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2020 – Ten Years in Taos

Recently, while in Colorado visiting one of the (not-so)Smalls, I got a text message from one of this year’s Taos sketch-workshop participants:

“I’m deeply grateful for the opportunities you’ve facilitated through your workshop.  Amy, when you fling open the Juniper House doors and stir the creative pot of Mabel’s legacy, Magic happens.  Unleashed into a space pulsing with anticipation, your energy swirls and settles around us in a joyful and gentle comfort.  We’re home and we’re safe to explore, to express and to grow.  My sketchbook is no longer a project.  It’s now my friend.  Thank you for leading this horse to water and showing me how to drink.  I’ll never be thirsty again.”   

~ Donna A.  

I’ll admit I got a little teary-eyed.  Here I was, back in the mountains and receiving this incredible gift of not just positive feedback, but real soul-bearing words about the experience of someone who’s been a recipient of my work in this world.   It is my hope that anyone working in the world today might get the same gift.  Thank you Donna!!!!

Normally, this time of year, I wouldn’t be even thinking of Taos much.  Forging on ahead with the rest of my summer which is filled with the beauty of family time and musical nerdiness (where I get to be the student!!!).  But this year, Taos has lingered.  I find myself back there in my mind’s eye a little more often, making paintings, touching base with loved ones there, and looking ahead to next year……

The above little marketing video was made for 2014, but it’s still very valid and gives one a sense of what I’m up to in my workshops.  The tone and feel of the thing, if you will…..

Today I got a message from a musical friend who’s partner has been dabbling in the paints a bit and he thinks perhaps she might like to come to Taos next year.  And what are the dates?  And is there space?  So I figured I would quick post the answers to those questions in a little blog post.

Next year, 2020, marks 10 years teaching in Taos, New Mexico at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House.   The dates for the 2020 workshop are June 7-13.  You can find more information here.  (Prices, exact dates and what you can expect, etc)

If you are interested in going, here’s how it happens.  September 1, 2019, I will send an email out to past participants who in this last year have expressed interest in next year’s trip.  They have about a week to decide if they want to send in a deposit.  September 6, I will announce open registration for any slots left.

As I take payment by check in the mail for deposits, I simply use the date of the email or message you send me to hold your slot verbally until your check arrives and we keep a wee list (the Hub calls it a spreadsheet) of the order of incoming requests for space in the class.  As of this writing, I am holding the class in Taos to 16, but that could wiggle a bit depending upon interest.  But I do like to keep it manageable and make sure everyone gets the one:one instruction in their books as needed.

Every new year is a bit special and certainly different from the years past.    As I learn and grow, I bring that to the classroom in Taos.  We try new ideas, we share what the world has brought to us in the year since we last met.  It truly is – MAGIC – for lack of any better word.  I have learned to trust it.

So.  If you are interested in the class next summer, mark your calendars.  Get on my “subscribe” list here on the website.  That is the best way to get the announcements in a timely fashion.  If the dates for Taos don’t suit your calendar, you can consider my trip to Antigua, Guatemala in late Feburary/early March of 2020.  There are still 3 slots left in each week so far and those are likely to fill soon.

Thank you for your interest in exploring Taos, New Mexico with me, whether it’s been in past trips, or if you are only just considering coming along.  There is truly no place like it.

Mabel welcomes us….

Vessel

“The water in a vessel is sparkling; the water in the sea is dark.  The small truth has words which are clear;  the great truth has great silence.”  ~Rabindranath Tagore

To arrive at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, New Mexico is to step over a barrier of sorts.  Time and space are steeped in a special fluidity here which makes them more malleable than elsewhere.  Every year my goal as a workshop facilitator is to pack as much practical ‘how-to’ into a week devoted to the travel-sketch-journal process, whilst also making way for more ethereal notions such as magic, friendship and community.  For opening up to what we each have to offer the world.  For finding our own visual voices.

Every one of us should risk living in the full flow of our own originality.  And never to compare yourself with anyone outside you but to trust that inner voice that is speaking to you and whispering to you from the well of great possibility that lives inside you.”     ~John O’Donohue

This year is my ninth year working in Taos in this capacity.  Over the years I have come to trust that while each season will be new in many ways, we can trust that we will be embraced by a familiarity to sink into which makes space for the best work.  I like to think of our travel journals, as well as our classroom space, as vessels to be filled during our week together.  My job is merely to hold the space, to hand out bite sized demonstrations and then steward each participant along their own journey.  In spite of two last minute cancellations (alas, too last-minute to offer their spaces up even the most last-minute takers) I had a relatively packed house.  These numbers bring an energy to the room and to the work we do, and yet there was a lovely intimacy within this group straight away.

