This time last week I was in Austin, Texas, visiting artful friends, meeting new trees and dogs. A good time was had by all and I was (and always am) deeply inspired by time spent with these women and their loved ones.
One can read countless articles about the food in Austin, or the music in Austin. But honestly, I really loved the trees.
There were two in particular which captivated my imagination. The first being the famed Treaty Tree – an old, intrepid Council Oak utilized by Native Americans long before our misguided United States was even a glimmer on the horizon. You can read the full story here about how this poor tree was poisoned back in the 80’s and nearly died. But it survives to this day and is loved and protected and shored up and supported in its growth.
The day we visited it, there happened to be officials on hand, measuring and taking stock of the tree and I asked permission to come inside the fence and place my hand upon its trunk. I was permitted and nearly cried when I touched it. Trees are truly miraculous beings and I have a bit of a thing for them.
A second tree which I befriended just happened to be in the back yard of the very friends we were visiting. This tree, now called Bonnie, was a primary reason my friends chose this of all houses and they brought in an arborist to make sure they could care for her properly in the coming years. I think they are glad to know Bonnie. And perhaps Bonnie is glad to know them.
I am guessing there will be more paintings of Bonnie. I spent a bit of time just watching how the evening light played upon her stately form. She’s lovely indeed.
But Austin is not all trees, there are the dogs. One dog especially seemed to sum up all of Austin’s playfulness. Mr. Pickles.
One cannot NOT sketch a spectacle such as Mr. Pickles. Apparently his mom works in the mobile dog grooming world, hence the painted on color. I think Mr. Pickles knows how cute he is as he greeted us with enthusiasm on our visit to the Contemporary Austin art museum.
There was much more to tell of Austin. A beer garden in a grove of trees in the hill country, cocktails made of a desert plant….
Vintage finds in the second hand shops. But mostly we merely enjoyed one another’s company. And this was enough. Even in a city as cool as Austin.
And now I am home. Nursing a cold…..
And deeply worried over our own pup Iris. Our Wild Iris Rose has been unwell of late. Deer poo is nasty stuff and we can only guess that she may have sampled some in the yard leading to intestinal distress. We got her sorted out last week and were in the clear, but this week, among everything else, she was overcome again.
Tonight she is hospitalized and getting fluids. We are hopeful for the best, but it’s up to her. And so tonight we wait.
I’m finding it difficult to concentrate on anything, tea is helpful, yes.
And good books to pass the time…
But it’s worrying, to put it mildly. She has been greatly weakened by this latest illness and we are giving her the best care we know how. And only time will tell. Of all the dogs, Iris is really my girl and I miss her presence here in the studio tonight as I write this. Hoping she’s back home resting comfortably tomorrow perhaps. But we shall take it all as it comes.
We can see it in the light just lately. A goldening behind the lush greens of late summer.
This morning I take the dogs outside. I take note. And return with my camera to capture these fleeting light-moments.
I begin looking closer. The colors beckoning.
Capturing changing light, shifting colors of the mood of a certain season – this is a favorite thing of mine.
Lately I find myself more and more captivated with capturing the mood of a moment, which colors and light it might hold, versus sketching out what things might “actually look like”.
Over the holiday weekend, we found ourselves in Asheville, North Carolina to visit friends, play a few tunes and hike. On one hike we met a family from Guatemala who were keen on Catawba Falls as it reminded them of home.
I painted them into a little color drawing I made of the moment and shared it with them. We talked of Guatemala and how beautiful it is.
My sketch felt more like a painting, which pleases me to no end.
The weekend ended much too soon for my liking but I have taken custody of a wee hand sculpted by Anna Koloseike of Asheville. I am in love with it’s smallness and the form it takes and am still deciding where to mount it.
It’s like the hand of a small maker. Which is how I feel at times.
Today I sketched at the Cincinnati Zoo for awhile with an Urban Sketcher friend, and a few others joined us after the local illustrator’s luncheon. Although I attend these lunches at times, today’s schedule was cut into slices which didn’t allow for lunch out and so I did what I could.
There just never seems to be enough time for all the things. But occasionally a reminder comes along and I breathe a little easier….
I am grateful for this reminder.
