Tag Archives: Sketch

Ciúin

Yesterday evening I took a break from breaking news.  (not news at all really, more like a collective zoom-based anxiety rave bent on driving us all insane as we wait, feigning a patience we do not feel.)  In the darkness, (’tis the season, what with the time change)  Charlie and I ambled quietly up the drive after her evening meal.

“Ciúin”  (Irish for ‘quiet’)

It was quiet, but for a couple of owls hooting to one another in the trees.

Quiet.

Any bit of true quiet feels like a miracle these days, noise of current events occupying mind and even heart of late. I find my little doses of quiet in these small moments – an evening meander with the dog, a morning wander around the village to put the moon to bed.  I’ve come to treasure these times.

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

~Mary Oliver

Charlie snoozes in early morning moonlight. I get up to walk my miles. She doesn’t move an inch.
Friends, it’s okay to say Hello.
It will likely help us, and we do not do so alone. I also believe God greets us as we greet our days.
Neither I nor the poets I love have found the keys to the kingdom of prayer,
And we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit,
But.
I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway.
So every morning, I sit, I kneel, waiting,
making friends with the habit of listening,
hoping that I am being listened to. . .
There, I greet God and my own disorder.
I say Hello
to my chaos,
my unmade decisions,
my unmade bed,
my desire and my trouble.
I say Hello
to distraction and privilege.
I recognize and greet
my burdens,
my luck,
my controlled and uncontrollable story.
I greet
my untold stories,
my unfolding story,
my unloved body,
my own love,
my own body.
I greet
the things I think will happen,
and I say Hello to everything I do not know about the day.
I greet
my own small world,
and I hope that I can meet the bigger world that day.
I greet
my story,
and hope that I can forget my story during the day,
and hope that I can hear some stories,
and greet some surprising stories during the long day ahead.
I greet God,
and I greet the God Who is More God than the God I greet,
Hello to you all, I say,
as the sun rises above the chimneys of North Belfast.
Hello.
~Pádraig Ó Tuama
As I write this little missive, the democratic process continues to play out and unfold here in this country.  The other day I awoke especially early to play my small part in that unfolding, volunteering at the polls to hand out democratic slate cards on some shifts, and refreshments to all voters on other shifts.  The goodness of donuts and hot cocoa are something both sides of the political equation can agree on. 
Perhaps. 

It was a hopeful day.  A day of feeling like, no matter the outcome, I was doing my part (and had been for much of this election cycle, I should tell you).

It was cold that morning!!!
Mae Mae is a lovely dog who stopped by to check on things.  Her handler was there to help at the Caring Place.

One of my shifts happened to coincide with pick-up day at a local food pantry held at the same location as this particular voting precinct.  It was very interesting to me that the very outcome of this election would hold sway on whether people would or would not have to rely on community support merely to have food to eat.  One woman, both voting AND picking up food, said she relies on the food pantry because between food and her prescription medicines, she has to choose the medicines.  My heart broke.  Another lovely fella stopped in, also to vote as well as to pick up supplies.  He had a large roller  bag suitcase with him to carry what he needed.  He had recently become homeless.

I offered him a donut.

When my sister and I were kids and my mom was a newly divorced single mom struggling to make ends meet, we were, for a time, on food stamps.  I was young and don’t remember too much about the specifics but I tell you this as a snapshot of explanation for my left-leaning, take care of folks when they can’t take care of themselves, kindness-driven view on government.  People struggle.  This is a great truth of humanity.

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
~Maggie Smith
Photo by Maine photographer Peter Ralston. Originally posted in the amazing newsletter offering of Heather Cox Richardson. Her writing is an informed balm to the soul each day.

I’d be lying if I said I was thrilled about the outcome of this election over all.  I had hoped that more people would see through the chaos of the last four years and would see that the Grand Old Party is simply not there for the regular citizen of the good ol’ U. S. of A.  Instead, I am disappointed that nearly half the country is willing to witness an experience another Trump term.  This is where we stand.  In all likelihood, we will see a Biden presidency presiding over a minority rule.  It’s not a total loss, of course it’s not.  There is much to celebrate!

