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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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…


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

From Coast to Coast

One of my favorite bits by comedian Louis C.K. is:

….Here’s the thing, people say there are delays on flights. Delays, really? New York to California in 5 hours. That used to take 30 years. And a bunch of you would die on the way there. And have a baby. You’d be a whole different group of people by the time you got there. Now you watch a movie and you take a $#@! and you’re home.

Now I know that we’ve only been on the road 11 weeks, but I feel like a completely different person than when I started. Last week I talked about how we saw 5 different terrains in just one 3-hour hike. After 11 weeks and all of the adventures we have had, I am truly grateful, influenced and different from all of the terrains we have seen from coast to coast and where our travels have led us.

Sometimes the path may not take you where you expected. But if you enjoy the view it makes you wonder, “did it really matter that I didn’t make there in the first place?”

Perhaps I’m having an existential crisis. Or maybe just not reading and watching the news and being not influenced by the media has allowed me to have a different experience. Or perhaps I’m learning to live with technology and still finding flow.

My Life is like a Bee Swarm

I didn’t realize it until Louise and Richard came to check out the swarm of bees that I found. When they shared their knowledge about the bees and how they swarm, what they are looking for, and after witnessing their everchanging hive behavior hour by hour I then realized…my life is like a bee swarm. But isn’t everyone’s—in a way?

The idea of a swarm moving from place to place, like from tree to tree or from eaves to other eaves makes me think about how when we are with Flo, we go from place to place in search of the right spot to land. Thinking back about what it was like to sit on the beautiful white leather couch in the 15th floor in DC just dreaming about this trip, it’s strange to think that now my biggest hope that the next place we stop has hot water and electricity.

I heard a hum as I walked between the trees next to my AiR studio at the Caetani Cultural Center. After looking down and seeing the shadows, I knew I was under a newly landed swarm. I called a local honey store/meadery and they put me in touch with some local bee keepers. It took 5 days to carefully get them to a safe place. I miss them and hope I can keep a hive of my own someday.

Constantly on the move and adapting to the environment, we are exposed to the elements, bound by fleeting light and road conditions, inspired by the landscape, dealing with FOMO of all the places we miss along the way, not knowing where we will sleep, then waking up in a 4′ x 6.5′ metal cocoon wondering what will greet us when we open the door.

And when we step out on the dew-covered ground, it’s obvious that we will have a much different adventure than when we would ride an elevator down 15 floors and jumping on the metro to head into the city for the day.

No, I’m not having an existential crisis. I’m just preparing to leave this wonderful place and head to a region of the country I have never been, back into the unknown, without a plan or a clue as to where we will land after this next leg of the trip.

A Sneak Peak of this Week’s Backstory—That I Hope to Share Next Week

What’s this? Just one of the temporary set ups this week to share lettering tips online.

Christina Merkley (shift-it-coach.com)was kind enough to interview me about my lettering. I also taught a virtual lettering meetup for NOVA Scribes, broadcasted live on Periscope, presented my work to Hermineh’s calligraphy class (where I studied in Alexandria, VA) and finally recorded over 12 videos that will be part of a new lettering website that I will launch in the coming weeks. Phew! I’m still too close to really write about it. So there’s the synopsis. Upon completion and reflection, I will launch the project and share more of the backstory here.

Thanks for following our journey. It’s about to take another turn.

Spring Has Sprung!

The summits in BC are impressive. And while not at the elevation we are used to in Colorado, one certainly earns the view.

I had envisioned two truths about nature and the weather before coming on this trip. We will see spring develop before us and we are landing in the Redwoods at the exact right time.

When we got to the rainy Northwest, we thought the rain would never end. There have been a few half-day breaks over the past few weeks and this week we enjoyed a full day of sun. That meant checking on Flo to ensure she was dry. SUCCESS! (Thanks to yards of gaffer’s tape). And taking a hike in the woods. The local outdoor club wrote a book so we headed out on what was supposed to be a low-level, 3-hour hike. Thinking “we’re Coloradoans so this will be a cinch!” Two peaks with a 250m rise proved itself to be a bit challenging for these two geezers who forgot that they have been living at sea level for the past three years. Funny how 20 minutes of complaining switches to pure elation when arriving at the summit.

