Oh the places you’ll go!

Summer passed in a blur of heat, activity, travel. From Vancouver to Rome, Syracuse to Portland, I pontificated, sketched and calligraphed my way in and out of classrooms, lingering in Austin only for days at a time to catch my breath.  Six months have passed  and it has taken until now to savor, reflect upon and write about the highlights of this extraordinary time.  Vancouver at Spring’s end is the perfect place to be, with pleasantly mild sun days punctuated with the drama of moody rain clouds. Want sushi? Or how about pie in a quaint coffee shop? Maybe a stroll through a flower studded neighborhood which skirts the spectacularly green, wooded University of BC campus, a view of the harbor in the distance?  How could I call this work, this trip to Vancouver where I was treated like royalty by my dear friends and hosts, Carol and Cooper Walls. Their lovingly custom-designed home reveals a rare combination of vision, talent, hard work and exquisite taste. Cool mornings on the deck looking out over the harbor towards the mountains provided soul-nourishing meditative moments for sketching or being still,  the full, wordless silence a testimony to a comfortable friendship.  The journal was the destination for the Vancouver West Coast Calligraphy group, a willing and talented group of artists who humbled me with the journals they created.

Next stop?  My home calligraphy guild in Austin, Texas, where members of which were willing participants in my new class, “Calligraphy on the Go.”  Inspired by a personal quest of learning to successfully combine sketching with text, handwriting, calligraphy, I cooked up a weekend experience which included exercises in composition, modifying handwriting, working with “on the go” tools, like calligraphy and visa vis markers, in blank books.  The pure or blind contour drawings seemed most popular, energizing some of the participants with confidence who might otherwise have shied away from drawing something in a “realistic” way. Fast forward a week to the International Calligraphy Conference at Reed College where in the midst of my class, Developing Your Own Script, I offered a similar exercise in pure contour drawing. The resulting enthusiasm prompted me to remind students  that drawing is about SEEING. What appears on one’s page, wonky or sophisticated, will either be authentic or not depending on one’s willingness is  to look and record what is actually there.

Rainy, tree-studded Portland, Oregon was indeed a welcome respite from the Texas heat, but there was little time to swelter at home until I was headed for the other side of the continent to teach for the first time at Wells College.  Holding court in a tiny town of historical homes and quaint shops all situated along a spectacular lake, this small liberal arts college is located somewhere between Syracuse and Rochester, New York. As part of the summers’ Book Arts Intstitute, I was welcomed by a small, eager class of calligraphy students, including the director of the program. Was I dreaming or was it really the case that our classroom was nothing short of perfect? The reality of a space fitted with a sink, individual drafting tables and lamps, extra tables, large windows and room to move allowed us to experiment freely with a variety of tools and materials with room to spare. It was divine. Meeting award winning designers and bookbinders was another boon at Wells, and I can say it was one of the most all around, enjoyable teaching experiences I have had to date.

Although catching a six a.m. flight out of Syracuse to JFK was no fun, I was amused to find myself sitting behind a larger than life kind of gal with the visage of a mafia princess, accompanied by a man who looked like Tony Soprano’s bodyguard. Lo and behold, turns out my musings were fairly accurate. Upon landing in New York, I spied a magazine with the lady in question’s photograph on the front with a caption that read something like “one of the stars of the hit show Mafia Housewives.”

Next up–La Romita, Umbria, Italy……to be continued.

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