Tag Archives: artworks


I had a minor meltdown the other day.  Ok, maybe slightly more than minor.  It may have been a case of burn-up-on-reentry after my NYC trip, faced with real life again with all of its complexities.  It may have been this nasty cold that I am trudging my way through.  It may have been the fact that tornado season is about to end and with it, my earning potential as a puppeteer.  It was more than likely all of these and more.  I spiraled downward into the familiar dark hole where the questions of why do I make art, will I ever make a living doing anything artful, is it even worth it….are the norm.  It’s not a fun place to be.  Even at my grumpiest, I usually don’t have the chuck-it-all-away sensation more than once a year, but here I was, feeling like I just wanted to quit.

Timing is everything they say.  And so it has been since my little existential crash.  Here are a few examples:

1.  The long overdue dedication to the ArtWorks mural Tina, our teen apprentices and I worked so very hard on all winter, was yesterday.  We got to unveil the work in dramatic fashion and were treated to a wonderful reception by the appreciative folks at the Convention Center.  Our friends and families were there to cheer and ooh and ah.  It was great!  It is not often that such work is so publicly celebrated.  It cheered me up a bit in spite of being in crisis mode internally.

2.  While at the dedication, a good friend of mine congratulated me and asked how I am doing.  I let her know that I was a bit down and just didn’t feel like the art life is for me.  I think I may have said something about looking for a real job.  A standard day job.  She just smiled and said, “you can’t quit being an artist Amy.  It’s like motherhood.  you don’t just quit.”  I smiled back.  She’s right.

3.  I came home from the party and checked my facebook and email as usual.  I am an NPR fan both on the radio and on facebook.  On their FB fan page there was a post about a video for Josh Ritter’s song The Curse which features puppets handmade by the drummer in his band.  It’s so beautiful and artful.  I fell immediately in love and watched again and again.  It reminded me of what I love about puppetry.

4. Then, in my email, there were three separate messages from 3 very different places.  One was a follow up from my sketchbook class last fall saying she would like to take the class again now that there’s a book making component to it and that she’s tremendously excited to go on the Taos trip next spring.  The other two messages were from people whom I know personally but who had never seen my art work.  They both want to meet to talk about art for their homes.

5.  Ok, so by now, you get the point.  Avalanche of reminders.  But I have one more little thing to share.  Today I have been at the computer most of the day getting caught up on Drawing Down The Vision work with emails and blog posts, research and finding my way around this cool thing called Basecamp.  I am trying to pull myself up by my boot straps.  Getting some illustrations out onto Veer and other online stock photo websites to maybe make some extra arty income.  One guy’s work that Adam introduced me to is Hugh McLeod, creator of cube grenades which are little art works geared toward the business set.  He had this to say about art:

“I’m inte­res­ted in how art affects what some peo­ple call “The Real World”- the work­place, the world of  work, the world of busi­ness. That’s what the cube grenade idea is all about.

My adver­ti­sing buddy,Vinny Warren, grew up in a Roman Catho­lic hou­sehold in Ire­land. He was telling me that his parents would always have a few reli­gious icons han­ging on the wall somewhere. Pic­tu­res of Saints, Mary & Baby Jesus, that kind of thing.

Why? Says Vinny, “To remind us who we are.”

Art that reminds you who you are. Exactly. What applies in Catho­lic hou­seholds also applies in pla­ces of busi­ness. Sha­red Mea­ning. Exactly. Social Objects. Exactly.

I don’t think any of this is roc­ket science…”

Hugh’s art is pretty edgy and cool.  Very different than mine.  But he reminds me that there is a place for art work anywhere.  In the homes of people who admire our work.  Or in the day job offices of folks who might not be artists themselves but like surrounding themselves with reminders of who they are.

I am sitting here in my studio, surrounded by all kinds of reminders such as books, art from friends, bits of found stuff, grateful that I have an artist’s mind and heart.  Difficult though that path may be to hike from time to time.  I’m grateful for the reminders from the Universe or whatever Its Name may be that came to me in a low soul time, though this one’s gonna take some serious diggin’ out.

Below are some snapshots of the great unveiling of our mural.  Enjoy.

oh, and p.s.  I hope you get to spend some time this Memorial Day Weekend to think about those who have been lost, in war and beyond…..

Here’s Tina, tearfully thanking everyone and explaining her vision for the mural.

