Tag Archives: antigua guatemala

Awakening, gradually

A word from Mabel…..

“One could really learn only by being, by awakening gradually to more and more consciousness, and consciousness is born and bred and developed in the whole body and not only the mind, where ideas about life isolate themselves and leave the heart and soul to lapse inert and fade away.  Yet never to cease watching was imperative also; to be aware, to notice and observe, and to realize the form and color of all, the action and result of action, letting the substance create the picture out of abstract consciousness, being always oneself the actor and at the same time the observer, without whom no picture can exist.”

~Mabel Dodge Luhan

And from Mary:

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
~Mary Oliver

Upon flying away from Guatemala City, Volcán del Fuego poofed a breathy goodbye there in the distance. I’ll admit it had me a bit misty eyed.

Just a couple of days ago, I weathered a 20 hour (door to door) day of travel from Antigua, Guatemala back home here to Ohio to begin re-entry into my “real” life and to prepare for summer workshop season.  This latest trip to Antigua has gotten it all started in fine fashion.  Two weeks of facilitation and friendship; a welcoming of the Lenten season – even for the least religious among us;  and a passport to spring.

Now home, I weather the chain saws and leaf blowers which mark the fair weather season in these parts and I wonder what could be made different in this world.  I let these ponderings simmer on the back burner of my mind as I revisit what was, yet again, a life changing visit to a magical other-world.

Last I left you here I had arrived at the Posada a little heart-weary after a visit to my childhood home in Guatemala City.  I am still sifting through that heavy luggage, but not without curiosity and joy that I have as much information and inclination as I do with regard to it all.   It was, after all, a lifetime ago.  What does it even matter?  The words “make a book” keep coming around, though I have no idea how to go about it.  So many great memoirs exist in the world.  How does one even begin to make a semblance of a memoir with so few memories?  But I continue to investigate.  Perhaps living memories through the lens of a vivid imagination is enough.  Guatemala is worth exploring, I do believe.

But first, THE WORK.

I crafted this sketch-journal trip to be one framed in intimacy and quietude. No big groups here.  The goal being to come to a beautiful place, make some art, work at making it the best we can make it here and now – nothing more than that really.  Beyond that goal, the rest was travel gravy.  Each week there were 6 of us, (next year I’ll allow no more than 8 total – 6 participants at most) to allow for ease of movement about town as a group, ease of meal taking and decision making, to encourage a sense of deep work and seriousness of purpose.  This approach worked beautifully and set such a lovely tone all around for both weeks.  I marveled.

Volcano Medicine

my people

were fed by volcanoes

that fire milk

piercing the surface

like spirit

unrelenting

pierces our facade

to get in

and feed our souls

~Lisa Fazio


By morning we would admire the volcanoes, if they were up for viewing, and then we’d wander through town to breakfast….

One could spend the entire week with this series of arches on route to breakfast alone and not get bored with sketching.

The rooftop at Bella Vista Coffee Company is one of the best places to begin the day, and it has some of the best coffee the world has to offer.

We are greeted as friends, always.

The staff at Bella Vista was so excited to see what were up to in our books

Each day would see us tackling a new-to-us ruin in this gorgeous city, sketching and taking it all in along the way.

Sketch from San Francisco church ruins, Rosemary Berwald
Sketch from Conventa De Las Capuchinas, Joan Youngberg
Sketch of San Francisco church ruins, Connie Ware
sketch of San Jeronimo School ruins, Astrid Otey-Mast

 

sketch of San Jeronimo School ruins, Amy Bogard

By afternoon we would work back at Posada San Sebastián, tidying up sketches we’d begun in the morning…

A “throwdown” of sketches from week one. So much great work!!
Cindy touches up her sketch from the Capuchinas ruins
Sketching in the breezeway

and perhaps capturing a bit of our home-away-from-home at the Posada as it’s filled with all sorts of sketchable fare……

 

Cow and Donkey in a Candy Dish by Rosemary Berwald
Using blind and semi-blind contour drawing techniques to capture the wonky child’s chairs at the Posada.
I think laundry drying on a line is a beautiful theme. Ever changing yet always the same. It speaks of home.

I hope to make some proper paintings of the shifting light in the laundry area.

Sketch of Volcán de Agua by rosemary
so many blue kettles. so little time!!!

There was so much to see and take in and draw from and speak to and listen to and experience.  Each day was filled to the brim with a special kind of magic only found in this amazing Unesco World Heritage city of Antigua, Guatemala.

Vanessa utilized her excellent Spanish skills to get to know this fella who’s vessel on back there is for carrying water.
Richard spent a fine morning here in this shaded doorway tackling a difficult scene at Capuchinas.
Later he came home to sketch a “Cucurucho”, one of the Lenten flavored purple-costumed guys who populate the town and the Procesións this time of year.  Richard had purchased a little candle  representation of a Cucurucho which made us all laugh a bit, and so he drew it in his book!
Shade is hot territory on a sunny day.
Kudos to Connie who kept her focus in spite of many young onlookers as she drew the San Francisco ruins. We all remarked later that day on how polite and genuinely enthusiastic these kids were about what we were up to.
sketching at the Tanque. (Connie and Astrid)

A Sacred Season.

This year’s workshop abutted a very Holy Season indeed.  That of Lent.  In fact, at the end of the trip, Rosemary and I stole away in the wee hours of the morning of Palm Sunday.  Otherwise there might have been no escape.  For Lent is a busy time in Antigua.

Some days the incense was near stifling.  Reminiscent of growing up old-school Catholic, it was at once, unsettling and nostalgic.

