Tag Archives: Sketch

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 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.

 

 

Mapping the weeks ahead

Antigua beckons…..

But first, there are tunes to play (yay!!… below I’ll list where we are playing locally in coming days) lists to attend to, errands to run.

In the meantime a favorite part of the work I do is to collect bits of ‘swag’ to present to my students upon arrival in whatever destination we may find ourselves.  For the Antigua trip, I’ll gather a few things once I arrive to combine with things I’ve gathered here in Ohio- like little altoid watercolor sets to work with (this allows people to try new colors which might not be available in their own sets and to play with limiting their palette as an exercise).

I’ve crafted a keepsake illustrated map of some of our favorite haunts in Antigua which I’ll reproduce for my students.  It’s fun!  It is my hope that not only will this come in handy to know where they are as we sketch the city, but will also encourage them to create their own version in their own travel journals.  We must always map our own course, I do believe.

There are stickers…. always stickers…..

….which encourage a bit of ‘mixed media -ness’ in our books.  I’m sure to have a few more tricks up my sleeve but really the true gift will be that of spending time together, slowing down and enjoying this World Unesco Heritage city in all its glory.  To say I am excited to return would be an understatement.

Here at home I have been gifted some tree cuttings to root as I re-think the stewardship of our little patch of land.  I am mindful of what needs to be done in the garden, and perhaps more importantly, what needs NOT be done as well.  Do check out the work of We Are The Ark in the hopes of re-wilding small places to create a network of healing in these times.

Art by Ruth Evans for www.wearetheark.org

While I was making stickers at the library today for my workshops, I saved a bit of time to make some stickers for this cause as well.  I’ve mentioned this notion of holding two things at once in our hearts, yes?  We must do the work we do in the day to day, while also tending the wild places in the corners of our gardens and spreading the word about the need to be more mindful in this world.  Limiting consumption where we can.

In this same spirit I am following closely the work of young activists who are striking from school when and where they can (usually Friday’s but I know it can vary region to region).  Emma Reynolds has pulled together a number of illustrators to show solidarity with these brave voices and here is my little drawing…

That is the news from today.  For now I am off to rehearse tunes with my musical mates.  We don’t often have microphones thrust in front of us, and so we take a bit of time to practice for these once-yearly gigs.

You can find me here in the coming days……

Saturday:  Arnolds Bar and Grill 8-1130 pm

Sunday:  B-List Bar in Bellevue KY 4 pm-730 ish then Palm Court at the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel 9-12 (this is quite fancy)

I hope to see you there if you are local to this little river valley.  More soon as I get set to hit the road very soon…..

 

Gifts of Color and Light

The sun drifts down behind volcanos surrounding Antigua, Guatemala, providing the beginnings of the evening’s light show, Sunset.

It is winter in Ohio.  Today, at least, we have some sunshine and some not so bitter temperatures.  I will go outside with a dog in a bit to attempt to shake some of the doldrums nipping at my heels just now. A heaviness borne of annoyances mostly.  Demands of the season and the length of daily darkness have ground me down in recent weeks.  I know this will pass.  I look forward to Solstice next week and keep my soul facing the light as best I can, while making friends with the dark as needed.

Gifts are being crafted, alighting to celebrate the return of longer days.  Although it will be a good many weeks before we see the changes and shifts properly, our hearts know – and sometimes that is enough to lighten the spirit.

Last weekend there was a concert – a sharing of musical gifts in the form of our annual Peace and Merriment concert at the Riley School.  Our hearts were lightened by an afternoon of tunes and a few stories by our Master of Ceremonies, who is also my flute instructor, John.

All things seasonal are underway….

Decoration,

“Tangled”
Changing a bulb

Reflection,

Celebration,

Sharing light with the world,

I have lists made of gifts to gather for the kids in my life, most of whom like books, even the older ones.  Perhaps we can be like Icelandic revelers and lie around reading all day on Christmas!  As for the adults, we all seem to feel a distinct pulling away from the “stuff” of it all, opting more for subscriptions, memberships, classes – “things” which aren’t things and which brighten the experience of simply being human.