At the zoo today I looked for an armadillo but could only find one with three bands and I need the one with 9. (And a banjo. He must have a banjo.) So I will sketch on until the right fella finds himself at the tip of my pencil and I can pin him down to the job at hand.
More on this little project as it unfolds from here…..
In the meantime, I leave you with Asheville impressions.
Asheville dog culture is wonderful.
It was strange to visit Warren Wilson College outside of the scope of the Swannanoa Gathering. All was quiet and peaceful. But the place is lovely in spite of the music being flung to the hills until next summer. I look forward to next year.
We are home from Maine, landlocked once again to Ohio.
Ohio is not without its beauty to be sure. There have been errands to run, adjustments to be made, momentous birthdays to acknowledge and celebrate.
Suddenly I realize it has been a coon’s age since I had my paints out mixing and dancing their way around the palette. I must dive back in.
August breezes, when they blow, are humid and hot. I figure this weather is a strange combination of the dooming of climate-change and good old-fashioned late August in the mid-west. How are we to know?
Storms do break up the monotony of late summer. They make for dramatic skies and monumental cloud forms.
From the West, always, the clouds gather.
Perhaps it’s a symptom of age that clouds and birdsong catch my attention now more than ever. I seek to paint them in between the expectations of a busy, modern life.
This past weekend there were tunes, on tunes, on tunes. Again I remember – this makes for intense happiness in my heart – I recommit. The painting and the music are inextricably linked. I may not be very good at either, comparatively speaking. But each makes my small heart sing. And surely this is a measure of something in the world.
Something. – in the epoch of our own humanity. We are but a blip in the matrix of the Universe as we know it, and yet we seek these bits of joy and meaning like spiritual breadcrumbs of a sort.
There are more tunes slated for this evening when a few of us gather to choose the autumnal soundtrack for the Riley School of Irish Music. Tomorrow is a road trip to settle one of the smalls (newly returned from western adventures) into his next adventure in grad school. It is good to have him near at hand once again.
Travel beckons again soon. I find myself already getting organized for a weekend trip to Sheboygan in September and a longer journey back to Ireland in October. Some day if I truly settle in one place, it will be a strange day indeed. I embrace this traveling side of myself and am grateful for those loved ones who keep the dogs fed and the home fires burning when I am away. It does not escape me that I am truly fortunate.
When I travel, I travel lightly. I do not plan to take the oils to Ireland this go round as I’ll be on the go more often than not. But I have ordered a new sketchbook and I have extra watercolorey books to pack as well.
The goldening, autumnal season will see me diving back into a world of words each morning once again to find my way through the dark of winter. There is nothing quite like pouring a cup of coffee, lighting a candle and putting pen to paper. This might keep me sane in the dark months to come. But so will hitting the road, discovering and re-discovering new places and new tunes.
What plans do you have this late-summer/early-autumn to feed your soul? How do you survive winters in general? What have you drawn or painted lately? As always, I’d love to know.
I find myself over coffee, eating pie for breakfast. This is not a bad thing. As I choose pie over cake any day.
Yesterday was my birthday. It was, by some accounts, One to Be Reckoned With. On paper I turned 50. But as I have never been one akin with numbers, this slice of information seems irrelevant really. Over the years of my wild and somewhat nomadic life, I’ve known friends and loved ones who’ve lived and loved but briefly in this earthly sphere. From their early leaving I’ve learned to count my days and age here in this world as blessings, not curses. They might give anything to be here.
“Welcome to the Crone sisterhood! Time for an adventure. Remember this is the age Bilbo set off!” ~Christina Wald (Creatrix of Embrace the Crone.)
Collectively, we are fairly recently returned from a magical time in Maine….
“Old friends cannot be created out of hand. Nothing can match the treasure of common memories, of equal trials endured together, of quarrels and reconciliations and generous emotions. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (via@brainpinkings)
We spent a couple of weeks resting and recharging after a spring and summer of hard work and hard play. I for one simply can never get enough of the sea. In recent years, I have taken to ocean swimming whenever possible. I do love the lakeside where we spend the bulk of our time, but honestly, I am an oceanic creature. I long to come home to that each visit. These brief forays make me wonder, why do we live so far from the sea?
“Swimming, One Day In August
It is time now, I said,
For the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.
Something had pestered me so much
I thought my heart would break.
