Fruition

The past few weeks have seen the colliding of two projects that have been a lot of fun, but have also taken up most of my precious free time. Fortunately they are finished and are meeting with successful reviews from the folks who wanted them to happen (and are footing the bill).

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The Red Cross tornado safety puppet show “The Wind Around the Toy Box” has a new and improved toy box/ stage which Jeni and I began using this week. Not only are the puppets enjoying all the new space back stage but their puppeteers aren’t consuming quite as much advil these days to keep up with the muscle strain!

Meanwhile, my work at Plum Diore finished up last night with the installation of dozens of sculpted flowers created to match their spring design. A lovely and talented art student named Erin, and I installed these hand crafted forms in the windows of the boutique and also throughout the shop. Tomorrow evening is their big fashion show and party to which all of this has been leading up. Normally I am not into this sort of shin dig. I find I am more comfortable in an old pair of jeans and a soft wool sweater. But the excitement is contagious I guess and I have a new outfit to wear and plan to attend for a little while to see all the models dressed in all the finery. Plus, I hear their hair may be defying gravity. I find this notion intriguing.

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My class at the Art Academy of Cincinnati finished up a week or so ago and I was genuinely sad to see it end. I really enjoyed all of my students and was amazed to see how gutsy and adventurous they became with just some cool art supplies and space and time in which to create. It looks like I will be teaching the class again in the fall time frame. I learned as much from my students and teaching this class as I hope they learned from me so I am sure there will be changes and fine tuning that will make the class even richer for those who take it. I am anxious to get back into working in my own sketchbook again in the coming weeks.

Teaching is a constant theme in my life and nowhere is that clearer recently than at home with the pups. They are growing like weeds and getting very strong, especially on walks. I found collars for them that allow the walker to lead the dog by the head, much like a horse, without all the tugging and choking of the usual collars. So we have slowly been adjusting to a new, gentler way of walking around the neighborhood.  With all this leash training though, sometimes you just have to go for a romp in the woods, leashes off. In spite of the rain, that is what we did a few days ago. It was well received by all.

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Blogger, blogger

I’m relatively new to this blogging phenomenon, having only begun the process last October. In general, I have been fairly diligent getting posts up on the blog at least a few times a week. Lately however, as my more attentive blog readers can attest, I have been on the about-once-a-week plan with posts. I struggle with a bit of guilt over this. When I decided to embark upon building a website with the help of my friend and (yet another) fellow musician, Chris, I knew that blogging would be part of the package. I read blogs and about the process of blogging for years before I was ready to jump on the blog-boat. If I was to blog, it would be something to which I would commit. For the long haul. This is still the plan.

That said, a long term commitment to blogging, which really only amounts to a public version of a life-diary, needs to include a little wiggle room for the conditions that make up a real life, at least my real life. I am an artist, a full time mom (read: lots of time in the car to and from dance and music lessons, school, check-ups, concerts, making dinner, grocery shopping…. and the list goes on) a wife, a committed pet owner, an amateur musician, a good friend, a seeker of soul. All of these things occupy time and energy. Both of which are occasionally in short supply.

I have a tendency toward a pendulum style of existence. There is rarely balance. The best I can do is recognize and be present in my being at one end or the other of this swinging pendulum, and hang on for dear life. I know that soon, I will have the opportunity to analyze fascinating minutiae again. I’ll have time to take long walks with my dogs and notice the local hawk that hunts in our neighborhood. I may even lament about stagnancy and, dare I say it, boredom.

In the meantime, I have lots of active work available to me that leaves little time for blogging or lamenting. Here in the mid-west, it is officially Tornado Season and my job as a puppeteer at the Red Cross is pretty much full time. Jeni and I finished up our new stage and will go on the road with it this coming week. I am sure my knees and shoulders will be glad of the upgrade! Some photos of the set up have been taken and as soon as I get them I will post them. I am also delighted to have a side project at a darling boutique called Plum Diore where I have spent much of spring break making flower forms to throw some added pizazz to their spring line of fashion. These flowers are just a sculptural interpretation of their spring design which can be found on the website, on the windows and on the invite to this Friday’s fashion show.

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So, yeah, that pendulum is about as far over into the too-much-on-my-plate side of things as it can get. But it is good. I may not have time to blog every day, but today I learned most of a five part jig in whistle class. I went to my friend Cindy’s house to get some old watch parts that belonged to her dad, a watchmaker, so that I might embed some watch bits into an encaustic painting. I watched some basketball (very out of character) with my Xavier fan husband Tony (alas, UCLA wins). I even had time over the weekend to enjoy time with friends whom I hadn’t seen in awhile (Tina, Rachel, I love you both).