How to move forward?  A big issue for me is climate change and I am figuring out how to be of service to bring this concept  into the collective light more fully.  After all, these changes will affect EVERYTHING in the very near future, in fact have already begun to do so.  We have a lot of work to do.

But first, for now, should things play out as they seem to be headed…..

We take a deep breath.  We drink medicinal teas complete with tinctures  (and possibly some bourbon this evening) to ease our anxieties.  We shed some long over due stress tears.  We listen with hope to someone who might be able to provide unity in our divided land.  Democrats should waste no time in appointing Stacey Abrams as their new leader to forge a new path – a path that speaks for everyone.  We as a country must learn to slow down and really see each other, person to person.  We must do some difficult soul searching and come to a reckoning with ourselves and with one another.  It is my hope we get this opportunity.

But, like so many – around the world even – I wait.

Just be quiet and patient.
Let evil and unpleasantness pass quietly over you.
Do not try to avoid them.
On the contrary, observe them carefully.
Let active understanding take the place of reflex irritation, and you will grow out of your trouble. People can achieve greatness only by surmounting their own littleness.
The main thing is not to hurry.
Nothing good gets away.
Patience is the master key to every situation.
One must have sympathy for everything, surrender to everything, but at the same time remain patient and forbearing…
There is no such thing as bending or breaking.
It’s a question only of overcoming, which begins with overcoming oneself.
That cannot be avoided.
To abandon that path is always to break in pieces.
One must patiently accept everything and let it grow within oneself.
The barriers of the fear-ridden can only be broken by love.
One must, in the dead leaves that rustle around one, already see the young fresh green of spring, compose oneself in patience, and wait.
Patience is the only true foundation on which to make one’s dreams come true.
— Franz Kafka
Meanwhile, like so many things during this strange era in which we find ourselves, there is a juxtaposing personal angle to this concept of waiting and patience.  We are officially looking for a new dog to welcome home to us.  I’ve put some heeler-feelers out and have filled out some forms to local rescues.  We have a bit of house work and building beginning next week here and the pup will hopefully arrive as that process ends sometime in December.  We shall see.  We don’t have an actual, specific dog in mind.  But we have narrowed to a blue heeler girl dog if we can find one.  I can just about picture her in my mind….
As we navigate these uncertain times, may we find moments of stillness, moments of joy amidst the seemingly overwhelming largesse of the world just now.  Yes, things are hard.  But there are dogs in the world.
And maybe, just maybe………..eventually…………..a new path forward.
Yours in patience and quietude,
Amy

 

Churning and Reconfiguration

“It is in your power to withdraw yourself whenever you desire.  Perfect tranquility within consists in the good ordering of the mind.  The realm of your own.”

~Marcus Aurelius – Meditations

There are days when I forget there is a raging global pandemic and that the United States is on the brink of losing grip on it’s democratic principles.  I am fortunate in this regard.  I live on a little acre, in a gentle village, mostly surrounded by nature.  At least that is how I frame it when I am at home.

“To know fully even one field or one land is a lifetime’s experience.  In the world of poetic experience, it is depth that counts, not width.  A gap in a hedge, a smooth rock surfacing a narrow lane, a view of a woody meadow, the stream at the junction of four small fields – these are as much as a man can fully experience.”

~Patrick Kavanagh

I am fortunate indeed.  And so I share a bit of it here with you on this blog.

In spite of an autumnal hinting in the air, the garden still produces in beauty and food.  I follow close behind with camera and paint box.

There are many mysteries to unpack in a little box of colors.  We should all have one, to better understand the world in which we find ourselves.

It is good practice, I think.

To follow the colors and shapes of one season into the next is to find ourselves in a maelstrom of change.   And couldn’t we all do a bit of finding ourselves in the world right now?

I think of color matching as a form of chromatic meditation.

From the vine into the sketchbook…..

And of course into the kitchen.

We continue to marvel at how our little accidental garden has come together so unexpectedly this season.

The garden comes together yes, but I feel like falling apart.  Not completely, of course.  There are many things here (just right here) that are wonderful, this is true.  But there are significant things in the broader world at large giving me pause that I work through bit by bit these days.