We are not just posing. We actually are happy to have made it to Summit #1 on the Bluenose Mountain trail near Lavington, BC.

In just 3 hours we experienced 5 different terrains: rocky, two distinctly different coniferous forests—one with black tree lichen—grasslands, and an impressive cedar forest with an old growth larch side trail. The views and discoveries were breathtaking as well.

All of this came after a major struggle with technology. I had planned the week prior to broadcast all kinds of lettering tips and tricks live and even promoted it across all of the social media platforms. Unfortunately I received a text from my cell provider that all of my “fast” data is used up, which means no more streaming. And the wi-fi here at the centre was down. With two virtual classes planned: one in Germany and one in DC and a recorded online interview with one of my mentors, the fate of those opportunities to share my lettering knowledge is held hostage by technology.

Picture above: I had to announce that I was going offline. My audience has been supportive. LL: In the meantime I have been recording what I can in the studio to upload later and was able to sneak in a quick Periscope (LR) for my friend and colleague Lauren who wanted to know how to fill a Neuland FatOne marker.

Since my internet connection is spotty and unpredictable, sometimes reliable in my studio but then will cut out and when I run back to the house for wi-fi, it may or may not be good their either. The plan is to attempt the NOVA Scribes live webinar meetup on Thursday, May 18 only because we have incredible tech support on all ends. Anyone is welcome to join (see the link above to sign up). While I will be covering Neuland tips and the letteirng styles that go with them, this is the opportunity to ask me questions live as we make letters together.

The recordings I’m doing in studio—I will upload when I can—will have to carry me for awhile since once we leave here and head into the deep woods, I have no idea when I will see my lettering friends again! I will sneak on Periscope and post still photos when I can, but once we hit the road we have no idea where we will end up. Except our time in the Redwood Forest. And who wants to be online while there?

That’s at least another 6 weeks of eventful and unpredictable travels with a landing fate that is still a mystery to us. Not to worry, I’ll have my sketchbook and markers on hand developing new lettering styles along the way.

How do you spend your Friday and Saturday nights? Drive-ins, book sales and ‘tique’n for us! It just wouldn’t be a trip to Canada without a little curling rink action. And no, I didn’t buy the pencil sharpener, yet. My friend Rob has one like it. This is the first one I have seen in the wild. It’s priced a little high given is has been repainted. But the plastic cover is in great shape and it works. Ah, the smell of cedar shavings before going to bed. Sweet dreams!

Too Close for Comfort

How close is close?

Crazy man Dave Sipe of Mancos, Colorado once told us: if you really want to know if the person you are with is the right one, take them on a camping trip.

When you live in a 5′ x 9′ aluminum box with one other person while traveling across the country, it gets pretty close. When you have the opportunity to spread out at a friend’s or have the luxury of being part of an art residency for a few weeks it may feel like you have space, but the space in which we occupy is not what I’m talking about.

The beautiful Caetani Cultural Centre house, grounds, and my studio for the next few weeks.

I’m talking about the space between thoughts, ideas and projects. These days, I hold that space sacred. And when I find myself packing too much in, I feel as if I’m losing grip to a part of myself.

Ray keeps reminding me that we are over halfway through our trip. I see this adventure as an inspiration of how to live our lives even after we land—it’s an adventure of a lifetime. When I look back at where we started, what astounds me is that when  I was working in DC, I was able to graphic record, graphic facilitate, design meetings, create visuals, and constantly make decisions that aligned with my values while working hard to serve the mission. I was able to squeeze what amounts to a year’s worth of freelance work into a few week’s time. I was doing more work than ever and felt like my colleagues were still running circles around me. My time in DC was like boot camp. I left one of the best teams I ever served on and one of the most culturally diverse places I will ever come to regret not being a bigger part of.