Perhaps you know someone close to you who feels similarly.  Perhaps this someone is feeling the darkness of winter, (which even on the brightest of winter days has a muted spectrum of color).  Perhaps, they might like to look forward to more light and color in the not-so-distant future.

Registration for my travel journal workshops in Taos, New Mexico and Antigua, Guatemala are officially open and Taos is nearing capacity (yay!).  Antigua, being international and a newer offering, still has a few spaces left in each of the two weeks available (click the link for details!)

I can’t say enough about what a dose of vivid color and warm air can do for one’s soul and body after a long winter and I find myself looking very forward indeed to the spring trip to Antigua in particular.

And the coffee.  You simply wouldn’t believe the coffee…

Our classroom is in the form of where ever we find ourselves each day, from rooftops to ruins.

We immerse in culture through some shopping and exchange of language.

Through it all we gather it all into a travel journal.

While I encourage the use of cameras and smart-phones to capture “source photos” for later work, there is simply no better way to really soak into a place than through the lens of a travel journal.  Merely taking the time to draw something, perhaps even multiple times, creates a broader understanding of place.  A broader understanding of our place in the All of Everything.  This can be difficult to pin down in our hectic world.  By cataloguing a travel experience in a little book, our travels are enhanced and brought to life in a new and richer way.

We notice the little things…..

….while standing in awe of the bigger things as well.

We immerse in the day to day of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which holds beauty, color and light at every turn.

There are a million different yellows….

Pinks as well.

Blues and greens are well represented.

Our palette here is bright and beautiful and I help you figure out how to recreate these vibrant hues on the pages of your journal with a simple set of watercolors.

As the end of the year draws nigh, with one major gift giving holiday behind us (gosh Hanukkah was early this year!!) and another too close for comfort, consider the gift of one of my workshops.  This might be a gift for a loved one or friend, or simply, and perhaps most importantly, to yourself, setting the tone for 2019 to be filled with close attention paid to beauty, light and color.

The world could use a bit of all of these.

See you in Antigua!

From the rooftop of Posada San Sebastian. (oil on Panel, 5×7)

A book and a box of colors.

“I travel a lot.  I hate having my life disrupted by routine.”  ~Caskie Stinnett

A temptuous siren’s call beckons from the open road.  Once again, I comb maps of places yet to be explored, finalizing flight paths,  formulating rail patterns and charting the wheeled paths where travels may take me this season.  It’s once again workshop season.

Second only to sitting absorbed in my own book and box of colors while on the road is my love of teaching the Art of Keeping An Illuminated Travel Journal to students who range from intrepid beginners to like-minded artists already brimming with their own artistic tricks of the trade.    There is truly no wrong way to capture one’s travel adventures.  For some folks, merely snapping a photo with a cell phone or even a  proper camera might be enough of a record of time and experience. But for many many others, a new trend of mindful travel is all the fashion these days.

Our world spins madly on at hyper speed.  Many of us look for ways to slow it all down.  To step off of this merry-go-round – to hit the reset button and come back once again into our physical bodies.  Travel is one way to do this of course, but if we are not careful, we may find ourselves careening through our travel experiences at the same breakneck speed we do the rest of our lives.  A travel journal is one such way to ever-so-gently pull the reins back a bit on time itself.

Sketching in the field

As an artist, I have dwelled in the world with a sketchbook of some sort or other tucked under my arm or in my knapsack since before I can remember.  But one doesn’t need to self-identify as an artist to experience the magic of a little book and a box of watercolors.  While spring drags its heels here in the midwest, travel season must surely be on its way eventually, yes?  As we plot and dream of summerly adventurings, my friend and fellow creative spirit Margot Madison, Empress Queen Bee of Creative Juice asked if I might have a few suggestions related to the art of keeping a travel sketch journal.  Not able to contain this amazing practice, I opted to put together a blog post here which might give folks a taste of what I do and teach along with heaps of links and ideas to get you started.

 

photo by Tom Spatig of Bat Cave Studios

What you need:

Not much really.  A book, something to draw with and a little set of watercolors.  For the book, opt for something not too cumbersome.  Stillman And Birn have lovely books in all shapes and sizes.  The Alpha Series features good paper which can take a watercolor sketch without falling apart.  Moleskin books are also classically wonderful to work in, just make certain to obtain one with watercolor paper.