Politics in this country continue to go back in time.  Sadly I know I have people in my sphere for whom this feels like a good thing.  My so-called “pro-life” leaning acquaintances who vote Republican, merely to get pro-choice laws reversed.  And yet, they seem to forget that abortion rates were lowest ever under President Obama, while the lives and well-being of people already born slide back into the realm of understood inequity.  How is this “pro-life”?  I do not understand it.

On a broader scale, climate change continues to wreak havoc and it just doesn’t seem to be getting the attention it deserves in the world,  in our country in particular.

It does no one any good to obsess over these concepts on the global scale, only to freeze in terror on the personal.  And so I do not.  I do what I can with the garden, in the voting booth.  (Have you registered to vote?  It’s imperative for our survival, I think)  I stay informed, to the best of my ability, while also attending to my inner world where art and music and magic reign supreme.

I head outside to clear my head and I pay attention to the specific color of brown found on a receding fern.

I replicate it’s delicious color.

I think it needs more blue actually….

“Light is the mother of color.”

~Alma Thomas

Just over a week ago I was informed that my flagship Travel Journaling class, held each summer in Taos, New Mexico (cancelled this past summer due to the covid-19 crisis) could possibly go forward in June 2021…. but at half capacity due to regulations surrounding the pandemic.  Suddenly my “staff” (read, spouse and dear friend in support of this work) found themselves crunching numbers to see if this is indeed even doable.  As it turns out, with a small price hike, it is doable, even though I may have to turn a number of folks away or grant them space on a wait list. ( I was to have a full and bustling class this next year…..)

Like so many others I know in a variety of work-realms, I find myself questioning the very nature of what I do.  And it’s not just the pandemic which has me pondering the imponderable.  I wonder about all the flying I do (which to be fair, isn’t much compared to many, but shouldn’t we all be doing our part?)  I wonder about nurturing and admiring the very ground beneath my feet instead of traipsing round the world looking for beauty.  I have a couple of book ideas brewing where I focus on just this one little acre and all it has to offer.

“These are the fruits of my reverence, This is a love story.”

Obi Kaufman

I spend more and more time alone to think about it all.

“Nowhere can a man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.”

Marcus Aurelius

I could really use an agent or an editor or someone interested in getting these thoughts out into the world outside of this blog.  I am not sure how to find one.  I do know that I will just keep writing, and submitting and see what happens.  If for no other reason than to settle my spirit in these troubled times.  Perhaps someday, someone will take notice.  (Like this lovely blogger!)

In another world, before this one, I was to travel to Ireland with a fellow artist and dear friend for a month’s residency in that land of magic.  The month was to be October.  We should be on the road just now.  Here we are below, in Antigua last spring.  While we were working separately there, we came together for some meals and mayhem along the way which was a blast.

Julie Persons and myself with the lovely and captivating personality of Claudia. Both Julie and Claudia make the world a better place with their presence in it.

One thing we share in our work is a deep sense of play.  I miss that.

Alas, our residency is canceled due to the pandemic.  For now.  We shall see what the coming years hold.  We allow grief for what could have been while also making room for the Big Griefs at hand in these unexpected times.  We will get there eventually, we hope.  We have come to expect the unexpected.

As for me, I continue to root down.  And grow the seeds which are planted here.

I’m a bit out of practice in the painting department, outside of a badger now and then – week to week – and that is ok.  I’ve ordered a little phone-holder tool that might help me share some of my process via video and perhaps that might enliven my social media game a bit in the coming weeks.  I don’t know.  (And whether I care for social media is another post entirely!)

It has thankfully begun to rain here, sorely needed after weeks of dry.  We are grateful.  I am going to go play some pipes out in the “back room” which is falling down and due for a rebuild any day now.  I am grateful for the distraction.

Below I am linking a few things making me think more deeply just now, helping me stay sane, keeping me hopeful.  I hope you will check them out as well.  Stay safe.  Stay sane.  I shall write to you from a different world in the coming days.  Stay tuned……

“I wish you a kinder sea.”      ~Emily Dickinson

This podcast, and all the supplemental stuff along with: https://accidentalgods.life/

This lovely conversation with a long time fave musician and a guardener I’ve long admired along the way…. (there is also a conversation with Mary on the Accidental Gods podcast to be found here.  It’s lovely.)

