I’m finding this task of doing a drawing everyday quite like I imagine a daily meditation practice might be.  It’s just something that I do, having promised myself I would do it, simply for exercise.  I am hoping to circumvent the usual inner-critic who would normally find a million reasons not to post such things.  But it’s just exercise, right? And exercise is good from what I hear.  What are you drawing today?

Hi ho

Today’s sketch is of the baby birds in the nest outside of the concertina shop.  I did this little sketch from a photo  my friend Jeni took at work yesterday.  She has been documenting their growth.  And such rapid growth it is!  They’ll be out of the nest in no time.  I have no idea what brand of bird they are.  I just think their reptilian beauty should be noted.

Speaking of noting beauty, check out Terri Windling’s blog posts lately.  She has some wonderful quotes from one of my favorite writer’s, John O’Donohue.  I love this idea of approaching beauty with the right kind of reverence.  There is such power in that and drawing everyday is one small way to achieve this.  This morning I missed a meeting with a friend of mine, who, ironically enough, is a life coach.  She and I were both presenters out in KC and we are trying to get together every so often to keep fresh ideas flowing and maintain a sense of forward momentum in our work promoting creative thinking.  I slept right through it.  Maybe I need some life coaching.  Things are really hectic in my life right now.  Good, but hectic.  I am cramming in too much (perhaps it’s the super human powers my smoothie consumption creates!)  Something is going to have to give.  Today it’s many things.  My flute lies dormant and has for days now, I could use a good long run, and I am very late into work (in charge of my own schedule there yes, but still, there is work to do!)  I will do a little creative carving of my schedule and figure out how to make more time for drawing and making art work and eventually, getting paid to do so.

But for now, I get paid to work at Carroll Concertinas.  So it’s off to work I go….

keeping up

Day three of my self-imposed challenge to draw and post some drawing of some sort everyday leading up to the Taos trip, here are today’s doodles. They are the Daily Dog!!! It’s been so long since I have posted in the Daily Dog category, mostly because these dogs, whom you may remember as puppies, seldom sit still. But today is a good day for relaxing. A little bit of rare sunshine to lie in….

As much as I love these caramel colored dogs we currently have, I truly miss my old Caskie.  We named him after a favorite Maine writer of ours, Caskie Stinnett.  Here’s a quote from Mr. Stinnett and a glimpse into why we loved his writing so much…

“I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine. ” ~Caskie Stinnett

Have a great rest of your day folks.  I am off for some lunch and then a few hours of paid work.  Go forth and doodle.  That’s an order.  🙂

between storms

Last I heard, our area had received over 13″ of rain in the month of april. This is quite above average. A number of roads and schools are closed and rivers large and small rage and swell with each storm. We have had some nights broken by the sound of tornado sirens warning us of yet another wave.

Between the storms though, life is going on like usual. I love to go outside and look at the Irises in our creek. They have not yet bloomed but are about a foot or more tall. It is simply amazing to me that they withstand the levels of washaway-waters thrown at them this spring. They bend a bit as the waters rage but when it’s past and back to a trickle, they are once again standing straight and tall.   (The pictures below are from today, a small and beautiful sunny break between storms, more of which are on the way.  The rainy video above, was just a few hours ago.)

I could learn a lot from these plants…

Speaking of learning, I have a new batch of students at the Art Academy. This particular bunch is extra special because they will be traveling together, with me, in a matter of weeks (!) to Taos, NM. Each one is at a different and very individual point in their artistic development. I have the arty and intrepid Joanne whose gorgeous blind contour drawings are teaching me a lesson in just-doing-it. There is Jo, normally more of a reader-writer type, making lovely observational drawings of details that a number of months ago she wouldn’t have even noticed.   She is learning to see!!   There is Penny who, like Jo, is a ‘repeat offender’ having taken my class in the past. Once upon a time Penny “couldn’t draw a straight line” and now she is head cheerleader to other self-proclaimed ‘non-drawers’. They are each amazing and already pushing themselves to reach beyond what they are comfortable with or ‘good at’ to grow a little bit. I am so proud of them all and humbled at what I am already learning from them. I look forward to sharing some of their work and growth from upcoming classes and the Taos trip in the weeks ahead!

