The Real. The Raw. Failure on Mt. Hood. [VIDEO]

I know some people have nightmares of being naked. A manifestation of vulnerability. I don’t usually. I dream of failure.

I dream over and over of failing a college class that I forget I’m taking. This dream comes so frequently that every month or so I ask my husband if I’m enrolled in any courses just to clear my mind. I haven’t taken a class in years.

In the last few weeks I’ve been feeling very drawn to honestly and vulnerably telling stories of my fears and failures. I can attribute part of this to being at WDS, where stories of vulnerability and bravery go hand-in-hand.

Someone once told Ben and I that our climbing was like a perfectly constructed team building exercise in which we were being stretched to work on our most pressing communication issues. We thought we just had a hobby.

Climbing pushes me to my mental and physical limits and stirs the pot so that I face my ugliest shadows and worst fears. Especially my emotions around failure.

This video is about the raw, real emotions that I felt during my attempt of Mt. Hood last week.

This is not a reality tv show. I hate that vulnerability and emotional responses are being dumbed down by the prevalence of this brain-rotting phenomenon. This is me. My journey part way up a mountain and the wash of exhausted emotion I encountered en route. Keeping it real.

Finding Green

So we went from snow to desert and then back to the lush green western side of the Cascades. We have spent the last couple days in Portland, Oregon. We have seen friends, eaten great food, drank great beer, driven all over the area to see as much as we could, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.


Today we spent an hour around the N. Mississippi Ave area. We ate at food carts and then saw some awesome shops, including these.

at Flutter (#3948)


at Flutter (#3948)the window of Sunlan Lighting (#3901)at Pistils Nursery (#3811)

And I have been getting in my babytime. We are staying with a 5 week old and he is precious!

Lyon (son of Erik and Katie)

What I Needed Today

 Nana, Papa and Me (Papa died when I was 2)

My Nana passed away Monday evening. This week has felt hard and grey. I went with my mom yesterday to help clean out her apartment. Everything was perfectly organized, so our job wasn't too hard. Just decisions and boxing and carting out. But emotionally it is hard and I feel like I am dragging.

Then today - despite the forcast - there was blue sky. It was a blessing, a gift, and I took advantage of it. I needed to sit in the sunshine more than I needed to get a ton of work done. 

I made this movie because I figured maybe some of you needed to just watch the clouds float by too.


And of course I took cheery puppy pictures. They loved the weather too.



last january

Last year I wrote a new year's post about everything I was looking forward to. There was so much hope for a good year and so many plans I couldn't even share yet. And it was an amazing year. 

the contrast of february: lots of snow and a trip to Ecuador

But the reality is that there were a lot of hard stretches. Personally, this was a hard year. From where I stand I can see the magnificent high points AND the very low points that no one else can see. I am glad to celebrate the high points but looking back I cannot ignore the hard stuff – the low points and all the work it took to get to the high points. The highs were amazing but I feel like the lows were pretty low.

Does it have to be that way, I wonder? If I want the peaks do I have to go so low in between? Maybe. I am looking forward starting Louise Gale's ecourse again next week and going through the exercises she has created to honor the past and look forward!

And where I am now feels hard. I am trying to be brave, but change is hard and stressful. I find solace in I knowing I am on the right path and I feel it promising a beautiful future. 

ice climbing in march

So on to the celebrating. Looking back these are the mountains I climbed:

- Seek Your Course: idea to launch in 6 months! What a ride that was! And it continues to grow and evolve. Lots of exciting developments on the way in 2012. 

- It was a beautiful winter full of snow and snow shoeing. Tried ice climbing and loved it. Planning on doing more this winter. 

cape cod in june for the encaustic conference

- Finished my 5th year of teaching. It was a hard year, especially once I started Seek Your Course and spent all my extra time in that, but good.

- Applied for artist residencies and got into two. Chose Spain. 

seek your course launch party in july

- Attended EncaustiCamp in Oregon in July. What an amazing group of people! So creative and uplifting. 

- Asked to teach at EncaustiCamp 2012. So excited to be offering a class I really love and that is so personally fulfilling for me. Want to join me?

falling in love with oregon in july

colorado on the way home from oregon was lovely too

- Quit my job teaching with mixed feelings. But certainly not looking back.

- Kickstarter success. Raised over $2,200 for my residency in Spain. Supported by 39 people. Still feel blessed.

then there was that flooding in augustcoastal trip in august (lauren with poppy on the beach)

- Lots of time spent with friends and family this year. As I looked through photos I realized just how awesome it has been.

- Finally climbed Mt. Washington and partially completed the Presidential Traverse in New Hampshire. 

mt washington, nh in september

the summits of mt perdido and ben nevis

- Europe and my artist residency. Where to begin reccounting the exciting times and accomplishments? I guess climbing Ben Nevis in Scotland (highest peak in the UK) and the 11,000'+ Mt. Perdido in Spain tops the list. And my residency provided an infusion of time into my painting practice. An amazing experience. And I saw the Queen of England. Icing on the cake.

- UPDATE: How could I forget? My Shows! Seeing my art hanging in Spain, New York, Miami and here in my town.

spain in octoberthe queen in november

Looking ahead, this is what I am looking forward to in 2012: 

- Teaching Encaustics: in-studio classes here in Western Massachusetts, East Coast workshops in February, April, & May, EncaustiCamp in July, and ...

- Headed to Artfest in Seattle in March. Ben and I will explore the northwest together too. His first time.

- Really hoping to make it to Texas (for the first time) in September for the International Encaustic Artists conference there.

- Participating in a couple of artist groups – one local, one virtual – to build community and have some accountability in this self-employment thing.

- Working on the house. This has to be the year of finishing this place or I WILL go crazy.

