Right work

I read somewhere once that Zen Buddhists believe in the concept of Right Livelihood, or more simply, Right Work. To me this concept has something in common with the idea of “do what you love, the money will follow”. As an artist, it is sometimes difficult to get out of my own way and just show up everyday and do the work without questioning why or how. When I get into this frame of mind, I do an exercise I call the daily dog that gives me something creative to do. A small job that might get my art motor running.

Here is today’s dog. I saw this dog on top of a horse in Nashville Tennessee.  Here he is talking to my mom.  He was part of a horse drawn carriage tour of the city and seemed very Zen in his job. If only I could be so sure of my own work each day!

Nashville Dog

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.

lady pilot

This past summer I had the opportunity to be involved with a community art project in which artists and non-artists alike collected interesting garbage and junk and other seemingly useless items. In this Collect Project, local artists then created works of art using the discovered discards. The results were amazing! All works were finally auctioned off a week ago to benefit ArtWorks, a non-profit arts organization based in Cincinnati that promotes job training, creative services and public art.

Fellow artist Tina Westerkamp and I created three mixed media pieces of work together. Lady Pilot, below, was my favorite of the three. We started with a metal paper towel holder, an old watch, some (clean) hospital tubing, and parts of a bicycle wheel. We then added some other “art goodies” from our own eclectic stashes. I could write a dissertation about our artistic process but basically, it was the magic of putting two rather different styles into what became an Other. It was a blast.

One of my favorite sayings goes something like “If you don’t stir the pot now and then, all the good stuff sinks to the bottom.” This is so true for art. Collaboration with another artist is a great way to discover new avenues of making and stirring that proverbial pot. I highly recommend it.

Play in Motion

Art GuyYesterday I decided to do a little experiment to try my hand at stop motion animation. So I got the ubiquitous pose-able art guy out and took some pictures of him and some river pebbles having a little physical dialogue. I then put these still shots into my I-movie program, adjusted the timing on them a little and voila! Art guy and his river pebbles are on the move.

I am working on an idea for a longer project (read 2 minute music video) using a hand made doll and I want to create smoother movements. This is all part of my rather steep learning curve when it comes to computerized movie making. But today’s experiment showed me what potential there is in putting images together to create simple movement. I’ll keep you posted!

Click here to see the Art Guy Test video….

Parker comes for a visit

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring– it was peace.” -Milan Kundera

I love dogs. I love to hang out with them and play with them and, of course, draw them. I try to get at least a few dog drawings in a week if possible. Drawing dogs is a great exercise in paying close attention to form, as well as getting gestural movement down on paper. The other day our neighbor dog’s “cousin” Parker came over to visit. She is full of unabashed energy and abandon. And she smiles. I love that.

Parker comes for a visit

The Passing of Kindness

amy and mia at White PassA year ago today, my soul sister and dear friend Mia, passed from this life onto what lies beyond. This occurred after a year-long, courageous battle with breast cancer.

Mia’s calling in this life was Healer and she gracefully went about this work in all avenues in her life with primarily one tool, that of Kindness. Like most women, Mia played many roles in her life: Mother, Wife, Sister, Friend, Doctor. But no matter what role she was in at any given moment, Mia had a way of looking a person straight in the eye. And somewhere in that kind, steady, ocean-green gaze, comfort was to be found.

In her words and in her actions Mia was always there to remind me to treat myself, and others, with Kindness. If you happen to be reading this today, go do something kind, for yourself, for someone else, or both. If you have a conversation with someone, however brief, look them in the eye and really see them, human to human.

I saw a church sign once that said “Kindness is the oil that reduces the friction of life”.
The world could use a little more of this oil, don’t you think?

Anna’s new book

Anna Klosowska’s book coverThis past weekend I had the distinct pleasure to attend a celebration marking the publication of a recent book by my friend and talented author/ researcher/ professor, Anna Klosowska. The book is the culmination of some years’ research and digging into the poetry of an aristocratic woman named Madeleine de l’Aubespine who lived and wrote poetry in France during the sixteenth century.

Anna discovered some academic references to this poet’s lyrical work and followed threads all over Europe to further discover and then translate the complete works. At the party, guests were treated to Anna’s recitation of Madeleine de l’Aubespine’s somewhat racy (for their time, at least) poems in their native French language.

The translations are lovely and allow non-French speaking readers to get the point of the poems, but nothing compares to listening to them in French, read by someone familiar and enchanted with the work. As an artist, I find that the passion and visual imagery provided by both women’s work is an inspiration for my own work.

The book is available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

Corner office, with a view

    Curious deer gazing in my window

I have been home in my new home studio space for about 5 months now and still marvel daily at how wonderful it is.  This light filled, quiet work space was one of the selling points of this house we decided to move to.  I love it.  For the first time ever my tools, technology, inspiration, family and kitchen are all under one roof.  There is nothing like having a pot of chili on the stove, kids quietly doing homework, the dog snoozing on the couch and me getting real work done, all happening at the same time!
There are things I miss about my old house, (primarily its “oldness”), and things I miss about my former studio space (the company of my Blue Door Studio mates), but frankly, things couldn’t be better here.  I step into this space each morning and breathe a deep sigh of gratitude, and wave to anyone who might happen to be peering into my window with a curious gaze.

Useless Work

Grandfather Ash, outside the studio doorAn artist sister-friend of mine sent me this quote today from somewhere on the internet (not quite sure who wrote it… let me know if you know so I can give proper credit where it is due):

“What is the use of a tree? Well, it has many uses, but it isn’t TRYING to be useful. It’s just doing what it wants. And in that process, it does its job in the natural order of things. Despite all the rantings of moralists, you are in the same boat. The only way you are ever going to do an ounce of good in the world is to do what you want. Do what makes you happy, or at least what distracts you from your misery…. So revel in your perfect uselessness. It’s the useful thing to do…. You do not have to strive every minute to be better than it is possible to be…..”

In that spirit, I have spent today in a sort of wandering mood. I met an old friend I haven’t seen awhile for coffee, stopped into Salon Cherry Bomb for an impromtu hair trim (amazingly, she had a spare 5 minutes). I practiced some music, walked the dog and took a nap. There is a small part of me (getting smaller by the day) that feels a little guilty having a day like this. But the gentler part of me, the artist-self who gets stronger and wiser each day, knows better. In the midst of all of this “uselessness” I seemed to have found the key to slowing down the clock. Today seems to have lasted longer than most. Along with my wanderings, some drawing has gotten done, some of the boring studio house-keeping tasks managed to get done as well. I have some ideas brewing that weren’t there earlier in the day…. I feel productive. It’s been a good day in the studio. The action and practice so necessary to maintaining forward momentum as a self-employed artist must be tempered with balancing non-action and days of uselessness (or so it might appear to others) that allow for ideas to simmer.

So, that said, I think I’ll make like a tree…. and grow. Useless as that may be.

part rabbit warren, part spin on art & life & etc. art, illustrations & workshops by amy bogard