For drawing, I like both pens and pencils, depending on how I am working.  Nothing fancy necessary in the pencil department, though mechanical pencils are nice to have on hand.  Recently I have taken to using fountain pens for ink drawing as I was tired of the waste of an empty marker heading to the landfill.  Artist Liz Steel has some lovely ideas and suggestions on which pens and inks to try, but my current favorites are the Eco-pen with Noodler’s Bulletproof inks.

Next you’ll want to choose a watercolor set.  Over the years, I have steered students toward the Winsor and Newton field sketching sets and they have held up over time.  There are countless options out there to be had from the world renowned Schmincke brand to handcrafted ones from Greenleaf and Blueberry out of Colorado.

Tuck all of these new found treasures into a comfortable little bag or backpack along with a container of water, a cloth for blotting and you are ready to Go Forth And Doodle!  If you are to be out in the sun, consider a sunhat and glasses, and maybe a little portable chair if need be.  (Though I find that most beautiful places tend to have a bench or two.)

Now What?

But “I can’t draw a straight line”, you say.  Well, first off, straight lines are overrated.  Drawing and painting is more about learning how to really see than anything else.  A wonderful, playful way to settle into a new place and to get your eyes seeing in vivid color, without the pressure of ‘making something’ is to make little color swatches.

This is a wonderful way to get to know your watercolors, and learn about mixing colors to capture what you see.  The first place I saw this exercise is in the lovely work of Sara Midda.  Her book South of France, A Sketchbook’, is a favorite of mine and serves as a lovely example of how some simple colors can really give one a sense of place.

You’ll find that every place has it’s own distinct and sometimes quite subtle color palette.  Simply beginning with swatches will get you working into a blank page.

Mapping out a Place.

I adore maps of all kinds.  You can paste a small map of a place in your book, or perhaps create one of your own which speaks to where you’ve been along your own route.

They Draw and Travel has wonderful examples of playful ways to map a new place as well as creative usage of text to light up a journal page.  Below is a page from a student of mine.  Notice how she painted the letter ‘T’ which really highlights her drawing from Taos New Mexico!

student work

Another creative way to incorporate text into your capture of a place is to stop into the local post office for a postal stamp.  Often state and national parks will have site specific stamps on hand to play with as well.

Lawrence Tree Sketch, Amy Bogard

 

Foggy Monhegan, Sketch by Amy Bogard

But wait, I’m still not drawing anything!

No worries! You’ve already begun to ‘mess up’ your journal with these beginning exercises.  And this is key to sidestepping one’s inner critic who is so hasty to make commentary on your efforts.  Besides maps and swatches and stamps, keep an eye out for ephemera from your journey.  Ticket stubs and business cards can be pasted into your journal as a reminder of where you’ve been and what you saw along the way.   Perhaps you might begin to tuck in a quick sketch in and around these found objects….

Buffalo Gal, sketch by amy bogard
Selfie Santos, sketch by Amy Bogard
Student sketches around found ephemera in her journal

There is a veritable feast of resources both locally and online that can get you actually drawing.  Artists like Danny Gregory and his Sketch Skool project, Dan Price’s little tome How to Make a Journal of Your Life,  and the local chapter of Urban Sketchers are all great places to pick up ideas about drawing or even take a workshop.  That said, there is no greater way to learn to draw than to just sit and draw.  That may sound tremendously daunting.  But every drawing you make, “bad” or “good”, you will learn something which you will then apply to the next drawing.  Drawing is exercise.  Drawing is mindfulness.  When we sit down and really see something for what it is, in this place, at this very moment, we are in communion with that thing, in this place, at this time.

One great exercise is that of the ‘blind contour’ drawing.  Sit in front of what you would like to doodle, look at it for a few moments.  Allow your eyes to look at the lines that make up what is in front of you.  Now, place your pen or pencil to paper and without looking at the paper, run the pencil around the contours of what you are drawing.

This process is good to utilize, even if you are ‘looking’ at your drawing because it tends to keep drawings loose and scribbly.

