Tag Archives: creativity

Hear ye, hear ye!

It’s been a fair bit of effort in the doing, as I am not a person of numbers, but new prices are now officially set for next summer’s sketching workshop in Taos, New Mexico.  You can find them here:

Join us in Taos, June 2018!!

Why a change in price?  Well aside from a few costs which have risen in the 7 years I’ve offered this workshop, for the 2018 offering next summer, I am expanding the workshop to be a full 5 day offering. Usually we have a full 4 days, with departure on Friday morning of our week together to give folks a chance to head to the hills and practice all they have learned in four days of workshop exercises. But over the years, participants have been loathe to part and I have gained more and more to offer and so, I give another day to it all, which changes the pricing structure a bit as well.

I hope this new structure works for everyone.  I already have a handful of folk ready to join us in June.  Won’t you be one of them?  New Mexico is a spectacular place in which to tap into the language of an artful soul.

Send me an email if you need any more information about the workshop or what it entails.  If the class speaks to you but you feel you are ‘a beginner’ or ‘can’t draw’ or any of that other stuff, I assure you, I’ll help you sort all of that out in the doing of it.  Trust me.  You won’t be disappointed.

Creativity is our birthright.  More soon….

Musical Activism

“Sing and you shall defeat death; sing and you shall disarm the foe.” – Elie Wiesel.

Pavilion Wedding at the Swanannoa Gathering

I am returned, once again, from the magical world of the Swannanoa Gathering, which this year celebrates it’s 25th anniversary.  And once again, it was quite the week of music and mayhem, tunes and tricks, laughter and love, friendship and food, beverages and beauty.

There are many ideas floating around in my head for drawings and illustrations seeded by this past week which I shall soon share here of course.  Art begets art and by spending the week with so many talented and creative folks, I am fairly swimming in artful thought-glitter!!

As you can see, there is much joy to be had in a week at the Swannanoa Gathering.  This is so very sorely needed in this heavy world at what feels like a very dark time.  I was keenly aware of the bits of the outside world which seemed to follow us beyond the mists into this special place.

mists of reality closing in

But in spite of dark times and a world awash with so much hatred and violence, we came together, once again.  A dear friend of mine from Swannanoa overheard someone say one night at a ceili where everyone dancing seemed to have a smile on their shining faces, “Why can’t we be like this all the time?  All of us?”  I don’t think he meant just us at the gathering, but maybe more the world at large.

ceili fun
Yes, for a brief second, Cillian Vallely was a dancer.

So hard not to smile in the midst of this music.  Heartfelt, Joy-filled….

And in the midst of all of the fun, we were there to learn.  Everyday, we went to the classes available to us to soak up all the tunes and tips we could from our multi-talented instructors.  For me, this was Nuala Kennedy in the morning, and Kevin Crawford in the afternoons.

The rapport and sense of play these two bring to teaching and playing and performing is simply infectious and I find them both incredibly inspirational in my own teaching work as well as of course, the music itself.

class begins

Nuala teaches

in which kevin hunts down a roving F #
“who’s playin’ that F sharp lads?? it was over here somewhere…”

Neither one of them lets us get away with anything but our very best work and so on the edge of our seats, we huffed away on our flutes and learned so very much.  My mind is still quite thick with all of the information we gained over the week!

The week was not all classes though….

There were concerts, lectures, opportunities to play more slowly on a new instrument.  There were sessions till all hours of the night.  And of course lots of laughter and community with friends.  Here is a small sampling…..

slow real slow
Slow, real slow. Slow session needs a reminder to slow down sometimes, so a sign was placed to much laughter!

 

peaceable kindom
John Skelton cracks up at a flute ‘truce’ between Nuala and Kevin, who often are seen as camp rivals. All in good fun!!
A highlight of the week was this blast of flutes playing all together. This sound is one of main reasons I got into playing flute in the first place.
A highlight of the week was this blast of flutes playing all together. This sound is one of main reasons I got into playing flute in the first place.

