Category Archives: sketches

Day 2, in pictures and paint

It’s fun to see how others have weathered the isolation in recent months.  Here it’s Rumikub.  There have been many games, apparently.

Locals remind themselves of what is lovely here, in spite of all.

While on my morning walk/run there is a veritable parade of old fashioned cars, harkening to days bygone.

It is good to walk in a place where glimpses of the sea are readily available through the trees.

Before the day gets away, I steal away to paint for a bit, using a new paint set up I gleaned recently from the lovely work and suggestions of Lena Rivo.

Wonderful to find a secluded bench, with shade and a view.

Here’s the wee painting I come up with…..

I can still see influences in my painting from the workshop I took with Henry Isaacs here in 2015.  (click the blue for the link!)

Later it is time to swim.  Of course it is.

Is that a seal???

Alas, it’s just me.

Sea me.  I LOVE swimming in the ocean each day.  Thankful it is just down the road from us.

Tonight, in the spirit of reconnaissance for a kayak opportunity of Tony’s later in the week, we gather for dinner at another lovely spot, out of doors, away from others, by the sea, and happy to be together.

We are treated to an amazing sunset.  And just like that, our first full day in Maine comes to a close.

We are deeply grateful to be here.  To fill the proverbial well with hope for the months to come.  To remind ourselves AND you that beauty and friendship still exist.  That we will get through these hard times.

Bon courage, friends.

 

 

 

Joy of being

“In today’s rush, we all think too much… seek too much… want too much… and forget about the joy of just being.”

~Eckhart Tolle *

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m feeling the rush and pull of a return to normalcy which I’ll admit, I am not quite yet in favor of.

“Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow.

~Vincent van Gogh *

For those of you who follow my online doings, the noise of the world has gotten to be a bit much for me personally and I have opted off the social media channels until further notice.  While we cannot and mustn’t turn our backs on a troubled world just now – the news of things as they are happening in real time – we CAN turn down the noise of it all online in order to dig deeper into what is really happening out there, what can actually be done, and how we feel about it all.  Sure one might get a chuckle now and then over on the socials, but true reality is a bit more difficult to find.  And so I seek it in deeper wells.

I’ll be honest, I needed a break – have done for a good long while now.

And so I am taking one.  Officially.  I am hopeful it might be longer than the usual month off which happens now and then in normal times.

I celebrated this returning to myself, this coming home really,  by building a fire last night.  Humidity is creeping back up as of today, but in recent days past, the magic of a cool summer night’s mystery has been in rare form.

We are grateful.

We wear a crown of midsummer and watch the garden flourish.

“With life as short as a half taken breath, don’t plant anything but love.”

~Rumi *

While not everything planted will be in top form this season, the garden’s beginnings give me hope for better days.

I suppose if necessary, we could live off of pumpkin and swiss chard alone, if we had to eventually.  Perhaps not all is lost.

Life carries on.

Birds nest.

A great June greening gathers further in.

“We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery.”

~ H G Wells

The daily post continues to be a source of great day to day joy.  Today we received the long anticipated “Views from Quarantine” zine project from Ireland-based artist and child-art psychotherapist Simone Westerkamp (also long time friend and musical pal).  This zine is filled with offerings Simone gathered from artful friends and family scattered around the globe.  We, Tony and I, are thrilled to have been a small part of it.  In this era of grief, sadness and strife – in epic proportions, to be sure – beautiful small things are a keen reminder of the scale and importance of our own humanity.

“Never regret anything you have done with sincere affection; nothing is lost that is born of the heart.”

~Basil Rathbone *

The summer’s slowing, with my yearly work offerings no longer viable, affords a delicate space for quiet wonderment.  There are Rainier cherries now at the market once more, which I love.  When I can settle my brain and nerves down enough, I am drawing more in this in between time and space.  I am grateful for these crumbs of validity in such tumultuous times.

I’ll admit I am not ready to re-enter the rat-race.  I did not belong to it in the first place.  This I must remember as the traffic time into my part-time work begins to once more give me pause.

We have our sights set to venture home to Maine later in July. (God willin’ and the creek don’t rise, as they say)  Once there we will keep ourselves to ourselves, which we normally do anyway, and I promise we will do this all safely.  I look very much forward to cuddle piles of hugs with my god-child and her sister, and our dear friends, their parents.  Even as introverts, we are missing the humanity of a normal social existence.  I am counting the days.

