Days Like This

Yesterday I downloaded my friend Kim Taylor‘s latest EP, The Greatest Story.  It’s 5 songs are soulful and playful and tearful and wonderful.  Seems like the perfect music for this amazing season.  Check out her website and get yourself a copy of her work.  I think you’ll love it.

Meanwhile my own work is plugging right along.  I have been teaching my Keeping a Journal Sketchbook class at the Art Academy in recent weeks and it is going extremely well.  This being the second time I have presented this particular class, I am more relaxed and more creative in my approach to teaching.  I think this may be rubbing off on to the students.  They are so enthusiastic that a few of them want to keep the class going another couple of sessions.  So the folks at the Art Academy have been gracious enough to let us officially extend the class for those who are able to keep meeting.

As I present this class to more and more students, it’s becoming clear to me that there is more to the process of keeping an artful  life-chronicle than first meets the eye.  We do more in this class than simply open our books to write, draw and glue stuff down.  As happened in my spring class, friendships are being forged.  Students are opening up to sides of their own creativity they never knew existed.  They are commiting, or re-commiting, to making an artful way of life a priority.  Surrounded by their enthusiasm and joyful art-making, my own making has received a shot in the arm.  Work begets work.  I know this, but it still amazes me when I see it and feel the phenomenon in action.

One of my former students, and now friend, introduced me to the work and writing of Jennifer Louden, the Comfort Queen.  Her blog is delightful.  Reading it I get the sense that I have sat down with a fellow artist to tackle the Fear-of-The-Unknown in our art process.  I get the sense that she feels the same fear in her work everyday and simply does what we all must do; show up, feel the fear, and do it anyway.  I encourage anyone needing an art nudge to check out her website.

One of the often discussed themes in my class at the Art Academy, as well as among my fellow artists and myself, is that of how to get started. The ol’ zero to 60 phenomenon.  Most of us have other jobs (many cases multiple!), families who rely on us, households to run, lives to lead.  Rare is the artist who wakes up and makes art, day in and day out without fail.  Frankly, I don’t know anyone like that.  How does one find the time, energy and inspiration to work on art at the end of a jam packed day or week?  How do we get the art motor running anyway?  I have my own answers to these questions and am always interested in hearing how other creatives get out of their own way.

Along with my ever present sketchbook and the act of walking my dogs, I have recently been writing letters and post cards to people I know will love to receive them.  I get out the collagey materials and glue weird images to envelopes.  I make little sketches and add them into letters.  Sometimes I use a typewriter…. yep, a real old fashioned one that hiccups its way around the words giving the whole thing a whisical quality that I love. I slip in a little glitter now and then.  None of this takes a terribly long time and the benefits are far reaching.  The art supplies are coaxed out of stagnancy and ideas begin flowing.  It’s a snowball sort of effect and I am rolling with it right now.  This simple act of doing something remotely artful is the back door to the more “serious” work that may or may not be around the corner. The other day I had a fire going in the studio fire place, the wax table was on and I was mixing new colors, sticky things were drying on postcards and in my sketchbook.  It all felt a bit like a complicated dance but there I was, just dancing.

Today my creativity finds itself mostly out in the kitchen where I am busy readying Chez Bogard for the annual Riley School of Irish Music Halloween Party.  Chili, cider, mad amounts of chocolate chip cookies are in the works.  I still need to get my new vampire teeth fitted.  I shall be a Vampire, to suck the very marrow out of life…. mwa ha ha.  But I digress….

Have a safe, happy, fun, CREATIVE Halloween.

Here’s the latest waxy work…

cookie cutter days

My Grandma Kelley loved fall.  She used to say that on cool, crisp fall days, it was like the trees were cut out of the sky with a cookie cutter.  Everything in full relief.  In recent weeks we have been fortunate to have one of the most beautiful fall seasons I can remember.  The only downside to all this pretty weather is that we desperately could use some rain.  I’m sure it will come in time….

With all this pretty weather has come the usual busy-ness that comes with autumn.  A couple of weeks ago the Fam and I went to Rabbit Hash Kentucky for some local riverside music and a chance to meet their mayoral candidates.

Rabbit Hash is a tiny, charming, historic town that has literally gone to the dogs.  There are 16 candidates for mayor, only 2 of whom are not dogs (the other 2 are a cat and a miniature donkey).  Here’s a couple of pages from my sketchbook….

Anyone can vote in Rabbit Hash for only a dollar a vote.  And, you can vote as much as you want, for as many candidates as you’d like.  All proceeds go to the Rabbit Hash Historical Society.  We felt a million miles away from the more serious political races bombarding us from every direction in the real world just across the river.  It was a great escape.  Though even this race has its political paraphenalia for avid collectors to gather…

With fall inevitably comes the start of school.  My kids are back at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, and loving the balance their school provides between academics and the arts.  This is not just an art school.  Instead, this place puts the same emphasis throughout the school day on the arts as it does on things like chemistry, history, and language arts classes.  After school, kids at SCPA juggle their at times lofty academic load with rehearsals for plays, concerts and other art work.  We have, to say the least, been busy juggling it all.

I am again teaching down at the Carnegie Center at Family Saturdays, each second Saturday of the month.  This is a fun opportunity for families to make art together.  Each month there is a different theme to work with and this month we made masks.  Sadly, I forgot my camera that day.  But as usual, the kids (and parents!) came up with some cool stuff to take home!