Daily dog sketch by amy bogard
Local flavor. Sketch by Amy Bogard
Student work
student work
A quick capture of New Mexico Light with watercolor, Amy Bogard

In the end, whether your travels are taking your far a field this season, or perhaps merely exploring your own back yard, or watching the kids splash about at the local watering hole, a travel journal is a wonderful way to catalog and capture these fleeting moments.

This week I am off to California to guide a new group of sketchers onto this mindful path of gathering experience.  Shortly after that I’ll be back in New Mexico for my flagship class in Taos.  If you are interested in joining me for a workshop, consider Antigua, Guatemala next April (I’ll be offering 2 separate weeks back to back!) or perhaps Taos next June.  Or just dredge up the courage to join your local Urban Sketchers.  I can promise you they are a wonderful, welcoming group of people and you’ll learn a lot just by doing!

Go Forth and Doodle.

Kelley’s Island, Ohio – Sketch by Amy Bogard

 

 

A Galaxy Far, Far Away

(dangling from the shepherd’s hooks are little water wells which help keep hummingbird feeders from becoming overladen with bad bugs when the feeders are out.  but at this point who knows if bugs, or hummingbirds for that matter, are anywhere in the neighborhood at the moment.)

I am laid out flat and irritated with an unexpected spring cold, the likes of which I’ve not seen this year.  Cheekily I thought I was in the clear of winter’s ailments when the blossoms began arriving and we found ourselves sketching in the cool, but sunny breezes.

We managed some hiking with the dogs, were taking note of things beginning to grow and bloom and even my spring allergies had taken root.

We were celebrating.

It was not to last.

“Spring” has other ideas.

With spring allergies comes a lowered immunity, which is part of being human I suppose.  And so, here I am with a roaring head cold.  (and a cough to wake the dead, some sunken eyes and seriously productive sinuses.)  Meh.  Insert healthy dose of self-pity.

My mom always says, ‘this too shall pass.’  And she is, as moms are, absolutely correct.  To pass the time, I have clung to escapism in the form of Netflix shows, a bit of whisky to clear the head (I’m not a huge fan of the regular medicines) and some time, when I feel up to it, to finish a couple of little paintings.  I am grateful for this spaciousness.

There is no escape quite like the escape to other worlds entirely.  I’m pleased to say that I have managed to finish a small series of eight tiny paintings which will go on sale at the local incarnation of May the Fourth, a day which celebrates all things Star Wars around the world.

I join a number of other local artists at Brew House, May 4th for the opening of this eclectic show.

Endor
Naboo
Fourth moon of Yavin (filming location at Tikal in Guatemala where we visited a while back!)
Degobah
Crait
Kashyyyk (Chewbacca’s lush homeland)
Hoth
Tatooine

These are all tiny landscapes of worlds you might escape to yourself, should you like, (penny for scale).  As for me, once recovered I will be escaping next week to the wilds of California for a weekend of travel journaling workshops in the San Jose area and surrounds.  But for now, it’s back to the Netflix.

 

Book Work

I find myself unexpectedly weary today after a day of art making and eating and not much else. It was great fun to dive fully into book work but it is work. And work I love dearly.  I feel a bit more up to snuff in my sketchbook after today’s efforts so I’ll share a few more Antigua adventures with you here.

I’ve been really enjoying meeting the other artists here in Antigua and beyond. Rosemary has made many connections over the years between service trips for her speech pathology work and textile tours. Yesterday we had the pleasure of stopping in to see Lidia López who is a talented weaver among many other wonderful things (I’m keen to learn how to make Pepian sauce from her!).

Lidia was pregnant with her son and visiting friends in Panajachel, and I was a 7 year old kid living in Guatemala City when in 1976 tragedy struck this region in the form of an earthquake.  Thousands of lives were lost and it was indeed something one never forgets. But time passes, and as Lidia says, it was not our time then. We had more work to do.  And so we did.

It was lovely to chat with Lidia about the work she does and life in general. She patiently let us practice our Spanish on her, although her English is amazing. We talked to her about visiting again when we come for the travel sketch workshop next year which I hope comes to frution.