I mean, the mechanical part.
I went down in the afternoon
to the sea
which held me, until I grew easy.
About tomorrow, who knows anything.
Except that it will be time, again,
for the deepening and quieting of the spirit.”
“It is time now, I said, for the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.” And so it is.
“Terrible things are happening outside. Poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find that their parents have disappeared.”
~Anne Frank via @annefrankcenter
Recently on one of the many and varied and periled portals to the online world, I shared the above quote from Anne Frank to my profile. I do my best to be a good citizen in this world and prefer to engage in political discussions over a cup of tea or glass of wine, face to face and with respect and regard for friends and family with differing views. But on one particularly difficult news day, Anne’s words came to me and I shared them in response to the day’s events. I honestly believe that sometimes to say nothing (even online) speaks volumes. Even if one is attempting to keep one’s online sphere to work and play (i.e. art and music).
It is no new concept to be misunderstood online and so I was not surprised to be challenged and shamed for sharing the above quote. “Why compare the recent ICE roundup to the atrocities of the Holocaust?”, I was asked.
Yes, this is different. No, these folks were not being rounded up and led to their deaths, necessarily speaking. Yet I do not think Anne Frank would mind my quoting her in these difficult times. History has taught us that small steps in the loss of our humanity amidst the atrocious treatment of and attitude toward others can be devastating over time. The Holocaust did not happen over night, but rather incrementally while no one was paying attention, until it was too late.
It is my opinion that we as a country and perhaps as human beings in general are at a crossroads of great importance. The United States seems to have lost the plot, especially when it comes to empathy toward our fellow ‘human beans’ as I’ve often put it. The world is left wondering what the hell is going on. I am fortunate enough to travel outside of the country to know this first hand. I am also fortunate enough to know folks far less progressive on the political spectrum than myself who agree with me on this current trajectory of inhumane cruelty-turned-policy we face in our government. At the heart of it all, we simply mustn’t dehumanize one another. Not at the border, not at protest rallies.
And so where to from here?
On this my first official day in The Age Of Cronedome (let’s face it, the words “forty-something and fifty-something have very different cultural connotations, though they essentially are but a day apart) I am in a quite privileged place of having space in life to make some decisions regarding my service to the world. Perhaps I have some wisdom after all. I continue to believe that the gifts of Art and Music are paramount to my calling in this world. These will continue to be my focus and my center. But I also feel a deep commitment to my own human-ness and to the human-ness of others. I also intend to continue to apply that level of care and humanity to the not-so-human elements of the natural world. It is time we begin not to be the center of our own planning. The world needs more of us.
Essentially, as far as age goes, I’ve crested. I am likely to live far fewer years on this side of fifty than on the first. So it is more important than ever to simply own who I am in this world and in this lifetime before I embark on the Next Great Adventure, as it were. I am deeply proud of being a soft-hearted, quick-to-cry “snowflake” (as the modern vernacular puts it) who doesn’t fear living in a world of pure imagination. I like to think this vulnerability is part of my charm. Yet much like my beloved Tiffany Aching, though my outer shell may be soft like chalk, I have a center of hard flint which is likely to start fire if it’s agitated enough. In other words I am tougher than I might seem.
Perhaps you dear readers may see a bit more of what some might call “politics” on this old blog space. Or perhaps not. But either way, I’d rather you think of it as me just doing what I can while I can during my time left on the earth.
“We are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the tree of Life, and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilised vase on the table.” ~DH Lawrence (via September Publishing and Dr. Sharon Blackie‘s If Women Rose Rooted.)
There is love above all. And just behind that, the notion of right work, which for me is always where I come home to. The day might be long, the news might be dire. But there is always a tune to figure out, or a painting with whom to dance or a dog to walk, a loved one to hold.
“When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead
are standing about you and watching.”
–excerpts from the poem “On Work” by Khalil Gibran
For me, to do my work, is to love the world. Even at its most unloveable. This notion, along with that of coming back to my own breathing, are the only things I know to keep me centered in the maelstrom of life. For at the heart of it all, this is what love is.
“You don’t have to move mountains. Simply fall in love with life. Be a tornado of happiness, gratitude and acceptance. You will change the world just by being a warm, kind-hearted human being.”
