Tag Archives: artist in residence

Readying a Retreat (and other exciting news)

In just over a month’s time, I have raised over 65% of my goal of $2500 which will offset costs for my upcoming writing/working retreat in New Mexico.  It’s been amazing to get checks in the mail and see paypal bits pop up in messages on the computer.  Thank you SO very much!!

Steampunk Thanks update


There are still two weeks left to contribute to my residency fund and every teensy bit helps.  I am busily preparing the cards and other rewards available for contributors as thank you gifts.  It’s wonderful to see Ginger’s adventures in print on cards and it feels like a sneak peak into what she will look like in book form, which of course has been a long time dream of mine…..

card stash

I am humbled by all the support and praise of this little character I spend so much time with.  A dear and far-flung friend of mine said this about our Ginger…

“I love that she’s so fearless! Sailing, traveling, etc. I admire that. I think it strikes a chord with people.”

And it’s true.  She IS fearless.  Or at least, like most of us, she pretends to be.  And that affords her opportunities in the world she might never have dreamed possible!  There is much about Ginger’s story I do not yet know, and that the point of this residency in Taos.  To suss that story out.  There is a wonderful scene in the movie Miss Potter where Beatrix Potter is presenting a new painting to her publisher, friend and future fiancee, Norman Warne, about a rabbit’s Christmas party.  She says about the story of this legendary party…

“Now I know such a legend exists, because I made it up….  I know on this night, that they will eat and talk and laugh and dance, and roast apples on the fire, but I’m not certain how the party ends, because I haven’t made that part up yet.”

And that’s exactly how I feel about Ginger’s story.  There are things I know.  She is adventuresome and a bit of a fashionista, in spite of her shyness.  She loves to meet other animals who are equal parts like her and unlike her, and she loves to send postcards….

ginger writes

postcard woddland

The postcard angle is where Ginger got her true start and it continues to be a huge theme in her story.  Since I too love anything to do with hand-crafted correspondence, it is no surprise that I have been following the work of the Letter Writer’s Alliance for a number of years now.  With their tag line reading:

it’s no wonder I love the work they do, gifts they share and postal related products and activities they post!  You see that stamp on the post card above featuring the cardinal? That stamp is an example of what the LWA calls “fauxstage”.  Not true postage contributing to the delivery costs of the card, but rather a stamp-like image that adds to the postal allure of the card.  I adore letters and postcards that come with extra cool stamps, don’t you??  Well, it occurred to me that with Ginger’s love of all things postal, a wee partnership with the LWA might be in order.  So I contacted them to see if I might put together a Ginger themed stamp design of my own to offer as a free download on their site.  It would prove to be a fun exercise for me, and would be a gift to offer to others who adore sending well adorned envelopes and postcards through the mail.

ginger stamp for blog

And so, here is the result of our partnership!!!  I took a winter/Solstice-time themed image I created last year in this post, and added some stamp-like things to spruce up its postability and to make it look official, and voila!! You can download this page at their website now, in a printable file version.  I think it turned out really sweet!  And it’s our gift, to you.

ginger stamps page

While we are thinking along the lines of stamps and post and holiday correspondences…. this image is also now available as a printed card that you can get at my Society6 page.

And so, amidst the busy-ness of this season, I am also preparing for my retreat from things in just over a month’s time, for that is when my best work is known to peek out of it’s shy nest hidden at the edge of the woods….

“Physically, the creature endowed with a sense of refuge, huddles up to itself, takes to cover, hides away, lies snug, concealed.  If we were to look among the wealth of our vocabulary for verbs that express the dynamics of retreat, we should find images based on animal movements of withdrawal, movements that are engraved in our muscles.”  ~Gaston Bachelard (from The Poetics of Space)

We’ve had a mad road trip to a cacophonous regional dance tournament and ill loved ones bravely facing down end of life visitations and decision-making.  There are concerts in which to participate and to attend… gifts to seek out and parties to plan for, bake for and to attend.  It is December, and somehow the Spirit of Waiting which our souls crave during this season of Advent and Solstice is harder and harder each year to achieve.  Yet I celebrate all of the gifts of gathering this season brings while I prepare for the calm at the end of the storm.