This is a strange new world we live in.  Some people seem to be carrying on like nothing has changed, like it is an insult to their American-borne freedom to be asked to wear a mask in interest of the safety of others.  Most near and dear to me of course, continue to be diligent and do what is necessary to keep things safe for everyone.  We live life in the day to day just now.  Plans are difficult to commit to with things changing so fast in real time.

In the end, time will tell.

As for us, we soldier on.  Listening to books, reading books, doing puzzles, keeping to the work online as needed.  Tonight we go to meet East-Coast cousins arriving new to town.  Socially distant, of course.

Take care of each other, get hugs when you can.

More soon……

****some of the quotes above (*)  have been saved over time from a wonderful offering on the Book of Faces called Ravenous Butterflies.  Go give em a follow if you are currently riding the waves of the socials.  They are a bright light on a dark platform.

Processing carrots

How to go from this….
……to this!!

Start with the shape of a carrot.  “ish”.

Add a “head” to your carrot shape.

And then a wee shadow to ground your developing figure in space….

(for the record, my sunshine is found in the left of my little world.)

Once your carrot is feeling like a figure, time to clothe it a bit.  This is done with some basic shapes, like rectangles.  The vendors here in Guatemala with their traditional outfits (the word for these is “traje”) are lovely to sketch in this way as the forms found in their clothing can be broken down to simple shapes.

Next I begin to add some appendages for this particular figure.

I then add a bundle on her head.  Folks here work so hard!  They carry their wares for peddling on their backs, heads, arms and then walk and walk and walk to make a sale.

I begin to find light in the bundle….

Then some patterning in her corte…..

And added some color therein….

I darken her outfit, showing the shadow beneath her heavy bundle….

a little more personality to her shadow.

Then I begin to add more wares for her to sell to the tourists here in Antigua.  Necklaces which will dangle from one arm whilst her other balances the bundle above.

More colors on the necklaces and some threads too.

She’s looking good I think!

So very tiny, but these little portraits really have a ton of personality and I enjoy creating them!

I am SO inspired by the Guatemalan people.  So very patient with us often clueless tourists with our clumsy spanglish.  Quick with a smile and a “buenos días” on the sidewalk.  The traditional textiles worn around town are a feast for the northern-most among us so thirsty for color.  It is such great fun to learn about the various patterns and places represented in these weavings and embroideries.  And great fun to explore them in a variety of ways in my sketchbook….

Stay and Wonder

There is a lovely and welcoming new gallery space situated right downtown where things are busy and fancy like.  Some of us “urban sketcher” types have wrangled a few of our recent drawings into proper frames and are having a show.  There is even an Opening.

Join us from 4-7 this Thursday afternoon at Columbia Plaza for the festivities.  And maybe you’ll be inspired to come draw with us sometime….

A measure of quiet

Special thanks to Julie over in the Adventures of Claudia world for sending along these lovely words attributed to Brother David Steindl-Rast.

Raw December day, wet, dripping with rain and fog.  Last night’s few inches of snow turn to slush and mud.  I opt for a day home sketching and drinking tea after a busy weekend of music-making, and other such peopling.  I am deeply grateful for a flexible schedule.

The paints have been fairly ignored recently, my hands opting for other activities.  I know this is simply my way and the paints do call again eventually.

I work diligently on a set of mittens, maybe a second set if there is time.  Gifts of heart and hand.

Iris rests in the studio room with me, both of us vying for the space nearest the space-heater.

The house is cozy, with the season’s usual suspects tucked into their places, remembrances of years past.

The paints have indeed been calling, which is why I take to them for a few sketches today.  I can always feel the tug when it begins.  I see something that I want to interpret.  A scene or a landscape featuring a special light of some sort perhaps.  And I want to delve in.  This often finds me disturbingly out of practice.

Yesterday, before the snow came, I attended an art-book fair.  I found it refreshing to wander the stalls of fellow artists and see they are still keen on political disruption, unable to sit with the state of things, pretending this is all *normal*.  It is not normal and it will “not always be like this”.  I hope this is true.

On route to the fair, I noted the beauty of a pre-snow sky as the backdrop to our city skyline.  Today, I sketch from memory.