- SYC developments. Connecting more creative people with the learning opportunities out there!

our neighbors here in december

NYC Windows and Show

top left: Ben skating at the Chelsea Pier skatepark; right: Anthropologie window in Chelsea; bottom left: street art in Chelsea

This week has been extra busy with participating in a group show in NYC thrown into the mix. But the chance to see the city all dressed up for the holidays was a treat. Some amazing designers have pulled out all the stops to bring block after block of inspiration. I am completely in love with Christmas decorations in general and am a total sucker for the over-romanticized illusions of sparkly magic that are associated with Christmas. And that is exactly what these windows were. It was really nice to see at least some of them Thursday before the reception for my show. (BTW, that zebra is made out of paper!)

Christmas Windows. left and bottom right: Bergdorf Goodman; top right: Barneys New York's Gaga's Crystal Cave

Clockwise from top right: Tiffany's Christmas Window; subway stop; decorations in Trailer Park Lounge on W 23rd; Anthropologie display in Rockefeller store

Anthropologie window display at Rockefeller

High Line at night

My parents joined Ben and I in the city. After window gawking and some delicious food we headed to the reception for the show. I had seven encaustic pieces in the show Exposure at the Ceres Gallery in Chelsea. The turnout was great and it was a fun evening of mingling and chatting about my work.

My work in the show at Ceres Gallery in Chelsea

These are two new (and bigger) pieces I have done since I got home from Spain. I am really enjoying working larger and want to try even bigger. 

These two pieces really deal with experiences around memory since now my trip abroad is all memory. I am amazed at how quickly some memories become cloudy and leave behind a sense of vacancy. On the other hand I am also very aware that my memories of my trip float around in my head and fade in and out of the consciousness on a daily basis. Most of the trip is still fresh and still informs my actions and experiences here now. So that's where these pieces come from.

New Work: Steeped in Memories (encaustic mixed media, 24x30")

New Work: Vacant, Fleeting Memories (encaustic mixed media, 24x30")

Today is Christmas Eve and I spent a few hours at my parents' house cooking for tomorrow. Always a nice time. Looking forward to amazing food and the joy of giving tomorrow. On the menu is Beef Tenderloin, Mussels, Scallops, Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Vegetables, Baked Potatoes, Fruitcake Trifle, and a giant Cherry Apple Pie I made. Getting goosebumps just thinking about it. Merry Christmas!

Adrift (where the sea is taking me)

florist in London

Being in Europe was like being handed the keys to a speedboat. My life was suddenly filled with new sights and sounds and I was moving. Even when I settled into a routine in Spain life was still beautiful and rich with momentum. Everything was new. I had amazing food, language to absorb and attend to, new things to snap photos of everyday, and a constant bubbling of excitement.

At a Tea House in LondonA cloudy skyline, royal ironwork, individually wrapped sushi and Wicked!

Now I feel like I took the speed boat out onto the open seas and the motor stalled. Try as I might it just won't start. I'm back home and the momentum is gone. Somedays the speed I felt before seems like a distant memory that might have been a dream. My trip does kind of seem like a dream. I've been home less than a month but that time away feels so distant and the feeling of being back again seems to shadow all that happened.

The Pipilotti Rist exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in LondonAt the Southbank Centre...I would take this residency any day!

I even saw the Queen during my dreamy adventures!

I am back and the sea is calm but insistent and I wonder where it is taking me. Without a working motor taking me speeding ahead I am noticing the things that make me uncomfortable...feeling those feelings that I don't want to feel. The doubts about whether I am in the right place in my life. The fear of loneliness and rejection. Some days I feel like the sea is pulling me in various directions just to mess with me. 

But then again there is evidence that the sea knows better than I do. There is evidence that the sea is taking me places I could never have planned to go. I am learning to take advantage of this open schedule and self-employed lifestyle. I am scheduling time with friends, inspirational trips, and making exciting plans but not quite finding enough time to paint yet. It will come. I will insist.

Sarah Ahearn Bellemare's show in Northampton (and her daughter, Ada)

Some guerilla knitting found near my home.

A day at the new Wishstudio in Newburyport with Mindy Tsonas

So I am learning to be adrift. I usually have one mode: Go. (And then there is Crash but I try to pretend that doesn't happen.) This feels like neither. This feels like a mix of fate and adventure. This feels like real exploration...not the kind on a trail but the kind in the jungle with no map. The kind that comes with uncertainties, unknowns and fear. I shall be brave and find out where the sea is taking me.



La Fragua: Tipografía Workshop

the work of one of the other participants (click to enlarge)

My residency was supposed to end of Nov 9 – one month after I got there. But shortly after I arrived I realized a couple things: I love Spain, I am more and more intrigued by illustration, and an illustrator from Madrid was coming to La Fragua to each a workshop the weekend after I was supposed to leave. So I decided to stay another 5 days. Then my mom decided to come visit. So along with teaching my workshop for two afternoons last week and my mom and I also participated in Tipografía with Silja Goetz

participants and teacherSilja is an illustrator and has a lovely resume of big names who have published her work. And along with being good at what she does, she is also a lovely person. I always appreciate meeting people who couple talent with warmth and a willingness to encourage others. Silja guided us through creating a-typical typography and willingly gave feedback throughout the process. 

working on our typography projects and enjoying the beautiful weather

student workstudent work (click to enlarge)

I was feeling a little melancholy about leaving Spain and the pueblo, so the phrases the end and the beginning came to me. This past weekend felt like the end of so much and the beginning of so much. The end of Spain, spanish, my residency, and my time abroad. And yet everything feels like it is just beginning. My work is beginning to take form and my time in my residency gave it momentum. 

I feel like my time in Spain has given me so much. When I think about it phrases come into my head like: Spain has given me wings to fly; Spain has given me legs to walk on, Spain has given me a path to follow, Spain has given me a boat to sail in. All of these things are a start. The start of a journey. This is the beginning as well as the end. 

