This morning began misty and mysterious. I sipped coffee and sketched a bit.
We breakfasted – and, following the sunshine, then did a bit of perusing the shops round town. Have I mentioned the feast of textiles to be found here? Old and newly made, well worn and repurposed, they are everywhere. Draped on the furniture, piled in shops, peddled by Mayan street vendors.
Besides the traditional, there are more modern and quirky things to find as well. I picked this one up for Jack.
Because remember that time he played fiddle and banjo in a hilarious Fringe Festival play called Hot Damn, It’s The Loveland Frog? And also played the frog at the very end… With banjo?
Hmmmm, yeah. Me too. What can we say? It was a paying gig, and it was fun, strange as it all might seem.
I picked up a pair of pantalones from a lovely vendor named Gloria whose passion for the handwork she does in her home pueblo of San Francisco A.C. is truly inspiring.
They have pockets! I love pockets.
All over town things delighted our senses, more to bring back to our sketch practice later over a lunch of leftover pizza which was delicious!
I could make art for ages merely on the procesión we witnessed yesterday.
All the while, our watchful volcanoes drift in and out of their self made mists, teaching us to breathe.
After some work on next year’s travel sketch workshop plans and pondering, Rosemary, Steve and I drifted out once again for our evening meal. Taking in Antigua along the way.
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.
Today is my 46th birthday. As is often the case this time of year, things are in a state of semi-controlled chaotic flux, what with school starting soon and Big Moves happening for both of the kids. Jack returned from Brazil just in time to join us on our annual summer sojourn to the coast of Maine and is now in the process of returning to his collegiate life across town. Meanwhile, in similar fashion, our youngest, Madeleine, is making lists and preparatory pilings of her own as we move her into a dormitory at Ohio State University next week. Things are getting real. They are embarking on a world of their own making….
All of this is, as expected, a little on the bittersweet side of life. But it is also the Way Of Things. This is why we raise them. So that they can hopefully head out into productive lives of their own. It is time for us to focus back on ourselves for the first time in ages. I for one am feeling a delicious fire burning in my art work, music and in my inner life, while the Hub, Tony, has plans of his own involving far flung watery places to explore. It is an exciting time for all of us.
So let me just catch you up a bit on happenings since I last wrote. As you now know, I am in the process of putting together a new workshop, launching in February. I’ve had quite a bit of interest, and a few sign ups too! And while I have been mostly on the road since the announcement and not able to ‘blast’ it properly as of yet, it is my hope that this class will be a ‘go’ with just enough folks to make it a reality. Do let me know if you have any questions!
Ah yes, the road. How it beckons!! Last I touched base here at my online home, I was off to a week of full on music at Swannanoa.
This was a week of complete bliss for me personally. Tearful reunions with people I only get to see once a year. We fell straight into tunes and laughter and musical mayhem that only ‘band camp’ can provide. I opted for two classes, both in flute, with two of my favorite instructors/musicians/people on the planet, Kevin Crawford and Nuala Kennedy.
They are not only brilliant teachers and players but they are absolutely hilarious to spend time with. In my own teaching I try to emulate the sense of fun and level of laughter I’ve known in classes with these two. It is through a childlike sense of play and creative experimentation that the best learning is to be had. Learning a creative pursuit as an adult can be daunting! Whether it’s playing a musical instrument, or painting a picture, adults take themselves (ourselves!) so seriously. Getting out of our own way is half the battle. I am still riding the wave of magic and beauty of that week, with renewed gusto to practice my tunes, to keep learning and improving. I intend to make it back to this week again next year. There is such a sense of ‘Brigadoon‘ to it all, magically happening each summer and then just like that, it’s gone….
Of course, if you follow my summer patterns at all, you know that no summer is complete without a dip of my toes into the ocean in my soul’s home, Maine….
Ginger Small and I were reunited up there as I’d heard very little from her all summer. And we have much work to do!
I spent a fair amount of time just gazing out to sea and doodling….
…that is, when I wasn’t partaking of the bounty of the ocean. YUM!
Our time in Maine usually allows for a bit of the ocean and a bit of the lakeside as well. I did a fair amount of oogling and doodling there as well.
It is a time we treasure, and each year we know it might be the last where everyone attends. Any next year could see the kids doing their own thing elsewhere. So while I painted and sketched a good bit, and came up with a number of tiny paintings, it is never enough.
Maine tugs at my heart strings harder and harder each year. Every year, it gets more difficult to leave the fresh salt air and cool breezes available there.
“She loves the serene brutality of the ocean, loves the electric power she felt with each breath of wet, briny air.” ~Holly Black
Having lived there once upon a time, I know life in New England is not all summer time and roses. Winters are cold and long. But I simply must spend more time there.