Carrying Mary. It’s heavy work to bear the feminine through a distinctly male-dominated culture. But Mary prevails. As does the strength of the women of Guatemala.

A guardian of the Procesión.

The locals weren’t the only ones feeling a sense of the season. …

“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.”
~Mary Oliver

Irish Music is my sanity and it was my great fortune to have Doug and Astrid along for a tune now and again.

“I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.”     ~Mary Oliver

Next year we hope not to be quite so close to Easter. (Stay tuned.  I am announcing the dates for 2020 to those who’ve been on the trip up to now and who’ve expressed interest even before that….. I’ll open it further soon to others but I expect it all to fill quite quickly if this year was any indication.)

Though I’ll admit it is thrilling to be near this level of faith.

This is Joseph Barry. Named so because as a Santo, he is Saint Joseph, but because he is from the Posada, he reminds me of the Bee Gees. He came home with me as a gift from our loved ones at San Sebastián and as a reminder to keep to the work at hand. And to have faith.

And so, here we are now, at the height of spring in Ohio, making lists and travel plans for my California Trip in May (contact me for details if you are interested) and the Taos based workshop in June (now full!), which is my flagship class and holds a truly special place in my heart.

This time of year always has me feeling a bit tossed about in the world.  I am not a speedboat in this modern world, but more of an old fashioned ocean liner of sorts.  It takes me some time to shift gears and change course of direction.  But I manage to get there in the end.

If you are curious to see more of my own work from our time in Antigua, head over to my Instagram.  There is plenty there.  I aim to keep working from source photos as well.  Sketching my way through misty memories of a tumultuous time and of course from more recent times as well, a tad less tumultous.

Seems the best way.

Vantigua!! At the ruins of San Francisco
Vantigua!! the art vans were dragged up to San Cristobal to get a view of Antigua from above. it was a delicious adventure!
The presence of Agua
Cupolas!
Color and Line. What more could and artist ask for???
The dangling flowers at Canela Bakery.
Fruit vendor. Sights. Smells.
evenings are gentle at the posada
Candles. always.
cupolas for the queue.
Dinner at Angie Angie. Sundays are two for one pizza night. Just fyi
“No bread please. Just cheese. Or meat.  Sauce is ok. If it’s on cheese or meat”     Sweetness, the street dog.
Back home with a handful of cut flowers for a garden themed show coming in May. Need to make more. and get a frame….. (One mustn’t bring true flowers into the country, but surely handpainted paper ones are ok, yes?
Always important to have a map to find your way home……

PS.  There is a gorgeous telling of week one over on the blog-space of artist, printmaker, photographer and no-longer-practicing bear biologist (she has amazing stories fit for a proper campfire) of Vanessa Sorensen of Nessy Designs.  I adore her work, words and over all being really.  Thank you Vanessa for this lovely post:  http://nessydesigns.blogspot.com/2019/04/guatemala-sketchbook-workshop-2019.html

Do go visit her website and blog.  It’s a treasure to behold.

 

 

Arrival

(headphones in. Listen for the tone of the post below…….)

I arrived late in the day yesterday to my home away from home here at Posada San Sebastian in Antigua Guatemala.  Perhaps they say ‘welcome home’ to all their beloved guests, but it feels so great to hear it any how.  I awaken to hazy sunlight in the courtyard after 11 solid hours of unbroken sleep.  I am the first to arrive of our group.

My bedside window view is peaceful and familiar.  I bundle up in a shawl and socks to wander down the hall to boil water for coffee.  Coffee before coffee.

Arrival to Antigua is generally none too difficult.  Though traffic can be an issue at times getting from Guatemala City where the airport is to be found.  Yesterday I opted to complicate matters just a bit to endeavor a side trip on route to Antigua .

When I was a kid (ages 5 – 7 or so) we lived here in Guatemala, in the city.  My dad was a machete weilding geophysicist who enjoyed field work more than academia and so we came here for his work. There are many firm and pleasant memories from our time here.  And there are many gaps in that memory bank as well, for trauma did leave its mark in the end.

An earthquake and the seismic dismantling of our family shortly thereafter meant this place carries some scars in my little-girl psyche. I’ve been unpacking that heavy suitcase bit by gentle bit upon coming back for the first time with my hub for our anniversary  few years back.

Memory and the reptilian bits of our brain are a fascinating soup of interpreted facts.  Mixed in alongside the sanity-saving memory gaps,  desire to take flight, flee and save oneself at all times, trauma can cement things into a body and make a life we run from for the rest of our lives . For me, I am interested in going back in, from a place of safety, the present moment, and revisiting.

My side trip on route from the airport was to my childhood home where we found ourselves in 1976.  My patient shuttle driver put the sat nav on and we wound our way through the diesel and the oppressive midday heat and traffic to find my old home.

I had an old letter from my mom to her parents which has the whole harrowing tale from her perspective and the address as well and so off we go. With the traffic being what it is and this being an unusual shuttle driver request, I only manage to stay litle while. Snapping photos for my mom, noticing differences and familiarities in succession. Had I noticed anyone around I might have scraped up the courage to ask if I might come in and take a peek. Alas maybe next time. My Spanish improves with every visit here and I managed to share with my driver a bit of why it was important for me to visit this place.

There are many changes of course. Our neighborhood is now a guarded, gated community.  There are big black garage doors on what used to be an open and breezy car port. My host here said that with the violence suffered awhile back, many places circled their wagons in a sense to keep themselves defended. Guatemala has a complicated history, one I hope is shifting into a new era of eco-tourism, prosperity and fair pay for artisans living and working here. That is a tale for another day.  But suffice it to say, change is inevitable and truly the only constant.

