Tag Archives: dogs

Mind on Fire

Difficult to believe that at this time just last week, we found ourselves in the magical, mist-ical lands of coastal California -my hub just barely cracking through his shell of over-work, only to have to dive straight back in again.  But it was good to see a glimpse of himself to be sure.  I am hopeful he could be coaxed back to this real life once again soon.

It is always a strange thing to return back to our regular doings back here at home in Ohio.  For me, the mark of Good Travel is that it makes for a yearning and a churning of the soul, a fire in the mind, which keeps us asking questions of ourselves about how we are living this One Wild and Precious Life of ours.  While we balance chores and responsibilities, work and dreams of what can be, time marches on ever faster.  We must make sure we are on the right track.  Travel and all the soul-nudging it brings with it, is one sure way to track our proper path isn’t it?

Yesterday my daughter sent along a new song to add to a running playlist I get going each year which tends to set the tone for the up and coming Taos sketch trip.  This annual trek to the high desert is a flagship workshop for me as an instructor/facilitator.  And the yearly playlist often carries a loose theme through the songs which happens strangely and organically.  One year it was about light, especially Golden light, as I found myself craving the sparkling quality of light that is found in places such as northern New Mexico.  Yet another year the loose theme seemed to be about the heart of the matter  – on finding ones heart beating below the surface of all that is thrust upon us in the drudgery of the day to day.

On a whim, I sent along this new song to a dear musical friend of mine, also the parent of a young adult daughter, knowing the both of them might appreciate it.  He asked how I found myself relating to this new song and it got me thinking about my playlists in general and how I use and relate to them.  About why I gather songs and how they capture a moment in time.  Like the old mix-tapes we might have traded around in our teens, these playlists relay a certain kind of longing.  Today’s longing is a more complex, multifaceted thing than my middle school obsessions.  Now, I find myself pining for wilder places versus people, be it a sea of salt-water or a sea of sage.  I suppose my yearly playlists are a listing of love songs to landscapes that are out of reach to me in my daily life.

“Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”  ~Terry Tempest Williams

Once upon a time, I dreamed of being a scientist. I love all animals and could spend hours upon hours in observance and wonder of them.  Alas, I do not have the mind of a proper scientist which remembers long and (to me) complicated names and specific facts and figures, and so my observance skills took a different path to that of artist.  Now, my very favorite thing is to go to a wild place and watch, and draw, and wonder.   Just a different kind of scientist really.

We had the great fortune to obtain access to a beach near Santa Cruz which the majestic elephant seals come home to for a season each year to go about the Business of Life.  Here they mate, struggle for territory and status, give birth, nurture and nurse, grow and learn, rest and recuperate.  We were fortunate to have a patient guide on our tour who allowed us to tarry a bit longer than other groups so as to take it all in properly.

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”  ~Aristotle

And amidst all of this marvelous wildness, we had also the comfort of dear friends who welcome us to this wild land with open arms.  In the evenings there was a warm fire in the hearth and plenty of tea and long over-due conversation.

The ocean and it’s splendor was a indeed big player in our whirlwind trip west.  I had a run on the beach one morning and we sketched the waves.  I was captivated by the variety of dogs to be found having their daily walks along the shore.

We also took part of a day to meander down the coast and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium where we watched, entranced, the displays of Jellyfish and other watery wonders.

“Jellyfish: The sea offers up flowers of glass like thick light.  They are transparent landscapes.”  ~Raquel Jodorowsky

I was reminded of some old work of mine with the jellies, and vowed to come home and make more.

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”  ~Loren Eiseley

“…the sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonders forever.”  ~Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Amazing bronze drinking water fountain in Santa Cruz.

But the trip was not all ocean all the time.  I was invited to an Irish music session at a local home of a friend of a friend of a friend, which is how it works in musical circles, and was welcomed with open arms to share a few tunes.

Welcomed with open arms is also how we felt in the Redwoods just minutes inland from the sea.

To walk and wander in a forest of these trees is to experience the notion of Cathedral.  We found ourselves whispering in hushed tones out of respect. Even the local wildlife is quiet.  With the trees comprised of naturally inherent tannins, they are insect-repellant, and therefore even the chatter of birds is kept to a minimum.

We sat and sketched a giant for a good long while.  It was cold and quite humid.

All in all, it was a wonderful getaway.  January in Ohio is not for the feint of heart.  A friend of mine, also from the world of Irish music, was saying last night that while she has lived in places with reputations for the harshest weather winter can throw at us (i.e. Alaska, Montana) she has found that winter here in SW Ohio/ N. Kentucky is particularly draining for it’s gray heaviness.  Difficult to convey to anyone who hasn’t experienced it, we here in this river valley trudge through the winter months as best we can, thankful for the opportunity to get out of town when we can.

I left the Hub in California to do his work and I to come home to do mine.  The temperatures were in single digits upon my arrival which was shocking to the system to say the least, considering I had had my toes in the pacific ocean just days before.  But, I made some little woolen boots for my smallest dog, brewed a lot of tea, and carried on.