(click to enlarge)(click to enlarge) 

And so my typography is rich with metaphor. I created the beginning from seeds piled up between rows of new sprouts of wheat. I created el fin (“the end” in spanish) from the curly tips of dead plants on stone. And the earth seemed to acknowledge my meaning. el fin blew away and the seeds of the beginning were carted off by ants – food for the masses. There is such power in metaphor. 

blown away and carried away (click to enlarge)

My mom took advantage of the warm weather and extended growing season. She created GROW from stones and planted flowers in the letters. 

grow by my mom

Mid-day on Saturday we got the change to see the cloisters of the convent. Really special.

On the last day we did a group project. Each participant was given a letter of L-A F-R-A-G-U-A and a uniform size to work with. I decided to capture La Fragua in drawing for my letter A (and thus to practice drawing because it still terrifies me). I drew the buildings most significant to my time there: the convent, the garden, the workshop, my house, the pilar (washing pool), the castle, and a few shops I frequented. In the end I was quite proud. Yet again I had surprised myself and wondered why drawing scares me so. 

my A (click to enlarge)

My mom, of course, did what she does best and created a beautiful garland of flowers and leaves for her U. 

a rough idea of what it looked like all together

We had a lot of fun just hanging out too. The energy of the place and the participants was relaxed and playful. I took some video footage to try to capture the moments. 


In short, the weekend workshop was wonderful. Totally worth staying for. 

Travels in Spain with Mom

My mom arrived in Madrid on an overnight flight on November 5. The opening for my show had been the night before, but regardless I woke up early, caught the 7am bus to Cordoba, a 9:30am train to Madrid and she was there waiting for me. I was so thrilled to have her in Spain. I knew she would love it and she did. 

We stayed in Madrid for two nights. On our first day we went to the Real Jardín Botánico gardens, the Prado Art Museum, and did a little tapas tour of our own near the Puerta del Sol. The Prado was a little overwhelming, but amazing. The tapas and wine were fabulous. 

Real Jardín Botánico

The next day we set out sights on El Rastro Flea Market, the biggest in Europe. We walked and shopped until we dropped and we estimate that we only saw 1/3 of it. It really is a flea market like no other I’ve been to. You could buy antiques, art, jewelry, leather goods, cheap electronics, memorabilia, scarves, clothing, or Moroccan imports. The range was incredible. We both became pack mules laden with goods. 

 El Rastro Flea Market

some antique stores in El Rastro

Later that day we did some more shopping. I bought a wheeled carry-on bag which is serving me very well and served then to carry all the treasures we had bought at the flea market. My mom found a couple pairs of awesome shoes including low purple boots which are adorable. 

(click to enlarge)

While shopping we noticed beautiful evening light hitting some of the buildings over our heads so we raced to the palace gardens and joined a growing crowd of people at the overlook watching the most stunning sunset. Fiery orange and yellows blended perfectly into the richest blues and purples with a dab of pink for good measure. 

We ended the day of shopping with more tapas and more wine. Here is a little video I made with some more street music and some of the food we ate.



From Madrid we headed to Córdoba in a first class train car complete with tapas. 

I must say I really like Córdoba. It is small and manageable, but with plenty to do. The first day there I took Mom to the mosque. I had of course been there before (here and here), but it was worth going again. Not quite as surprising the second time, but rich with history and atmosphere. I also took Mom to Santos for their famous tortilla (spanish omelet). 

street scenes in Córdoba

After doing the things I had already done, we indulged in a couple hours in the arabian Hammam Baths complete with tea and massages. Oh my, I could do that everyday. Five pools at three different temperatures plus a steam room and a giant heated rock slab to lie on. One of my most relaxing experiences yet. 

After some Moroccan food we wandered around the city.


The next day was Tuesday and more was open. Our first stop was Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (a fortress/castle) with its climbable tower and extensive gardens. My mom especially enjoyed the gardens after watching a freak fall snow storm burry hers a couple weeks ago (complete with the loss of power for 5 days!). In Córdoba the trees still had leaves, the oranges and pomegranates hung promisingly, and giant koi swam around looking for food in the pools. 


gardens of alcázar

After the castle we went to explore the 13 patios of Palacio de Viana. I quickly decided that I would definitely like to live in a house with 13 patios. Absolutely. Where’s my winning lottery ticket? 

 I shot some footage to really capture the beauty of these gardens and structures.


After the palace we headed to the bus station and boarded a bus for the countryside. With full bags we arrived in the pueblo of Belalcázar for a a few days of finishing my residency. 

La Fragua: Trip to Granada (and Córdoba)

This past weekend I took a trip first to Córdoba for a few hours and then to Granada for two nights. I’ve settled into the town here nicely and really love it, but I decided that I really should see something else since I am here. I am going to see Madrid properly this weekend with my mom when she arrives, but either Granada or Sevilla were a must too. So I chose Granada.

Friday morning I took the bus to Córdoba from our little pueblo. As I walked to the bus I started to panic. I thought I heard a bus is the distance. I tried to quell my fears by telling myself that there are lots of big vehicles on the road that might sound like a bus. The bus wasn’t due for an hour, or was is 30 minutes? No one seemed to know for sure. And that was the real reason for my anxiety. Online timetables and local information seemed to not agree. And that made me nervous. I am used to everything running like clockwork, but here it doesn’t. Here things happen when they happen and that’s about all you can really count on. 

In general I like this. In general a world with less pressure and more room to enjoy the simple and beautiful things of life is better. It pushes me to let go and slow down and love this single, precious life I have. It teaches me to be more patient and respect the paths of others. It shows me just how insignificant my plans are in the grand scheme of things. But when it comes to busses - damn! - I wish they would reliable. 

As it turned out the online timetable was correct and I was indeed an hour early. I had two churros and fresh squeezed orange juice in the cafeteria while waiting. And then I sat my the road in the freezing cold just so I would miss it. It turned up right at 9am. I could breath again.

