And then a wee shadow to ground your developing figure in space….
(for the record, my sunshine is found in the left of my little world.)
Once your carrot is feeling like a figure, time to clothe it a bit. This is done with some basic shapes, like rectangles. The vendors here in Guatemala with their traditional outfits (the word for these is “traje”) are lovely to sketch in this way as the forms found in their clothing can be broken down to simple shapes.
Next I begin to add some appendages for this particular figure.
I then add a bundle on her head. Folks here work so hard! They carry their wares for peddling on their backs, heads, arms and then walk and walk and walk to make a sale.
I begin to find light in the bundle….
Then some patterning in her corte…..
And added some color therein….
I darken her outfit, showing the shadow beneath her heavy bundle….
a little more personality to her shadow.
Then I begin to add more wares for her to sell to the tourists here in Antigua. Necklaces which will dangle from one arm whilst her other balances the bundle above.
More colors on the necklaces and some threads too.
She’s looking good I think!
So very tiny, but these little portraits really have a ton of personality and I enjoy creating them!
I am SO inspired by the Guatemalan people. So very patient with us often clueless tourists with our clumsy spanglish. Quick with a smile and a “buenos días” on the sidewalk. The traditional textiles worn around town are a feast for the northern-most among us so thirsty for color. It is such great fun to learn about the various patterns and places represented in these weavings and embroideries. And great fun to explore them in a variety of ways in my sketchbook….
It is early morning and we are greeted at the gate of a local nature preserve by staff most serious of purpose.
We purchase tickets into El Pilar, a well kept, multi-purpose bit of land and head off for a hike to see about seeing some birds….
Our gracious hosts are our friends Mari Gray and Leander Khil, who between them carry many labels such as designer, ornithologist, writer, photographer, artist and so much more.
They take us into the forest and invite us into their world where birds reveal themselves in ways previously unknown and we are delighted.
Mostly we see and hear birds alive and well. Calling and chirping, flitting and flying. Yet we also see signs of nature taking it’s course which gives us a way to study closer…
This is indeed a seemingly magical wood. And I begin to wonder where we are in the world.
Up and up we climb, witnessing the world of the flying kind at their own level.
A glimpse of the valley below, and a cookie or two for our efforts, we marvel at the vista and rest a bit before heading back down where the birds have gone into hiding but there are still some interesting insects and flowers to behold.
We head into town for brunch where we revisit the names of all of the birds we saw this day.
Eventually gears must shift and we are back to the workshop scene where birds of another feather are gathering.
One by one, this upcoming week’s workshop participants arrive and are greeted with views of a volcanic realm where there is poetry hiding in the most unlikely places.
Like in the clouds…..
Or under a napkin holder on a silverware sleeve….
Days dawn bright and beautifully and some of us greet the sunrise with an early morning run up the hill for a view of the city….
These recent days have also given us surprise visits from some esteemed guests.
Mari stopped in to meet everyone today as well. We are hoping she can finish her thesis this week and come to paint with us!
By evening, we are all getting to know one another and making plans for Day 1 of this week’s activities over dinner.
It’s been rich, and we haven’t really even begun. Yet like birds of a feather, we have gathered to feel volcanic breezes ruffle our winter plumage. Our sights are set on seeing the colors for what they are and exploring Antigua in the week ahead.
As the week gets started, I will be doing my best to update on the usual channels where I can, but my priority is, of course, being fully present for those who’ve come here to make art with me. So I’ll catch up here when I can…. Til then…
A smooth day’s travel via winged chariots hailing from north and west and of course my little Ohio River Valley. A few of us are landed, in our physical bodies at least, if not fully and completely just yet.
Antigua is mostly quiet, especially compared to years past when Easter time was nigh. The breezes are warm, two of us here are from cold climes. We are beginning to thaw.
These past weeks of grief and loss have been wearying, this is certain. Traveling finds me weary at the end of an uneventful but rather long day as well. But I am grateful for the thawing. Grateful for this work which brings me to such beautiful places in the world.
Tomorrow is a fresh day. With camera and sketching gear in hand, I’ll head into town to warm up the image making muscles with my fellow artists.
“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
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.
were fed by volcanoes
that fire milk
piercing the surface
pierces our facade
to get in
and feed our souls
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.
Each day would see us tackling a new-to-us ruin in this gorgeous city, sketching and taking it all in along the way.
By afternoon we would work back at Posada San Sebastián, tidying up sketches we’d begun in the morning…
and perhaps capturing a bit of our home-away-from-home at the Posada as it’s filled with all sorts of sketchable fare……
I hope to make some proper paintings of the shifting light in the laundry area.
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.
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.
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
“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.
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.
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.
(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.”
and so, in the spirit of the quote above, I offer you this imperfect blog post, for now .
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.
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…..
“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…..
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…..
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.
There is magic around every turn there.
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.
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!!!!
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.”
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….
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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 whyof 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-toalong 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 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!