Work life nor social life just isn’t the same without the Visioneers: Brian, Ben, Trent, Lauren and Dean. Pictured top: DC field trip to Chrome Industries where we sought consult on gear bags. Bottom: Our 2016 IFVP headline debut with internally-renowned kinetic sculptor Kevin Reese.

But just 8 weeks into this adventure—with just as many to go—I have experienced so much diverse human interaction than I ever did working full-time in DC. Making fine art for an entire month in a mansion full of artists, check. Traveling from coast to coast and meeting people in their environment while getting to know their culture, check. Making more letters than ever, check. Wait, was that possible? The list goes on and on. But one facet that I was living consciously, but couldn’t put it into words until now was the human experience that I was gaining by witnessing others—only possible at this level from being on the road.

Random shots from around Vernon, BC: top to bottom, left to right: Caetani Center House (front view), rainy morning view of the courtyard just outside my studio, Ray planning his day in the sunroom, Canadian highway signs always make me wonder, selfie from Vernon, When in Canada…, Who’s that hippie driving the Jeep with the top down? (Note: the only sunny day since we’ve been here, the top hasn’t been off the Jeep in years), admiring the hand-painted windows of downtown Vernon, bleached leaves on tree stumps found during our hike.

It took a Skype call with a new found friend in England, a telephone call from a mentor in California and text from a best friend in Colorado to help me realize that it’s the short stories that I am writing, and not blogging about, that is making my experience the richest. The part that is filling every moment of this journey, packing it in so tight that is making it nearly humanly unbearable. And why haven’t I been sharing? Two reasons: 1) I didn’t think you wanted to hear it, and 2) I can’t write them down fast enough!

I have enjoyed the phone calls, skype calls and texts with many of you where I get to share: our first night of our maiden voyage, or the mystery stain on the carpet at the roadside motel we found just before crossing the border—was it a murder or attempt to change an identify before/after crossing the border? Or learning that someone who seemly held such different values wasn’t that different after all.

So now here I am at 4:44am tapping away at the computer instead of sleeping or making art. Instead I’m reflecting on the past few days and planning out the practical: social media content, finding campgrounds along the west coast, designing two books: one art and one for sale. Thinking less about the weather because I’m not exposed to the elements like I was two weeks ago while at the same time more about it because I can’t wait to go hiking in the most beautiful place I have ever been.

These weekly posts come so fast I can’t possibly capture every event or reflection. Writing about it takes me away from living it. But being in it is so unbelievable I have to account for it.

Once we land in August (wherever that may be) I have an entire list of writing prompts to help me write the back stories of this trip. My final dream destination is to end up writing in a cabin in the woods. Now I have the content, I just need to recollect and get it all down on paper.

Too close and making space for new…

As I sit in this soft, warm cocoon I’ve made of Ray’s sweatshirt, pillows and blankets on the couch at the foot of the bed where he lay sleeping, I can’t help but feel the pressure to make more of this experience, to take more in. I know that in just a few weeks I won’t have these comforts—unless they are offered up by friends along the way.

I’m also inspired but the life of Svena Caetani and the legacy she has left for artists. I look out the windows and wonder what she saw, how she felt. Was this her bedroom? This chair wasn’t hers, but was there a chair here for her to read in and look out across the property? What flowers grew here then? What trees were hers to climb? I am reminded by random statements that Susan, the director, has made about the property—how it once was and now her vision for the future. I am considering the possibility of capturing what I can while I am here and the longing to return when I find myself in my future studio, recapitulating about this experience and writing it all down.

Constantly inspired and influenced by others, this week was about gaining perspective. Thank you Lauren for the reminder. Today, I wish to consider these wise words from Guido Neuland, “It’s always worth to leave proven paths and allow new thoughts.” Reading those words for the first time on his website make me reflect on why I left DC for this journey. Who knows, it may bring me to a new place.