Above is a sketch I made of my old house. With it’s unfamiliar doors and additions up top. Overlooking the gorge across the street, the trees are taller but the view is strangely familiar.  I remember the days just after the quake as the earth settled back into place with aftershocks and constant tremoring.

I’m ever so grateful to get a glimpse of this old place and hope to go back again.  I love my new relationship with Guatemala which involves textiles and painting and new memories being made with friends and loved ones in this magical mystical place.

As time passes and I dig deeper into the past while continuing to focus on the present, I’ll share more of what I dig up. Perhaps there is a book in all of this . I do not know. I just know, that right now, on this first morning in Antigua, I’m deeply grateful.  For my past which has made me who I am and for my present which helps me forge that self in the best way possible .

A note and apologies for the photos in this post. My devices aren’t talking to one another. So I had to use the crappy camera on this tablet to add the visuals. Its time for a new laptop for my travels so I can blog more easily from the road. If you dip over into instagram, find me at @abeefrnd and I’ll share a few old photos there which will add to the story .

As @doodleyboo on IG posted this morning…

” You might not work well everyday.  But you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”

—Jodi Picoult

and so, in the spirit of the quote above, I offer you this imperfect blog post, for now .

 

Mapping the weeks ahead

Antigua beckons…..

But first, there are tunes to play (yay!!… below I’ll list where we are playing locally in coming days) lists to attend to, errands to run.

In the meantime a favorite part of the work I do is to collect bits of ‘swag’ to present to my students upon arrival in whatever destination we may find ourselves.  For the Antigua trip, I’ll gather a few things once I arrive to combine with things I’ve gathered here in Ohio- like little altoid watercolor sets to work with (this allows people to try new colors which might not be available in their own sets and to play with limiting their palette as an exercise).

I’ve crafted a keepsake illustrated map of some of our favorite haunts in Antigua which I’ll reproduce for my students.  It’s fun!  It is my hope that not only will this come in handy to know where they are as we sketch the city, but will also encourage them to create their own version in their own travel journals.  We must always map our own course, I do believe.

There are stickers…. always stickers…..

….which encourage a bit of ‘mixed media -ness’ in our books.  I’m sure to have a few more tricks up my sleeve but really the true gift will be that of spending time together, slowing down and enjoying this World Unesco Heritage city in all its glory.  To say I am excited to return would be an understatement.

Here at home I have been gifted some tree cuttings to root as I re-think the stewardship of our little patch of land.  I am mindful of what needs to be done in the garden, and perhaps more importantly, what needs NOT be done as well.  Do check out the work of We Are The Ark in the hopes of re-wilding small places to create a network of healing in these times.

Art by Ruth Evans for www.wearetheark.org

While I was making stickers at the library today for my workshops, I saved a bit of time to make some stickers for this cause as well.  I’ve mentioned this notion of holding two things at once in our hearts, yes?  We must do the work we do in the day to day, while also tending the wild places in the corners of our gardens and spreading the word about the need to be more mindful in this world.  Limiting consumption where we can.

In this same spirit I am following closely the work of young activists who are striking from school when and where they can (usually Friday’s but I know it can vary region to region).  Emma Reynolds has pulled together a number of illustrators to show solidarity with these brave voices and here is my little drawing…

That is the news from today.  For now I am off to rehearse tunes with my musical mates.  We don’t often have microphones thrust in front of us, and so we take a bit of time to practice for these once-yearly gigs.

You can find me here in the coming days……

Saturday:  Arnolds Bar and Grill 8-1130 pm

Sunday:  B-List Bar in Bellevue KY 4 pm-730 ish then Palm Court at the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel 9-12 (this is quite fancy)

I hope to see you there if you are local to this little river valley.  More soon as I get set to hit the road very soon…..

 

Comings, Goings. Doings, Beings.

Our front creek, captured magically by Imran Nuri.

“I don’t want realism.  I want magic.”  ~Tennessee Williams

There is much coming and going of late.  Hither and thither we work and play.  I’ll share a bit here as I set aside remembered things to pack away for upcoming workshops.  Antigua beckons…..

A sample of the magnets I have designed as give aways for my workshop participants! I figure if they see these on their fridge in the day to day, they will remember to work in their books more often, yes?

Narry a week ago, I was working in my own sketchbook in a warm place called Key West.  When I wasn’t strolling the colorful streets filled with colorful people, feasting my eyes on color and light, I was bobbing in a pool or better yet, in the sea herself – buoyed by salt, water and sun.

pay no mind to the chitter chatter in the clip above, we were on a sunset cruise.  I was captivated by the murky depths.  And miraculously I did not get sea sick.

Key West enchants with its embedded quirk round every corner.  Some folk come here to drink their cares away, but I for one came to drink in more than just rum.  Though to be fair, rum has its place.

If one but stays just off the beaten path, there is charm at every turn and lovely sunsets to behold.  And it can be a balm for the soul of a weary, land-locked midwesterner nearing the end of a long, gray winter…..

Hens, chicks and roosters are to be found everywhere. They are well socialized and cry the song of their people. A lot. Cockadoodledooooooo!!! (and chuk-chuk and peep-peep as well!)
The Young Man And The Sea, our ship’s crewman Dale.
The captain and crew of the good ship Sarah took great care of us on a sunset cruise on the ocean. If you are ever near Key West, I recommend Danger Charters, in spite of their name.

We paid homage to the sea and to the rich history of the place, even visiting the home of Ernest Hemingway which boasts 55 polydachtyl cats living their best lives on the property.

