This last week was Flow in the making. From the moment I returned back from Cupertino until the moment we opened the doors to our Open Studio, I was working in the Flow state building a bridge from my commercial work to my fine art.
Pulling from my sketchbook, recent learnings from Carol DuBosch and Amity Parks, and completely new concepts only found in a space like Elsewhere Studios, I was an art-making machine! Over 30 pieces produced in less than 2 weeks time and exhibited in the main studio felt so good.
Ray had a wonderful showing of the portraits he took of locals. Upon entering the room, guests were impacted by either the projection of larger-than-life images on the wall or this fantastic child-specimen, Max, surrounded by black and white images.
It may seem surprising given Ray’s introverted nature, but he really has a way with people and capturing their essence. We often talk about his unique approach. He’s not the paparazzi type so while sometimes he misses snapping the shutter, he doesn’t miss anything in his observations. He takes the time to get to know people before asking to take their picture. And according to one of his new friends, “He asked me in a way that I couldn’t say no.” This was just after the man’s girlfriend asked how he let him take his picture. She stated, “he doesn’t let anyone take his picture!”
If you know me or my work, you know that I practice Panarchy in my personal and professional life. I’ve added a few new elements to the model including Integrate and a Release loop. These were always there, just not illustrated. The gouache-loaded brush simply inspired them to appear. This is by far my favorite piece in the show.
The works will stay up in the main gallery until Tuesday. We have a school group coming through and more works to create before leaving Paonia and heading back to Southwest Colorado.
Heather and I began our journey knowing that we needed to do something other than going directly back to southern Colorado. We love Colorado but knew a transition of some kind was needed. That is how we ended up at Arts, Letters and Numbers, (ALN) in upstate New York. A one month stay making art, surrounded by amazing people, at an artist in residency seemed to be an excellent way to transition away from Washington, DC. It turned out to be the perfect beginning to an amazing journey.
So here we are almost six months later as we begin to transition from being on the road back to southwest Colorado. Our intentions are to continue living the same purposeful life we lived during our travels as we continue forward. Looking back on our experiences we decided an artist residency to end our travels made perfect sense. Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, CO has again given us the opportunity to make art in an amazing space surrounded by great people.
But much like ALN the best part of Elsewhere Studios is the sense of community shared in Paonia. When meeting locals in town one mention of Elsewhere and you become one of them. Everyone invites you to events happening around town and are willing to help out any way they can. Many of the residency alumni have relocated to Paonia to become part of the community. One of the funniest traditions in Paonia is the “gifting” of zucchini squash. Since everyone has a garden and the fertile land of the valley all but guarantees a bumper crop each year of zucchini they are in abundance. So in an effort to pass them on to neighbors zucchini are left on the front seats of any vehicle in town found with the door unlocked. We have been very diligent in keeping our doors locked.
We have been to concerts, rodeos, community dinners and barbecues and each time we go, we meet someone we have met previously. One of my favorite places to visit is the Old River Road Trading Post. This place is a combination fresh produce market, restaurant and community meeting place. As Heather mentioned in an earlier post these are the people behind the Farm to Table movement in Paonia. Every Sunday an amazing meal made from locally grown foods is prepared for a community lunch. Anyone and everyone is invited to enjoy the food and the company of neighbors and travelers. The meal is served buffet style with salad made from vegetables grown in gardens and farms throughout the valley. Amazing desserts made from fruit of the many orchards are usually the big hit of the day, peach cobbler and apple crisp being on the top of the list. The meal is always contribute what you can and draws a diverse mix of diners.
At first glance Paonia seems like a sleepy little town with a valley full of farms and orchards. But it is a town that is rich in arts and culture boasting free concerts in the park with world class musicians, galleries, a clay studio, and artists of many genres creating work throughout the valley. It is also a town reliant on the past and looking to the future.
At one time Paonia was a coal town with several large coal mines operating in the North Fork Valley. Today only one mine remains operational with fears and rumors of its closing. Mine closings have had a great economic impact on businesses in the valley. Along with jobs many natives to the area fear losing it heritage as well. The town is also home to one the largest educational organizations dedicated to renewable energy sources. Emphasizing solar energy methods the organization is dedicated to training individuals in renewable energy sources.