It’s supposed to be nice today, sunny and warm. We have stopped long enough to watch Spring catch up with us. Perhaps Ray and I will take a hike in the mountains of British Columbia and take more in.

Call me, email, text or let’s Skype. I’ll share with you my latest story. Perhaps you can help me retain all of this goodness of being on the road.

Happy Trails,

Okanagan Lake—a vista view from Ellison Provencial Park in British Colombia—spans 135km long, 5km wide and is 232m deep. Six times bigger than Blue Mesa Reservoir in Colorado. It only took us 20 minutes to hike to this spot. We look forward to many hikes in this area.

Oh Canada!

It took a week to get to Canada, but we made it. And what a beautiful site! Well, except on the way to the border crossing the road was washed out and we drove through a place in the woods that was adorned with confederate and Christian flags—oftentimes associated with the Aryan Nation—scary.

Life on the road…just before crossing the border into Canada.

People keep telling me how much I am going to love the Pacific Northwest. Nothing could have prepared me for the breathtaking views of Canada. Ray keeps saying, “just wait until we get to the coast.” I love it so much here, I’m not convinced that it gets any better.

Hours and hours of driving in gorgeous terrain.

Speaking of better. What better way to spend a few weeks than at an artist retreat? It took only a 1/2 day to clean up and get settled into the space. The history of the Caetani Cultural Centre is intriguing. Svena Caetani lived in the house as a young girl but was captivated by her mother never to leave the house until her mother’s death. Svena was never allowed to make art while her mother was alive. Just 15 years before her own death, she started to recollect all of her memories and put them onto paper to form a series of 56 paintings called “Recapitulation”.

Although it has been rainy, we brought “springtime” indoors. Svena’s work and book of her work are inspiring as we live in the house she grew up in.

It’s nice to have a place to rest our heads for a while. We can take a breath, I can focus on my lettering practice, Ray can go fishing and make needed repairs on the trailer.

With the Von Sackens: before dinner hike and at the dance party.

And what’s a birthday without dancing? In addition to Rosanna and Ulrich being incredible hosts, they also invited us to a Cinco de Mayo dance party on Ray’s birthday. He wasn’t thrilled at first, but these photos prove he had a pretty good time.

I created this exemplar for a workshop during a live Periscope broadcast. I’m finding that it’s a great way to share what I know about Neuland markers. 

For those of you who would like to follow my lettering journey and perhaps learn a few new lettering styles, check out my new Facebook page where I will be posting events and  resources. If you are on Twitter and Periscope, I plan to make small “knowledge deposits” about lettering throughout the rest of this month. You can follow me @CorpGraffitiArt.

From the road,

Our Maiden Voyage

Thanks everyone for being patient with us as we leave DC and make our way to my hometown of Leavenworth, Kansas to visit my folks where they have been remodeling Flo. We have had a lot of requests from friends and family to know what’s happening. We have been posting weekly so feel free to read past posts or follow us by clicking the link at the bottom of the page to receive updates via email when we post. We also post snippets throughout the week on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Last week in Kansas was intense: paperwork, fixes, squeezing in time with family and leaving unfinished projects. After the amazing woodwork Clint and Larry did on the cabin, we were itching to hit the road. Since we have a timeline and a lot of miles to travel, we were ready to leave last Friday but didn’t get a chance until Monday. That set us back so with no time to test her out, we just went for it. We knew that anything could happen and we thought we were prepared.

The first hit of culture shock came the first night at a campground in Little Sioux, Iowa just 225 miles north of Kansas City. Here is my first evening report of our maiden voyage:

Day 1: 17 April

Shortly after crossing the Kansas/Missouri bridge and as soon as we hit 50mph, a little wind got under the window, popped the artist tape off and the duct tape popped shortly after (2-3 minutes later). I was watching the whole time so we pulled over immediately.

I added two pieces of gaffer’s tape to each window. A long piece in the front and a long piece along the bottom.

