It is early morning and we are greeted at the gate of a local nature preserve by staff most serious of purpose.
We purchase tickets into El Pilar, a well kept, multi-purpose bit of land and head off for a hike to see about seeing some birds….
Our gracious hosts are our friends Mari Gray and Leander Khil, who between them carry many labels such as designer, ornithologist, writer, photographer, artist and so much more.
They take us into the forest and invite us into their world where birds reveal themselves in ways previously unknown and we are delighted.
Mostly we see and hear birds alive and well. Calling and chirping, flitting and flying. Yet we also see signs of nature taking it’s course which gives us a way to study closer…
This is indeed a seemingly magical wood. And I begin to wonder where we are in the world.
Up and up we climb, witnessing the world of the flying kind at their own level.
A glimpse of the valley below, and a cookie or two for our efforts, we marvel at the vista and rest a bit before heading back down where the birds have gone into hiding but there are still some interesting insects and flowers to behold.
We head into town for brunch where we revisit the names of all of the birds we saw this day.
Eventually gears must shift and we are back to the workshop scene where birds of another feather are gathering.
One by one, this upcoming week’s workshop participants arrive and are greeted with views of a volcanic realm where there is poetry hiding in the most unlikely places.
Like in the clouds…..
Or under a napkin holder on a silverware sleeve….
Days dawn bright and beautifully and some of us greet the sunrise with an early morning run up the hill for a view of the city….
These recent days have also given us surprise visits from some esteemed guests.
Mari stopped in to meet everyone today as well. We are hoping she can finish her thesis this week and come to paint with us!
By evening, we are all getting to know one another and making plans for Day 1 of this week’s activities over dinner.
It’s been rich, and we haven’t really even begun. Yet like birds of a feather, we have gathered to feel volcanic breezes ruffle our winter plumage. Our sights are set on seeing the colors for what they are and exploring Antigua in the week ahead.
As the week gets started, I will be doing my best to update on the usual channels where I can, but my priority is, of course, being fully present for those who’ve come here to make art with me. So I’ll catch up here when I can…. Til then…
A busy day of many good things workshop related – errands run, lists checked and re-checked, details double checked, last minute messages sent, plans solidified. I am so grateful for the people who make this work not only possible, but gratifying and fun as well.
Though we managed to get so much done……….(swag packages readied? check!)
…. we also managed a little shopping, some lovely meals, and even a few hours sketching at a local ruin.
The mixing of work and play, art and vocation, self care and the tending to a job to be done. All of it a beautiful balance. Feeling the magic of Antigua seeping into my bones as we settle in for what will be two wonderful weeks of art-making with amazing people.
Who knows? There may even be a guest appearance here and there by some special non-workshop friends…..
(headphones in. Listen for the tone of the post below…….)
I arrived late in the day yesterday to my home away from home here at Posada San Sebastian in Antigua Guatemala. Perhaps they say ‘welcome home’ to all their beloved guests, but it feels so great to hear it any how. I awaken to hazy sunlight in the courtyard after 11 solid hours of unbroken sleep. I am the first to arrive of our group.
My bedside window view is peaceful and familiar. I bundle up in a shawl and socks to wander down the hall to boil water for coffee. Coffee before coffee.
Arrival to Antigua is generally none too difficult. Though traffic can be an issue at times getting from Guatemala City where the airport is to be found. Yesterday I opted to complicate matters just a bit to endeavor a side trip on route to Antigua .
When I was a kid (ages 5 – 7 or so) we lived here in Guatemala, in the city. My dad was a machete weilding geophysicist who enjoyed field work more than academia and so we came here for his work. There are many firm and pleasant memories from our time here. And there are many gaps in that memory bank as well, for trauma did leave its mark in the end.
An earthquake and the seismic dismantling of our family shortly thereafter meant this place carries some scars in my little-girl psyche. I’ve been unpacking that heavy suitcase bit by gentle bit upon coming back for the first time with my hub for our anniversary few years back.
Memory and the reptilian bits of our brain are a fascinating soup of interpreted facts. Mixed in alongside the sanity-saving memory gaps, desire to take flight, flee and save oneself at all times, trauma can cement things into a body and make a life we run from for the rest of our lives . For me, I am interested in going back in, from a place of safety, the present moment, and revisiting.
