Tag Archives: sketchbook

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:




Other Artists.

(we are all artists)

Thank you for reading…..


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





Cats and Dogs

lion 2

There are some delightful new additions to the wonderful collection of animals at our local (world-renowned!) Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens.  Fellow artists Christina and Vanessa and I took a couple of hours yesterday morning to enjoy some sunshine and sketching in the Africa section where there are lion cubs and painted dog pups on view.

It’s fascinating to me how much like my own domesticated cat and dogs these wilder versions are.  We spent much time drawing and observing the lions especially.  There are three adorable lion cubs who were hanging out with mom, ‘Imani’ and dad ‘John’ fairly close to the viewing area.

lion 4

While we drew them, they slept.


And mama kept her eyes on us.lion 5

lion 3

John did a fair amount of pacing early in our visit, but eventually settled down with his family to enjoy the cool breezes.  He is absolutely beautiful.


Just down the lane from the lions are a pack of African Painted Dogs.  They were not quite as regal and subdued as the lions were that morning.  There was much posturing and wrestling amongst the 10 puppies. dogs 2dogs 3

I did not draw these guys as much but just observed their antics.  So very dog like in their behavior; carrying sticks, stealing said sticks, chasing and playing.  So much like my own dogs.  Their markings are lovely – truly ‘painted’ with whippy white tails.  I think we will be back to see more of these creatures as they grow and change.

What have you been sketching lately?


The Tiny Book of Truths

Some while back, I received a gift in the form of a little book on a necklace from a dear friend who knows I love the allure of a blank book. Knowing this book would be near to my heart for years to come, I opted to fill it with some of my favorite quotes and a few doodles as well. The result is this tiny book of truths. I find it to be even more fetching now, filled with words and images I have chosen.
This is the case with all blank books – journals, sketchbooks and the like. They really come alive when we put ourselves into them. I suggest we fill all of those old blank books we might have lying around with quotes and drawings, musings and the day to day magic that makes us individuals. When you do so, do check back and share what you’ve made. Every person’s journal, no matter how big or small is a one of a kind. Just like you!

And the winner is….

Many thanks to all of you who entered to win the giveaway!  To keep things fair and square, I wrote down the names of all who participated and put them slip by slip into the ‘sorting hat’…..

and the winner is 4

I then enlisted the assistance of an Official Impartial Puller Of Names to make the selection….


and the winner is 3

You may also notice the Official Impartial Judge and Onlooker here as well… (he takes these things very seriously)

and the winner is

And the winner is…….

and the winner is 1

Jo D. is the lucky winner of the giveaway!!

I so appreciated the energy this little drawing provided as the Taos trip participant list is around half full!!  This is wonderful news!  For those of you who are still contemplating taking this trip with us next summer, there is still plenty of time to sign up before March.  I’ll be posting plenty of sketches and inspiration along the way.  Go Forth and Doodle!!


Why we love a snowy day



Beneath the hill where the Red Wolf Howls….

redwolf howling 

There is a line of trees where Squirrel Folk dwell….

we know youre up there

On a snowy day we can clearly see the paths they have traveled and track their every move amongst the trees….


squirrel chase 3

Although we never catch them….


squirrel chase 2

We are always up for the chase….


squirrel chase

Which is good fodder for the artist’s little book of days.


Snowy day dogs sketch

And quite the excuse to nap a bit on the warm, radiant floor in the kitchen.


warm concrete is a doggie soul balm.

What do you love about snowy days?

moon muse

My new friend Bee at Irish Blessings Tours had a wonderful idea the other day to bring the writing of Haiku poetry into my ‘illuminated diary’ practice.  Like small, quick sketches, Haiku poems are a brief but effective way to capture a moment in time, especially when time is of the essence.  Or, you are simply feeling lazy, un-motivated, or stuck…..

Brisk, moonlit morning

still warm blankets, call to me –

crickets sing, ‘wake up!’

Try writing a haiku poem in your sketchbook, along with a drawing.  The dance between images-in-pictures and images-in-words will enliven even the most seemingly mundane moments.


My Hub and I drove a few hours north for the weekend to attend the annual Kelley’s Island poker paddle in which a bunch of kayakers circumnavigate a little island on Lake Erie, stopping every so often to pick up a playing card that makes up a poker hand that will then determine prizes to win.  It’s always good fun and every year is different.  This year Lake Erie was a disturbing color of green due to a blue-green algae ‘bloom’.