The work of Mac Macartney (also interviewed by Accidental Gods but he’s been on my radar for a time now.)  Here is just one TED talk…..

The notion of soil as the harbinger of life.  We have to save the soil….

Some hope that one person can make a difference……

And finally, if you need an escape, which will also provide you some things to think about in this world now…. Go read the work of Signe Pike. 

 

 

 

 

 

Joy of being

“In today’s rush, we all think too much… seek too much… want too much… and forget about the joy of just being.”

~Eckhart Tolle *

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m feeling the rush and pull of a return to normalcy which I’ll admit, I am not quite yet in favor of.

“Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow.

~Vincent van Gogh *

For those of you who follow my online doings, the noise of the world has gotten to be a bit much for me personally and I have opted off the social media channels until further notice.  While we cannot and mustn’t turn our backs on a troubled world just now – the news of things as they are happening in real time – we CAN turn down the noise of it all online in order to dig deeper into what is really happening out there, what can actually be done, and how we feel about it all.  Sure one might get a chuckle now and then over on the socials, but true reality is a bit more difficult to find.  And so I seek it in deeper wells.

I’ll be honest, I needed a break – have done for a good long while now.

And so I am taking one.  Officially.  I am hopeful it might be longer than the usual month off which happens now and then in normal times.

I celebrated this returning to myself, this coming home really,  by building a fire last night.  Humidity is creeping back up as of today, but in recent days past, the magic of a cool summer night’s mystery has been in rare form.

We are grateful.

We wear a crown of midsummer and watch the garden flourish.

“With life as short as a half taken breath, don’t plant anything but love.”

~Rumi *

While not everything planted will be in top form this season, the garden’s beginnings give me hope for better days.

I suppose if necessary, we could live off of pumpkin and swiss chard alone, if we had to eventually.  Perhaps not all is lost.

Life carries on.

Birds nest.

A great June greening gathers further in.

“We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery.”

~ H G Wells

The daily post continues to be a source of great day to day joy.  Today we received the long anticipated “Views from Quarantine” zine project from Ireland-based artist and child-art psychotherapist Simone Westerkamp (also long time friend and musical pal).  This zine is filled with offerings Simone gathered from artful friends and family scattered around the globe.  We, Tony and I, are thrilled to have been a small part of it.  In this era of grief, sadness and strife – in epic proportions, to be sure – beautiful small things are a keen reminder of the scale and importance of our own humanity.

“Never regret anything you have done with sincere affection; nothing is lost that is born of the heart.”

~Basil Rathbone *

The summer’s slowing, with my yearly work offerings no longer viable, affords a delicate space for quiet wonderment.  There are Rainier cherries now at the market once more, which I love.  When I can settle my brain and nerves down enough, I am drawing more in this in between time and space.  I am grateful for these crumbs of validity in such tumultuous times.

I’ll admit I am not ready to re-enter the rat-race.  I did not belong to it in the first place.  This I must remember as the traffic time into my part-time work begins to once more give me pause.

We have our sights set to venture home to Maine later in July. (God willin’ and the creek don’t rise, as they say)  Once there we will keep ourselves to ourselves, which we normally do anyway, and I promise we will do this all safely.  I look very much forward to cuddle piles of hugs with my god-child and her sister, and our dear friends, their parents.  Even as introverts, we are missing the humanity of a normal social existence.  I am counting the days.

This is a strange new world we live in.  Some people seem to be carrying on like nothing has changed, like it is an insult to their American-borne freedom to be asked to wear a mask in interest of the safety of others.  Most near and dear to me of course, continue to be diligent and do what is necessary to keep things safe for everyone.  We live life in the day to day just now.  Plans are difficult to commit to with things changing so fast in real time.

In the end, time will tell.

As for us, we soldier on.  Listening to books, reading books, doing puzzles, keeping to the work online as needed.  Tonight we go to meet East-Coast cousins arriving new to town.  Socially distant, of course.

Take care of each other, get hugs when you can.

More soon……

****some of the quotes above (*)  have been saved over time from a wonderful offering on the Book of Faces called Ravenous Butterflies.  Go give em a follow if you are currently riding the waves of the socials.  They are a bright light on a dark platform.

Processing carrots

How to go from this….
……to this!!

