Treasures Found in the MidWest

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Finding the humor in everyday life: from tick removal inventions, hay harvest between lanes on the highway, to hand-painted 5-gallon buckets that serve as outdoor porch lights and the graffiti on water towers (or is it?).

Growing up in Kansas, I always thought that the MidWest was defined only by the central states due North and South of Kansas: Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma. Period. The first time I heard Ohio was considered MidWest, I didn’t understand because it was so far Northeast from where I lived. However, after living back East and having traveled across the country I have discovered that the state lines are blurry and the transition from East to West, North to South can be subtle in some places and abrupt in others.

For instance, driving East from Silicon Valley to Reno is abrupt with 3 distinct landscapes: city, mountains, and desert all in one day.

Traveling West from Arkansas to Oklahoma is a subtle shift from mountains to the Plains; from rich in arts to rich in oil; from hot to…well, still hot. The accents are similar. Maybe a little more “twangy” in Arkansas while Oklahoma has more of a “draw.”

And traveling from Oklahoma, across Texas to New Mexico and then North to Colorado is a treat to experience: plains, desert and finally mountains. And my favorite: the clouds. They look like cartoon clouds and commonly arrive in the afternoon and sometimes gift us with a few minutes of thirst-quenching rain before going away.

But First…Family & Cake

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Did I mention cake? Lisa is an incredible cake baker and decorator! We talked cake at Erika and Steve’s wedding and I casually mentioned my upcoming birthday. Lisa’s generous offer to bake a delicious chocolate cake with buttercream icing came true. Yum!

Meeting up with family along our journeys are the emotional connections that keep family bound between visits, miles, and time. One thing is sure, whether you share the same values or simply an appreciation of adventure there is a sense of comfort of being with family. When we got to Rick and Dianne’s, we comfortably dropped right in. It may have been years since seeing Dianne in person but we didn’t miss a beat. Her tour of Bartlesville gave me great insight to her community from her point of view as assistant superintendent—the many elementary and middle schools she oversees and demographics of each school and the surrounding neighborhood. She asked great questions about what I have learned since leaving DC, our transition and how we perceive our future. I love this. It’s what I ask myself frequently and part of the stories I tell myself. While I had a hard time articulating it at the time. I have given much thought since and I appreciate her prompting as I know that the closer I get to our final destination, the more we will be asked this question.

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What a tight-knit family! From the menagerie (not pictured: Annie) to sharing the fun in chores and creativity, we ended up spending an extra day with the Martinez clan of Oklahoma.

Lisa made a wonderful tour guide at the Price Tower and Rick made a wonderful guide at the Phillips 66 museum.

The Tower, a.k.a. Tree that Escaped the Crowded Forest, Frank Lloyd Wright’s only skyscraper is truly a Bartlesville and Oklahoma treasure. Based on the equilateral triangle and faced in copper, the 221′ tower tapers to a single conference room at the top and has 2 elevators. The building was built for business, retail, and residential. As part of the sale of Phillips 66, the building and adjacent outdoor sculpture garden were left to the Price Tower Arts Center (as it should be) and continues to house offices and retail and is also a hotel.

Bartlesville surprised us. More than just a small town in Oklahoma or a town built on oil, it is a rich cultural and artistic community with strong schools. The Phillips 66 museum was free and taught us much about the company, the city, and it’s place in history with the building of service stations across the country and it’s technological advances. I loved seeing all of the vintage signage, marketing, and reading about all of the engineering and patent work the company has accomplished. We met an engineer who helped develop off-shore rigs in the North Sea and discovered that Phillips 66 holds 15,000 patents including plastics that contributed to the hula hoop craze.

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Nostalgia rolled in when I spotted this hand-painted gas truck. When I was a kid, I fed my nerosis

Texas has fun roadside attractions: Cadillac Ranch and the giant cross in Groom. It was a fun transition to get us back to where our hearts belong: in Northern New Mexico and Southwest Colorado where the air is dry and the temperature changes naturally throughout the day.

Tucumcari, NM was a big surprise. I’ve driven through it several times in the middle of the night. This time we woke up there and discovered the Historic Route 66 strip with incredible hand painted and neon signs. I’m already planning our next trip with Tucumcari as an important stop. I plan to use it as inspiration for retro and vintage hand lettering styles. Maybe there is another book in me that can be inspired there?

You know you’re home when…

It’s different for everyone but one thing is true, you can feel it. To me it’s how my mind expands in the desert and pure cyan sky, my nerves soften when I breath in the dry, sage-filled air, how I’m aesthetically inspired by the beautiful mountains, and when I feel the grounding energy of the forest. When I asked Ray to describe how he knows when he’s home. He said he can feel it, he just knows, and that his family is there.

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Mountain storms in New Mexico are fascinating. Leaving El Rito and heading back to Ojo Caliente for a soak, we drove into a rainstorm. #nofilter #doublehalfrainbow

We landed back in Southwest Colorado just in time for Mancos Days. It usually takes just minutes to get downtown to the park. But with all the people it was like a large family reunion. We met friends and family, new and old along our route to watch the kids at the watermelon eating contest. Ray stayed behind for hours playing with the boys, which seems never to get old and I took a much-needed nap. I settled into Ray’s childhood home and could feel myself unwinding back into myself. It seemed like I was in bed for days. It was then that my dreams of travel caught up with me and I awoke to a new dream.

I keep thinking that this journey will never end, perhaps it won’t. I plan to continue writing as we head to Paonia for the next art residency, or when I travel for work and workshops. This blog has become a repository of memories for us. The journaled backstories and the lessons learned on the road are in various sketchbooks I’m still finding in the car and storage. We will definitely share some of our favorite places from our journey, some stats we have collected along the way, and maybe dig out some photos we haven’t previously shared. Still reflecting on our journey, this has been such a learning experience for us, a life-changing journey that will be with us forever and continues to inform our plans for the future.

Regardless and perhaps this is a bit of an announcement…we’ve finally made it back home.

 

 

Getting back to the Midwest, and our Roots

In my last post, I mentioned being from Kansas. But this week has been about being with family in Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.

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My dad hates his picture being taken so these were captured on the sneaks. Here he is (left) showing us his filing system. Note the labels on the bottom two drawers. He took a break from working on his 1932 Ford (right) to show us a few other engines he’s working on and mom’s 1969 Airstream that’s taking up a large portion of his shop. If anyone is interested in purchasing it—it’s in WIP condition—please DM me.

If you haven’t spent any time at the Lake of the Ozarks, then you are missing out on a part of this country that expresses itself in a way like no other. More than just backwards “R”s and a different way of thinking, the people of Missouri would claim they are real. And judging by their pace, they have no reason to be otherwise. I love my parent’s cabin on the lake. Despite the spiders, hornets, bats, and slugs it’s still one of my favorite places to visit. I often dream of what it would be like to live there or do extended stays where I could write and create art (like at a residency). With an outdoor shower and a quirky indoor bathtub, this place has everything you need (except hot water from time to time) including a beautiful view you can wake up to or say goodbye to as the sun sets.

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Sunrise is beautiful on the Lake. I sat for over an hour just listening and watch the birds and the colors and surface of the lake change. The Mimosa trees are in full bloom. And ghost signs are always fun to find—this one was spotted in Cole Camp.

I swore to myself I would never go back to Arkansas. Now I know why I didn’t like it: sitting in the backseat while my aunt Linda drove us on those windy roads. But I appreciate the love my mother has for this part of the country. It’s where my grandmother, her mother, was raised. The theme in Mountainview is all about music and the arts. Mom participated in a dulcimer workshop while my sister, Ray, the kids and I enjoyed the crafts village. And what is a trip to Arkansas without opening the evening performance with a little Cowbell?

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Brooke, Mom and the kids take the stage. I have no idea who the kid on the left is, he pretty much took over the stage. Gunner and Heidi love to pose for the camera. After the stage manager asked me to meet backstage, I discovered no one was there except me and the cowbell so I took this photo with available light. It was fun to open the show. DM me if you want to see the video. Gunner quizzed me on animal tracks. I got 90% of them right!

The Ozark Folk Center and State Park is a wonderful creative asset to the state of Arkansas. Hundreds of artists have the opportunity to occupy the creative studios covering the folk arts and crafts of the region including: blacksmithing, gunsmithing, knife making, printmaking, ceramics, basketry, jewelry, apothecary, gardening, and much more! We acquired fun things like an iron-forged hook, garnet earrings, handmade soaps and salves, letterpress printed goods and an Arkansas Wooly Booger (for Gunner).

