Watercolor Play

I am fascinated with other people’s sketchbooks. Over the years I have gathered a collection of sorts of published artist sketchbooks, the latest of which arrived yesterday. This new one is a book called Sara Midda’s South of France; A Sketchbook. It was published in 1990 so it is by no means new, but I hadn’t ever come across it and bought it used on the advice of a friend.

This book is a delight! Midda’s drawings convey the sense of light and colors and tastes that she experienced in her year there. Like myself, she makes most of her drawings using watercolors, and goes on to name different colors by what they represent to her in her sketches. Blue, gold, and green become sky at midday, stucco, and fishing boat. The list is evocative and endless.

In spite of a wonderful color theory class in art school, I have never been very scientific about my use of watercolors. They have always been more about play for me than about formula. I hope to keep it that way. But Midda’s work has me thinking about my 14 color travel watercolor set in a broader field today as I try to make as many shades of lots of colors as possible.

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Also, here’s a daily dog from yesterday….. meet Arp.

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It’s back to the proverbial grind after the Thanksgiving holiday, which for us at least, was restful and peaceful and full of gratitude. It is raining, raining, raining so I have started a fire here in the studio fireplace to try and ward off the damp chill. I am fighting a cold and feeling a bit on the whiny side.

Even so, I am sipping on hot tea and waiting for the visit of a dear friend in from out of town. We have been too long apart. The landscape outside, so much a part of my view from inside, has a lovely purpley gray to it, along with more browns than I can count. These are new colors, arriving with the colder temperatures and falling leaves, and exciting in their own quiet way.

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Kitchen Carnage

A good time was had by all here at Chez Bogard on Thanksgiving Day.

We finally had our big ol’ oak table here at the New House, thanks to the efforts of some early arriving family members who helped move the last bits of stuff over from the Old House. There is nothing like sitting down to a meal with people I love at the table that has seen so many meals like this one, and hopefully many more to come. With that table here, it finally seems like home. So much for which to be thankful….

The Old House is officially SOLD, as of this morning’s closing. Hopefully the new family will create as many wonderful memories there as we did. I was pleased to hand over the keys to someone who seems to already care for it as much as we did. The sensation of temporary displacement that has plagued us since going through this move has been lifted. We can now truly settle in to this new place and begin to put our personal touch on the house as well as the garden.

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cool weather paddle

Yesterday was my husband’s birthday so we took the day off to go kayaking on the Ohio. After a brisk but refreshing (and thankfully DRY) paddle of about 4 miles, we had lunch at the Front Street Cafe, On the Ohio, an adorable sandwich/ coffee shop in the riverside town of New Richmond.

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Today finds me getting ready to host Thanksgiving here at Chez Bogard as well as clearing out the last bit of stuff from our old house, which has finally found a buyer. There is much busy-ness, and much to be thankful for this week. Not much art getting made, but for now, that is ok. Creativity lies in the kitchen this week!!! (and of course, the sketchbook….)

Wishes and Heeling

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The past day or so has been jam packed with ideas, inspiration and wishful thinking (i.e. crafting the future with positive thoughts). I spent yesterday at Green Ridge Stables, home of Roy Powell and his Rocky Mountain horses.

Roy employs two blue heeler dogs in his work at the farm, which involves the breeding and training of these beautiful horses. Arp and Gizmo are his, handsome, hard-working, well-behaved heelers whom I drove down to visit and photograph for the afternoon. The dogs displayed their ability to help Roy get horses to do things they may not want to do, at least at first, such as getting into a trailer for transport. Instead of more forceful, human derived forms of persuasion, Roy’s dogs run around and bark at the horses “telling” them what they need to do. I watched a horse get into a trailer with seemingly little work on the part of the dogs – and it was only her second time. Thanks to the work of these scrappy little dogs, she was already getting the hang of it.

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Arp and Gizmo look to Roy for commands and guidance and they are always ready for work. I was impressed by the sense of purpose in these dogs and am now loaded with images and ideas to draw on for my potential book idea.

For further book inspiration, this afternoon I attended a panel lecture at our Main Library downtown, which featured ten local picture book artists on hand to talk about their work and answer questions. What I came away with was a comment from illustrator Loren Long that the most important thing in this line of work is that you have to love what you are doing.

Last night, after an amazing dinner and rich talk of art, story, teaching and travel opportunities, we each lit an Ameritti label and watched it burn then fly up into the air carrying with it our hopes and wishes for our future plans… I’ll keep you posted on mine!

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Chickens, War rugs and a few quilts

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Today my friends Lisa and Anna and I left the peaceful, chicken-ey atmosphere of Lisa’s place and headed to Oxford, Ohio to see Miami University Art Museum’s show entitled Tanks, Helicopters, Guns and Grenades: Afghan War Rugs of the 1980’s – 2007. On display were hand woven, pictorial rugs depicting the images relating to everyday life in Afghanistan. Most often these rugs have been woven by people, mostly women, who are on the move as refugees, fleeing from war torn areas of violence.

Rugs are used in Muslim culture for praying, sleeping, birthing, even to cover tombs. Often, rugs are one of the few possessions refugees can carry with them when displaced. It is sad to see how once common iconographic images of nature, animals and people have been replaced or at least joined by the imagery of war – helicopters, bombs, airplanes, guns. Yet also in these rugs there is woven a strength that is palpable, to me at least, upon viewing them. On some rugs, the artist mixes in her own image as woman into the image of a warplane. These rugs have been discovered in the Western markets and so there is commercial value in them. However, I think their greater value is the message these images bring to the world outside of Afghanistan. I was deeply moved by this collection.

