Tag Archives: garth stevenson

Awakening, gradually

A word from Mabel…..

“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

Upon flying away from Guatemala City, Volcán del Fuego poofed a breathy goodbye there in the distance. I’ll admit it had me a bit misty eyed.

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.

Volcano Medicine

my people

were fed by volcanoes

that fire milk

piercing the surface

like spirit

unrelenting

pierces our facade

to get in

and feed our souls

~Lisa Fazio


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.

The staff at Bella Vista was so excited to see what were up to in our books

Each day would see us tackling a new-to-us ruin in this gorgeous city, sketching and taking it all in along the way.

Sketch from San Francisco church ruins, Rosemary Berwald
Sketch from Conventa De Las Capuchinas, Joan Youngberg
Sketch of San Francisco church ruins, Connie Ware
sketch of San Jeronimo School ruins, Astrid Otey-Mast

 

sketch of San Jeronimo School ruins, Amy Bogard

By afternoon we would work back at Posada San Sebastián, tidying up sketches we’d begun in the morning…

A “throwdown” of sketches from week one. So much great work!!
Cindy touches up her sketch from the Capuchinas ruins
Sketching in the breezeway

and perhaps capturing a bit of our home-away-from-home at the Posada as it’s filled with all sorts of sketchable fare……

 

Cow and Donkey in a Candy Dish by Rosemary Berwald
Using blind and semi-blind contour drawing techniques to capture the wonky child’s chairs at the Posada.
I think laundry drying on a line is a beautiful theme. Ever changing yet always the same. It speaks of home.

I hope to make some proper paintings of the shifting light in the laundry area.

Sketch of Volcán de Agua by rosemary
so many blue kettles. so little time!!!

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.

Vanessa utilized her excellent Spanish skills to get to know this fella who’s vessel on back there is for carrying water.
Richard spent a fine morning here in this shaded doorway tackling a difficult scene at Capuchinas.
Later he came home to sketch a “Cucurucho”, one of the Lenten flavored purple-costumed guys who populate the town and the Procesións this time of year.  Richard had purchased a little candle  representation of a Cucurucho which made us all laugh a bit, and so he drew it in his book!
Shade is hot territory on a sunny day.
Kudos to Connie who kept her focus in spite of many young onlookers as she drew the San Francisco ruins. We all remarked later that day on how polite and genuinely enthusiastic these kids were about what we were up to.
sketching at the Tanque. (Connie and Astrid)

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.

A guardian of the Procesión.

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

Irish Music is my sanity and it was my great fortune to have Doug and Astrid along for a tune now and again.

“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.

This is Joseph Barry. Named so because as a Santo, he is Saint Joseph, but because he is from the Posada, he reminds me of the Bee Gees. He came home with me as a gift from our loved ones at San Sebastián and as a reminder to keep to the work at hand. And to have 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.

Vantigua!! At the ruins of San Francisco
Vantigua!! the art vans were dragged up to San Cristobal to get a view of Antigua from above. it was a delicious adventure!
The presence of Agua
Cupolas!
Color and Line. What more could an artist ask for???
The dangling flowers at Canela Bakery.
Fruit vendor. Sights. Smells.
evenings are gentle at the posada
Candles. always.
cupolas for the queue.
Dinner at Angie Angie. Sundays are two for one pizza night. Just fyi
“No bread please. Just cheese. Or meat.  Sauce is ok. If it’s on cheese or meat”     Sweetness, the street dog.
Back home with a handful of cut flowers for a garden themed show coming in May. Need to make more. and get a frame….. (One mustn’t bring true flowers into the country, but surely hand painted paper ones are ok, yes?)
Always important to have a map to find your way home……

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.

 

 

Flying

In a mere week’s time I fly west once more for my annual trip to Taos NM.  Much of the rhythm of things here at home just now is akin to years past.  I work diligently at Day Job to get my little to do list settled.  No one wants to be the bottleneck there.  I stack the specially made instrument cases, one by one, and polish ever so many little silver and brass buttons and other necessary miniscule sundries for these lovely instruments we craft day to day.  It’s great fun, actually.  I am deeply grateful for a “job” which affords me the temporal freedom to make my own hours and simply do the work on my list, which in turn affords me artistic freedom to run my workshops and when possible, make some art as well.

As is often the case when I am up to my gills in to-do lists and packing lists and my mind is aflutter with all the earthly materialistic concerns in preparation for a lengthy journey, I feel called to crawl into a box of paints and swim amidst the colors there, creating my own less complicated world on canvas.

