Tag Archives: art

beau regard

Today I went to the gym for some exercise.  It felt great to get a good solid run in and some stretching too.  I spend so much time bundled up in layers of wool underwear, hats, scarves and down – it was just nice to be all warmed up for an hour.  There is a track at the gym that I like to run around and around…. and around.  Unlike a treadmill, the track provides me with plenty to look at, people to watch and wonder about, and a window well to keep a notebook where I can stash ideas.

Did you ever have one of those play-doh machines when you were a kid?  The one that pushes the play-doh through templates to create cool shapes?  During my visit to Mammoth Cave, the ranger guides would often compare the formation of gypsum crystals to the play-doh machine process.  Depending on the shape of the limestone void, various gypsum shapes would appear.  My own artistic practice has a play-doh machine quality to it.  When I run, ideas and notions seem to seep through my pores, almost as if being pushed out by the effort of a hard run.  This is good and happens more often than not.  I am grateful for it.

Currently I’m developing ideas for a finished Mammoth Cave related work that for now feels just slightly out of reach.  So I’m running and drawing and continuing to view things through what my friend Elizabeth calls, my “artist’s gaze”.  This beau regard (french, loose translation can be beautiful gaze, or beautiful eye) is what artists are known and ideally valued for.  Their unique perspective on the world is why we visit their blogs, purchase their art and music and writing.  It is a rare day that my world is not made more open or brighter because of the work of a fellow artist.

Nudges have been coming from various directions for some time for me to get some work made to sell on Etsy.  I have been dragging my heals, as is my nature. Somehow I haven’t felt cool enough, or productive enough, or…. I don’t know.  I have just avoided it.  But when my dear friend (and French medievalist) Anna made the play on my name as beau regard, it occurred to me that maybe I could make a go of it on the Etsy site with a cool name like that.  (insert a chuckle here at my sheer silliness.)  So we’ll see where it goes.  I’d love to get back to the wax table once I improve the venting in my studio.  Above are collages wrapped up for an artist trade thing I participated in this week.  They are pretty packages.  Things that might work nicely in the Etsy realm.  Baby steps.  The dip of a toe into this new realm.  This all will hopefully coincide with some updates on my website which is such a wonderful extension of my artist self.  I will, as always, keep y’all posted.

Meantime, I am trying to insert little glimpses of magic into my daily life.  I picked up these sweet flower faery lites at High Street here in town.  With our trip south over the holiday, we had used a honeysuckle branch with colored lights as a makeshift Christmas tree.  It was time for the color lights to go away until next year, but I really like the lights-on-a-stick idea… these should take us into spring time….


I had a minor meltdown the other day.  Ok, maybe slightly more than minor.  It may have been a case of burn-up-on-reentry after my NYC trip, faced with real life again with all of its complexities.  It may have been this nasty cold that I am trudging my way through.  It may have been the fact that tornado season is about to end and with it, my earning potential as a puppeteer.  It was more than likely all of these and more.  I spiraled downward into the familiar dark hole where the questions of why do I make art, will I ever make a living doing anything artful, is it even worth it….are the norm.  It’s not a fun place to be.  Even at my grumpiest, I usually don’t have the chuck-it-all-away sensation more than once a year, but here I was, feeling like I just wanted to quit.

Timing is everything they say.  And so it has been since my little existential crash.  Here are a few examples:

1.  The long overdue dedication to the ArtWorks mural Tina, our teen apprentices and I worked so very hard on all winter, was yesterday.  We got to unveil the work in dramatic fashion and were treated to a wonderful reception by the appreciative folks at the Convention Center.  Our friends and families were there to cheer and ooh and ah.  It was great!  It is not often that such work is so publicly celebrated.  It cheered me up a bit in spite of being in crisis mode internally.

2.  While at the dedication, a good friend of mine congratulated me and asked how I am doing.  I let her know that I was a bit down and just didn’t feel like the art life is for me.  I think I may have said something about looking for a real job.  A standard day job.  She just smiled and said, “you can’t quit being an artist Amy.  It’s like motherhood.  you don’t just quit.”  I smiled back.  She’s right.

3.  I came home from the party and checked my facebook and email as usual.  I am an NPR fan both on the radio and on facebook.  On their FB fan page there was a post about a video for Josh Ritter’s song The Curse which features puppets handmade by the drummer in his band.  It’s so beautiful and artful.  I fell immediately in love and watched again and again.  It reminded me of what I love about puppetry.

4. Then, in my email, there were three separate messages from 3 very different places.  One was a follow up from my sketchbook class last fall saying she would like to take the class again now that there’s a book making component to it and that she’s tremendously excited to go on the Taos trip next spring.  The other two messages were from people whom I know personally but who had never seen my art work.  They both want to meet to talk about art for their homes.

