Amy Bogard is an Ohio-River-Valley-based fine artist and illustrator who is most known for her work with the Illuminated Journal process. She teaches workshops on keeping a visual travel journal each summer in Taos New Mexico. As a self-professed artistic late bloomer, Amy obtained her degree in Fine Arts - Sculpture from University of Cincinnati's DAAP program after years working in the grueling fields of education and parenting. She is now actively seeking a publisher for her stories about one Ginger Small, a hamster who travels a lot and sends postcards back of her adventures. Amy can also be found embroidering much of the time, especially when on the road.
Location: Amberley Village
On the Drawing Table: Ginger Small: Adventures and Correspondences from a Small Creature in a Big World
Coming out soon: Hopefully Ginger's book! (Though there is also one I've created about a sheep-herding rabbit. Perhaps that one will get picked up first!) And also, a new workshop offering this winter in New Mexico… more on that soon.
How did you get your start as a professional artist? Before art school, I crafted mobiles made of wire-wrapped bits of glass and some other whimsical painted art-bits and sold them for a few years at local art shows. I suppose that was the start. Selling some in those venues made me decide to take the arts more seriously as a potential career.
Describe your work.
I approach serious subjects and considerations through play and whimsy. The journaling process I teach is as simple as keeping an active sketchbook of new ideas and drawings of things I find beautiful or noteworthy, but I have found through the years that it's so much more than that. It can be life changing! I find in my own books as well as in the work of my students, that the pursuit and documentation of beauty, even the smallest bits of it in the day to day, can actually change how we perceive the world around us. It's really powerful stuff.
In my illustrative work, I especially enjoy depicting anthropomorphic animals. In so doing, I find I can skip straight to the heart of things. While an illustration may seem light on the surface, there is usually more to the story such as overcoming my own fears or working toward big goals. A cute animal in people clothes can whimsically connect us to an idea.
Tell about your workspace.
Well I used to have a studio space in a three-season room here at home but between a leaky roof, climate issues during extreme weather and the spiders, I decided to take over my son's old bedroom when he moved out. I painted it up, installed some desk-like surfaces (one of them an old door on saw-horses!) and put in a comfy chair. I have really enjoyed having a door to shut and windows to look out of. Having a studio based at home is when my art work went from messier 3-d, sculptural stuff to more 2-d drawing and painting. Working from home allows me the added benefit of studio assistants.
We have a few dogs and a cat who all seem to like to spend time in here with me. All of this said, my favorite workspace is out in the world at large. I love to work while traveling. Often that is when my best ideas come for new stories and of course, travel journals.
What are your favorite materials digital and traditional?
I'm a bit of a Luddite when it comes to digital work. I only know enough computer stuff to brighten up my work for online sharing, to keep a blog going, and to make the occasional video. Otherwise, I adore traditional media. I mostly work in watercolor and oils when painting. For drawing I like pens and pencils and string! (i.e. embroidery)
What’s your typical workday/work session like?
I'm fortunate to have a part-time day job at Carroll Concertinas where we make world class instruments. I get to use my art school skills there and work with my hands, while my mind can focus on ideas which might be brewing at home on the drawing table. Since I am in charge of my own hours at the shop, I can work a few hours there and a few hours at home on most days. So there is really no 'typical' workday. An ideal day for me as an artist is to know that my day-job work is all caught up and I have a full day in front of me to sit down and doodle. But those days are fairly rare.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated as you work?
The work is the motivation. I love spending time wrapped up in a character like Ginger Small or Edith (the rabbit who herds sheep) and to weave a story together in pictures. It's a form of play for me really. When I'm fully immersed in a painting or illustration I could work for hours forgetting all else. Getting into that immersion takes some doing though. That's the tricky part.
What is your dream job?
To make picture books with my stories in them and to travel around reading them to kids (and adults fortunate enough to still have kid-hearts.) I'd say that has been my most persistent chronic goal. I'd quit my beloved day-job for that gig! That said, I'm living the other side of my dream job already teaching as much as I do in New Mexico. I hope that continues to be so successful! It's truly wonderful work.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
Sketchbooks are key to my artistic process and often ARE my artistic process. I firmly believe that everyone, artist or no, should keep some form of visual diary. Making even a quick sketch of something in front of you can change how your brain sees everything around you.
What do you listen to while you work?
It depends upon what I am up to. If I am embroidering, painting. drawing or working on an illustration who's idea is firmed up, I will listen to music or a book on tape. I'll even go so far as to put on an old favorite movie on the computer when the work is rolling along, just for company. But if I am actively creating a new idea or story, then I put on sound canceling headphones and attempt to find the silence needed to make space for ideas to whisper themselves to me.
What are you reading/listening to on Audible?
Well, not Audible per se but via the library's Overdrive app I am currently plowing through the works of Terry Pratchett. Stephen Briggs is a fantastic narrator!
Who are your artistic influences?
Beatrix Potter has been a favorite of mine since before I ever even considered art as vocation. I also like the work of James Gurney and Nick Bantock. There are so many folks whose work is inspiring, it's hard to pick even a handful! Locally, I am really fortunate to be tapped into the illustrator's community here. This city has a well of amazing talent that is so inspiring. I've learned so much from them about how to get my work out there and not become discouraged. It's a real gift of residing in Cincinnati!
What do you do that is not art related that inspires you?
I'd say the two things most inspiring to me are running (where I can try on new ideas and ponder them as I pound the pavement) and playing traditional Irish music. Both of these activities get me out of my head and into my heart. Ironically, this often leads to the best ideas.
What was the best advice you got in your career so far?
My dear friend and musician Kim Taylor told me to just do the work, without worrying at all where it will wind up. To write and draw and paint from my own source of ideas before ever considering a place for it in the world. That part comes after the work is made. Another bit of advice I've received from a few different sources is that the key to any success is persistence. I'm doing my best to keep the faith in that category.
Oh, and 'Don't quit your day job.' This sounds horrible, but it's actually a good thing, if you can find the right day job with enough flexibility. It takes financial pressure off of the art which allows it to maintain its magic. The only down-side is then the art takes a bit more time. But for now, this is working for me.
What is your favorite color?
That's not a fair question for an artist. But today, let's say, purple.
How can we get best follow your art online/on social media?
web: http://www.amybogard.com/ (I have a blog that has been going since 2007 where I process new ideas and give a peek into art and life in general round here at Chez Bogard)
tumblr: http://gingersmall.tumblr.com/ (though to be honest, I have not given tumblr a fair shake. There's only so much time I care to spend online!)