The memories created in Paonia will always be a part of our amazing journey. We look forward to our remaining time at Elsewhere Studios as the perfect way to transition from our travels.
Ray and I have had the good fortune to be tourists in New York City, observers in an exotic land, lived in DC and witnessed the voices of diversity, but never in my life have I experienced the diversity of thought and socioeconomic levels in such a short time and in such a small place.
Community dinner with people of the earth, wine tasting with the affluent, dinner with the cross section of farmers and business men across the Rocky Mountains and a view of the valley that’s etched in my memory forever. And that was just the first few days. Then there was the Olathe Sweet Corn Fest, a community meeting that brought it all together, dining near an orchard, and a Rodeo that dug it’s spurs in at a time in American History that reminds us of our humanity.
And that was the time we spent outside of the studio this week! Within these creative walls, we got so much done, I wrote so many letters, Ray posted on his blog, and we ate a lot of peaches in the process.
Farm to Table
What was I thinking when I asked Addy, “I noticed you have a Farm to Table meeting on Monday…do you have a visual practitioner capturing the meeting?” It’s a small town of 1,500 in rural Colorado. We were standing in a Trading Post full of farm good and products crafted from the surrounded land. Duh, I’m a city girl asking a naturalist about flour and graphic recording? Oops. No, the answer was no. “Well then, do you mind if I hang up some paper and capture the ideas of the group?”
Lettering Tips Tuesday
I thought I was so cool. I’ve taught a few people in the past week how to use Zoom and I was getting better with the multi-device login to use a spectator camera. In a last-minute switch between laptop to iPad the recording didn’t take and I had no idea until after a power-packed hour of lettering with an international audience. Ugh!
Ortho-Bionomy in Paonia
During our tour of Paonia on the first day I noticed a local Ortho-Bionomy practitioner’s office. This week I had the great opportunity to have my first session in over 6 months. It was fun to learn about the mutual people we know and it reminded me of my own training that I started in 2004 at the New Mexico Academy of Healing Arts and when I supported the Society of Ortho-Bionomy with their newsletter.
Pickin’ in the Park
Anyone have a stuffed bird? I was hoping to garner a big one on my shoulder as I wrote out kids names in calligraphy. But the antebellum hat with the large rose and bird worked too.
It was a day of shock and fear as the events in Charlottesville unfolded. The thought of humanity dropping to an all-time low, wondering how values can be so different among us, how so many have not evolved in their thinking. When Ray suggested a few days ago that we visit the County Fair Rodeo, it seemed like a good idea. But when we went it seemed so surreal.
I dig a good dive into culture and seeing people in their element. It didn’t bother me that I was the only person wearing hiking pants and dock shoes or that people were staring at me. It was the prayer that the announcer made before the event to bless the participants of the rodeo and their “animal athletes” that surprised me. I’m glad he thought of the cowboys and spectators. What I was taken aback by was there was no mention of those who died in Charlottesville or what was happening in our country. In a packed arena of 99% white people, I instantly questioned if this was an act of forgetfulness, ignorance, or blatant disregard. I reminded myself that it’s important not to mix what’s happening in Virginia with the population here. And that it’s important that we not combine what’s happening with those who are actively spreading hate and the president who gave them a voice in the first place with those who may have voted for him or those who share the same values. I can’t help but wonder how we will ever cross these great divides. When I was in DC, my job was to encourage group participatory decision making. With a background of Appreciative Inquiry I focus on the unifying lifeforces that help us create the realities we want. All personal beliefs aside, as a professional and a human what do I do with this? Other than say that racism is not okay? I could only imagine myself in Charlottesville screaming, “this is not okay!” What will it take to make this stop? There doesn’t seem to be a rock bottom or an undeniable truth for those to see what they are doing is wrong.
By being a white woman, if I just do what I can to cope or work to make the world I live in better makes me a target for the social stigma that I have white privilege. There is no winner in this. And the forces and powers that be are leveraging us against one another. It’s time to take our power back. We have missed all of our previous opportunities, now its time. Please, do what you can in your power to pull yourself together to make a difference in your and other people’s lives.
Leaving this place better than when we found it is the least we can do for future generations, for ourselves and each other.