My friend Kim and I spend the late afternoon and early evening talking about art and resistance and I am refreshed.  She shares with me the story of artist Charlotte Salomon, about whom she’s been reading and who’s work exploded from her while evading Nazi capture (and sadly, other evils even closer to home).  Her tale has more to it than I can even begin to portray here, and I have ordered the books from the library to dive deeper into it all.  In the meantime, there are many articles about her available which I have been reading today.  Here are just a few along with some of her images…..

Museum Publicity

Smithsonian

The Guardian

The New Yorker

The sheer scale of her making is almost unbelievable.  I think about Charlotte painting as if her life depended on it, with urgency and desperation to tell her story before it was too late and  I am glad the work survived at all.  Indeed, this storied work may very well be the world’s first graphic novel as it is now called.  I simply can’t get enough of looking at these paintings.

I think about other artists whose work has captivated my attention, not only for the caliber in the work itself, but for the stories behind the work.  Artists like Edith Lake Wilkinson and Alice Schille, both of whom I have mentioned in previous posts here and there, and both of whom I have found inspiring for their art-making lives.

And through the lens of the work of these artists who’ve come before me in the Grand Arc of Art History, I think about my own work in the world.  I think about how it continues to evolve, stretched between words and image making, between material studies and experimentation.  How it is never comfortable, and when it is, it gets boring.  I wonder how many women artists, like myself or others, have flown under the radar their entire working lives.  Many more than we might possibly count I would wager.

So on this quiet day, here is where my head is.  I mentioned to a friend of mine the other day how spacious this time without the demands and distractions of social media has felt.  We laughed that it’s a bit like when as a stay at home mother, your children first go to school (or perhaps when they leave for college) and suddenly, there is room in your head to actually think deeply.  We in this world do not spend enough time pondering, wondering, engaging in our own thinking, following the mindful breadcrumbs offered from the gods of creativity.

I wish for everyone to give themselves the gift of this space.  I believe the world at large could sorely use some quiet time.

 

Let us keep courage

Fine Folk grace the pages of my sketchbook, along with wise words from the wisdom keepers I trust.  I look to these wisdom keepers as beacons, following their light,  as will-o-the-wisp….. into the darkness.

One such beacon, writer Robert Macfarlane, was featured in an interview with Krista Tippett of the program On Being.  They discuss a recent book of his called Underland which is a gorgeous, lengthy tome; an exploration of the world beneath our feet as seen and sensed from a variety of angles.  It’s the kind of book that deserves to be by one’s bedside to fill the mind with juicy and delicious language as a doorway into dreaming.  This book apparently took Macfarlane 6 years to complete.  He dipped into other projects along the way of course, but this one crept along, under everything else it would seem.  It was worth the wait.

Underland explores a concept of Deep Time, one that is beyond human, but which can be tapped into by those of us with the proper notions to do so.  If you have been reading my ideas here over the years, you know this is something I hold dear, this time-bending.  I believe it is at the heart of the things we treasure as human beings.  Good art, rich poetry, the ability to go beyond the day to day.  To send our cultural tap roots down into the flow of All Things and perhaps channel something up.  All of this of course takes time and practice.  And there are no guarantees.

“CAESURA”

‘In verse, a pause in the rhythm of a line after a phrase; in choral work, a moment where singers might catch their breath.’

via Robert Macfarlane on twitter

I really admire the depth of the work of writers such as Macfarlane, and I look to them for clues as to how to dig deeper into my own work.  Art as well as writing.  Even on social media channels, he and others like him make places like twitter and instagram into arenas of culture and idea-weaving.  I aim to do the same, having curbed my own use of such channels into avenues of art and music.  It’s a tricky balance in a world filled with instant sound-bytes and the next great and funny thing.  Last week Macfarlane announced he will be off of twitter for a while with the word caesura and its definition.

I thought to myself, ‘I’d like to do that.’

The idea of taking a break from social media is by no means a new one, by myself or anyone else for that matter.  There are books on digital detoxing which I have looked to when desperate for a break from it all.  Lately, thankfully, I have not felt desperate to leave the online arenas of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.  I have them fairly well and carefully “curated” in order to see things which inspire me.  New books to read, artists to research and learn something from, science to pique my curiosity and better my stewardship of my little part of the world.   I choose when and how to get my “news” as that can be fraught with peril in this day and age.  We must be careful what we feed ourselves, body and mind.