At the beginning of our adventure back in March, Ray and I would look at each other and ask, “Are we crazy?” Now we look at each other astonished and say, “We find ourselves in the most unexpected places.”

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Ray’s big catch and family finding a place to cool off after exploring the Blanchard Springs Caverns. Who knew that we would find ourselves sitting in a river in Arkansas in the middle of summer?

While we had a great time…It. Was. Hot. And thanks to the kid who poo’d in the pool, we won’t be enjoying the daily cool down at the hotel for the rest of our stay.

So on that note, we say goodbye to my kin and are headed to Oklahoma to visit some of Ray’s family then back to Mancos where his roots are for the annual Mancos Days weekend where both of his grandmothers have been previously recognized as Mancos Queens and we have enjoyed the Sharing the 81328 Perspective (that Ray and I founded) since 2003.

Back to Work…kinda

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Whether I’m working on a Visioneering project, practicing my lettering, or designing my next online lettering class, work is getting done. Pictured above: Outdoor office on the headwaters of the Arkansas River near Salida, Colorado.

When we first set out for this road trip, I had a picture on my phone of a girl reading a book in the woods with her teardrop trailer in the background. It was what I had envisioned this trip to be like. I deleted it after one week of being on the road with Flo because we had been fighting the weather, making repairs, and simply trying to figure out where we would sleep or eat next. I didn’t want to be reminded of such a romanticized image that would never come true for me. It wasn’t until Ray finally got the chance to fly fish on the Arkansas River (months later) that I got a taste of that original vision. I spent the first full day just working and catching up. Reading a backlog of emails, finalizing a deliverable from the LetterWorks conference, writing to the “Level Up Your Lettering” students about how to prep for our upcoming class in August. (Pssst, there is still room in this virtual class. Click here to learn more.) It was fun to post a few images on my Instagram feed and catch up with the Victoria, BC meetup on Facebook and share out a quick lettering video with other Neuland Ambassadors.

Then on day two after I woke up early to scrum with the Visioneering team, I went back to bed and took a long nap. I woke up, had lunch and started writing, reading, listening to podcasts and TED talks, drawing, practice my lettering, and made some sun tea.

Since last week’s post was really short, I have had people asking me to post all the “pit stops” and places we see. If you are interested, you can certainly check out my Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook feeds (personal and artist page). This blog is more about me writing about my experience, pondering what all of this means to be on the road and the feeling we/I have about leaving the DC during a very tumultuous time to finding myself not following the news for months and learning what the United States is really like, how great it already was, and how everything can be okay and all screwed up at the same time.

I’ve written stories behind the posts, shared backstories with friends who want to know about specific people or places I’ve written about. I’ve even hopped on Periscope for live spurts of what’s happening in the moment.

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Pictured above left to right, top to bottom: Sketchnotes from Leanne Pressly’s Influencer Marketing class held at the Steamplant. Sun Passion Tea. Recent Facebook post from last week’s visual practitioner meetup in Victoria, BC. Sketchnotes and postcard for upcoming community wine stop event at Vino Salida Wine Cellars.

Reflecting on and writing about what it’s really like—living life on the road—is what I want to go back and read a few months or years from now. I’ve really enjoyed listening to “My Life on the Road” by Gloria Steinem. When I read a few of our first posts from back in February and March, WOW! What a different place emotionally and mentally I was in. I was still trying to hold onto the knowledge I gained by working closely with the Visioneers while trying to forget and let go of the stress and trauma of living and working in the most resistant place I’ve ever been. There is so much good in the world and I just wasn’t feeling it in DC—the one place that should reflect and represent the diversity and the entire population of this country. When I was there, I was always torn between bringing my best, authentic self and trying to connect and empathize—doing so just left me feeling drained and compromised.

Life on the road is different and working from the road is also different. By creating a new space everyday, being challenged by the elements and circumstances, and meeting new people who value what I bring, I am able to stay in a balanced state of “Flow” = challenge + skill level. I’m also working on a vision for myself, my family, and for future work to bring all of my skills into one orchestrated work/life situation. I know it will take years to develop and perfect. What drives me is what I can accomplish in the time I am given. That can be in a simple task that is time-boxed or in the larger picture of life. I often ask myself what my legacy will be (keep in mind I don’t have children) or what will my obituary say? Some of you who have known me for a while understand because I have held a variety of jobs, even created a few of my own and have tried so many things. What I don’t want to do is live with deep regrets. I have a few already and I’m trying to minimize those. Taking the time to be on the road has given me a perspective that I couldn’t have gotten had I stayed in DC or even stayed in Durango in the first place. One of my favorite TED talk videos that inspires my thinking is Jane McGonigal’s “The Game that can give you 10 extra years of life” My Visioneering colleagues helped me see the importance of playing games. We even used “Massively Multi-Player Thumb Wrestling” as an energizer in our leadership and team offsites! Which can be found in Jane’s other TED talk with the same name. I have found Jane to be a big inspiration in my life and her game SuperBetter helped me heal from my own brain injury in 2009.

I love this death-bed regret she shares:

“I wish I’d led a life true to my dreams, and not what others expected of me.”

So while what I am doing may not make total sense to some of my family members, co-workers and friends, I know that by taking this adventure I won’t have to live (or die) with this regret. And I’d like to believe that we all can appreciate what it takes to make changes or things happen in our lives so that we may lead a life true to our dreams.

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While I was born and raised in Kansas, I have an odd sense of humor about tornadoes. I found this KOA “street sign” funny. Ray doesn’t take my jokes about them lightly. I also love wind generators and sunflowers. Your can find a roadside video of this wind generator in my Instagram feed.

Being on the road has meant living more in the moment, a.k.a. “flexing my ‘P'”—an MBTI term for being more Perceiving than Judging. My perception of and interaction with the outer world has changed and while I still maintain a high-level of “J” internally, going on this adventure has had a great influence on my inner thoughts as well.

As I find myself “retrograding” back to my hometown to return Flo and spend time with family, I can’t help but think of one of my favorite quotes (that I’m sure I have shared in different variations many times before):

“You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.” — Heraclitus

I can already see how patterns of behavior can be changed, even longstanding ones with family members. This visit was fun! And still not done. We are heading to Arkansas for a folk festival for a few days so the adventure continues!

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I had the distinct pleasure of sharing a creative space with my niece and nephew as I painted signs for a Chili Supper coming up this fall. Normally these kids are good except when armed with Nerf guns and water balloons. Then it’s no holds barred.

A False Homecoming

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One of my favorite places in nature is to sit by the lake (just about any lake). My friend Patricia Burk always saves me a seat next to her. We have a good time catching up and sharing stories and planning out the next chapter of our lives.

The drive back to Southwest Colorado from Ogden, Utah was beautiful. I could feel myself getting “closer to home” with every mile and change of scenery. I was recalling distant memories of what it was like to live there before, the familiar faces we will soon see again, and the possibility of finally settling down. Just as soon as I imagined myself being part of the land, keeping bees, finding my place in the community again, I felt a deep urge to keep going, to stay on the road as we have been. I didn’t want this wandering feeling to leave me. It’s so strong that anything that feels like a commitment also feels like a trap.

The mountains are calling and I must go, and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.”
—excerpt from John Muir’s letter to his sister Sarah Muir Galloway

But when I look at what I call the backside of the LaPlatas (because I have viewed them from the other side for so long) I know they are calling me home. A few visits with friends on their land, in their homes, and in nature validate all of this for me. I can’t help wonder how I will make a living in Southwest Colorado (SWCO). It’s doesn’t seem to need me or I just don’t see how I can contribute—at least not in the same way I did before. I guess it’s time to reinvent myself again.

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I have always been a collector of paper. I see my future in these boxes.

Ray and I opened our storage unit together for the first time in 4 months. After living in a 5’x 9′ space plus the Jeep, everything I laid eyes on seems unnecessary and extravagant. I wondered where we would land and if all of these things would join us or if some of it would get sold or donated to those in need.

Soon after landing in SWCO, we took off again. Packing for the next leg of the trip made landing here seem like a false start. It’s wedding time in Denver, folk fest time in Arkansas and time to return Flo back to Kansas where she will undergo her next instantiation.

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Grant Humphrey’s Mansion was a beautiful venue. The caterers were so well organized and family and friends were always close at hand to help out and make Erika and Steve’s vision a reality. We loved seeing so many familiar Mancos faces.

Whether it was a hot day, a cool evening or on the porch of the Grant Humphrey Mansion, you could find me designing, painting or touching up a sign for the wedding. Fifteen signs in all, I had a blast making letters for the lovely bride and groom.