5.  Ok, so by now, you get the point.  Avalanche of reminders.  But I have one more little thing to share.  Today I have been at the computer most of the day getting caught up on Drawing Down The Vision work with emails and blog posts, research and finding my way around this cool thing called Basecamp.  I am trying to pull myself up by my boot straps.  Getting some illustrations out onto Veer and other online stock photo websites to maybe make some extra arty income.  One guy’s work that Adam introduced me to is Hugh McLeod, creator of cube grenades which are little art works geared toward the business set.  He had this to say about art:

“I’m inte­res­ted in how art affects what some peo­ple call “The Real World”- the work­place, the world of  work, the world of busi­ness. That’s what the cube grenade idea is all about.

My adver­ti­sing buddy,Vinny Warren, grew up in a Roman Catho­lic hou­sehold in Ire­land. He was telling me that his parents would always have a few reli­gious icons han­ging on the wall somewhere. Pic­tu­res of Saints, Mary & Baby Jesus, that kind of thing.

Why? Says Vinny, “To remind us who we are.”

Art that reminds you who you are. Exactly. What applies in Catho­lic hou­seholds also applies in pla­ces of busi­ness. Sha­red Mea­ning. Exactly. Social Objects. Exactly.

I don’t think any of this is roc­ket science…”

Hugh’s art is pretty edgy and cool.  Very different than mine.  But he reminds me that there is a place for art work anywhere.  In the homes of people who admire our work.  Or in the day job offices of folks who might not be artists themselves but like surrounding themselves with reminders of who they are.

I am sitting here in my studio, surrounded by all kinds of reminders such as books, art from friends, bits of found stuff, grateful that I have an artist’s mind and heart.  Difficult though that path may be to hike from time to time.  I’m grateful for the reminders from the Universe or whatever Its Name may be that came to me in a low soul time, though this one’s gonna take some serious diggin’ out.

Below are some snapshots of the great unveiling of our mural.  Enjoy.

oh, and p.s.  I hope you get to spend some time this Memorial Day Weekend to think about those who have been lost, in war and beyond…..

Here’s Tina, tearfully thanking everyone and explaining her vision for the mural.

Jake Speed and the Freddies were there to entertain.  Their lyrics are in our piece as well.

…. and so the veil comes down….

Lots of time in front of the mural for pictures and congratulations.

Here Kim finds the lyrics to her song, The Greatest Story.

We had quite a crowd for the party.

I guess it’s official.  I’m an artist.


This week has me filling my well quite a bit with some much needed solitude, new music to chew on and some time with friends and family.  Today I went for a rainy walk with Lisa and Anna in  Spring Grove Cemetery which has been a favorite walking place and source of inspiration of Lisa’s for years.  Spending time with friends who are also fellow artists is a nourishing way to jump start my own creativity, making space for productive alone time.

A couple of years ago a movie called Once came out and I heard about it from numerous folks, all who said I would love it.  I finally got around to watching it this week and, as predicted, it was right up my alley.  The music in it is just the sort of stuff I like to listen to when working in the studio, so naturally, I began to dig a little deeper into who the artists are who put the soundtrack together for the movie.  Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova wrote/co-wrote most of the tracks on the CD and they have a delightful musical chemistry which makes this album somewhat different from the work that Hansard does with his Dublin based band The Frames.

I read a number of articles about Irglova and The Frames, but it’s Hansard’s thoughts on making music that really resonate with me.  He is an artist’s artist….

“Basically all songs are residue. They’re just bits of muck, for me. They’re not craft. If you imagine a snail that leaves a residue then goes off and dies, and for years there’s a silver path of residue across the wall of your garden shed. It looks gorgeous, but [pauses] I always imagine that people who make art just live a life. It doesn’t matter if they lead a good or a bad life, but they leave behind these increments in time, little bits and clues as to what emotional landscape or emotional mapping was going on at the time.”

People who make art just live a life.  wow.  I think there is quite a bit of truth to this, though there is also the show-up-and-work part of things that needs to happen as well, at least for me.  But this notion of simply allowing the art to happen is refreshing and maybe something I need to consider.  I am guilty of a fair amount of over-thinking which I often side-step by involving myself in process laden work, where losing oneself is a positive by-product.

So now as I listen to the music of my new fave Glen Hansard (as well as the hypnotic sound of my leaky roof) I think I’ll go lose myself in a bit o’ beeswax….

Back in the saddle, so to speak

There is nothing like a road trip to shake things up artistically, especially when things have been hard on the home front.  My trip south with Kim went off with out a hitch and we had a great time.  It was so good for me to hang out on the edge of things and just take it all in. It was restful, at least for me, although touring is hard work for the musicians.  The “lads” with whom Kim was touring were a great bunch of guys.  My favorite venue they played was Eddie’s Attic, the premier singer/songwriter listening room in the Atlanta area.

Not all of our time was spent working however.  We managed to find some wonderful second hand clothing shops in Atlanta and Greenville, SC and an amazing toy store in downtown Greenville.