And yet, although not desperate to leave per se, I could use a break.  What keeps me tethered to the usual channels is the business end of things.  Usually, I am in marketing mode this time of year.  Selling my classes to Taos and Guatemala.  Hustling to show the world that yes, we go to beautiful places, have an amazing time together and make a bunch of gorgeous work.  (WE DO!!!!! )  And this is all part of my job.  But this year, I have been given a great gift…..  My classes for 2020 are mostly sold out (there are two slots left in the second week of the Antigua offering. That’s it!)  For once, I can relax a little bit.  And so I am considering a break over the holidays.

If this idea comes to fruition, I’ll be off of twitter, facebook and instagram from Nov 29 – Jan 1.

I wonder sometimes, if I make something, or write something, but I don’t shout it into the void of the social media platforms, have I really created anything?  This is the culture we are sold in this modern age.  I would like to confront this culture, especially in my own mind.  I’d like to follow some breadcrumbs of my own making just to see where they may lead.  Without the pressure to report.

This will be an interesting experiment.  I just began a weekly story idea which will continue to grow here, but folks will have to come find it, or wait until the New Year when I get back into the swing of things of sharing.  Soon, I’ll be packing for Guatemala and sharing via instagram sun-kissed, color-washed images of our time in Antigua.  It is in this way I beckon to future students to step into the sunshine with me and come on along!!  But with the classes filled to brimming, and a lovely waitlist padded out for Taos, I feel I can take the social media break I’ve been craving for years, without having to crash and burn mentally to get it.  It’s a good place to find myself.

So we shall see.  It is always a balance.  I may yet shift this plan into something less stringent.  But I am always leaning toward trying a new tactic with regard to my presence in the online world.  And for once I have the space to do so.

In other news…….

With Riley School out for break,  I am back to sketching along with my mates in the Cincinnati Urban Sketchers.  Last week we had a “boUrban sketchers” outing where we tasted bourbon at New Riff distillery.  It was great fun!!  Come along with us sometime!

I have a few paintings up at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center’s winter Collective show, EMERGE.  This one below was the belle of the ball.  I received many complements and offers to buy it.  But alas, it was snatched up by a private collector just days before the show.  I think the theme is one I’d like to explore further.  The quietude of this piece seemed to speak to a number of people.

The other work on which I received a good bit of feedback is this little lovely, Bonny Hills,  whose skies are filled with subtle color.  This is a second theme I hope to explore further in more paintings in the new year.  This one has not yet sold….  One of my fellow collective members said to me, I get the sense you were meant to be in Ireland.  How right she is.

In the music arena, the Riley School of Irish music will present its annual holiday program Peace and Merriment,  at 2 pm December 14.  Our address is 2221 Slane Avenue in Cincinnati.  Hope to see you there!  We also play a weekly session out in town: 1st and 3rd Wednesdays we can be found at Ludlow Garage in Clifton, 2nd and 4th Tuesdays , Streetside Brewery on Eastern Avenue.  Stop in and say hi!

 

gold behind the green

 

We can see it in the light just lately.  A goldening behind the lush greens of late summer.

This morning I take the dogs outside.  I take note.  And return with my camera to capture these fleeting light-moments.

I begin looking closer.  The colors beckoning.

Capturing changing light, shifting colors of the mood of a certain season – this is a favorite thing of mine.

Lately I find myself more and more captivated with capturing the mood of a moment, which colors and light it might hold, versus sketching out what things might “actually look like”.

Over the holiday weekend, we found ourselves in Asheville, North Carolina to visit friends, play a few tunes and hike.  On one hike we met a family from Guatemala who were keen on Catawba Falls as it reminded them of home.

I painted them into a little color drawing I made of the moment and shared it with them.  We talked of Guatemala and how beautiful it is. 

My sketch felt more like a painting, which pleases me to no end.

The weekend ended much too soon for my liking but I have taken custody of a wee hand sculpted by Anna Koloseike of Asheville.  I am in love with it’s smallness and the form it takes and am still deciding where to mount it.

It’s like the hand of a small maker.  Which is how I feel at times.

Today I sketched at the Cincinnati Zoo for awhile with an Urban Sketcher friend, and a few others joined us after the local illustrator’s luncheon.  Although I attend these lunches at times, today’s schedule was cut into slices which didn’t allow for lunch out and so I did what I could.

