Sketchy Business

An exciting thing occurred to me today. I was at a local art store getting some Christmasey gifts for some of the children in my life (I believe early artistic infection is a positive thing…) and I glanced at the piles of catalogs, brochures and such at the end of the counter. There among the stacks was a purple catalog from the Art Academy of Cincinnati listing the winter/spring courses available in their Community Education program. I grabbed the catalog to check….and there it was…my sketchbook course! I will be teaching a four-week, one evening per week course on creating and keeping a Journal / Sketchbook.

My own sketchbook is something that I share on a regular basis with those who know me and those who just happen to catch me in the act of drawing and come to look over my shoulder. It is a place where I capture interesting moments and images, big and small, momentous and meaningless. It is a place where things come together and begin to make sense. In my sketchbook I collect quotes and photos, sketches and thoughts. It is an extension of myself and my process. It is the place where my life and my art work meet and mix, with unpredictable results. It’s my stew pot for ideas and memories.

Over the years I have kept a fairly steady number of books, each one better than the last, I think. I take chances and experiment more now than I did even a couple of years ago. In my Art Academy class I plan to share with students how I got started sketch-journaling, and how I start each new book. I will help them get their own books started and encourage them to begin collecting their own life bits. Everyone’s individual life has purpose and meaning and this is often forgotten in our fast paced world these days. This is why I blog. And this is why I keep a sketchbook; not just for art work, but for the life moments in between the work.

So here’s hoping at least a handful of folks sign up for my class so it can move forward. I am excited to get more “sketchy” people out into the world at large!

Tis the Season

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A bit of this past week has been spent putting out our collection of holiday stuff. We have an assortment of Santas, snowmen (and women), angels, and of course, wooden soldiers. It’s nice to get these things out and see them again here in the new house. They have taken on a newness since we get to decide where to put them all. The kids and I have had fun arranging and rearranging and talking about the memories all these things bring back for them.

As a family we are a hodge podge of seasonal beliefs and practices. I love the Peace on Earth message that the Baby Jesus brought with him. Last year my friend Elle taught me a little about Kwanzaa and its message of hand made gifts and emphasis on family and community. There is Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights and then the more Earth centered beliefs about marking the passage of time and light by celebrating the Solstice. I find them all fascinating and sacred and think it is no accident that this is a time of year for celebrating and reflecting in many faiths.

For me it is a time to slow down, spend time with my family, and remember those I’ve lost in recent years. Somehow the glow of candles and faerie lights puts me in the mood for this reflection. That said, we have an exhausting schedule in coming weeks of rehearsals, recitals, concerts, parties, shopping, cooking, baking and celebrating which are also so much a part of the season. Hopefully I can find the still point somewhere in the midst of all the chaos and contemplation… it’s all about balance, right?

Happy Holly-days!

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