We went from an empty vessel….

……to the buzz of a room of artists happily working along together.

Some dear friends from Taos Pueblo visited us on our first day together to share their process of crafting beautiful pottery with mere land, water, time and fire.  This was a new idea for this year and I wasn’t sure how I might fold it into an already full teaching agenda, but everyone was quite pleased with the experience (if not the eventual results from the firing).

Sample pots used for the demo. These had dings and imperfections in them so the artists use them to show us what can (and did!) happen during firing.

Time spent pinching pots, forming beads and wee fetishes was time learning about this place we found ourselves –  Taos.

It was wonderful to get our hands dirty with the very land itself.

Working with the clay deepened our journaling work indeed…..

We talked of color and form.  We worked on studying ellipses (hint: they aren’t hotdogs or footballs.)

Some participants went so far as to use bits of spare wet clay as a painting pigment.

Carolyn’s lovely page with a niche, a pinched pot and a turkey vulture feather…..
Donna put her whole hand into the work with the pots!

We allowed our wee works to dry through the week.  Some cracked, all shrank a bit, but by week’s end, things were dry enough to attempt trial by fire.

Alas, the wind kicked up on firing night and our little works had to eventually be fired on our final morning by our friends out on the Pueblo.  In the end, only a few things survived unscathed and most of us went home with mere shards of our work.

For a variety of reasons, I am still glad we spent the time to play with the clay.  For one thing, I think everyone came away with a deep reverence for the professional pots made by native hands from native land.  Their pots are deceptively simple – until one has attempted to create one, that is!  It is a good thing to know how difficult some work is.  We can then appreciate it all the more, yes?  We all also enjoyed getting our hands dirty and using the clay as pigment.  As my workshop is about capturing the spirit of a place, and our experiences in that place, this mini afternoon workshop-within-a-workshop was worth the investment for the beautiful drawings that came out of it.

But of course, there was more to be captured.  There were mornings with the buffalo where we gathered before dawn in small groups to visit the herd we’ve come to know so well.  I never know year to year if this is something we will get to do again, and so every year I am deeply grateful to spend time with these ancient and wild beasts.  Many lovely drawings were made of the magnificent buffalo, but I was firmly planted in teaching mode and so didn’t manage to get a snapshot of these works.

There were a few quite young baby buffalo this year. Everyone was shy, but we managed to see them.

We talked of how to capture light.

Especially, when we find it in darkness….

We took much time to study the colors found in New Mexico such as rust and turquoise, and the complexity of cloud forms.

In which Nancy wrestles with the rust.

We doodled ‘carrot people’ from afar and each other closer to hand.

Carolyn drew Nancy.
Marlowe’s carrot people practice
Roger’s amazing accordion book, in process.
Rosemary, figuring out foliage
sometimes we worked quite small (This page by Carolyn)
Other times we worked larger (this page also by Carolyn!)

We attempted the challenging yet forever whimsical birdhouses in Mabel’s courtyard…..

A wee demo. Using no ink, and only the colors found on my palette.
Lovely work by Melabee

“Our pigeons live in a Mexican village  reared high up on thick, long posts.  I love the expression of their frame houses, that have been added to by José for years.  They lean strangely in all directions, and look like a settled community.

… One has to pick one’s way among them on the flagstones from the house to the gates.  They feel they own the place and I guess they do.  We never let cars drive in beside the portal any more as they used to do because the pigeons wouldn’t move away fast enough and they were always being run over.  Finally I put a sign on the gates and locked them.  It said, ‘Please don’t drive in.  The pigeons don’t like it.'”

~Mabel Dodge Luhan

We worked and we worked and we worked.

two lovely page spreads of work by Donna

We also spent time outside of class at the Pueblo watching the light dance as it does.

Sometimes I see things that give me some indication of what Georgia O’Keeffe may have been after in her paintings….

All too soon our week together was coming to an end.  As one person put it, the days seemed spacious and extensive and long in the best way possible, and yet the week as a whole simply flew past us.

We had a final farewell dinner in Mabel’s iconic dining room.