There just never seems to be enough time for all the things.  But occasionally a reminder comes along and I breathe a little easier….

I am grateful for this reminder.

At the zoo today I looked for an armadillo but could only find one with three bands and I need the one with 9.  (And a banjo.  He must have a banjo.)  So I will sketch on until the right fella finds himself at the tip of my pencil and I can pin him down to the job at hand.

More on this little project as it unfolds from here…..

In the meantime, I leave you with Asheville impressions.

Asheville dog culture is wonderful.

It was strange to visit Warren Wilson College outside of the scope of the Swannanoa Gathering.  All was quiet and peaceful.  But the place is lovely in spite of the music being flung to the hills until next summer.  I look forward to next year.

 

2020 – Ten Years in Taos

Recently, while in Colorado visiting one of the (not-so)Smalls, I got a text message from one of this year’s Taos sketch-workshop participants:

“I’m deeply grateful for the opportunities you’ve facilitated through your workshop.  Amy, when you fling open the Juniper House doors and stir the creative pot of Mabel’s legacy, Magic happens.  Unleashed into a space pulsing with anticipation, your energy swirls and settles around us in a joyful and gentle comfort.  We’re home and we’re safe to explore, to express and to grow.  My sketchbook is no longer a project.  It’s now my friend.  Thank you for leading this horse to water and showing me how to drink.  I’ll never be thirsty again.”   

~ Donna A.  

I’ll admit I got a little teary-eyed.  Here I was, back in the mountains and receiving this incredible gift of not just positive feedback, but real soul-bearing words about the experience of someone who’s been a recipient of my work in this world.   It is my hope that anyone working in the world today might get the same gift.  Thank you Donna!!!!

Normally, this time of year, I wouldn’t be even thinking of Taos much.  Forging on ahead with the rest of my summer which is filled with the beauty of family time and musical nerdiness (where I get to be the student!!!).  But this year, Taos has lingered.  I find myself back there in my mind’s eye a little more often, making paintings, touching base with loved ones there, and looking ahead to next year……

The above little marketing video was made for 2014, but it’s still very valid and gives one a sense of what I’m up to in my workshops.  The tone and feel of the thing, if you will…..

Today I got a message from a musical friend who’s partner has been dabbling in the paints a bit and he thinks perhaps she might like to come to Taos next year.  And what are the dates?  And is there space?  So I figured I would quick post the answers to those questions in a little blog post.

Next year, 2020, marks 10 years teaching in Taos, New Mexico at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House.   The dates for the 2020 workshop are June 7-13.  You can find more information here.  (Prices, exact dates and what you can expect, etc)

If you are interested in going, here’s how it happens.  September 1, 2019, I will send an email out to past participants who in this last year have expressed interest in next year’s trip.  They have about a week to decide if they want to send in a deposit.  September 6, I will announce open registration for any slots left.

As I take payment by check in the mail for deposits, I simply use the date of the email or message you send me to hold your slot verbally until your check arrives and we keep a wee list (the Hub calls it a spreadsheet) of the order of incoming requests for space in the class.  As of this writing, I am holding the class in Taos to 16, but that could wiggle a bit depending upon interest.  But I do like to keep it manageable and make sure everyone gets the one:one instruction in their books as needed.

Every new year is a bit special and certainly different from the years past.    As I learn and grow, I bring that to the classroom in Taos.  We try new ideas, we share what the world has brought to us in the year since we last met.  It truly is – MAGIC – for lack of any better word.  I have learned to trust it.

So.  If you are interested in the class next summer, mark your calendars.  Get on my “subscribe” list here on the website.  That is the best way to get the announcements in a timely fashion.  If the dates for Taos don’t suit your calendar, you can consider my trip to Antigua, Guatemala in late Feburary/early March of 2020.  There are still 3 slots left in each week so far and those are likely to fill soon.

Thank you for your interest in exploring Taos, New Mexico with me, whether it’s been in past trips, or if you are only just considering coming along.  There is truly no place like it.

Mabel welcomes us….

