Corn Husk Dolls and Mouse Guard

This week I am gearing up for my first of hopefully a long line of Family Saturdays at the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center in Covington, KY. I am planning to have plenty of kid friendly art projects on hand for folks to try inspired by the art currently on display in the galleries there.
One of the artists showing this month is Anne Straus whose work uses many natural materials and evokes a somewhat primitive and tribal feel. One element in a work by Straus is that of a doll which is covered with beads. I was reminded of the corn husk dolls of the early Native American/ Pioneer days and figured that might be a fun project to try this weekend. So I have been practicing putting some husky figures together as examples then maybe we’ll decorate them….

Meanwhile, my friend and fellow artist Dan Carlson turned me on to a relatively new comic book series called Mouse Guard. The illustrations in these books are really beautiful and I enjoy being swept away into a new world by David Petersen’s delightful characters. I have never before been much of a comic book reader, but this is a series I may have to collect over time.

a job to do

Everybody needs a job or at least to feel some purpose in their lives. This true for people, (both children and adults) as well as for dogs. Some dogs I know, my own included, seem to be happy casing the neighborhood a couple times a day on a walk and ridding the yard of rodential vermin. We used to have a Labrador whose soul purpose (pun intended) in life was to fetch a saliva slimed tennis ball. He could do this for hours.

I have been thinking a lot lately about dogs with jobs other than just as pets. One of my favorites of these “working breeds” is the blue heeler, a form of Australian cattle dog known for its herding abilities. Next week I am going to pay a visit to a farm down in Kentucky that employs a couple of these dogs. My goal is to take tons of pictures and some video footage of them in action. And then make drawings.

There is something about these dogs that appeals to my dog-drawing side and I am feeling the need to follow that thread these days, along with all the other stuff going on in the studio. I have had the idea for years that it might be fun to produce a picture book. So we’ll see where it leads. My “job” as artist is one I enjoy, even with its rather winding path.
Below are some sketches of heelers…

The view from Devou

Yesterday I took the day off from my usual to do list approach and went on a little field trip. This fall weather has had me in the mood for homemade apple pie so I went in search of some local apples and sights unseen.

After dropping the kids at school, I headed west down River Road to the Anderson Ferry to hop a ride a cross the Ohio River. Why I don’t treat myself to this crossing more often is a mystery to me as it is a lovely way to spend a few quiet minutes enjoying the river, and a convenient way to get to Northern Kentucky.

I found a great little fruit and veggie market in Bromley, Kentucky where I got some locally grown jonathan apples for my pie. Next I headed back east toward town and stopped off at Devou Park in Covington.

I have often heard that Devou provides the best overlook of Cincinnati and shamefully, in all my years of living here, I had never been to this park until now. It is well worth the fairly lofty car climb up the hill – the view is, indeed, magnificent.

It’s a worthwhile thing to get out of the studio for a bird’s eye view of my home town and a little perspective of all this area has to offer. Today, I am nibbling on pie and enjoying renewed studio energy. Who knows where it may lead?!

The Language of Drawing

It is my belief that anyone can draw. Like most languages, some people are naturally better at the language of drawing than others. But we are all capable of doing it. It just takes the right outlook and some practice.

One of the most exciting things for me as an artist is to spark some inspiration in someone who is just discovering their own artistic nature. Below is a Daily Dog drawing by my friend Olivia who is in the 2nd grade (I think that’s right…) She shares with me a love of all creatures and, from the looks of it, is already developing her own style of drawing.

I went to a music workshop once and the featured guitarist, John Doyle, made a wonderful point about the development of style in playing music, which I think applies beautifully to drawing or art-making in general. He said that it is not what you can do that makes up your personal style, it’s what you can’t do, and how you get over that hurdle, that really creates your signature sound.

So whether or not you consider yourself an image maker, drawing is really just a wonderful way to meditate on something or someone you find interesting. (For me, that is often the nearest dog.) If there is something you think you can’t draw, try anyway. Through this practice, you might very well begin developing your own artistic style. Just like Olivia.

Getting out of my way

This past week I have spent far more time than necessary in my own head (not always the best place to linger). The inability to get out of my own way and just BE is a constant battle for me, and from what I hear, for many creatives. Madeleine L’Engle put it so nicely in her book Circle of Quiet:

“Every so often I need OUT; something will throw me into total disproportion, and I have to get away from everybody – away from all these people I love most in the world – in order to regain a sense of proportion… often I need to get away completely, if only for a few minutes. My special place is a small brook in a green glade, a circle of quiet from which there is no visible sign of human beings…. If I sit for awhile, then my impatience, crossness, frustration, are indeed annihilated, and my sense of humor returns.”

It is this sense of humor, the spirit of play, that gets me out of my own head and back into the Flow of things. Today I went over to Kim’s to get some footage for her next video. We spent the morning following threads of ideas and laughing – a lot. Somehow over the past few weeks, I had never gotten around to sculpting the doll character we had intended to use for this video. As it turns out, we don’t even need it.

I guess the lesson learned this week is to play more. To trust more. To trust that by working in the spirit of play, the balance between work and life will work itself out, at least until I find myself in the way again…

Field Trip Day

My son’s 7th grade science class is working with the Mill Creek Restoration Project testing water samples from the creek for things like Ph levels and the presence of pollution sensitive invertebrates. In the fall and spring his class gets take a few field trips to do this research which is loads of fun and interesting as well. Not a whole lot of art gets done on these days. But that’s ok.

Here’s yesterday’s Daily Dog sketch….

working for a living

As most artists know, being an artist involves operating in multiple spheres. It is an unusual artist who gets to (or even chooses to) do nothing but “make” 24/7. Artists I know, myself included, generally put together somewhat of a piecemeal living of odd jobs and teaching assignments (hopefully art related) that allow for art to be made at other times. It is a balancing act, to be certain.

Lately, I have had the great fortune to land some of these other types of work. One of the most exciting is the position of Teaching Artist for the Family Saturdays program at the Carnegie Visual and Performing Art Center in Covington, Ky. Every month, on the second Saturday of the month, families with kids of all ages are invited to the Carnegie Center’s educational room to make art projects inspired by and related to the current art being shown in the galleries. In the future, these projects will probably involve what’s happening in the theater too. (There is a suggested $5 donation per family to help cover costs).

My first Family Saturday as an instructor/art-guide in this program will involve projects inspired by the work of glass artists…

We’ll explore how glass artists approach transparency and color. We’ll also look at the art of Frank Satogata who uses brilliant color as well as an interesting calligraphy signature (we’ll make our own!!)

We have plans to use the concepts in the work of Anne Straus to approach some nature friendly art ideas for the fall time frame….

I am looking so forward to meeting the families who attend these art-parties at the Carnegie Center on a regular basis and hope that we can encourage more families to join the fun in coming months. I also look forward to teaching people some basic drawing techniques by providing an “Anyone Can Draw” table each month to try out along with all the usual gallery themed/seasonal art stations. So if you’re in the area, stop by and join us. It’s sure to be a great time making some cool stuff!

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