I spent most of Friday in Córdoba. I went to the medieval synagogue, archeological museum, and did some shopping. I mainly bought clothes and scarves because I have so few here and the European styles are awesome. But I also bought these pink boots. Not my typical purchase. I am still kind of staring at them and scratching my head. Why did I buy them? I don't know.

 the medieval synagogue in córdoba

the tiny San Bartolomé church in Córdoba...honestly the most amazing tiles I've seen anywhere

some amazing artifacts at the archaeological museum 

eating octopus my first night in Granada

Saturday was my big day in Granada. I went on a tour of Alhambra and the Generalife gardens in the morning, walked around the Albayzín district in the afternoon, took a brief nap, and then went back to the Generalife gardens for a night visit. It was all amazingly beautiful. 

Palacio de Carlos V...a renaissance edition after the catholic kings took back over

the gardens outside the entrance to the Palacio Nazaríes

I took so many photos in the Palacio Nazaries that I had to make a slideshow. 107 in total, so sit back and relax. It's worth it!


From the Nazaríes Palace we went to the Generalife Gardens. 

my glimpse of the snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains before the clouds came in the hedges and fountains of the Generalife Gardens

the summer palace

Part of why I went away this weekend was to be moving. I love bus rides, train rides, or even driving. Movement always seems to clear my head and unblock the words and images in my mind. I love how the land swishes by and the gentle rocking of the machine soothes me. I feel the tension ease and the smiles come as I watch sheep running through the field, observe the natural rise and fall of the hills and valleys, and spot each pueblo far ahead across the fields before we come to it. 

Running water does the same thing. Sitting by or walking along running water unplugs something in my brain and calms me. The movement and the energy from it has great power in my life. That’s one of the reasons I love my bedroom here in the pueblo so much – I can always here the water running from the Pilar below. And also why I absolutely loved the Water Stairs in Generalife.

the water stairs (there is video footage of this too!)

My tour was moving so fast that I didn't get to shoot any video (though hundred of photos) in the Nazaríes Palace so I started shooting in the small Summer Palace in the Generalife gardens. Got a little bit of night shooting in too, but it is not fabulous.

 As the video shows, I went from the gardens to Alcazaba – the fortress – and then down into the city before returning to the gardens at night.


the view from Alcazaba

courtyards and terra cotta roof tiles

the streets of the Pomegranate City (granada is pomegranate in spanish)

The city was full of amazing street art. Full murals could be found all over the place. I didn't get great pictures because most of it I saw from the busses, but here are some wonderful shots on flickr. This is one I saw while walking around.

street artsmall stone paved streets, good food and good views...and proving I was thereAfter a nap it was back to the gardens. 

the summer palace at night

Again, too many photos to just put into the post. This slideshow is much shorter (only 21 photos) but beautiful in its own way.


I wish I could have captured what it was like to walk through the darker parts of the garden. But maybe there is something about drifting alone, silently through room after room, arch after arch of evergreen hedges that needs to be experienced for oneself. I think it is a journey that would actually be different for everyone. So I sealed the memory in my mind. Standing alone learning how to enjoy solitude in the night accompanied by the sliver of orange magnified moon sinking below the horizon.

I feel things changing, shifting. My time here is speeding up. More people are arriving before I leave and the house is going to fill up. My calm days full of silence are dwindling. So much change makes me a little uneasy – like a big wave – but I just need to fight the panicky feeling and boldly ride the wave home. And at the same time I crave being home. I think I just know the ride home is going to be a little more chaotic than the easy life I have gotten used to for the last few weeks.

I would come back to Spain in a heartbeat. I absolutely love it here. But right now, honestly, the holidays are calling me home. My dad turns 50 a few days after I get back. And there are pies to bake, traditions to keep, a house to decorate, parties to plan, more paintings to paint, shows to prepare for, and gifts to make. Holidays in New England are something I look forward to every year. And this year I will actually have time to enjoy it. The more snow the better. It was a snowy halloween so I’m hopeful for a White Christmas.

just another alleyway

La Fragua: Full

The big things and the little things.

The feeling of a full life always brings my mind to the brink of exhaustion. I want a full life and so I absorb, I plan, I learn, I try, I jump, and I go. I open my eyes and take in everything. I open my mind and process the details. I stop and think about why and how. I paint and don't like it. I paint and like it. I paint and wonder if liking something is important. I get frustrated and go back to thinking. I find a better path and keep going. I get tired.

Life here in my residency is full. So full.

 an evening of exploringdinner at Javi and Gaby's home

birds, the main occupants of the castle

La Fragua's harvest of olives; Javi is currently soaking them to remove the bitterness and then we will marinate themthe rainy season has begun

A piece of my heart is still in the United States, but the experience here is rich and oh so meaningful.  

I have been painting a lot. Throught the down days I have come to learn the importance of moving forward – entering the studio each day to do something – and that something always adds up to something good eventually. I have begun a series of simple paintings that really focus the intentions that I have for each piece, each metaphor. The images are getting stronger and I like that. Still moving forward and getting somewhere.

losing my head (12x12" on panel)

beautiful things (12x12" on panel)

Almost completely forgot about the video I took a couple days ago. 

And as you can hear in this video, my suitcase has been found (tags had fallen off evidently) and it is on its way. We will see just when it gets here. But at least it is not lost!

La Fragua: Trip to Córdoba

The famous arches of the Mezquita de Córdoba

During my first week here in my residency Javi, Rosana and I took a trip to Córdoba...and it happened to be my birthday. La Fragua was having an opening for a show in Córdoba, which gave me a chance to gather some art supplies and seeing an amazing city. I am going back this week to see more, but this is what I saw on my first trip a couple weeks ago.

Let's start on the outside of the Mosque. La Mezquita de Cordoba was built on top of a ruined cathedral in 785 AD, but then when the Christians took back over in the 16th century they put a catherdral in the middle of it. So it is called the Mezquita-Catedral. It tells the story of change in the city. And it is absolutely stunning.


one of the outside doors of the mosquePuerta del Perdón: the 14th century gateway to the Mezquita/Mosque

As you go through the Puerta del Perdón you enter the Patio de los Naranjos, the Patio of the Oranges. I especially loved the aqueducts that delivered water to the orange trees.

