I sat down this morning to play with a new little something I recently acquired, called Joy. No, really, it’s a pen, called the Lamy Joy. Recently a former student of mine shared a link with me to the website and sketching work of Liz Steel down in the Land Down Under. I love the look of her sketches which have so much life and color and bold line work. She uses ink to draw and watercolors from there to bring things even further to life. I often work in the same way but have always used permanent ink pens such as Microns, Sharpies and the like to create my lines – before and after painting. I enjoy the look of a fountain pen line, but had never translated it to sketchbook work. She recommended this pen and, with a name like Joy, how was I to resist?
Last fall I attended an inspiring series of lectures by a number of wonderful children’s book illustrators and writers. One of whom, Sergio Ruzzier, works in pen and ink for the drawing, and then, like Liz Steel’s sketches, follows with watercolors later. I love the look of these drawings and have been playing a bit since then with a variety of pens and some inks. But these inks would ruin a proper fountain pen overnight.
These have been fun to experiment with in the studio but aren’t as friendly for on the go sketching. I do have another Lamy fountain pen which I love, but the ink I use in it wasn’t at all water-resistant so unless I wanted to stay in the grayscale world, it too was not exactly sketch friendly.
Reading Liz’s posts on fountain pens inspired me to do a little more digging into that world (it’s an overwhelmingly big and enthusiastic world, the world of fountain pens!) and see if there was possibly an ink I might take on the go, in fountain pen form, but which might be a tad more welcoming to watercolor. An ink that with proper precaution, wouldn’t ruin my new pen, but would allow some color.
Apparently, noodler’s black ink is the one. You can read all about it anywhere on the interwebs and with many posts all around giving it a thumbs up, even in actual working fountain pens, I decided to give it a go.
Guess what!? It seemed to work!
After just a few seconds of drying time, the little Fox in the Snow became a regular old orange fox and the lines did not run at all. I was thrilled! As much as I love the micron pens, I will admit that my stomach churns every time I go to discard a used up marker. Perhaps there is a way to recycle them somehow, but that doesn’t seem to be enough.
In this throwaway culture of ours, I look for even the smallest ways to not be such a consumer. This feels like a small way to do that. Maybe this pen, with it’s ink that can stand up to watercolors, and it’s variety in line weight options in just the one pen, can be a beginning.
I will need to draw a tad more often to keep that ink flowing, and make a point of cleaning out the ink more often than I do in my other pen. Perhaps this notion will keep me more in practice. I’ve been a bit out of practice since summer’s sketching and travel. This usually happens. But I am ready to dive back into daily sketching, and more and more painting and see where it all leads.
Not two full days home from my blissful week of music in Swannanoa and I find myself flying east to my soul’s home in Maine to visit friends of auld. These are friends who have known me longer than they haven’t, and I am blessed beyond the stars to have them in my life still. As a family we are fragmented this year for what is usually our time of solidarity. But this is how it is to be. One must follow his heart home for recovery after a Big Summer of Big Work; another, I have secretly purchased a two day ticket up to join us for just a moment or two and fingers crossed it all works out as planned (it does). And lastly, our anchor in all things fun, my hub Tony, does his best to come along for just a few days. He is successful and we pack a lot into a couple of days time off.
We spend as much time as possible by the sea or in the sea. Ferrying to our favorite places….
….eating oceanic gifts of the odd lobster or oyster; swimming, beach-combing the ever interesting, ever-changing wrack-line.
To me this is paradise and I collect a few little tid-bits to drag home to paint.
The coastline sets my heart all aflutter – all I want to do is paint. And yet I am restless and frustrated in a way I cannot name – torn between time with those I love and miss all year long, and my desire to make stuff. I also find myself really missing the music I have only just the week prior been steeped in, more so than in other years. Perhaps the music is sinking deeper into the pores after all?
Eventually, the paints do come out. But it takes time.
And keen observation. But the art does come. It starts slowly.
In between boat-trips and cock-tailed laughter, oysters and teenaged catch-ups, we take some time to drive round the old haunts of our early days all together -when there was Peace in the land but our boys did their military duties, deploying too often for our liking, even when babies were due. These are the things that can seal friendships for life.
In spite of hard winters and time apart, we remember our days in Maine with rich fondness. It is one reason we come back each summer.
Chapter 2. – to the lake side
Soon our seaside time was at an end and we were headed inland to a lovely lake house we’ve taken to commissioning for a week each summer. It feels like home, all the while we discuss going full on ocean-time.
We are torn. We love this place.
We love it’s moody skies and ever-changing weather patterning.
And the sunset views, which never disappoint, even on rainier evenings.
Chapter 3 – romancing the stone
Before my family leaves, we take a little kayak jaunt across Long Pond to Beaver Brook where I am captivated by a stone divided into three parts by ancient ice and time and other such forces. I vow to go back to sketch the place, as I have come with nothing but a hat and a paddle.
Soon enough, though surrounded with dear friends, I am left as the only Bogard on vacation which is a strange sensation. Tony has been dubbed the Julie McCoy of the group, always corralling us all to gaming and cocktailing, water-sport contesting and the like and things are really, really quiet with-out him around. This all plucks and strums strings of empty-nesting woes I don’t even think I was aware of until now.
I play it all out in the boat house on my flute.