 

clash with the fiddles
The fiddles didn’t take too kindly to the notion of ‘Rejecting the tyranny of the fiddle’!

 

Ellen and I attempted to stay dry whilst at dinner one night. We look rather sweet and somewhat Parisian or something I believe!
Ellen and I attempted to stay dry whilst at dinner one night. We look rather sweet and somewhat Parisian or something I believe!

(side note: during the storm, a huge lighting strike occurred on campus.  it hit a tree and out went the power.  it was captured in this amazing sound byte by my friend Mary….. listen for at least 40 seconds…..)

 

Love walks
These two celebrated their second anniversary this year at the gathering where they were married. (click!  It’s a link to the post about the Swannanoa Pavilion Wedding.)

 

misty selfie
So steamy at times there in the North Carolina mountains!

 

last night's songs
A song between old friends.

 

In which we concertina beginners hang on by any G we can grab onto!
In which we concertina beginners hang on by any G we can grab onto!
Nights in the breezeway provided lovely acoustics and a break away from the crowds round the regular session tents.
Nights in the breezeway provided lovely acoustics and a break away from the crowds round the regular session tents.

 

The walk from our living quarters to meals and other things over on campus.
The walk from our living quarters to meals and other things over on campus.
Woodland wildlife
Many folk saw bears around campus, but all I got were some tree-giraffes….

 

The food served up by Osborne and Pei En is so scrumptious! They treat us so well. Thanks for this snapshot Bob!!
The food served up by Osborne and Pei En is so scrumptious! Over the years they’ve become good friends who welcome us back kindly. Thanks for this snapshot Bob!!

There is so much more in the world of sweet snapshots I could share with you here.  Special thanks to my flute friends Kate, Bob and Colin who generously shared their pictures for this post.  And I could leave the update here and that might be the end of it.  But while we were at camp, the world was continuing on its crazed path of recent self destruction.  News was leaking in.  The music we were making took on a whole new gravity.

As is often the case, the ‘Flutilla’ was planning some mischief for the end of week student showcase.  In years past we had made fun with the ‘rivalry’ between Nuala and Kevin, as our allegiance to them both made them often wonder, ‘hmmmm, who do the flute kids like best?’  But of course we love them both equally and we get something different from each.   So this year, we took on the fiddles.  Which seemed a fun direction to go, based on the hijinks at the concert the other night.  And so I drew up a little drawing, and we made a plan for take over in the form of wearable art…..

 

 

Reject the tyranny of the fiddle!!!! (coined originally by Kieran O'Hare)
Reject the tyranny of the fiddle!!!! (coined originally by Kieran O’Hare)

Update!!!:  Due to the high level of interest in this design, I have created a tidied up version of it to put on products such as totes, shirts and the like which you can order from the link below.  Proceeds will go toward a scholarship to Celtic Week at the Swannanoa Gathering.  Viva la Flutilla!!!!

Resistance is Flutile

Visit my Society6 page HERE (click on ‘here’)  🙂 

But then we awoke the next morning to read the dreadful news of Nice and beyond and we approached the day more somberly.  I had the feeling that my blog post from before leaving for camp was even MORE important and we all talked about how important and actually ‘serious’ the ‘fun’ we were having at camp truly is.

My dear friend Joe Bly wrote a gorgeous poem, in true mythical epic poem format that had begun with the ‘let’s take down the fiddles’ sort of approach and idea.  But as he wrote it, it changed.  Into something bigger and better than all of that.  With his poem, the ‘tyranny’ we speak of became all that is evil in the world at large.  All the violence and negativity.  The work and fun we embarked upon at the Swannanoa Gathering is the rejection of all of that.  The folks I know from the gathering go back to their real lives as doctors, teachers, paramedics, therapists, healers, parents, lawyers and beyond.  They are bright and active in their communities and keenly aware of the news.  And into that work in the outside world, they bring the laughter and creativity that a week of music camp can ignite.  I simply marvel.