My side trip on route from the airport was to my childhood home where we found ourselves in 1976. My patient shuttle driver put the sat nav on and we wound our way through the diesel and the oppressive midday heat and traffic to find my old home.
I had an old letter from my mom to her parents which has the whole harrowing tale from her perspective and the address as well and so off we go. With the traffic being what it is and this being an unusual shuttle driver request, I only manage to stay litle while. Snapping photos for my mom, noticing differences and familiarities in succession. Had I noticed anyone around I might have scraped up the courage to ask if I might come in and take a peek. Alas maybe next time. My Spanish improves with every visit here and I managed to share with my driver a bit of why it was important for me to visit this place.
There are many changes of course. Our neighborhood is now a guarded, gated community. There are big black garage doors on what used to be an open and breezy car port. My host here said that with the violence suffered awhile back, many places circled their wagons in a sense to keep themselves defended. Guatemala has a complicated history, one I hope is shifting into a new era of eco-tourism, prosperity and fair pay for artisans living and working here. That is a tale for another day. But suffice it to say, change is inevitable and truly the only constant.
Above is a sketch I made of my old house. With it’s unfamiliar doors and additions up top. Overlooking the gorge across the street, the trees are taller but the view is strangely familiar. I remember the days just after the quake as the earth settled back into place with aftershocks and constant tremoring.
I’m ever so grateful to get a glimpse of this old place and hope to go back again. I love my new relationship with Guatemala which involves textiles and painting and new memories being made with friends and loved ones in this magical mystical place.
As time passes and I dig deeper into the past while continuing to focus on the present, I’ll share more of what I dig up. Perhaps there is a book in all of this . I do not know. I just know, that right now, on this first morning in Antigua, I’m deeply grateful. For my past which has made me who I am and for my present which helps me forge that self in the best way possible .
A note and apologies for the photos in this post. My devices aren’t talking to one another. So I had to use the crappy camera on this tablet to add the visuals. Its time for a new laptop for my travels so I can blog more easily from the road. If you dip over into instagram, find me at @abeefrnd and I’ll share a few old photos there which will add to the story .
As @doodleyboo on IG posted this morning…
” You might not work well everyday. But you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”
and so, in the spirit of the quote above, I offer you this imperfect blog post, for now .
A new sweater is on the needles. A pattern whose imagery captured my heart and so I have wrestled it onto some needles, cartwheeling through heavy mathematical calculations to get a proper gauge to suit the finished garment. My gauge is, as of yet, thoroughly on pointe, yet I find myself worrying that the fit won’t be right and I’ll be living the knitter’s adage of auld….
“As ye knit, so shall ye rip.”
We shall see. Should the gauge survive my still early-intermediate skills in both crafting cloth and manipulating patterns, and I find myself in the ball park for fit, I will eventually block this new sweater. An old friend of mine who was an inspiration to me years ago in knitting, art making and living life in general, explained to me that blocking is essentially the notion of “teaching a sweater to be a sweater, or a tam to be a tam, once it’s knit up.” I have resigned myself to possibly ripping back hours of work on this new sweater as I have invested a good deal of effort into choosing material I love and I want the end product to be as close to just right as I can make it.
Time will tell.
I share all of this with you just now because I’ve been thinking a lot about blocking, but in a different way. More the idea of blocking time. One great gift of this recent trip to Antigua and Lake Atitlan in Guatemala was that we were able to slow down to a more human-animal centered way of spending our time.
We sketched a good bit, my hub plowing through his sketchbook much more diligently than myself. And we admired the color and beauty all around us. Guatemala as a country is not without its troubles to be sure, but Antigua is fairly cosmopolitan and has a robust tourism industry and so we were encouraged to relax a bit….
Which we did, whilst resting from our country’s tendency toward the rat race of humanity.
I shall comb through the colorful photos and impressions of our time in Antigua and at the Lake in a later post but for today I want to share the big take-away. Time. And the managing of it.