Patio de los Naranjos (and dome in the Puerta del Perdón)aqueducts to water the orange trees

And then you go inside. And all the archtectural styles just mash together into something completely unique.

one of several painted domes


part of the maksura, muslim prayer enclosure

dome of the maksura

left: the cathedral; right: arches of the mosque

What struck me the most were the patterns. My eyes hurt from staring through my camera lens.

I was in awe of the great variety of patterns covering every surface

After spending a good, long time soaking up the mosque I explored the Juderia (jewish district), had a slice of Santos' famous tortilla (a giant cake of potato and egg), some tapas, and genuinely enjoyed Córdoba. I also did some birthday shopping for myself.

sights around the cityAnd then we went to the opening. The show features an audio composition of women talking about their mothers and the sea. It was composed by Hiroya Miyura. You can read more about the installation here

Top: the audio installation complimented by mirrors; left: leaving the show; bottom: tapa and drinks afterward

A fabulous birthday.

La Fragua: Fall Festival

This past Saturday there was a lovely fall festival at La Fragua. As part of the festival there was an agricultural-art installation (planting of wheat..see video), food by Pablo, a dancing workshop, and a concert. Enjoy!

one of the flower arrangements I made large pic: fresh squeezed pomegranate juice from the farm next door (I took the picture of Izara and then she took the one of me.)Pablo and Gaby the agricultural-art installation in progress

Enjoy the music and dancing on the second half of the video too...after the sizzling meat and planting of seeds. Video captures music and dancing better than photos do.

Chopping garlic for Pablo's amazing sauce.

Ribs with Pablo's amazing sauce and tomato-cabbage salad, empanadas, and for desert: dulce de leche crepes!Uma...cute as a button

La Fragua: Glimpses and Updates

pomegranates for juice-making tomorrow (and another plant for decoration)

It is getting late here and there is a big festival at La Fragua tomorrow. The festival combines agriculture with art, food, and music...everything La Fragua is about. I am still loving it here. Finally feel some momentum with my art (more on that below).

This was going to be a quick update, but there are so many photos and video clips I want to share. So much inspiration and loveliness. So here it all is in a big lovely pile. 

First, a video of me taking about a typical morning of trying to do stuff and not really getting anywhere fast.

The thorn that punctured my bike tire. Seriously one sharp plant!

The Market, Gourmet Foods Shop, and the Carpenter (and the pig!)

love this pink bicycle...and an old man was riding it which made it that much cuterA video of the plaza at sunset. The birds are incredible in this video. Give a watch! This was yesterday hanging out with Gaby and Uma.

These guys were hanging out next to the road when I was biking to the convent this morning. I just love those bells.

Pablo made Rosana and me an amazing Italian dinner the other night. I made the antipasto platter under his direction. His sauce was amazing!

Dinner and Dancing with Pablo and Rosana

So now for an art update. 

Yesterday and today I finally felt some energy behind my work in the studio. I had energy and intention. Last week was hard because everything was new and my supplies were (and still are) lost and I had to find everything. This week I had a bad cold at the beginning of the week and so I focused on sleeping and eating soup. Now I am feeling better and moving forward. 

I feel momentum, which is great. In particular because two days ago I was really hoping that I would find my momentum and get going. I actualy wrote:

"I am hoping that I am pedaling uphill, because I am working but it feels hard. I am hoping that this path is not actually flat and I am just weak. I hope the path I am on is taking me up so that at some point I will be able to coast down with momentum and start painting with furvor and results. I hope this is the uphill."

And it seems that was the uphill. I spent a lot of time thinking about my paintings, sketching and staring at my materials trying to figure out the best ways to make do with what I have. Well, I feel the hard times have lead to fruitful times again and for now I am moving quickly. Today I stayed at the convent until after dark. I painted for about 7 hours. Riding home in the dark with the stars was beautiful, but a little scary. 

Some of my latest work here: (and they do link to larger versions this time)

Pilgrimage (12x24" on panel; encaustic and oil)Losing It 1 & 2 (12x12" on panel; encaustic)When All Feels Lost 1 & 2 (12x12" on panel; encaustic mixed media)Climbing and The Garden (some fun warm-up pieces I did; ~7x7" encaustic on panel)Lay My Head to Rest (12x12" on panel; encaustic and oil)No Plan (12x12" on panel; encaustic)the convent as I was leaving this evening


Europe: Monte Perdido (Fears and Strength)

some crazy landscapes as we arrived in the pyreneesthe view from our hotel room: ordesa canyon

This whole trip brought a lot of words into my head. I wish I had written more, but I did try to scribble down some thoughts as they came to me. But I did not do this enough to really feel like I captured the bulk of the thoughts. I want to record them. I want to remember the things I have learned. I have learned so much. I have been reminded of so much. And so much has shifted during the last few weeks I am not even sure I can name what has. But I have to try or I know I will fall into old habits when I return home, old thoughts that keep me down in my rut. 

There are some of the things I was thinking about when hiking.


starting out

I have a hard time slowing down. Ben started feeling sick in Cambridge right before Paris. Then I started feeling sick too. Mostly a bad cold, but it sure feels rotten to be traveling when you don’t feel well. Even more so when you don’t speak the language where you are. But when we got sick we had to slow down. By the time we got to Barcelona and went to plan our time in the mountains we had to reduce our 5 days to 3. 

We took our time getting there and getting away. We stayed in a fabulous hotel at the entrance to the Ordesa Canyon in the Pyrenees before and after our hike. But we did still hike. In fact, we even summited Monte Perdido (11,007’ or 3355 m). We had to. We were too close not to. And it was fabulous.