Cloaked in the mists of Tír na nÓg, the Otherworld of Swannanoa, Where three hundred days pass as three, Rival Clans of the Blackwood vied in feats of strength and skill, Lost in the Loop of myths and legends.

Come! Ye Fianna of the Flute! Daughters of Méabh, Sons of Cúchulainn! Come forth from the mists and meet in the ford of the river that divides us, For now is the time to cast arms beneath the waves And in Friendship and Honor Unite.

We are reborn as warriors anew as we march forth into the shining day.

For are we not free? For do we not face the shadow of a common foe, Hearts and eyes open wide?

For we shall not grovel in fear of the Darkness But serve the light of the clear morning.

Behold! The fog lifts! We shall Behave the Bravest, as we find Common Ground, Carrying the Tune before us as the new standard of peace and fellowship.

We are the new Druids, raising our staffs of

Blackwood, Horsehair, Silver Wire and Skin.

We cradle the sacred rite passed down through the mists of legends, And it is our sworn honor to push together against the night, With our strength and our weapons of music and laughter.

Now, more than ever.

I do believe that Joe may have channeled something divine in this poem.  He read it  aloud at the showcase before the flutes came together as one and played a jig together in unification.

The shirts and our grand plan were secret so we handed them out 'trunk sale' style in back of the pavilion. Great fun!
The shirts and our grand plan were secret so we handed them out ‘trunk sale’ style in back of the pavilion. Great fun!
There are so many of us when we band together!!!
There are so many of us when we band together!!!
star teachers
Everyone flutey wore the shirt. It was grand!!!

The evening wore on and there were so many gorgeous tunes and songs put on by everyone….  We soaked up and steeped in the final evening together.

Jack played in the showcase with his fiddle class taught by Martin Hayes, the Buddha of the Fiddling world
Jack played in the showcase with his fiddle class taught by Martin Hayes, the Buddha of the Fiddling world

As the week came to an end, we all talked much of not only the music we had experienced, but also of the wisdom we were given by those who light this musical path.

martin speaks of presence
Martin Hayes is a font of musical life wisdom and I love him for it!

A highlight of the week for me was a ‘potluck’ lecture-talk put on by Martin Hayes who is a great fiddler, not only in the traditional sense but also as one who is constantly pushing the boundaries of the music itself.  He spoke of being truly present in our music and that to do that we must be present with ourselves.  This notion of presence really struck me.

When I play music, or make art, I am most truly present.  And the doing of these things over the years has enriched my life and caused me to be more present in all aspects of my life.  Presence.  It’s crucial.  Presence in ourselves.  Presence with each other.  This alone could help heal a lot in this world, I do believe.

some notes jotted down from martin…

“…raw beauty of a melody.”

“simple music, heartfelt.”

“connective tissue between musician, instrument, and player”

“anything that further releases inner expression is valid”

“allowing.”

“trying is an obstacle”   (yoda??  is that you???)

“presence”

“leave the safety zone behind”

“trust the unknown.”

“create a spell.”

Last week at Swannanoa was more than just music.  It felt a lot like activism.  Pursuing creativity and kindness, music and beauty in a world so hell bent on the opposite seems like an insurmountable challenge at times.  But I accept this challenge.  As best as I know how to.  I share my approach to art work in the form of teaching and I’ve been told it has changed lives for the better.  Much in the way my instructors at Swannanoa and beyond have changed mine.

I am deeply grateful to be on this beautiful planet at the same time as these people.  These musicians and friends of mine.  The world needs their beauty.  My beauty.  and Yours.

“Sing and you shall defeat death; sing and you shall disarm the foe.” – Elie Wiesel.

It bears repeating.

 

Chip of a Star

This time last week, hard to believe, I was packing up boxes and cases, making last minute visits to loved ones in my home away from home, grasping hugs and goodbyes to new and old friends alike, with promises not to forget.

big sky at mabels

It’s easy to come back home to our day to day lives and forget the work we have done while in Taos.  The week out there being just one in a year full of so many work-a-day weeks.  Weeks when we might be tempted to forget the importance of our day to day creativity.  And how crucial that creativity and the belief in it are to a Life Well Lived.

