Category Archives: travel

Changes in latitude

This past weekend my mom, sister and I flew to Key West, Florida for an annual girls getaway.  As usual, Key West had much to offer just about any interest.  Like any tourist town, there are galleries, museums, shopping, restaurants and bars .  I avoided most of the trappings (except perhaps the bars) and instead spent much of my time outside.  Walking, looking, drawing, exploring, soaking up colors and textures and people so different from what we have here in Ohio (especially this time of year!).  Every day I spent a few hours at the man-made (but thoroughly wonderful) beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.  Here I could soak up a little sunshine but also explore the fort and walk the nature trails.  Key West was experiencing a winter’s chill last week that had the locals feeling a little grumpy, but for me, it was plenty warm enough.

We stayed at a lovely guest mansion called Marrero’s, famed to be haunted by a friendly ghost named Enriquetta.  This was the first time we stayed in the downtown area and we will never do it differently.  Marrero’s is close to everything and a nice quiet place to experience the atmosphere that personifies Key West.

Since this was the 4th time we had been to Key West, mom decided it might be fun to do something a little bit different and head out for a sunset cruise.  We took a ride on a beautiful sail boat called the Western Union sunday evening.  What we all thought would be a nice, though rather touristy, couple of hours, turned out to be the pinnacle experience of our trip.  The weather was perfect, the wind just right for sailing.  The captain mentioned that we might see a few dolphins while out on the water… sure enough, right on cue, there were dolphins, just before sunset.  I now know the meaning of the word frolic as that is what personifies dophins in the wild, something I hadn’t experienced before.  They were beautiful.  The passengers on the ship were encouraged to help get the sails up (in fact, the captain said, “no sails, no bar”, so most people pitched in!) My sister and I heaved and hauled with other passengers while the crew shouted out directions.  It was exhilarating!  Sunset could not have been more lovely, with just the right amount of clouds in the sky to play with the colors.  One of the couples on board got engaged at that moment.  The energy on board was peaceful as people chatted and listened to the boat creak and groan.  As we headed back into port, the crew replaced the sails for next time and we ended our short journey. It was an experience I won’t soon forget.  I think I may have left a little piece of my soul on that boat.

After dinner, we headed once again to our favorite Key West watering hole, The Green Parrot.  It seems no matter where we wander through the evenings, we always wind up back at this place.  Slightly off the beaten path of the nauseatingly touristy Duval St., the Green Parrot is a place we always meet the more intrepid tourists such as ourselves, along with colorful local “Conchs” who are fortunate or crazy enough to carve out a living in Key West. I could go on and on with stories of our wonderful trip to The Conch Republic, but that would be a waste of precious art time.  I am now loaded with images and ideas that need to be born into some artistic form.  I have tons of drawings in my sketchbook and have plans to do more.  My well is full for the first time in months.  This is all very good.

Winter Green

Holiday Season is in full swing here in Cincinnati.  We have even had some recent snow and ice to liven things up a bit and remind us that it is, indeed, Winter.  With winter comes a raw, dry harshness that is difficult to escape.  Even with the presence of humidifiers, houseplants and an aquarium, I still find myself cracking at the seams and zapping everything I touch.

Yesterday afternoon my son Jack and I had some time to spend after school while my daughter was at a play rehearsal (this will be a frequent theme in the next couple of months).  So we wandered up the hill to the Krohn Conservatory to immerse ourselves in the moist tropical air of this beautiful glass hothouse.  The Conservatory is a favorite place of mine to draw for the sake of drawing and I am rewarded with moisture and quiet while I work.  It’s lovely.  Jack got a new camera this past fall for his birthday.  With this new toy and his natural eye for photography, he managed to capture a bit of the winter green magic that can be found at this Cincinnati treasure…

Lately, with my schedule being somewhat more open with fewer teaching gigs and such, I have been reconnecting quite a bit with my studio space and my own personal art work.  I have so many ideas recently that it is hard to pin them all down.  This is a wonderful place to be and I write it here so that when an Art Desert scenario returns someday (which it will), I can remind myself of the ebb and flow that is the life’s work of a creative.   There will be dry spells I must work through, usually by simply maintaining my sketchbook and feeding my spirit with little field trips like yesterday’s Krohn visit.  Author Julia Cameron calls these little field trips “Artist Dates” and I like that notion.  Like one is wooing the inner artist out of her shell a bit.  It works.  I have always known that work begets work and yet I am often guilty of the self sabotage that is easy to fall into when life intervenes.  There is often not enough time to just wander and take in the world.  Recently I find myself blocking out time in my calendar as simply “Studio Time”.  Often this time is most fruitful when spent not actually in the studio, but rather out in the world, exploring.  Through my own practice and in my classes, I have become accutely aware of the power of keeping a sketch journal alive and well.  I am swimming in the power of this practice right now, and it feels right.