Due to wind and waves, we avoided the eastern side of the island and did a 10 mile out and back.  I had an early bout of sea sickness (to which I am sadly prone) during the first leg of the trip but managed to walk it off on the beach with a salty snack.  The waves from the first leg, which are what some folks call ‘confused seas’, calmed considerably after that and I was able to perk up and finish the event.  (with three kings, a ten and a 7, I might add.  I won myself a nifty t-shirt!)

Later in the day, I stayed out of the water and sketched and watched while many people surfed in the waves.  Our camp site was on primo real estate… right by the water.  Windy, but beautiful.

Not willing to ruin a beautiful day with more nausea, I opted out of the opportunity to paddle on Sunday and instead explored the island on my own, stopping to write and sketch for a while near one of the island’s quarries, walking on a pebble beach and visiting one of my favorite houses.  This place just drips with charm.  I love it!!

And here is the view from the dream home.  Le sigh.

A favorite exercise of mine is to try and capture snapshots of what colors are around me.  This is especially handy when there is so much to draw that I don’t know where to start!

It’s good to collect love wherever you go.

Y’all know how I love to travel.  It seems I am only home a week or two and I begin to feel the urge to be on the move again.  Why is this?  I think it is because when I travel, all of my senses are being utilized in a way that the autopilot of daily life doesn’t always allow.  Capturing the quiet beauty of daily life is one reason I keep a sketch book, but let’s face it, my sketch book pages are even more exciting when I travel.

This past summer I traveled to Taos, New Mexico with an amazing group of students.  This venture was a success on so many levels! New friends were made, there was a renewed commitment to exploring our creativity and making an artistic practice part of our lives in a way that feeds our souls.  I am so tremendously grateful for it.  The dates are set for 2012…. I invite you to join us (click here for the lo down!) If you live outside of Cincinnati and want to join us, please do!!!  Any pre-trip planning and prepping will be guided in an online-class kind of fashion for out-of-towners.  We would love to have you join us!  This class is for anyone who wants to document their life in a visual way through a sketch book.  You can be an artist, but you certainly don’t have to be.  I believe if you can sign your name, you can sketch in a sketchbook.  Give it a try.  You’ll be glad you did!

There are already some folks signed up and space is limited.  I look forward to meeting you!!!




tidbits from Ireland

Ireland has so much to offer and in our ten day visit, we barely scratched the surface.  We went to play music and in the end, that was our priority.  The Fleadh, part competition, part festival, was held in Cavan Town, Co. Cavan, a lovely mid-country border area that I frankly had never heard much about.  It was absolutely captivating.  We were able to  dig into the area quite a bit with some special guided tours and some travel on our own as well before things in the music realm got really wild later in the week.

One tour we took was with local naturalist and certified Geo-park guide, Heather Bothwell who delighted us with a trek through a raised bog just down the road from where we were staying.  Most local folks we talked to thought we were nuts to see a bog as anything special, but bogs are special and worth learning about and protecting.  We had a ball walking and exploring and learning about all of the flora and fauna.  I am still going through notes and photos as to all we experienced and I may revisit these in future blog posts (or should I say bog posts) but I wanted to share what I did get into the sketchbook here which may motivate me to put more into the book in the weeks to come as I settle back into life back at home.

First off, I made a new sketchbook from a used book.  It’s stuffed with gorgeous watercolor paper and is an absolute delight to use with watercolors!

When settling into a new place I love to make a map of sorts in my book to get the lay of the land.   It’s also good to really look around and get a sense of the colors that are making the experience what it is visually.  The colors in Ireland are very different.  So one evening I started this process at the kitchen table, capturing little color studies of the things right in my field of vision at that very moment:

This would come in handy the next day when I was overwhelmed by all we had seen in the bog.  Here is the boggy spectrum:

a quick watercolor sketch of the bog as a whole…

Thanks to Heather’s pre-planning for our hike, we were able to look at a bunch of moths that she had trapped the night before and get an up-close look at them.  This is a tiger moth, like what we have here, that come from the ‘wooly bear caterpillars’.  This is a truly beautiful creature.  Then again, I have a thing for moths.