We presented the amazing kitchen staff with a gift of our own making, being so grateful for their hard work keeping us fed and watered all week.

That evening we signed each other’s books, “yearbook” style, and visited together.  Some even worked a bit more in our beloved Juniper house classroom!  I took “The Vans” outside for a photo shoot, just for fun.  It’s my hope that even more folks will carry their sketch supplies around in vans like these in future…..

It is nigh on impossible to capture this week in a blog post.  I look back over the years of posts about this trip and I marvel at the layers of meaning and experience I have managed to convey each time – of the changes that have shifted into place over time.   The kinship of place I feel toward Taos is complex.  In one way, I always feel as if I am coming home.  As one friend back here in Ohio (though who travels to Mabel’s on occasion) recently stated, “It’s Mabel.  Everything will be fine.   Pulling up in the parking lot always brings me to my knees. ”  I agree with her.

Friends always ask me, if you love it so much there, why don’t you guys just move?  I haven’t yet felt that call, but every time in Taos is harder to leave behind, to be sure.  The town upped its game further this year with my introduction to a special breed of sheep called Churro.  One of the workshop participants is a shepherdess and has been renting a small place on the outskirts of town which just happens to have a small herd of these amazing animals.  After the workshop, Rosemary, Steve and I visited our new friend on her little farm and got to meet the sheep, the farmer who is their steward in this world, and to marvel at how the hidden depths of Taos seem to have no end.  I could not stop staring at these sheep.

Those of you who know me, know I adore all things sheep.  I have even joked that one day perhaps I’ll be like Beatrix Potter.  I’ll publish and sell a bunch of books, and then retire to a sheep farm.  One never knows…..

In any case, next year, 2020, marks a nearly decade of this work finding its way in Taos.  I feel it may be a special year indeed.  (Though to be fair, every year is a gift of it’s own.)  I will be offering up pre-registration to this year’s workshop participants first and then to a broader audience after that.  This will happen in the first week of September when summer’s travels are through and I begin to set sights on next year.    I have a feeling that #TaosSketch2020 may fill fast, so keep your eyes peeled around that time for announcements.  For now though, I will unpack here and rest up for what the rest of summer has to offer.

 

 

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

Workshop bliss

workshop 9

It’s difficult for me to fathom that just over a month ago I traveled to Taos to teach my annual summer travel-journal workshop.  Has it really been a month?!  Was I really just there three weeks ago, mid-way through a fantastically perfect week filled with the company of the most amazing group of people?

If I look at the calendar, it would seem so.  And yet, I look at some of the snapshots of that week (captured by my trusty assistant for the week, Taos artist, Jan Haller) and it seems that the workshop never happened, or is happening right now, or perhaps, is just around the corner once again.  Taos has that relationship to time.

There was much laughter.  Belly-laughs as deeply rooted as the ancient cottonwood trees.

workshop 8

And there were also plenty of precious moments of solitude and quiet.

workshop 3

workshop 7

There were those moments of ‘aha!!’ when we learned a new trick with those wiley watercolors.

workshop 6

There was a fair amount of demonstration done by yours truly, to show my approach to capturing the world in my own journal….

workshop 5

workshop 2

…and yet we learned that there is no better way than one’s own way of working.  It was my goal for the week for each workshop participant to find their own visual voice.  Which they did.  In grand, beautiful fashion.

workshop 4     Workshop 1

At the end of this gorgeous week we celebrated our hard work and new friendships with a dinner at Mabel’s which fed not only our bodies but our souls as well, as meals at Mabel’s generally do.  There was more of that nourishing belly-laughter, and perhaps some equally delicious tears over deep conversations too.  This work is so much more than just drawing and painting in a book.  It’s about an approach to life that can sometimes be difficult to find in our day to day.  But we re-discover it at workshops like these.  We find it in these fellow artistic souls.  We are reminded that beauty and laughter, grace and joy, great food and fantastic, fierce friendships are crucial to a life well lived.  dinnerToday- just now – back in Ohio, it is (not surprisingly) raining buckets.  In my ears, on repeat while I work, is this which is the perfect blend of arty and trad.  Combine this music with the sound of rain and things can seem a little somber.  Especially when compared to the bright beauty of New Mexico.