We started the hike by walking out the door of the hotel and towards to canyon walls the rose high above us. We followed the road until a sign that took us down an embankment, over a bridge and up towards the well-worn G11, which follows the border between France and Spain. (Someday we will do more long-distance trails. I think this one is on the list.) Once on the G11 the trail wound along following the river flowing down the canyon. We hiked past waterfalls and through mossy forest. 

 the canyon floor

ordesa canyon

At one point I saw a large creature crossing our path. 
“Holy shit!” I exclaimed. Then I looked again and found that what I really thought was a mountain lion was only the top half of a cow moving through a low spot in the trail. Ben just looked at me and declared that he was pretty sure he had never heard me swear like that before. I explained that I really thought we were in trouble with a giant cat. He looked at the cow, then at me and said, 
“If that was a mountain lion I think it would be the size of a saber tooth tiger.” 
To which I laughed and sheepishly replied that I probably have been reading too much fantasy lately.  

There were cows everywhere at this point. Cute baby ones with a bull standing guard. Big momma cow crashing through the undergrowth. It was strange to me that cows graze in the national park, but they do. I loved seeing them there, despite the chance that they might charge, but even more than seeing them I loved hearing them because they wore cowbells.

The sound was just lovely. I thought it was even better than a wind chime. The sound was raw and earthy. The layered ringing was the accumulation of each cow systematically pulling grass from the ground and chomping to its own rhythm. Each cow’s rhythm layered upon the others and floated away on the breeze. And it carried. We heard the sound resonating up the canyon from miles away later on.

Ben took this sound recording.


peak to the right: our destinationlooking back to the ordesa canyon

Once we hiked along the length of the canyon we came to the end of it, which is also the Cirque de Soaso.  Once here the only way was up. We hiked switchbacks that zigged and zagged up and up to the Refugio de Góriz. They were doing construction on the refuge, doubling its size. We camped just up the hill from it. Bought some lemon sodas from their fridge (solar power) and made our dinners of instant soup and marinated tuna packets. 

getting to goriz

ben's soup: bombay bad boy


Before bed we climbed the beginning of the route up Perdido so we were sure we knew where to go in the morning. Fell asleep under a star-filled sky with a bright, bright moon. The next morning we woke early, but not as early as we had planned. Too tired. But thankfully this did not alter our plans. We still had time.



alien landscape

So we climbed. And climbed. And the landscape got wilder, harsher and more dramatic. The walls of the canyon that had looked so big the day before grew smaller and smaller in the background. There was no more green grass. Only rock and dust. Sometimes ice.  For the entire morning we climbed in the shadow of the mountain. It was unnaturally dark as we picked our way through boulders the size of houses and climbed scrambling routes that were more like rock climbing than hiking. We were enveloped by great walls of rock and we both concluded that this was the most alien landscape we had ever been in. It was ominous and the air was tainted with a sense of foreboding.

Climbing through such a landscape – especially when there is a greater chance you will slip and die than normal – can awaken the deepest of your fears. They seep from your bones and before you know it your mind is buzzing with possibilities from the worst of your nightmares. 

At one point we were hiking through boulders in a particularly desolate spot and I suddenly imagined a madman confronting Ben and then stabbing him before running away. I saw myself cradling my bleeding husband, screaming for help all alone on the side of the huge mountain, dialing what I hoped was the emergency number for Spain on my cell phone, not knowing how to saw “stabbed” in spanish and saying “Mi esposo! Muerte! Necesito un helicóptero! El lado de Monte Perdido!” and hoping that was enough. But knowing that a helicopter would probably not be enough. 

The vision was terrifying. And where did it come from? How is it that a huge mountain can be powerful enough to draw out such elaborate and unconscious fears?

This happens to Ben too. But he does not see madmen. He sees me disappear over the edge as wind blows me off the cliffs I get too close to. He sees my body splayed out unnaturally on the rocks below.  He sees hypothermia, lightning, driving rain, and snow storms. He sees himself slipping on wet rock and landing on the glacier far below. Ben fears the elements and the edge. I do not. I fear people.

intense paths

While climbing a few sets of people passed us. We were definitely slower than most. I stepped aside for one man to pass and he responded with “Merci” instead of the usual “Gracias.” A few times along the hike he stopped to take pictures and we eventually found out that he was French and spoke more English than Spanish. We chatted about the route. He wanted to know if we knew it. We had a map.

An older couple passed us wearing t-shirts and sun hats. We were a little worried, but they were fine. A group with a guide passed us. The guide carried a short rope for some of the steep sections. We had to leave our rope at home due to weight, but he barely used it because there was no snow and the rocks were dry. Perfect climbing weather. 

Once we got to the glacial lake below Monte Cilindro we had a choice. Rock or ice? Ben chose to use the ice ax and micro-spikes he had been carrying to climb the ice field up to the base of the scree field that was the final stretch of our accent. I chose the more commonly climbed path up the rock that formed a sort of spine along that side of the mountain. We each chose what we felt more comfortable with. The thrill of pulling myself higher and higher was electrifying – a feeling I enjoy. I watched Ben pick his way along the ice in the gully below me and waved. In the pictures I took he is a speck on the ice and the glacier was actually a small one.  

ben as a speck

Often when hiking up endlessly I think of the people I consider stronger than myself. I think about the women artists I know who have blazed a trail for me. I think about the various choices they have made with their art and the ways they have found to make a living at it. I think about what path I want to take. There are a few and I will need to decide soon. I think about whose work mine is most like and what lessons I can draw from their examples. 

I think about the strong women bloggers I know too. I think about how they move people with their words and images. I think about how open they are about their struggles and their triumphs. I think about how they each have a following of people who they impact and inspire. I wonder if I even want a following like some of them have. 

I think about what success looks like. That is a tricky one because I know things are not always as they seem. Often this leads me to think about appearances and I wonder if these women consider themselves to be among the strongest of those they know which is how I see them. I’m pretty sure some of them don’t and that is important for me to acknowledge 

I was thinking about this all again while climbing this rock section of Perdido. And then there came a point as I neared the top when this dawned on me: when I climb I think about people I consider stronger than me, but who of those people would go climb a 11,000’ peak in the Spanish Pyrenees? I ran through the list. Not many. So I asked myself, does that make me strong? Am I stronger than I thought I was? Do I have a place among the strongest women I know?