Upon returning home, we jumped back into the rat race, hosting our extended family’s Thanksgiving celebration and getting back to work. I have the great luxury of a part time job with flexible hours. Provided I do the work I need to do to get our instruments out in a timely manner, I can come and go as I please. This generally works out wonderfully but in recent months I’ve found myself spending inordinate amounts of time in the car stuck in traffic. There are construction projects and more people in general in our area. And as anyone with any sizable commute can tell you, traffic is the Devil’s way of sucking one’s soul out, one slow mile at a time.
I decided that I would attempt to begin to block my time more efficiently, working longer days at the shop, then spending extended hours at home in the studio – painting, writing or doing the administrative duties and marketing to support the workshops. This is week one. And so far so good.
I’ve been attempting to wake more early to get some thinking and writing done before I leave the house and the day gets away from me. I’ve begun to change the direction of the little bits coming at me reckless, faster and faster, attempting to fit them in properly. (Hence the Tetris reference at the top of the post.)
As a list maker, this is working, but I must take care not to fall into the trap of “trying to get it all done.” There is a wonderful podcast called “Hurry Slowly” in which host Jocelyn K. Glie discusses with writers and thinkers of our time all the things which make the trappings of modernity tricky territory. In a recent mini-episode she asks:
“Who are you without the doing?” ~Jocelyn K. Glei
I’ll admit this question stopped me in my tracks. I, like so many others, am trying to make a good painting, write something inspiring on this blog, earn a bit of money through art, teaching, or work at the shop. I try to be a good parent, a good friend, a good daughter and wife and etc. etc. But who am I, when all of this falls away? Who are you?
Middle age is fraught with existential landmines and I’m happy that I am currently in a pretty decent state in that department. But I strive to prepare myself for the ultimate journey to the ultimate far away place through contemplation of things that are beyond the day to day, and yet which rely upon and incorporate those very things at the same time.
We are afforded only so much time to take it all in in this world of ours.
The gods do blow the winds of time in mysterious ways – we are left to ponder our options when we land.
I for one will keep tweaking my earthly approach, likening it to the old game of Tetris, which frankly is the best life metaphor. Even if it’s most stressful music to listen to.
ps. I worked at painting a bit today, limiting myself to three colors and attempting to make something from there. It was a horrid failure. But even the worst painting days teach us something and maybe next time I will use a different version of the three colors and see what happens. How are you spending your time? I am off to knit on the sweater about which I am not so sure……. more soon.
pps. a number of spaces are open for both the Guatemala and Taos based travel-sketchjournal trips (but not that many!) do come along!!
For my friends out west, there is also a weekend sketch workshop with me in the Santa Cruz area slated for May 18 and 19, 2019. Send me an email if you are interested!! (linked is my post about this year’s trip, which was wonderful!)
And below, I’ll catch you up a bit on the landing home after a most wonderful summer……
The future is indeed very bright around here. We ‘gotta wear shades’ as they say. This magical gypsy summer of serious traveling has left me feeling newly and deeply inspired, even unmoored and untethered at times. Summer is always a a season of churning and resetting, but this year these feelings are exceptionally poignant and rich. I’ve had so much time to think about things, what with all the flying and driving and waiting and watching along the way from place to place to place.
A bit of art was crafted here and there while on the road, but mostly I found myself in a place of keen inner observation, a bird’s eye viewing of the self just now and the work currently at hand.
This summer I pondered a great deal about what in the world I am up to in this artful life (age appropriate behavior, as I just turned 49 the other day!!). So many proverbially spinning plates all going at once, and there’s me, the mad, rushing spinner, jumping from thing to thing, spin, spin, spin, lest it all come crashing down around me. At least, that is how it feels some days. On other days, the balance of things settles deeply into my heart and I just know I am on the right track, in spite of all the wobbly plates.
“Balance. It was all about balance. That had been one of the first things that she had learned: the centre of the seesaw has neither up nor down, but upness and downness flow through it while it remains unmoved. You had to be the centre of the seesaw so the pain flowed through you, not into you. It was very hard. But she could do it!”
― Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight
Recently, I was listening to a lovely chat between Krista Tippet and Liz Gilbert on the nature of creativity and the notion of choosing curiosity over fear. (I like this notion a lot.) There are many quotable gems throughout this interview and I highly recommend you take a listen to the unedited version of it. There was one small thing though that made me stop the recording at one point and run for the journal to write it down. Gilbert was talking of an inspirational favorite poet of hers called Jack Gilbert (no relation) who was described by his students at one point as being a teacher who –
“didn’t necessarily teach us so much HOW to write a poem, but rather WHY to write a poem.”
This statement stopped me in my tracks. In some strange way, this philosophical shift encapsulates the work I do with travel journaling in my own workshops. Yes, of course we do a bit of Drawing 101, and Basic Use of Watercolors, and etc. But more importantly, we work together to get to the whyof it all. Why even bother to draw or paint or capture quotes in a little book which no one besides our patient loved ones will ever see?
Somehow, through the experiences shared as fellow artists, we distill these notions into the inspiration to do the work and figure out why along the way. It is all about enchantment.
And so, while I do teach the how-toalong with my fellow sketchers locally, my heart of hearts is invested in the why of it all, which is at the core of my travel based workshops.
Coming to this realization has helped me connect the dots a bit in the work that I do. How the practice of local “Urban Sketching” might relate to and feed my passion for making anthropomorphic illustrations of animals having people-like adventures. How these illustrations might also be “serious” enough to feed the fine-art branch of my artistic interests (i.e., paintings, sans hamsters). How the fiber-based arts of embroidery and knitting might serve as idea-hatching meditations (whilst on the surface they may look like netflix-binging in my pajamas). And how all of these varied practices might actually come together to make the workshops I teach quite different than others because they come from a very unique place, me.
And now here it is, not even the end of August, and I am already a feeling a little less angsty about work. A bit more centered in forging forward in all of it, varied though it may be. I am excited to have the dates and costs set for 2019’s offerings so get those checks in the mail lads!!
It feels good to be back home in this ol’ river valley of ours for a couple of months before the need to escape it all once more overtakes me and I hit the road again.
But for now, I am settled in my little nest, catching up on work at the shop, drawing and painting and writing every day possible and trusting that all will be well.
ps. Many of you have been asking when an Ireland based workshop might happen. As of this writing, the right place has not quite found me yet. And place is important. We’d need a home base, something with space for us to live while we work (lodging AND classroom space); a place which has available local meal-catering options we could hire in if needed, walkability to a local village (because, MUSIC!) and preferably near the sea. If you have any places on the emerald Isle to suggest, do let me know! In the meantime, I plan to get back to Ireland on me own via artist’s residencies and visits to friends when at all possible. I’ll keep you posted!
This time just last week I found myself still in Antigua, Guatemala, soaking up the last bit of sweetness and sunshine of a truly remarkable artistic adventure.
Today, at least according to calendars, spring has arrived.
Charlie is not amused, but I assure her that this will pass quickly. For while the snow falls and is apparently due to drop 4-6 inches on our fair river valley, the birds do sing, the buds do promise a show, and so I admire the loveliness, and sift through sketches and photographs of a time well had down south….. now while sipping hot bevvies.
It is always a bit of a journey to truly move between one place and another, each beloved, each so different from the next. And so I have taken my time getting back into the swing of things here at home. There has been work to catch up on at the shop (this is my day job where I help craft world class concertinas and the cases which house them). Not to mention unpacking, much laundry and the defragmentation of lists and accounting. And oh yes, St. Patrick’s Day nudged itself in there as well.
All good and fine things, but I’ll admit to being a little more on the ‘busy’ end of the activity spectrum in recent days than I would normally care to be. It is a gift to have a bit of time on a snowy morning to share a bit of this latest Guatemalan adventure here. What a time we had!
After a quick visit to foggy, rain soaked Chicago, I traveled for a lengthy but uncomplicated day, arriving in Central America at sunset. By the time I made my way to Guatemala City, it was fully dark, but there was full moon splendor for the first few nights of my stay. I spent a number of evenings just marveling from the rooftop as la Luna came up and over the horizon.
A bit of time was also spent just marveling once again at the collection of trinkets and santos and other such things at our beloved Posada San Sebastián in those first few days.
Eventually, we did spend time out in town as well. Antigua does not disappoint with it’s charm.
The local active volcano, Volcan de Fuego, was quite active indeed. Breathing it’s blessings upon us by day and by night.