I make it back over to the little cove where the Beaver Brook runs and the captivating stone resides. I marvel at the language of light and shadow which I can barely translate.
I believe there is something here to translate.
And so I ask the stone to help me.
It’s a start.
I am not one for series usually, but I am called to paint and have been looking for a form I could play with, from painting to painting. Not just the one-and-done sketch I usually go in for. This stone is just the ticket and I am enjoying exploring it’s complexities. There will be more, especially once I am home near the oils. I have traveled lightly this trip.
Chapter 4 – critters large and small
One day I go for a run across the way on the Mountain Road. A place I return to every year for it’s lake views through the trees, its lack of proximity to cars and traffic noise in general. Along the road I find a sweet feather which is eventually identified as a low wing feather of a wild turkey after much back and forth discussion and postulation both online and with my compatriots back at the camp. I even meet a lovely older gentleman along the road who thinks it could be eagle, though my guess is owl. I am not disappointed with turkey, as they are wonderous to behold in the wild.
I set out to sketch this lovely gift before I must leave it behind here where I found it. Sometimes I keep feathers, but this one shall stay.
I appreciate it getting my paint brush filled and setting me to painting, as it comes to me before the stone paintings begin.
This day’s run is truly fruitful as I also spy some horses through the edges of the woods and I stop to capture them with my phone-camera (the only camera I brought this year as I am traveling light. Still not sure about this decision.)
The horses pay me no mind and I think about the wild ponies some artists I follow online are fortunate enough to have in their lives as they go about their daily wanderings. I wonder what I need to do to have more woodland walking right outside my door, more ponies to spy on through the edges of the hedges. This is a constant wondering, as always.
Most times we wander down to the water from our little house here, we are treated to the antics of a local loon family who have some still young but near adult fledglings along with them. I borrow Amy’s proper camera with a decent telephoto lens to capture them up close for this post.
They are absolutely captivating as they call to one another, throughout the days and nights. This is the soundtrack to my dreaming and I am glad of it.
I am indeed glad of dreaming in general as there has been some wakefulness in the household in recent days. A wee mouse has gotten a bit too friendly, joining my friends in bed night before last, which gave them a start indeed. Last night, as lights are out, I hear a rustling and sure enough, wee mouse (we hope it’s the same) is in a paper bag into which I have stashed my knitting and a few varieties of tea I like to bring on my travels. This leads me to believe he is a country mouse indeed (I mean, tea and knitting, come on.) and he is escorted out of doors by our brave knight in PJ’d armor. No harm no foul, but we hope the lil thing stays outside for the remainder of our time here. I calm my late night nerves with a bit of bourbon and sleep fitfully from there.
Chapter 4 – where to from here
I write this missive in present tense, a style I see on occasion over at one of my favorite follows, These Isles. I have no idea if it works or not for others, but for me, today, right now, it works. This writing style allows me to step outside of a linear path of ‘what happened when’ and to step into the concept of the Traveling Now. The Traveling Now is not unfamiliar to quantum theorists, though this name for it is from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. I find more and more that the order of things matters not. What matters is that we are present in it. Now.
On what might be the calmest evening left in the week, I wander alone down to the waterside for a quick swim in the moonlight alone under the stars. If you’ve never skinny-dipped for whatever reason is holding you back, it is something I hope you do at some point in your life time.
I arrive back up stairs, sobered and refreshed (pre-country mouse adventure) and I find this by John O’Donohue (one of my all time favorite go-to writers):
THE CALL TO LIVE EVERYTHING
One of the sad things today is that so many people are frightened by the wonder of their own presence. They are dying to tie themselves into a system, a role, or to an image, or to a predetermined identity that other people have actually settled on for them. This identity may be totally at variance with the wild energies that are rising inside in their souls. Many of us get very afraid and we eventually compromise. We settle for something that is safe, rather than engaging the danger and the wildness that is in our own hearts. We should never forget that death is waiting for us. A man in Connemara said one time to a friend of mine, ‘Beidh muid sínte siar,’ a duirt sé, ‘cúig mhilliúin blain déag faoin chré’ – We’ll be lying down in the earth for about fifteen million years, and we have a short exposure. I feel that when you recognize that death is on its way, it is a great liberation, because it means that you can in some way feel the call to live everything that is within you. One of the greatest sins is the unlived life, not to allow yourself to become chief executive of the project you call your life, to have a reverence always for the immensity that is inside of you.
I like to think that even something as simple as going to the lake side for a moonlight swim in nothing but my birthday suit is one small way to ‘live everything’.
Tomorrow we leave this place. As we do, we know nothing of the year to come. The third of the four kids who do this magical week with us each year (our two went first, now theirs) is off to college in just a matter of weeks. I do not know what the end of summer into fall-winter and beyond hold. I have some ideas of things I’d like to set into motion, which I will do. But for now, I read things that make my head and heart spin on its very axis, I make plans for an upcoming show that has me thrilled and terrified in equal measure. I continue to answer the (also terrifying though I do not know why) irresistible call to paint in ways I have not yet done. I show up.
This summer has been a gift beyond imagining and I am grateful for it. Each year I grow and make and play in the hopes I can bring that home to my friends and family and to my students along the way. It is a gift, and I do not take it lightly.