Vessel

“The water in a vessel is sparkling; the water in the sea is dark.  The small truth has words which are clear;  the great truth has great silence.”  ~Rabindranath Tagore

To arrive at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, New Mexico is to step over a barrier of sorts.  Time and space are steeped in a special fluidity here which makes them more malleable than elsewhere.  Every year my goal as a workshop facilitator is to pack as much practical ‘how-to’ into a week devoted to the travel-sketch-journal process, whilst also making way for more ethereal notions such as magic, friendship and community.  For opening up to what we each have to offer the world.  For finding our own visual voices.

Every one of us should risk living in the full flow of our own originality.  And never to compare yourself with anyone outside you but to trust that inner voice that is speaking to you and whispering to you from the well of great possibility that lives inside you.”     ~John O’Donohue

This year is my ninth year working in Taos in this capacity.  Over the years I have come to trust that while each season will be new in many ways, we can trust that we will be embraced by a familiarity to sink into which makes space for the best work.  I like to think of our travel journals, as well as our classroom space, as vessels to be filled during our week together.  My job is merely to hold the space, to hand out bite sized demonstrations and then steward each participant along their own journey.  In spite of two last minute cancellations (alas, too last-minute to offer their spaces up even the most last-minute takers) I had a relatively packed house.  These numbers bring an energy to the room and to the work we do, and yet there was a lovely intimacy within this group straight away.

We went from an empty vessel….

……to the buzz of a room of artists happily working along together.

Some dear friends from Taos Pueblo visited us on our first day together to share their process of crafting beautiful pottery with mere land, water, time and fire.  This was a new idea for this year and I wasn’t sure how I might fold it into an already full teaching agenda, but everyone was quite pleased with the experience (if not the eventual results from the firing).

Sample pots used for the demo. These had dings and imperfections in them so the artists use them to show us what can (and did!) happen during firing.

Time spent pinching pots, forming beads and wee fetishes was time learning about this place we found ourselves –  Taos.

It was wonderful to get our hands dirty with the very land itself.

Working with the clay deepened our journaling work indeed…..

We talked of color and form.  We worked on studying ellipses (hint: they aren’t hotdogs or footballs.)

Some participants went so far as to use bits of spare wet clay as a painting pigment.

Carolyn’s lovely page with a niche, a pinched pot and a turkey vulture feather…..
Donna put her whole hand into the work with the pots!

We allowed our wee works to dry through the week.  Some cracked, all shrank a bit, but by week’s end, things were dry enough to attempt trial by fire.

Alas, the wind kicked up on firing night and our little works had to eventually be fired on our final morning by our friends out on the Pueblo.  In the end, only a few things survived unscathed and most of us went home with mere shards of our work.

For a variety of reasons, I am still glad we spent the time to play with the clay.  For one thing, I think everyone came away with a deep reverence for the professional pots made by native hands from native land.  Their pots are deceptively simple – until one has attempted to create one, that is!  It is a good thing to know how difficult some work is.  We can then appreciate it all the more, yes?  We all also enjoyed getting our hands dirty and using the clay as pigment.  As my workshop is about capturing the spirit of a place, and our experiences in that place, this mini afternoon workshop-within-a-workshop was worth the investment for the beautiful drawings that came out of it.

But of course, there was more to be captured.  There were mornings with the buffalo where we gathered before dawn in small groups to visit the herd we’ve come to know so well.  I never know year to year if this is something we will get to do again, and so every year I am deeply grateful to spend time with these ancient and wild beasts.  Many lovely drawings were made of the magnificent buffalo, but I was firmly planted in teaching mode and so didn’t manage to get a snapshot of these works.

There were a few quite young baby buffalo this year. Everyone was shy, but we managed to see them.

We talked of how to capture light.

Especially, when we find it in darkness….

We took much time to study the colors found in New Mexico such as rust and turquoise, and the complexity of cloud forms.

In which Nancy wrestles with the rust.

We doodled ‘carrot people’ from afar and each other closer to hand.

Carolyn drew Nancy.
Marlowe’s carrot people practice
Roger’s amazing accordion book, in process.
Rosemary, figuring out foliage
sometimes we worked quite small (This page by Carolyn)
Other times we worked larger (this page also by Carolyn!)

We attempted the challenging yet forever whimsical birdhouses in Mabel’s courtyard…..

A wee demo. Using no ink, and only the colors found on my palette.
Lovely work by Melabee

“Our pigeons live in a Mexican village  reared high up on thick, long posts.  I love the expression of their frame houses, that have been added to by José for years.  They lean strangely in all directions, and look like a settled community.