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It was so much fun to be part of this wedding. And finally we get to witness and reap the benefits of having a wonderful new member of the family. We love you Steve! Photo by biking4baseball, Steve’s NPO that benefits kids. Steve is someone who always puts others before himself and is active in Big Brothers Big Sisters.

But all good things must end. So here we are saying goodbye to the Martinez family again and planning the next part of our trip traveling East to visit my family. And since checking the balance on our checking account today, we know our travels will soon come to an end. 😉

LetterWorks 2017

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When you realize that you are shoe twinsies with the conference co-director…Last year Judy Sommerfeldt, Joan Merrell and I were in Carol DuBosch’s folded pen class. After receiving my sketchnotes from class, they asked if I would be willing to help with the conference LetterWorks2017. I was honored.

A little context for those of you just tuning into my lettering journey…

Last year in March I was assigned so much work I got sick from the stress. I promised myself I would take time off when it was convenient for my client. Not seeing an end in sight, I started making plans for a force break. Because studying with calligraphers, sign painters, and graffiti artists was my big goal for 2017, I started researching who I wanted to study with next. With enough time off saved up and good timing, I took the opportunity to attend A Show of Hands in Asheville, North Carolina (June) and a Sign Painting workshop with Mike Meyer in Mazeppa, Minnesota (July). That trip started me out on a lettering journey that I thought would augment my graphic facilitation practice nicely. The journey continues and this week is so notable, I’m going to attempt to capture the highlights.

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Fun to meet up with friends from last year while instant friendships come fast and easy.

Pictured left to right, top to bottom: I finally met up with those I follow on Instagram: @breckenhand and @dletterz. Ann has great taste and knowledge on what classes to take so we meet at the end of each conference to exchange notes. We had a blast at the Newbies meeting and I was excited to meet Rebecca. Every time I saw her she was helping others and sharing her excitement about the conference. Sylvia is one of those generous souls who puts other’s needs before her own, letters beautifully and lives gracefully.

The international calligraphy conference is hosted by a different guild in a different region of North America each year. Unfortunately they aren’t consistent with the event name so they can be difficult to find—unless you have been in the scribe community for awhile. Last year the event was called A Show of Hands. This year’s LetterWorks event was held in Ogden, Utah. Next year’s event is called Seattletters and will be held July 14-21, 2018.

Upon arrival, it’s obvious this guild had an army of people to draw from to execute what has taken 3 years to organize. Because so many of the volunteers were new to the scene it had a refreshing, energized vibe. While last year I rented a tiny house for the week, this year I opted to stay in the dorm so I could be immersed in the conference. Because Ray and I had been on the road and I hadn’t had a wall or large flat surface to work on, I had to get to work right away to prep for the Newbie meeting the next morning. I met with Suzi Brown that afternoon and began preparing for what had planned to be a welcoming experience for those who were attending the conference for the first time.

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Answers to FAQs were captured in real-time during the Newbie meeting. The completed version of this 4′ x 6’chart hung near the conference office all week.

I wanted the newbies to not only receive the information they needed to thrive this week, but get to know one another and express their interest in calligraphy. So I asked each attendee to create a quick avatar of themselves to share with others. Using a large sticky note they each drew a quick sketch of themselves, included their name, classes they are taking (because it’s the #1 question and conversation starter at the conference) and one goal, vision or aspiration they had for the week. I asked them to introduce themselves to one another and take selfies as a way to network and make connections.

While this was their first time attending conference, many of them had been practicing calligraphy for awhile. So I divided the room into five areas of the room according to experience: 1-3 years, 3-5 years, 5-10 years, 10-20 years, and asked those with over 20 years of experience to stand next to me in case I could learn my osmosis. Once they were in place I asked those new to the field to look to the seasoned calligraphers for insight and advice. Then I shared something I overhead at lunch. I had the great fortune of sitting with Carol Pallesen who asked Annie Cicale, “Remember when we were taking Hermann Zapf’s class at RIT in 1986?” In the moment, I thought I would fall out of my chair. When I shared this with the Newbies I saw those new to the field get weak in the knees and give “saucer eyes” while those seasoned calligraphers knowingly nodded in agreement. Then I asked those seasoned to take time this week to share their wisdom with those younger to help carry their story forward.

After the Newbie meeting I attended the class monitor meeting. I then felt fully inducted into the scribe tribe. Full of questions and excitement to be supporting Carol DuBosch and the students while taking her “Bone” class, I took copious notes so I could be the best-darn-class-monitor-I-could-be.

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Carol DuBosch shows examples of her work to the class and sets the tone for the next two days.

“Bone” was designed by Jaki Svarem with the intention to teach students pen manipulation for brush Roman caps. We started by using walnut and Higgins ink with an Automatic Pen (4, 4a, or 5) and graduated to watercolor and other writing tools.

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Sketchnotes and first attempts at using color while writing Bone.

I have heard and agree to the claim that Carol DuBosch is a teacher’s teacher. With 50 years of experience she is a master of her craft and her pedagogy is unmatched: graceful presentation with impeccable timing and a hint of humor to keep students engaged yet at ease as they learn, experiment, and create.

Now pair that with learning Bone and you will discover that this hand is extremely addictive and elusive. Because Bone is most interesting when the letters overlap, just about the time that you get a certain stroke or letter down it seems to slip away as soon as you put it in relationship with another letter. I can see myself practicing this hand daily. My challenge will be to figure out a way to incorporate it into graphic recordings.

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While Bone can be used in visuals, I think this flipchart agenda is likely to be more accepted by my calligraphy scribe peers versus in a corporate environment.

Once I was able to show the value of visuals at the Newbie meeting, I was introduced to Brecken, the president of the Utah guild, who was leading the Guild Rep Meeting. She was seeking support for the meeting (that she had not attended previously) so we met over dinner to discuss the needs of the group. This is my favorite kind of discovery meeting: the client is assigned to do a task but the ambiguity is so high ideas are endless. The natural tendency to make assumptions are quickly resolved by following value-based tenets like: assume noble intent, hold a space for others to be successful, work with the energy and strengths of the group, and find and fill gaps.

Together we planned a meeting that would answer the questions of the group (previously submitted via email), harvest knowledge on topics like guild growth, conference planning, and workshops and programming. Between the time we met and the meeting, I did my best to seek out as many guild representatives to learn about their guilds and encourage them to attend.

When we got to the Fireplace Lounge, surprisingly there were several large round tables set up to accommodate up to 50 people when we were only expecting a handful. To our surprise, we had to bring in more chairs! Thinking quickly on my feet, I changed up the structure of the meeting while preserving the agenda:

1) HARVEST the valuable knowledge that’s available in the room and throughout the guilds
2) DOCUMENT the process so that it can be repeated
3) SHARE and continue these important conversations
4) TAKE ACTION! How we contribute will define the health of our guilds and our community

After Brecken welcomed everyone she turned the meeting over to me. Always starting with Appreciative Inquiry, I asked participants to share any exciting accomplishments their guild has experienced over the past year. We then gathered representative’s names and roles from each of the guilds in attendance so that we could document and share what gets accomplished in the meeting. One of the biggest concerns of guilds is growth. In just 15 minutes we were able to discuss, distill, and share over 50 unique ideas of ways guilds can or have successfully grow engagement.

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Many thanks to Joy Deneen for helping guide the group as both a group lead and president of the Montreal guild, who incidentally will be hosting the 2019 conference. And to C.C. Sadler for documenting the meeting and helping serve as a subject matter expert in the room about process.

I won’t bore you with the action items or other details of the meeting. I share this because as an artist/graphic facilitator this was a perfect match of my skills and passion. I was in complete Flow and my hope is to do more outreach like this to support the calligraphy community.

Since I had met all of my goals for the week: sketchnoting, graphic recording, facilitating, graphic facilitating, coaching and filling others buckets, it was time for me to self-actualize some of my ongoing stretch goals. One of which I have been working on for years is to build a bridge between my fine art and commercial work. I have had a foot in both arenas my entire professional life. Commercial work supports me financially while my fine art satisfies my creative side and passionate urges. Making another attempt to build that bridge was my intention going into Amity Park’s class.

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Arguments of Intelligibility: Entanglements & Disjoint Union. Ink, graphite, gesso, and pastel on found book pages from a Japanese reverence book.

Midway through this 2.5 day class, I had an existential crisis—probably a natural way to cope given my intention and ongoing challenge. While in it, I didn’t realize it. It wasn’t until I looked up at the wall of student works did I realize that my work did not look like the others. I won’t go into all of the logical reasons why but I will say that going through the motions helped me in a profound way that I look forward to carrying forward during my artist residency at Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, Colorado next month.