“We are volcanoes, when we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.”
~Ursula K. LeGuin
We enjoyed working in our books a bit before workshop participants began arriving. I was thrilled to see them! Old and new friends alike.
They turned out to be very hard workers! Some folks came with a fair bit of know-how and skill, while others brought a beginner’s wonder to the table. All worked beautifully together which was fantastic and not unexpected. Somehow, I manage to attract the most amazing people to these Sketch Journaling adventures.
As luck would have it, before we even began working, our group was treated to a front row viewing of a local Lenten Processión just after our first dinner together….
We spent the coming days soaking up everything Antigua had to offer, both out in town and close to home, depending on mood and how warm the weather might get on any given day. The days flew by and yet stretched endless with possibility.
I drew the Joseph Santos at our Posada a couple of times.
My friend and fellow artist Vanessa Sorensen took a fancy to the Santos as well. Take a look at her gorgeous sketches and blog posts about the trip here and here.
There is color and community at every turn in this ancient city.
A brief note: Having lived in Guatemala as a child, I have a deep regard for the complexities of the variety of communities to be found in the country. When looking to acquire textiles and other forms of handicraft, it’s important to me to buy second hand and to pay a fair price. If I get anything first hand, I like to, again, pay a fair price to the artisan responsible. In recent years, thanks to my friends Rosemary who’s an amazing sketcher and mixed media artist (and a dear dear friend, pretty much responsible for this trip happening) and Mari Gray over at Kakaw Designs, I’ve gotten to know some weavers personally and I’m slowly learning a bit about what makes Guatemalan textiles. Below is our friend Lidia Lopez talking a bit about her work and how she teaches others about it. I always enjoy a visit to see her. She is constantly offering new things to admire and perhaps purchase and she’s always great about helping us practicing our ever-evolving Spanish.
And yet there was always a chance to duck into a cool and shaded corner for some quietude or to escape the sunshine.
There is a deep spirit of reverence at every turn. Santos on santos on santos. Religion is a very visceral and real thing in Latin America. It’s refreshing.
I prayed to the gods of all things in my own way. Best I know how.
We drew and drew, sketched and painted. Some just quick captures here and there.
Other longer drawings, begun in place and tweaked and worked (perhaps overly so) back at home at our posada.
The quirky festival atmosphere in Antigua lingered on. Lovely evening light delighting photographers day after day after day.
As all trips do, this one eventually had to come to an end. I traveled back home to family and day job responsibilities, friends traveled on to other places in Guatemala to do work in the realm of Speech Pathology. While I sit here with tea and a wool hat and extra socks on, they informed me this morning that they grapple with 100 F degree heat for their work this week. What a difference a week makes.
Meanwhile, I heard from the lads at the Posada that the new courtyard being installed in my last couple of days there is now complete and the results are stunning. The outdoor space there has always been captivating, but now it’s truly expanded in its usability. I can’t wait to get back there with workshop groups to sit and draw all day! The dates for next year are approximately the first 2 weeks of April. I’ll craft a specific page here on the blog soon with specifics and you can choose one or both weeks, both will be essentially same, but no two weeks are ever the same so if you attend 2, you’ll get 2. More soon on all of that once the numbers are crunched. If you are in the Northern California realm of this world and want a taste of this process, I’m doing a 2 day workshop outside of San Jose and Santa Cruz the last weekend in April. You can sign up for one or both days. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested and I’ll get you the specifics. And, while I’m on the topic, there are still a few slots left in the annual Taos, New Mexico trip which is a week long…..
There is much I miss about Guatemala as I gaze out upon our, for the moment, snowy landscape. I miss the color and timelessness, the quick smiles of locals one sees every day on the street on the way to breakfast. I miss the sense that just beyond the veil there is a part of myself I lost along the way somehow and which, with every visit, I begin to recapture.
There will be more about Guatemala on this lowly blog to be sure. I hope to bring The Hub back there in November to share with him all I have discovered since our trip there for our anniversary. I have many more drawings to make and musings to consider as well. Something about this place feels like it can unlock a lot of what makes me tick as a person. This is something I seek to explore. We all have complicated histories. Mine includes this marvelous place.