Air BandB girls

Each year I marvel at how a little class focusing on keeping a daily visual journal can become such Big Work.  It IS Big Work.  And I mustn’t forget.

swag  For myself in my own practice of it, and for my students as well.  What once started as an art class with some sketching and gathering involved, has morphed into a week each summer where some like minded folks come together to open up to the world.

It’s really as simple as that.  And as complicated.

I’ll attempt here to share a little bit of what we accomplished this year in Taos.

First off, re: the little ditty at the very above.  I really miss my Taosñas.  Each is a beautiful Chip of a Star.  Every year whoever needs this class comes to it.  I panic a little as registrations come in (or don’t) and remind myself that this is not up to me.  My job is to put it out there and those who are supposed to be there, will be there.  This year was no different.  I had some repeat attendees whom I hope benefitted from new tricks, and some newbies whom I hope are affected forever by the power of the work.  I really, really miss them.  We somehow manage to pack a year in a day, everyday, day after day.  And every morning they’d show up at breakfast, exhausted, raw and ready for more, much like myself.

Pictures cannot do the week justice.  But I have a few snapshots to share, and a few more words as well.

mabel speaks 2

I arrived in Taos and the town was hopping, unlike usual.  The Mabel and Company show was making quite the splash down at the Harwood, and if you are in town, I recommend you see it.  This place has attracted artists and movers and shakers since before history.  The show at the Harwood gives us a snapshot of one such time in history when the attraction was especially compelling to the likes of Georgia Okeeffe, Ansel Adams, and DH Lawrence.

Georgias cross

On both the front and back ends of this trip personally, I opted to get out of town and visit the old Lawrence Ranch, now owned, operated and managed by the University Of New Mexico.  I was blown away by the sense of place I found there.
DHL rests

In particular, the famed Lawrence Tree captured my imagination and the interest of my pencil.  I truly enjoyed spending time with this tree.

to touch the lawrence tree

In my heart of hearts, I think each tree has a soul of sorts, but like people, some trees have a soul which shines brighter than most.  This is one such tree.  And Georgia O’Keeffe knew it herself.

 

It was an honor to spend some time with it.  Humbling as well.  Because, let’s face it, not all of us are Georgia’s.  We must all find our own way.

NM skies from the Morada

Meanwhile, folks arrived and gathered and we began the week with some exercises “where the tight are loosened, and the frightened are freed.”

loosening up Sallys contour drawing day 1 Day one loosens

I love the energy of these early drawings.  And wish I had gotten more images of all of the work done that morning.  Basically, we laid some locally found color down and then did some contour drawing over top.  But the end product was less about what was on the page and more about what remained in the heart of the artists themselves.  Suddenly, those who came to the table buttoned up with all kinds of amazing skills, found their work loosening and changing and growing.  And the beginners, well, they had these gorgeous instant drawings they didn’t know they were capable of creating!!  It was pure magic.

Later that afternoon, as luck would have it, the Pueblo had a dance to attend.  So we moved the afternoon class to the evening, and traveled en masse to witness the dancing.

I have taken to not posting much about what we witness at these dances at/in the Pueblo itself, as they are sacred, and really only to be witnessed first hand.  But overall, for Day 1 of an art workshop, this was kind of a spiritual ticket to the delicious underworld of it all.  Someone remarked that the energy in the classroom that evening was more like that of Day 4 than Day 1, and I credit that to the workings of the day at the Pueblo.

L'Engle truth

IMG_20160610_070832

As the week went on, day two into day three, all began to roll together.  I had structure laid down for the work each day, but into that structure, Magic came.  And the days, once again stretched and changed and became Other.

Creativity is really just the structuring of Magic. 

