back to the making of things.   Back to tending the craft that allows me to teach these workshops in the first place.  I can smell an autumnal journey on the winds about which I am very excited.  I’ll be sure and write from the road.

This little guy was created for the Gulf Coast Cruinniú, a musical weekend in Houston full of workshops and performances which should be a lot of fun for all!

As always, consider getting on the mailing list to get all of the latest news from here.  Social media can be a lot of fun but those pesky algorithms do keep us hustling to get the work into the world.

Till next time…..

 

 

gold behind the green

 

We can see it in the light just lately.  A goldening behind the lush greens of late summer.

This morning I take the dogs outside.  I take note.  And return with my camera to capture these fleeting light-moments.

I begin looking closer.  The colors beckoning.

Capturing changing light, shifting colors of the mood of a certain season – this is a favorite thing of mine.

Lately I find myself more and more captivated with capturing the mood of a moment, which colors and light it might hold, versus sketching out what things might “actually look like”.

Over the holiday weekend, we found ourselves in Asheville, North Carolina to visit friends, play a few tunes and hike.  On one hike we met a family from Guatemala who were keen on Catawba Falls as it reminded them of home.

I painted them into a little color drawing I made of the moment and shared it with them.  We talked of Guatemala and how beautiful it is. 

My sketch felt more like a painting, which pleases me to no end.

The weekend ended much too soon for my liking but I have taken custody of a wee hand sculpted by Anna Koloseike of Asheville.  I am in love with it’s smallness and the form it takes and am still deciding where to mount it.

It’s like the hand of a small maker.  Which is how I feel at times.

Today I sketched at the Cincinnati Zoo for awhile with an Urban Sketcher friend, and a few others joined us after the local illustrator’s luncheon.  Although I attend these lunches at times, today’s schedule was cut into slices which didn’t allow for lunch out and so I did what I could.

There just never seems to be enough time for all the things.  But occasionally a reminder comes along and I breathe a little easier….

I am grateful for this reminder.

At the zoo today I looked for an armadillo but could only find one with three bands and I need the one with 9.  (And a banjo.  He must have a banjo.)  So I will sketch on until the right fella finds himself at the tip of my pencil and I can pin him down to the job at hand.

More on this little project as it unfolds from here…..

In the meantime, I leave you with Asheville impressions.

Asheville dog culture is wonderful.

It was strange to visit Warren Wilson College outside of the scope of the Swannanoa Gathering.  All was quiet and peaceful.  But the place is lovely in spite of the music being flung to the hills until next summer.  I look forward to next year.

 

2020 – Ten Years in Taos

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

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

~ Donna A.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mabel welcomes us….

Vessel

“The water in a vessel is sparkling; the water in the sea is dark.  The small truth has words which are clear;  the great truth has great silence.”  ~Rabindranath Tagore

To arrive at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, New Mexico is to step over a barrier of sorts.  Time and space are steeped in a special fluidity here which makes them more malleable than elsewhere.  Every year my goal as a workshop facilitator is to pack as much practical ‘how-to’ into a week devoted to the travel-sketch-journal process, whilst also making way for more ethereal notions such as magic, friendship and community.  For opening up to what we each have to offer the world.  For finding our own visual voices.

Every one of us should risk living in the full flow of our own originality.  And never to compare yourself with anyone outside you but to trust that inner voice that is speaking to you and whispering to you from the well of great possibility that lives inside you.”     ~John O’Donohue

This year is my ninth year working in Taos in this capacity.  Over the years I have come to trust that while each season will be new in many ways, we can trust that we will be embraced by a familiarity to sink into which makes space for the best work.  I like to think of our travel journals, as well as our classroom space, as vessels to be filled during our week together.  My job is merely to hold the space, to hand out bite sized demonstrations and then steward each participant along their own journey.  In spite of two last minute cancellations (alas, too last-minute to offer their spaces up even the most last-minute takers) I had a relatively packed house.  These numbers bring an energy to the room and to the work we do, and yet there was a lovely intimacy within this group straight away.

We went from an empty vessel….

……to the buzz of a room of artists happily working along together.

Some dear friends from Taos Pueblo visited us on our first day together to share their process of crafting beautiful pottery with mere land, water, time and fire.  This was a new idea for this year and I wasn’t sure how I might fold it into an already full teaching agenda, but everyone was quite pleased with the experience (if not the eventual results from the firing).

Sample pots used for the demo. These had dings and imperfections in them so the artists use them to show us what can (and did!) happen during firing.

Time spent pinching pots, forming beads and wee fetishes was time learning about this place we found ourselves –  Taos.

It was wonderful to get our hands dirty with the very land itself.

Working with the clay deepened our journaling work indeed…..

We talked of color and form.  We worked on studying ellipses (hint: they aren’t hotdogs or footballs.)

Some participants went so far as to use bits of spare wet clay as a painting pigment.

Carolyn’s lovely page with a niche, a pinched pot and a turkey vulture feather…..
Donna put her whole hand into the work with the pots!

We allowed our wee works to dry through the week.  Some cracked, all shrank a bit, but by week’s end, things were dry enough to attempt trial by fire.