Just about the time I thought my presentation opportunities were over, I learned of one more opportunity to expose calligraphers to the type of work I am doing with graphic facilitation. After the faculty closed their shops at Market Place, Serendipity began. In a rush, I grabbed my Neuland gear (forgot my phone) and found a table to let others get a taste of what it is like to use the tools. I enjoyed watching them translate pointed pen and broad edge hands when using the ArtMarker and BigOne markers. I answered questions, let people write/draw, and even gave out some swag to those who showed great interest in the work of a Visual Practitioner. I have a lot of follow up work to do as there are at least 4 calligraphers who have the excitement are ready to jump to the wall. They just need some training to hone their existing skills.

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All week people have been curious about graphic facilitation. I took the opportunity to show them and let them write with Neuland markers on practice paper at Serendipity—an evening event where we exchange tips, tools, and tricks.

As I was walking out of the building I was greeted by my good friend from Durango Louise Grunewald. I wanted to show her the Neuland ArtMarker and see what she could do with it. Before I knew it, I had created a pop-up station for the master calligraphers who missed my booth for Serendipity. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of them working. Honestly I was quite distracted watching Yves Leterme, Louise, Jenny Nicholson, Carol Palleson, Joy Deneen, and Annie Cicale all lined up throwing flourishes and making marks I didn’t know these markers were capable of—they certainly haven’t found their way out of my fingertips yet, but I’m working on it!

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Sample work of calligraphers play with Neuland’s ArtMarker and BigOne.

Phew! What a week. I can happily report that I connected with newbies and masters, networked with the movers and shakers, bonded with the intellectuals and artists, worked alongside of the professionals and those trying techniques for the first time. I spent half the week with my dear friend Fritzi–the eldest person at the conference and with one of my calligraphic mentors, Carol DuBosch. It’s a week built on the heels of last year’s event, one that I will never forget, and another growth opportunity and major milestone in my lettering journey.

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When I reflect on the short time I have spent with Carol and what a profound impact she has had on my life, I can’t help but think about the possibilities in the coming year.

Travel Preferences, Lettering Workshop and Conference

Travel Preferences

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When we can cook, be in the shade and out of the elements, we have a great time camping.

In a world of high-end hotels, resorts, casinos, and retreat centers, there also exists RVing, teardrop adventures and tent camping.

When choosing a place to stay, you can do all the research you want, but there’s nothing like seeing where you will sleep at night in person. As a precaution, we reserved our time in the Redwoods back in February, but because we didn’t want to confine ourselves by planning every minute, we kept a lot of options open. That left us with a lot of state campgrounds because they tend to have better availability, especially on weekends. Our preference: privacy but not completely shaded, electric and water where possible, quiet, good showers and clean bathrooms. Is that too much to ask?

Looking back at when we left Kansas in April, we didn’t even know where we were going to sleep that night. We just started driving. We were more concerned about what it would be like to pull Flo and how we would deal with some of the things that were left unfinished. We ended up an an RV resort which was so early in the season that felt like an abandoned RV village. Since then we have had a few experiences of camping alongside of RVs at KOAs and last-minute stops because we needed to rest. While it is nice to have all of the amenities of an RV park, it’s still so very foreign to me to see a bunch of boxes parked 6 feet from one another in the hot sun. I can’t figure out where the fun is in that. Then, on the nights that it’s cold and rainy in the forest, I really want and need hot water to make tea or for a warm water bottle. Because without electricity, we can’t use our hot pot or small heater. And our only advantage over tent camping in the rain is that we aren’t sleeping on the ground and don’t feel the wind or get wet. We do sacrifice our canopy so we don’t have to listen to the sound of raindrops on Flo’s metal shell.

After 19 straight days of camping we finally got camper’s fatigue. Our backs hurt, we had been overexposed to cold and rain then immediately to deadly heat. Flo is insulated but she’s also metal so that means we are hot potatoes in the sun. So to escape we found a nice cool diner for breakfast instead of making breakfast at camp, visited a farmer’s market and winery in the shade, tasted a lot of beer and wine at the Homebrewers festival in Lakeport, CA, and caught a movie (Wonder Woman) which is the ultimate in escape from the sun: a dark, cold room where you can take a nap if you want to. When I ordered peanut butter M&Ms and the cashier asked if I wanted them frozen, I was in shock. Part of me wanted to jump over the counter and kiss her, the other half wanted to faint.

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Driving 6 mph in 9 lanes of traffic in 115 degree heat near Petaluma, CA.

Leaving the mountains for the Hilton

Then it was time to continue to head south to Santa Clara, CA to teach my lettering workshop. All of the supplies have been delivered and everything was ready to go. After talking with friends and reading a lot on the internet about traffic near San Francisco, I was afraid to pull Flo in heavy traffic areas through Silicon Valley. We opted for Hwy 1. While it was wonderful to see the coast, it probably took 5 hours longer than necessary since it was Father’s Day and everyone was on the beach. The highlight was pulling off at Half Moon Bay for a snack of smoked salmon belly we picked up at the market. That had to be the single-most delicious thing I have eaten on this whole trip.

And the final destination that day: The Hilton. It will be our first nice hotel since starting this adventure and given everything we had been through the last two weeks, it was justified. I cranked the AC and took a shower and another and still didn’t feel fully out of the woods yet. And with a king-size bed, we finally got an incredible night’s sleep.

Arriving at Dana’s was an oasis. We beat the heat and were immediately greeted by Josie and Mysti, our new-found canine friends. I spent the day making final preparations for the class as Ray relaxed from the long drives we had been making and researched what he would see in San Jose while I was teaching.

Thanks to Dana and Kylah’s efforts to get the class filled and having an extra hand, Serafina joined us in getting the classroom set up.

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Crazy amounts of Neuland swag including Hand Lettering Learning Pad (full-size and to-go), markers of all sizes and varying colors, hacks, handouts and more!

I was in heaven. Although I didn’t get to make a lot of letters, I did get to spend time with some of the best visual practitioners in the business. At least half of the class was made up of seasoned professionals—who claimed they learned a lot which blows me away. Several of these people have been my graphic recording heroes and here they were with an abundance of Neuland swag in front of them, waiting for me to show them lettering tricks.

In a short time, I had made a new friend in Dana. She shared her future vision which makes me excited about out field. We as a collective have so much wisdom and talent to help the world. I believe if we channel that energy to the things we really need as a species, we can ultimately sustain and thrive.

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The four people pictured here are some of my graphic recording heroes. What could they possibly be learning from me? I would love to know and superimpose that into this photo!

It was hard to leave Dana’s house but it was time to move on. As soon as I packed up the leftover swag, I immediately started thinking about my next big event: LetterWorks 2017. I have been thinking and dreaming about this annual international conference since last year’s conference. Learning folded pen and Neuland Hand from Carol DuBosch not only improved my lettering, but changed the trajectory of my career and life. It set the stage for my journey in lettering and revisiting the conference will serve as a reminder and set the tone for the next chapter.

Crossing the Desert

The time and distance covered between the workshop and the conference is the most compressed we have experienced. So while the drive across the Nevada desert was long, it didn’t take long. We made it to Reno the day after the workshop where I began to look like a girl again with a pedicure and a facial. Finally! My skin was thanking me!

And because of the heat we stayed at casinos. I learned that I am really good at playing Keno. Not because I’m good with numbers, figuring out how to play took me about 45 minutes. I simply draw pictures on the Keno card and start betting. I won $18.75. I know, no biggie but at least I didn’t lose!

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I dug my toes in the salt at the Bonneville Salt Flats. I swear I could taste salt for the rest of the day. You can watch my silly Periscope here.

Then finally miles matched up with time and we arrived in Ogden, UT for the LetterWorks conference. Here I will study with Carol DuBosch to learn “Bone,” a broad-edge hand and with Amity Parks to make art Fearlessly. I have always wanted to take a class from Amity as I love her approach and style in graphite. I need to try to find a way to take her graphite class. She was offering it, there were just too many good choices for the first half of the week.

Since last year was my first year at conference, I wanted to meet those who would be visiting the conference for the first time this year. So I volunteered to graphic record the Newbie meeting. And because Carol is in my Top 10 all-time favorite people list, when I was asked to be her class monitor, I quickly said yes. So while I couldn’t make it to the IFVP conference, I did find a tribe I can relate to.

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Here is the chart prior to adding all of the details covered in the meeting.