I found Key West to harbor great juxtaposition. The locals care deeply for the ocean, that is clear, and yet single-use-plastics are still the norm at local businesses. We declined all straws/utensils/bags when it was an option.  It’s a small thing, but it’s worth doing.
Cemetery Sentinel

There is magic around every turn there.

Tree guardian being? Or a large fairy fist, offering us a tropical green bouquet?
Our Queen City-scape, with a river running through it. Quite lovely from the sky, though I am not a city girl at heart.

Too soon we must return home once again to the gloom and gray of Ohio.  But we look for the quiet magic to be found here.

My daughter and her boyfriend are home for break and he has some new camera gear he is eager to test.  He stunningly captures the magic of our yard in the dark.  With his extended exposures, our criss-crossing creeks become fully laden with an Otherworldly quality and I am reminded how lucky we are to have this little patch of land of ours.

Our front creek, captured magically by Imran Nuri.

Art has a way of reminding us of the beauty in the world.  Music as well.  This week ahead is the high holy season of Irish music and we are quite busy indeed.

Tuesdays there is always a session here in town, even on ‘normal’ weeks.  This Tuesday we are at Streetside Brewery on Eastern Avenue.  It’s one of our favorite places to play.  Saturday March 16, I join the Roving Rogues to play St. Patrick’s Day eve at Arnold’s Bar, Cincinnati’s oldest tavern. and on Sunday, we once again will play in the evening at Palm Court in the Hilton Netherland Plaza hotel.  Come on along and enjoy a fancy cocktail.  Escape the green-beer fray, won’t you?

I am so grateful for the music.

And this music as well….

Our Jack was part of a concert celebrating the music of Bach which we attended last night.  It was divine and captivating, as Bach can be, and we were swept away on this stormy evening to another world indeed.  There is more this evening as well, I can’t recommend it enough.

All is not angelic and ethereal round here however.  As I mentioned, I am busily getting last minute things in line for my double workshop endeavor in Antigua, Guatemala.  This is keeping me on my toes instead of at the drawing table or in the journal where I belong.  I embark on that journey later this month.

But before I go to Guatemala, I am attempting to complete a somewhat hefty hand-made project, which in it’s own earthy way is keeping me grounded in work.  That of a 3′ X 4′ latch hook rug project for the annual May The Fourth Star Wars Tribute show.  

I’m using a grid to help me keep track of my design on the canvas.

All the yarn I am using for this project is either from my own stash of leftover yarns or has been acquired second hand at Scrap-It-Up over in Pleasant Ridge.  This has added some complexity to the rug itself and is helping me to make Chewbacca extra fluffy and scruffy.

My studio assistant Ian takes his job quite seriously.

Until he’s ready to leave the room, at which point he rings the bell to let me know.

Working a bit on this rather ridiculous project each day keeps me grounded and working with my hands which is good for my head ironically enough.  And this is good.

And so, the fitting in of all the pieces of this life’s puzzle continues.  While I must admit to this being a rough winter in many ways, things are looking up now that the light seems to linger longer in the days, even when it’s snowing. The sun is even shining today as I write this.  We must always remember that change is the only constant and we must at least attempt to move forward.

I say this as a reminder to myself really.  Behind the scenes here I spend a fair amount of time applying to and being rejected by various opportunities such as with publishers (who often don’t/can’t respond, which feels like throwing work into a great dark abyss…. hello- oh    –      o         –    o   …….. receiving back only the boniest of echoes)  This is all part of the process.  I will say, while it does continue to smart, it does get easier the more one applies.



Residencies are yet another application process I find myself often involved in,  always looking for some way to go somewhere inspirational, seeking a deeper sense of time and place to make and grow my work.  I can’t tell you how many of these opportunities I’ve applied to, heart firmly tied onto the application via the proverbial string, only to be denied for my efforts.  I really try to envision myself there when I apply and so I do pour heart and soul into each application.

To those who’ve never thought about these things, one has to remember that merely applying is often a great deal of work – writing essays and statements, gathering photos of work, recommendations, tweaking one’s CV, etc. etc.  I fit these efforts into the small spaces between the usual goings on of my day to day.  And I just keep trying, allowing a bit of grief and maybe some ice-cream when a particular refusal really gets me down.

But I do keep trying.   And sometimes, like throwing spaghetti at the ceiling, something sticks……

 

I am beyond over the moon to announce that my Maine based friend Julie Persons of Adventures of Claudia and Chicks In Hats fame and myself have been selected to share a month long residency in Ireland next year for the month of October.   We are thrilled!!!!

In which Amy and Julie get together for a cup of tea once each summer.  Don’t mind my lake hair – we are usually at camp!

We have put up the party flags and are doing a little happy dance, albeit virtually for now.

I’ll share more about this exciting news as things formulate into firmer plans.  But for now it is enough to have the invitation from Olive Stack in lovely Listowel and to know the dates we are to be working there.

So much rich stuff ahead.  And the challenges too that we face in this world on a personal level of course, and globally as well.  I said to someone the other day that this is the new normal for artists – to be able to hold in our hearts and minds, at the very same time, the dual notions that all will be well, and that things are really wrong too. –  This is not an easy task.  But I aim to try, as I have for years now.  To highlight and showcase beauty, to work for positive change.  It’s what the artists I most admire do best.

Baby steps, Micromovements (as this blog has long been named) is how we move things along, how we take the leaps to grow into new opportunities and to try new things that challenge us.  It’s terrifying really.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”                   

                                   ~Georgia O’Keeffe

Gifts of Color and Light

The sun drifts down behind volcanos surrounding Antigua, Guatemala, providing the beginnings of the evening’s light show, Sunset.