Amidst quietude, color and beauty, I am ready to begin unpacking it all….
UPDATE!! THIS CLASS IS NOW FILLED! (but feel free to contact me about Taos 2018 and keep an eye out for future offerings by subscribing to this blog. Thanks so much!!!)
Come with me to the beautiful and ancient city of Antigua, Guatemala for a week of exploration through the lens of a travel journal!
March 4-10 ~ 2018
$1240 per person, double occupancy includes the following*:
~6 nights at Posada San Sebastian in the heart of Antigua
~5 days touring Antigua’s many sites, ruins, churches and museums with sketching instruction all along the way. (entry to sites included in workshop fee.)
~All meals, including dinner Sunday of arrival and breakfast on Saturday, departure day.
~ Transportation to and from airport Sunday March 4 and Saturday March 10.
~$300 deposit holds your spot ($50 non-refundable)
*does not include airfare to Guatemala, gratuities, alcohol or the optional master weaving class. single occupancy is also available for an added cost.
email me, Amy Bogard at email@example.com to register.
Space is limited.
Antigua, Guatemala is a treasured World UNESCO site, nestled into the heart of volcano country. It is about an hour from Guatemala City where you will fly into. While ancient in it’s long and varied history, the city is also quite cosmopolitan. Wandering the city streets, you’ll hear a variety of languages and there are many options for dining.
We will spend our week exploring the sites from our cozy home base at the Posada San Sebastian, where upon arrival you’ll be warmly greeted, “welcome home”. Our host, Luis, is a gatherer of many interesting things and some of our time will be spent sketching his amazing collection of Guatemalan oddities.
Native Guatemalan culture is alive and rich in Antigua and is expressed in food and incredible textiles. We will learn a bit about these things along the way and capture these colors in our sketchbooks. While we will be spending most of our time in the city of Antigua, we will travel one day to the nearby town of San Antonio Aguas Calientes to the home of local weaver Lidia Lopez. Her family will prepare chicken pepian, a traditional and delicious dish, for our lunch, and Lidia will talk about the art of backstrap weaving. You will have the option of a weaving lesson for an additional fee.
If you are new to the sketching/travel journal process, fear not! I will have you drawing and painting more than you could imagine in no time at all! There is so much to see and do in Antigua. A travel journal is the best souvenir you could give to yourself.
We awake at 230 am, Antigua local time, to brew a quick cup of coffee, double check that we’ve packed every last little thing we brought with us and picked up along the way. It is dark, quiet and cool. Hugo, one of our beloved innkeepers, sees us off with hugs and sleepy eyes and makes sure our driver arrives. Which he does, only a few minutes late due to road closures set up for the weekend’s Procesións.
Careening through the wee hours and the volcanic hill sides to arrive in Guatemala City where lights, sounds, people and the airport are to be found, we begin our trek back into modernity one small step at a time.
The day awakens with a pink dawning. I part ways with my friends, knowing we will be drawing and painting and laughing together in just a few week’s time for a smaller workshop out in the San Jose area. And so there are no tears, which is a relief. I am sad to be leaving this 3rd world, but I look forward to my home comforts and creatures.
Airport life is strange and timeless, full of noise and people rushing about, and lots of concrete and hard surfaces. I do not care for it. I am fortunate on both ends of this trip to have familiar faces to greet me along the way. This sweet dog is called Enya. She works with my dear friend Danielle in customs making sure no inappropriate or potentially dangerous things come along in peoples’ baggage. I have such high regard for dogs with jobs and it is lovely to make her acquaintance. Though clearly Enya is on the job and only has eyes for Danielle.
Eventually, I make it home to the Ohio River Valley, which is carpeted green with spring and there is even a bit of sunlight.
I settle in, and unpack a bit, catching up here at home, which feels really good.
Just like that, it’s my first day back home. Coffee in hand (in my new hand painted mug from Guatemala), I walk outside with the dogs for our usual routine. Almost like the last week never was.
And yet, it was.
I left for Antigua just over a week ago with a head full of the spin-cycle of modern life, but return now with a handful of worry dolls to carry those little things instead, and a heart filled with color, beauty, simplicity and love. Along with a huge dose of gratitude, which is a great gift indeed. If you don’t shake stuff up now and again, all the good stuff sinks to the bottom. We can’t have that.