After posting this chart on Instagram, I realized that it was the first of my graphic recordings that I have posted online in two years! All of my work has been proprietary so I couldn’t share it. Crazy! And drawing this up was not easy. First, I haven’t had a flat surface/wall to work on this for over a month and it was due the next day. Second, the content has changed so not sure how relevant it is. And lastly, the worst possible scenario: I realized that I am NOT a calligrapher but a hack with a marker. What business do I have writing letters in front of everyone?

What I did discover is that in just a few hours, I can pull together relevant information and inspiration and deliver a wonderful ice breaker. Upon arriving to the room, participants were asked to create an “avatar” of themselves on a large post-it note. Then I separated the room into 4 areas based on the time they had been practicing calligraphy. To my surprise, we had to create a 5th region for calligraphers with over 20 years of experience! And I asked them to stand next to me in hope that I could learn my osmosis.

I asked those new to the field to look to those with experience and tap into their wisdom. I also read a quote that I overheard while having lunch with Carol Palleson and Annie Cicale. Carol said, “Remember when we took Hermann Zapf’s class at RIT in 1986?” I just about fell out of my chair when I heard that. So I shared it with the group and reminded them of the wisdom we have in this conference. Then I asked the more experienced calligraphers to look to those new to the field and reminded them that this is the next generation and they need them to carry on their story. It was really sweet how this community comes together and shares a passion for letters.

 

Flo in the Redwoods

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Flo is dwarfed by these 2nd and 3rd growth Redwoods in our camp. We got rained out the first two days but the last three were fantastic.

It was hard to say goodbye to the Oregon Coast. I love mountains, beaches and cold weather so it was my personal heaven on earth. Writing letters in the sand satisfied my connection with nature and gave me a sense of being there without leaving a permanent trace. And the weather was so nice—cold but sunny and not raining. Until we got to the Redwoods.

Immediately Ray said our campground wouldn’t work. That as soon as it rains, we will be living in a big puddle. His foresight and the way he executed  his landscape engineering skills was helpful but not infallible.

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In addition to small barriers to guide water away from Flo, Ray also made small “logger’s” trenches to release the water out of our camp and into the road where it could move downhill.

After two days of rain, at 5 a.m. on Sunday we were surrounded by water. By 9 a.m., the water had soaked into the earth and though we were left with mud, we had high areas to walk in and our entryway into Flo was clear again. We couldn’t believe how much water had fallen and how quickly it was soaked up by our neighboring giants.

We spent the morning celebrating and waving goodbye to the weekend campers while making a big, traditional breakfast of potatoes and onions with parsley from our stay at www.ForestandFarm.org, eggs, bacon and orange juice. Because cooking on the small Coleman takes time, I prepped calabacitas for dinner. The rain had stopped, but every once and a while, we were graced with water from the trees thanks to the wind coming off the coast.

Our camp is beautiful. While in full shade, the canopy is high and the ground is lush with ferns, clover, redwoods and moss-covered trees I can’t identify.

Never wanting to miss a chance to learn, we made our way to Stout Grove in Jedediah Forest for the 2pm forest tour. And just like us we were at the wrong place at the wrong time and missed the first half of the tour. That’s okay, it’s a small loop trail so we walked it twice.

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It was hard to catch a good landscape pano without anyone on the trail.

I thought when we left Oregon, my slug fears would be over. They’ve increased more after the rains and the wonderful symbiotic relationship the banana slug has with redwood trees.

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Sixteen feet in diameter, this Redwood affectionately known as “Coin Slot,” was a popular stop along the trail.

While I found solace in the trees, Ray found them in Smith River. Unfortunately we came between steelhead and trout season so no fishing on this trip.

And what a way to end the day—a evening program at the outdoor theatre. The first night we learned about Big Trees, Big Waves, and Big Foots. The interpreter told wonderful historical stories and myths. It was educational and fun both as an observer of the presenter and those in the theatre who came together to tell stories around the campfire.

We got rained out completely on day two. We spent the day doing laundry in town and went to bed early to escape from the rain. With no electricity or cell phone service nor anywhere to go (because you can’t stand, nor really sit up on Flo, sleeping was our only other option).

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Caught doing all of the silly tourist things: finding Big Foot, Paul Bunyan, rocks along the river, and paying to drive through a tree.

Day three was cold but we managed to get in a few hikes around the campground. Big Tree and Cathedral Trail on day four was a highlight. Our necks paid the price for all the looking up. And a quick jaunt through Revelation Trail—created for the visually impaired—allowed us to hear, smell, touch, and taste our way through the forest.

We were enamored by these tall giants. So much so that it was difficult to pick a book from the visitor’s center. Our guides gave us inspiration though. One of them spoke of the logging culture and how it’s part of the fabric of the forest. She also mentioned Julia Butterfly Hill, an activist who tree-sat for over two years at 180 feet off the ground. We found her book and was immediately hooked. Her intention and dedication—though in opposition of the lumber industry—is remarkable. We read a few chapters before going to bed. Her story is addictive. We have seen a lot of clear cutting from northern Washington through California. But it wasn’t until we traveled south down the coast and witnessed the devastation clear cutting caused in Stafford, CA and to the rivers. Ray’s family is steeped in logging (but regionally, not really involved in big corporate logging) and on the flip side many of you know that I’m an avid treehugger. But together, we understand the balance and the need for both sides. So “The Legacy of Luna” has sparked interesting conversation since leaving the Redwoods.

 

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A great read before bedtime and while on the road.

Our travels south gave us one more opportunity to savor the Coast Redwoods. We took the top off of the Jeep and ventured through the Avenue of the Giants. We were called to stop and explore and I found an Elder for wisdom as we near Summer Solstice. There is something different about a Redwood than any other tree. I never felt the difference between species of trees until now. The Redwood is solitary, like an individual, yet connected to the entire forest. From the water that it absorbs from it’s shallow root system it cares for itself and all of it’s inhabitants that live at every altitude.

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One last stop in the Redwoods with Flo in tow.

Did you know that the Coast Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are taller than any other living thing? They can live over 2,000 years and withstand fires, floods, and insects. Tannins, the very thing that makes them red also allow them to be fireproof. Many plants and animals live almost exclusively in the canopy of the Redwoods. A rare sea bird the Marbled Murrelet flies directly from the ocean to a wide branch to lay one egg a year. because the Murrelet doesn’t nest, the egg is exposed to predators.

As we venture south, the weather went from cold and damp—so much so that lighting a fire at night became a chore with very little ROI—to beyond my melting temperature. If you know me, I’m in constant heat-flash mode if it’s over 78 degrees. And that kind of heat makes me want to take a lot of naps. So while I thrived up North, Ray thrives in shorts. We use the same tent configuration in full sun as we do in the rain so that we don’t turn Flo into an oven. It is nice however to have the dry air over the damp. Flo is finally drying out, as are our shoes, and so are we.

This is our last camping stop for a few days. We are treating ourselves to a night in a hotel, spending time with friends and getting ready to teach a lettering class where we still have a few spots left: bit.ly/SCCAlettering.

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Participants in this class are going to receive an INSANE amount of Neuland swag!

Headed for the Bay Area, I’m so excited to meet and teach lettering to some of the best graphic facilitators and visual practitioners in the industry. And I’m happy to report that the online Level Up Your Lettering class is filling up with those All-Stars who can’t make the in-person workshop. I love sharing my lettering knowledge so much and knowing that I’m making lettering easier, more creative, and more readable for the practitioners and their audiences is extremely fulfilling. I’m looking forward to the next art residency where I can continue this work and setting up a lettering studio to scale and grow the effort.

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With roots shaped like handles growing out of the side of this Redwood, it was just begging me to climb it. There was a place about 30′ up where you could stand in a crevice in the middle but I was afraid I wouldn’t make it back down without hurting myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Oregon Coast

We used to live on the 15th floor in a beige building. Now we live in a 1947 teardrop trailer in the woods. Yep, we’ve down sized.

Discovering Myrtlewood, Tillamook and finding the perfect taco

You would have thought it was Memorial Day weekend at Nehalem Bay State Park. Every campsite was full and with such close quarters, I felt we knew everyone around us personally. We could smell their campfires, what they were making for dinner, we could even hear their conversations. Adventures to nearby towns, beaches, and hiking trails made it all worth it.

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Flo at camp Nehalem. We have all kinds of configurations depending on weather, space and length of stay.

I love the signs found in these small coastal towns. A lot are hand painted with great designs. Funny though how I never found a sign shop. There was a Myrtlewood sign that caught my eye. Remembering that Tim (of www.TimsPens.com) told me that my first folded pen handle was made of Myrtlewood, I wanted to check out the store. Ray and I found all kinds of products made of Myrtlewood—from hand-turned bowls and kitchen utensils to wall decorations, furniture and raw materials for artists. The store smelled wonderful and we walked away with a few small treasures.