It is winter in Ohio.  Today, at least, we have some sunshine and some not so bitter temperatures.  I will go outside with a dog in a bit to attempt to shake some of the doldrums nipping at my heels just now. A heaviness borne of annoyances mostly.  Demands of the season and the length of daily darkness have ground me down in recent weeks.  I know this will pass.  I look forward to Solstice next week and keep my soul facing the light as best I can, while making friends with the dark as needed.

Gifts are being crafted, alighting to celebrate the return of longer days.  Although it will be a good many weeks before we see the changes and shifts properly, our hearts know – and sometimes that is enough to lighten the spirit.

Last weekend there was a concert – a sharing of musical gifts in the form of our annual Peace and Merriment concert at the Riley School.  Our hearts were lightened by an afternoon of tunes and a few stories by our Master of Ceremonies, who is also my flute instructor, John.

All things seasonal are underway….

Decoration,

“Tangled”
Changing a bulb

Reflection,

Celebration,

Sharing light with the world,

I have lists made of gifts to gather for the kids in my life, most of whom like books, even the older ones.  Perhaps we can be like Icelandic revelers and lie around reading all day on Christmas!  As for the adults, we all seem to feel a distinct pulling away from the “stuff” of it all, opting more for subscriptions, memberships, classes – “things” which aren’t things and which brighten the experience of simply being human.

Perhaps you know someone close to you who feels similarly.  Perhaps this someone is feeling the darkness of winter, (which even on the brightest of winter days has a muted spectrum of color).  Perhaps, they might like to look forward to more light and color in the not-so-distant future.

Registration for my travel journal workshops in Taos, New Mexico and Antigua, Guatemala are officially open and Taos is nearing capacity (yay!).  Antigua, being international and a newer offering, still has a few spaces left in each of the two weeks available (click the link for details!)

I can’t say enough about what a dose of vivid color and warm air can do for one’s soul and body after a long winter and I find myself looking very forward indeed to the spring trip to Antigua in particular.

And the coffee.  You simply wouldn’t believe the coffee…

Our classroom is in the form of where ever we find ourselves each day, from rooftops to ruins.

We immerse in culture through some shopping and exchange of language.

Through it all we gather it all into a travel journal.

While I encourage the use of cameras and smart-phones to capture “source photos” for later work, there is simply no better way to really soak into a place than through the lens of a travel journal.  Merely taking the time to draw something, perhaps even multiple times, creates a broader understanding of place.  A broader understanding of our place in the All of Everything.  This can be difficult to pin down in our hectic world.  By cataloguing a travel experience in a little book, our travels are enhanced and brought to life in a new and richer way.

We notice the little things…..

….while standing in awe of the bigger things as well.

We immerse in the day to day of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which holds beauty, color and light at every turn.

There are a million different yellows….

Pinks as well.

Blues and greens are well represented.

Our palette here is bright and beautiful and I help you figure out how to recreate these vibrant hues on the pages of your journal with a simple set of watercolors.

As the end of the year draws nigh, with one major gift giving holiday behind us (gosh Hanukkah was early this year!!) and another too close for comfort, consider the gift of one of my workshops.  This might be a gift for a loved one or friend, or simply, and perhaps most importantly, to yourself, setting the tone for 2019 to be filled with close attention paid to beauty, light and color.

The world could use a bit of all of these.

See you in Antigua!

From the rooftop of Posada San Sebastian. (oil on Panel, 5×7)

Blocking

A new sweater is on the needles.  A pattern whose imagery captured my heart and so I have wrestled it onto some needles, cartwheeling through heavy mathematical calculations to get a proper gauge to suit the finished garment.  My gauge is, as of yet, thoroughly on pointe, yet I find myself worrying that the fit won’t be right and I’ll be living the knitter’s adage of auld….

“As ye knit, so shall ye rip.”

We shall see.  Should the gauge survive my still early-intermediate skills in both crafting cloth and manipulating patterns, and I find myself in the ball park for fit, I will eventually block this new sweater.  An old friend of mine who was an inspiration to me years ago in knitting, art making and living life in general, explained to me that blocking is essentially the notion of “teaching a sweater to be a sweater, or a tam to be a tam, once it’s knit up.”  I have resigned myself to possibly ripping back hours of work on this new sweater as I have invested a good deal of effort into choosing material I love and I want the end product to be as close to just right as I can make it.

Time will tell.

I share all of this with you just now because I’ve been thinking a lot about blocking, but in a different way.  More the idea of blocking time.  One great gift of this recent trip to Antigua and Lake Atitlan in Guatemala was that we were able to slow down to a more human-animal centered way of spending our time.

We sketched a good bit, my hub plowing through his sketchbook much more diligently than myself.  And we admired the color and beauty all around us.  Guatemala as a country is not without its troubles to be sure, but Antigua is fairly cosmopolitan and has a robust tourism industry and so we were encouraged to relax a bit….

Which we did, whilst resting from our country’s tendency toward the rat race of humanity.

I shall comb through the colorful photos and impressions of our time in Antigua and at the Lake in a later post but for today I want to share the big take-away.  Time.  And the managing of it.

Upon returning home, we jumped back into the rat race, hosting our extended family’s Thanksgiving celebration and getting back to work.  I have the great luxury of a part time job with flexible hours.  Provided I do the work I need to do to get our instruments out in a timely manner, I can come and go as I please. This generally works out wonderfully but in recent months I’ve found myself spending inordinate amounts of time in the car stuck in traffic.  There are construction projects and more people in general in our area.  And as anyone with any sizable commute can tell you, traffic is the Devil’s way of sucking one’s soul out, one slow mile at a time.