Although this blog is something to which I maintain a commitment for the long haul, perhaps it isn’t the best measure of balance in a life as rich and complicated as mine is. Perhaps the best measure is that I have friends and family who love and care for me… and may I just say, one of those friends makes the BEST Leek-Goat Cheese Tart I have EVER had (not to mention the yummy smoked trout!)

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Breaking for Spring

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It is Easter Sunday (yes, that is a Giant Peep) and things are feeling kind of quiet around here, finally. The kids are off this whole coming week for their school’s spring break. Although I have a good amount of work to do myself this week, I have nothing that needs to conform to any strict schedule (i.e. Rec Cross puppet shows!) It is always interesting to me, the interplay between the different types of work I have in my life. On the one hand there are the ever important money making jobs I am lucky to have. These are fortunately mostly art related or at least fun, but since they involve working for others, there are constraints on my time and energy which are often out of my control.

On the other hand, I have the art work I love to do, and for which I have even occasionally been paid. This work is more of the soul realm. The creative stuff. Recently, the money making work has been in the forefront, while the soul work has been on the back burner and this has me feeling a bit out of balance. There are other times when I have too much time on my hands to make “real art” and then find myself stalling. Where is the balancing point? This is my constant struggle. My goal this week is to reconnect with my studio and relish in some alone time writing and making while Tony takes his well deserved kayaking trip to Florida.

Another goal this week is to get some serious music practice in. Last weekend I got to enjoy playing in a session with not only my beloved Irish Music buddies from here in Cincinnati, but also with some other wonderful musicians in Lexington, Ky. Dan and Bev of Liam’s Fancy along with their friend from Co. Sligo Tim Mulcahy had a gig in the sweet little town of Midway, Ky. Afterwards we all headed to a brand new pub in Lexington and practically had the place to ourselves for a session. The music as well as the company could not be beat.

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Happy St. Pat’s

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This weekend is a busy one for those in the Irish Music business. The Riley School kids performed yesterday at the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Celtic Lands Festival, and will do so again today. Many of the older kids, who generally take charge in these sorts of venues, were off playing their own professional gigs. This left the leadership position to my son Jack and his fiddling friend Robert. They carried themselves with grace and poise, developed a set list that enabled even the newest beginners to play, and answered questions from the audience after the performance. They represented themselves, and the Riley School like true professionals. I couldn’t help feeling a little bit proud. Meanwhile, advanced beginners like myself get to just hang out and session with other musicians at our display table as we show off what we do at the Riley School and why we love it. It’s like practice, only more public. The school as a whole will perform today at 1:45. I think this may be the first year I am not feeling any trepidation about going up on stage. Not that I feel so confident about my playing, I think it’s all the puppeteering I have been doing.

Speaking of puppets, I took a few hours away from the St. Pat’s music scene to attend Larry Smith Day. This was a commemoration event in honor of local puppet pioneer, childhood hero and broadcasting legend, Larry Smith. I did not spend my early childhood here but those who did remember Larry and his puppet friends with great fondness as a part of their after school television routine.

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The crowd was treated to shows from puppet greats Kevin Frisch and Wayne Martin, both of whom consider Larry a mentor. Cincinnati has a rich puppet history that continues to develop today through the efforts of the Cincinnati Area Puppetry Guild, of which Larry Smith was the founder and I personally am proud to be a member.

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Above is Kevin operating a marionette who is operating his own marionette. A good time was had by the entire “gang”.

My artist friend Dan Carlson sent me a scan of some recent dog sketches he has been working on. He considers them “just sketches” but to me they are lovely finished drawings that are full of personality and life. Dan’s drawings are often studies for paintings and illustrations he is working on or even potential 3-d figures. I am excited to see what he does with these little guys!

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My own dogs are lucky to get their daily walk in past weeks with my life in the world of my “real job”. I haven’t had as much time as I’d like recently to sit and draw. I am also not feeling like the best house-mom either. But I think the notion of feast or famine is a common theme in the life of an artist. The trick is maintaining some semblance of balance both in the busy times and later, when things inevitably stagnate a bit. Today I am off to soak up (and maybe play) some more Irish Music. The muddy paw prints on the floor and the ever looming dust bunnies in my house will have to wait a while longer. I’ll have the sketchbook with me as always if I ever sit still long enough to draw in it!