I have been thinking a lot about cases lately. I am building cases at Carroll Concertinas, trying to stay one step ahead of the crop of instruments that will be built this summer at the shop. In between cases I’ll be learning a few of the other jobs that make it all happen like sanding and polishing. But frankly, as much as I love learning new things, I am really happy to simply be gainfully employed. And then there are suitcases. I have always been a bit of a back pack girl myself but I have taken to borrowing my mom’s mini roller-bag for trips and it’s a heck of a lot easier on my shoulders! So now I am shopping around trying to find the perfect suitcase for what amounts to a whole summer of travel. I am a light packer and plan to carry-on vs. checking my luggage, even to Ireland, so we shall see what comes of it.  In an ideal world some suitcase manufacturer would sponsor my travels with the perfect roller-bag….

I love really love all kinds of cases, especially old ones.  I have an old make up case that I tricked out to house my flute and whistles. I keep my quilting fabrics in stacks of antique suitcases that double as coffee tables.  I keep a collection of collagey materials in an old samsonite case I got at the thrifty store.  But this summer it will be one, more modern case, my fabrics and even my regular flute (I have a travel flute made of a heavy duty composite material) will be staying home while I go on walkabout.  This is all tremendously exciting!!!

Here’s today’s doodle…


I’ve been encouraging my students to attempt to draw every day, even if it’s just simple exercises like blind contour drawings (which tend to result in funky little drawings that don’t look much like their source imagery!)  In just 23 days I will head to Taos and my students will be right behind me.  We all need to be ready to draw what we find enchanting out there, and there will be plenty to draw in such a new and different environment.  So I am challenging myself to make a drawing of some sort everyday focusing on the process of pen and color to paper, not on the finished drawing.  Here is today’s.  A blind contour drawing, done in pencil first, colored with some watercolor and pen to finish.  It’s my favorite chair.

For now, I am off to work at the concertina shop.  Finishing up a case today for an instrument heading to Ireland for a woman named Claire.  So exciting!  Oh, and by the way, I’ll be going to Ireland in August after all.  More on that later!!!!


Magical Thinking

Spring has sprung at Chez Bogard.  This time of year, thanks to the family who built this place and lived here for over 50 years before us, our little chunk of land is like a parkland with all sorts of spring time bulbs that come up and trees that flower in really majestic ways.  It’s breathtaking to behold really.  I sometimes just like to sit and watch it all when time allows.

There is a sweet duck couple, mallards, whom I believe are the same couple that come back every year, who are nesting somewhere near the back creek in the woods.  They can often be seen trodding across our lawn on route from front creek to back creek.  I never seem to have my camera handy when they do this…. at some point I’d love to catch them on video.  Absolutely adorable!

With my new job at the concertina shop and my teaching schedule about to ramp up again, I am a busy gal.  In recent weeks I have not had near enough time alone to do the type of thinking and dreaming that seems to take longer and quieter than normal brain activity.  I’m feeling a bit anxious and fragmented.  Maybe it’s wisdom that comes with aging, but I am not panicking at the arrival of this inner turmoil like I might normally.  I know that I have a lot on my plate.  And a lot going for me.  Starting with Taos, (um, we leave in 5 weeks!!!!!!!!) this summer’s travel season is shaping up to be the stuff of big art dreams (at least my type of gypsy girl dreaming).  We are currently crunching numbers to figure out if I can accompany Jack over to Ireland for the All-Ireland Fleadh.  For one thing, as a parent, I am not sure I want to send my 16 year old on a solo trip overseas, though we know people in our Irish music community who would keep half an eye on him….  The other side of this coin is that I really want to go.  Ireland is next on my list of places I would like to take students to capture their experiences within the confines of a sketchbook.  I’ve been saying this for a couple of years now and here we are with the opportunity for a structured reason to go.  The only hesitation really is money.

I am perpetually breaking even in my personal, art-related finances.  Going on this trip would put my little art account into the red for sure and affect the family finances to a certain extent.  The guilt over this notion sits heavy in my gut and I am wrestling with some big questions in my head and heart that go beyond just this trip to Ireland.