During those first few precious days of a New Year, I will retreat to work in Taos, at a place that never fails to stir my deepest creativity.  I’d love for you to be a part of this retreat; to follow the story of a small creature in a big world, who believes in the magic of a well drawn, hand-written postcard in the mail box.  I’d love for you to join a young rabbit, who in spite of being a rabbit is quite the shepherdess, as she counts her sheep in a long lost language of rhyme.  Pitch a coin into the little donation basket being offered by these creatures. Be a part of their burgeoning adventures.  I thank you kindly for all of your support.

Happy December to all….





“joy before the journey’s end”

Entering into my final week here, I have really seen and done a lot!  My mom came down to visit on Saturday and we did all things Floyd Collins related (see my last post!) much to her delight.  Floyd’s sad story has captivated her imagination since she was a child.  I was only too happy to indulge!

On Sunday, I was faced with a day alone and decided to get out of the park a bit and take in some of what lies beyond the boundaries of Mammoth Cave.  I settled on Diamond Caverns due to their historic relationship to mammoth and because it wasn’t too far afield.  It is a lovely little cave filled with all sorts of formations you won’t find in the majority of Mammoth.  It is most definitely worth a visit.  I was incredibly inspired by surface textures and all of nature’s sculptures.

Diamond Caverns is located in Park City which itself is filled with all sorts of Kentucky cave related history.  One such historic hot-spot is Bell’s Tavern.  Now in ruins, it was once the last stop before the final rough trudge into the wilderness where Mammoth Cave was located.

Mammoth Cave is one big ol’ long cave.  It has awesome geologically and ecologically relevant stuff that could keep scientists busy forever.  But to quote my new friend Joy Lyons who heads up the rangers in charge of interpretation, it’s the history that makes Mammoth Cave special in the long run.  That history is everywhere.  From the way you could tell where the homesteads had been on my hike to the Big White Pine by virtue of what trees had been planted and where, to Bell’s Tavern, to my adventure today to Pensaco.

Here’s the back story.  In 1842, physician John Croghan decided too try an experiment inside Mammoth Cave based upon observations he had made of people working inside of the cave.  These workers, mainly slaves, seemed so robust for all of their time spent underground.  The temperature and humidity was very stable in the cave.  These notions led Dr. Croghan to believe that he could potentially cure Tuberculosis in his patients and set about finding willing participants for an extended stay underground in Mammoth Cave.  To put it plainly, the experiment was a huge failure.  Some patients died while in the cave, others eventually left to try and find relief for their ailments in other circumstances.  The stories of these patients became part of the history that makes Mammoth Cave the American gem that it is.  Some of the nameless are buried here in the park.  Who were they?  Mostly, we do not know.

We are left with some clues though.  A few of the patients left behind letters to loved ones about their experiences and journals of their time here.  One such man was Oliver Hazard Perry Anderson.  OHP for short.  OHP was the one patient cave historians seemed to know the most about and were therefore delighted when his great-great grandson arrived with some old journals to share.  Today I had the honor and privilege to go on a specially guided cave tour, off the normal tourist route, with OHP’s family to walk in his footsteps and locate his signatures inside the cave and where he is believed to have lived.

Below are some pictures from our trip.

We walked in via the regular historic entrance, one of my favorite places in the park, and through now familiar landmarks such as “The Church” where services were often held inside the cave on warm days.  A little bit further on, we encountered the stone tuberculosis huts where Dr. Croghan had his office and patients took meals.

The Anderson’s began looking for clues.  The rangers had been in a few days earlier and located some of the evidence of OHP having been in certain areas of the cave.  Soon, we were upon the first signature.

After the first signature, we turned off of the main trail onto Pensaco Avenue which is no longer traveled by tourists.

Using flashlights and lanterns we admired wonderful canyons and tube passages.

We found evidence of old tours from before Mammoth Cave was a national park.

We even spotted some bats here and there.