Maybe. The thought is empowering. Sometimes I think strength is deceptive and allusive rather than a cut-and-dry badge you earn. Often I feel so lost I decide I cannot possibly be strong. Something I need to think about more.

After climbing the rock section I stood waiting for Ben to rejoin me and I took a moment to stare. I was looking out over mountains upon mountains. The view suddenly brought tears to my eyes as I realized that this was a dream come true. We were almost at the top. I was so very very high and I had climbed it all. The emotions were overwhelming. I felt like I had learned to fly 

After the rock and ice was scree. Scree is loose rock and lots of it. I made a movie about it for you.


And then the top. We were on top over everything. The canyon we had looked up at admiringly the day before was a crack in the landscape. We could see other canyons. We could see villages and lakes. And so many mountains. The border with France was below us and we could make out a French observatory on a far peak.

the view

the way we climbed up

Monte Perdido

the canyon from the day before...our way down

strength and successdream come true

Words can only do so much here. Pictures and a pano video shot by Ben. 

Our French friend was at the top taking pictures with a big SLR, like me. He pointed out certain mountains and I shared some of our celebratory chocolate with him. 

The way down was easier and less eventful, just tiring. We had acceded over 7000’ in two days and had to descend at least 6000’ that same day to where we hoped to hitch a ride back to the hotel. Our feet hurt so much it wasn’t even worth thinking about it. The thoughts would overwhelm. 

boulder field in the daylightchains bolted to the rock helped with this sectiondown down down

on the way down

The whole way down we were rehearsing how to ask for a ride to our hotel in Spanish. We walked faster to keep up with the people also hiking back so that we would not be the last ones in the park. Turns out our anxieties were unfounded. When we finally reached the parking lot for the national park our French friend was there still organizing his car and recuperating from the hike he had completed faster than us. He offered to drive us to our hotel and our hike was complete.

Back at the hotel we enjoyed another daily menu: a fixed price dinner with wine included. After a couple glasses of wine I was a goner. Too tired to function properly. The next morning we rented the jacuzzi in the hotel spa for half an hour to ease the ache in our muscles. Then we were off again. A night in Zaragoza before a night in Madrid before Ben flew home. I have a quick set of pictures I will post about those two cities. Hoping to go back to Madrid to explore some more. 


Europe: Barcelona

I have arrived at my residency in Spain. It is incredibly beautiful here and I feel so blessed. My supplies have not arrived even though I sent them from London three weeks ago. I am trying not to be frustrated and trusting they will arrive. I need time to blog, reflect and rest anyway. Life is slow here and I like it. There are no pressures. Makes me think about how I structure my life back in the States and wonder why I put so much stress on myself. Will have to think more about that later.


the ceiling in La Sagrada Família

We spent one day in Barcelona and my main objective was to see architecture. Ben was not feeling well and I wasn't feeling great either, but we got ourselves out of the hostel and our first stop was La Sagrada Família. La Sagrada Família was designed by Antoni Gaudí in the last years of his life and is still not complete. Cranes hover around building higher and higher. But even in its undone state it is incredible and breathtaking. I am definitely going back when it is done and I would love to go to a service there when the choir seats are holds over 1,000 voices! Yeah, this. I want to see this.


I was really inspired by the doors and this metal wall. They were sculpted by Josep Maria Subirachs. I love it when words are used as pattern and texture. 

A close up of the bronze doors.


Up in one of the towers.

We took a tiny elevator up one the towers where we could walk between two of the towers behind the cypress tree above the nativity facade and into another tower where we wound our way down, down, down.

Of course I made a film to give you a better sense of the place, including the towers. 


This really amazed me. Gaudí used tiny hanging bags of sand to create the shape of the basilica!After thouroughly soaking in the basilica we walked around more of Barcelona, particularly visiting the roman ruins and finding some great tapas. We finished our lovely day with a walk along the waterfront as the sun set. 

Roman walls and sangria!

A very old church we sat in. There were holes in the ceiling!

Clockwise from top-left: Not sure what the story is with the horse. Tapas outside. Graffiti I loved. Balconies galore. Olives. Chopping the salted fish.

Europe: Paris Flea Markets


I wanted to separate the Paris posts to let you fully soak in the wonders of the flea markets. Such treasure! Sure prices! I have never seen so many amazing items in one place (beside a museum maybe, but sometimes an everyday object from the past is more stunning that "art") and it was all priced beyond reason. But to look was a dream come true. I stared in wonder and tugged at Ben's arm pointing out the things that are so rare at home. So enjoy this little taste and go yourself if you can!

20 euros for two key holes?? Ha! Finally got savory crepes. Yum!


Europe: Inishmor and Muses

Dún Eochla - a circular fort on Inishmor

I have a confession to make. When I think about the possibility of being robbed on a city street I always clearly envision myself pulling off some wicked ninja moves to show the thief who is boss. I see myself leap over cars and doing somersaults over fences to get back what is mine as I swing my leg up to smash his jaw and use some special moves to flip him with a single twist of my wrist. In my head I am a ninja.


I caught myself envisioning all this in the last couple days and finally today it surfaced enough into my consciousness that I just had to laugh at myself. A lot goes on in my subconscious mind. The more I focus on it and the more I hone in on the humorous and serious insights in my subconscious I am realizing that my subconscious mind is my muse. The things that I imagine and conjure are often what I paint. The funny stuff is the sense of humor I really didn't think I had. It is fascinating to me the more I slow down and pay attention to it.


About the Island


I feel myself slowing down. I feel myself finally realizing that this trip is no longer a dream – I am living it. I feel myself starting to reflect more and notice patterns in life. I still feel the insatiable desire to explore and try everything. 


Before I left my friend Michele told me that my mantra for this trip needs to be "Eat the haggis." Try everything. Get the full experience. A good mantra. And yes, I will try haggis. I will be in trouble if I don't. 