What dreams are we to go for in this life?  When do we say yes to something that might be slightly above and beyond our boundaries?  Whether the boundaries we are pushing are those of fear or finances, it’s a tricky balance to know when to go for it and when to lay low and wait for another opportunity.  I find myself grappling with the “who are you to…” questions.  You know the ones: “Who are you to travel for what amounts to ALL summer long?”  “Who are you to think you can put together a travel sketch trip to Ireland?” (this is a biggie, as I would go this one alone, outside of the institutional assistance of the Art Academy, with full responsibility for planning, marketing, liability, etc. – this terrifies me.)  “Who are you to think that anyone would even sign up?!”

I know all of these questions are based in deep seeded fears that are my life’s work to grapple with.  One of my favorite quotes is from Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

For some reason, this trip to Ireland, mostly to chaperone my talented fiddle player but also to re-con my own potential future sketch venture, is dredging up all kinds of big life questions.  Travel, even the mere mention of it, does this for me.  And it’s good exercise I think.  I need to swing my inner pendulum toward more magical thinking.  It’s so interesting to me that I can imagine the biggest and the best dream-life situations, only to a moment later, self-sabbotage into reasons why I don’t deserve my imagined goals.  In dreaming big, I can see my work life consisting of continued sketch-book work with students, maybe publishing a book of some kind (a how-to book? a memoir? a kid’s book?), all the while maintaining control over my time and making a decent living.  I am not sure how this is to play out.  I just show up every day and write a bit.  Draw a bit.  Dream a bit.

I’ll know in the next week or so what the plans are for Ireland.  It really does come down to the numbers and how we want to arrange them.  In the meantime, I will continue to nurture the magical thinking that seems to plop these decisions in my lap to even consider in the first place.  Ideally, like the pink spectacle on our little acre, my dreams will bloom in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

What does your magical thinking look like?  What dreams do you have that seem, for now, unattainable?  How can we make them bloom?



“… and you better be you, and do what you can do…..”

Above is a video of one of my very favorite songs of all time and I share it with you here because there was some serious gold…. and silver and bronze…. brought back home to Cincinnati from the Fleadh in Chicago this weekend.
Here’s what went down. We arrived friday to get the lay of the land at this year’s Fleadh which was to be held at Chicago’s Irish American Heritage Center. I can’t say enough about how amazing this place was. Although it was a bit of a pain to have the hotel a number of miles from the competition venue, we loved being at this center for the weekend. It is my hope that someday Cincinnati’s newly developed Irish Heritage Center can become a smaller version of Chicago’s; a place where musicians, artists, historians and fans of all things Irish can gather and feel a sense of place. It was wonderful.

Angels hold up this building and you can feel it.  Friday’s event was a huge ceili where the reigning champs in last year’s all-Ireland ceili band competition played for dancers who knew the steps so well that no one even called them.  It was awesome!  It was great to just sit and soak up the wonderful music and watch the dancers.  Saturday was to be a full day.

There were many competitions going on throughout the day on Saturday.  My dear friend Kathy got the silver medal in both the English singing and New Song competitions.  Another Riley School family member Patrick threw his hat into the ring in the Sr. Fiddle competition and received a bronze.  Quite a feat!  But the big one of the day for me was the 15-18 fiddle competition where Jack and his long time friend Hannah participated in this adjudicated event.  The two love playing music together and are often among the top seeded in their division.  It was delightful to get the results of this competition…. (look at level ‘c’ which denotes the 15-18 age group)

Here they are with their medals.  I have watched these kids grow up playing music together even though they hail from different cities.  At these events kids from all over the country get together and bond over common tunes.   Later this summer it looks like these two old friends will be going to Ireland to compete in the mac-daddy of all Irish music competitions, the All-Ireland’s in Cavan.  I am thrilled for them!!!

Hannah also took the singing competition in her age group and Jack won the top mandolin prize.  But the day was not over….

Later in the evening, the group competitions were held.  Jack and I, along with 8 other intrepid musicians from the Riley School of Irish Music went up against 3 other bands competing in the Groupa Cheoil.  Plenty of talented musicians from Chicago, St. Louis and Akron put their arrangements to the test along with ours.  At the end of it all…. we won.  I can’t begin to communicate to you how amazing this is.  In the world of traditional Irish music, Cincinnati is small potatoes.  And yet, the judges, most of whom were from Ireland, liked our take on things.  When asked who arranged our routine, we told them – we did it as a group.  Together.  I love playing music with this group of people.  They are the smartest and funniest and ‘funnest’ people I know and I cherish them.  Receiving gold medals as a group was so gratifying.