Our visit was over far too soon and I hope to stop in to say goodbye and share with her some of the work we have been up to in the mean time. Including a drawing I made of Lidia herself.

Later in the afternoon we went to sketch and photograph a lovely ruin…..

I was very happy to have my fancy camera this day as the structures and light at play in this old convent make for beautiful imagery.

But time was ticking and the ruins close fairly early to visitors.  We knew we had to get to work if we were to get a sketch in.

As the kids do often put it,

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Seems kids have been the same since time began….

We had 40 minutes to do a quick study and we opted for a fairly complicated stairwell.

While this is not a scaled architectural study, it’s not a bad painting to my eye.  Coming back to this drawing in my sketchbook in years to come,  I’ll remember the light in this stairwell, and church bells on the wind and quiet drawing time with a good friend.  The gifts of a well fed travel journal.

Today was a slower paced day in the way of touring. We had meals out of course but mostly we stayed home and caught up in our books. Little things here and there….

…like this creepy antique wooden baby Jesus spotted at a collectibles and antiques owned by a nice fella called Axel.

I also did a page spread in my book to try and learn a bit more about the weaving tradition here in this country.

Although it took me the better part of the day, I’m happy with the results.

I wanted to try to capture the beauty and variety of the indigo dyed corte or cuts of cloth we encountered the other day at the market in Panajachel. Each piece different, punctuated with the colorful seam stitching called randas.

The textiles in Guatemala are not something I can try to adequately comprehend in one go, but it’s been great fun to get a weaving 101 from Rosemary, Mari and Lidia.

Tomorrow there will be more and more drawing. And I hear tell of some hot chocolate which contains chili powder in it. Two days left in this captivating country. For this visit at least.

 

 

All in a day

I’ve technically been here in Antigua Guatemala for a day. Just shy of 24 hours. And in that time I’ve seen a city of history alive and laughing. I’ve heard many tongues being spoken upon the breeze. One conversation between a lovely, crackling fireworks display to end a raucous saturday evening in town and the volcano in the distance which answered with its own beautiful breath of fire and light in the distance.

Life happens amongst the rooftops and streets here. Creature comforts being the first order of business for this weary traveler, we had a snack before bed late last night up the street and coffee and a hearty breakfast on a local rooftop this morning. The volcano was still whispering its thoughts on the breeze.  After breakfast we followed rumors of a procesión happening a number of blocks away. A celebration of the Lenten season.

Temporary carpets were being delicately installed along the streets where the procession would return them to dust.

It was hot, diligent work. The carpets (alfombras) were crafted of tinted saw dust, raffia, flowers and vegetables.

Some had a way of looking at us.

Soon we reached the center of all the activity, Santa Ana Church.

Here, hundreds (thousands?) of faithful folk gathered to watch the spectacle. I am told this happens every Sunday leading up to Easter Holy Week when things are happening every day by then. But all in all, we were lucky to witness what we did.

After the crush of humanity it was great to get lunch and head back to our hotel, Posada San Sebastián which is a wonderland really. And a feast for the senses for anyone with a whimsical bent.

This special place contains many collected items set around in groupings. Such as chairs.

Enameled porcelain.

Telephones.

And my personal favorite, a cabinet chock full of baby Jesus.

Yes it’s true.

One might think that with barely a day here, all of this activity might have had us so busy as to forget our art making. But I did manage a page in between times.  And after some rest, tomorrow will bring more. Sometimes it’s important just to fully soak up what’s in front of you in the moment .

Good night watercolor set. Goodnight baby Jesus. Goodnight chatty neighbor.

Ya esta por ahora.   Antigua, I love you already.

River Run Wide

For days, it seemed as if it would never stop raining.

We hunkered in our homes, all of us  (including the Faeries, I do believe!) watching the gardens begin to awaken between raindrops and the rollercoaster weather patterns for which our region is known.

We tended our indoor plants as well, hungry to touch something green once again.  We are all of us ready to go outside once more.

As the rain poured down, our normally babbling brooks not only rushed but eventually even did a fair amount of flooding.  Up and over our little bridge and the drive.  Thankfully, the flood waters only lapped up to the door, with nary a trickle actually making it indoors.  We were lucky.