When you hear the word Tillamook, what do you think of? I think of big blocks of cheese and that’s it. What surprised we when we visited the Tillamook visitor’s center (next to the factory) was how much cheese they made: 170,000 pounds a day and how they sourced their milk from over 150 farmers. They test each batch of milk and don’t accept milk with antibiotics. We ate a lot of cheese that day and a good deal of ice cream too.

Don’t you know that there is a perfect taco just around the corner? That is if there is a food truck serving tacos. If your name is Ben, or know me well, you know I love a good taco. We found a taco truck in Tillamook so good that we went for an early dinner and ate it there for lunch as we left Sutton and made our way down to Port Orford the next day.

What reception?

Staying at a campsite like Nehalem has it’s downfalls. But it also has internet access. The campground at Sutton Lake did not. And it was a rude awakening. We know that when you are camping, you should be convening with nature but when we turned off Hwy 101 to Sutton we went from service to none. No biggie, other than I am trying to fill my upcoming lettering class (www.bit.ly/SCCAlettering) on Santa Clara.

We did have electric, and water was about 25 yards away. We were nicely tucked in a cedar forest with a small creek running through our camp. We’ve found that two nights are just enough anywhere we’ve stayed, sometimes three is better but we just don’t know until we get there.

Having a field day in Eugene

Before leaving on this adventure, we asked people for advice, where to stop, and things to do on the road. We are still taking requests so feel free to email us.

Our new friend and co-conspirator of Flo’s rebuild, Clint Marsh, advised us to get a hotel room once a week while traveling. It would allow us to really stretch out, eat a decent meal (did he not know that I have a nose for tacos trucks?), do laundry and watch a little tv. We should have listened for two reasons: 1) when it’s predicted to rain for 4 days straight, even a turkey knows to get out of the rain and 2) I think I’m starting to get delusional. I am loving camping so much, I think I can make a lifestyle out of this. Insert sound of record playing screech to a halt here. Here is my thinking…We have everything we need and everything has it’s place. We can put up camp in less than an hour and there is so much of the world to see. It’s inexpensive and if we stay in one place for awhile, we could become camp hosts at a campground. They oftentimes have satellite TV and I could put on art activities for all ages throughout the week. I know I would attend an art class while camping. This sounds like heaven to me. If you know me well and agree that I am losing my mind, please call my mother I think she is putting together an intervention.

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I’ve lost count of how many beaches we’ve visited. Who wouldn’t want to live life on the road when there are days like this with unlimited amounts of the state crustacean of Oregon—the Dungeness crab—to eat?

So to escape this crazy thinking, Ray suggested we drive into Eugene for the day and check things out. Perhaps because we only spent a few hours there before heading back, but Eugene was not the civilization I thought I would find. My first clue was when I realized I was still dressed better than most people on the street despite the fact that I have acquired some pretty interesting clothes on this trip and the combinations are hilarious.

And when we went looking for a place to make a picnic on the University of Oregon’s campus, we found ourselves in the bleachers at Hayward stadium. These two beach bums walked in like we owned the place, sat down, made a few leftover chicken salad sandwiches from stuff we found in the cooler (no, they were not premade, we are still unrefined campers at this point) and watched the NCAA World Championship Track and Field practice. We missed the competition by one day. So I guess you could say we had a field day in Eugene. And we continue to find ourselves in interesting places, doing unexpected things.

Bah Humbug in the rain

Our last night in Sutton was nice. Ray built a roaring fire with the wood we couldn’t carry with us. There are strict rules about not transporting wood as to not share critters and things as you travel. And when we woke, we packed up camp and reviewed where we’ve been since leaving DC in late February.

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I look forward to hanging our map on a wall and highlighting where we have been.

After a few stops in North Bend and Bandon to take pictures, acquire more funny clothes, and finally taste the Dungeness crab we’ve been after (it seems that Northern Oregon has been having issues with contaminated crabs), we made it to Humbug Mountain Campground as the rain started. Ray reminded me that people in Oregon do everything in the rain, otherwise nothing would get done. We have been fortunate not to have any rain while in the Pacific Northwest until now. Yep, two weeks of beautiful weather from Northwest Washington to Southwest Oregon. Now we have 4 nights of rain forecasted causing us to put up and take down camp 4 times in the rain. This should be interesting.

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Here’s Flo in the rain. She’s almost small enough to fit under the canopy. The side tent serves as a changing room and dry storage space when we aren’t trying to escape from mosquitoes.

Remember the tight quarters I mentioned at Nehalem? Well “Sarge,” the grumpy grandpa that kept yelling at his well-behaved grandkids for who-knows-what was a saint compared to the two crazies staying next to us in the camper-that-I’m-convinced-is-their-permanent-home. Phew! Ray and I turned it positive by kissing each time they cussed each other out. I felt like we were on our second honeymoon.

Keeping in Touch with our Future Selves

Despite we week we have had after last week’s epic adventures, two great art things happened: The Art of Lettering workshop I am teaching in Santa Clara, California on June 20 has enough students that it’s a go and Elsewhere Studios awarded us an artist residency for the entire month of August. If you know of anyone who lives in Silicon Valley and would like a day of lettering, please have them sign up ASAP. While we will be in the Redwoods, we are taking signups until a few days before. The class is already full of some of the best graphic facilitators in the industry and we are asking educators, facilitators, and others who aren’t in this field to join us because it’s really all about lettering. I ask participants to fill out a fun and easy lettering self-assessment so I can customize the class to their needs.

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I’m excited to share lots of Neuland swag and lettering tips with some of my favorite visual practitioners in the world. I’m blown away by the participant list. And there are a few spaces left!

I love that month-long art residencies are the bookends of our adventure. We started at Arts Letters and Numbers in Averill, NY (near Albany) and we will end our adventure making art again at Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, Colorado. Ray will continue his portrait project and I will begin to meld my work from ALN: fine art and Flow with my work at Caetani: letters and technology. My hope is to get some beautiful letters drawn that are considered fine art and continue to build an online curriculum for those wanting to learn lettering for their work. When we were accepted for the residency, they asked for our bios, artist statements and headshots to include on their website. We looked at the ones we shot in Averill park and thought it would be funny to shoot similar ones but in the environment we are in now. Just a few hours later we came across this swing at the dunes in Sutton and reenacted the scenes.

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Hmmm…which photos should we use for our bios? Maybe it’s time to clean up for a real photo shoot.

Redwoods here we come!

I’m posting early this week because we are headed for the Redwoods. We likely won’t have internet service (and were not planning on using it anyway). It may be a week or so before I post again. I look forward to that report.

3 Trips of a Lifetime, All in One Week!

Landscape of Learning with Hank Patton and his crew
Cold Spring Farm in Underwood, WA

Hwy 14 was a long winding road when we could have taken 84. We quickly made our way noting the places we wanted to visit on our way back down the highway again. It seemed like a slow road to get there and it will likely be a slow road back to Portland with all the stops. There is just simply so much to do and see.

Once we pulled into Hank’s driveway at Cold Spring, the rest of the world fell away. We were greeted by Elona, the Executive Director who introduced us to Hank, the founder. He quickly helped us find a place for Flo and invited us to make ourselves at home as he tended to his chores. I followed him closely as I wanted to experience as much as I could in our short time there. He directed me on where I could stand as he introduced a new queen to a hive. This is his second hive for the season. All of his bees died last year when the snow got too deep to get to them. For those of you following this blog, you know how much I love being around bees.

Ray joined us as we were finishing up and together we fed 10 newborn kids. These Nubians were 2-6 days old and very anxious to swill down ~375ml each of their collective goat mother’s milk.

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These kids were agressive and grew quickly. These were the youngest of 11. By the time we left 48 hours later, I swear they doubled in size.

We took a quick break to have a little tequila and honey-sweetened lemonade in honor of our mutual friend’s birthday: Robert, who Ray and I met while artists-in-residents at http://www.ArtsLettersNumbers.com. He and Diane are responsible for Ray and I meeting Hank. Then I was off to cut chives from the garden while Hank made a wonderful pasta with vegetables from the garden.

I thought all of this was about World Steward but we learned so much more as I sketched out some notes. The relationship between Forestandfarm.org and bigSMALL, to Intergenerational Finance and working off of the money system proved to me that we are all connected in many ways. The complicity of subject matter reminded me of my opportunities with Robert and my graphic recordings while working in DC. There was so much I didn’t understand until I started drawing it out. It quickly became evident what the purpose and vision was, how important it is to the rest of the world, and how those who are helping on the farm are part of something so much greater than themselves and the square mile of land they are caring for.