I decided that I would attempt to begin to block my time more efficiently, working longer days at the shop, then spending extended hours at home in the studio – painting, writing or doing the administrative duties and marketing to support the workshops.  This is week one.  And so far so good.

I’ve been attempting to wake more early to get some thinking and writing done before I leave the house and the day gets away from me.  I’ve begun to change the direction of the little bits coming at me reckless, faster and faster, attempting to fit them in properly.  (Hence the Tetris reference at the top of the post.)

As a list maker, this is working, but I must take care not to fall into the trap of “trying to get it all done.”  There is a wonderful podcast called “Hurry Slowly” in which host Jocelyn K. Glie discusses with writers and thinkers of our time all the things which make the trappings of modernity tricky territory.  In a recent mini-episode she asks:

“Who are you without the doing?” ~Jocelyn K. Glei

I’ll admit this question stopped me in my tracks.  I, like so many others, am trying to make a good painting, write something inspiring on this blog, earn a bit of money through art, teaching, or work at the shop.  I try to be a good parent, a good friend, a good daughter and wife and etc. etc.  But who am I, when all of this falls away?  Who are you?

Middle age is fraught with existential landmines and I’m happy that I am currently in a pretty decent state in that department.  But I strive to prepare myself for the ultimate journey to the ultimate far away place through contemplation of things that are beyond the day to day, and yet which rely upon and incorporate those very things at the same time.

Maximón’s house, Santiago De Laguna, Guatemala

We are afforded only so much time to take it all in in this world of ours.

The gods do blow the winds of time in mysterious ways – we are left to ponder our options when we land.

Mural in San Juan La Laguna, attibuted to jovenarte (near as I can tell, as it was not labeled and I’m relying on the interwebs…)

I for one will keep tweaking my earthly approach, likening it to the old game of Tetris, which frankly is the best life metaphor.  Even if it’s most stressful music to listen to.

ps. I worked at painting a bit today, limiting myself to three colors and attempting to make something from there.  It was a horrid failure.  But even the worst painting days teach us something and maybe next time I will use a different version of the three colors and see what happens.  How are you spending your time?  I am off to knit on the sweater about which I am not so sure……. more soon.

pps.  a number of spaces are open for both the Guatemala and Taos based travel-sketchjournal trips (but not that many!)  do come along!!

 

 

Save the dates!! (The future’s so bright)

2019 travel journal WORKSHOP DATES are officially posted and open for registration!  (Click on the linked pages below for all the specifics!)

Antigua, Guatemala: March 30- April 5, 2019    OR    April 7 – April 13, 2019  (note, these are two separate workshop weeks which I’ll offer back to back.)

Taos, New Mexico:  June 9- 15, 2019

For my friends out west, there is also a weekend sketch workshop with me in the Santa Cruz area slated for May 18 and 19, 2019.  Send me an email if you are interested!! (linked is my post about this year’s trip, which was wonderful!)

And below, I’ll catch you up a bit on the landing home after a most wonderful summer……

The future is indeed very bright around here.  We ‘gotta wear shades’ as they say.   This magical gypsy summer of serious traveling has left me feeling newly and deeply inspired, even unmoored and untethered at times.  Summer is always a a season of churning and  resetting, but this year these feelings are exceptionally poignant and rich.  I’ve had so much time to think about things, what with all the flying and driving and waiting and watching along the way from place to place to place.

A bit of art was crafted here and there while on the road, but mostly I found myself in a place of keen inner observation, a bird’s eye viewing of the self just now and the work currently at hand.

This summer I pondered a great deal about what in the world I am up to in this artful life (age appropriate behavior, as I just turned 49 the other day!!).  So many proverbially spinning plates all going at once, and there’s me, the mad, rushing spinner, jumping from thing to thing, spin, spin, spin, lest it all come crashing down around me.  At least, that is how it feels some days.  On other days, the balance of things settles deeply into my heart and I just know I am on the right track, in spite of all the wobbly plates.

Balance. It was all about balance. That had been one of the first things that she had learned: the centre of the seesaw has neither up nor down, but upness and downness flow through it while it remains unmoved. You had to be the centre of the seesaw so the pain flowed through you, not into you. It was very hard. But she could do it!”

― Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight

Recently, I was listening to a lovely chat between Krista Tippet and Liz Gilbert on the nature of creativity and the notion of choosing curiosity over fear.  (I like this notion a lot.)  There are many quotable gems throughout this interview and I highly recommend you take a listen to the unedited version of it.  There was one small thing though that made me stop the recording at one point and run for the journal to write it down.  Gilbert was talking of an inspirational favorite poet of hers called Jack Gilbert (no relation) who was described by his students at one point as being a teacher who –

“didn’t necessarily teach us so much HOW to write a poem, but rather WHY to write a poem.”

This statement stopped me in my tracks.  In some strange way, this philosophical shift encapsulates the work I do with travel journaling in my own workshops.  Yes, of course we do a bit of Drawing 101, and Basic Use of Watercolors, and etc.  But more importantly, we work together to get to the why of it all.  Why even bother to draw or paint or capture quotes in a little book which no one besides our patient loved ones will ever see?

Somehow, through the experiences shared as fellow artists, we distill these notions into the inspiration to do the work and figure out why along the way.  It is all about enchantment.  

And so, while I do teach the how-to along with my fellow sketchers locally, my heart of hearts is invested in the why  of it all, which is at the core of my travel based workshops.