Start with the shape of a carrot.  “ish”.

Add a “head” to your carrot shape.

And then a wee shadow to ground your developing figure in space….

(for the record, my sunshine is found in the left of my little world.)

Once your carrot is feeling like a figure, time to clothe it a bit.  This is done with some basic shapes, like rectangles.  The vendors here in Guatemala with their traditional outfits (the word for these is “traje”) are lovely to sketch in this way as the forms found in their clothing can be broken down to simple shapes.

Next I begin to add some appendages for this particular figure.

I then add a bundle on her head.  Folks here work so hard!  They carry their wares for peddling on their backs, heads, arms and then walk and walk and walk to make a sale.

I begin to find light in the bundle….

Then some patterning in her corte…..

And added some color therein….

I darken her outfit, showing the shadow beneath her heavy bundle….

a little more personality to her shadow.

Then I begin to add more wares for her to sell to the tourists here in Antigua.  Necklaces which will dangle from one arm whilst her other balances the bundle above.

More colors on the necklaces and some threads too.

She’s looking good I think!

So very tiny, but these little portraits really have a ton of personality and I enjoy creating them!

I am SO inspired by the Guatemalan people.  So very patient with us often clueless tourists with our clumsy spanglish.  Quick with a smile and a “buenos días” on the sidewalk.  The traditional textiles worn around town are a feast for the northern-most among us so thirsty for color.  It is such great fun to learn about the various patterns and places represented in these weavings and embroideries.  And great fun to explore them in a variety of ways in my sketchbook….

Day two – Readying

A busy day of many good things workshop related – errands run, lists checked and re-checked, details double checked, last minute messages sent, plans solidified.  I am so grateful for the people who make this work not only possible, but gratifying and fun as well.

In which Rosemary and Hugo are asked to “look serious” for the “we are working very hard” instagram photo.

Though we managed to get so much done……….(swag packages readied? check!)

…. we also managed a little shopping, some lovely meals, and even a few hours sketching at a local ruin.

The mixing of work and play, art and vocation, self care and the tending to a job to be done.  All of it a beautiful balance.  Feeling the magic of Antigua seeping into my bones as we settle in for what will be two wonderful weeks of art-making with amazing people.

Who knows?  There may even be a guest appearance here and there by some special non-workshop friends…..

City Day

Today it rains and rains here in Blackrock, as Ireland is famous for doing, and I am grateful that yesterday was the day for touring.  My dear friend Simone had a work related function in Dublin and so we took the bus into town where we lunched then parted ways for the afternoon – she to her work life, and myself to take in some iconic touristy destinations.

Along my way I spy a couple of fevered protests.  The first is in front of the famed General Post Office where the Easter Rising was centered back in 1916.  Political protests have often happened at this site since that time, as it feels symbolic to the notion that perhaps change is possible.  This current protest is by Kurds  who find themselves here in Ireland.  Their speeches are fraught with desperation regarding the atrocities occurring in their homeland just now and as an American, I am deeply ashamed of the recent decisions by our current “leadership”.

Further down the street, Extinction Rebellion is also holding a peaceful protest near the bridge over the Liffey River.  If you haven’t heard of the Extinction Rebellion movement, you will.  They too are desperate with their message, which is about the fact that we are running out of time before climate change wreaks a havoc we cannot stem.

And it’s interesting to me to listen to the talk of my fellow tourists on the street about their opinions regarding this “movement”.  About how the folks participating in these events aren’t doing enough personally to make their message valid.  That they might only be doing this for “attention”.  Well, this is exactly what the powers that be want us to think.  To so wrap us up in the guilt surrounding our own daily lives that we lash out at those trying to cause some systemic shifts in large level corporate and governmental practice.  I think about how I flew in an airplane to get here to Ireland, and that I will fly some more in the coming months to do the work I do, and I do feel some guilt.  But I also know I am doing what I can, where I can.  Small shifts.  I’m opting out of consumerism where I can, shopping only second hand for most things.  That sort of thing.  But at the end of the day, I live in a system that is largely out of my control, and Big Change will only occur on a large scale.  Extinction Rebellion aims to force that change.  I say good on em.