worskhop 13But there is a lushness to this valley that is at once suffocating and yet deeply and beautifully compelling.  It is travel season, and I am torn between all of the amazing, soul-home places (yes, including Ohio!) and people I have the great fortune to know intimately.  Those who know me and love me best know that this very restlessness and yearning are what keep me moving artistically.  The need to be on the move was instilled early on in me by my ever-changing home life and I’m grateful for the ability to travel as much as I do now as an adult, especially in summer!

workshop 12Next up is my now annual trek to the North Carolina mountains where I will play music for a week with far-flung friends at the Swannanoa Gathering‘s Celtic week.  I will be updating the blog a bit in coming weeks (between trips) with next year’s workshop offerings.  There’s a new one being offered in February 2016 about which I am very excited.  Much of the same sort of work, but deeper and richer.  So stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted!

 

One week down

10923582_10155022976295048_734283691227867210_nA week ago today I arrived in Taos here to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House to begin my long awaited residency.  It has, thus far, been a magical time filled with wonderful opportunities for inspiration around every bend.  I have had a chance to catch up with my Taos based community of friends over tea and the odd burger and beer.  I have had hours to walk and admire the natural beauty, even on the meltiest, most muddy of tracks.  I’ve been able to set up a bit of a routine which looks a bit like ‘up, write, coffee, check emails etc, write or draw some more, take a walk, have some lunch or a visit with a friend, walk some more, work some more, have some dinner, and then paint.’

I am so thrilled to have so much time and energy to myself.  While time is certainly passing as it is wont to do, each day feels nearly endless.

treesI love the idea of having enough energy at the end of the day to get a second wind and play with my oil paints. Here in Taos, where so much seems possible, I have been able to paint a bit in the evenings.  And to think I considered not packing my oil paints…..

cactiIt’s been an interesting transition into full time creative work on a daily basis.  When at home I am used to dividing my time between day job work, animal/household daily chores, cooking etc.  Just dealing with the day to day life of things which are part of my very rich and gratifying life.  I fit the art and writing in where I can.  gorge

However, here in New Mexico, everyday I stand at the edge of a great chasm of time and space which, I will admit, had me a little rattled upon arriving.  While I managed to step up to the drawing board and writing notebook a great deal each day to go about making the necessary work at hand, I spent my first few working days under the great weight of a sense of generalized anxiety, the likes of which I had not experienced in ages.  Not just nerves but the Utter Sense of Crushing Doom for which I am, sadly, somewhat hard wired.  The familiar elephant on my chest just wouldn’t let up.

So I walked, I wrote, I practiced my flute, I painted and drew picture postcards to place myself into the heart and mind of Ginger.  I just kept moving.  There is a lot of current writing and talking about creative work and how it can tend to go hand in hand with anxiety, what with all of the unknowns faced by those of us giving birth to new things and the vulnerability inherent to this work.  At least I’m in good company.

After some well timed conversations with friends who get this side of me, I began to visualize the elephant on my chest and decided to ask her why she might have taken up residence on my heart, disallowing this work I truly love so much.  And a word came to mind.  Play.  And then another. Relax.  So I opted to take an afternoon off of drawing and writing and took myself and my elephant for a hike.  Not just a walk for exercise, but a real hike a little out of town to a little bench I had heard might be waiting at the edge of the Rio Grande Gorge.

Elephant and I had a little chat.  I told her that while I can work when she’s snuggled so weighty upon me, it’s actually much easier to let ideas flow when I am not in a state of overwhelming anxiety.  She looked over at the gorge and asked me if she might ever be able to ride the wind in the way of the Eagle.  I told her anything is possible.

elephant

 

And so, on the little bench at the edge of the Gorge, I helped elephant strap on a little harness which is linked to a very capable parachute, enabling her to safely ride the thermals.  To my knowledge, she is still out there.  But I’ve made her a little bed in the corner by the fire to lie in and have promised her a lollipop if she keeps to herself while I work once she decides to come back.

Adjusting to life in Taos is exhilarating and challenging and different every time I visit, so those first few days feeling so weighty is no huge surprise.  Therefore, it is also no surprise that now the elephant has stepped away for the time being, I am finally feeling comfortable in my own skin again.  I am relaxing and playing and getting even more work done.  (Funny how that works, isn’t it?)