A few days ago we flew and flew, with great love in our hearts, only to find ourselves in Breckenridge, Colorado – breathless with altitude and not without some concern over recent local wildfires.
Alas, while we were there storms did kick up, rain did fall and temperatures too, just enough to get at least this fire under some semblance of smoldered control.
Our travels to this high country were to visit our eldest, Jack, as he is working with the National Repertory Orchestra for their popular summer symphonic festival of music. Each day we were able to attend their rehearsals which are free and open to the public, many of whom attend with friends in tow.
In a whirlwind of just a few days we managed to take in not only these rehearsals but two fabulous concerts. The first included Shostakovich’s Fifth along with music by Mendelssohn and López. We enjoyed it immensely!
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ~Plato
When not taking in music we enjoyed a bit of what Breckenridge has to offer in the way of touristy fun.
While the Hub worked one day, I opted to go horseback riding.
I’m not entirely comfortable around horses but each day we should do a little something challenging. And so I did.
What is it about horse-loving girls. They tend to have a spot of admirable moxie I think.
Between rehearsals and concerts and everything else, we did get to see and feed Jack. And to catch up on selfie shenanigans, which was great fun.
We even managed to get in some sketching here and there……
My favorite is this sketch below from our drive up Boreas Pass where I was captivated by some yellow lichen on the side of the mountain. And so I painted it.
The views from up there weren’t half-bad either.
Saturday soon arrived and by then we were feeling a bit more acclimatized to the altitude.
Saturday was to be a special day all around because a dear and long time friend who now lives in Denver was to drive up for that evening’s concert featuring the music of Star Wars composed by John Williams.
We watched a bit of rehearsal, of course, getting in the mood for the evening’s Star Wars excitement.
Royalty was in attendance that night and the mood was light and energetic.
(side note, the first few notes of this bit of Star Wars music once conjured a whole slew of summer camp shenanigans as we were learning this Breton tune below from our beloved and brilliant flute instructor, Nuala Kennedy. See if you can hear what I heard….)
The evening’s concert ended with an encore presentation of the wonderful and iconic Cantina piece, with a solo by none-other than the NRO’s brilliant conductor, Carl Topilow.
Even though he must’ve been exhausted, Jack graciously posed for photos with us, as well as with our long-time friend Amy from Denver and his amazing ‘host-parents’, Tom and Darlena.
Tom and Darlena graciously sponsor a musician or two or three each summer. Taking them on wonderful hikes on their days off, and out for iced cream after concerts. (Not to mention the backing they provide to the NRO itself!) Even though Jack is a fully-fledged adult, it’s nice as a parent to know he has parental influences to call upon should he need them. We also enjoyed a wonderful dinner out all together before the concert.
As it goes with whirlwind weekends, our time in the mountains was quickly past. We bid goodbye to Amy who headed back down the mountain to her life in Denver. We told Jack we would meet him in his birthplace of Maine in just a matter of weeks. We too made our way back to Denver, not unaware of the toll the altitude was taking.
I for one was ready to get back to some oxygenated air, although a bit muggy as things tend to be back here.
There is more to come in this summer of wonders. I find myself marveling at it all lately. Dear friendships, these amazing adult offspring of ours (do click the link and see what Madeleine has been writing about in recent months) and the places we get to see along the way. Some days the world feels as if it is going to hell in a handbasket. But it’s good to step aside from that, if we are fortunate enough to be able to do so, and to bask in the brilliance of a host of talented and driven young musicians. In their small way they are making the world a much better place. We are thrilled Jack has has a part in it this summer!
As for me, I am attending to household to-do’s and re-packing for next week’s adventures down to an older set of mountains for some older sets of tunes. Til next time….
My yearly pilgrimage to the Land of Enchantment began with a few days of solo travel, enabling my body and soul to sink back into this place. The last year has been a challenging one in many ways, not without its bright spots as well, and I had been craving time and space to sit with the everything of all of it. New Mexico has a way of giving us what we need.
I drove and drove, many long, mindless miles, embracing the quietude that comes with such spacious landscape.
Chaco Canyon is a vast and far-flung destination but worth the effort it takes to get there. With a near full moon upon us, the regularly scheduled star gazing tour provided by the National Park Service, instead became an evening walk amongst the ghosts of this strange land. Haunted and beautiful, indeed.
By the time I made my way to a charming little Super 8 in Bloomfield, NM that night, I had been up for 22 straight hours and slept, dreamless.
I found Chaco to be a mixed bag of ancient history, natural splendor and cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, I was grateful for the opportunity to visit and experience this Unesco World Heritage site, and to the NPS for their careful and respectful stewardship. And yet, more than one ranger remarked that native people in New Mexico and beyond have stated that these places are meant to fade back into the ground after they have served their purpose – all of their great mysteries, feats of architectural engineering and ghostly human stories lost to the sands of time.
I left Chaco a bit conflicted about it all yet enchanted all the same with wonderings about what sorts of people lived or worshipped here and what we might have in common. It was so good to be out in the wide open spaces of New Mexico with the vistas both outward and inward it provides to a tired soul. Grateful for my solitude and art supplies, I soaked it all up.
Then, just like that, it was time to head to O’Keeffe country….