… One has to pick one’s way among them on the flagstones from the house to the gates.  They feel they own the place and I guess they do.  We never let cars drive in beside the portal any more as they used to do because the pigeons wouldn’t move away fast enough and they were always being run over.  Finally I put a sign on the gates and locked them.  It said, ‘Please don’t drive in.  The pigeons don’t like it.'”

~Mabel Dodge Luhan

We worked and we worked and we worked.

two lovely page spreads of work by Donna

We also spent time outside of class at the Pueblo watching the light dance as it does.

Sometimes I see things that give me some indication of what Georgia O’Keeffe may have been after in her paintings….

All too soon our week together was coming to an end.  As one person put it, the days seemed spacious and extensive and long in the best way possible, and yet the week as a whole simply flew past us.

We had a final farewell dinner in Mabel’s iconic dining room.

We presented the amazing kitchen staff with a gift of our own making, being so grateful for their hard work keeping us fed and watered all week.

That evening we signed each other’s books, “yearbook” style, and visited together.  Some even worked a bit more in our beloved Juniper house classroom!  I took “The Vans” outside for a photo shoot, just for fun.  It’s my hope that even more folks will carry their sketch supplies around in vans like these in future…..

It is nigh on impossible to capture this week in a blog post.  I look back over the years of posts about this trip and I marvel at the layers of meaning and experience I have managed to convey each time – of the changes that have shifted into place over time.   The kinship of place I feel toward Taos is complex.  In one way, I always feel as if I am coming home.  As one friend back here in Ohio (though who travels to Mabel’s on occasion) recently stated, “It’s Mabel.  Everything will be fine.   Pulling up in the parking lot always brings me to my knees. ”  I agree with her.

Friends always ask me, if you love it so much there, why don’t you guys just move?  I haven’t yet felt that call, but every time in Taos is harder to leave behind, to be sure.  The town upped its game further this year with my introduction to a special breed of sheep called Churro.  One of the workshop participants is a shepherdess and has been renting a small place on the outskirts of town which just happens to have a small herd of these amazing animals.  After the workshop, Rosemary, Steve and I visited our new friend on her little farm and got to meet the sheep, the farmer who is their steward in this world, and to marvel at how the hidden depths of Taos seem to have no end.  I could not stop staring at these sheep.

Those of you who know me, know I adore all things sheep.  I have even joked that one day perhaps I’ll be like Beatrix Potter.  I’ll publish and sell a bunch of books, and then retire to a sheep farm.  One never knows…..

In any case, next year, 2020, marks a nearly decade of this work finding its way in Taos.  I feel it may be a special year indeed.  (Though to be fair, every year is a gift of it’s own.)  I will be offering up pre-registration to this year’s workshop participants first and then to a broader audience after that.  This will happen in the first week of September when summer’s travels are through and I begin to set sights on next year.    I have a feeling that #TaosSketch2020 may fill fast, so keep your eyes peeled around that time for announcements.  For now though, I will unpack here and rest up for what the rest of summer has to offer.

 

 

‘Artvangogh’

It is travel season.  I am recently returned from California and while away, my studio window robins hatched and grew.

Mere seconds after this photo was snapped, this last one fledged.  It’s a bit like life itself.  How fast they grow.  Though our fledglings double back on occasion and for this we are grateful.

California was rewarding in her splendor as always, but had a few weather related tricks up her sleeve which complicated things for my workshop days.  That said, I packed in a lot in just a short time, both as a traveling artist and as a teacher.

There were many highlights….

After a class with nature journaling artist Kristin Meuser, (if you are ever in California, take a class from her! She’s lovely!) Rosemary and I headed to Berkeley where we met glass artist Alexis Berger, visited a lovely new shop called Etui, and gazed at magnificent fabrics at a place called Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics.

We had an appointment to meet watercolor maker Amanda Hinton of Limn Watercolors where we got to see how her fabulous paints are made from scratch.  It’s a fascinating brand of magic she does and we were smitten with all the colors.  And with Amanda herself.

Amanda Hinton of Limn Colors shows us around the room where it happens.
All the juicy colors

Limn colors do the usual fun stuff watercolors are known for, like mixing beautifully and replicating stained glass with their translucency, but some of her colors can separate and bloom in evocative ways that we have found enchanting.  I have a whole row of her colors in my paint set now which afford me abilities I’ve not had in the past.