“Go outside, move deliberately, then relax, slow down, look around.  Do not jog. Do not run…Instead pay attention to everything that abuts the rural road, the city street, the suburban boulevard.  Walk. Stroll.  Saunter.   Ride a bike and coast along a lot.  Explore.”

John Stilgoe, Outside Lies Magic

Playing Catch Up

It’s hard to believe sometimes how time flies.  I know that sounds pretty cliche’ but there it is.  20 days have gone by since our country’s miraculous election and things have been rather busy round here at Chez Bogard.  Busy is good.

Yesterday I took a friend of mine to the Cincinnati Art Museum to see Madcap Puppet Theater’s production of The Firebird. This show was done in the style of shadow puppetry using light and flat puppets to create the illusion of space.  What was interesting to me about this particular production was the use of color.  The puppets were created with a heavy duty plastic and painted with the “stained glass” paints that are found at the crafty stores.  The effect was exquisite and magical.  Adults and kids alike at the show were enchanted.  Being a member of the Cincinnati Area Puppetry Guild, I knew some of the performers and got to go backstage after the show to see how it all works.  Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me but here is a shot from my phone taken during the post-show Q&A.

The holidays are officially upon us and they seem to come earlier every year.  Case in point, we had the Riley School of Irish Music‘s 3rd annual Peace and Merriment Concert on Saturday night.  We did it early this year to avoid clashing with too many other Christmas-ey shin-digs coming up and also to coincide with the end of fall quarter at the school.  Students and Instructors alike performed various holiday/ harvest related tunes and the audience seemed to enjoy themselves.  I hid in the back row of the ceili band performance and played my tunes as best I could.  Stage-fright is less and less an issue with me as time rolls on, but I still am not keen on the idea of playing in front of people.  Below is a shot of some of the Riley kids who are not shy about playing for people.  They pretty much rock, those kids!

As Riley School finished up, it occurred to me that a number of things are freeing up precious time for me in the coming weeks.  The Carnegie Center has changed its regular Family Saturday activities from Dec. 13 to Dec. 6  to accommodate a participatory arts day planned for that day.  I won’t be able to make it that day so  I’ll see all of my regular Family Saturday folks again in January!  Meanwhile, this past week was my final class for the semester at the Art Academy.  I am slated to teach the class again in the Spring, Feb 21- March 6. (6 weeks this time!)  I will post details for registration when I have them.  My hope is that I will have some returning students next time who will keep pushing the limits of tending their sketchbooks. Spring will also be a perfect time for taking any interested students slightly farther afield for a day (or 2?) to practice their sketching skills.  I have for some time entertained the idea of leading a travel sketchbook course.  I have a handful of folks who have expressed interest in participating and so I’ve begun to make plans.  I will be sure to post any destination ideas I have here and would love any feedback or requests for fun places to visit and draw.  Anyone up for Madison, Indiana?

So with some extra hours available to me I plan to play in the studio with wax and clay, reacquaint myself with my own neglected sketchbook (update my Daily Dog collection), and perhaps finish a pair of socks I have been knitting for far too long.  I have a new heater in the studio which should help take some of the chill out of the space (thanks to Dave for that suggestion!)

Although I haven’t been too active at the wax table in recent weeks, I have been working on some clay tiles I plan to install as a back splash in our new kitchen.  I am making them in pieces which will eventually come together to create an artistic take on the foot print of the Ohio River in our region (approximately from the Indiana border out to Maysville, Ky, a favorite river town of ours).  Kudos to my kayaker hubby for that brilliant idea.  It seems to be turning out nicely….