I was fortunate enough to snag a ticket to a “Special Tour” of Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and studio led by a personal caretaker of Georgia’s and her brother, who worked the gardens in her later years. This tour worked magically into my schedule for traveling to Taos to teach the following week and so I invested in it.
There is such serenity to O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu home. Her aesthetic was modern yet earthy – timeless, really. No photos were permitted of her indoor spaces but I was captivated by the light, the serene colors, and the fact that she too kept jade, aloe and other such plants that many of us keep in our own homes. She collected stones and bones and other things she found beautiful and surrounded herself with them. Knowing this about her and seeing these collections in her home and just outside felt very personal, artist to artist.
I was captivated by the sense of this place.
Eventually, upon arrival back home here in Ohio, I chuckled to see that my own hollyhocks had bloomed while I was away, and I was welcomed by my own ghostly skull….
I’ll admit to geeking out a bit while in the home and gardens of this iconic artist. I stood in the very doorway Georgia herself had found compelling enough to paint again and again, exploring its shape and form and depth.
It was like standing in a portal of history. And I have always been a lover of doorways to other worlds.
These few days could have been ‘enough’ to fill this empty artist’s cup and set me to painting once again. But alas, I had not come to New Mexico for the making of my own work. I was here to teach.
Taos has become my home away from home in the years I have spent teaching there. Much like Georgia O’Keeffe herself, the lure of New Mexico brings me back time and again, every summer, and each year I discover more captivating beauty and I continue to build community as well. Mabel’s family has grown and changed with the newly employed and the newly born, yet Mabel herself is still in charge of the place and I was welcomed home with open arms.
I took to getting settled, washing the dust of the road off in my familiar claw foot tub in Tony’s bathroom upstairs, and unpacking all of my boxes of books and supplies – readying the classroom space for a week ahead of work and wonder.
By day I worked and by evening I caught up with dear friends. It had been a year since my last visit and that is far too long. I was caught up on the latest dog walking paths, and introduced to new dirt roads and rushing riverbeds. I held a new Little Bird and gleaned a small smile from her. I was told with a wink and a smile that if we only found a little slice of land, that we too could build a small adobe space of our own near town, and that I’d have all the help I’d need for this handmade home. I’ll admit I am tempted.
Soon the beautiful people attending my workshop arrived, some new to me, others who’ve been before and return home to Mabel’s to renew their contract with what has become sacred work. I no longer question this truth -that what I do in these workshops is indeed a sacred kind of work.
What started out, for me at least, as a way to get to know the world and to slow down and take it all in with the wonder that befits it, has become an intense practice of creative mindfulness. On the one hand, I’m introducing and sprucing up the old lessons of composition and perspective, line quality and color theory. And yet, on a much deeper, richer level of the soul, I am working with people to disengage their inner critic (just give her a cookie and a window to sit by, she’s been hard at work and deserves a break, don’t you think?), to tap into their birthright of creativity and the act of making something which makes a heart sing.
Occasionally, we worked in our books from memory, such as when attending a sacred Corn Dance at the Pueblo and we must only capture images in our mind’s eye. I will note here that all of the images below are now in the private sketchbooks of these artists, as records of the day’s experiences. Very different than taking a photograph, which is prohibited on feast days. We have a deep respect and regard for this notion.
But mostly, we studied from what we had in front of us there and then. The Mabel Dodge Luhan House has much to offer in the way of beauty and things to pull into our sketchbooks and so we did.
We discussed how to capture that sense of ‘hither, thither and yon’ which beautiful landscapes provide us with. Otherwise known as ‘atmospheric perspective’.
We worked and played each day, sometimes into the night. I was a bit manic with the magic of it all to be honest.
But I love this work and the people who are drawn to it. I had to milk the time there for all it gave to me! I even found time to settle in to a tune or two with the local session players who welcome me every visit ever so graciously. For this I am deeply grateful.
As the week went on we sketched and laughed and drew and painted and ate good food. We were treated once more to a visit to my friend Harold’s herd of buffalo which everyone enjoyed. There was a morning visit, and an evening time as well, as the buffalo are shy and do not accept great throngs of visitors. Small groups met Harold at his ranch home where we caught up with him and the herd. Grateful for the grace of these magnificent creatures and that of their farmer/steward.
Too soon, as always happens, it was that time.
Time to toast to a week of work well done. With dinner created for us by chef Jeremiah Buchanan whom we collectively adored!
We shared our books around and traded addresses and gifts such as a wee concert by Marty Regan who is a musician by trade.
It was time to pack up the classroom and mail home my supplies. I was grateful for the help and company of a few students who stayed around for an extra day to assimilate all we had learned together.
And it was time to visit a few more places before we had to leave this Land of Enchantment. Like the breezy hillsides of the DH Lawrence ranch.
I needed to take the time to sit by the river at the Pueblo and promise that I would come back. To memorize the sound of its waters which have come to me in dreamtime at times.
Time to ponder moody skies which seemed to beckon “Come back and paint, quietly.”
On my final evening in town, with all of my company scattered to the Four Directions, the skies opened up with the great gift of a thunderstorm. This brief storm was filled with ethereal pink light that I longed to paint somehow.
