There is a wonderful scene in the movie Finding Nemo where the little blue fish, Dori, helps Nemo’s dad overcome his anxiety about going into a great, dark chasm.  Her advice is to just keep swimming.  I subscribe to this philosophy myself on many levels, not just to stave off anxiety or depression.  Swimming, running, walking, hiking, biking, kayaking – any kind of movement…. are all great tools to get my brain to side step itself, leave the inner critic behind, and create.  I get my best ideas while on the move.  Recently my favorite activity has been kayaking where I am not only moving, but moving on water.  Balancing in a boat requires a different sense of the physical body and for me this translates into feeling quite far away from my daily self, and closer to the magical art realm within.

Recently, my hub Tony and I headed to Lake Erie with some friends to Kelley’s Island for a Poker Paddle.  The idea was to paddle around the island, pick up a hand of 5 playing cards at 5  different stops, then “play” the hand at the end of the journey for prizes.  Due to a pretty stiff breeze the night before the paddle, we stayed on one side of the island to get our cards and for two legs of the trip were faced with the biggest waves I had yet to encounter.  4-6 foot swells was how it was described to me by those in the know; fellow paddlers literally disappearing behind large waves.  It was a little scary at first but very exhilarating and I am thoroughly hooked!  So now I find myself watching youtube videos of sea kayaker Freya Hoffmeister teaching people how to roll (Greenland Style) in their kayaks and reading about her adventures circumnavigating Australia.  I find this all very fascinating.  My goal is to roll in my kayak, some point soon hopefully, but I’ll leave places like Australia to Freya.

Our trip to Northern Ohio was more than just kayaking.  We got to visit Marblehead Lighthouse on the mainland which struck me as a rather small lighthouse compared to the ones I have visited on the East Coast.  But it must do the trick for it has been working to keep mariners safe and informed along Lake Erie’s coastline since 1819.  There are a number of wonderfully charming homes to see on Kelley’s Island.  My favorite of all of these is this Steamboat Gothic style home still owned by a member of the Kelley family and built in 1861.  Lovely.

We did some hiking while on Kelley’s Island and I have loads of new images that I find inspiring for a series of encaustic paintings I am working on.  Here are some shots of world famous geological formations, The Glacial Grooves, found on the island… among other cool stuff.

Lake Erie is not the only place I have been collecting images to feed my paintings.  On subsequent more local kayak trips and even in my own back yard, I have spotted some beautiful mushrooms lately thanks to a juicy humidity that blanketed our area for days.

Along with researching textures and imagery for the wax work,  I continue to work in my sketchbook almost everyday.  While on our Kelley’s Island trip  we stopped in the post office to buy a stamp and get it canceled in our books, a great little souvenir of our time there.  I also did some drawing here and there when I wasn’t busy hiking or kayaking….

The sketchbook realm is feeling really active.  My class at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, How to Keep a Sketchbook Journal – Getting Started will start up again mid-October.  I love teaching this class as it feeds me artistically and I always learn a lot from from students.  My project with my former student, now business partner Adam, Drawing Down the Vision, is nearing completion of stage 1 and ready for our initial pilot.  Adam and I recently attended a lecture by artist Someguy, Brian Singer, who is responsible for the highly successful journal based social experiment The 1000 Journals Project.  This project is a sign that the notion of keeping a journal or even participating in a group journaling experience is alive and well.  People are feeling the need to make their mark in the world.  I am thrilled by this and intend to get anyone interested out there picking up a sketchbook and taking note of their lives.  For me it’s a way to make sure time doesn’t slip by me too quickly and to take note of the little daily stuff that really adds up to the richness that is my life.

Now it’s time to go live it.

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.