I’m taking my daily adventures and figuring out what Ginger Small has to think about it all.  She’s having a ball.  She has skied with her friends (utilizing the handy Raven Ski Lift Company who are ever so trustworthy as one cannot be too careful in the mountains when one is a mere Small Creature)photo

 

 

And Ginger managed to make friends with a field mouse on the Pueblo who taught her how to walk quietly among the buffalo and to gather the purple cacti that small creatures find so medicinal.  This adventure was exceptionally powerful.

buffalo

The Wonderings and Wanderings of a Small Creature in a Big World is coming together – bit by juicy little bit.   I am enjoying the work and am so grateful to have the opportunity to be here. You all continue to remind me how loved and supported I am while out here…

mailMail is a thrilling thing.  I’m excited to head into week 2 of conjuring the Adventuresome Correspondences of one Ginger Small.  

p.s. There’s been a fair amount of counting in a long lost language of rhyme in the Rabbits Who Herd Sheep department as well.

Do stop in over on facebook, instagram, twitter etc to keep up with our adventures.  And thank you, again, from the bottom of my thankfully lightened heart.

Between

“What is needed is more, more and always more consciousness, both in art and in life.” ~Mabel Dodge Luhan

Travel is a funny thing.  It takes us out of what we find to be the norm, and if we are lucky, we are thrust into new worlds that ask of us to question everything.  What’s up or down, or True North.  (I was deliriously disoriented under the night skies in New Zealand, for example)  In New Mexico, Taos in particular, this sense of otherworldliness is exceptional and I still find myself not here, not there, but somewhere interdimensional, on route.  DH Lawrence is said to have said that “Time runs differently” in New Mexico and I believe he was right.

It’s natural to linger over time spent in a beloved place.  In my mind’s eye I wander the halls of Mabel’s, studying the paintings her beloved Tony did on some of the walls on the second floor…

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I am fascinated by this couple who created the place I turn to for workshops and other creative work and marvel at all they had to grapple with to do it.  If you have not read Edge of Taos Desert by Mabel Dodge Luhan, I highly recommend it.  It begins to scratch the surface of the allure of the people and the place that is TAOS.

Edge of Taos Desert

“The power of this place gives you the power back of who you are each time you come here.” ~Blue Spruce Standing Deer  (Tony Luhan’s Grandson)

Tomorrow I head back toward the day to day in a more concrete way.  I’ll be out of the studio and into the Day Job for a taste of that work.  I am grateful for the work.  Grateful for a couple of days to sit quietly with my books and pens and paints and to run my local roads and reacquaint myself with the air here.  I’ll admit to being quite homesick for the Taos I have come to know through time at Mabel’s.  It’s a magical place where things happen that don’t make sense – they don’t need to.  And with that, I can know that while I am here, I can, at the same time, be there.  That it’s all kind of the same thing.  This all may sound quantum-like and New Agey and I’m ok with that.  I only share the sense I get while there. It doesn’t need to make sense.

While running today a song came round whose words I adore and seem timely,  so I’ll share them (and the song) here.  It kind of sums up my sense of time right now….

Tuesday my heart is brimming
I’m a child in the wild wind
dead leaves and daylight dimming
no beginning and no end
inside a candle of defiance
moonlight
a river of pearls

Cause we’re going to need more
than money and science
to see us through this world

You say it can’t be done
you’d rather die of fun
get out of the way
for me for you for everyone
forever is tomorrow is today

Shut all the windows
lock all the doors
we’re keeping it all out of sight
we’re keeping it all
it’s tearing us apart
you don’t know your good
from your bad from your black
from your blood from your wrong
from your right
so you camouflage your heart

I don’t want no other distractions
there’s too much here to see
faint hearts or jaded reactions
contraptions of history

You say it can’t be done
you’d rather die of fun
get out of the way
for me for you for everyone
forever is tomorrow is today

Shut all the windows
lock all the doors
I’m keeping it all out of sight
I’m keeping it all
it’s mine and mine alone
corrosion collision
I need a vision
to tear off the cloak of the night
and shatter eyes of stone

You say it can’t be done
you’d rather die of fun
get out of the way
for me for you for everyone
forever is tomorrow is today
forever is tomorrow is today
forever is tomorrow is today

Enchanted

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It would seem that I have returned, physically at least, from the Land of Enchantment.  Hopefully, if you follow these things, maybe you have been keeping up with my adventures on the road and in the workshop space over on the more day to day virtual spaces I occasionally post to.  Looking back at my last pre-Taos blog post, I was so very ‘prepared’.  My plan was to do some blogging from the road, yes?  What is easy for me to forget when I have been away from this place for a solid year is how on a different plane it is.  Once out there, the LAST thing I want to do is be on a computer, or device.  It was, I must admit, all I could do just to post updates via social media (here, here and here – do join us over on SketchShare!)  And so now, I have pages and pages of journal work to sift through, hundreds of source photos to catalogue, and more memories and stories to share than I could begin to dole out in any measured fashion here in a blog post.  I felt it better just to sit down and type out a few Thoughts on Things Taos, in no particular order.