At the 50 mile mark we pulled over and did a walk around. The gaffer’s tape didn’t budge. The wheels were cool and not much had shifted inside the cab, just a little settling of contents.

~160 miles later…

Sunset at Little Sioux, Iowa is 8:07pm. When we pulled into Woodland Campground, we weren’t sure if we would get a spot. The website said it opened April 15th but the office was closed. A couple pulled up in a pickup and asked–nearly in stereo while bogarting cigarettes–“can we help you?” I explained that we were chasing the sun and were hoping there was a spot available with electric.

The woman passed her cigarette to her husband and gave clear instructions on how to put it out without “killing” it. I said something about needing to save it. She agreed and said she was trying to quit but her son recently shot himself so things were a bit crazy lately.

She showed me to the office and told me our spot would be block 9, lot 2. I looked up at the map and the RV rings resembled a microscopic view of a Petri dish full of bacteria. Funny shapes, and lots of them, scattered around with lots of little sections. Each representing a lot to drive through. Drive through…good because we haven’t mastered the back-in yet.

After forking over what I hoped would be worth a hot shower in the morning and an electric hook up she shooed me out the door. I asked for a receipt and she referred back to her son’s tragedy, complete with details about how he shot himself, fractured his femur in 5 places, had to create a tourquinette and plug a major artery with his finger as he drove himself to the hospital where he worked. While stunned by the amount of detail she shared while staying compassionate for her son’s tragedy, I thought I was never going to earn that receipt and get camp set up by sundown.

Hierarchy of Needs

Once we were in and started pulling out gear, it hit me. I was stirring mayo (from packets I took from a gas station) into my tuna when I realized I simply was not prepared. Part of feeling not prepared is a sense of safety. The campground was cold, with a lot of annual residents but very few cars which indicates they haven’t returned for their summer getaway. While there we only saw three other families in the distance. Since we packed in a hurry, I didn’t know where everything was therefore not everything has found its place.

I have always felt safe with Ray around. The only change was our environment. I went from the warmth of my childhood home to a cold, small metal cocoon. So many “I should haves” ran through my head including all of the luxuries my mom offered me before we left. I said no to so many things that would give me comfort in exchange for keeping things simple.

Drawing of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Human motivation is to move through this model from bottom to top.

Due to many unknowns of pulling a trailer, new geography neither Ray and I have visited, and the stress of lifestyle changes, I was not able to stay in the flow state. However I have been able to simply go with the flow. There is a routine when you go camping: setting up, finding the gear you need when you need it, eating, cleaning, tearing down, etc. But what you may not be able to anticipate is where you may sleep the next night and what the weather will bring. Most campgrounds this time of year are closed or don’t have electricity. With such low temps and since we aren’t “self-contained” we need heat to keep us warm at night. Not to mention all of the luxuries electricity may bring (hot pot, charging mobile devices, etc.). So I spend a good majority of my day tracking the weather and calling campgrounds to keep everything running smoothly. It’s a temporary flow for now until I can get into a more comfortable routine.

In the meantime, we were able to smile for the camera during stops along the way.

Flo posing in the Badlands of South Dakota. Selfies at the Corn Palace and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and at the base of Bitterroot Mountain in Victor, Montana.

Life on the road with a teardrop trailer is like having another person in an already committed relationship.

So here we were, on the road with this new to us—yet antique—piece of metal. Ray is very familiar with camping as he grew up on the mountains and lived there during his childhood summers. Me? I’m used to 4-5 star accommodations and all of the amenities it provides. The idea of having a bed everywhere we go and a solid cover over our heads was what we both had in common.

Getting the rhythm down and taking on a new lifestyle was a challenge. But when we found ourselves at the foot of Bitterroot Mountain in Victor, Montana our challenges melted away.

George Wilkerson is a tall and generous man who served in the Army, 35 years with the LAPD all while running a teardrop company, and has built over 600 trailers and touched at least that many rebuilds and repairs. He kindly took us in and watched over and guided us as we found and fixed things on Flo.