A friend of mine asked me the other day during our very ‘middle-age-appropriate’ discussion of “What Are We Doing With Our Lives” if I didn’t think that being a good teacher might be Enough. I had been filling her in on the Taos trip and what a deep success I felt it had been all around. I was telling her how enriching it is to teach something successfully, but that I have been struggling to make the switch back over to being a maker-of-things. More specifically, a painter and maker of pictured-stories for small humans. I feel blocked creatively, as if in all of the beauty found in the creativity of others, my own quiet artist self has taken to the hills. I am seeking to woo her back home to roost. I love being a teacher. And I am so excited that my spring trip to Guatemala next year is already sold out and that next year’s Taos trip already has some takers (and I haven’t even listed it yet!!). But I long to paint. And write. And draw. And I must trust this longing, even as I pursue my work in these amazing workshops. And so, no. I don’t think it is enough.
I think part of this perceived block is just my inner-processing of what was a stupendously amazing trip back to a place which I love dearly and work which excites and challenges me. A painter friend of mine reminded me to be gentle with myself. That teaching takes a lot out of an introvert. That making the switch back to quietude takes time. And so I have been being gentle. I have been holding off making this post about it all because in some way, to write about Taos time is to shut a lid on it until next time. Buttoning that space up so that I don’t lose track of it between now and next year. I hope to get back for a visit between now and then if I can. Perhaps even for a workshop with Solange Leboucher who is a practitioner of Polarity Therapy which I have come to lean on as a tool of the soul when I teach out there.
I don’t know. I do know that if feels good to get back here on this old writing space and share some photos and to attempt to convey in some small way the gratitude that I have for the work that I do. I marvel at the scope of it sometimes, even as I ask more of it.
Til, next time….. enjoy this summer’s travels no matter where you go.
pps. And these words, from Millicent Rogers…..
“Did I ever tell you about the feeling I had a little while ago? Suddenly, passing Taos Mountain I felt that I was part of the Earth, so that I felt the Sun on my Surface and the rain. I felt the Stars and the growth of the Moon, under me, rivers ran. And against me were the tides. The waters of rain sank into me. And I thought if I stretched out my hands they would be Earth and green would grow from me. And I knew that there was no reason to be lonely that one was everything, and Death was as easy as the rising sun and as calm and natural – that to be enfolded in Earth was not an end but part of oneself, part of everyday and night that we lived, so that Being part of the Earth one was never alone. And all fear went out of me – with a great, good stillness and strength.”
UPDATE!! THIS CLASS IS NOW FILLED! (but feel free to contact me about Taos 2018 and keep an eye out for future offerings by subscribing to this blog. Thanks so much!!!)
Come with me to the beautiful and ancient city of Antigua, Guatemala for a week of exploration through the lens of a travel journal!
March 4-10 ~ 2018
$1240 per person, double occupancy includes the following*:
~6 nights at Posada San Sebastian in the heart of Antigua
~5 days touring Antigua’s many sites, ruins, churches and museums with sketching instruction all along the way. (entry to sites included in workshop fee.)
~All meals, including dinner Sunday of arrival and breakfast on Saturday, departure day.
~ Transportation to and from airport Sunday March 4 and Saturday March 10.
~$300 deposit holds your spot ($50 non-refundable)
*does not include airfare to Guatemala, gratuities, alcohol or the optional master weaving class. single occupancy is also available for an added cost.
email me, Amy Bogard at firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Space is limited.
Antigua, Guatemala is a treasured World UNESCO site, nestled into the heart of volcano country. It is about an hour from Guatemala City where you will fly into. While ancient in it’s long and varied history, the city is also quite cosmopolitan. Wandering the city streets, you’ll hear a variety of languages and there are many options for dining.
We will spend our week exploring the sites from our cozy home base at the Posada San Sebastian, where upon arrival you’ll be warmly greeted, “welcome home”. Our host, Luis, is a gatherer of many interesting things and some of our time will be spent sketching his amazing collection of Guatemalan oddities.
Native Guatemalan culture is alive and rich in Antigua and is expressed in food and incredible textiles. We will learn a bit about these things along the way and capture these colors in our sketchbooks. While we will be spending most of our time in the city of Antigua, we will travel one day to the nearby town of San Antonio Aguas Calientes to the home of local weaver Lidia Lopez. Her family will prepare chicken pepian, a traditional and delicious dish, for our lunch, and Lidia will talk about the art of backstrap weaving. You will have the option of a weaving lesson for an additional fee.
If you are new to the sketching/travel journal process, fear not! I will have you drawing and painting more than you could imagine in no time at all! There is so much to see and do in Antigua. A travel journal is the best souvenir you could give to yourself.
It seems many things in our little acre of land are bell shaped just now, fairly ringing with the bodacious arrival of a proper spring time. Daytime warmth coaxes and whispers to the plants to grow and the evenings, cool again for resting before another day of more and more growing.
If one listens quietly enough, for long enough, the chiming of these little bells might be heard all around. Small ones, tinkling near the ground, nestled and tucked under larger, louder plantings.
Other bells chime deeper, perhaps with the promise of a new backyard food source.
Some have a note so high and so sweet, only the most careful listeners might hear them.
And still others have a chime so light and ephemeral, one can’t really know if they sing the song of the mists or the breezes. But if one listens…..
I’ve been listening. With my trowel, moving plants around and tucking in new gifts from friends in trade. Planting seeds and pondering plots and plans, all while these little bells ring and chime and sing all around me.