Last but certainly not least in today’s post, some wonderful doggie news:  The puppies have graduated out of their kennel and are now sleeping upstairs with us at night!  For some months now they have had the run of the upstairs hallway when we would leave the house.  They just chill out on their beds in Tony’s office and wait for us to come home.  At night however we were still putting them into their kennels to avoid morning chaos.  Last week we decided to try putting them to bed upstairs with us after a long walk to see how they would do.  Amazingly, they did great!  They have learned fairly quickly to just lie down in their beds when we are in ours and that just because we get up to go to the bathroom, doesn’t mean they need to get up too. (Caskie learned this years ago and likes to sleep in Maddie’s room).  It’s working out wonderfully.  During the day, their recent favorite hang out is in the kitchen…. sprawled out on the heated concrete floor!

Got Hope?

Today is Election Day and I, along with millions of other Americans, am casting a vote today for my pick for President.  Let me just say, it’s time for a Change, yes we CAN.  ‘Nuf said.

Meanwhile, life goes on in spite of the world being a crazy place, or perhaps because of it.  I have been working a bit more in my sketch book recently, trying to make a positive example of myself for my wonderful students.  Like any good-for-you exercise, it feels great to be doing it….

Along with water color and mud, my book has a couple of polaroids in it.  I have been trying to figure out how to do polaroid transfers with not much luck.  I got this camera for 75 cents at a garage sale and have invested $17 for a strange 3V battery and then another $15 for a box of 10 exposure Fuji film that works with this camera model.  The guy at the shop where I bought the film told me this might not be the best for transfers, but by toying with the development time I might have some success.  It has been hit or miss thus far but I plan to keep trying and experimenting.  At the very least, I am having fun capturing these images and plan to hang on to the camera as yet another tool for making my sketchbook come alive in new and exciting ways.  I suppose there are cures for mild boredom.

If you have voted today, which I hope was tops on your to-do list, then get out into the world and experiment with some new art-making/ life-cataloguing stuff that you haven’t tried.  Polaroids are great, but so are digital photos and plain ol’ drawing.  I’m headed back out there to go live a little myself.

I’ll keep you posted.


Last week my Hub went out of town on business and unfortunately found himself without power cords for his laptop upon his return. Said cords are being shipped from Hong Kong and may be a few days which renders his laptop out of service due to a lack of power. The good thing is, he has my laptop as back up and can do his work as needed. The bad thing is, he has my laptop as back up…

It is interesting to me how much I turn to my computer during the day, to quickly research an idea, keep track of my images, blog, and keep in touch with friends and family. I have felt a little lost in recent days with out this electronic security blanket. Even so I am still painting every day, practicing music everyday (Augusta is fast approaching!), keeping up with my dogs, my family, my renovation. Life moves on. The past week is perhaps a good preparation for the up-coming weeks when I will be out of the electronic loop while at Irish Music camp and vacation in our beloved Soul Home, Maine. It is possible I may not check in with my virtual self until Mid-August. Life moves on.

In the meantime, below is what has been happening around here recently and I am certain to post something about my summer adventures when I return, or on route, if I am so inspired. It is summer after all, and the living is supposed to be easy….

Last night Tony and I went on a sunset dinner cruise on the Ohio River for our anniversary which is coming up in a few days. We were blessed with beautiful, soft weather and enjoyed ourselves immensely.

I have stuck to my commitment of making a tiny painting every day and have even managed to photograph each piece. It’s amazing to me how they pile up. Below are the results…

I am pleased with the results but more importantly with the process. There is just not a lot of pressure in one tiny painting. It’s a lot like the theme of this blog, a little every day… for most days. But play at the wax table is not all that’s happening. After some concrete related hold-ups (the end result is even better than the first version) our cabinets are finally being installed. I don’t think we’ll have a kitchen until way after vacation, but at least we are still moving forward again after a couple of weeks in a holding pattern (note: Concrete takes patience, don’t ever rush it. Our guys did and had to do a LOT of work to fix it!)

Puppy Boot Camp (at least my gentle version of it) is still going on. We walk twice a day which they love. When at home all members of the family, and guests as well, are learning how to teach all three to keep all four paws on the ground and mind their place in the pack. All of us are benefiting from this wonderful structure. They are even lying still enough sometimes that I have gotten a couple of daily dog sketches done!

Yes, indeed life moves on… I’ll keep you posted, when I get the chance!

Road Trip Season (episode 1)

This past Saturday was the Detroit Feis, an Irish Dance competition where my daughter Maddie competed in a number of different dances. She won first place in her Reel which gave everyone cause to celebrate. Her best buddy and fellow dancer Camille also won her Reel (they are in different age/ skill level categories), and her Treble Reel and placed 4th in her Treble Jig. These girls never stop dancing, especially with all the music that surrounds them, so it’s nice to see them reap the benefits of all their hard work.