“Have you seen the girl with the mind on fire?”

“Have you seen the girl with the heart as big as the sea?”

I am not the only one with a big heart and a mind on fire, yearning and churning for a bit of change.  The world at large is calling for it as well, at least women and those who love and respect them.

This past weekend marked the 1 year anniversary of the Women’s March and we did it again.  While the news didn’t make much of it, the numbers appeared to be as large if not larger this year.  I was at our march here in Cincinnati and while the palpable shock of the election of a vile predator-in-chief was not as present this year, a continuing sense of outrage was.

The energy was palpable.

These strange times seem to have unleashed a free for all on many levels.  On the one hand, the highest levels of power, especially in this country, are seemingly above all scrutiny.  Politicians who once would have run a president out on a rail for the kinds of shenanigans ours pulls off, merely turn a blind eye and shrug off the behaviors of the current administration.  I marvel.  But the flip side of this coin is the notion that really, anything is possible.  And I find a bit of hope in this.

I find that there is a fire in my own mind of late.  The travel bug is turned on full-force by this most recent trek to the fair state of California.  Guatemala is right on it’s heels, a mere 37 days away for me, with workshop participants arriving shortly there after.  And there are more adventures to follow.  Traveling shifts perspectives and asks us to consider hard questions.  Questions such as, should we give up this little track of land, with is gardens and trees and lovely, soul-nourishing green space and quietude, for a condominium with less upkeep?  Could doing so free up even more time and money for travel? Or would we regret giving up this amazing space?  Do we want to even stay in Cincinnati?  For me the draw of my family and friends (this includes my art and music family) is a big one.  But part of me feels my studio practice could really use a daily walk in the wild, versus the familiar suburban paths here in Ohio.  These are all the questions burning just now.  And likely they will continue to do so for a while.

One could go a little off the rails with these ponderings, but the work will always bring me back to center.  Sitting down to write a bit here settles my bones.  From across the room, the paints call to be mixed up to craft some new paintings.  Who knows where they will lead.  Story ideas come and go, flitting and floating in clouds of doubt and fear.  Rays of light amidst the dust particles.  Today on this day of endless gray, I’ll follow the words, follow the paintbrush, follow the breath to whatever comes next.

I could live in condos such as these, couldn’t you?

 

 

Why we love a snowy day

 

 

Beneath the hill where the Red Wolf Howls….

redwolf howling 

There is a line of trees where Squirrel Folk dwell….

we know youre up there

On a snowy day we can clearly see the paths they have traveled and track their every move amongst the trees….

 

squirrel chase 3

Although we never catch them….

 

squirrel chase 2

We are always up for the chase….

 

squirrel chase

Which is good fodder for the artist’s little book of days.

 

Snowy day dogs sketch

And quite the excuse to nap a bit on the warm, radiant floor in the kitchen.

 

warm concrete is a doggie soul balm.

What do you love about snowy days?

Artist’s Pace

get the motor running

With one kid away at University and the other up and at ’em and out the door on her own each morning (her preference, I must add), my mornings are fairly quiet.  Most days, I use those mornings to savor some coffee, make a quick sketch, and then go about my business of working day-job hours, errand running, etc.  It is a rare thing indeed to allow days in a row of sinking into what I think of as my own particular Artist’s Pace.

Let me set the stage.  The Hub is usually just a couple rooms down the hall working his day job, entertaining a seemingly endless series of conference calls.  If I do take an ‘art day’ to spend in my studio space, it is with door closed and music on to block out the din of the rest of the house.  It’s usually about sitting down and getting things done. Business.  And the business of art is important stuff, lacking in romance though it may be.  But this week, the Hub is out of town for his business (I think it’s nice they get to all talk face to face now and again, don’t you?) and I have found myself with a few days of this house to myself and the dogs who aren’t much for conference calls, or any conversation for that matter.  And while it took me a bit of the weekend and much of yesterday, I found myself awakened today, settled into my own sense of The Pace of Things.  I find it fascinating how much Real Work I can get done in the course of one day in the studio when I am not pushing so hard; when I allow that sense of play and timelessness to set the tone for the day and for my process.  My mindset is different for a few days’ solitude and I am reminded that it truly is just a mindset; one that I can tap into in spite of the din of the day to day, should I simply allow it.