Waves breaking against the cliffs next to fort Dún Aengus
I absolutely fell in love with the island of Inishmor. Today we rented bikes and biked around to see the ancient forts that remain still. We said hello to cows, donkeys, horses and dogs. We watched the waves crash against the cliffs for a long while. We ate lunch in a fort dating back to 1100 B.C. We cruised down rocky paths and panted up steep hills. We drank pints and ate fresh fish. It was lovely and worth even feeling super sick on the ferry ride back to our car special anti-dizzy meds had worn off. I'm fine now.


Tonight we are in Galway. Took in some wonderful Irish music and dancing tonight (made a little movie!). Will post that tomorrow hopefully. Goodnight!


* Keep going for a short video by Ben of the waves crashing against the cliffs. *
Dún Aengus (Initial wall was built in 1100 B.C.) and the surrounding cliffs
Dún Eochla and the newer fort/lighthouse at the highest point of the island.Ben on Dún Eochla with the village of Kilronan in the distance.

Experimenting With Dimension

My plaster pieces before wax. Two pieces with wire and gauze; one cast into sculptey.

I finally pushed all other matters aside and gave myself two days in the studio. I am thrilled with the results. These pieces are still examining issues of safety and home, but they were mostly about experimenting with new techniques and materials, namely plaster. I was reading Plaster Studio by Stephanie Lee and Judy Wise (wrote a review here!) and was filled with images of what might be possible. So I set to work. And this is what I created.

Approaching Darkness (detail) (encaustic, wire and plaster sculpture on panel; 12"x12"x8")Approaching Darkness

Nailed Stuck (encaustic, wire, and plaster on panel; 12"x12")

Nailed Stuck (detail)

this one is still in progressI also did another piece that I am really excited about. It involved painting a piece and then breaking through it from the back and creating a small cavern in the painting. I find it powerful to put physical force into breaking through the painting and channeling my emotions to create an intense piece. This piece is about how the things that happen in our life can shatter us and make us raw and exposed to the world. 

Shattered Me (encaustic mixed media assemblage on panel; 12"x12")Shattered Me (detail)I did another piece like this in the spring, but never posted it. This is it:

Marriage (encaustic mixed media assemblage; 10"x10")I am happy to come back to this idea and am looking forward to doing more pieces like it. 

I am loving working three-dimensional in general. I have always been drawn to sculpture and so it is exciting to let my mind go in that direction and see what comes up. Houses are of course three-dimensional so continuing along the themes I have been exploring could include some really cool sculptures.

Better play in 3D before I head to Spain...don't think I will be doing much of it there with the problem of shipping in the way.

NY Trip with Mom

This was one of my favorites.

Friday and Saturday Mom and I took a little trip to New York. The agenda: Storm King Art Center sculpture parkLorraine Glessner show at R&F Paints' gallery, and Hudson antique stores. We stayed overnight in Poughkeepsie and enjoyed the trip immensely. 

Storm many fabulous images.

Mom overlooking the big field.

During our trip my Kickstarter project met the goal of $2,000. We celebrated! 5 more days of the project so don't stop backing and passing on the word yet! No need for the goal to be the limit. 

top left: Crew restaurant in Poughkeepsie had a garden in the back of the strip! Images of the Walkway Over the Hudson too. Can you spot the desire of my heart: an airstream?

On the way from Poughkeepsie to Hudson we stopped in Kingston at R&F Paints to see the Lorraine Glessner show there. It was inspiring. I loved her usage of many materials and patterns while still maintaining a form that captured your eye and didn't look messy. Made me want to paint, that's for sure.

Lorraine Glessner show at R&F

Hudson, NYHudson was one amazing shop after the next. A little pricey but definitely photo worthly. 

Inside and out of the store of Hudson.

A fun time little getaway with Mom. Full of the things we both love.

Out East (August Break 4, 5 & 6)

Took a trip a couple hours east to the coast for the last couple days. Saw a bunch of friends and spent some quality time with my brother Aaron and his wife Lauren. Lovely time.

My first stop was catching up with Lucy, who is a month old. She was born a month early but is growing strong now.

first stop: lucia

I decided to make the trip because Beth Nicholls of Do What You Love was in Boston from England. If was wonderful to catch up with her and hear about her latest projects as we shopped Newbury Street. I had forgotten my suitcase at home (pissed me off at the time, but not really a big deal) so we had reason to shop. We then enjoyed some great pizza at Scoozi. She mentored me through the spring as I designed and launched Seek Your Course and remains a wonderful source of ideas and insight.

Impetus for the trip: Beth Nicholls; Dinner with Michele in full costume after a day of tours

I then linked up with my teacher friend Michele who is running tours on the Freedom Trail all summer. We had dinner at the Green Dragon. Lobster #1.

Then headed to the North Shore and got to spend some time on the coast.

Beach time with Lauren and Poppy pup...struck by the colors and patterns there.

Poppy loves to run up to seagulls and watch them fly away, but one seagull she found could not fly away. This seagull had a giant hook through the nose holes of its upper beak! It was so sad. Lauren held the seagull by the base of its wings while I pulled it out. We had no tools so it cut him a little to pull it out but we figured it was better than leaving him. I pray it was okay.

Even though it was only a common gull it was life and life is worth caring for. It pained me to hurt it.

It felt almost like fate to be holding another wild bird so soon after holding the hummingbird in Oregon. I felt like it was waiting for me. I felt like I had to help it. I only hope I did the right thing.

The hooked gull and the weight that was holding it down.

My friend Mary Aarons saw I was up on the North Shore and invited me up for a visit. I met Mary also at Squam Art Workshops. She does e-Marketing for Quayside Publishing and talking with her was a real encouragement. People who do the things that baffle me for a living always have a way of sparking new life in my work. We chatted a bit about my upcoming residency too. And I just loved her house!

An inspiring visit with Mary Aarons in Gloucester

Ended my time there with more lobster (#2&3) at Tides restaurant in Nahant. Whirlwind of friends and business me set to tackle some stuff come Monday!

I know this long of a post really doesn't count as August is supposed to be a break after all. Oh well! :)