~Anne Rush

NM skies

Lani sketches

In the past we have had the great pleasure of visiting the buffalo herd of my now dear friend Harold Cordova.  In spite of some serious new responsibility on his shoulders we once again paid a visit to these amazing animals who were nursing some new members of their herd and shyly introduced us….

buffs 3buffs 2buffs in situ

As usual, these regal beasts wove their way into our hearts and into our sketchbooks.

buffs sketch Christinas buffs

And in the spirit of the endlessness of the days of this particular trip, I found time that evening to play some tunes with local Taos friends who have become dear to me over the years.  In spite of teaching all day.  In spite of a spiritual visit to some otherworldly animal friends.   Eventually, we did this twice during my time there this year.  Again, I marvel.  At the sheer deliciousness of it all.

taos tunes
photo credit to Linda Dietrich

Of course, all work and no play, make Amy an insufficient instructor, and so I did manage to get my feet up now and then, as per the instructions of the history of the house….

dennis hammock

I’m no Dennis Hopper, but I do know how to put my feet up .  Special shout out to my dear friend Jamison who set this bit of relaxation up for me there.  All in keeping with the spirit of the house.

hammock time

(yes, this hammock was in the same spot as Dennis’s hammock back in the day.  Amazing how the stories of old speak to us in this day and age, via something so simple as a hammock.)

Meanwhile, we worked and worked and worked….. (and I took a few  – but not many- pictures.)

anitas lani a la F Franckdrawing the pueblosketching cloudssallys mountainssketching tara

Sadly and soon, it was time for our annual end of workshop dinner….

beauty repeatingfinal tearfull dinner

The food at Mabel’s was, per the usual, show stopping.  They are true artists.  And we are grateful for the gorgeous, plated dinner to which we were treated that evening.  (not to mention, the breakfasts and lunches day to day!!!)  No dinner in Taos that evening could have compared to ours, I am certain of it.  The food and the people of my day-to-day in Taos are what I am missing the most, really.

the view to the loo

I am now back in Ohio.  I have lots of delicious plans for further travels with loved ones and into musical mires which themselves transcend time and space much like my time in Taos.  But these are different than Taos, and I am still missing my time there.  The me there.  The Us there.  There is a small bit of me that hangs onto it throughout the rest of the year.  A bit that only those Who Have Been There can really relate to.

My goal is not to forget.  Not to forget how crucial this work is in a crazy world so hell bent on crushing delicate creativity.  Not to forget how Big this work is when sometimes my day-to-day feels so very small.  Not to forget that lives have been and are being changed by the simple act of keeping a journal, or of making a little drawing of something beautiful each day.  This is important.  This, is work worth doing.

In the end, I think Lani Potts, a workshop participant this year and also an artist and a poet, put it most beautifully in this poem which found its way into her journal….

Lanis Poem

GO FORTH, AND DOODLE.

go forth and doodle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Winter opportunity amidst Summer’s sultry steaminess

If you have followed this blog in recent months, you’ll know that I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of weeks in Taos this past January to work on a couple of kid-book projects long in coming.  Those projects are swimming along nicely and I’ll be shopping them around this fall.  But time in Taos is always colored by the work I do there in the summer, which is to teach the art of keeping a visual diary.  And so, while there in January, I began to wonder, what would it be like to teach a winter-time class at Mabel’s?  The season would call for more work indoors.  Winter is a time of looking inward to our own interior spaces and pondering things in a very different way than we do in summer.  It is a time of withdrawing.

And so, I have decided to offer a workshop this coming winter to do just that.  The class we be held at Mabel’s, as in summer, but we will focus on the interior spaces of this beloved, historic home.  We will find the hidden corners of the house and of our own hearts, and sit with them while we draw and paint.  The act of drawing and painting a scene is one I find extremely meditative, and that will be something we discuss and work toward – finding that state of stillness in the making of art.  I’ll be combing my own library in the next few months for readings and poems to point us in the right direction in this class.  Taos, New Mexico, and more specifically, the Mabel Dodge Luhan House itself, is a hotbed of creativity and has historically been a place where the creme-de-la-creme of the arts go to recharge their creative batteries.  I look forward to this new offering and hope you’ll consider joining us this year for what I hope may be an annual journey.