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Salsa dancing at Havana Martini Club was a blast, not that I danced. I sketched a few silhouetted outlines of the dancers dancing in my sketchbook and took some photographs of all the activity. At one point in the evening, three female dancers who were having birthdays were treated to having the dance floor all to themselves while all the guys lined up to take their turn dancing with them. I was impressed with the classiness at Havanna. It was a diverse, clean, fun atmosphere where the dancing was top of the list for everyone there. I’m sure I’ll head back there again, and maybe try a cha-cha or something… someday…

Meanwhile, for all the effort put into getting everything done last week for all of my jobs, we were treated to a blizzard over the weekend the likes of which we have not seen in years. I have stashed the supplies originally slated for Family Saturday this month at the Carnegie Center, and now am ready for April. All’s well that ends well, I suppose. The peaceful break provided by this snowstorm was well received in this household at least.

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Between puppetry gigs, I have managed to fit in a little bit of continued experimentation at the encaustic table. Here’s the latest efforts…

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what’s cookin?

What’s cookin’ in studio? A lot! This week has seen the convergence of many of my part time jobs and I have been operating a regular 3-ring circus in my head, on the calendar and in the studio. Coming up on Saturday is this month’s Family Saturday at the Carnegie Center for Performing and Visual Arts. This month’s theme is “The Art of Food” so all of our projects will involve mostly edible materials. We’ll be making toaster art (click here to see some professional level toaster art. I mean, who knew?), egg-shell mosaics and decorated hollowed out eggs, “sweet” creatures using candy, icing, fluff, etc., and noodle jewelry. Lots of prep work goes into these Family Saturdays and they always wind up being great fun for everyone involved! (Below are the dyed noodles…)

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Meanwhile, it’s officially Tornado Season here in the mid-west and so my job as a puppeteer for the Cincinnati Area Chapter of the American Red Cross is in full swing. Jeni and I were up early this morning to entertain and meet some of the folks who donate money and resources to the Red Cross, furthering the important work done by this amazing organization. We also have a fairly full week of puppet shows in local schools to teach kids how to be prepared in case of a tornado. On top of all of our performance activities, we desperately need a new stage set up. With some design advice from Kevin, Jeni and I are building a brand new set for the “Wind Around the Toy Box” production which will be easier to transport and set up on site. The new design has the added bonus of allowing us puppeteers to stay on our feet, not on our poor knees!

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So at the end of this long day, in the middle of this long week, one might think that I would be ready for a good night’s sleep. This is not too far from the truth. However, last week, I challenged my sketchbook class at the Art Academy to go out this week and draw somewhere in public. Some place where someone might see them, and ask them what they are up to. I asked my students to step out of their comfort zone to work on their sketchbooks in a place they may have, in the past, been afraid to go. I can’t very well ask this of them, without taking part in some of this exercise myself. So tonight I am off to Havanna Martini Club for Salsa night. I don’t plan on dancing too much, but I do plan to sketch the people who are dancing. I have wanted to do this for awhile but have been putting it off, not wanting to be the oddball with a sketchbook at Salsa night. Hopefully some of my students are out there challenging their own boundaries this week too. We’ll see tomorrow night when we meet for class again.

Band Night

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Three out of the four people in my immediate family are actively involved, in some form or another, in the Irish cultural scene here in Cincinnati. The annual McGing Ceili was last night so while Maddie performed dances on which she and her classmates have worked months, Jack and I had the honor of playing in the Riley School Ceili Band.

As I have said before, unlike my talented children who seem to both have been born into the act of making music, I came to music as a bit of a late bloomer and only started really playing a couple of years ago. It has taken a lot of practice to be able to not only learn the tunes up to speed but to get over my stage fright and just enjoy playing.

The hard work of practice and commitment in music has wonderful payoffs, beyond just a girl in the ceili band. My friend Kim Taylor had a concert later in the evening to which a few of us dashed after the ceili. Kim is a prolific song writer and the crowd was treated to a bunch of new material and a new band with whom she’s been working recently. Personally, I was overwhelmed by the vast number of people packed into the Northside Tavern and I sat amazed at how poised and composed Kim was as she performed. It was a brilliant show.

No late evening out in Cincinnati is complete without a visit to one of the many all night chili parlors. We decided on Camp Washington Chili and by 3 a.m. had filled our bellies with chili, cheesy fries and lots of oyster crackers.

The sun is shining today and there is a real nip of spring in the air (I don’t think there are any snowstorms headed our way…) I plan to work in my sketchbook a bit to try to keep up with my amazing students at the Art Academy. My class, Getting Started: How to Keep a Sketchbook/ Journal finally began this past Thursday. All of my students jumped right in to making their blank books become an expression of themselves. I am excited to see what they have added to their books after just one class.