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After being slightly overwhelmed by the vast number of War Rugs on display, I was a little disappointed in the lack of number of quilts on display in the Hiestand Galleries across campus in the show, Pieces of Power: a Selection of Quilts from Gee’s Bend. That said, the ones that were available were simply wonderful to see.

I have only seen Gee’s Bend quilts in books over the years and have always been impressed by their graphic design quality and use of colors, but quilts should be seen in person, up close, where you can feel their coziness. The women of Gee’s Bend made these quilts to use – to cuddle up with, and this is evident upon seeing them. I am grateful for the opportunity to see at least a few of them and will certainly jump at the chance to see the larger show if it comes around to my corner of the world.

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got skills?

There are lots of ways a person can be smart in this world. It took me a long time to figure this out – but there are times I still revert to a childhood belief in my own utter stupidity.

For a couple of weeks now, my WordPress Admin page had been bugging me to install a new version of software that would fix a bunch of things I didn’t even know were wrong. So yesterday I finally set aside some time and took a concentrated look at what needed to be done. I mean, how hard could it be?

Hard enough, actually, as I had to call in reinforcements in the form of my poor husband (who already spends too much time in front of a computer) and a phone call to my genius friend Chris who built my website and to whom I owe a lifetime of techie gratitude.

After a number of hours and a mountain of patience on the part of my spouse, the new software was installed and I was left to ruminate on my uselessness in the world of technology. On the one hand, a few years ago I couldn’t even find the power button on my new computer, and now I manipulate files and navigate the web successfully enough to blog most days. On the other hand, what would I do without the people in my life who possess the computer smarts necessary for the more complicated side of this work – those who get me out of my computer jams? Without them, I might not have a website or be a blogger.

As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t grow up feeling like the sharpest knife in the drawer. (Algebra and beyond have a way of doing that to a kid.) But as it turns out, my skills include (but are not limited to) communication, negotiation, and creative problem solving. I may not know a tremendous amount of computer lingo, but neither am I a dummy.

I guess the important lesson for me with regard to software installation independence is that people of different “skill sets” need each other. In order for me to have a website and blog that look and feel like I want them to, I need the expertise of those capable of navigating the technological hurdles. Meanwhile, I have jobs that utilize my abilities and “soft-skills” as they are called and I am valued professionally for them. I simply need to value myself for these skills and not be so hard on myself when I need to call my personal tech support network for back up.

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Do or Do not… a dose of Yoda

My daughter Madeleine is quite a piano player. She acquired her love of music from her first piano teacher, Ms. Pat. Ms. Pat patiently nudged Maddie through her first struggles in music and taught her that slowly, with a little practice every day, she would get over those hurdles and move on to newer challenges. She coached Maddie when it was time for auditions to get into the School for Creative and Performing Arts, giving her the confidence to go in there and do her best. (She made it in).
Today we met up with Ms. Pat at Pleasant Perk to celebrate Veteran’s Day. Pat underwent surgery for breast cancer a couple of weeks ago, and is now, thankfully-miraculously, cancer free. She is a veteran of sorts I think, and it was wonderful spend the kid’s morning off of school with her, celebrating her new lease on life.
After coffee we all walked up the street to the Earth Toy Mall for a little playful retail therapy. Anyone who knows me (or has ridden in my car and seen the dashboard shrine) knows that I love Yoda, and especially his philosophy.  My favorite line in Starwars goes something like “Do or do not, there is no Try”.

I know so many amazing people in my life that remind me of the truth in this life philosophy: Ms. Pat and my sister in their cancer survivorship; all of the musicians in my life, (young and not-so-young) who don’t try to play music, they just DO; the artists and writers I know – every day, DO. I look to these Doers and I draw inspiration and hope for my own fumbling through life.

Here’s to the doers – there is no try.

Old Trout

What do you think of when you think of puppets? Sesame Street? The Muppet Show? Kids stuff? Much of mainstream puppetry is geared toward kids and the good work is really brilliant. But available to a less mainstream audience is the work of puppet theater companies such as The Old Trout Puppet Workshop, a group based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Groups such as this normally do shows that can be found most often in places such as New York, Washington DC, or Chicago. I had the pleasure of seeing Old Trout’s latest show, Famous Puppet Death Scenes, this past Friday at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio.
I am a relative new comer to really good puppet theater and was so moved by this show. Puppet theater combines moving sculptures, human performance, illusionary stage manipulation and sound to create a magic that transcends all of the above. To put it simply, I was blown away by these guys, and incredibly inspired.
Below is a picture of our “host”, Nathaniel Tweak who provided one of the more touching death scenes himself. If you ever have the opportunity to see the work of the Old Trout Puppet Workshop, do it. I made the 2 hour drive to Columbus and am so glad I did.

Although I was a little bleary eyed from the drive to see Old Trout, Saturday I worked at the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts center in Covington, KY for my first Family Saturday. We had a wonderful group of artists comprised of kids and their accompanying grown-ups. Everyone seemed to enjoy making the available projects and I enjoyed getting to know some new people. Many folks said, “We’ll see you next month!” which I take to be a positive sign that a good time was had by all. So far, for December’s Family Saturday, we are thinking of projects that involve holiday gift giving with a less consumer based philosophy. I’ll keep you posted!

part rabbit warren, part spin on art & life & etc. art, illustrations & workshops by amy bogard