Do get in touch if you have any further questions.

 

 

Withdrawing into mabels 993314_10155060669370048_645646455994482058_n

In Praise of the Day Job

Carroll Concertinas from Soapboxmedia.com on Vimeo.

It’s a rich and full existence I inhabit.  Here on this long-running and still lowly little blog of mine, I often highlight the adventures of my home life via kids, dogs, and tales of travel to other lands.  More often, I share what’s what in the realm of art-work and life imagined by my mind’s eye.  Only occasionally do I make mention of The Day Job, my part time employment at Carroll Concertinas where I have the gift of being a small part of a team of talented folks who craft gorgeous musical instruments.

Recently, a friend of one of my co-workers came for a visit to the shop to document some of our process for Soapbox Media . He has created a beautiful video that gives a small peek into the world of wonder in which we have the great honor to work.  It is said that artists who’s work comes along in feast-or-famine style must attempt to maintain some sort of Day Job for the leaner times.  In our world, where clock, calendar and contract rule the day, this is a difficult task.  I am incredibly fortunate to set my own schedule to do the work I need to do, in the studio, for my travel workshops and at the concertina shop.  I am also even more fortunate to work with fellow artisans and musicians who love what they do as much, if not more so, than I do.

So here is a peek into my ‘Other’ work; work I love as much as the artwork and teaching I do.  Do you work as a creative? I’d love to know what other wonderful ‘day jobs’ are out there that enable us to cobble this creative life together in a world that often seems hardwired in the linear.

the music in the video is by fabulous concertina player edel fox.

shelled

Today my boy Jack (who is a fabulous musician) and I (who am hack musician) are heading to Chicago for the annual fleadh cheoil.  This is a big competition for those of us who play traditional Irish Music.  Jack will compete solo in fiddle and mandolin and then later in the day, we will both compete in the group competition.  It is a wonder to watch Jack play in the solo competition.  Fiddle especially is a huge field of really great musicians and each one plays independently in front of the judge while everyone else looks on.  This gives me a nauseous and shaky feeling just writing about it.  He is simply grace under pressure.

I have been thinking a good bit about risk lately.  The things that we do in life to keep ourselves challenged, to get us out of our shells in order to grow.  For me, music ranks highly in this department because until a few years ago, I was not a musician.  Now I can play with my friends and we can sound pretty good.  The difficulty comes with the notion of being on stage.  You cannot imagine (well, perhaps you can) the level of terror on a truly gut level that I get when it comes time to play for the judges.  Intellectually I know its silly.  We are not really playing to win.  We just love to play.  We love the preparation and the creativity that goes into arranging some trad tunes into a playable/ listenable  7 or 8 minutes.  The first time I played at the fleadh I was literally so scared stiff that I don’t think I was able to play 3/4 of the notes required.  I have come a long way to where I no longer feel total faint but still have to struggle to keep my nerves under control.  It used to be a struggle for me to get the guts up to play at a session and now I play at least one a week with my fellow musicians.  I get such joy from this that I think sometimes ‘somebody just pinch me,  I can’t believe I am actually doing this!’.  I am so grateful for this gift of music and for what it has done for my over all self-confidence.

But why do I push to get over stage fright and my shyness around people I do not know?  Because this is what being alive feels like.  Because in the long run, I crave to be a part of things, even though it took me years – literally years – to get up the guts to even say so.  Pushing the boundaries of my own creativity also keeps me honest about what I expect from students.  In 6 weeks I will be shuffling 13 intrepid fellow travelers to Taos, New Mexico to learn the art of traveling with an active sketchbook.  I will be asking them to draw.  A lot.  This is terrifying for many people. Similar to my fear of playing music where anyone can hear me, putting an artful line on paper stimulates a fear of failure so strong that most people will not do it.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “I can’t draw” from someone who hears what I do for a living.  It is my belief that if you can write your name, then you can draw.  But unless I understand this fear, I cannot help students to overcome it.  And so I push and I risk in order to move beyond the pounding heart and adrenalin headache that comes with stage fright.