~Anita Krizzan ( via a text to me on my birthday from the one and only Amy Malcom who really needs to start a blog, or better yet, write a book. Her words make a world.)
So back again, to the breath and the work. I’ve become so practiced that I can find my way in seconds if I but remember to breathe deep, or set about mixing the colors, or playing the scales……
“I should paint my own places best, painting is but another word for feeling.”
~John Constable, 1821
For those of you who’ve been reading awhile, thank you. To you quiet new ones, welcome. It’s an introverted paradise here where I sometimes feel I’m writing to a tribe of crickets, but then I meet one at the Trader Joe’s and I’m no longer so lonely in the writing. (Joan, do come back to RS, the whistle awaits!!)
Happy birthday to me. Here’s to many more years.
ps, the art work I share here is often for sale. Do let me know if any of it strikes your fancy and we might work out an exchange. I picture a back alley transaction involving my wearing boots with many buttons, a hat to hide my visage and perhaps bringing along a young dragon looking for a new home.
Ginger Small and I have been playing a bit with stop-motion
It is a blustery day in the Hundred Acre Wood, proverbially speaking. Blessed with a studio day, I seek escape from the confines of my over-working monkeyed mind in the form of writing and perhaps some play with materials on hand. It is important to dance with winter in anyway we can.
Craving coastline and a gentler breeze on this Polar Vortex day, I dip back into collected imagery from a whirlwind trip west not weeks ago, marveling at the light and magic to be found in California.
It blows a frozen, (though thankfully sunny) gale outside my window here, but if I just climb into my imagination a bit more deeply, I can remember what unfrozen air feels like, though it was brisk and cool.
Time with those beloved to us is magic time indeed.
Self doubts, once seemingly frozen into place, thaw. The black dogs of recent depression recede, if only for a couple of days. I realize that as much as I love woolen wear, and hot tea and buttered rum and life in general here in the Ohio River Valley, journeys which afford escape to more temperate climes in winter months keep my wheels on.
I am steeped in gratitude.
Guardians, ghosts and gods are easier to spot near the sea. Sometimes they lean back and bend to the breezes.
As our wanderings take us farther down the coast we meet them more and more often, in many forms.
Through the mists we find them.
Those who light the way and *remind* us. With words, color, hospitality, love.
“To paint is to love again.”
Through mists and moonlight, we come back to our animal selves.
Once returned, we seek not to deep dive back into old familiar patterns of busy-ness and not-so-aliveness, flitting about in our heads like trapped songbirds. Though we do.
I am thankful for reminders.
But wouldn’t you know it, a guardian god did follow us home….
A Maximón of legend, lovingly crafted as a gift for us by Steve Worley who fancies himself *just* a craftsman, though we all know he is an artist to be reckoned with.
For now, Maximón watches over our doings and comings and goings from his perch on our kitchen counter.
But we will one day provide for him a proper altar of sorts, much like the blast of color, taste and smoke to be found in Santiago Atitlan.
More adventures are on the horizon, I can just see them through the bursts of icy snow – shining, beckoning like soul beacons. A small personal getaway with the women in my family before workshop season gets underway in full force. Last minute sign-ups for the Guatemala trip have both weeks *at capacity*.
Just last year I wondered if I could possibly work out two back to back workshops. The work speaks for itself and somehow, here I am now. Not with out much needed help, encouragement, and proofreaders for my dyslexic, prone-to-wander brain.
The California based weekend workshop is officially OPEN. Do send me an email if you are on that lovely Left Coast and care to join us to sketch May 18/19, 2019. You can choose one or both days. Each is different.
Taos, my flagship course is also *at capacity* and I am already dreaming and scheming what to share with my class this year. Again, I marvel. And I am not without what every single successful person I know of deals with…. a (not-so) healthy dose of imposter syndrome. Yes, there it is. The beast in the room.
But the advice to *think less, breathe more* (I think these words set to music from Hamilton) is good advice. And also, to just make work. Surely this will calm the beast a bit, yes. Especially certain types of beasts…
I have embarked on a project with a fairly tight deadline for the annual May the Fourth show.
Like many beasts, he is large, imposing, but once you get to know him, he softens up and becomes an exercise in mindfulness.