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Returning to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House each summer for my workshop is something of a homecoming.  This becomes more pronounced each year as we have made close friends both at Mabel’s and in Taos town.  Each year I learn more and more about Mabel herself and I come to respect her journey to Taos and all that it wrought more so as well.  In many ways, Taos is the artist’s Mecca it is today because of Mabel and her influence.  She was an amazing woman.  I sensed she would have been very pleased with how the workshop went this year, on many levels.  When I go to Taos, I like to take a small something to leave on her grave as a sign of respect.  It would seem many others do the same. (one day there were a number of glazed donuts present.  I believe this made the local magpie very happy) Mabel’s is the only grave to be decorated in this little cemetery.  To me, I feel the veil is thin in Taos.  Best to keep those channels open.

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It is said that New Mexico is The Land of Enchantment and I believe it.  I also believe that this is more so the case the closer to Taos one gets.  It is so very different than anywhere else and you have to experience it to believe it yourself.  I come from a rich land here in Ohio, lush and verdant.  The air is literally heavy, especially this time of year.  In the past couple of weeks, I have been at about 7000 feet above sea level, compared to our usual 700 ft in Ohio.  Upon returning home, it can be a bit painful to breathe in this dense atmosphere, something I attempted to rectify with a slogging run in the humidity this morning.  I think it helped.

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(photo credit, Julie Keefe)

Under New Mexico skies, anything seems possible.  Creativity seems to seep from my pores.  Any doubts, backpedaling, nay-saying and other such things seem to disappear when I am there.  It is one of life’s riddles, how to bring that sense of possibility back to the day to day.  The answer is in my journaling work, I am sure of it.  And my art work outside of the little books I keep.  It’s becoming harder and harder to leave NM every time I go back, and this may be something that has to be dealt with on some level one day.  I must admit to the romantic notion of keeping a little casita in the countryside for extended visits to Taos, but I shall not let romance get in the way of my Right Work, which is here, now, in this place.  I have much to work toward.  Plans are already underway for next year’s Illuminated Journaling Workshop, June 14-19, 2015.  I will have pricing structure decided very soon and details will be found on the Taos page.  Some changes afoot from years past, but nothing major.  If you would like to be kept in the loop, drop me a line!  I am getting the sense that the 2015 trip may fill fast.  This season was the best yet.  I had a group of artists that spanned the spectrum of experience from professional to just beginning.  Everyone put forth amazing work in their books and I was in awe each day of how open to just doing the work this particular group was.  Even the beginners bravely dove in and gave new things a try.  By the end of the workshop I had a group of new friends among those I have known from seasons past, and there is already talk of next year.  I am so grateful for these women.

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In Taos, the world as a whole seems to be suddenly in our hands.  Everything is magnified in importance.  Laughter comes so easily.  Small talk simply doesn’t exist.  I feel completely at home.

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(eensy map by Sally Hickerson)

There is a sense of magic that pervades our day to day there.  This year, that magic came in the form of lovely new friends, and some future opportunities…

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Harold Cordova is a Taos Pueblo man who keeps a herd of buffalo on his land up in the mountains.  He is someone I have spoken to on the phone now and then, but never had a chance to actually meet due to logistics and the way Taos Mountain seems to run on her own time and agenda.  I had heard about Harold and his buffalo from one of the staff at Mabel’s who keeps us well fed on our visits there and is family to him (and to us!).  This year she handed me his number and told me to call him.  And so I did.  I always say at the beginning of the workshop that the daily agenda will be shared day to day, always open to changes in circumstance, weather, etc.  I’m so glad I do things this way, as no one gets too attached to a perceived locking in of their week’s experience, including myself.  We wound up shifting things around a bit late in our week to visit Harold’s beautiful herd of buffalo.