This is my brain on overwhelm.

A dear friend who knows me well sends along a timely NYT article about some less well-known art work on display just now by Georgia O’Keeffe.  I lose myself in the world of her paintings.  Perhaps I can find the time to bust out some oil paints to settle my soul before leaving.

Are we having the time of our life?
Are we having the time of our lives?
Are we coming across clear?
Are we coming across fine?
Are we part of the plan here?
Are we having the time of our lives?
Are we coming across clear?
Are we coming across fine?
Are we having the time of our lives?
Are we part of the plan here?
We have the driver and time on our hands
One little room and the biggest of plans
The days were shaping up, frosty and bright
Perfect weather to fly, perfect weather to fly
Pounding the streets where my father’s feet still
Ring from the walls, we’d sing in the doorways or bicker and row
Just figuring how we were wired inside
Perfect weather to fly
So in looking to stray from the line
We decided instead we should pull out the thread
That was stitching us into this tapestry vile
And why wouldn’t you try? Perfect weather to fly
We have the driver and time on our hands
One little room and the biggest of plans
The days were shaping up, frosty and bright
Perfect weather to fly, perfect weather to fly
Pounding the streets where my father’s feet still
Ring from the walls, we’d sing in the doorways, or bicker and row
Just figuring how we were wired inside
Perfect weather to fly
So in looking to stray from the line
We decided instead we should pull out the thread
That was stitching us into this tapestry vile
And why wouldn’t you try? Perfect weather to fly
                                                        ~Elbow
All work and no play makes us dull does it not?  And so on a stunningly gorgeous Ohio afternoon in May, a few of us from the shop take advantage of the perfect weather and head into the skies with our employer Wally, who also happens to be an airplane pilot.
We call this “team-building.”
Wally gets me all strapped into the plane. This is my “I am quite nervous about this but want to put on a brave face.” face.

Soon, we are in the air.  For a brief moment, I hold onto the throttle as Wally captures a most awesome snapshot.
In which I channel Aloha Wanderwell, fearless and free.

Perhaps next time up I will brave the loop-the-loop style acrobatics, but for me, for now,  merely being aloft is enough adventure this first time flying in the open air.

Justin on the other hand is built of more courageous stock and eventually opts for all the tricks.  Bravo Justin!

It is a fine day indeed and we all feel settled, calm and above the fray after flying.  Much like I do after a successful day swimming in the paint box or following a drawing to see where it leads.
One day, I follow a raven on the page…..
Which turns into a little carving with a message….
Having flown, I feel bird like and am reminded that each bird offers something different in the way of inspiration.  If one listens carefully, one might pick up a bit of the conversation….
“Draw, draw.
Draw. “
                  ~Raven
“sketch, sketch, sketch.”
                  ~Magpie
I attempt to translate a bit of what I hear in their chatter, and eventually make a little poem of sorts.
Oops! a typo! Typical for my little letter-shifting self. I opt to leave it. Perfect in its imperfection. Like me.
Pencil bags result and I am happy with them.  I am thankful to speak a bit of Raven.
As time marches on, the stuff of life seems to have no regard for things on my to-do list.  And so we attend an opera our son Jack plays in at Queen City Opera House.  It is entitled Iolanta and the music is by Tchaikovsky.  We enjoy it immensely.
We also journey into nameless far-flung corn-fields toward mid-ohio to visit a newly arrived niece called Flossie.
She is still quite small and ever so lovely.
Her parents are mushroom enthusiasts and so we wander into their woodland for a peek at what might be afoot on the forest floor….
Something about this day away from the city hits a bit of a reset button for us.  Everything slows into stillness and quietude.  We deeply appreciate our niece and her growing family.  Their approach to life in general and enthusiasm for the natural world is infectious and we find ourselves hopeful for the world at large for a change.  News headlines be damned for a day.
Like a slingshot or bow and arrow, I pull back, near ready to launch into summer’s travels.  Yet, at the same time, sink my toes into this fertile valley here so as not to forget what treasures lie here at home.  I’ll be writing from the road whenever possible, opting for merely the i-phone camera and tablet device as blogging tools.  We shall see how it goes.  In between times though, you can usually reach me over on Instagram or Twitter.  Do stay in touch.  I’d love to know what magic is shaping up in your summer.  Whether far afield, or closer to home.  Safe travels!