Stitch, by stitch. Hook by hook.
I shall breathe more, think less. (And watch a bit of Netflix along the way I am sure.) while the beasts in the room get as close as they can to the space heater.
This is a world gone mad. Too many things to take in, too much heartache for a body to navigate really. The things I love which carry me into the gentle places of my soul and self and which keep me grounded when the winds do blow have suffered for lack of care. I look at this little home of mine here on the interwebs and realize that it’s been since August that I’ve written. It is not as if I have not written, or drawn, or painted in general. Just not here, where even when no one is reading, it matters most.
Today I took to the woods with one of our trusty dogs, the one and only wild Iris Rose, to ponder a plan of how to negotiate the dangerous waters of our time in a sustainable balanced manner. It is October, my most favorite month of the year. I adore autumn and all it has to offer in the way of cooler temperatures, misty mornings and the desire to get the knitting needles clicking once more….
We admired the colors signaling a late but welcome change of season….
I played a bit with my fancy camera which, like this blog space, has grown a bit dusty with disuse.
The pace of things in the world has me feeling a bit weary. All this running and seemingly little to show for it. The season and my soul alike beg for a backing off, a swing toward the internal to come once more to the still point of my personal center. This country, and the world at large could stand the same I believe.
With the dark season ahead, one often fraught with personal mental health challenges, I am looking back with pride on a few months of wondrous productivity and activity whilst simultaneously crafting a structure of future quietude to keep the wolves at bay in the months ahead.
The Resistance, as it stands, is in full swing and its toiling does take up space and energy. I quite mindfully make the space necessary to be of service in these dark times but must balance that of course. There is canvassing and volunteering and much reading to stay informed. The news is too much to keep up with and it can drag a soul down to low places, but I do my best. I am careful to turn it all off and hit the paints or the road when I need a break.
The flurry of work and words in the past couple of months have been exciting to birth forth. Here I share a few things that have been occupying my eye, my keyboard and notebook, my interest and my heart. It is my hope that I take to engaging more here in this space in the coming months as it forces me, in the best way possible, to slow down. To think about what I am writing and the images I share. Social media channels are wondrous in their own way, and I certainly find myself lurking in the more creative corners of their hallowed halls. There is so much to inspire. But here, in my own designated space, I can think through my fingers….
“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”
….and maybe go a little deeper.
So, last I left you dear reader, it was August, and so very hot. September came along and while the heat gave no break, I encountered a small challenge to make a drawing a day in 1″ square scale. This painterly adventure, combined with a whirlwind trip to Taos, NM was balm indeed to a tired soul….
I completed the challenge and made 30 of these little works.
Even when the news did say there were magnificent displays of ill will and malevolence.
Toward the end of the month of September, my long time, dear friend Kristin (whom you may remember from this post) and I somehow managed to make our way from Ohio (me) and Vermont (she) to Chicago for a seamless meet-up at O’Hare and on to a quick flight out to New Mexico. The opportunity to introduce a dear one to one’s soul home is a gift indeed and we savored every second. Not much was catalogued of our time there, but we did manage some image captures…..
“It’s the most wonderful place you can imagine. It’s so beautiful there. It’s ridiculous.” ~Georgia O’Keeffe
We timed our visit with the Feast of San Geronimo at Taos Pueblo (every year on September 30th, you should go) which enabled me to see and visit with some dear friends there at a very sacred time. It was a gift and blessing to share these folks and this place who are so dear to me, with an old friend from the way back, equally as dear. Kristin said to me at one point, “You’ve built a whole world here, Ames.” I do believe I have. I am deeply grateful.
Our journey was far too short for a proper catch up. To be honest, in spite of the splendor we encountered, we spent a good deal of time in a state of deep grief over the recent goings on at the Supreme Court. There is a collective, primal scream of rage emanating from the women in my life over doing this all over again. How many times has this story been lived, eh? Though this time is was so public, and so top-level. I am still grieving.
But, and this is the thing, somehow we must keep going……..
And so, once home, early autumn life began with a focus toward music each weekend at the Riley School of Irish Music. Those of us who love the music aim to bring just a smidge of this video below to our own playing….
While we may never reach this level, we did manage to play our annual ceili dance once more and folks who attended seemed to enjoy it. Chatting with our caller, Éamonn de Cógáin after the dance, he remarked, “This is growing!!” And indeed it is.