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Ray and I were fortunate enough to meet Hank through mutual friends, Robert and Diane from West Sand Lake, NY. The 48-hour stay with Hank was exciting and very down to earth.

Ray fished my Neuland backpack from the packed car so I could share my graphic facilitation tools with Hank. I shared with him how the Visioneering team got started and how we operate as a high-performing team. It was fun to review what seemed like a memory (only because I have been offline for a few days). I quickly began to understand how my skills can support his efforts. The question was when and how?

The night was hot and damp. I hadn’t felt that kind of humidity since living in Kansas. Surrounded by trees and all those who inhabit them, Ray and I found ourselves quite cozy in Flo. And cracked the widows wide open for the first time on our trip.

A long, dark and quiet night gave me an opportunity to sleep in—the first in months. When we arrived at the house we were greeted by Jonathon and Sarah, more stewards of the land. While Elona doesn’t see it that way, instead of stewarding, we all have a deep relationship and connection WITH the land. We fed the kids again and made our way to breakfast. Oatmeal has never tasted so good. Between the goats milk and an array of dried fruits and nuts, we shared what we were thankful for: Robert and Diane, for the work being done here, sweethearts and best friends, nourishment and travelers.

Hoping to earn our keep while enjoying the land, Ray and Sarah picked radishes and later Ray and I cleaned them. I played ball with Winnow and Pan, the dogs who generously do their job as ranch hands. Ray and I walked around the farm to view the chickens, orchard, get an update on the bees, billy goats and trees. We talked about the land we have been dreaming of, the cow and chickens Ray wants, and the bees that I want to keep. This isn’t the first of our talks about such things. We have been dreaming of it since we left Durango in 2014. The question is where and how will that will all come about. It’s coupled with where we will land and how we will sustain ourselves.

Hank ran a tractor until lunch so the additional farm hands who just arrived could install chicken wire around newly planted trees and prep plants for the greenhouse to come. Hank and I met at 3pm under the canopy attached to Flo until it got cold and we needed to find our way to the sun.

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Graphic Facilitation can happen anywhere. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Hank and his team. This group has a strong vision and visuals are a natural fit for their culture.

We talked about the critical path of Hank’s efforts as I worked my markers until they were out of ink. Jonathan showed great interest in the work I was doing and others on the staff wanted to know when we would return so we could continue the conversation. I’ve worked with a lot of incredible visionaries in my life. I love to hear their ideas and I love working with those who support them to help them become high-performing teams. This group is already high-performing. But I could tell they would like to use markers in their process so we left a few behind for them.

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Yep, that’s Ray milking his first goat. And it wasn’t the only one he milked. He really has a knack for drymilking. Me, not so much.

Another feeding of the kids, then milking of the mamas…
It was hard to stay goodbye to the bees and the trees and drive away. When you leave a group of people so passionate about the land and their efforts, it has you question the meaning of other things—making it all seem insignificant. With Flo in tow, we drove back over the long, bumpy road and reflected on how the last 2 days had such a profound impact on us so quickly became a speck in our rearview mirror. Not to worry, we have set a date to return—and put a stake in the ground as a possible hitching post for the future.

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Elona, Sarah and Jonathon put together a beautiful basket for our departure. Carol was kind enough to give us a bamboo stick that could hang in the jeep and later at our camp where the herbs continued to dry before we put them in jars to include in future meals.

The importance of being in receiving mode with Carol DuBosch
Guests in her Portland, Oregon studio and home

My world was rocked and my career trajectory shifted when I met Carol DuBosch last summer at “A Show of Hands” in Asheville, NC. I recognized immediately that we share similar values around sharing knowledge and maintaining a lettering practice. She of course has decades of experience and has likely laid down a million more letters in ink than I have. I was fortunate enough to have taken 2 classes with her: Neuland Hand—which I currently teach a version of to visual practitioners and Folded Pen—which I still owe her a sketchnote handout for. My idea as she seems perfectly content with the 10 or so pages I created in her class that I shared with her students.

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Carol and I posing after class one day at A Show of Hands in Asheville, NC, 2017.

I’m signed up to take “Bone” from her at LetterWorks in June. But when she said she was teaching “Rustics” using a brush at the same time we will be passing through Portland, I couldn’t pass up the invite to visit her and her studio AND take her class. Both of these lettering styles will convert to wedge tip markers. So I will attempt to adapt them to work for rapid capture recording.

The night before class, I was overwhelmed with the thought that I would be a lettering outcast and feel so behind. Carol’s other students have been studying Rustics for weeks in this 9-week class. Some of them may have been with her for years. I recalled that I saw one of Carol’s students on social media showing her Rustics a month or so back and I was fraught with jealously—her work was gorgeous! Oh what I wouldn’t give to have the opportunity to take a weekly class from Carol. So after an hour or so of tossing and turning, I turned on my phone, watched a few videos, examined an exemplar and tried to memorize it.

The next morning as I poured over her art books in her studio, she asked how I was feeling about the class. I told her I was nervous about being in her class of advanced calligraphers and shared my concerns. Before I knew it, she swiftly pulled out a brush and pen and began showing me a few key strokes and letters. Naturally my first attempts were that of a complete beginner. While I was able to pull from some of my brush experience learning Roman from Hermineh Miller (Instagram.com/lotusmoon1), nothing prepared me for the steep angles and pen manipulation of Rustics. And because it was traditionally scribed quickly as graffiti on the walls of Pompeii, I had to work hard at learning the form while intellectualizing speed because we all know that you can’t learn both at once. Before I knew it, I filled 4 pages and it was time to go to class.

“To learn a hand quickly, at night before falling asleep, draw the letters with your eyes on the insides of your eyelids.”

I first heard this tip from Carol. When I told her in the car on the way to class, she said she learned that from her teacher Lloyd Reynolds.

When I got to class, of course I took my place at the front of the room, set out just a portion my materials that I have packed over 7,000 miles and quietly waited for class to begin. I haven’t experienced classroom butterflies like that since…well, I don’t know when.

Carol unabashedly introduced me by sharing my sketchnotes from her classes at the A Show of Hands conference. It was embarrassing and heightened my fear of being good enough at Rustics to play with the “big kids.”

But all of that faded away once my brush hit the paper and I began to write. What I loved about the students in both of her classes is the curiosity, generosity, and support they showed one another. I sketchnoted Carol’s demo on how to paint Rustics on fabric and after a few sheets of practice, I had my apron off measuring for layout and drawing in guidelines with a chalk pencil.

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After a few hours of practicing Rustics, I put paint to apron (the same one I was wearing in the previous photo). I look forward to wearing it at LetterWorks this year.

Everyone brought their own unique piece of fabric—from blue jeans to ultra suede. And everyone also had their own approach from very planned out designs like the table runner that adorned the name of the memorialized to impromptu lettering on whatever people could get their hands on like their calligraphy supply bag that quickly turned customized or a simple Viva paper towel.

Together we celebrated what we had in common: letters and the lives of one another. We learned from and cheered on the successes of finished projects and honored the ultimate celebration of life: a 5-year anniversary of cancer-free living. Congratulations Heather!

For me, being in class and staying with Carol was a highlight of this trip—until we meet again in Ogden, UT for the LetterWorks calligraphy conference. And it was all made possible by staying in receiving mode. I’m sure there is no other way to repay Carol or the support I received from her students. I will simply have to pass on what I have learned and continue to stay in touch and let them know how much being with them has meant to me.

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It’s time to register for Seattleletters.org. The sooner you register, the better chance you get in the classes you want. With Carol as the Faculty Chair, the line up is going to be stellar.

The Oregon Coast
from Astoria to Tillamook.

It’s a good thing we have another week until we get to the Redwoods because one week in Oregon was just not enough. And for the first time on our trip, we mapped out details of where we will be staying every night for the next 20 days. Just that effort alone has set my mind at ease. Now I can focus on living, making letters and enjoying this precious time with Ray. This really is the crescendo of our journey.

After leaving Portland, we headed for Cannon Beach. It was’t far so it allowed us to get some much needed work done. Since I still work part-time as reachback support for my team, I filled an otherwise quiet library with squeaky marker sounds as I wrote out titles, topics and quotes for a project they are working on. Ray finished his post-production on a series of photos he shot in Canada and in Underwood (Cold Spring). Together we applied for another artist residency, this one in Colorado. So the adventure continues.