As we drove north of Mancos through Dolores, Rico, Telluride, and Ridgeway I kept asking myself why I ever left this beautiful place. But when I remember how I felt while I was here before, I fully understood why I had to leave, why I had to go to DC. When you have a burning desire to do more than what’s right in front of you, you can’t possibly get there by continuing to do the same thing, you have to find another way. DC was my way of seeing if I could make it as a full-time visual practitioner, work in a big city, and be part of a team of like-minded people working passionately with a shared vision. As a result, the Visioneering team is the model team that I will base every team I form or contribute to in the future. To be high-performing, continually innovating, and growing individually as well as together as team has been the most fulfilling career experience I have had to date. I can’t thank my colleagues enough for creating a space for me to be successful and for supporting me during this big life transition. I am forever grateful for their creative partnership and friendship.
Now it’s time to carry all of the goodness I have learned and share it with the next community I am part of. My hope is that Ray and I will find our place in SWCO. We have been looking into places to live, housesit, work, and contribute to creative, community projects. And the options are far more abundant than I ever realized. Over the last few months I kept hearing myself say I wasn’t sure what I would do in SWCO and I was afraid it was too small for me to be satisfied. However, in the past few days I have discovered that the Mancos community has become so rich in the arts that I drool just thinking about the chance to be part of it again.
When Ray and I founded the “Sharing the 81328 Perspective” and Arts Perspective magazine, we felt Mancos had the potential to be a rich art town. I often reminded people inside and outside of Mancos that “we didn’t have a ski resort, hot springs, or train. We had an abundance of artists.” And the arts are the richest resource when it comes to culture. Sure it’s not oil or technology, but it’s something we all need and come back to in great times of need.
When I read that Mancos’ own Tami Graham and Susan Lander from Durango have recently been named council members of the Colorado Creative Industries, I was thrilled to see the representation. These women have dedicated countless years of their lives to support and enrich music and the arts in Southwest Colorado. And to see the large sign hung downtown marking Mancos as a creative district, my heart is full knowing that despite the current administration’s cuts to the arts artists are still making in SWCO.
Surprisingly, we never met Peggy and Lee when we lived in Mancos. It was much later as we were selling the magazine and getting ready to get married that I did some work for them to help with marketing that we traded a room for Ray and I to get away and plan for our future together. Nestled in the mountains just Northwest of Mancos, our family stayed at Willowtail during our wedding celebration, and I’ve spent many nights in trade and pay to be on the land. The view of the LaPlatas over the lake from the Lakehouse is one of the best I’ve witnessed in the valley. And the view from the other side of the lake looking back is surreal as the surroundings. HIgh mountain desert is where my heart belongs.
Willowtail has been the birthplace and home for many creative ideas. From riparian center to artist residency and of course the many who have stayed over the years as guests, you can read about the impact on guests in the guestbooks in each cabin. My favorite is the Bungalow. Who wouldn’t love to soak in an antique clawfoot tub with the Willowtail salt scrub after a long day’s hike? Or to lie under an abandoned beehive that has been archived by being encased in Lexan? Of course the Garden Cottage and Lakehouse are wonderful too. But it was in the Bungalow where I first stayed and made many memories with family and friends.
I can’t say enough about the property and the magic that Peggy and Lee bring. If you ever visit, and I hope you will, only then can you understand. You have to experience it.
Just as I was leaving SWCO the publishing landscape was changing, magazines were folding across the country and newspapers were going through changes too. The Ballantine family now owners of The Durango Herald, The Cortez Journal, Pine River Times, Dolores Star and Mancos Times have been dedicated to publishing and community since purchasing the Durango Herald (previously the Herald Democrat and News) in 1952. Three generations of publishing and generous community support, especially in the arts, have helped shaped the culture in SWCO.
When it was time to move the Mancos Times office to Cortez, the doors closed like a time capsule preserving the remaining treasures from over 120 years of publishing inside. I had the distinct pleasure to spend a day in the space and research the history years ago and again this past week in our short visit before hitting the road again.