The season brings with it, as mentioned before, a renewed commitment to new needle bound adventures. I’ve invested in some gorgeous wool from my local knit shop to attempt the crafting of a sweater. We shall see…. But in the meantime, it’s always fun to get to know the source of all things wool.
And maybe even attempt a sketch or two.
Perhaps you too are experiencing a bit of whiplash of the soul. One minute darkness and rage – the next minute, a shaft of light to pierce that darkness and provide a respite. We here are fortunate to have these moments of lightness. To make art and craft worlds with words is a privilege indeed, and one I do not take for granted. I believe to my core that it is an act of resistance to play music, and craft beauty with line, paint and words. I am fortunate to have the support of family and my day job that enable me to live this artful life. Not everyone can. Yet somehow, artists get the job done, one way or another. Here are just a few whom I support and so should you…..
And so where does this all leave me? As you can see, there’s been a great deal of output here in the form of energy and a good bit of intake as well which is wonderful. But my hope is that I can slow it all down a bit. To corral things to more depth and to a more manageable realm for me as an artist. I like to say that I am a crock pot in this world of microwaves.
My hub and I are running away a couple of days after the election to Guatemala to visit friends and make some art – to shore up our souls for what’s to come in our lives personally and collectively, good or ill.
We will get home just before Thanksgiving (yes, I’ve ordered the bird from our favorite market vendor.) I plan to write here on this blog-space from down there if I can connect, as it’s one of the most inspiring places. So do stay tuned.
Wherever this reading finds you, I hope you are finding some gentility in this rough world. We are at a crossroads as human beings and we have some decisions to make as to the path ahead. For me, it’s one of kindness and art making.
“Hang in there, make art, be kind.” ~Neil Gaiman in response to the news of Brazil’s election of a nationalist, right wing president. To my friends in Brazil, we are here for you.
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….
I’m excited to offer 5-card sets of greeting cards featuring hand-gilded reproductions of original ‘tiny’ paintings from my travels.
Each set contains 5 different designs, related in theme (i.e., desert, ocean, etc), and each tiny reproduction of a miniature painting has a hand painted gold ‘frame’ around the edge. They are blank inside and may be purchased through me for $20 a set (shipping not included). For now I’ll be creating these sets on demand, so please allow a week or so for delivery. They make great gifts!
Today is my 46th birthday. As is often the case this time of year, things are in a state of semi-controlled chaotic flux, what with school starting soon and Big Moves happening for both of the kids. Jack returned from Brazil just in time to join us on our annual summer sojourn to the coast of Maine and is now in the process of returning to his collegiate life across town. Meanwhile, in similar fashion, our youngest, Madeleine, is making lists and preparatory pilings of her own as we move her into a dormitory at Ohio State University next week. Things are getting real. They are embarking on a world of their own making….
All of this is, as expected, a little on the bittersweet side of life. But it is also the Way Of Things. This is why we raise them. So that they can hopefully head out into productive lives of their own. It is time for us to focus back on ourselves for the first time in ages. I for one am feeling a delicious fire burning in my art work, music and in my inner life, while the Hub, Tony, has plans of his own involving far flung watery places to explore. It is an exciting time for all of us.
So let me just catch you up a bit on happenings since I last wrote. As you now know, I am in the process of putting together a new workshop, launching in February. I’ve had quite a bit of interest, and a few sign ups too! And while I have been mostly on the road since the announcement and not able to ‘blast’ it properly as of yet, it is my hope that this class will be a ‘go’ with just enough folks to make it a reality. Do let me know if you have any questions!
Ah yes, the road. How it beckons!! Last I touched base here at my online home, I was off to a week of full on music at Swannanoa.
This was a week of complete bliss for me personally. Tearful reunions with people I only get to see once a year. We fell straight into tunes and laughter and musical mayhem that only ‘band camp’ can provide. I opted for two classes, both in flute, with two of my favorite instructors/musicians/people on the planet, Kevin Crawford and Nuala Kennedy.