Coming to this realization has helped me connect the dots a bit in the work that I do.  How the practice of local “Urban Sketching” might relate to and feed my passion for making anthropomorphic illustrations of animals having people-like adventures.  How these illustrations might also be “serious” enough to feed the fine-art branch of my artistic interests (i.e., paintings, sans hamsters).   How the fiber-based arts of embroidery and knitting might serve as idea-hatching meditations (whilst on the surface they may look like netflix-binging in my pajamas).  And how all of these varied practices might actually come together to make the workshops I teach quite different than others because they come from a very unique place,  me.

And as they say in Maine, ‘different is good‘.

And now here it is, not even the end of August, and I am already a feeling a little less angsty about work.  A bit more centered in forging forward in all of it, varied though it may be.  I am excited to have the dates and costs set for 2019’s offerings so get those checks in the mail lads!!

It feels good to be back home in this ol’ river valley of ours for a couple of months before the need to escape it all once more overtakes me and I hit the road again.

But for now, I am settled in my little nest, catching up on work at the shop, drawing and painting and writing every day possible and trusting that all will be well.

ps. Many of you have been asking when an Ireland based workshop might happen.  As of this writing, the right place has not quite found me yet.  And place is important.  We’d need a home base, something with space for us to live while we work (lodging AND classroom space); a place which has available local meal-catering options we could hire in if needed, walkability to a local village (because, MUSIC!) and preferably near the sea.  If you have any places on the emerald Isle to suggest, do let me know!  In the meantime, I plan to get back to Ireland on me own via artist’s residencies and visits to friends when at all possible.  I’ll keep you posted! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between

This time just last week I found myself still in Antigua, Guatemala, soaking up the last bit of sweetness and sunshine of a truly remarkable artistic adventure.

Today, at least according to calendars, spring has arrived.

Charlie is not amused, but I assure her that this will pass quickly.   For while the snow falls and is apparently due to drop 4-6 inches on our fair river valley, the birds do sing, the buds do promise a show, and so I admire the loveliness, and sift through sketches and photographs of a time well had down south….. now while sipping hot bevvies.

It is always a bit of a journey to truly move between one place and another, each beloved, each so different from the next.  And so I have taken my time getting back into the swing of things here at home.  There has been work to catch up on at the shop (this is my day job where I help craft world class concertinas and the cases which house them).  Not to mention unpacking, much laundry and the defragmentation of lists and accounting.  And oh yes, St. Patrick’s Day nudged itself in there as well.

All good and fine things, but I’ll admit to being a little more on the ‘busy’ end of the activity spectrum in recent days than I would normally care to be.  It is a gift to have a bit of time on a snowy morning to share a bit of this latest Guatemalan adventure here.  What a time we had!

After a quick visit to foggy, rain soaked Chicago, I traveled for a lengthy but uncomplicated day, arriving in Central America at sunset.  By the time I made my way to Guatemala City, it was fully dark, but there was full moon splendor for the first few nights of my stay.  I spent a number of evenings just marveling from the rooftop as la Luna came up and over the horizon.

A bit of time was also spent just marveling once again at the collection of trinkets and santos and other such things at our beloved Posada San Sebastián in those first few days.

Eventually, we did spend time out in town as well.  Antigua does not disappoint with it’s charm.

When I shared this drawing with our inn keepers, they knew immediately who these guys were and were thrilled to see them!

The local active volcano, Volcan de Fuego, was quite active indeed.  Breathing it’s blessings upon us by day and by night.

“We are volcanoes, when we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change.  There are new mountains.”

~Ursula K. LeGuin

We enjoyed working in our books a bit before workshop participants began arriving.  I was thrilled to see them!  Old and new friends alike.

Photo by Vanessa Sorensen

They turned out to be very hard workers!  Some folks came with a fair bit of know-how and skill, while others brought a beginner’s wonder to the table.  All worked beautifully together which was fantastic and not unexpected.  Somehow, I manage to attract the most amazing people to these Sketch Journaling adventures.

As luck would have it, before we even began working, our group was treated to a front row viewing of a local Lenten Processión just after our first dinner together….

We spent the coming days soaking up everything Antigua had to offer, both out in town and close to home, depending on mood and how warm the weather might get on any given day.  The days flew by and yet stretched endless with possibility.

I drew the Joseph Santos at our Posada a couple of times.

My friend and fellow artist Vanessa Sorensen took a fancy to the Santos as well.  Take a look at her gorgeous sketches and blog posts about the trip here and here.

There is color and community at every turn in this ancient city.

Check out sketches by Christina Wald from the trip at her Instagram page!  She of course had to draw the iconic Arco!

A brief note:  Having lived in Guatemala as a child, I have a deep regard for the complexities of the variety of communities to be found in the country.  When looking to acquire textiles and other forms of handicraft, it’s important to me to buy second hand and to pay a fair price.  If I get anything first hand, I like to, again, pay a fair price to the artisan responsible.  In recent years, thanks to my friends Rosemary who’s an amazing sketcher and mixed media artist (and a dear dear friend, pretty much responsible for this trip happening) and Mari Gray over at Kakaw Designs, I’ve gotten to know some weavers personally and I’m slowly learning a bit about what makes Guatemalan textiles.  Below is our friend Lidia Lopez talking a bit about her work and how she teaches others about it.  I always enjoy a visit to see her.  She is constantly offering new things to admire and perhaps purchase and she’s always great about helping us practicing our ever-evolving Spanish.  

And yet there was always a chance to duck into a cool and shaded corner for some quietude or to escape the sunshine.

photo by Vanessa Sorensen

There is a deep spirit of reverence at every turn.  Santos on santos on santos.  Religion is a very visceral and real thing in Latin America.  It’s refreshing.

she’s carrying a skull. it doesn’t get more real than that!