Eventually, I make my way to Trinity College, Dublin.  The place is thronged with more and more tourists like myself.  But it is beautiful regardless.

There is a wedding happening in the midst of the collegiate and tourist atmosphere which is lovely.

Ivy grows on on walls old and new.

I make my way to the Trinity Library where the Book of Kells is housed.

Over the course of the next hour I read about this ancient tome and how it found its way from the monks of olden times to its climate controlled home at Trinity.  It is remarkable it survived.

It is almost too much to take in in such a short visit but I find the imagery to be evocative and inspiring.  The work of these monks inspired an old artist friend of mine, Cindy Matyi to make her Celtic inspired works and much of what I see at the library brings her to mind.

Eventually we leave the Book of Kells display and make our way up to the Long Room of the library at Trinity.

Even with the crowds, the Long Room is breathtaking and I wander and take photos as best I can.  I can only imagine what this place is like when the masses are gone and a real and genuine quiet descends once more.  Surely the ghosts of Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker stop in now and again?

With another hour left in my solitary time, I head back toward the General Post Office to take their tour on the Easter Rising.  I think about what those rebels risked for what they believed in.  And how they eventually gave their lives.  I can’t help but think that some people may have thought they were crazy for doing what they did at the time (much like some think currently about Extinction Rebellion), and yet most scholars agree that it was the Easter Rising which set the course for the eventual forming of the Irish Republic.

This is all history that I barely know the surface of, but I am grateful for the stories told which get my mind buzzing and contemplating the state of our world now.  Countries still fighting over lands in other places of the world.  Border tensions even here in Ireland are set to have some potential issues with a hard brexit on the horizon.  The Troubles are never far from anyone’s mind here.  Peace and prosperity are tenuous at best.  We would all do best to remember that.

Our bus ride home is a rainy one.  We snooze a bit and chat about the day quietly.

I’ll admit to being rather exhausted after a day in town.  Today has been busy getting a few things sorted before I hit the road tomorrow to the West.  I’ll be hiring a car and driving it which I have not done this side of the Pond in a good many years.  But with a little parking lot practice today to jog the memory, I think I’ll be just fine.

The rain has finally stopped and so I am writing a bit here before we go gather dinner ingredients.  There is time for a walk to the sea for some fresh air.

Tomorrow travels resume.  I shall be in touch when and where I can, as my tech set up will get a bit wilder from here.  It is a delicate balance between soaking the travel experience in personally, catching up and spending time with loved ones, crafting material for this blog, all while attempting to make art and music along the way.

But I am keen to try to do it all.

ps. Here is the Brian Boru Harp, also housed in the Long Room at the library.  It is a thing of beauty….

And just like that

SOLD!!!!!!!!

At the beginning of this month, I alerted a few eager early birds that I was about to embark on registration for the Taos 2020 Travel Sketch class at Mabel Dodge Luhan’s.  Then just last week I opened up registration to anyone interested.  After a flurry-filled week of inquiries and emails, text messages and notes back and forth with old and new participants alike, I am pleased to say, the workshop is sold out!!  This is the earliest this phenomenon has ever occurred and I am thrilled.  Thrilled that this work speaks to so many, thrilled to be heading back to Taos next summer with a full roster of fellow artists – both seasoned and newly learning their craft.

I am simply over the moon!!

This sketchbook volume is about to come to an end. It’s been widely traveled and greatly loved.

June 2020 is in some ways, quite far off, but it comes around faster than one might expect and I’ll be ready with exciting new things to try in our sketchbooks by then.  I am already looking forward.  If you missed the call for this workshop, you still have some options.  First, reach out to me and get on the waiting list.  Plans can sometimes change for people unexpectedly which occasionally might open up a slot for someone else.  I am contemplating adding a slot or two extra but need to contemplate this and talk it over with my trusted advisors and the team at Mabel’s.  Those on the wait list would be the first to know if anything opens up for any reason.

Mabel welcomes you!!

You can also join me in Guatemala in early spring.  Details on dates and costs can be found here.  I have limited space in each of the two weeks being offered there and I believe it is only a matter of time before this trip too is sold out.  Antigua, Guatemala is a gorgeous, quite cosmopolitan city which carries color and beauty and an ancient magic all its own.  It is the perfect way to warm up during the depths of winter!  So consider this option perhaps.