We were in that lovely library for 3 hours working quickly to get everything done. We celebrated with fresh seafood at Tom’s. And wow was the service friendly and the fish fresh! Yum!

Note to self: before taking off on a summer-time road trip, RESERVE your camp spots! At least on the weekends. As teardroppers, we love camping in the woods. RV villages, not so much. It seems so synthetic. But that’s what you get when you fail to plan or in our case, live life on the road fully to the extent where you may not know exactly where the road will take you.

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Ray said he is sick of smiling for selfies. I guess this is his alternative to that. We spent the afternoon walking Cannon Beach near Haystack.

After a wonderful night at Wrights for Camping near Cannon Beach, we made our way north to visit Astoria. I’m beginning to see a pattern of these charming west coast towns. The art galleries, small eateries and access to beaches put us in Flow as we meander our way down the coast.

We continued our stay at Nehalam Bay State Park. Which had a wonderful beach scene and is near Tillamook. Unfortunately it’s an RV village so we are stuck here for the weekend. Otherwise we might find ourselves way inland drydocking at a WalMart or something. This is the better alternative.

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Oregon beaches aren’t privately owned, they are owned by the residents of Oregon. We found several fire rings next to large driftwood. But this fire ring  found at Arcadia beach was special. It’s design looked like a shallow Kiva.

I like it when we stay longer than a night in one place. We can unpack a little more: set up the stove and tents, eat better and explore the surroundings. It makes me feel like I’m getting to know a place better and not missing out on much.

And here is where we put a bookmark in it and hit send for the week. This next week we continue to find our way down the coast and by week’s end, head for the Redwoods for a week. It’s likely you may not hear from us. If you don’t, not to worry. Just imagine us under a great Redwood tree. I’ll be meditating and Ray will be taking a nap.

Adios Canada!

After 4 weeks of being immersed into the Canadian culture and living the art life at the Caetani Cultural Centre, we made our way to the border. While it took a full search to get into Canada, it took a wave of the hand to get back into the states. It felt strange. I’m going to miss the incredible customer service and the kindness I found in the Canadian people. Funny how a little line on a map can mark a territory of culture and behaviors.

Now that we are back in the States, I’d like to reminisce about the last two weeks and how regardless of borders, beauty can be found anywhere.

Balancing the Synthetic and Organic Life

Last week in a group call for visual practitioners hosted by Christina Merkley (www.shift-it-coach.com) she used the term, “synthetic.” Intuitively I got it, but intellectually, I wasn’t quite sure what she meant. It wasn’t until my personal coaching call with her that I realized and truly understood.

While I won’t go into the details of synthetic, I do want to share in this week’s blog post how two weeks ago I lived in the synthetic while building my new website and how in this last week, I lived entirely organic. The only time I touched my phone this past week was when I took a picture, mapped a hike, or found internet access for 10 minutes of a 2-hour trip from our campground to the HOH Rainforest trail. During the 3 days we were camping at Sol Duc in Olympic National Park, I was synthetic less than 5% of the time.

Technology and Flow

Many of you who have been following along in our adventure may recall when I was studying Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and making art. While I am no longer collecting the data in the same way, I am still doing the work. I have found that technology immediately pulls me out of my artistic creative state. But when I was building my new website (www.LetsLetterTogether.com) I found that I’m capable of being creative in a fully synthetic environment. I can go for hours and hours. But at the end of the day—while I may feel as if I accomplished something—I feel sick, my ears ring and my eyes hurt.

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Screen and still shots of the 4 exemplars I cover in “Unlock Your Neuland Markers,” a free video series for visual practitioners who use Neuland markers in their work.

It was a steep learning curve from setting up a camera to film my hands as I work and instruct to post-production and developing content for a new theme on a website I was building. And it was all happening at once.

On Mother’s Day Sunday, after giving my mom a ‘garden tour’ of the Caetani grounds were I was doing my art residency, I had an interview with Christina Merkley. Many of my visual colleagues know her because they have taken one of her classes. She was interviewing me on how I use lettering in my practice and how that relates directly to graphic recording and graphic facilitation. Your can watch the video interview here.

At the time of our interview, I hadn’t even started creating the website. In fact, I hadn’t even come up with the URL: www.LetsLetterTogether.com. But by that afternoon I was setting up the camera to record and figuring out how I can make it available online so people can watch it for free.

While I was creating it, I realized that I had a lot more classes to offer online: Lettering Hierarchy and Composition, Chart Titles, Lettering for Sketchnoters, Level Up Your Lettering, 1:1 lettering coaching sessions and thoughts of Mastery of Letterers where I bring in artists to give demos on lettering styles. I’m working on a master plan now which I look forward to launching after we find a place to land after this remarkable journey we are on.

I had no idea…

My dad and my sister often tell me, “You have no idea” when it comes to having kids or how hard their lives are. I just smile and think, “they have no idea what I do for a living or how I do it.” Regardless, it makes me feel clueless. Like I’m walking around not knowing anything. Which is funny because I seem to get along okay.

During our hike on the HOH Rainforest trail. I saw something for the fist time and realized that I had no idea there were so many different hues and shades of green. Everything was green. And the only thing that kept this from being a solid scene of green was the shape of a green fern, next to a moss covered conifer tree, hovering over a small field of bright green clover, then scattered throughout are a variety of deciduous trees all varying at different heights, with different shaped leaves. The shadows created by the light streaming through the canopy offer another layer of distinction. As do the highlights themselves.

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Green throughout the HOH Rainforest Trail. Photo by Ray.

During our walk 3 miles up to the waterfall I counted over 35 different colors of green. Then we came across a green slug. While I have a special place in my heart for snails, slugs are an entirely different story. And this one too was green! I was so upset over seeing a slug that I stopped counting. And it was such a strange color green I figured I had seen every version of green anyway.

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Pictured left: from bridge to top of the forest, our backdrop for lunch. Upper right: that damned slug. Midle right: National Park postcards are a thing of beauty. Lower right: light peaks through the canopy onto the forest floor.

Disgusted, and full of knew knowledge of all things green, I moved onto other thought topics.

Logging Lessons

Wind Fall, a.k.a Blow-Down, is common in the forest. Huge trees everywhere fall like giants and lay still as they accumulate moss, become habitats for flora and fauna as it decays. You can’t fully appreciate a tall tree and what it’s like until one frames you as you walk along the trail. Many are like walls, some as tall as you, covered in moss and oftentimes hotbeds for new spruce that grow straight up from the base of a fir tree.

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Interpretive signs can be helpful. But if you really want to have a good time in teh woods, take a logger with you.

Having a retired logger walk behind you during hikes is like having a personal guide in the forest. I am always curious about how a maintenance crew on a trail cuts through 100+ year old fallen tree and rolls it to the side so we can pass through. Some of the logs we found took several cuts either because they were too long to roll or too wide and heavy.

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Oftentimes I can hear Ray say, look how that tree fell and knocked down that other tree. But what’s fun is when he will stop dead in his tracks and say, “now why did they cut that tree like that?” I’ll ask what happened and together between my questions and his knowledge, I will get a play by play on his synopsis of a logger falling a tree. From the length of his saw, where he was standing, conditions of the environment, why a tree would be cut and how, how long it would take, how many people it would take, etc.

Some of the stories are familiar because I think I have heard them before. But I always like hearing them because I learn something. And I’m always surprised at learning of all the many ways one can get hurt logging.

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Ray explains to me how this tree was fallen and the dangers of falling trees.

With the knowledge of a veteran logger and a seriousness I’ve never seen before, Ray shares the dangers of falling trees with me. His voice changes when he talks about these things. I had to stop him and start over so I could capture a 1-minute sound bite. You can watch a short video and listen to him here. Sorry, to redirect you from this article, but this version of WordPress doesn’t offer audio or video (thanks free WordPress). So I put this portion near the end of this week’s report.

Lucky for me, no matter how long or short a hike is, I always learn something. Logging: another topic I had no idea about. Also new to us: lawn bowling and taking Flo on the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry.

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Pictured from left to right, top to bottom: Thanks Trent for sending Ray a customized birthday card. Ray takes up lawn bowling in Vernon where we were coached by the 2016 champs. Flo takes a ride with us on the Walla Walla Ferry.

In related news…

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In case you don’t follow me on social media, you can check out the following updates on my recent work with Christina Merkley here:

  • Review by Christina about her experience taking the lettering workshop I offered in Vancouver.
  • Video interview with Christina about how I incorporate my lettering in my graphic recording/graphic facilitation practice.

If you want to learn about her offerings, visit bit.ly/shiftitcoach