“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.” ~Ranier Maria Rilke
For a while now, my dear, long time friend Amy (she who attended to the births of my children, my soul-sister) and I have admired the whimsical, colorful world of artist Henry Isaacs.
His paintings are impressionistic, energetic, and brimming with color that is at once straightforward and complex. They are the kind of paintings that make me yearn to pick up a paint brush and paint. But not in my usual sketchy fashion.
I’ve had this yearning to paint for awhile now. And I have painted. Here and there. I’ve made some paintings that I like a fair bit. While others have lacked the intensity I wanted them to have. They often feel too cautious to me. I’m not quite sure how to approach the materials, having had only nominal amounts of instruction in this particular way of art-making. Often as soon as I have found my way into a painting, it’s time to quit to attend to Life. And by my next visit to it, I’ve lost the steam. Clearly, I need some help.
So in honor of everyone in this household going off and learning new things and forging exciting new paths, I am heading back to the coast of Maine in just a few weeks to take a workshop with Henry Isaacs. I am so very excited to learn some new ways of approaching paint and then applying these lessons to the sights and sounds I find so enchanting by the ocean.
“I have sea foam in my veins, for I understand the language of the waves.” ~Le Testament d’Orphee
Perhaps I may get the opportunity to paint the ocean of sage in the high desert of New Mexico at some point as well. Again, something I have yearned to capture, but outside of my sketches, have never seemed to accomplish successfully.
I believe in following the voice of one’s heart. That intuitive voice that whispers ‘this, yes, this!!!!’.
I’m following that voice as much as I can these days. My Right Work seems to be a three-pronged dance made up of teaching workshops in beauty-filled places, making up whimsical stories and pictures for the young at heart, and just painting/sketching/drawing by myself (also in beauty-filled places). In between there I’ll work the day job when I can, manage the comings and goings of these adult children of mine, and try to keep this house in some sort of working order. Oh yeah, and music. Always music.
Today is a day of musing. Pondering my life’s path. I feel like the 46 year old me is waving enthusiastically to a younger version of me as if to say ‘This way! This way! Aside from a few bumps in the road here and there, life’s going along quite nicely just now! Just hang on!’ Because it is going along quite nicely actually.
I’m excited at the timing of this painting workshop opportunity, as it falls just as I have a moment to catch my breath before really needing to buckle down to work this fall on February’s offering. I get another taste of salty Maine sea air before they must batten down the hatches for yet another winter. My kids will be off doing their own thing for the first time really ever. I’m thrilled and excited and incredibly grateful for all of it.
Happy birthday to me.
….and here are some of the new Tiny Offerings from recent travels. Let me know if you would like to own one!
I think there is nothing quite so nice as to get a little something in the mail. And so I am a sender of mail myself. I love to write cards and letters to friends far and wide. Most recently I took to making a slew of wee thank you gifts in the form of tiny, one of a kind paintings. I am hoping they will be well received by those lucky enough to be on my list lately… This exercise of making tiny paintings is something I do with my classes as a way to shift our thoughts on scale and the time it takes to make a work of art. Unlike some miniaturists of late, these little paintings don’t take too very long at all. And they capture the impression of a place quite quickly. This series was clearly based on my recent weeks in Taos and I am keen to keep going with them. I gild each little painting in gold leaf and it becomes like a little jewel to don a card or perhaps dress up a page in my journal. There is a small part of me that wonders if these would be something to sell at some point. You may see them soon at the local art center gift shop perhaps…..
Are you a fan of tiny art work? Send me a message and perhaps I can whip up a tiny painting for you! I know Ginger Small will be happy to get some new works into her Tiny Gallery.
It’s difficult for me to fathom that just over a month ago I traveled to Taos to teach my annual summer travel-journal workshop. Has it really been a month?! Was I really just there three weeks ago, mid-way through a fantastically perfect week filled with the company of the most amazing group of people?
If I look at the calendar, it would seem so. And yet, I look at some of the snapshots of that week (captured by my trusty assistant for the week, Taos artist, Jan Haller) and it seems that the workshop never happened, or is happening right now, or perhaps, is just around the corner once again. Taos has that relationship to time.
There was much laughter. Belly-laughs as deeply rooted as the ancient cottonwood trees.
And there were also plenty of precious moments of solitude and quiet.
There were those moments of ‘aha!!’ when we learned a new trick with those wiley watercolors.
There was a fair amount of demonstration done by yours truly, to show my approach to capturing the world in my own journal….
…and yet we learned that there is no better way than one’s own way of working. It was my goal for the week for each workshop participant to find their own visual voice. Which they did. In grand, beautiful fashion.