Alas, the wind kicked up on firing night and our little works had to eventually be fired on our final morning by our friends out on the Pueblo.  In the end, only a few things survived unscathed and most of us went home with mere shards of our work.

For a variety of reasons, I am still glad we spent the time to play with the clay.  For one thing, I think everyone came away with a deep reverence for the professional pots made by native hands from native land.  Their pots are deceptively simple – until one has attempted to create one, that is!  It is a good thing to know how difficult some work is.  We can then appreciate it all the more, yes?  We all also enjoyed getting our hands dirty and using the clay as pigment.  As my workshop is about capturing the spirit of a place, and our experiences in that place, this mini afternoon workshop-within-a-workshop was worth the investment for the beautiful drawings that came out of it.

But of course, there was more to be captured.  There were mornings with the buffalo where we gathered before dawn in small groups to visit the herd we’ve come to know so well.  I never know year to year if this is something we will get to do again, and so every year I am deeply grateful to spend time with these ancient and wild beasts.  Many lovely drawings were made of the magnificent buffalo, but I was firmly planted in teaching mode and so didn’t manage to get a snapshot of these works.

There were a few quite young baby buffalo this year. Everyone was shy, but we managed to see them.

We talked of how to capture light.

Especially, when we find it in darkness….

We took much time to study the colors found in New Mexico such as rust and turquoise, and the complexity of cloud forms.

In which Nancy wrestles with the rust.

We doodled ‘carrot people’ from afar and each other closer to hand.

Carolyn drew Nancy.
Marlowe’s carrot people practice
Roger’s amazing accordion book, in process.
Rosemary, figuring out foliage
sometimes we worked quite small (This page by Carolyn)
Other times we worked larger (this page also by Carolyn!)

We attempted the challenging yet forever whimsical birdhouses in Mabel’s courtyard…..

A wee demo. Using no ink, and only the colors found on my palette.
Lovely work by Melabee

“Our pigeons live in a Mexican village  reared high up on thick, long posts.  I love the expression of their frame houses, that have been added to by José for years.  They lean strangely in all directions, and look like a settled community.

… One has to pick one’s way among them on the flagstones from the house to the gates.  They feel they own the place and I guess they do.  We never let cars drive in beside the portal any more as they used to do because the pigeons wouldn’t move away fast enough and they were always being run over.  Finally I put a sign on the gates and locked them.  It said, ‘Please don’t drive in.  The pigeons don’t like it.'”

~Mabel Dodge Luhan

We worked and we worked and we worked.

two lovely page spreads of work by Donna

We also spent time outside of class at the Pueblo watching the light dance as it does.

Sometimes I see things that give me some indication of what Georgia O’Keeffe may have been after in her paintings….

All too soon our week together was coming to an end.  As one person put it, the days seemed spacious and extensive and long in the best way possible, and yet the week as a whole simply flew past us.

We had a final farewell dinner in Mabel’s iconic dining room.

We presented the amazing kitchen staff with a gift of our own making, being so grateful for their hard work keeping us fed and watered all week.

That evening we signed each other’s books, “yearbook” style, and visited together.  Some even worked a bit more in our beloved Juniper house classroom!  I took “The Vans” outside for a photo shoot, just for fun.  It’s my hope that even more folks will carry their sketch supplies around in vans like these in future…..

It is nigh on impossible to capture this week in a blog post.  I look back over the years of posts about this trip and I marvel at the layers of meaning and experience I have managed to convey each time – of the changes that have shifted into place over time.   The kinship of place I feel toward Taos is complex.  In one way, I always feel as if I am coming home.  As one friend back here in Ohio (though who travels to Mabel’s on occasion) recently stated, “It’s Mabel.  Everything will be fine.   Pulling up in the parking lot always brings me to my knees. ”  I agree with her.

Friends always ask me, if you love it so much there, why don’t you guys just move?  I haven’t yet felt that call, but every time in Taos is harder to leave behind, to be sure.  The town upped its game further this year with my introduction to a special breed of sheep called Churro.  One of the workshop participants is a shepherdess and has been renting a small place on the outskirts of town which just happens to have a small herd of these amazing animals.  After the workshop, Rosemary, Steve and I visited our new friend on her little farm and got to meet the sheep, the farmer who is their steward in this world, and to marvel at how the hidden depths of Taos seem to have no end.  I could not stop staring at these sheep.

Those of you who know me, know I adore all things sheep.  I have even joked that one day perhaps I’ll be like Beatrix Potter.  I’ll publish and sell a bunch of books, and then retire to a sheep farm.  One never knows…..

In any case, next year, 2020, marks a nearly decade of this work finding its way in Taos.  I feel it may be a special year indeed.  (Though to be fair, every year is a gift of it’s own.)  I will be offering up pre-registration to this year’s workshop participants first and then to a broader audience after that.  This will happen in the first week of September when summer’s travels are through and I begin to set sights on next year.    I have a feeling that #TaosSketch2020 may fill fast, so keep your eyes peeled around that time for announcements.  For now though, I will unpack here and rest up for what the rest of summer has to offer.

 

 

‘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.