There is much to be worked on again today upstairs but first, I spent some time outside, admiring my morning entertainment, in the form of the chickens whom I could seriously sit and observe for hours at a time.

head to head chickens morning entertainment 3

They are truly endearing creatures and I am enjoying their company greatly these days.  As well as their amazing eggs.  Thank you girls!

morning entertainment 2 

While the chickens scritch and scratch away looking for bugs, the dogs play peekaboo with each other and the squirrels.  

peekaboo dog 1

peekaboo dog 2

peekaboo dogs 3

And the brooks that criss-cross our land babble along happily in the company of jewel toned autumn leaves.

a brook babbles through it

Indoors blank canvases and bits of specially prepared papers await my attention.  The very whiteness of blank canvases, or a new journal for that matter, used to intimidate me to the point of avoidance and inactivity.  This is not so any more.  To me the site (and feel) of a freshly sanded canvas is an invitation to explore another world.  I accept this invitation gladly, with my bags packed for adventure.

canvas blanks

Lately I have been traveling north for these imaginary adventures, where I seek out the magic of the ‘Merry Dancers’, The Norther Lights.  My earthly self has the witnessing of the Aurora Borealis on my life-list of goals, but my astral, internalized self has been seeing them for ages now, and they are beginning to come to the page.

Northern Lights Northern Sea

Northern Lights by Boat

There will be plenty days ahead full of the ‘business’ of applying for shows, cataloguing work, purchasing supplies, getting the word out about the Taos trip, managing the day to day of our home and family, etc., etc.  But for today, my toes are tucked into my sheepskin slipper-boots, my pajamas are ready for a spot of two of paint should that occur, and I am ready to fall headlong into today’s adventures.

Artists are the keepers of the creative flame in this world.  We are the dancers and drawers, the makers and musicians, the magicians and conjurers of worlds not yet brought to light.  It is our job to allow the spaciousness for these worlds to come into being.

Keepers of the Creative Flame

 

“There are myth places, they exist, each in their own way.  Some of them are overlaid on the world; others exist beneath the world as it is, like an underpainting.” ~Neil Gaiman 

 

 

Dog Dreams

It’s finally winter here, at least for now, and aside from the incessant not-quite-daylight quality of gray that permeates this time of year here, I welcome it.  It’s a little trickier to find stuff to draw (and not freeze one’s fingers off) so I turn to the dogs, as is often the case.  (click the pic below for a taste of what they might be dreaming of….)

Iris and River are the perfect models for sketching, unlike the zoo animals I encountered yesterday, who seemed to be constantly on the move.  (but dang, aren’t they precious???)

In spite of that motion, I did get a couple sketches made of the elephants….

It was such a treat to have the zoo mostly to ourselves.

Fellow illustrator, Linda Bittner (amazing website HERE) and I made a pact to sketch at the zoo, in spite of the cold weather and we were both glad to have made the effort.  We were rewarded with a warm Illustrator’s Group lunch afterwards where we shared recent work and slices of encouragement for everyone on this journey of Art as a Living.  My niece LuLu stopped by for a quick hello and we all agreed she is now an honorary member of the group.  (She’ll be awarded full membership when she can sit up straight in her high chair and hold her own tea cup.)

You may have met LuLu in this earlier sketch I posted on the twitter/facebook realm…

In other news, and in the interest of coming back ’round to this post’s title, I finally got my hands on the hard copy of my good friend Kim Taylor‘s new record, Love’s A Dog.

I’ve watched and listened to this body of work come to life over the last year or more and am so tickled to see it finally in print.  I love my girl Kim, and her amazing music.  Like many of my artist friends, she has more than one iron in the fire.  This week she’s out at the Sundance film festival promoting a film in which she plays a lead role, I Used To Be Darker.  There’s a ton of buzz going on about this indie film and I wish the team all the best as they strut their stuff out in Utah.  Go get ’em, girlie!!  (And then come home for a long walk with the dogs and a cup of coffee.)

keepin’ on

Here’s my new sketchbook cover for the Taos trip which is just 2 weeks away….  It’s collaged from an antique postcard I got in Taos last time I was there along with some other snippets from the collage supplies suitcase.  With my practice of drawing everyday until I leave I am very close to finishing my last book…

With working so hard, one must have helpers:

And I am already looking ahead to some projects about which I will keep you posted as they progress…

I am now off to tackle a busy spring weekend!!!

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…

Hibernate. or not.

Quite a bit of snow has hit our area in the past few weeks.  Depending on who you talk to, this is either a wonderful miracle resulting in snow days, igloo building and soup making or just a huge pain in the keester.  I am of the former camp enjoying the slower pace of kids off school and spontaneous napping.  Art making often takes a different form in the winter.  Things like embroidery and quilting come out of their baskets while drawing (especially sketching outside) tends to take a back seat.  This is all well and good but I get a little squirrelly if I don’t put pencil to paper for too long.  So today I went outside with my camera to capture a few things to bring inside and maybe draw later in my sketchbook.

A snowy day provides a tremendous opportunity for studies in contrast.  I love the play of light versus dark and how this can begin to get abstract, especially when put into a drawing.  Below are a few snapshots…


Could this be a small sign of spring… maybe?

I think the skeletons of these little weeds make nice sketches, they are also fun to embroider.

The dogs love the snow, digging their noses deep in search of interesting scents.

Sometimes they get to play with the neighbor dog Buckley…. if they can catch her.

I hope this finds everyone warm and snug on this snowy day.  I think I’ll go back outside.