Tag Archives: Eco Chic Retreat

Retreat to Taos

Any of you lovely readers who follow this lowly little blog know that one of the highlights of my working year is a now annual Travel Sketch Journal Trip to Taos, New Mexico.  Over the past few years I have partnered with the Art Academy of Cincinnati to create a unique, outside-of-classroom art experience for creative adults looking to hone their observation and basic drawing (and beyond!) skills thru the vessel of a simple blank book.  Plans are already in full swing for 2013.

If you are local to Cincinnati, there is an information night next Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the Art Academy where folks will have a chance to meet me, ask questions and see a few slides of what a week in Taos looks like and some of the work we have done in years past.  I hope you will join us.  That said, one huge goal of mine this year is to include participants in the class who are not from the local Cincinnati area.  We already have someone from San Diego, a potential from Austin, TX…. If you have been eyeing this class from afar, this is your year to join us!  And please bring a friend!  Email me  directly if you need more information.

A really cool thing about going back each year to a sweet place like Taos is that I get to discover new things about it each year.  I have made friends in Taos whom I visit upon arrival each year.  And this year things got even richer.  I was approached last winter by film maker Jody McNicholas about being part of a DVD project that would provide a retreat experience for people who might not necessarily be able to/ desire to travel to a far flung place but wanted to try some of what happens at a retreat.  I officially became a part of the Eco Chic Retreat last summer, filming a short segment introducing the idea of keeping an illuminated journal.  The DVD is now finished and the Eco Chic team is diligently working to get the word out about this amazing project.  For just $50 you can give yourself or a loved one the gift of self care in this 3 day retreat experience.  There’s cooking, art, meditation, yoga and more!!  It’s a beautiful film and I am so proud to be a part of another something that helps people feel creative and well.

Most of the Eco Chic team is fairly far flung in the world and we filmed our segments separately with Jody at the helm.  Over time, we have all gotten to know one another virtually by connecting via email and facebook and such.  But we all desired to meet personally, as we agreed this project has taken on a life of it’s own. So last week, my hub Tony and I cashed in some hotel points, and airline miles and headed to Taos to meet as many of my fellow Eco Chic facilitators as could make the trip.

This trip happened to fall over the Spanish holiday tradition of el Dia de los Muertes, the Day of the Dead which is an exciting time to be in New Mexico.  Below are a few pics of our time out there and some sketches we made along the way.  I’m hoping it will whet your whistle to come along next summer when we go for the sketch trip….

One of my favorite things about getting into Taos is having to cross over (or drive down into) the Rio Grande Gorge.  It’s an amazing place.  Deep and full of mystery and shadow and the sweet green river running quietly down below.  It’s a great place to draw and get a sense of how to use light to create space in a drawing.

Over time, Tony has done quite a bit of sketching in his book inspired by the work I’ve done.  Here’s a beautiful drawing he made of his time at the gorge…

Often when I am teaching in Taos, I don’t get out into the countryside enough, so on this trip that was a priority.  We were up before dawn a couple of different days to experience all the mountains had to offer.  One morning we were treated to the sight of a herd of female elk.  I spotted them across a wide valley and just at the bottom of the tree line.  They blended so beautifully that only their slight movement gave them away.  The camera could not capture them.

Only fields and mountains stayed still enough to make drawings….

Dawn above Angel Fire NM was reputed to have cloudy wings of fire.  We just had to see this for ourselves…

I love windy roads/ drives which head into the hills.  I have often thought it would be lovely to have access to a little place just around the bend down one of these remote driveways where I can escape and find quiet when needed.  Funny thing is, this was not that far from Taos town.  It gets remote out there fairly quickly.

As I wrote earlier, each trip to Taos seems to result in a new friend or two.  This trip was no exception.   I met Leslie, a puppeteer/puppet maker living in Taos and she introduced me to some of her lovely hand-made hand puppets.  I couldn’t make it to her show as we had an Eco Chic dinner scheduled, but I thoroughly enjoyed meeting her and her puppets.  I have a feeling we will meet again!

We joined my friend Kate for tea one afternoon at a delightful little ‘Apothecary’ tucked back away off the main road near some gallery spaces in the bosom of Taos Mountain.

April, the proprietess at this lovely shop, created amazing warm drinks for us from magical combinations I have never tried before.  They were delicious and good for the body as well as the soul.  Taos being the small town that it is, it turns out that April has created a special tea blend just for Eco Chic Retreat!!!

I love sitting at tea shops and coffee shops sketching and discussing art, politics (and aliens too!!!) when I’m in Taos.  Folks there are not as tied to the clock nor as in a hurry as we are back east.  Going at this pace actually seems to open time up for me and I get a lot more drawing done that when I am in a hurry… Go figure…

Of course, meeting my fellow Eco Chic facilitators was the purpose and highlight of this trip.  One afternoon we gathered to take a painting class led by Jan Haller at Magic Brush Studios.  We painted in response to the colors with no plan or attachment to outcome.  It was very freeing and fun!!!!

On another day we visited with Louise Lowry, chef in the ECR at her rented house just outside of town.  This is a magical place with charm and eccentricity around every corner!!

There was a tree house.

And guest rooms in the former chicken coop.

And quirk around every corner.

Of course I felt right at home.  And we had some tea and cookies.

We left Lou to do her shopping for that night’s dinner party and went to see some art in the afternoon at the famed Harwood Museum.  There was much to see both new and old.  What stuck with me was the work of Maye Torres who lives outside of Taos and makes amazing mixed media sculptures and paintings.  Her work is haunting.