At the end of this gorgeous week we celebrated our hard work and new friendships with a dinner at Mabel’s which fed not only our bodies but our souls as well, as meals at Mabel’s generally do. There was more of that nourishing belly-laughter, and perhaps some equally delicious tears over deep conversations too. This work is so much more than just drawing and painting in a book. It’s about an approach to life that can sometimes be difficult to find in our day to day. But we re-discover it at workshops like these. We find it in these fellow artistic souls. We are reminded that beauty and laughter, grace and joy, great food and fantastic, fierce friendships are crucial to a life well lived. Today- just now – back in Ohio, it is (not surprisingly) raining buckets. In my ears, on repeat while I work, is thiswhich is the perfect blend of arty and trad. Combine this music with the sound of rain and things can seem a little somber. Especially when compared to the bright beauty of New Mexico.
But there is a lushness to this valley that is at once suffocating and yet deeply and beautifully compelling. It is travel season, and I am torn between all of the amazing, soul-home places (yes, including Ohio!) and people I have the great fortune to know intimately. Those who know me and love me best know that this very restlessness and yearning are what keep me moving artistically. The need to be on the move was instilled early on in me by my ever-changing home life and I’m grateful for the ability to travel as much as I do now as an adult, especially in summer!
Next up is my now annual trek to the North Carolina mountains where I will play music for a week with far-flung friends at the Swannanoa Gathering‘s Celtic week. I will be updating the blog a bit in coming weeks (between trips) with next year’s workshop offerings. There’s a new one being offered in February 2016 about which I am very excited. Much of the same sort of work, but deeper and richer. So stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted!
Ever wondered where intrepid hamsters head off to when they escape? I think I may know…. Ginger Small seems to be in the mood to head to New Mexico again for some tea and piñon in the high mountain desert, and perhaps a little mystery as well…. I shall be joining her to teach my Illuminated Sketchbook workshop of course. But I hope to follow Ginger’s desert adventures here and there as well, if she permits it. I’ve heard there has been a lot of rain there this season, and things are exceptionally green, for the desert.
The partial story below was recently discovered and I hope to uncover more of it very soon. It’s rough writing… think of it more as a sketch….
A while ago, years perhaps, (or was it just last week?) I was curled up under some fresh shavings, about to enjoy a long awaited and delicately saved blueberry yoghurt treat when suddenly, a soft glow began to emanate from somewhere not too very far outside of my habitat. This was no normal glow. It was neither warm, nor cool. It was just… green. In the way newly grown ferns are in the springtime, just prior to unfurling. This green spoke of freshness and strangeness. I had a sense this light was for me. I do not know how I knew this. Somethings, I guess we just know. And so I quietly shuffled out from under the shavings to take a peek.
One might wonder why I did not stay hidden beneath my shavings. I was, after all, quite sleepy, and I was so looking forward to my yoghurt treat. It may have been simpler to remain hidden. But I have found that often, the best adventures come on the heels of the moment we trust the small intuitive voice which tells us, though this may be a strange green light, it seems friendly enough.
And besides, I smelled tea. And desert sage. And, could it be?…. a hint of burning piñon? !
I decided to undertake dire action, and climbed out of my habitat to greet whatever – whomever – might be shining this light in my direction.
The instant I made this decision, to shed the boundaries of my normal habitat, things got very interesting.
I was suddenly surrounded by colors I’d never encountered and vistas which made my heart sing. I was not sure where I was heading, but I had a feeling, it was going to be a wild ride….
Til next time,
…And that was about all I could find of this particular adventure, though Ginger has hinted there is more to the story.
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.
While we drew them, they slept.
And mama kept her eyes on us.
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.
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.
Years upon years ago I spent a fair amount of time training for and running in marathons. These races and my relationships with those with whom I trained kept me quasi-sane through the early years of motherhood, which like many, I often found challenging and quite lonely. In the long run, so to speak, I ran 7 of these races which afforded me the opportunity to travel now and then, and fund raise a bit, keep healthy and even do some soul searching along the way. At that time, it was the right kind of slow therapy I needed. Those miles led me to the more real version of me, they helped me find the courage to let my artist-self shine and eventually, I gave up the long distances to walk more in the woods, spend more time sketching, and somehow earn an art degree.
Recently, at the suggestion of a long-time and dear friend, I have dipped my toe back into the idea of running-to-race by committing to a local half-marathon. This means that I needed to go beyond my jogs ’round the neighborhood and do some longer runs on the weekend. These runs would train us up for the big day and give us a few hours every weekend to chat, laugh and catch up with each other, something we hadn’t found time to do in ages. The extra miles have been taxing on my legs but by throwing into the mix some kayaking and cycling through the week to ‘cross-train’, somehow I’ve managed. This past week we successfully ran 11 miles together and that is the last of the Big Long Runs before the race. Hoorah for ‘tapering!’
It’s been lovely to run the streets of our fair Queen City and see the mornings come alive as we tick off the miles. At the tail end of yesterday’s Big Run, we were passing a local church and this lovely scene caught my artist-eye and I nearly stopped in my tracks.