Ray and I feel most at home when surrounded by mountains. Victor, Montana is a wide valley sheltered from the weather. George claimed that storms from the Bitterroot Mountains often skip over the valley to the Sapphire Mountains to the east.

The setting was gorgeous. The snow-capped mountains served as our backdrop as we ran around in t-shirts all day airing out linens, adding seals, patching and learning about other teardrop makers, how to build from scratch (both kits and replications) and where to source parts if George doesn’t have them. And he ALWAYS has them.

George added a little sparkle to Flo’s shoes with these rims. He specializes in aluminum trim, sells kits for those DIYers, and has all the tools. His website is what attracted us to Victor and can be seen here.

Right: These 3-tiered stainless steel rims are a nice touch and compliment to the half moons mom added to dad’s red wheels. Left: George shares his signed copy of his good friend’s book.

George’s knowledge was matched only by our couriosity and desire to learn. Along with all of the resources, he shared stories of Bill Kennedy, co-owner of KenSkill trailers, and Dan Pocapalia, author of “I Love a Challenge!” and veteran teardrop builder. George loves to talk teardrops. He shared emails from people who sends him pictures of their builds and offers commentary about how they are built, estimates of how long it would take us if we took on a project like this, and tips on how to recreate an original trailer should we ever want to. We are hooked.

An entire wall in his office reflects his life from Boy Scout badges, certification in diving (he was an underwater diver for the LAPD), and even a Purple Heart. He didn’t talk much about the awards, just that they remind him of where he has been. He has lived a full life, has two beautiful daughters who he talks about fondly, and shares his passion for the classics freely from Coca-Cola coolers to black and white movies featuring Humphrey Bogart.

We are headed back on the road now a little smarter, a lot more confident and extremely grateful for the kindness of  George and others. With the 10-day forecast showing rain, we are reminded that it is spring and have the best seat in the house to witness the change of season: the front seat of a Jeep while on the road.

Dwarfed by the big rigs, Flo belongs on the road.

If you have any favorite stops along the Westcoast that you recommend, please let us know. We are planning that leg of the trip now.

Escaping the Vortex

We spent five days in a vortex. First I thought it was the pattern of visiting my home town. Then I blamed Mercury retrograde. Finally I realized that it was simple: too much to do in order to prepare for the next leg of our trip—more than we had time for.

When explaining to my dad all of the delays from parts not being in stock, paperwork not clearing in time for registrations, etc. his response: “Do you know when the best time to plant a tree is? Twenty years ago.” I swear I could write the sequel to “Shit My Dad Says.” He is famous in my family for some real doozies. His commentary assumes failure to plan on my part. I’m not sure how the operational speed of others and automated systems are my fault. This was my opportunity to practice patience.

No sense wasting time reliving the vortex by listing everything that kept us from moving forward. My friend Diane Bleck once advised me, “Don’t speak when your bleeding, only when your healing.” So instead, we will celebrate all that we have accomplished in the last few days before taking to the road with Flo.

Do you have a spare?

I will share that after a dozen phone calls and six visits to tire stores in two cities, we found the part we were looking for: the size equivalent to a Coker American Classic spare for Flo. While the part number is important, the critical piece was getting the right width so that the tire doesn’t rub against the wheel well while driving down the road. Tire dealers told me they stopped making that size and one even laughed at me. After asking me what I was putting the tire on and me saying, “a rebuilt 1947 Tourette teardrop,” he said, “I don’t think my inventory goes back that far, haha!” Soon we were digging through piles of tires and walking through dark, musty warehouses.

It wasn’t until I changed my approach from focusing on logic to relying on intuition that opened up and delivered us from the vortex. Why focus on an obsolete part number? So instead I got to know the shape of the tire and it’s relationship with the wheel well. By doing so, I trained my reticular activator to manifest the tire we needed. When I walked around the garage at Falco’s Service on Truman Rd in Kansas City, it was if the clouds parted and I could hear angels singing. I could tell from a distance that it was a fit. And it was!