In the coming weeks I will share more of what I was able to find in Ireland.  Stay tuned in the coming months for information on an opportunity to experience some of this yourself as I am planning a travel sketch-journal workshop for – you guessed it – IRELAND!!  Part of my intention for this fleadh trip was a bit of reconnoitering for a trip there with students.  I’ve met and connected with some fabulous people over there who are artists, musicians, tour-givers, story-tellers and all around good folks.

My head is fairly spinning as I re-enter reality following what was essentially a radical sabbatical time.  I have lectures coming up and classes to teach.  I have work at the concertina shop to do and work to create in the studio and sketchbook.  I have a Mammoth quilty work to finish.  There is much to look forward to.  Grateful for the chance to share here with you!


keepin’ on

Here’s my new sketchbook cover for the Taos trip which is just 2 weeks away….  It’s collaged from an antique postcard I got in Taos last time I was there along with some other snippets from the collage supplies suitcase.  With my practice of drawing everyday until I leave I am very close to finishing my last book…

With working so hard, one must have helpers:

And I am already looking ahead to some projects about which I will keep you posted as they progress…

I am now off to tackle a busy spring weekend!!!

The Structuring of Magic

“Creativity is really the structuring of Magic.” ~ anne kent rush

Much of my extended family had the opportunity to spend some time together down on the Gulf Coast of Florida this past week.  In spite of some brisk weather, at least for Florida, we spent time beach combing, playing games and drawing….

My new sketchbook is now broken in with drawings I was able to spend time creating, a welcome change from the to-do lists, grocery lists, and general notes-to-self that tend to usurp my drawings.  Handy for maintaining sanity in my wild day-to-day life, but not as good for the soul as a few hours with my watercolor set and some mummified sea life.

On one of the colder days down there we visited the Suncoast Seabird Santuary where we saw all sorts of birds recuperating from various injuries.  Amazing to get close enough to study and draw these birds which normally fly away before I get a chance to nail down an image of them worth finishing in watercolor later.  It was a great opportunity!  Pelicans are so very dinosaur-like in my opinion.

Most mornings we ate at a little diner in Pass-a-Grille called the Seahorse.  I enjoyed doodling over coffee.

Much of my kids’ childhood has been spent reading, listening to or watching the books and movies of the Harry Potter series.  We read aloud most of them (multiple times) and we have collectively awaited the arrival of each new book or movie as the story has developed.  Rowling’s stories have provided a modern mythology for kids and adults alike, introducing us to a world where beauty and magic, friendship and adventure, are a natural part of everyday life.  So many times we have turned the last page of a book in the series, or left one of the movies, remarking to each other how amazing it would be to actually be a part of the world of Harry Potter.

A highlight of our trip to Florida was the day we spent at the newly opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Normally being the type of person that avoids things like theme parks, I was a little skeptical that the Universal Studios park would live up to all the hype, much less to what we were able to conjure in our imaginations.  But this is what my daughter wanted for Christmas more than anything else…. so we went for it.  We were not disappointed.  The sheer artfulness and respect for the story’s gorgeous little details, combined with park workers who were cheerful in spite of the crushing crowds made for a magical day.  We sipped butterbeers (I have begun to research the various available recipes out there for this stuff.  Deelish!!!), bought stamps at the owl post and followed Harry out on the Quidditch pitch for a flight on a broomstick (I’m still a little nauseous just thinking about it!)

I even sketched a bit when the crowds in the candy store became a bit much for me.  Speaking of which, our favorite wizarding candies are the Fizzing Whizbees.

While at the park, it was inspirational for me to think that here is this entire beautiful world, created by one person’s fabulous imagination.  In the case of JK Rowling, creativity really is, the structuring of magic.

In the end, the magic was not all at Harry Potter world.  On New Year’s Eve day the weather was finally warm, the sun shining, and a perfect time to be out on the water in kayaks.  My little brother and I went out in the Gulf past the waves where we were treated to the sight of dolphins swimming along side our boats.  My kind of magic!

As this new year begins, it is my hope to do a better job taking the time to properly observe and be grateful for magical moments, big and small.  Things like time spent with my sketchbook, working on a new tune or going for a good long run are my chosen tools to make this happen.  What are yours?

Blessings to you in 2011.