There is plenty of what is called ‘historical graffiti’ in the cave.  (Rangers like to say ‘now it’s called a felony’).  One name that came up a lot among the signatures was that of Alfred who was apparently a very lively slave guide who from all accounts was a good deal of fun to be around.  I’d like to have met him.

We found a Bransford signature as well.  These folks all knew each other and knew the cave well.

Often times there were so many signatures that I was surprised any sense was ever made of them.

But eventually, we came to signature number 2 by OHP, written Dec. 23, 1842.  It’s two days before Christmas and he must have been missing his wife and three kids at home.  But he was in the cave to try to improve his health.  Maybe he joined a cave tour that day with Stephen Bishop or another guide.  OHP may have been ill, but it seems that when he felt up to it, he was quite an adventurer, content to live well away from the smoky and crowded TB hospital area where the other patients were.  This particular signature had an emotional effect on our entire group as we pondered what it must have been like to be Mr. Anderson.

We eventually came to the end of Pensaco Avenue and a third signature by OHP.  There may be more in the cave but they have not been identified as of yet.  One thing I love about Mammoth Cave is that the discoveries and research just keep happening, and there is always something interesting to discover.

History is a funny thing.  So much of it is taught via books or videos and, at least in my school days, it all seemed so far removed from our modern human experience.  A friend of mine is a history teacher and he has been utilizing a series of books called “you wouldn’t want to be…” Recently his use of these books was called into question due to a parent’s (not a student’s, mind you) difficulty with how ‘real’ these books make certain historical scenarios for kids.  To me, the more real, the better.  If we can humanize historical figures, whether they are distant relatives or the people who shaped our world today, then perhaps we can walk this world as kinder, wiser human beings.  I wish all teachers would use the ‘You wouldn’t want to be’ series.

I’m pretty certain you wouldn’t want to be a tuberculosis patient living in Mammoth Cave in the 1800’s.  It must have been terribly lonely and difficult.  But hope springs eternal in the human spirit and I found myself genuinely intrigued by Oliver Hazard Perry Anderson.  It was an honor to meet his offspring and accompany them on this journey back in time.

A new sketchbook begins… and other news

It’s summer.  A new more relaxed schedule involving mostly running kids from here to there in between making art.  I love summer for this.  Ever since my Art Academy class ended in the spring, I have been looking forward to sinking my teeth (and pens and paints) into my new re-purposed sketch-journal that I made with book maker Cody Calhoun.  I finally got into it over the weekend while on a trip to Detroit for a feis (an Irish Dance competition… tis the season right now).  The paper we used to fill the journals is perfection for what I like to do which is write and watercolor.  I am in love.  And feeling productive.  It’s a refreshing breath of fresh air.

There is nothing like a road trip to wake up the senses.  This is especially the case when traveling from one distinct landscape to another very different one.  As we traveled north toward Michigan, the land leveled out and we saw all sorts of tall grasses which were growing in the marshy ground leading up to the lakes.  Some of this grass is apparently invasive but I don’t know enough about it to know the difference.  To an artist’s eye, it just seemed like a nice place for some red winged black birds to perch and swing in the breeze.

Meanwhile, some feisanna are longer than others…. I had some time to sketch while we waited for competitions to start….

I love pines silhouetted against a dusky sky…..

It feels great to be drawing on a daily basis again.  Intellectually I know that drawing everyday is good for me personally and professionally from all of the work with Drawing Down the Vision.  Why I seem to lose my way and get bogged down by life at times forgetting the subtle power of my sketchbook…. I may never know.  Must have something to do with being a human bean.

But enough about the sketchbook for a minute.  Here’s the news…. a few months ago, in the midst of my work on the ArtWorks mural, I applied for a residency at Mammoth Cave National Park on the off chance that I might have the privilege of spending a month there making art and teaching people how to “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints” with a sketchbook and pen.  Today I got the call from them that my application was chosen based on my portfolio and proposal for work I’d like to do there.  I am honored and humbled and tremendously excited to go explore the caves and work with the folks who work at Mammoth Cave all year round.

What a cool thing to look forward to…. I’ll keep you posted.  (I simply cannot stop grinning.)    🙂