I’ve been listening with my pencil and paint brush and ink, to capture a bit of this ephemerality, and pin it’s simulacrum to my paper as best I can.
This is good practice as tomorrow I must leave my little plot of land here for a few days to lead two days of sketching with a very speical group in California. We will visit a lovely garden and some wonderous trees as well, whose names I am eager to learn. I am so lucky to do this work I do, encouraging folks to find the paths of their own ink lines, pencil marks and paint puddles. It’s teaching season once again and I am glad for it.
But always I will come back home, to this little place, which is feeling really magical just now with the gardens bursting forth and the beauty of the bells in my ears.
“I am sure there is magic in everything, only we have not sense enough to make it do things for us.” ~Frances Hodgson Burnett
(thank you Cathryn Worrell for this gem of a quote. You can see her Unicorn here.)
I’ll be back in a few days with tales of a land far west from here, but where friends await my arrival. For now, I leave you with some more magic for your ears….
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.
Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.
Perhaps it is the bright face of the full moon which pours into my bedroom window in the wee hours of the morning. Or maybe it’s that I have traveled far and wide just recently, with more journeys awaiting me in the wings of weeks to come. I do not know. But I have been doing a fair amount of vivid dreaming while visiting the landscape of my sleep-time each night.
Generally a deep and dark sleeper, I seldom remember my dreams, but occasionally I get a conscious-time glimpse into that other-world beyond and it’s tremendously exciting and inviting and I do not want it to end. Thankfully, this has been occurring more and more and more.
Once, much like in the poem above from Antonio Machado, I dreamed that bees had crafted a hive in the walls of my home. This dream-time home was different than my home here in waking-time. Yet it was my home none-the-less, as it often goes in dream-translation. It was a quaint little house, nestled in quiet country.
Painted blue, it had lace curtains which blew gently in the breezes. Outside there was washing on the line, bleach-drying in the golden sunshine. Inside, the bees had been so busy in the inner walls of this sweet home of mine that honey –rich, golden honey – began to seep from the very walls themselves. And from the ceilings. Drip, drip, dripping from every corner. Oozing a golden coating on to all. My waking self has a bit of an aversion to being sticky. Give me the mess-making of mud-pies and the following-flowing of dust-bunnies, but stickiness can set my teeth on edge. But my dream self saw and felt this honey coating everything as a great gift from the bees. A sign of the richness in my day to day. Seeping out of the very walls.
I come back often to this dream and the sensations it delivers upon the heart of my remembering, as I am “abeefrnd” after all. I love all things bees. The wax, the honey, the magic of their pollination which in essence keeps us alive as well as surrounded by beauty. Just the other day I was captivated by a podcast featuring a Bee Priestess called Ariella Daly and was once again reminded of the honeyed home awaiting me in my dreamscape.
This morning I awoke from another powerful dream which I took to paper and pen first thing (well, after I’d given the dogs a chance to wee and poured myself the requisite first cup of coffee).
“Intense, wee-hours-of-the-morning dream. Skyscape and seascape were one. I could swim-fly underwater, beneath floating purple and darkened-green continents of mosses. Under-over there, all was turned around – up was down and sideways and back again.
Some feared if I swam-flew in this place, I might never return to above the mosses.
Before this swim-fly time, I was on a beach, with a public beach-house. It was winter and access to the sea was limited. The life-guard then said it was time and everyone cheered and pulled their pick-up trucks on to the beach to sell their market wares.
It was crowded.
This is when I began to swim-fly. This place was not crowded. It was wild and lonesome. I dove in and once under came the turning around of the world. As I dove down, I also flew up. Direction didn’t seem to matter. I could easily breathe this air-water. I was of two worlds. Maybe more. The worlds of Up, Down, Over, Under, Back and Forth.
The masses of mosses had watery, puddled areas in them, like bog-land. Puddled portals of a sort. These puddles led to below-above where anything is possible.”
I could go on an on about the venturing I’ve been up to amidst the murky depths of my own dreaming, but we all know how difficult these images and sensations can be to convey in conscious conversation. So I will simply share with you a few endeavors from waking-time, and in-between times which seem to be contributing to these dreamscapations. (That may be a new word of my own making, though I am not sure.)
The rough little drawings dotting this post are from a small book I keep at my bedside nowadays, along with a pencil. Most evenings, just before sleeping, I scribble a bit into this book. Nothing in front of my eyes to capture. Merely the musings of my own mind and my own imaginings. Occasionally I am surprised at the results. Often, they are simple and rather mundane. But still I doodle.
I began this practice a few weeks ago, inspired by my friend, fellow illustrator, and fab yoga instructor, Stacey Maney who has been doing the same practice herself a good while now and has amassed a number of bedtime drawings. Though we each approach this practice in our own way, we both find it helps to feed the inner muse. This muse is our bread and butter after all and needs to be coaxed and tempted with attentions and praise from our daily habits.
This all differs greatly from my usual sketching practice of the world around me, about which I write here often and much. The deep mind-full-ness my sketchbook work brings has been a richly rewarding gift over the years, a gift I now offer to others through my classes and workshops. And yet, I still want to go deeper. Sketching is not enough. Writing is not enough. In the attempt to bring my own practice to a deeper, soul-entrenched level, I’ve been seeking a nameless thing. I haven’t been sure if that thing is in the form of yet another book or a deeper yoga practice to delve into, or a new teacher, or new habits and pathways of my own intention. In the past I have even been known to run toward (and away from) this Nameless Longing by training for and running marathons. I did 7 of them before deciding they were finally through with what they had to teach me.