The Carnegie is not the only place I teach.  I am delighted to be back at the Art Academy of Cincinnati this fall again offering my class Starting (and Keeping) and Journal Sketchbook.  I have a small class this time of only 5 people, but after only one class together, I can tell they are a special bunch.  This past Thursday we met for our first session and worked on “messing up” some brand new journals with paint, glue and some powerful quotes that will remind these students that no one else can make a journal like they can.  They are already seeing the differences in their individual styles.  Some may not have even thought of themselves as having an artistic style of their own.  I am excited to continue working with them in their books with collage, drawing, watercolors and writing and I hope to inspire them to continue working in their books long after our 4 week class has ended. My own sketch book has been pretty lonely lately and I have renewed inspiration, thanks to my students, to get drawing again!

Meanwhile, things have been pretty busy in the music world here as well.  Friday night Cherish the Ladies came to Dayton, Ohio, along with some other Irish Music talents like Bohola, Maura O’Connell and Dermot Henry.  The concert was amazing, as expected, and the following day, the Ladies came down to the Riley School to offer workshops in everything from singing to fiddle to flute/whistle, accordion, mandolin…. well the usual!  Cherish the Ladies is led by flute and whistle player extraordinaire, Joanie Madden.  I have had classes with her before at Augusta and it was such a treat to see her again and learn a few new tunes on flute and whistle.  Amazingly, Joanie remembered me as “the one who was drawing all the time”.  By the end of the day, after lessons from not only Joanie, but my beloved weekly instructor John Skelton as well, my head was nearly to bursting with tunes.  It was a good day.

So here it is, a breathtakingly beautiful fall Sunday.  I am off to head out to enjoy it.  I am outside more than in here on the computer lately, and that just feels right.  But as usual… I’ll continue to keep you posted, just maybe not as often!


Town Mouse, Country Mouse

Last week I took to the road for a double road trip that found me in two very different places.  First off, I traveled to New York City to help my friend Elle Miller with her move from Brooklyn to Savannah, Georgia.  Thanks to a borrowed GPS, I was able to drive from Cincinnati to Brooklyn without too much difficulty in one full day.  Elle and I were able to spend a little time around town shopping and sight seeing.  Here are some of the highlights….

Soho – if i had to live in NYC, and had the money, I think I’d live here.  It’s hip and edgy and the people all seem nice (well, all the folks in NYC seemed nice, really).  And a further bonus, there a few trees here and there.

I visited 6 different thrift stores while in town.  New York has so many people and that equates to the shuffling around of SO MUCH STUFF!  It is a material existence, to be certain.  No matter where you look, someone has a desirable bag, pair of boots, jacket, sweater, etc. that one feels one simply MUST have.  Talking to friends who live there full time, this can be a difficult and depressing state to live in.  But I had a blast perusing all the shops.  I steered clear of the new stuff, preferring the quirky used stuff and wound up finding a cashmere sweater for $50 at the New York City Opera Thrift Store.  This was my one big purchase of the trip – I think I came away relatively unscathed!

Elle’s job in NYC was as head window designer at Brooklyn Industries.  We spent a lot of time just walking the city streets and taking in all the different displays.  Here’s one of my favorites….

One interesting area of town is the Garment District where the design and fashion industry shops.  There were stores suited to the most specific things, such as spandex, “findings”, or ribbons….. (floor to ceiling, it was unreal!)

I have to be honest, I loved New York City.  I want to go back and take in more.  I only had the one full day and so i skipped many of the usual tourist trappings.  I’d like to see a Broadway show, go to Ground Zero, see some museums and maybe go to Ellis Island.  That said, I don’t think I would ever want to spend extended time there (i.e. live there).  I wonder how the hearty full time New Yorkers can do it, day in and day out.  There is not one movement in life in NYC that does not have to be thought out, priced out.  Even the smallest chores seem to be such a hassle.  Things like grocery shopping, getting kids to school, walking the dog.  It must take a special strength of character to settle into life in NYC.  It is just this character that I found to be present in New York, and something that I think makes the place wonderful.  Although I am not cut of that cloth, I admire it greatly.  New York City pretty much rocks… 24 hours a day (truly, it really never sleeps).

Here is a mural found in Brooklyn.  People really make the most of their concrete existence there.

Elle and I packed her stuff into the ol’ Scubaru early in the morning last Friday in the midst of a Hurricane Kyle related rainy deluge and drove back here to Cincy.  I think we both began to relax a little as soon as the traffic cleared and green returned to the landscape.  Once back here, she headed off with another friend for the second leg of her journey south and I repacked for my trip with Jack to the Kentucky Celtic Festival, in Eminence, Kentucky.

This road trip dichotomy was not lost on me.  The differences between Eminence and Brooklyn are infinite and I found myself reflecting on how different ways of life suit different people.  Being a nature girl myself, I could not live happily for long in a place like New York City, in spite of its high energy and amazing culture.  I have often day dreamed of living in a quaint little town like Eminence.  Would I be able to survive there?  I know enough about myself to know that I need a good library and decent restaurant choices to be truly happy.  It seems like Cincinnati is a good place for me and my family right now.  Just an hour or so out of town and we’re in farm country…

It was against this bucolic backdrop that the Kentucky Celtic Festival took place on the grounds of the Highlands Renaissance Festival.  There was much traditional music to be found by the likes of Liam’s Fancy with John Sketlon and many more.  Most of these musicians could be found sessioning together when not on stage.  The weather was beautiful, the pace so much slower than that of NYC (some might call it Irish Time) and a good time was had by all (in spite of the nasty little chiggers in the hay bales that practically ate us alive!)

This week finds me recovering a bit from my travels and continuing to put things back together here around the house.  Even so, I find my mind is full of tunes from the weekend.  My musical cup is full….