Here was a statue of Saint Mary, nestled into the side wall of the building in a wee niche (my mom would call her Mary on the Half-Shell), and seated at her feet was a lovely woman in a crisp white sari, trimmed in blue. Something about this scene captured my imagination. But as we were running, we couldn’t very well stop for an artful photograph, let alone a sketch! And so, this drawing is one from my mind’s eye, the details perhaps not quite right.
The woman in the sari was readying to answer her mobile phone which was ringing out a lovely Indian sounding ring-tone. She may have been waiting for Mass to begin, or perhaps she was resting in the niche with Mary for a spell while she waited for the metro-bus. Regardless of her story, just the glimpse of the two of them there in that brief moment was a lovely sight to see. And so this morning, I visited that space again, in the land of my imaginings, and made a little drawing. This is a small painting, only 5″x7″. It is indeed for sale if it speaks to you.
Speaking of selling little drawings, check back here in the next week or so. I’ll be offering some things for sale to help fund my writer-in-residence post in Taos this upcoming winter. These will be sketches and Ginger post-card options, and maybe even an ethereal bunny or two…. I’ll keep you posted!
In the mean time, while we all seem to be running through our lives be it to Fit It All In, or to train for the Next Big Race, let’s take the time to note and perhaps record the sacred in the mundane should we be fortunate enough to come across it. I’d love to see what you come up with!
It’s about the last day of school for most kids around here, give or take some final exams (which are nothing compared to the AP’s of a few weeks ago!) My Madeleine is now officially a senior in high school. We head to Montreal next week to finish up a slew of college visits with her that have given us an idea of what she might be interested in pursuing for university studies. All of this, combined with my travel plans for the summer are providing an orbital feel to life in general. It is not lost on my that time is flying. It isn’t lost on me that these times are precious either. Part of me is so ready to get to teaching in Taos, and the other part of me pines to capture the beauty we have outside right now in the form of the late spring garden. So I do capture it, as best I can.
A dear friend of mine has been down the rabbit hole of various meditation retreats of late and I am fascinated by her journey. We have talked at length about what makes up a meditation practice, and what we hope to get out of meditating. And I think it’s just the sense of being fully present in our lives. Making sure that we aren’t so busy looking forward to the future, or pondering the past, that we forget to really be here now. Occasionally I will let myself see the seemingly flawless practices of my more centered acquaintances and begin to compare my own messy monkey mind to them and see it in an unkind light. But in chatting with my friend on her journey, she was quick to remind me that not all practices look the same. That what we do in our sketchbooks is a form of meditation. She’s so right. (and, that said, so is running a few miles every day!)
In this book, on most days, I ponder the beautiful, cast out mental lists that might be driving me crazy, get them down on paper and off of my mind. I note what’s important. Noteworthy. Quotable. But mostly I just draw. And for a little bit each day, that act of drawing removes me from the pool of time and I am outside of it. It’s just me and that peony, which will never again be the peony it was this afternoon. I note that my 17 year old kid will be a day older tomorrow. We will put our visit to McGill in Montreal in the sketchbook. Maybe she will even grace the pages of my book with a drawing of her own like she did when she was little. We will mark a small moment in time. Bottle it in a sense.
Somehow, we are part of the plan here. I’m not sure exactly what that plan is, or what part I play in it. But marking the here and the now, day to day, is one way to pin down the impermanent. At least for the time being.
We thought we had made it through to the other side.
The piled up, well and often used coats and woolens lying around have been tucked away into the closet to await next winter. Pollen has begun to hinder the morning’s runs and flowers are bursting forth all over the landscape with enthusiastic springtime abandon.
Lambs are being born at our friend’s farm, and green grass for them to nibble is growing strong. We have had the first official pass with the lawn mowing tractor.
Neighborhood friends have come back to play in the shadowed corners of the yard, quiet, sweet and quite shy, but willing to make friends if we let them.
Even the ever so flighty cherry blossoms have been on full display at some of the more flowerful places around town.
And then some storms came. With much wind, buckets and buckets of rain. And we awoke to a blanket of thick sticky snow weighing down our springtime lightness.
I couldn’t help but admire it’s loveliness, much as I am over snow as a phenomenon for the season. Springtime has it’s own slant to the light in the sky and so the snow has a more lively crystalline quality to it than it does in the depths of winter.
The daffodils seemed to be requesting a do over, with their cheery faces leaning back into the soil.
The forsythia blooms, just recently opened are feeling a bit droopy and sad with this cold snap and the weight of the snow. I wonder if a few more blooms are still behind these…
The farmer’s almanac did say that we were in for at least one more good snow before we really could settle our bare toes back into the grass and the bubbling creeks without getting too very cold. And they have been spot on all winter long. This too shall pass.
And then we can continue to get on with the busy-ness of spring.