Jake Speed and the Freddies were there to entertain.  Their lyrics are in our piece as well.

…. and so the veil comes down….

Lots of time in front of the mural for pictures and congratulations.

Here Kim finds the lyrics to her song, The Greatest Story.

We had quite a crowd for the party.

I guess it’s official.  I’m an artist.

Big Art

Suddenly, it’s the middle of May!  Spring is always a busy time, with Red Cross puppetry in full swing.  But there is a lot besides puppets making things exciting.  First, the ArtWorks project I worked on January – March is finished and has been professionally installed.  I have not had an opportunity to see it in situ between the Convention Center‘s hours and my busy work schedule.  But I had some spies visit it last weekend and below are a few pics!  (Special thanks to Jeni for the awesome shots!!) I am so excited to see it and to celebrate it’s completion with my team, the wonderful folks at ArtWorks, and of course, our sponsors at the Convention Center at a dedication reception May 27th from 5-6:30.

Keep in mind, the work itself it 13 feet tall and begins about 3 or 4 feet off the ground!

Below are the three faces I painted.  I look at them and can’t believe I did that!

In the midst of all of this, Drawing Down the Vision is really shaping up.  We have a new and improved website that changes often with blog posts from both me and Adam.  We are both putting immense amounts of energy into writing as often as possible to convey to visitors to our site the basic philosophy that drives the practice of Drawing Down the Vision.  Check it out!  And of course, check back often.

Meanwhile, a huge labor of love is finally, officially underway.  On Big art projects, so much work goes into the front end of it.  Raising money, figuring out sites, supplies, fabrication etc.  All of this is guided and driven by the artist in charge, in this case, Jessie Henson.  I have watched in awe as this talented artist has navigated all of the pieces to this crazy puzzle of building a large scale sculpture.  She has, with grace and smarts, put all of the pieces into place, gotten all of the various parties working together and we are on our way.  Steel fabrication is happening at Vulcane, glass blowing at the Art Academy’s River City Works facility.  Below are a few photos from the glass blowing.  There will be hundreds of spheres in the blue/green range of color in size of 3″ to 15″.  It will be beautiful.  It already is.  I think Esme would be proud of every part of it.

And so spring continues.  I was out in the dark the other night getting some veggies into the ground before the rains came.  For mother’s day, my amazing husband built me a little cottage style flower garden.  Everyday I try to get out for even just a few minutes to pull a weed or coax a seedling out of the ground.  I am learning to be a gardener!  And loving every minute of it.  Next week I am putting my roady hat on again and heading to NYC with Kim. She has her work to do there; I plan to leave my computer at home and just draw a lot and listen to an inspiring musician do her thing.  I am blessed.


It’s been a whirlwind, maelstrom of a time around here lately.  Months of work suddenly seemed to come to fruition recently and I have been working feverishly to keep it all afloat.  Drawing Down the Vision has had multiple pilot workshops and, coupled with a new and improved website, is ready for sale to receptive corporate audiences and beyond.  My business partner Adam and I are tremendously excited to see almost a year’s worth of work and research finally see the light of day.

The Artworks project for the Cincinnati Convention Center is “rounding third and heading for home” as they say here in Cincinnati.  Tina and I are in the finishing stages of making this huge project a reality.  We are technically ahead of the long list of things that need to be done, but it is still stressful as we prepare to move the work in a few weeks to the auto body shop for a finishing clear coat, and then finally on to the Convention Center for installation.  There is still much to be done, but we are plowing through it.  Yesterday I worked on two more faces, those of Christian Moerlein and Louis Hudepohl who will be in the part of the design that looks a bit like a brewery…

Being springtime, at least according to the calendar, it is also tornado season and that means puppets!!  (At least for me and my fellow Red Cross puppeteer Jeni!)  We did our first show of the season a couple of weeks ago and made it through with no discernible mistakes.  It is amazing to me how well we can remember our lines after only a couple of run through rehearsals and months off before that.  The depths of memory have no bounds it seems.

The Make a Book/ Fill a Book class at the Art Academy is approaching week 6.  Cody and I have a great group of 10 students who are bravely forging their way in their newly-made “re-purposed” journals.  Cody taught us all how to take an interesting old book cover and fill it with blank paper using traditional book binding techniques.  I have been introducing students to the various materials and techniques I use to then make a blank journal into a one of a kind, personalized sketch-journal.  The results have been delightful!!