Life in Antigua is quite easy and simple for tourists, or those residing there with money. However, I believe that for the average citizen, life is probably a bit rough around the edges. Yet people seem to get by for the most part.
Ever so creatively.
Shopping and laundry get done.
Money gets made, which can be a family affair.
Life goes on. In some ways so very different than life here, and yet, mostly, pretty much the same. To me, this was one of the take-aways from this trip. I was reminded how very much alike we are as people. Human beans are so keen to draw lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’, when really, we are all just us. My modern life, white skin and heaps of built in privilege are just the luck of the cosmic draw, really. This is something to consider when we walk in the world.
I’m taking today to launder some well worn travel clothes, bathe my smelly dog, and enjoy a little quiet after the trip. Perhaps a run and a bit of time in the garden as well if the weather holds. I am enjoying the liminal, post-travel version of myself. This mellow feeling that anything is possible and life is good. Because it is.
I am thankful for the ways I have of connecting back to my travels in my heart of hearts, even as my life back home slides back into place.
I find myself unexpectedly weary today after a day of art making and eating and not much else. It was great fun to dive fully into book work but it is work. And work I love dearly. I feel a bit more up to snuff in my sketchbook after today’s efforts so I’ll share a few more Antigua adventures with you here.
I’ve been really enjoying meeting the other artists here in Antigua and beyond. Rosemary has made many connections over the years between service trips for her speech pathology work and textile tours. Yesterday we had the pleasure of stopping in to see Lidia López who is a talented weaver among many other wonderful things (I’m keen to learn how to make Pepian sauce from her!).
Lidia was pregnant with her son and visiting friends in Panajachel, and I was a 7 year old kid living in Guatemala City when in 1976 tragedy struck this region in the form of an earthquake. Thousands of lives were lost and it was indeed something one never forgets. But time passes, and as Lidia says, it was not our time then. We had more work to do. And so we did.
It was lovely to chat with Lidia about the work she does and life in general. She patiently let us practice our Spanish on her, although her English is amazing. We talked to her about visiting again when we come for the travel sketch workshop next year which I hope comes to frution.
Our visit was over far too soon and I hope to stop in to say goodbye and share with her some of the work we have been up to in the mean time. Including a drawing I made of Lidia herself.
Later in the afternoon we went to sketch and photograph a lovely ruin…..
I was very happy to have my fancy camera this day as the structures and light at play in this old convent make for beautiful imagery.
But time was ticking and the ruins close fairly early to visitors. We knew we had to get to work if we were to get a sketch in.
As the kids do often put it,
Seems kids have been the same since time began….
We had 40 minutes to do a quick study and we opted for a fairly complicated stairwell.
While this is not a scaled architectural study, it’s not a bad painting to my eye. Coming back to this drawing in my sketchbook in years to come, I’ll remember the light in this stairwell, and church bells on the wind and quiet drawing time with a good friend. The gifts of a well fed travel journal.
Today was a slower paced day in the way of touring. We had meals out of course but mostly we stayed home and caught up in our books. Little things here and there….
…like this creepy antique wooden baby Jesus spotted at a collectibles and antiques owned by a nice fella called Axel.
I also did a page spread in my book to try and learn a bit more about the weaving tradition here in this country.
Although it took me the better part of the day, I’m happy with the results.
I wanted to try to capture the beauty and variety of the indigo dyed corte or cuts of cloth we encountered the other day at the market in Panajachel. Each piece different, punctuated with the colorful seam stitching called randas.
The textiles in Guatemala are not something I can try to adequately comprehend in one go, but it’s been great fun to get a weaving 101 from Rosemary, Mari and Lidia.
Tomorrow there will be more and more drawing. And I hear tell of some hot chocolate which contains chili powder in it. Two days left in this captivating country. For this visit at least.
Yesterday we took a field trip to a town called Panajachel where a weekly market was to happen. We awoke early to be driven higher into the hills near Lake Atitlan. Though rain was forecast, we were greeted with a most lovely day.