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It’s difficult to describe how great this whole outing was for those who went.  The sage was so pungent and fresh out in the field; the buffalo, timid and curious, seemed to look us straight in the heart, wondering what we bring to them of ourselves.  We snapped a few photos but mostly we just soaked it all in.  I had many delightful conversations with Harold, about animals, our relationships to them, Totems (Raven in particular) and Dancing Hummingbirds (he is a hummingbird whisperer).  We discussed magic, in a real sense, in the way we walk this earth and our place in it.  We talked about music and how traditional music in particular is a direct route to the soul, especially to those who can listen and choose to play.   It is my hope that we can share a bit of each of our traditions in a musical way some day….

The same day that the buffalo opportunity came to us, I was informed of an opportunity that has opened itself up to me.  In the spirit of Magical Thinking, I had offhandedly mentioned to Dorothy, Director at Mabel’s (I yet AGAIN did not get a picture of myself with her, but she is one of my favorite people at Mabel’s!) that I wondered about the idea of possibly being an artist in residence.  Was there some way I could get back there, off season, to do some work?  Anything, just to get more time out there?  Well, in her beautiful, twinkly way, Dorothy told me that a writer-in-residence program was being reinstated at the Mabel Dodge house, and that if I wanted to, I could apply and see about working with Ginger Small or some other book idea for a couple of weeks next winter.  But I had to do it STAT.  And, so, amidst everything, I submitted a brief written proposal and by Thursday, I had my answer and some dates for a residency in January 2015.  I’ll be making an official blast of this announcement once I work out the details, but if you are reading this, then you are fan to have made it this far, and so you deserve to know.  I am tremendously excited, and daunted, but I know my first full day back after the culmination of a taxing, though extremely successful, workshop is not the time to fret over Big Things.  But suffice it to say, Mabel Dodge Luhan and Ginger Small are now, inextricably linked….

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And so, quick as that, the workshop was over.  It was time to pack up our supplies and books and examples and souvenirs and mail them off.  It was time to say goodbye to all of the beautiful spirits we worked with, and to those who supported my workshop with their work (I simply cannot say enough about the gracious team of staff at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House.)  We took one more spin around the buffalo range with Harold for those who hadn’t the chance to see them the day before.  Lastly we scoped out some hiking paths with yet another dear friend from Mabel’s kind enough to spend an afternoon off of work to show us some of the hidden treasures just outside of Taos Town.

I am very fortunate to do this work.  I hope to build it up even more so.  Perhaps add another class during the year maybe in a different season.  As tough as Taos can be, dry, windy, difficult – Mabel’s makes it possible.  This was her original goal when she set up her home there.  To invite artists from all over the world to come and stay for a spell, to do their work and then to go back into the world to share what they had discovered amidst the quiet, mystery and sense of abandon to be found while in Taos.  Stay tuned for proper residency announcements, and perhaps more pages from my journal as I sort things out here back at home before the next trip.  I love the next two journeys, to Swannanoa to spend a week down the rabbit hole of Irish music and then onto Maine for our yearly dose of precious family time, but I am feeling called this year more than ever to maintain a distinct tether to life in Taos.  Life between dimensions is a tricky business.  But I aim to try.

58 Days

There are a few flurries floating down this morning as I write this.  We’ve been fortunate to have a little bit of winter visit us here in the Ohio River Valley this year and I am grateful for it.  But today is the final day of the longest-shortest month of the year and around here, March can spell spring.  On the first of this year, I made a bit of a snap decision to make some sort of drawing everyday.  It’s been 58 days of doodles and sketches, some more successful than others, and I’ve enjoyed the practice!!  I am looking forward to getting outdoors again to draw.  It’s been a little on the raw side to spend too much time out in the elements sketching, so I have stuck fairly close to home, drawing whatever dog might be lying around…

Or art supplies.  Those can be fun too…

As I think of drawing in warmer climes, I can’t help but think about Taos, NM where I will be leading a travel journal workshop in June.  (More info HERE).  We have a number of folks signed up for this year’s trip, but there is room for more!!  Perhaps you have thought about going but have never really sketched or painted.  Or perhaps it’s been years since you have.  Well in the words of one Taos Trip participant:

“…Although I had no experience in journaling previously, this workshop took my collage work to a whole new level.  And I made many wonderful new friends.  Don’t miss this opportunity!” ~ Pamela

With just a sketch journal and a small watercolor set, you can learn to really see in a whole new way, with Taos as a backdrop!  I can teach you to capture the world around you with some simple sketching techniques as well as some collage with found materials along the way.  This approach to travel is an eyes-wide-open technique to seeing the world.  With stacks of books from years past I can look back over my drawn impressions of places I have sat and sketched and I remember them in a way even photographs can’t seem to capture.