While in Detroit we were fortunate to have a place to stay at my friend Dave’s house. Dave is a potter who lives and works in Ferndale, Michigan. He has his studio set up in his basement and the kids spent much of their free time making clay pots.

When we travel to another city to attend an Irish Dance competition, part of the fun is hanging out afterwards with the musicians who were hired to play for the dancers as well as those who live in that city. Having just attended the Fleadh held in Detroit this year, it was great to meet up with some of those Detroit musicians once again and have few tunes. I played only a little bit on Saturday night at the Feis Musician’s hotel.

Sunday’s tunes were to be had at Conor O’Neil’s pub in Ann Arbor Michigan and I have to admit, I am a chicken. My whistle stayed hidden in my bag during this session which was filled with amazing musicians and great Irish Music. Sometimes there’s value in simply listening.

Not all weekend was spent at Irish cultural events. We had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with my friend Jeni’s brother who has a pool and two amazing golden retriever dogs. Bailey, the younger of the two, likes to swim but she doesn’t do it like any other dog I have ever met. She stays vertical, like a person, and keeps her back paws on the floor of the pool. It is hilarious. She could probably win some money on America’s Funniest Home Videos or something.

Allie is Bailey’s older sister. She doesn’t swim a whole lot but rather lies in the shade like a big ol’ carpet dog. I sat and drew a picture…

Before the session on Sunday at O’Neil’s, we walked around Ann Arbor and looked at all the cool shops there. One phenomenon I was excited to check out was that of the Urban Fairies, reputed to be found in Ann Arbor. Sure enough, we found them. Little tiny doors behind which lay another world. I left a button and a New Zealand coin as my offering to the Fairies at Peaceable Kingdom gift shop, glad to participate in this sweet Ann Arbor tradition.

coming up for air

My friend Doug reminded me the other day that I had not posted any fleadh results on my blog as I had promised before heading to Detroit for the big weekend of Irish Music. It was indeed a weekend filled with music and very little sleep. It was a chance to catch up with friends from other cities whom we only get to see at such events. Someone was quoted as saying “would we even get together for such a weekend if we didn’t have a poor excuse such as a competition?” After it is all said and done, most of us here in Cincinnati agree that it is not about the results of the competition. We have a very closely knit community of Irish musicians here in our area, but we don’t have the numbers that some of the bigger cities have. That said, the Riley School kids ceili band was awarded 2nd place in that competition. Lots of Riley kids also placed in the many solo competitions available to them (Jack got 2nd in Mandolin!). It was a successful weekend on many fronts. Unfortunately, the one thing that went wrong is my forgetting to bring a camera! But if you click the link above, you can get the general feel for the weekend from those wonderful photos. Oh, and by the way, the over 18 “adult” ceili band (i.e. “The Little Ceili Band that Could”) didn’t win a prize. But we got up there and played fairly well, despite our nerves.

Once we got home and settled from the Fleadh weekend, the wild end-of-the-school-year pace set in and I have been trying simply to just keep up! There have been lots of concerts and recitals, and celebrations for the older kids moving onto their next adventures. Jack, my 7th grader, was just fitted this week for a pair of glasses. Maddie is slowly putting together her new Irish Dance ensemble since she just acquired her first solo dress. Tonight we worked on a crown which will mach the dress. I think we had success…


In spite of what seems like an endless spring puppetry schedule, I have managed to make a little art here and there. There is an area of Downtown Cincinnati called Over-The-Rhine which is filled with the most amazing architecture and a varied assortment of residents and businesses. My kids go to school in this neighborhood and so as a family, we spend quite a lot of time there. As many inner city areas do, OTR faces some challenges in dealing with crime and poverty, but a core group of dedicated individuals are working toward making OTR the best it can be. One recent project is the GreenBird House project. These wonderful “green” bird houses were distributed to local artists who then in turn put their own mark on them. The newly decorated bird houses then go up for auction, proceeds going to the Over-The-Rhine Community Housing project. Below is my bird house. Perhaps it’s the presence of all the shiny Irish Dance stuff laying around, or the fact that it’s spring, but I stepped out of my usual aesthetic to make something just this side of ridiculous. I had a lot of laughs working on it!