Eventually, the sun has shown here and there.  And things are beginning to bud and bloom.  Risky behavior for these intrepid plants, as warm days are still fleeting.

But bloom, they do.

While the streams rushed outside our doors, and the Ohio River and its tributaries raged closer to town, another far sweeter and gentler River has begun flowing…..

A new album of folk-styled music has been taking shape out in Seattle where my young friend Alex Sturbaum now lives.  You may remember Alex from my post about his amazingly hand-crafted wedding a few months back.  Recently Alex created a Kickstarter campaign for his River Run Wide project and it has been successfully funded (though there is always room for more)!!  I was thrilled when he gave me a call and asked me if I might be able to produce some art work to contribute to the design of the CD and it’s wee booklet.

There are so many tales to be told and behold through Alex’s music -both via traditional songs he’s interpreted for this solo album as well as his charming original works. Narratives rich in visual detailing and a sense of nostalgia for something just out of reach.  You can practically smell the salt air of a ship’s passage in his maritime songs….

You can feel the pull of a mighty river and maybe hear the voices of those working it just over the lapping of the river waves on shore…..

There is a longing for home that music such as this evokes.  It may very well be a sense of home which can never be quenched.

Congratulations to Alex, and his talented band of merry, music-making friends, with whom I’ve shared a number of late night sing-alongs.  May this album head into the world and encourage more singing, more gathering and telling of old tales, more joy in the making of music.

Where your name is spoken

Looking Westward, a drawing of mine from a few years ago…. Raven is a bird close to my heart.

What a winter we are weathering.  Not for the normal reasons which might lead to a bout of winter weariness such as darkness or the ice and snow (we’ve had little of either, though we do suffer our fair share of a seemingly endless milky-gray pearlescence, which is a nice, wordy way of saying ‘day to day dismal’.)

Instead, there seems to be a general sense of malaise in all corners, at least to my winter-wearied eyes.  The political climate of late is one I am deeply committed to keeping track of, though how to do so and still nurture my rich inner world is proving to be a bit of a challenge.  (I am up to the challenge.)  All told, through this winter’s darkness, both literal and metaphorical, I’ll admit to having had to dig quite deeply to find any light lately within my heart- physically, creatively.  Some days I have felt quite extinguished indeed.  It’s been a hard time, ‘I don’t mind tellin’ you.’  

But, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve and all is not lost, fear not!  I am back to running the local village paths once again more routinely, just in recent days, no matter the weather! This morning I awoke with the clearest head I have had in months, the cobwebs having been cleared from my seratonin-deprived brain by just a few short, but successful hard runs around my neighborhood.  I could nearly weep with joy for the returning of this source of bliss and emotional sustenance in my life.

While running has not been available to me, walking still has.  Our dogs enjoy a wee trot outside each day, provided the roads aren’t too salty for their exposed paws.  I delight in a rhythmic jaunt where I can get lost in my thoughts.

A few days ago, the sun did shine for a day. (read: a brighter milky-pearlescence).  My hub and I went to the local nature center for some sketching time.  There are all sorts of very still, very dead, yet somehow quite animated taxidermy-style animals there and we took some time to draw them.

There was woodsmoke in the air there that day, and a sweetness as well, signaling maple sugaring season.  We enjoyed learning about how our native forebears likely processed, consumed and traded the sweet, valuable maple syrup and crystalline sugar using handmade tools they gathered from the earth and adapted to their needs.  I did not take a picture.

We discussed that day of how sad things have been (how sad I’ve been) and we talked also of how mood-changing a song might be when it catches our ears just so.  My Hub found one such song called I Don’t Recall done up so very beautifully by Lavender Diamond. They have a new video….

We were intrigued by the biography of this project to be found on Spotify…..

“The folk delight that is Lavender Diamond originally came to life in Bird Songs of the Bauharoque,  a punk operetta inspired by the work of American painter/architect Paul Laffoley.  Vocalist Becky Stark wrote and created the piece with a friend while living in Providence, RI, and starred as Lavender herself, a winsome part bird/part human who wants peace on earth.”