In the end, I’ve come to find it is all of these things along the way and always more, ever changing. And so recently, I have been following this nameless need for something, down it’s soft, darkened path. I can almost smell this path, blanketed as it is by pine needles and leaf litter.
It feels so good to be able to smell the earth once more as spring has come upon us. To celebrate this awakening, I have signed up for a class via One Willow Apothecaries called Intuitive Plant Medicine. The ideas promised in this class are exactly what I have been looking for as pathways to enrich my own personal practice as an artist, a writer, a teacher. I firmly believe that to be a good teacher, one must always be learning right alongside our students. Maintaining an openness and the vulnerability of a learner, a beginner, is crucial to meeting students who find their way to us right where they need us to be. And so I am always digging. Always searching for ways to stretch.
I have no intention of becoming an herbalist or plant shaman really, except to suit my own curiosities and affinity for the magical world of plants. But I know in my gut that this seemingly un-related study of the soul-life of plants, and how they can enrich our own lives at soul-level, is exactly the spirit-food I need to stay grounded and growing in my own work in the world.
And so it goes. The seasons are shifting into sunshine and growth. Workshops are happening in the coming weeks and I am busily tending to the earthly details which make them run smoothly. My offspring are both jumping headlong into their adult working lives. Madeleine off to Africa to work with a linguist and some medical doctors to collect health-care stories (a process called Verbal Autopsies). Jack, gearing up for next week’s senior recital over at CCM. How the time is flying. And like between season lettuces tucked in under the other vegetables and flowers, I plant idea seeds in every fertile corner I can find. Hoping something grows and blooms amidst all of this rich life-compost.
note: I haven’t a clue what any of these drawings mean. but they seem to have a feel to them that reaches one into the next. I am interested to get to know the little faces peering out at me from the pages of my little bedtime book and perhaps learn their story.
I find myself unexpectedly weary today after a day of art making and eating and not much else. It was great fun to dive fully into book work but it is work. And work I love dearly. I feel a bit more up to snuff in my sketchbook after today’s efforts so I’ll share a few more Antigua adventures with you here.
I’ve been really enjoying meeting the other artists here in Antigua and beyond. Rosemary has made many connections over the years between service trips for her speech pathology work and textile tours. Yesterday we had the pleasure of stopping in to see Lidia López who is a talented weaver among many other wonderful things (I’m keen to learn how to make Pepian sauce from her!).
Lidia was pregnant with her son and visiting friends in Panajachel, and I was a 7 year old kid living in Guatemala City when in 1976 tragedy struck this region in the form of an earthquake. Thousands of lives were lost and it was indeed something one never forgets. But time passes, and as Lidia says, it was not our time then. We had more work to do. And so we did.
It was lovely to chat with Lidia about the work she does and life in general. She patiently let us practice our Spanish on her, although her English is amazing. We talked to her about visiting again when we come for the travel sketch workshop next year which I hope comes to frution.
Our visit was over far too soon and I hope to stop in to say goodbye and share with her some of the work we have been up to in the mean time. Including a drawing I made of Lidia herself.
Later in the afternoon we went to sketch and photograph a lovely ruin…..
I was very happy to have my fancy camera this day as the structures and light at play in this old convent make for beautiful imagery.
But time was ticking and the ruins close fairly early to visitors. We knew we had to get to work if we were to get a sketch in.
As the kids do often put it,
Seems kids have been the same since time began….
We had 40 minutes to do a quick study and we opted for a fairly complicated stairwell.
While this is not a scaled architectural study, it’s not a bad painting to my eye. Coming back to this drawing in my sketchbook in years to come, I’ll remember the light in this stairwell, and church bells on the wind and quiet drawing time with a good friend. The gifts of a well fed travel journal.
Today was a slower paced day in the way of touring. We had meals out of course but mostly we stayed home and caught up in our books. Little things here and there….
…like this creepy antique wooden baby Jesus spotted at a collectibles and antiques owned by a nice fella called Axel.
I also did a page spread in my book to try and learn a bit more about the weaving tradition here in this country.
Although it took me the better part of the day, I’m happy with the results.
I wanted to try to capture the beauty and variety of the indigo dyed corte or cuts of cloth we encountered the other day at the market in Panajachel. Each piece different, punctuated with the colorful seam stitching called randas.
The textiles in Guatemala are not something I can try to adequately comprehend in one go, but it’s been great fun to get a weaving 101 from Rosemary, Mari and Lidia.
Tomorrow there will be more and more drawing. And I hear tell of some hot chocolate which contains chili powder in it. Two days left in this captivating country. For this visit at least.
Yesterday we took a field trip to a town called Panajachel where a weekly market was to happen. We awoke early to be driven higher into the hills near Lake Atitlan. Though rain was forecast, we were greeted with a most lovely day.
I was traveling with my friends Rosemary and Steve of course, who are helping me build my second travel sketch class, but we also were accompanied by Mari Gray of Kakaw Designs, based in Antigua. More on Mari’s work in a bit, but suffice it to say, this was a business trip for her. For me, it was a nearly overwhelming array of color and texture. All gently used and ready to be repurposed.