Betsy Harrison and Matt Neff, Director of the Common Press at the University of Pennsylvania, were kind enough to fill me in on the current status, the future vision and the immediate needs of what is now known as the Mancos Common Press. While standing in the space, I had flashbacks of my explorations from years earlier while recollecting all of my visits to vanity and boutique presses in DC. This place is special and with Matt’s help, I can clearly see the vision of the organization and space, it’s connection with the region on an educational level, the contribution it will make on the local arts community, and the bookmark it was and continues to be in Mancos’ historical continuum.
Heading off to the next art residency, I’m itching to get back and get involved in some way. Meanwhile, I’m putting the pieces together for myself and reading articles to catch up on all that’s going on. Here’s a story from the beginning of the restoration project and great photo of the Cranston press.
Paonia…a creative surprise
Going back to the beginning of this week’s post, driving through the mountains and high desert to Paonia was a journey in itself. Not because of the stops we made along the way, we pretty much drove straight through, but the memories and stories we shared during the drive. Ray described the view of the Fourteeners he has climbed in this area, our past visits to and through Rico and Telluride before and while we owned the magazine, what life may be like if we moved back, and how out of all of the beautiful places we have seen over the past 5 months, nothing compares to this landscape and the people on the Western Slope.
On first glance, Paonia is a small town surrounded by orchards and farmland, and filled with earthy people. But with just 2 days into our residency—along with making art—Daniel’s tour of the town revealed a local public radio station, High Country News (a nationally known and reputable news organization), several tasty eateries, Revolation Brewery, and a thriving arts community rich in music, visual and performing arts.
Thursday night we attended Pickin’ in the Park, a free weekly community music gathering, where over 500 people from this ~1,500 person town gathered to listen to Bluegrass icon Peter Rowan. And on Friday Ray and I shared our work, alongside of four other artists to a larger than expected and incredibly engaged crowd in the main studio at Elsewhere.
Michelle Mercer, writer and NPR commentator shared her coming to story and her first NPR story about Regina Carter the first non-classical violinist to be asked to play “The Cannon.” You can hear t story here.
While we all have an opportunity to enjoy Michelle’s collection of rich musical commentary, here at Elsewhere we also get to enjoy the company of her expressive 5-year-old son and husband, symphony bassist Marc who delighted us by playing a classical piece at first, then guided us on a jazz journey. It was in this moment that I looked around the room and realized how lucky we all are to have access to this level of talent, what an asset Elsewhere is to Paonia, and how lucky Ray and I are to be here.
Many of you know how much Ray does not like to draw attention to himself, talk about himself, and does not like speaking in front of others. But his storytelling came out and he generously shared the stories of his time documenting protests in DC and the people he has met along our journey. I was blown away at how he can recollect the stories of everyone he met.
Maya Rendon, an 18-year-old painter and mixed-media artist, has a stoic presence while sharing hints of passion around both the musical and visual works of Kurt Cobain. She shared her visual response to a job application and invited us to her studio where she is experimenting with texture and color in an abstract way.
While recent MFA Fiction Writing graduate Charlie Schneider will be out for two weeks spending time at Bread Loaf and missing our final Open Studio presentation, we had the distinct pleasure of enjoying a recent first draft that he wrote the day before. From the vantage point of a 17-year-old girl who’s family may have been responsible for the lynching of 34 coal-miners, Charlie’s ability to empathically become the character whose point of view he is writing from reminds us how important history plays into our modern culture and the impact it has on self-identification.
And I concluded the evening by sharing how I plan to build a bridge between my fine and commercial work by continuing my studies in Flow, Panarchy, and combining it with the transpersonal work I’m doing with the upcoming Eclipse. All works on paper, I’m planning a series of small books, starting by working out ideas and concepts using traditional art materials and then translating those onto black and kraft papers with acrylic inks by Neuland. And since we are in the Disseminating Phase of the Waning Moon, this is the perfect time to share out what I have learned and the goodness culminated from this inspirational place.
And now as I push send, we are on our way to the annual Olathe Sweet Corn Festival before heading to a community dinner at a local farm. Hopefully Ray will get some good photos while I hold a space of creative tension: trying to have fun in the moment with a sketchbook in hand in case I need to capture the fleeting idea as it passes by.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
In my last post, I mentioned being from Kansas. But this week has been about being with family in Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
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.
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?
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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. 😉
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.