I’d love to have YOU along with us on this year’s trip, which is shaping up to be wonderful as always!!  Do let me know if you have any questions.

Stop by my Facebook or Twitter  pages to keep an eye on this sketch a day project.  So far, it’s been great fun!

 

Whirlwind Wandering

“I found out that the sunshine in New Mexico could do almost anything with one: make one well if one felt ill, or change a dark mood and lighten it.  It entered into one’s deepest places and melted the thick, slow densities.  It made one feel good.  That is, alive.”

-Mabel Dodge Luhan, from Edge of Taos Desert, Escape to Reality

The weekend before last I went on an amazing journey out west to visit a long time friend of mine who has relocated to Denver, CO.  I spent almost 5 days taking in as much as I could of the beautiful and strange landscape that is The West.  Below are a few of my highlights from Denver and Boulder CO and especially, Taos, New Mexico.  It is all too much to cover in one small blog such as this, and I don’t plan on trying.  I am still working to get it all into my sketchbook!  But I hope my list of highlights, and the accompanying snapshots are enough to encourage a visit out there yourself.  They call New Mexico The Land of Enchantment.  I found this to be true.  I plan to go back.  Hopefully, sooner than later…. I’ll keep you posted.

Denver & surrounding areas:

~Museum of Contemporary Art, in their awesome new building, and especially the lovely exhibition of work by Arlene Shechet.

~Colorado Horse Rescue Farm (I got to spend a morning with my friend Sheila volunteering at this amazing, warm hearted place)

Taos New Mexico, etc:

Adobe!  It’s everywhere and so earthy.  Like buildings just sort of grow out of the ground there.  Which I suppose they do.  I get the sense that living in these earthen buildings must give the folks who live there a sense of being at one with the earth.

Mabel Dodge Luhan House (also of Adobe) – I’d love to teach a travel sketchbook workshop here someday…. it would be a wonderful excuse to get back to Taos!

Old Trucks:  Fun, fun fun to draw!  These old beauties are almost as common as subarus…

Pioneer-like ingenuity: From breathtakingly high bridges to houses built from recycled materials, people out west somehow seem to make it work.  Check out these Earthships!

Below you can see how they dot the landscape.

Here’s a view of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  Dizzying, to say the least:

And then there’s the guy who has been adding to his house with recycled materials for years.  I think he may actually be located in a little town in Colorado which we drove through on route back to Denver.  Our guest house owner/ operator Judith Duncan told us about him and said some people think he’s a little off.  I have no idea, but either way, he’s an artist at heart…

Yep, those are hubcaps.

Speaking of Judith Duncan, Amy and I stayed at a magical place called Duncan House in Taos.  Our host was welcoming and full of ideas of things to see and do in Taos.  Her place is a lovely little oasis garden that we thoroughly enjoyed.  I highly recommend it as a place to stay, just off the beaten path.

In Taos there is plenty of shopping to do.  My favorite place was a vintage cowboy themed shop called Horsefeathers where I picked up some cool postcards and souveniers that couldn’t have been found anywhere else.  The owner Lindsay, and his doggie ambassador are always ready to greet new guests.

Orlandos.… best chili in town!!

The vast sense of space and landscape is overwhelming.

I have been thinking a lot about a top down notion of landscape as inspiration for my encaustic painting imagery.  Somehow it fits my recent time spent on and around rivers.  Getting a view from the airplane reinforced my excitement about these ideas and I am thrilled to be back in the studio where I can begin the distillation of all that I took in out west.

In the end however, no matter the beauty of the landscape and charm of the buildings, or all the interesting things to fill my sketchbook.  What has really been a blessing on the trip to Denver and Taos, and my subsequent whirlwind trip to Rochester NY just this past labor day weekend is the opportunity to be a friend to people I treasure.  I had the gift of time in the car with girlfriends as we traveled the miles in between destinations.  Travel fills my art cup, surely, but more importantly I get to spend time with my far flung friends, and that for me is the real gift of travel.