Tag Archives: taos nm

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.

 

 

Spring has sprung!

Thankfully with the coming of spring, things have settled down (if only just a little) and I have had some time to enjoy my garden which is bursting this time of year with flowers mostly and a few greens I had popped in the ground earlier.  Here are some sketches and snapshots…

The weather is still cool enough to be enjoying greens straight from the garden!  Thankfully the deer seem to have had enough to eat elsewhere as they have left this bed pretty much alone for now.  Last fall we built a couple of raised beds in which we’ll grow basic veggies come summer.  My grandfather always warned never to plant veggies until the first full moon after mother’s day and so these beds lie in wait with only some garlic peeking out of the soil.

Much of what’s going on in my yard I inherited from the former owners of this house and I am just trying to keep it well tended as I learn how to be a gardener.  We have a wealth of flowering trees that bloom one after the other for about a solid month.  Redbud, azalea, magnolia, lilac, wisteria.  All really lovely to witness.

Last week my girl friends and I took a few hours to go to the local flower show where we saw all sorts of lovely things to draw and dream of putting into our own yards.  I could have walked around and drawn flowers all day!  I did get a few sketches into my book…

It feels really good to sink my toes back into my own turf and get back into the swing of things here at home.  Tina and I are finished with the Convention Center project and it was installed late last week.  I will post pictures of it in situ as soon as I can get them so stay tuned!  With that work completed, Adam and I are throwing renewed energy toward Drawing Down the Vision through continuous improvement on the website and the addition of a blog on that site about the benefits of drawing for everyone who may want to give it a try.  So pay the site a visit if you have a few minutes.  It is my hope that this work, albeit in a whole other world, will provide another avenue through which to share my love of keeping a vibrant sketchbook.

Speaking of sketchbooks, the Make the Book/ Fill the Book class had it’s final session a few weeks ago.  I so enjoyed meeting our students and working with Cody.  We already have ideas for changes and improvements for the next offering of the class which will hopefully be next fall.  The Art Academy has announced that in May 2011 I will be taking a group to Taos, New Mexico for a travel sketchbook course.  (download the class brochure and you’ll find the details in the catelog!)  This should prove to be a wonderful adventure for anyone who would like to travel and learn to keep an illuminated journal of the trip.  My best sketchbook pages always happen when I am traveling and seeing the world through fresh eyes.  You don’t have to be from Cincinnati to go on this trip by the way so if you care to join us, I will certainly keep you posted on the details as they firm up.

Well it looks like it has stopped raining for the time being so I am going to go for a run.   Happy spring!

Taos plans

I had a meeting with Troy Brown today, head of the Community Education program at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, about plans for a travel sketching class to Taos, NM.  Since my trip to Taos late last summer, I have dreamed of taking a group of students there to soak up the beautiful light, Pueblo architecture and art history that the little town has to offer.  I would be ready to launch the trip now and make it happen in the spring of 2010, but alas, to make this class a reality I need to take into account the time frame that the proper level of preparation and advertising will take.  And so, we are scheduling the trip for the end of May/ early June, 2011.

On some level this feels really far into the future but actually, it’s not.  This time next year, the Art Academy Winter/ Spring catalog will go out with the trip to Taos offered as part of a package that includes preparatory sketchbook classes to discuss supplies, techniques and general plans for the trip.  If we get any takers from afar, I will work with those students independently online or via telephone.  In the meantime the next two catalogs, Summer and then Fall 2010 will give the Art Academy plenty of time and opportunity to make the class known and available to a wide range of potential students.  Perhaps I will even have the opportunity to head back to Taos between now and spring 2011 and seek out even more spectacular little places to sketch.

It is said that patience is a virtue, that good things come in their own time.  I am trusting that this is true.  My work cup is tremendously full right now with Drawing Down the Vision pilots happening this week and next.  I also received word late last week that I am to be the teaching artist on an ArtWorks project to be created for and installed in the Duke Energy Convention Center here in Cincinnati.  I’ll be working with project leader (and dear art buddy and friend) Tina Westerkamp as well as with local high school students who will be hired specifically to work on this project during January and February.  I will post photos from this new art adventure each step of the way here on the blog.  I am tremendously excited to be a part of an ArtWorks project, as usually their work happens in the summer time when I am feeding my gypsy soul.  There is much to keep me busy and engaged artistically between now and Spring 2011.  For this I am filled with gratitude.

Whirlwind Wandering

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

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

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

Denver & surrounding areas:

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

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

Taos New Mexico, etc:

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

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

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

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

Below you can see how they dot the landscape.

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

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

Yep, those are hubcaps.

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

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

Orlandos.… best chili in town!!

The vast sense of space and landscape is overwhelming.

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

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