I was traveling with my friends Rosemary and Steve of course, who are helping me build my second travel sketch class, but we also were accompanied by Mari Gray of Kakaw Designs, based in Antigua. More on Mari’s work in a bit, but suffice it to say, this was a business trip for her. For me, it was a nearly overwhelming array of color and texture. All gently used and ready to be repurposed.
It was difficult to choose! I purchased one small bit of cloth I hope to make a wee something of eventually but at the very least, it’s just a gorgeous bit to have on hand as a throw.
The prices were amazing and we counted our quetzales and haggled a bit with the vendors which was fun and good Spanish practice.
Soon we were vended out and went in search of a place to eat with a view of the lake. We found a little spot courtesy of our lovely driver and knowledgeable guide, Andres, and we all enjoyed the breezes.
We didn’t tarry long though as we had an afternoon appointment at Multicolores, an amazing artist cooperative changing the lives of women artisans in many areas of Guatemala.
We were greeted at the mysterious teal colored door along a busy side street in Panajachel by the lovely Rosario who proceeded to show us around and introduce us to the vital work going on at Multicolores.
Artists from Guatemala are trained in this rug-hooking technique and given further instruction on basic things as well, such as color theory and even vision statements.
They were asked to really consider their life’s calling. One wall hanging said:
Solo existen dos dias en el año en que no se puede hacer nada. Una se llama ayer y otro mañana. Por lo tanto hoy es el día ideal para amar, crecer, hacer, y pricipalmente vivir.
Loosely translated, there are only 2 days in the year that you can do nothing, yesterday and tomorrow. Every other day is ideal for loving, growing, doing and principally living.
So, not only are these artists learning a skill they can earn a real living off of, they are bettering their lives all around. They take used clothing from the local thrift shops and painstakingly turn them into exquisite utilitarian works of art.
There are also a few beautifully embroidered dolls available as well, which some folks might not consider utilitarian, but I do. Play is a most useful thing.
Will you look at her sweet hair??!
These guys had secret coded messages to share with anyone who knows the language of symbols.
After much careful consideration and admiration of the sheer amount of work this collective produces, Rosemary chose a new piece of art for her newly remodeled space at home. Its stunning. And even more so in person!!!
As much as we had enjoyed this full day, we soon needed to get on the road to avoid traffic on top of the already two hour drive back to Antigua. With rain and pea-soup variety fog on hand, Andres calmly got us through a somewhat white-knuckled drive and we were home by sundown.
It was a day of no art making for me, but rather of gathering material for consideration. The best travel journals come from real, lived experiences and the impressions these experiences bring to us on many levels. The tastes and smells of food, the textures of things at the vendors, the people. Conversations with new friends and those overheard at the parque while walking. All of these things get recorded and captured in some way, even if they don’t make The Book on that very day. There must be a balance to it all.
This taking-it-all-in field trip mode continued into today with a visit to Mari’s place back here in Antigua. It was amazing to see how this young designer lives and works and to just visit and have an opportunity to see the things she creates with the types of materials acquired the day before. She lives in a hidden little magic place with a sweet dog.
Such a sweet, magical place, even the fairies are in residence.
Evidence of Mari’s passion for textiles is at every turn.
Soon we got to see some of her products and how they come together. These lovelies have been well worn and even re-heeled over the years. They are still beautiful and on my wish list.
She had a few shiny new pairs around as well But they weren’t in my size.
We so enjoyed hanging out with Mari again today and I feel I’ve made a new friend here in Antigua. I’m so thankful Rosemary knows so many lovely folks here!!
This all just takes us through to this morning! I could certainly tell you of Lydia, a beautiful weaver and vendor (and yet another lovely friend of Rosemary’s) who lived through the same earthquake I did in 1976. And I might also share our afternoon visit to a local ruin and the sketches which resulted. But alas, those sketches could use some daylight to best share and perhaps these are tales for another day and another blog post.
We have another solid three days here in Antigua and no more lofty plans such as the last couple of days have seen. Just working in our books and soaking up more of the beauty here in Antigua Guatemala.
We are still working out details for the 2018 Travel Sketchjournal -Antigua trip but if you’d like to be on a list to get more information as it unfolds, just comment below or send me an email.