Writer Peter Levitt writes:

“We are not only born to create, we are also born to risk.  These are actually the same.  Taking a creative risk is not only essential and freeing, it is also the least risky  thing you can do.  Any attempt to stay safe will never get you where you want to go.”

Meanwhile….

you may have noticed a lull in my blog posts.  The reason is, I got a job!!!  I am now a proud member of the concertina making team at Carroll Concertinas.  I am slowly learning the many different steps involved in building one of these amazing instruments.  The tasks are endless and require lots of interesting materials, tools and processes.  It is the perfect job for me.  I am able to work with my hands on a variety of things.  There is no pressure to be in a hurry in any way because quality and safety are the top priorities.  Every day involves problem solving and design challenges and the utilization of multiple hand and power tools.  In a word, it’s bliss.  I have had many folks ask ‘what is a concertina?’.  Basically it is like an accordion, sometimes you see pirates playing them in movies.  Here is a pro jamming out some reels.  Her name is Edel Fox and we will be building a Carroll Concertina for her very soon….

And so that is the news from Chez Bogard.  As I come to balance with the new job hours, I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how the Mammoth Cave quilt is coming along and keep y’all up to date on Taos trip news as that draws ever closer.

Priceless?

We’ve been working a bit on the 2010 household tax returns in recent weeks.  Last night it was time to add up all of my receipts and measure them up to my earnings from the year.  It was a dismal year to say the least, at least monetarily.  Even with the mural work early last year, the loss of two of my jobs has changed my earning landscape quite a bit.  I feel a tremendous, albeit slow, shift in my work life and the growing pains are difficult.  Last month’s trip to the Arts Enterprise Summit really opened my eyes to where I am along the journey of making a name for myself in the business of art-making.  I am by no means a newbie.  I have an established blog with a distinct voice to it and a loyal, though quiet, following (‘fans’ of my work are more prone to emailing than commenting).  The work I do in my Drawing Down the Vision partnership with Adam has further opened me up to the idea that what I bring to the table with my creative skill-set is of value and could provide me with some income.

Money and art-making are a tricky partnership psychologically and I have worked hard in recent years to come to grips with the issues.  I have come across many artists who have turned their art work or their blog or other creative skills into a living and I look to them as guiding lights on my own career path.  Remember yesterday’s fellow smoothie drinker from Wales, Michael Nobbs?   He has done extensive research on creativity and how to foster it and sustain it.  He has recently come out with a subscription to his thoughts and writings for a mere $2 a month.  Today I subscribed to his newsletter, figuring it’s about the cost of a cup of coffee, only once a month.  I really love what I have read on his blog thus far, I appreciate his rather no-non-sense approach to art making (like the idea of just making it a habit, like coffee) and frankly, I am willing to pay this small price to get more in depth into his take on creating and sustaining an artful life.  I highly recommend you check out the work he is doing and support it if you are ready to move your own work along a little further down it’s distinct path.  After all….

Today you are you, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is youer than you!”  ~Dr. Suess

Another artist who has a blog so juicy you could pay for it is Rima Staines.  I’ve linked to her website here before so you already know, I am a fan.  Recently Rima added a ‘donate’ button to her site encouraging readers to contribute if her ‘Hermitage has rung bells in your spirit’.  I am here to tell you that when I am once more gainfully employed again (new part time job starting soon…) I will be throwing a coin (or two) into her hat to keep her ‘in teabags and ink’.  I am contemplating going the same route with this blog and would love to hear some thoughts from readers about this idea.

While I have been fortunate to be able to take my career one tiny baby step at a time, many artists have had to make tough financial decisions around their art work just to pay the rent and keep the wolves from the door.  My long time friend Michelle Ann Miller, an artist living and working in Sheboygan, Wisconsin is one of these artists.  Michelle created the Nothing New Project a number of years ago and set about documenting a year where she did not purchase anything new that she could not otherwise obtain used, or create herself.  This practice served her well by keeping her expenses down and giving her a platform and structure from which to create some interesting work.  She is still blogging and still finding creative ways to make a living and documents them in the newer version of her blog, {almost}nothing new.