Just a few more days of puppetry and being chained to a school schedule. I need a dose of artistic meandering and allowing time to flow as it should. More time to sketch and blog and notice the little stuff.

traveling shoes


I am still working off the images and thinking that were with me in Olympia. There is a great line in a song by the Be Good Tanyas called The Littlest Birds. “…you pass through places and places pass through you but you carry them with you on the soles of your traveling shoes.” I think this idea is true. Travel, even the smallest trips, has a way of changing a person in small ways. For me, I often feel more alive and awake after a trip. Getting out of town causes me to pay attention to my surroundings a bit more. This is important therapy for a visual artist.

There is a dog in Olympia named Sakima who is a real gem. I took a few snapshots of him while out there this time so I could sketch him a bit when I got home. He has a beautiful wolf-like quality to him, as well as a gentle and open spirit.


One of the souveneirs I like to pick up whenever I am anywhere in the Pacific North-“wet” are the lovely beach pebbles that can be found just about anywhere on the coast. I love to draw them. The colors are endless in scope and I find them beautiful to look at and place around my house in bowls. Often a visitor to my house will ask, “so what’s with the rocks?…”



Landing Gear


There are some places in the world to which I feel rooted ; places where I feel tremendously at home. Being something of a Gypsy at heart, I pretty much make myself at home any place, but there are a few particularly special places I love most of all.

The Belgrade Lakes region in Maine is one. My family and I go there every summer to “fill our cups” and spend some time with people we love as family and miss when we’re away. Elkins, WV is another place I love, where my son and I go for Irish Music immersion. I like to think of our time in Elkins as being like the faerie stories where an unsuspecting traveler stumbles upon a magical land where time flows differently, music is the only food one needs, and the real world just melts away…at least for a week.

I have spent the past few days out on the west coast in Olympia, WA. I have some dear friends who live out there so I took the opportunity to visit. Olympia has become one of those places for me over the years as I have visited quite often. There are more shades of green there (even in winter!) than my watercolor set can possibly manage. The coffee is outstanding; my favorite is Batdorf and Bronson’s downtown.

There is also a very friendly dog culture in Olympia. Many school teachers actually take their dogs to school with them to spend time with their students. One of these is Jinx who works in the 5th grade classroom at McKenny Elementary school. Jinx is tiny, probably a dachshund chihuahua mix of some sort, and such a gentle little soul.


My friends who live in Olympia are lucky to have a bit of land around their house and so they have any number of animals both inside and out at any given time. My favorite this go round was Curly, a Peruvian Guinea Pig who belongs to Olivia. I always thought of guinea pigs as sort of skittish but Curly is peace personified. Zen Pig, if you will.


Coming home from a trip is stressful. Reality and normalcy come crashing back at me and I can get a little overwhelmed and depressed if I’m not careful. However, years of traveling have taught me a little bit about what I think of as my “landing gear”. Allowing myself a little extra time and space, coffee and friendship in my first day or two back can often prevent my formerly predictable “break up on re-entry”. Add to that my beloved family that cleaned the house for my arrival and this trip’s re-entry has been pretty smooth.

I am glad to be home, surrounded by my awesome family, my rambunctious dogs, and back in my studio where I can get to work on drawing some of the dogs I met and pebbles I collected while in Olympia.

Hanging out in Nashville

Nashville boots This weekend I went to Nashville, Tennessee with my mom and sis for our annual girls getaway. I’ve been to Nashville before and have found it to be an eclectic, friendly, interesting place to be. This time, we stayed primarily downtown where most of the country music flavored culture is to be found. Here’s a list of some things I saw:

Cowboy Hats (zillions)
Boots (even more of these, and got a pair myself)
Boobs (come on girls, can’t we leave SOMETHING to the imagination?)
Homeless folks (this is a large problem in Nashville but there seem to be advocacy groups there doing research and talking to people about how best to help)
Guitars (everywhere! Lots of rising stars running from gig to gig with them on their backs)
Legendary likenesses (tons of Country Music lore and the images are everywhere)
Dogs (on horseback, on leashes, in stores, busking for change)
Music (talent was oozing from this place. I’m not a fan of country music but there was not one wrong note anywhere near this town!)

All in all I enjoyed Nashville in spite of my distaste for and ignorance of most things relating to country music (I do love the roots of it, however). We topped off our visit with what has to be the best breakfast and cup of coffee in town at Fido’s Coffehouse.