Pigments awaiting
Half pans, drying
Samples and the muller

It was great fun to try and buy a few new colors to add to our collection and I am so thankful to Amanda for her time and warm welcome.

Also in Berkeley was a wonderful creative re-use arts supply store and the amazing Burma Superstar restaurant.  We even managed to stop into California Typewriter, of documentary fame…..

 

We were warmly welcomed by Ken and Herb and enjoyed looking at the machines currently in store there.

All in all it was a perfect, busy, sunny California day.

The sunny bit was not to continue.  Alas, the weekend forecast was wet. wet. wet.  So we worked indoors with exercises students will be able to take out of doors on their own at a later time.  Not ideal, but neither is sketching and teaching in the rain.  We were at least cosy.

There is plenty to draw in the home of an interesting, artistic friend.  Here’s a small demo drawing of a wee humbled Buddha I did for the workshop.

The following days were to see us dodging rain drops to capture the wild water on the coastline.

The sun did come out for a few minutes so we sat down to sketch on this beautiful spot in Asilomar, only to be foiled by big raindrops. We ran for the car, rain splattering our drawings. It’s a risk we take yes?
I do love a tide pool.

Again, not ideal, but we managed.  Day two of workshops was moved by one day for those available to make it, and we did manage a few hours of sunlight between rainstorms on our day of working together.  We also managed a few more sketches.

Art L-R by Amy Bogard, Sandi Kane, Rosemary Berwald
The trusty art vans! Always on the gogh. 😉

Painting at the sea side is by far one of my favorite things.  I am often torn between the desire to simply sit and stare at the shifting light and color of the ocean and to capture it in my sketch book.  This feeling is magnified by the limited time I always have by the sea.

I find myself wondering why I do not live nearer to big water.

Somewhere where I might take my blue art van and wander down the lane to the sea shore for a few hours to sketch and stare….. maybe daily.

Suffice it to say, time in Santa Cruz is never enough time.  In the same way that time at Ballybunion Beach is never enough.  Or time on Monhegan is never enough.  Alas.  Time marches on…..

Next up is an ocean of a different kind.  An ocean of sage.  In just two weeks’ time I’ll be back in New Mexico for my flagship travel journaling course at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House once again.  Every year is a gift and I am thrilled to be heading back.

The weather seems like it might be more cooperative in Taos than in California, even leaning more cool than in recent years.  We shall see.  But at the very least, sunshine, New Mexico style.

My studio is less a place of making just now and more a place of packing and preparations.

The art van, of course, at the ready.  A new sweater for the (hopefully) cool Taos nights, and maybe a friend or two along for company.

Swag is being readied.

I consider what art supplies to bring for my own making, while making sure that I have all the extras for the workshop participants as well.

It can make one’s head spin to be sure.  But the paint set is clean (after being dusted quite heavily by volcanic ash in Guatemala and a grain or two of sand in Santa Cruz) and refilled (note the lovely middle line of mostly Limn colors!!)

I have a few new pencils to try, including a light blue one suggested by Kristin Meuser during her workshop and a couple of Blackwing pencils all the rage with my illustrator friends.

All of it tucks away into the little van, along with a book or two to draw and paint in.  It’s all quite compact actually.

This year I have made the decision to simplify my packing process for the Taos trip.  I am only bringing a few of my current books, not a box full of past years’ books like I do normally.  And instead of bringing yet another box full of published books for people to peruse, I will bring a list of said books to share with my students so they can explore when they get home via bookstore and library.  We will instead focus on the work at hand.  It’s a strange shift, but I feel good about it.

It’s easy to look at the wonderful empty classroom at Mabel’s and feel like we need to fill it with things other than ourselves and our small packs of art supplies.  This is especially the case for me as facilitator.  But this is not true.  That room fills with laughter and conversation and the joy of working into the wee hours on sketches begun earlier in the day.  WE fill the room.  WE are enough, with just our supplies on hand.

I am so excited to get back to Taos where this whole traveling-art thing began for me so many years ago.  Every year is different, and yet there is the lovely familiarity to lean into as well.  I am open to what I have to learn there year after year and am grateful for the opportunity to go back once again.