So these are just a few of my thoughts on the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ that is Making a Living as an Artist.  But it’s not all seriousness all the time around here.  There is always time for puppy play time and a doodle or two…

Days Like This

Yesterday I downloaded my friend Kim Taylor‘s latest EP, The Greatest Story.  It’s 5 songs are soulful and playful and tearful and wonderful.  Seems like the perfect music for this amazing season.  Check out her website and get yourself a copy of her work.  I think you’ll love it.

Meanwhile my own work is plugging right along.  I have been teaching my Keeping a Journal Sketchbook class at the Art Academy in recent weeks and it is going extremely well.  This being the second time I have presented this particular class, I am more relaxed and more creative in my approach to teaching.  I think this may be rubbing off on to the students.  They are so enthusiastic that a few of them want to keep the class going another couple of sessions.  So the folks at the Art Academy have been gracious enough to let us officially extend the class for those who are able to keep meeting.

As I present this class to more and more students, it’s becoming clear to me that there is more to the process of keeping an artful  life-chronicle than first meets the eye.  We do more in this class than simply open our books to write, draw and glue stuff down.  As happened in my spring class, friendships are being forged.  Students are opening up to sides of their own creativity they never knew existed.  They are commiting, or re-commiting, to making an artful way of life a priority.  Surrounded by their enthusiasm and joyful art-making, my own making has received a shot in the arm.  Work begets work.  I know this, but it still amazes me when I see it and feel the phenomenon in action.

One of my former students, and now friend, introduced me to the work and writing of Jennifer Louden, the Comfort Queen.  Her blog is delightful.  Reading it I get the sense that I have sat down with a fellow artist to tackle the Fear-of-The-Unknown in our art process.  I get the sense that she feels the same fear in her work everyday and simply does what we all must do; show up, feel the fear, and do it anyway.  I encourage anyone needing an art nudge to check out her website.

One of the often discussed themes in my class at the Art Academy, as well as among my fellow artists and myself, is that of how to get started. The ol’ zero to 60 phenomenon.  Most of us have other jobs (many cases multiple!), families who rely on us, households to run, lives to lead.  Rare is the artist who wakes up and makes art, day in and day out without fail.  Frankly, I don’t know anyone like that.  How does one find the time, energy and inspiration to work on art at the end of a jam packed day or week?  How do we get the art motor running anyway?  I have my own answers to these questions and am always interested in hearing how other creatives get out of their own way.

Along with my ever present sketchbook and the act of walking my dogs, I have recently been writing letters and post cards to people I know will love to receive them.  I get out the collagey materials and glue weird images to envelopes.  I make little sketches and add them into letters.  Sometimes I use a typewriter…. yep, a real old fashioned one that hiccups its way around the words giving the whole thing a whisical quality that I love. I slip in a little glitter now and then.  None of this takes a terribly long time and the benefits are far reaching.  The art supplies are coaxed out of stagnancy and ideas begin flowing.  It’s a snowball sort of effect and I am rolling with it right now.  This simple act of doing something remotely artful is the back door to the more “serious” work that may or may not be around the corner. The other day I had a fire going in the studio fire place, the wax table was on and I was mixing new colors, sticky things were drying on postcards and in my sketchbook.  It all felt a bit like a complicated dance but there I was, just dancing.

Today my creativity finds itself mostly out in the kitchen where I am busy readying Chez Bogard for the annual Riley School of Irish Music Halloween Party.  Chili, cider, mad amounts of chocolate chip cookies are in the works.  I still need to get my new vampire teeth fitted.  I shall be a Vampire, to suck the very marrow out of life…. mwa ha ha.  But I digress….

Have a safe, happy, fun, CREATIVE Halloween.

Here’s the latest waxy work…