Mad Wax

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Last night the kids and I attended the Cincinnati Area Puppetry Guild meeting which was held at the headquarters of Madcap Puppets. We were treated to a tour of the facilities and even got to play with and manipulate some of the incredible creations Madcap is famous for. In the photo above (taken on my cell phone, hence the quality), the “Hunchback” character is actually my daughter Maddie wearing a backpack puppet. She is showing signs of being a good puppeteer…

Also in that picture (next to Maddie holding the fish) is Kevin Frisch, the fearless leader/president of the Puppetry Guild. Kevin brought with him a handsome new marionette he just made for a car dealership commercial. This little guy can raise his eyebrows, move his eyes, sit down and cross his legs. He’s amazing! We were all enchanted, as usual, with Kevin’s latest creation.

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Recently Kevin has been working on a new and improved website for his Frisch Marionette Company. It’s a whole virtual world just waiting for exploration. Check it out!

After the guild meeting, I came home and stoked the fire in the studio and got to work with some wax. I LOVE to work at night and find it is when I am most creative and loose and playful with materials. The tough part about this night owl tendency is that I have my “real life” commitments as mom and worker to which I have to attend the next morning. I am a little sleepy today to say the least. But it’s worth it, I think. I am continuing to play with my new materials and exploring ways to make different things happen. Today I will just drink a lot of coffee and maybe fit in a 20 minute power nap…. so I can stay up late again tonight!!

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I embedded a mirror in the one above which is more successful in person than in this photograph. The mirror is so small that the viewer only sees a small portion of themselves when looking at the painting. In the other two works I used some fish vertebrae (above) and some small knotted bits of thread (below). There is a suture-like quality to this which I think plays well with the skin-ness of the wax. This will bear more experimentation…

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Yesterday a really cool video was sent to me by my friend Amy in Maine. This just goes to show that not a lot of money needs to go into a powerful bit of art work. Another wonderful video shown to us at the puppetry guild meeting is that of the work of Gaia Teatro out of Peru. With minimal props and merely the sensual use of their hands, these puppeteers create evocative characters that are simply magical. These are some things I am finding inspiring these days.

First go

With the encaustic “cakes” all set to go from my efforts this past weekend, I was ready to hit the studio today and try adding some pigment to the wax/resin concoction and see what I could come up with. For lack of a better, more professional artist sort of word, it was just plain FUN! I know already that I need to get away from the palette that I have started with; it still looks fairly out-of-the-box. But I am trying not to be too hard on myself. I made a little painting which measures about 5″ square (sort of). I put a hiding fish in it. I just played.

So here is my first go. I took a few photos with different lighting. Here are two. I am not sure which does the little painting more justice…

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Fire and Ice

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Due to some icy precipitation in the past few days, there have been cancellations left and right. The kids were off of school yesterday, Maddie’s play was canceled last night (much to her chagrin) and even our normal Saturday routine at the Riley School was called off today.

This has resulted in plenty of sleep, extra practice on our musical instruments and some wet sledding time as well as LOTS of activity in the studio. Some of us spent part of the day creating new stamps to put wax seals on important documents of a secret nature, or especially private letters…

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Tony also used his spiral as a regular ink stamp. I really like the effect…

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Meanwhile, my foray into the art of encaustic painting has begun in earnest. My package of supplies arrived yesterday from R&F Handmade Paints. In it were beeswax, damar resin (basically a tree sap sticky stuff), and a basic palette of pigment. I have spent the better part of the afternoon today melting down the resin into the wax and creating little patties of encaustic medium with which to paint in the coming days. I have found many different recipes for this mixture online as well as in books, so I am just trying a basic 5:1 ratio this time and will see where it takes me. Apparently more resin creates a harder surface but is also prone to cracking. So, as with everything, it’s a balance, and will need to undergo some experimentation to see what works best for me.

Below is a picture of the patties cooling in their little muffin tins I got at the thrift store. Once completely cool, they pop right out. I used the back stoop of the studio to speed this along.

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The mail box has been fun to visit the past few days. Yesterday I got a package from the crew out in Olympia. In it were a wonderful facsimile of a drawing by my talented friend Noah of a Crimson Bellied Woodpecker (I love it!) as well as a CD by the Ditty Bops (Moon over the Freeway). Below is a snap shot of Noah’s drawing up on my wall. Peeking out near it is a trading card I got from Tina. I love that too.

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Today’s mail brought the latest issue of Dan Price’s Moonlight Chronicles. Dan continues to inspire much of my own sketchbook work and I plan to show this video to my sketchbook/ journal class next week (oh, yeah, that got postponed too. Yep. The weather was to blame for that one too!)

With the wax melting on the griddle (door cracked with a fan going for ventilation), and a fire in the fire place, it has been remarkably cozy out in this technically-3-season room. The puppies are curled up on the couch napping. Being irresistible, I took 5 minutes to do a quick “daily dog” sketch of them looking so peaceful. Normally these days they are creatures of perpetual motion.

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