The trip was only 2 overnights and was over in a flash.  I personally, could have used a few more days on the road and will have to plan accordingly next time and join the tour sooner!  A good chunk of our time driving home through the mountains was spent in the fog, which was a nerve wracking for driving, yet beautiful at the same time.

Upon arriving home I put the finishing touches on a quilt I have been working on for one of my dearest friends who is having her first baby.  The design is based on the notion of “friendly monsters” which the kids drew out on paper, and then I interpreted into a quilt.  The result is amazing and like nothing I have ever made.  Below are some photos….

Now that the quilt is done and has been presented to its new home, it’s back to the wax table for me.  Below is my latest painting in encaustic.  It’s 12 X12 inches and seems to be heading into different thematic territory for me.  I have only briefly touched on my own past experiences to make art, choosing more often to work from my present surroundings, or broader collective inspiration such as Nature or the idea of Place.  But recently, my interesting and at times wild life and upbringing have been bubbling up and begging to be interpreted into art.  Most specifically, an earthquake that my family and I experienced in 1976 in Guatemala City.  I have only made a couple of pieces of art work based specifically on that terrifying experience but I think I am ready to tackle this idea a little more head on.  I’ll see how it goes.  Processing old stuff is hard, but necessary sometimes, and powerful, especially artistically.  I’ll keep you posted…

Corner office, with a view

    Curious deer gazing in my window

I have been home in my new home studio space for about 5 months now and still marvel daily at how wonderful it is.  This light filled, quiet work space was one of the selling points of this house we decided to move to.  I love it.  For the first time ever my tools, technology, inspiration, family and kitchen are all under one roof.  There is nothing like having a pot of chili on the stove, kids quietly doing homework, the dog snoozing on the couch and me getting real work done, all happening at the same time!
There are things I miss about my old house, (primarily its “oldness”), and things I miss about my former studio space (the company of my Blue Door Studio mates), but frankly, things couldn’t be better here.  I step into this space each morning and breathe a deep sigh of gratitude, and wave to anyone who might happen to be peering into my window with a curious gaze.

Useless Work

Grandfather Ash, outside the studio doorAn artist sister-friend of mine sent me this quote today from somewhere on the internet (not quite sure who wrote it… let me know if you know so I can give proper credit where it is due):

“What is the use of a tree? Well, it has many uses, but it isn’t TRYING to be useful. It’s just doing what it wants. And in that process, it does its job in the natural order of things. Despite all the rantings of moralists, you are in the same boat. The only way you are ever going to do an ounce of good in the world is to do what you want. Do what makes you happy, or at least what distracts you from your misery…. So revel in your perfect uselessness. It’s the useful thing to do…. You do not have to strive every minute to be better than it is possible to be…..”

In that spirit, I have spent today in a sort of wandering mood. I met an old friend I haven’t seen awhile for coffee, stopped into Salon Cherry Bomb for an impromtu hair trim (amazingly, she had a spare 5 minutes). I practiced some music, walked the dog and took a nap. There is a small part of me (getting smaller by the day) that feels a little guilty having a day like this. But the gentler part of me, the artist-self who gets stronger and wiser each day, knows better. In the midst of all of this “uselessness” I seemed to have found the key to slowing down the clock. Today seems to have lasted longer than most. Along with my wanderings, some drawing has gotten done, some of the boring studio house-keeping tasks managed to get done as well. I have some ideas brewing that weren’t there earlier in the day…. I feel productive. It’s been a good day in the studio. The action and practice so necessary to maintaining forward momentum as a self-employed artist must be tempered with balancing non-action and days of uselessness (or so it might appear to others) that allow for ideas to simmer.

So, that said, I think I’ll make like a tree…. and grow. Useless as that may be.

Baby Steps (a.k.a. Micromovements…)

It is a crisp, cool, October day here in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is not a special day, really. Not a new year, or even a new month or week. Just a normal work day. A Thursday. A perfect day to dip my rather wary toes into the pool of bloggers I have come to enjoy and respect in recent years. Often I read something on one of these posts that changes my perspective a little; that causes me to pause and reconsider something I may not have thought about before. I am better for it.

I know many people whom I admire who have made the decision to create change in their lives. Some have stopped smoking, or decided to lose weight or begin an exercise program. The ones who have found success in their endeavors are those who went about it without much pomp or circumstance. They just got started, one normal day. Simple as that. Then, step by step and over time, goals were accomplished, then new ones created. And lives were lived well.

I have come to realize the precious quality of each individual’s voice in this world. More recently and miraculously, my own included. And so, with this blog, I am putting my voice out there with the others. It will more than likely be largely ignored by anyone outside my network of family and friends. But in this blogging framework I have an official-feeling place to ponder new art ideas and collect the data the world throws to me. I have a place to structure my thinking; a place to take those baby steps that will lead to the larger work. I am proud to place myself in this blogging arena with all the other interesting voices out there and I look forward to what magic may come back around my way by taking this one… tiny… step…