Mom and Dad working together on the trailer.

Upon returning to my dad’s shop, together we continued to check off tasks from the punchlist. Mom and Dad added seals to the doors and galley, screws and plugs to cover holes and caulking anywhere we see daylight coming into the cabin to prevent leaks. Together Dad and I installed the light fixtures, fixed key locks, popped on the half moon hubcaps, and added a flexible rubber/aluminum fix to cover the piano hinge. It seems like every time you walk around the trailer you find something else to fix. Flo is 70 years old so she needs a lot of TLC…and she deserves it!

Amazing how a 5′ x 9′ sheet of plywood can look so good and serve as the foundation of this tiny teardrop. Dad sprayed it with bedliner underneath to protect from moisture (left) and Mom bent the aluminum cover to finish the edge in the galley (right). Look at the beautiful leaf springs and inside of the wheel well. She may never look this good again! Road ready for another 70 years.

It has certainly taken a team and a lot of preparation to get Flo road ready. Mom and Dad have been working on her for months. Clint and Larry have added a golden glow to her interior. Here’s Clint’s account of the build and some additional photos from his recent Facebook post. Special thanks to these two for working so diligently this week and for your patience over the next 4 months until you can begin phase two: the galley.

Clint and Larry bring life to Flo by building her a birch interior. That bendy Birch is gorgeous!

I can’t help but wonder if the original builder and owners—who purchased Flo 70 years ago—had any idea the adventures she would see. Mom picked her up in Sedalia, Missouri the day after Thanksgiving in 2014. We have no idea if she has ever left these two Midwest states, but she’s about to see the Westcoast.

She’s ready. And so are we.


From Roadside Motels to Deep Dish Chicago-style Pizza

In just one week after leaving Arts Letters and Numbers, Ray and I have experienced the gamut. And we have discovered how bumpy riding in a Jeep Wrangler is over 1,500 miles. We wondered, “will adding the teardrop help or jumble us more?” I guess we will find out.

Niagara Falls was the best first touristy stop we could have made. We took it in at night and the next morning. I had witnessed it’s grandeur before. This was Ray’s first time and he was in awe. Honestly though, standing next to all that rushing water while impressive, just makes me want to pee.


Traveling on the cheap during our pre-Flo era means a lot couch surfing and staying at roadside motels. The hotel in Niagara Falls included a police visit to the hotel and a hooker (separate instances). That was something not everyone gets to see everyday. But what’s better is when someone who knows you are traveling says, “come visit me…” Those types understand what we are doing, the way of the wanderer, and want to share in the adventure.

We had the pleasure of staying with Diane Bleck, scribe tribe colleague, and her family on their farm. It is a gorgeous tree-filled farm with chickens and wildlife. Diane was incredibly generous in sharing her techniques with me and her children are a delight with their voracious curiosity and kindness.

A warm welcome from the Bleck family and our behind-the-scenes setup from our 1.5-hour dual broadcast on lettering: Periscope and Facebook live.

Knowing that I would spend next month focusing on lettering, teaching workshops, and creating more exemplars for students, my visit with Diane was a timely springboard for this effort. I was blown away at how she has built a following at http://www.DoodleInstitute.com, the quality of her materials, and humbled by how she contributed to building up the industry we share. She is incredibly generous in her offerings to the community. While I had been thinking about packaging my skills into online courses, etc. she has taught me a lot about what to expect when putting myself out there to the public and balancing that with a happy life. Together we offered a 1.5 hour live, double broadcast (Periscope and Facebook Live) on, “4 Techniques to Massively Improve your Hand Lettering.” The viewing audience grew to 299 people and continued to grow even a day later.

I have a lot to digest and so many ideas to share with my new lettering friends. I’ll save it for the next art residency and focus on getting back on the road.