After our competition, we watched the ceili bands duke it out (congrats to ‘The Broken Pledge’ ceili band on their win!) and then played tunes at sessions til the wee hours.  I am exhausted and apologize for the lack of artful writing here.  But I wanted to get it down here.  This weekend reminds me why I play Irish music.  It’s enhanced my parenthood, my creativity and given me friends both from my own city and from places like St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit that I will hopefully cherish for the rest of my life.




Today my boy Jack (who is a fabulous musician) and I (who am hack musician) are heading to Chicago for the annual fleadh cheoil.  This is a big competition for those of us who play traditional Irish Music.  Jack will compete solo in fiddle and mandolin and then later in the day, we will both compete in the group competition.  It is a wonder to watch Jack play in the solo competition.  Fiddle especially is a huge field of really great musicians and each one plays independently in front of the judge while everyone else looks on.  This gives me a nauseous and shaky feeling just writing about it.  He is simply grace under pressure.

I have been thinking a good bit about risk lately.  The things that we do in life to keep ourselves challenged, to get us out of our shells in order to grow.  For me, music ranks highly in this department because until a few years ago, I was not a musician.  Now I can play with my friends and we can sound pretty good.  The difficulty comes with the notion of being on stage.  You cannot imagine (well, perhaps you can) the level of terror on a truly gut level that I get when it comes time to play for the judges.  Intellectually I know its silly.  We are not really playing to win.  We just love to play.  We love the preparation and the creativity that goes into arranging some trad tunes into a playable/ listenable  7 or 8 minutes.  The first time I played at the fleadh I was literally so scared stiff that I don’t think I was able to play 3/4 of the notes required.  I have come a long way to where I no longer feel total faint but still have to struggle to keep my nerves under control.  It used to be a struggle for me to get the guts up to play at a session and now I play at least one a week with my fellow musicians.  I get such joy from this that I think sometimes ‘somebody just pinch me,  I can’t believe I am actually doing this!’.  I am so grateful for this gift of music and for what it has done for my over all self-confidence.

But why do I push to get over stage fright and my shyness around people I do not know?  Because this is what being alive feels like.  Because in the long run, I crave to be a part of things, even though it took me years – literally years – to get up the guts to even say so.  Pushing the boundaries of my own creativity also keeps me honest about what I expect from students.  In 6 weeks I will be shuffling 13 intrepid fellow travelers to Taos, New Mexico to learn the art of traveling with an active sketchbook.  I will be asking them to draw.  A lot.  This is terrifying for many people. Similar to my fear of playing music where anyone can hear me, putting an artful line on paper stimulates a fear of failure so strong that most people will not do it.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “I can’t draw” from someone who hears what I do for a living.  It is my belief that if you can write your name, then you can draw.  But unless I understand this fear, I cannot help students to overcome it.  And so I push and I risk in order to move beyond the pounding heart and adrenalin headache that comes with stage fright.

Writer Peter Levitt writes:

“We are not only born to create, we are also born to risk.  These are actually the same.  Taking a creative risk is not only essential and freeing, it is also the least risky  thing you can do.  Any attempt to stay safe will never get you where you want to go.”


you may have noticed a lull in my blog posts.  The reason is, I got a job!!!  I am now a proud member of the concertina making team at Carroll Concertinas.  I am slowly learning the many different steps involved in building one of these amazing instruments.  The tasks are endless and require lots of interesting materials, tools and processes.  It is the perfect job for me.  I am able to work with my hands on a variety of things.  There is no pressure to be in a hurry in any way because quality and safety are the top priorities.  Every day involves problem solving and design challenges and the utilization of multiple hand and power tools.  In a word, it’s bliss.  I have had many folks ask ‘what is a concertina?’.  Basically it is like an accordion, sometimes you see pirates playing them in movies.  Here is a pro jamming out some reels.  Her name is Edel Fox and we will be building a Carroll Concertina for her very soon….

And so that is the news from Chez Bogard.  As I come to balance with the new job hours, I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how the Mammoth Cave quilt is coming along and keep y’all up to date on Taos trip news as that draws ever closer.