I prayed to the gods of all things in my own way.  Best I know how.

We drew and drew, sketched and painted.  Some just quick captures here and there.

Other longer drawings, begun in place and tweaked and worked (perhaps overly so) back at home at our posada.

The quirky festival atmosphere in Antigua lingered on.  Lovely evening light delighting photographers day after day after day.

As all trips do, this one eventually had to come to an end.  I traveled back home to family and day job responsibilities, friends traveled on to other places in Guatemala to do work in the realm of Speech Pathology.  While I sit here with tea and a wool hat and extra socks on, they informed me this morning that they grapple with 100 F degree heat for their work this week.  What a difference a week makes.

Meanwhile, I heard from the lads at the Posada that the new courtyard being installed in my last couple of days there is now complete and the results are stunning.  The outdoor space there has always been captivating, but now it’s truly expanded in its usability.  I can’t wait to get back there with workshop groups to sit and draw all day!  The dates for next year are approximately the first 2 weeks of April.  I’ll craft a specific page here on the blog soon with specifics and you can choose one or both weeks, both will be essentially same, but no two weeks are ever the same so if you attend 2, you’ll get 2.  More soon on all of that once the numbers are crunched.  If you are in the Northern California realm of this world and want a taste of this process, I’m doing a 2 day workshop outside of San Jose and Santa Cruz the last weekend in April.  You can sign up for one or both days.  Send me an email at abeefrnd@gmail.com if you are interested and I’ll get you the specifics.  And, while I’m on the topic, there are still a few slots left in the annual Taos, New Mexico trip which is a week long…..

There is much I miss about Guatemala as I gaze out upon our, for the moment, snowy landscape.   I miss the color and timelessness, the quick smiles of locals one sees every day on the street on the way to breakfast.  I miss the sense that just beyond the veil there is a part of myself I lost along the way somehow and which, with every visit, I begin to recapture.

There will be more about Guatemala on this lowly blog to be sure.  I hope to bring The Hub back there in November to share with him all I have discovered since our trip there for our anniversary.  I have many more drawings to make and musings to consider as well.  Something about this place feels like it can unlock a lot of what makes me tick as a person.  This is something I seek to explore.  We all have complicated histories.  Mine includes this marvelous place.

Amidst quietude, color and beauty, I am ready to begin unpacking it all….

Til next time Antigua.

 

Sketch Antigua Guatemala – Spring 2018

 

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 abeefrnd@gmail.com 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.

Join us!

Gratitude and Liminality

We awake at 230 am, Antigua local time, to brew a quick cup of coffee, double check that we’ve packed every last little thing we brought with us and picked up along the way.  It is dark, quiet and cool.  Hugo, one of our beloved innkeepers, sees us off with hugs and sleepy eyes and makes sure our driver arrives.  Which he does, only a few minutes late due to road closures set up for the weekend’s Procesións.

Careening through the wee hours and the volcanic hill sides to arrive in Guatemala City where lights, sounds, people and the airport are to be found, we begin our trek back into modernity one small step at a time.

The day awakens with a pink dawning. I part ways with my friends, knowing we will be drawing and painting and laughing together in just a few week’s time for a smaller workshop out in the San Jose area.  And so there are no tears, which is a relief.  I am sad to be leaving this 3rd world, but I look forward to my home comforts and creatures.

Airport life is strange and timeless, full of noise and people rushing about, and lots of concrete and hard surfaces. I do not care for it.  I am fortunate on both ends of this trip to have familiar faces to greet me along the way.  This sweet dog is called Enya.  She works with my dear friend Danielle in customs making sure no inappropriate or potentially dangerous things come along in peoples’ baggage.  I have such high regard for dogs with jobs and it is lovely to make her acquaintance.  Though clearly Enya is on the job and only has eyes for Danielle.

Eventually, I make it home to the Ohio River Valley, which is carpeted green with spring and there is even a bit of sunlight.

I settle in, and unpack a bit, catching up here at home, which feels really good.

Just like that, it’s my first day back home.  Coffee in hand (in my new hand painted mug from Guatemala), I walk outside with the dogs for our usual routine.  Almost like the last week never was.

And yet, it was.

I left for Antigua just over a week ago with a head full of the spin-cycle of modern life, but return now with a handful of worry dolls to carry those little things instead, and a heart filled with color, beauty, simplicity and love. Along with a huge dose of gratitude, which is a great gift indeed.  If you don’t shake stuff up now and again, all the good stuff sinks to the bottom.  We can’t have that.

Life in Antigua is quite easy and simple for tourists, or those residing there with money.  However, I believe that for the average citizen, life is probably a bit rough around the edges.  Yet people seem to get by for the most part.

Ever so creatively.

Shopping and laundry get done.

Money gets made, which can be a family affair.

Life goes on.  In some ways so very different than life here, and yet, mostly, pretty much the same.  To me, this was one of the take-aways from this trip.  I was reminded how very much alike we are as people. Human beans are so keen to draw lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’, when really, we are all just us.  My modern life, white skin and heaps of built in privilege are just the luck of the cosmic draw, really.  This is something to consider when we walk in the world.

I’m taking today to launder some well worn travel clothes, bathe my smelly dog, and enjoy a little quiet after the trip.  Perhaps a run and a bit of time in the garden as well if the weather holds.  I am enjoying the liminal, post-travel version of myself.  This mellow feeling that anything is possible and life is good.  Because it is.

I am thankful for the ways I have of connecting back to my travels in my heart of hearts, even as my life back home slides back into place.

My heart is wide open.  I am grateful for it.