Often, when I am in the midst of teaching this class or when I have a time of great externalized efforts, like recently, my sketchbook is along for the ride in my car or my bag, but doesn’t see much action inside.  I can go for weeks sometimes without sketching or writing.  This is a pattern with which I am familiar and I have learned not to be to hard on myself; that I will get back to it when things settle.  Last week, this pattern was shook up a bit.  In the middle of everything – I took a trip.  A badly needed respite from all of the work as well as the stress and grief from the trial of Esme’s murderer.  Although work has been so wonderfully busy, this trial opened up and salted wounds that had only gingerly begun to heal over the past year with all of our positive efforts to create a lasting legacy to someone lost so young.  Some time away was in order.

Months back, Tony and I had planned to join a group of Cincinnati area kayakers on a trip to the Gulf coast of Florida to swim with some manatees and to enjoy everything the Nature Coast has to offer.  We set up a hip yet responsible house sitter to hang out with the kids and dogs and off we went for paddling, snorkeling, and for me, some serious time in the sketchbook.  I am excited to share the fresh pages with my students this week when I get back to class.  Here are some highlights from my trip and from my sketchbook….

The drive to Florida was just under 900 miles and I slept a good bit of the way.  Once I awoke to look out the window at a huge peanut on top of a building.  Ah, Georgia.  We wound up in Cedar Key, Florida, a sleepy little island town and I was instantly smitten.  (My good ol’ friend Carol did remark, when have I traveled and not fallen in love with my surroundings?….. I think she has a point!)

We had hoped to paddle in the morning but awoke to storms.  Instead we walked around town and visited the museum and some little galleries and had some wonderful chowder at a place called Tony’s.

By the time we got to the campground the rain had pretty much stopped.  We were in for a week of majority sunshine!

Day one, Rainbow River.  It was the clearest water I had ever seen!!!!  So many gorgeous colors.  We kayaked and snorkeled and by the end of the day, I knew I needed a new wet suit top if I was not to suffer hypothermia….

Day 2 – Three Sisters springs, and swimming with manatees!!!  Thanks to my new friend and awesome photographer, Jamie Trammel, I have some shots of our time in the water with these gentle giants.  I could have done just this every day and would have been satisfied.  We wound up going back on day 4.  I love manatees.  Simple as that.

Under the water, they are very purpley in their grayness.  That is how I sketched them.

Day 3 – the Weeki Wachee River.  More clear blue water, snorkeling, rope swinging and even a few manatees toward the end of the paddle!!  This place is famous for its mermaid shows but we simply paddled and swam it’s waters.  Given more time, I would have liked to see the show.  Maybe next time!

While part of the group took the cars to the end of the line, those of us left behind arranged the kayaks for a colorful picture.  Here’s to random acts of guerilla art.

Later in the week, at the end of the trip, a few of us headed back to Cedar Key for a paddle to Atsena Otie Island which used to be where the actual town of Cedar Key was located.  It was washed away by a hurricane in 1896 and only a cemetery and building foundations are now present.  It is a lovely, quiet and haunting place and we spent quite a bit of time there poking around and drawing.

While paddling over, our friend Don picked up a little swallow that had died and brought it to shore so I could sketch it.  A sad but beautiful little thing.

I also sketched some horseshoe crab shells.  Tony found this one, completely intact.

The gravestones at Atsena Otie are old and beautiful and covered with lichen.  I took some rubbings into my book and wondered about the people that somehow managed a living on this far flung island.

So here I am, back in Ohio, on a cold, rainy Monday.  Vacations have a way of shaking up things and getting me far enough away from the norm that I can really take stock of things.  While away, I made working in my sketchbook everyday a huge priority, even forsaking the occasional paddle.  I simply can’t express how soothing this was and a huge reminder that I need to make it a priority in my daily life here in Ohio.  I found upon returning that I am feeling more centered and focused than before I left.  This is due in part from just resting and getting away from it all.  But I attribute it also to all of the drawing I did in my sketchbook.  As Adam and I move toward marketing our Drawing Down the Vision workshops to the generally non-drawing corporate crowd, I plan to practice what I preach more than I have been amidst recent stresses.  The act of picking up a pen and mapping out ones surroundings on paper (be they internal or external worlds) is crucial to staying centered and seeing broader connections.  This past week has reminded me of that.  I am grateful for it.

nothing clever, just a quick update

The past few weeks defy description really.  I am busy beyond comparison, for a combination of reasons that span a spectrum unthinkable in what some might describe as a normal life.  I suppose I don’t lead a normal life really.