It was difficult to choose! I purchased one small bit of cloth I hope to make a wee something of eventually but at the very least, it’s just a gorgeous bit to have on hand as a throw.
The prices were amazing and we counted our quetzales and haggled a bit with the vendors which was fun and good Spanish practice.
Soon we were vended out and went in search of a place to eat with a view of the lake. We found a little spot courtesy of our lovely driver and knowledgeable guide, Andres, and we all enjoyed the breezes.
We didn’t tarry long though as we had an afternoon appointment at Multicolores, an amazing artist cooperative changing the lives of women artisans in many areas of Guatemala.
We were greeted at the mysterious teal colored door along a busy side street in Panajachel by the lovely Rosario who proceeded to show us around and introduce us to the vital work going on at Multicolores.
Artists from Guatemala are trained in this rug-hooking technique and given further instruction on basic things as well, such as color theory and even vision statements.
They were asked to really consider their life’s calling. One wall hanging said:
Solo existen dos dias en el año en que no se puede hacer nada. Una se llama ayer y otro mañana. Por lo tanto hoy es el día ideal para amar, crecer, hacer, y pricipalmente vivir.
Loosely translated, there are only 2 days in the year that you can do nothing, yesterday and tomorrow. Every other day is ideal for loving, growing, doing and principally living.
So, not only are these artists learning a skill they can earn a real living off of, they are bettering their lives all around. They take used clothing from the local thrift shops and painstakingly turn them into exquisite utilitarian works of art.
There are also a few beautifully embroidered dolls available as well, which some folks might not consider utilitarian, but I do. Play is a most useful thing.
Will you look at her sweet hair??!
These guys had secret coded messages to share with anyone who knows the language of symbols.
After much careful consideration and admiration of the sheer amount of work this collective produces, Rosemary chose a new piece of art for her newly remodeled space at home. Its stunning. And even more so in person!!!
As much as we had enjoyed this full day, we soon needed to get on the road to avoid traffic on top of the already two hour drive back to Antigua. With rain and pea-soup variety fog on hand, Andres calmly got us through a somewhat white-knuckled drive and we were home by sundown.
It was a day of no art making for me, but rather of gathering material for consideration. The best travel journals come from real, lived experiences and the impressions these experiences bring to us on many levels. The tastes and smells of food, the textures of things at the vendors, the people. Conversations with new friends and those overheard at the parque while walking. All of these things get recorded and captured in some way, even if they don’t make The Book on that very day. There must be a balance to it all.
This taking-it-all-in field trip mode continued into today with a visit to Mari’s place back here in Antigua. It was amazing to see how this young designer lives and works and to just visit and have an opportunity to see the things she creates with the types of materials acquired the day before. She lives in a hidden little magic place with a sweet dog.
Such a sweet, magical place, even the fairies are in residence.
Evidence of Mari’s passion for textiles is at every turn.
Soon we got to see some of her products and how they come together. These lovelies have been well worn and even re-heeled over the years. They are still beautiful and on my wish list.
She had a few shiny new pairs around as well But they weren’t in my size.
We so enjoyed hanging out with Mari again today and I feel I’ve made a new friend here in Antigua. I’m so thankful Rosemary knows so many lovely folks here!!
This all just takes us through to this morning! I could certainly tell you of Lydia, a beautiful weaver and vendor (and yet another lovely friend of Rosemary’s) who lived through the same earthquake I did in 1976. And I might also share our afternoon visit to a local ruin and the sketches which resulted. But alas, those sketches could use some daylight to best share and perhaps these are tales for another day and another blog post.
We have another solid three days here in Antigua and no more lofty plans such as the last couple of days have seen. Just working in our books and soaking up more of the beauty here in Antigua Guatemala.
We are still working out details for the 2018 Travel Sketchjournal -Antigua trip but if you’d like to be on a list to get more information as it unfolds, just comment below or send me an email.
This morning began misty and mysterious. I sipped coffee and sketched a bit.
We breakfasted – and, following the sunshine, then did a bit of perusing the shops round town. Have I mentioned the feast of textiles to be found here? Old and newly made, well worn and repurposed, they are everywhere. Draped on the furniture, piled in shops, peddled by Mayan street vendors.
Besides the traditional, there are more modern and quirky things to find as well. I picked this one up for Jack.
Because remember that time he played fiddle and banjo in a hilarious Fringe Festival play called Hot Damn, It’s The Loveland Frog? And also played the frog at the very end… With banjo?
Hmmmm, yeah. Me too. What can we say? It was a paying gig, and it was fun, strange as it all might seem.
I picked up a pair of pantalones from a lovely vendor named Gloria whose passion for the handwork she does in her home pueblo of San Francisco A.C. is truly inspiring.
They have pockets! I love pockets.
All over town things delighted our senses, more to bring back to our sketch practice later over a lunch of leftover pizza which was delicious!
I could make art for ages merely on the procesión we witnessed yesterday.
All the while, our watchful volcanoes drift in and out of their self made mists, teaching us to breathe.
After some work on next year’s travel sketch workshop plans and pondering, Rosemary, Steve and I drifted out once again for our evening meal. Taking in Antigua along the way.