Visiting with friends and family has really been the highlight so far. By doing so, we have been able to share in the rituals we set at Arts Letters and Numbers: baking bread and pizza night.

Many hands make for light work. The kids helped with bread and topped their own pizzas including this creative dessert pizza: maple cream from our travels to the maple festival, Lucky Charms (what else?), and strawberries. Photographed before the whipped cream.

Whether it’s having lunch with Brandy Agerbeck over deep dish Chicago-style pizza or meeting new friends like Renee Adriani to talk shop, it’s the connections we make along the way that string together an exciting adventure. As we head West, we look forward to more.

Whether you are an educator, facilitator or visual practitioner near the Kansas City area, Renee Andriani and I would love to geek out on visuals with you!

For those of you in the KC area, please come join us at a free gathering about how to leverage the power of visuals. I would love to share my creative passion with you and help you discover yours!

Next up: more roadside motels, meeting Flo, sign painting and spending time with family.

Thanks for following our journey!


On Flow, Reality and Technology

I’ve spent so much time in the Flow State that for a couple of days I couldn’t tell when I was in it and when I wasn’t.

graphite drawing in an A3 Moleskine sketchbook

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihaly there are 8 elements of Flow. Here is what you can expect to experience if you are maintaining it correctly:

  1. Clarity of Goals: The rules of the game or steps needed to take are known. Every moment is clear as is every step of the way to meet the goal.
  2. Immediate Feedback: Moment by moment you know what you are doing. Your senses are heightened and you are fully aware.
  3. Balance between Skills and Challenge: What you need to accomplish is equal to the skills you have. You are operating at the right level. If there is too little of a challenge, you can become bored. if there is too much of a challenge, you can become stressed.
  4. Concentration and Focus: Duality disappears—split attention merges into concentrated, focused attention. You experience harmony through efficiency and effectiveness.
  5. Operating in the Present: You can’t afford to let your mind wander. There are no worries. You become unaware of the problems of everyday life. You can escape forward and create a new reality.
  6. In Control of the Experience: You may feel as if you are on an edge with a sense of control of what’s in front of you.
  7. Loss of Self Consciousness: There is no wondering of what others may think of you. With a loss of ego, you transcend defensiveness and have the feeling of being a part of something larger.
  8. Sense of Time Transformed: Time adapts itself to how you feel when you are doing something. Hours get condensed into minutes or what takes minutes feels like hours.

At the beginning of the residency and in my studies of Flow, I noticed that when I switched to working with art materials, I could quickly get into flow. But as soon as my phone rang, an email alert came in, or my alarm reminding me to capture my experience I would quickly exit the flow state.

Later I simply shut off or ignored electronic sounds that permeated my creative space. Eventually I was able to maintain a flow state whether I was creating, cooking, conversing, driving. I even found that running errands was rewarding.

Until I dropped my cell phone. That’s when everything came to a halt. I couldn’t call, text, or check email. A sense of fear overcame me pulling me so far out of flow that it kept with me for a few days. Fear about the costs involved, the lost opportunities, and the usual addiction to devices we all suffer from. Not to mention that I dropped it two days before leaving and I wasn’t sure if I was going to get the replacement in time for our planned departure. In most cases, this would be an inconvenience. When traveling, logistics are complicated. With changing billing addresses and shifting shipping addresses, it may seem to an outsider that I am committing fraud. But it all worked out, the phone arrived and we are back on track to travel West as planned.

Leaving Arts Letters and Numbers was difficult. We grew very fond of living and creating in the space with other artists.

Despite traveling down the highway at speed and thinking about how doing so is a type of time travel in the space-time continuum, I am still able to experience the flow state from time to time. What I have noticed is that if I let my imagination go to a negative place it pulls me out of flow and keeps me in a negative spin cycle until I can pull myself out. Once I catch myself, I quickly focus to gain clarity of the present moment and the goal then I’m back in again.

We create our own realities. I find that when I am in a flow state, it’s blissful.
Integration is key.