Since this blog is important to me and I want to at least give a hint to what I have been up to/ going through/ working on, I’ll post a few photos here, with probably less of the commentary any readers may have come to expect (do I even have any readers?  outside of my family? I don’t know.)

So here goes…

Shepard Fairey was in town for a few weeks to open his retrospective at the Contemporary Arts Center here in Cincinnati.  He pretty much rocks.  I’d love to have the time and energy to write intelligently about his work, but that will have to wait for another post.  Better yet, google him.  Read about what he does and how he does it (there is much out there about him, more well written than I could ever hope to be), and I’m sure you’ll be hooked.  He’s been wheat pasting a good bit of his work around town which has created quite a buzz.  Some lovely diversions:

Fairey’s arrival in town has everyone abuzz, especially the young folks.  I know this because I am currently working on a project with an amazing bunch of high school/ college age artists who adore Fairey’s work and are deeply inspired by his use of repeating patterns and politically charged imagery.  Our project, slated to be installed at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Downtown Cincinnati, is going well.  I am working through the ArtWorks organization and we are under the gun so to speak to get this thing ready and up by mid-April.  This relief mural will be 25 feet wide and 13 feet tall and will be a permanent installation at the convention center.  Needless to say, it’s huge and a lot of work.  Here are some photos of the work in progress:

the design…

ok, so in the left side of the design, just below the column, there is a small area of bricks….. here they are:

Here’s the column, with historically high flood years marked:

Below is the beginnings of a painting of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s head.  I am painting this. (!)  Normally I am not a painter.  It is not my usual choice as an artistic language, but I am learning.  Tina and I are using some of the techniques used by painter Maxfield Parrish who utilized glazing and layering to create his amazing colorscapes.  I am learning loads and am so thankful for this new skill.  It’s a bit like water coloring and my use of watercolors shows.  Even though the design is Tina’s, we can already tell which painting is mine.  I find this fascinating.  Like handwriting…..

more “bricks”…

Lots of mixed media on this project.  Below are city scape images and some contrasted images of the kids working with us on the project.  They will go into the “bubbles” in the design.  Success is in the details as they say….

One of the reasons Tina asked me to be the teaching artist on this project is my “textural sensibility”.  I like to work with textures and things that look like they grew there.  There is plenty of opportunity to create this and have it work in our favor on this project.  This piece has some “barnacle” like growths on it.  We are working with a ton of river themed material and the stuff that grows under a river boat might look a little like this…. at least the way we imagine it!

Here’s Tina, painting in the first blue value layers on abolitionist John Isom Gaines.

Below is Jennie Porter’s portrait also just getting started by Tina.  The blues will provide a lovely valued backdrop for all of the face paintings we plan to put into this design.  Again, I am learning loads about layering and color.  (can I just say here that Tina is genius personified?)

Here is a photo that may give you some sense of scale.  It’s overwhelming how big this thing is…. but then again, how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time…..

That old elephant quote is a good one to keep on hand for life sometimes.

Art is not the only Big, Challenging, Overwhelming thing in my sphere lately.  Anyone who has read this blog or knows me in any small way really, knows that I am in the midst of some hard stuff lately.  This time last year we lost one of our own to a brutal tragedy.  13 year old Esme Kenney – friend, daughter, girlfriend and so much more, was killed while out on a jog, on a pretty day, March 7, 2009.   It was the first time she had ever gone beyond the end of her driveway on her own.  This past year has been one of the sort of grief that changes people in unexpected ways.  None of us could have, in a million years, ever imagined ourselves as part of this story, and yet, here we are.  In other posts I have chronicled some of what is happening to create a lasting artistic legacy to Esme, and I will continue to do so as we get Esme’s Sculpture built.

This week we marked the one year anniversary of Esme’s passing.  She is missed by so many and it’s hard to even wrap words around that sentiment.  Sadly, along with the anniversary, we have had to endure the trial of Esme’s killer.  One day after the first anniversary of Esme’s death, her mom, my dear friend Lisa, testified in court as to what happened the day she found her only child to be missing.