Hub wondered at which point in the song she was human and which bit might find her in bird form – to which I argued, why can’t she be both?  Both, at the same time.  animal.  woman.

I’ve been pondering a great bit lately this whole notion of polarity.  Political polarity, yes of course.  But also the light vs. the shadow sides of ourselves.  The Masculine and Feminine bits too, always in a dance, yes?  And even to how we react to times of great strain.   I am intrigued (and often infuriated) by the discussion of a perceived necessity to choose one thing over another.  Why can’t we be Both.  I am both Woman and Animal.  I am Light as well as Shadow.  I enjoy tapping into both the (traditionally regarded) Masculine AND Feminine within my whole self.  When I allow this, I am more wholly alive as a total human being.  Perhaps like Lavender herself.

Music has indeed been a balm and an inspiration when Mother Nature is resting and doesn’t give us much to go on in the way of sketchable stuff.

Though if one pays close attention…..

One of my favorite flute teachers shared a song the other day which caught my ear, as songs of old often do.

It put me in mind of leggy hares to be found across the pond.  so different from our own bulky little bunnies.  so I sketched one up.

As I continue to climb out of the dark hole of my recent state, I am grateful for things which catch my ear.  The music often being the first and foremost quality of a song shared.  If I get a tune rolling round in my head, words or no, that can be a good thing.  It can, indeed, change the tone of an entire day for someone sitting rather on the edges of things emotionally speaking.

But sometimes, what catches my ear is deeper still than just a catchy tune.  Sometimes, as I listen to a newly found thing, often on obsessive repeat, (yes it’s true, and part of my charm, I like to think) the words partnering with the music to enchant the heart can act like will-o-the-wisp.  Lights in the darkness, taking me down an enchanted lane to other worlds….

This morning the lovely Lin-Manuel Miranda (you know, of Hamilton fame?) shared the music of one Ali Dineen in the form of this song in particular, which much like the Lavender Diamond song above, has a happy feel to it.  (and, turns out, Lin was one of Ali’s 7th grade teachers.  Can you imagine?)

This song led me down the proverbial musical rabbit hole of her music in general and I was not to be disappointed.  (Thank you Lin!) Little lyrical snippets pulled at my heart strings as I jogged the paths here amidst this gray, cold village here in Ohio.

“Somewhere else there were
miracles, carnivals, and a space in the air
only your bones could fill.”

Just weeks away, I am reminded by this tune, is a trip south to Antigua, Guatemala where I will sink into constant art-making for a solid week.  This makes me happy beyond imagining.  And reminds me that winter will pass.  In spite of how hard things can seem just now, personally, nationally,  globally.

“Spring it brought madness and chaos and song
the wind growing warm, the days growing long
I watched the world blow through your mind
we stooped low to pick up what it left behind
Scattered stories of our country’s childhood,
though we’re deaf to their sounds
We’re trying to stand up straight
but we don’t know what’s weighing us down.”

“go when your feet are restless
go when you hear a faraway song
heed what your bones are saying
don’t wait for your saint to come….”

“go where your name is spoken
stay when you feel like standing still
no one can guide your footsteps
so walk where you will “

So, yes, later this spring, I will travel to Guatemala, where once upon a time, my name was spoken.  I have been trying to tap into that little gypsy girl who lived everywhere and nowhere.  The me who spoke Spanish “like a native” (my mom’s words) and who seemed to feel at home anywhere.  I seem to have lost track of her over the years but I am keen to get reacquainted.  I’ve been taking a formal Spanish course locally and it’s been more difficult that I had expected.

We conjugate a good bit, which I will admit, I don’t know how to do adequately in English, in spite of my ability to speak the language here.  I am banking on a small faith that this class will warm me up to hear my name spoken on the warm volcanic breezes in the Highlands of Guatemala.  I’m told I went there as a girl when my Nana Campbell came to town.  I do not remember.

But I do remember what calls to my soul:

Music.

Art.

Stories.

Other Artists.

(we are all artists)

Thank you for reading…..

~a

ps.  do go toss a few coins into the hats of any or all of these amazing artists.  they deserve it.