Other teaching outings are in the works for California next spring, generally the Bay Area and environs, so if you are local to there, reach out to me and I’ll put you on that mailing list.  Right now we are looking at the first weekend in May and possibly some other dates around that time and in that general vicinity to make it that much more worth a trip to the Left Coast.

And so now, I get back to the making of things.   Back to tending the craft that allows me to teach these workshops in the first place.  I can smell an autumnal journey on the winds about which I am very excited.  I’ll be sure and write from the road.

This little guy was created for the Gulf Coast Cruinniú, a musical weekend in Houston full of workshops and performances which should be a lot of fun for all!

As always, consider getting on the mailing list to get all of the latest news from here.  Social media can be a lot of fun but those pesky algorithms do keep us hustling to get the work into the world.

Till next time…..

 

 

gold behind the green

 

We can see it in the light just lately.  A goldening behind the lush greens of late summer.

This morning I take the dogs outside.  I take note.  And return with my camera to capture these fleeting light-moments.

I begin looking closer.  The colors beckoning.

Capturing changing light, shifting colors of the mood of a certain season – this is a favorite thing of mine.

Lately I find myself more and more captivated with capturing the mood of a moment, which colors and light it might hold, versus sketching out what things might “actually look like”.

Over the holiday weekend, we found ourselves in Asheville, North Carolina to visit friends, play a few tunes and hike.  On one hike we met a family from Guatemala who were keen on Catawba Falls as it reminded them of home.

I painted them into a little color drawing I made of the moment and shared it with them.  We talked of Guatemala and how beautiful it is. 

My sketch felt more like a painting, which pleases me to no end.

The weekend ended much too soon for my liking but I have taken custody of a wee hand sculpted by Anna Koloseike of Asheville.  I am in love with it’s smallness and the form it takes and am still deciding where to mount it.

It’s like the hand of a small maker.  Which is how I feel at times.

Today I sketched at the Cincinnati Zoo for awhile with an Urban Sketcher friend, and a few others joined us after the local illustrator’s luncheon.  Although I attend these lunches at times, today’s schedule was cut into slices which didn’t allow for lunch out and so I did what I could.

There just never seems to be enough time for all the things.  But occasionally a reminder comes along and I breathe a little easier….

I am grateful for this reminder.

At the zoo today I looked for an armadillo but could only find one with three bands and I need the one with 9.  (And a banjo.  He must have a banjo.)  So I will sketch on until the right fella finds himself at the tip of my pencil and I can pin him down to the job at hand.

More on this little project as it unfolds from here…..

In the meantime, I leave you with Asheville impressions.

Asheville dog culture is wonderful.

It was strange to visit Warren Wilson College outside of the scope of the Swannanoa Gathering.  All was quiet and peaceful.  But the place is lovely in spite of the music being flung to the hills until next summer.  I look forward to next year.

 

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.

 

 

‘Artvangogh’

It is travel season.  I am recently returned from California and while away, my studio window robins hatched and grew.

Mere seconds after this photo was snapped, this last one fledged.  It’s a bit like life itself.  How fast they grow.  Though our fledglings double back on occasion and for this we are grateful.

California was rewarding in her splendor as always, but had a few weather related tricks up her sleeve which complicated things for my workshop days.  That said, I packed in a lot in just a short time, both as a traveling artist and as a teacher.

There were many highlights….

After a class with nature journaling artist Kristin Meuser, (if you are ever in California, take a class from her! She’s lovely!) Rosemary and I headed to Berkeley where we met glass artist Alexis Berger, visited a lovely new shop called Etui, and gazed at magnificent fabrics at a place called Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics.

We had an appointment to meet watercolor maker Amanda Hinton of Limn Watercolors where we got to see how her fabulous paints are made from scratch.  It’s a fascinating brand of magic she does and we were smitten with all the colors.  And with Amanda herself.

Amanda Hinton of Limn Colors shows us around the room where it happens.
All the juicy colors

Limn colors do the usual fun stuff watercolors are known for, like mixing beautifully and replicating stained glass with their translucency, but some of her colors can separate and bloom in evocative ways that we have found enchanting.  I have a whole row of her colors in my paint set now which afford me abilities I’ve not had in the past.