As a navy wife, years ago, I had the honor and privilege to witness some good friends give birth to their children.  Witnessing a mother giving birth is a wondrous and difficult thing.  There is really nothing you can do as a friend, coach or “cheerleader”.  It is a dance between mother and child.  One can only merely witness.  Surely you dads out there know how this is.  Watching Lisa testify on monday reminded me quite a bit of this birthing process.  I could only sit in the gallery of the court room and watch a mom do her thing.  The only way she knew how.  None of us could do it for her.  We could only merely witness, as Lisa did the most difficult thing a Mother is ever called upon to do.  She stood up and told her truth, Esme’s truth, as she knew it, on the day that she was killed.  She was strong and vulnerable… and so powerful, as all good mothers are.  I was in awe.

A week before the anniversary and just before the trial, a group of us headed down to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky to prepare for the days and weeks ahead.  To fill our proverbial cups with that which feeds us.  Some quiet, some time in nature, some togetherness with close friends.  We created as close a circle of positive energy, song, love, art, music and sisterhood as we could. Just outside of the circle that we created as friends, was that of our families and network of more friends who made it possible for us to go away for a couple of days to be together at this difficult time.  In the midst of the pressure filled time that I have chronicled above, I am fortunate to be working with a project manager with such flexibility that I was able to get away for this weekend.  Same goes for my ever supportive spouse.

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  I think the same goes for all of us.  It just simply takes a village.  Period.  Below are some images from our time in the gorge…..

Lots of ice, with a hit of spring in the air….

even Buddha has boogers when it’s cold.

One afternoon I felt like a cat with the sun streaming in….

There were some wildly colored mushrooms in the woods.  These are looking pretty deadly!

such beauty…

We concentrated on beauty all weekend.  I have learned that fresh flowers are a necessity.

Sometimes this is what life feels like.  but if we are all feeling the squeeze together, perhaps there are moments when it’s not so bad.

On such a winter’s day

It’s been a fairly cold stretch of days recently.  The sort of cold that puts your shoulders all up in to your ears and dries out your nose and lips.  When the weather gets this bitter, my studio is uninhabitable.  There is just no warming up an uninsulated room that is 3 sides windows… no matter how good the old fireplace!  This yearly hiatus of studio based work is not bad timing really.  I got the show for the Pleasant Perk finished and up before the weather got too unbearable to melt wax and there is something about winter that puts me in a pensive, planning sort of mood.  The way gardeners get when the seed catalogs start to arrive….

The Perk show has been a success thus far – I have sold 11 paintings!!  They are all relatively small paintings, which I figured would work well in that market (I was right!) There has been plenty of good feedback as to the quality of the work and that it seems to resonate with a lot of people.  With a good chunk of that work going to new homes at the end of the month, I naturally am wondering, what next ?

So, the dogs and I went walking a bit today, in spite of the cold, and did some thinking.  Luckily, some of the answers are already in place.  Making paintings is a rather solitude filled activity and I am looking forward to beginning the collaborative effort with fellow artist Tina Westerkamp and some ArtWorks students.  We will be creating a large scale indoor relief mural for the Cincinnati Convention Center. Starting later this month, this project will be on the proverbial front burner for a couple of months, allowing for the weather to warm up at home to eventually get back to the wax work later in the spring.

The other work I am excited to continue and nurture is that of my sketchbook.  The Art Academy class will be starting up again in February but this time will have a book making element to it.  I am excited to be team teaching with amazing artist/book maker Cody Calhoun and will certainly post more information about this new class as it approaches.  Also in February, I will be a visiting artist at UC Clermont to introduce my sketchbook process to a drawing class.  So many wonderful opportunities are coming together at what seems like all at once!  But I know it’s been years in the making – and I need to keep on making.  Beyond the current plans, what could lie beyond?  Not only what next, but what after that?  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to over plan my life.  But I believe in tossing things out there that could be possible and seeing what comes back around.  With that spirit in mind, I am looking into residencies here and there.  I could see spending an entire season (adventure loving family in tow) somewhere entirely different than Ohio.  Like Maine, or northern Michigan.  Who knows?

As I ponder the possibilities of going some place for the sheer point of exploration and art making, I will avoid my cold, cold studio and focus on some cozier fibery work like quilt making or embroidery.  Who knows what lies around the bend?!  This from a girl who idolized Jacques Cousteau back in the day.  I wonder if artists ever get to go on scientific oceanic explorations?  Hmmmm, now there is a thought.

Stay warm if you can….