They are not only brilliant teachers and players but they are absolutely hilarious to spend time with. In my own teaching I try to emulate the sense of fun and level of laughter I’ve known in classes with these two. It is through a childlike sense of play and creative experimentation that the best learning is to be had. Learning a creative pursuit as an adult can be daunting! Whether it’s playing a musical instrument, or painting a picture, adults take themselves (ourselves!) so seriously. Getting out of our own way is half the battle. I am still riding the wave of magic and beauty of that week, with renewed gusto to practice my tunes, to keep learning and improving. I intend to make it back to this week again next year. There is such a sense of ‘Brigadoon‘ to it all, magically happening each summer and then just like that, it’s gone….
Of course, if you follow my summer patterns at all, you know that no summer is complete without a dip of my toes into the ocean in my soul’s home, Maine….
Ginger Small and I were reunited up there as I’d heard very little from her all summer. And we have much work to do!
I spent a fair amount of time just gazing out to sea and doodling….
…that is, when I wasn’t partaking of the bounty of the ocean. YUM!
Our time in Maine usually allows for a bit of the ocean and a bit of the lakeside as well. I did a fair amount of oogling and doodling there as well.
It is a time we treasure, and each year we know it might be the last where everyone attends. Any next year could see the kids doing their own thing elsewhere. So while I painted and sketched a good bit, and came up with a number of tiny paintings, it is never enough.
Maine tugs at my heart strings harder and harder each year. Every year, it gets more difficult to leave the fresh salt air and cool breezes available there.
“She loves the serene brutality of the ocean, loves the electric power she felt with each breath of wet, briny air.” ~Holly Black
Having lived there once upon a time, I know life in New England is not all summer time and roses. Winters are cold and long. But I simply must spend more time there.
“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.” ~Ranier Maria Rilke
For a while now, my dear, long time friend Amy (she who attended to the births of my children, my soul-sister) and I have admired the whimsical, colorful world of artist Henry Isaacs.
His paintings are impressionistic, energetic, and brimming with color that is at once straightforward and complex. They are the kind of paintings that make me yearn to pick up a paint brush and paint. But not in my usual sketchy fashion.
I’ve had this yearning to paint for awhile now. And I have painted. Here and there. I’ve made some paintings that I like a fair bit. While others have lacked the intensity I wanted them to have. They often feel too cautious to me. I’m not quite sure how to approach the materials, having had only nominal amounts of instruction in this particular way of art-making. Often as soon as I have found my way into a painting, it’s time to quit to attend to Life. And by my next visit to it, I’ve lost the steam. Clearly, I need some help.
So in honor of everyone in this household going off and learning new things and forging exciting new paths, I am heading back to the coast of Maine in just a few weeks to take a workshop with Henry Isaacs. I am so very excited to learn some new ways of approaching paint and then applying these lessons to the sights and sounds I find so enchanting by the ocean.
“I have sea foam in my veins, for I understand the language of the waves.” ~Le Testament d’Orphee
Perhaps I may get the opportunity to paint the ocean of sage in the high desert of New Mexico at some point as well. Again, something I have yearned to capture, but outside of my sketches, have never seemed to accomplish successfully.
I believe in following the voice of one’s heart. That intuitive voice that whispers ‘this, yes, this!!!!’.
I’m following that voice as much as I can these days. My Right Work seems to be a three-pronged dance made up of teaching workshops in beauty-filled places, making up whimsical stories and pictures for the young at heart, and just painting/sketching/drawing by myself (also in beauty-filled places). In between there I’ll work the day job when I can, manage the comings and goings of these adult children of mine, and try to keep this house in some sort of working order. Oh yeah, and music. Always music.
Today is a day of musing. Pondering my life’s path. I feel like the 46 year old me is waving enthusiastically to a younger version of me as if to say ‘This way! This way! Aside from a few bumps in the road here and there, life’s going along quite nicely just now! Just hang on!’ Because it is going along quite nicely actually.
I’m excited at the timing of this painting workshop opportunity, as it falls just as I have a moment to catch my breath before really needing to buckle down to work this fall on February’s offering. I get another taste of salty Maine sea air before they must batten down the hatches for yet another winter. My kids will be off doing their own thing for the first time really ever. I’m thrilled and excited and incredibly grateful for all of it.
Happy birthday to me.
….and here are some of the new Tiny Offerings from recent travels. Let me know if you would like to own one!