Pigments awaiting
Half pans, drying
Samples and the muller

It was great fun to try and buy a few new colors to add to our collection and I am so thankful to Amanda for her time and warm welcome.

Also in Berkeley was a wonderful creative re-use arts supply store and the amazing Burma Superstar restaurant.  We even managed to stop into California Typewriter, of documentary fame…..

 

We were warmly welcomed by Ken and Herb and enjoyed looking at the machines currently in store there.

All in all it was a perfect, busy, sunny California day.

The sunny bit was not to continue.  Alas, the weekend forecast was wet. wet. wet.  So we worked indoors with exercises students will be able to take out of doors on their own at a later time.  Not ideal, but neither is sketching and teaching in the rain.  We were at least cosy.

There is plenty to draw in the home of an interesting, artistic friend.  Here’s a small demo drawing of a wee humbled Buddha I did for the workshop.

The following days were to see us dodging rain drops to capture the wild water on the coastline.

The sun did come out for a few minutes so we sat down to sketch on this beautiful spot in Asilomar, only to be foiled by big raindrops. We ran for the car, rain splattering our drawings. It’s a risk we take yes?
I do love a tide pool.

Again, not ideal, but we managed.  Day two of workshops was moved by one day for those available to make it, and we did manage a few hours of sunlight between rainstorms on our day of working together.  We also managed a few more sketches.

Art L-R by Amy Bogard, Sandi Kane, Rosemary Berwald
The trusty art vans! Always on the gogh. 😉

Painting at the sea side is by far one of my favorite things.  I am often torn between the desire to simply sit and stare at the shifting light and color of the ocean and to capture it in my sketch book.  This feeling is magnified by the limited time I always have by the sea.

I find myself wondering why I do not live nearer to big water.

Somewhere where I might take my blue art van and wander down the lane to the sea shore for a few hours to sketch and stare….. maybe daily.

Suffice it to say, time in Santa Cruz is never enough time.  In the same way that time at Ballybunion Beach is never enough.  Or time on Monhegan is never enough.  Alas.  Time marches on…..

Next up is an ocean of a different kind.  An ocean of sage.  In just two weeks’ time I’ll be back in New Mexico for my flagship travel journaling course at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House once again.  Every year is a gift and I am thrilled to be heading back.

The weather seems like it might be more cooperative in Taos than in California, even leaning more cool than in recent years.  We shall see.  But at the very least, sunshine, New Mexico style.

My studio is less a place of making just now and more a place of packing and preparations.

The art van, of course, at the ready.  A new sweater for the (hopefully) cool Taos nights, and maybe a friend or two along for company.

Swag is being readied.

I consider what art supplies to bring for my own making, while making sure that I have all the extras for the workshop participants as well.

It can make one’s head spin to be sure.  But the paint set is clean (after being dusted quite heavily by volcanic ash in Guatemala and a grain or two of sand in Santa Cruz) and refilled (note the lovely middle line of mostly Limn colors!!)

I have a few new pencils to try, including a light blue one suggested by Kristin Meuser during her workshop and a couple of Blackwing pencils all the rage with my illustrator friends.

All of it tucks away into the little van, along with a book or two to draw and paint in.  It’s all quite compact actually.

This year I have made the decision to simplify my packing process for the Taos trip.  I am only bringing a few of my current books, not a box full of past years’ books like I do normally.  And instead of bringing yet another box full of published books for people to peruse, I will bring a list of said books to share with my students so they can explore when they get home via bookstore and library.  We will instead focus on the work at hand.  It’s a strange shift, but I feel good about it.

It’s easy to look at the wonderful empty classroom at Mabel’s and feel like we need to fill it with things other than ourselves and our small packs of art supplies.  This is especially the case for me as facilitator.  But this is not true.  That room fills with laughter and conversation and the joy of working into the wee hours on sketches begun earlier in the day.  WE fill the room.  WE are enough, with just our supplies on hand.

I am so excited to get back to Taos where this whole traveling-art thing began for me so many years ago.  Every year is different, and yet there is the lovely familiarity to lean into as well.  I am open to what I have to learn there year after year and am grateful for the opportunity to go back once again.