Our final evening in Taos was spent convening with the Eco Chic team.  It’s simply amazing to meet a group of people with whom you feel immediately connected.  Strangely, we all felt as if we had known each other for years.  Conversation was easy and comfortable.  The food, thanks in large part to Louise (and Jan’s desserts!!) was out of this world.  We had a fabulous time.

It is with an ever heavier heart that I leave Taos each time I travel there.  This time it was so wonderful to take Tony and give him a taste of what a trip it is to get to this amazing place.  Aside from Eco Chic work, I was free to be more of a tourist, which will make me an even better prepared instructor for next summer’s Sketch Journal trip.

We rounded out the trip with a stop in Chimayo to see some sweet old adobe church structures.  We also had some tacos at the BEST taco truck EVER (in Santa Fe, kitty corner across from Trader Joe’s on the main drag to Taos).

All along the way, in typical Taos fashion, I was reminded that this is a soul place for me.  It feels a lot like home….

 

Catch this post on Dwellable!!!!

Drawn

draw

[draw] drawn, draw·ing,  noun, verb (used with object)

1.to cause to move in a particular direction by or as if by a pulling force; pull; drag (often followed by along, away, in,out,  or off ).

As you probably know by now from reading this blog over the years, the one steady thing that has been a constant throughout all of my adventures as an artist, a world traveler, and a musician is the fact that I carry around a sketchbook with me.  Pretty much wherever I go, I have a book in my bag, a small set of watercolors and a pen or pencil to write, draw, collect what I see and hear in the world.  This practice began years and years ago, when my kids were really small.  Say what you want about the beauty of motherhood.  It IS beautiful.  But it’s also really, really hard.  Among the few things that kept me somewhat centered during the early years of parenthood (such as a great husband and many many many marathoning miles), the act of drawing in a little book became a habit that was like my anchor in the storm.  Those early drawings are clumsy and poorly rendered.  The really early ones didn’t even include any watercolors!!  And yet, I have them (somewhere around here).  They include tales of camping trips interrupted by pasta ravaging raccoons and over-the-top Halloween costumes made to order for my kids (One year Jack wanted to be a peacock.  And his little sister? Yes, a Princess Peacock.  I swear if I come across those journal entries/ photos I will totally share them).

Slowly, over many years, through many slumps and the crossing of proverbial seas, I began to realize what I had in this seemingly simple practice of sitting and drawing and writing a bit about my life.  I began to do it with a bit more consciousness. I began to find others, people who called themselves Artists, who did a similar thing and seemed to even be making books and teaching classes.  People around me, beyond my awesome family who always thought I could draw anything, began to notice.  I even went to art school.  But not for drawing.  Majoring in sculpture, I was still noted for my copious collecting skills in the form of my sketchbook.  Post art school, I made some Art, but it has been the sketching and journaling that has time and again come to the fore.  This is mainly because, as a mom, it’s the one art form that’s portable (that and embroidery, but that’s for another post, another time.)  All of this time and the many filled books, eventually led to my teaching this process to others wanting to learn it.  Without even realizing it, I had developed a very individual and distinct way of doing this sketch-journal thing.

So fast forward to nowadays.  I teach Keeping an Illuminated Journal in both individual classes and at the local community arts centers.  I co-developed a business centered journaling process with a former student. (That project is tabled right now as we both pursue our individual work, me here in Cincinnati, and Adam in NYC.).  With the support of the Art Academy, I began taking students afield to document the travel experience in a sketchbook.  Through these trips to Taos it was even clearer to me that what I am teaching is more than simple life documentation, or learning to draw things that come across one’s path in life.  This process has a power to draw a person toward their center.  Keeping a journal, and more importantly an illuminated journal (one with drawings or paintings) is an act of meditation which leads to a deeper thinking about life in general.  As a young mama, battling depression and anxiety, I was not only capturing precious bits of my kids’ fleeting childhood, I was actually healing myself.  Keeping these books has been a slow-cooker style of self-guided therapy that has, over the years, taught me much.  I’m much healthier in the head and heart these days and I attribute some of that to merely growing into myself.   Growing into myself has happened in the pages of my sketchbook.  It is there that I can jot down quotes that speak to me at the time, I can mull over the mundane and the difficult, I can draw a dog or a backyard bird and feel calmer for doing so.  It’s like magic really.  And I love sharing this magic.

This summer when I head to Taos with yet another amazing group of students, I will also be filming my segment of the Eco Chic Retreat DVD project slated to be completed this fall.  I am so grateful for this opportunity.  Often, the spiritual side of the classes I teach winds up being an added, unexpected bonus to the fun process of writing and drawing in a journal.  But Eco-Chic’s retreat climate is all about centering oneself in the storm of life through a time of guided nutrition, yoga, painting, meditation and more and of course, keeping a journal.  I’m tremendously excited to talk about how the simple act of making a drawing, writing a haiku poem, or taking note of the day can seriously alter a life.  I don’t make the claim lightly.  I was my first student and I am, finally after all these years, a firm believer in the power of this process.

What drove me to go into writer mode on today’s blog post is the photo below of some of the Eco-Chic family.  This was shared electronically to those of us on the team who couldn’t be there for this particular gathering and when I saw it, my heart just swelled.  These women are doing amazing work in the world.  Each of them is a healer in her own way.  I am humbled to be a part of this project.  But I too am a healer.  And I look forward to sharing my take on  the ‘simple’ act of keeping a sketchbook in the hopes that it will bring healing your way too.

L-R: Ana Easter, Lourdes Paredes, Jan Haller, Jody McNicholas and Louise Lowry