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Meet Amy Bogard

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amy Bogard.

Hi Amy, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I was the quirky, artistic kid, contented to be given a pencil and paper to go off and draw on my own and stay out of the way of what was going on around me. (This is according to my mom.) We moved house quite a bit when I was little, occasionally spending extended time in other countries. The nomadic quality of my early upbringing fostered a sense of being a citizen of the world, not necessarily belonging to one place or one group. Funnily enough, belonging is what I sought most really and I never actually found it until I wandered into the magical arenas of art and music.

As a young adult, I pursued a teaching degree and did that work for a while until suddenly my “students” were two young children my husband and I had brought into the world. While they napped and grew, I drew them in my sketchbooks, painted murals on their walls, and allowed myself to be schooled in the wisdom of childhood. My kids re-introduced me to the miracle of my own creativity.

Eventually, I made the decision to seek a proper art degree and I went to art school through the University of Cincinnati’s DAAP Fine Arts program. I learned a lot of basic skills in art school and more importantly, began to find a community of other like-minded artistic individuals. All along the way through early motherhood, school and life in general, I was keeping a visual journal of my day to day. These journals began to catch the eye of folks around me who asked if I might consider teaching the art of making a journal of their own. At this suggestion, I began to teach a class through the Art Academy of Cincinnati’s Community Education Program.

After a few years of teaching locally, I decided to “take the show on the road” so to speak and developed a course in Taos, New Mexico, where workshop participants could learn basic painting and drawing skills and put together an artistic travel journal. What they learned in my class could then be brought home to their own day-to-day lives, creating a book-based vessel of attention, creativity and gratitude. I am now heading into my 11th year in the summer class in Taos (having taken a year off for covid). My offerings have bloomed into other workshops in Antigua, Guatemala and hopefully a new one in Ireland this year. These classes underpin my studio and illustrative work back at home the rest of the year and I am deeply grateful for them. I learn as much each year from my students as they hopefully do from me.

One of the wonderful off-shoots of my work in the visual journal is that I became involved in a local Urban Sketching movement. I am an administrator with the local Urban Sketchers here in Cincinnati and we have a thriving band of artists who can be found around town documenting the beauty of our city.

While gaining confidence in my work in the visual arts field, I was following my kids into another, that of music. When my son was small he decided he wanted to learn the fiddle. We tracked down an Irish music school in Cincinnati called the Riley School of Irish Music and he was off and running. As any parent knows, countless hours are spent in support of our children’s passions and I found myself chasing these catchy Irish tunes around in the halls of my own mind. So I picked up a tin-whistle and began to learn alongside my son, finding my way eventually onto the wooden flute and now, as a pandemic project, the Uilleann pipes. My son has gone on to take his music to the professional level while I, ever the adult learner, merely plod along playing at local sessions and the odd Irish music festival or ceili dance.

Learning music has kept me in direct touch with what it feels like to be a beginner in any endeavor and so my own favorite art students are those who “can’t draw a straight line”. I meet them where they are and guide them on their artistic path. Music has taught me as much about the process of making anything as art school did. I have learned so much about being a good teacher from those who teach me music. I am not sure I would be the artist I am today without music folded into the fabric of it all.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I would say the biggest hurdle along this artful path has been that of my own insecurities. Things are often most clear when we revisit them at a later time and looking back it has always been the thicket of my own mind which caused me to veer off course. The more I have come to trust my own inner knowing, the better I am at staying the course. It is tricky to be a bit different in a world that celebrates fitting in, yet embracing my own quirkiness and sharing some of the strange avenues of my imagination has eventually been the very thing that has brought me some success. I’ve learned to trust my own slow pace in this fast-paced world. Life is throwing a lot at us these days. It takes a good bit of inner mettle to maintain a positive spin on things when the world gets hard. Time and time again it is art and music, and time spent with others engaging in these gifts, which keeps me sane when the winds do blow.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I suppose something that inspires me most is investigating what inspires others. It is fascinating to me that we each have such rich inner lives, if we but afford them the space to bloom and grow. So teaching people to hone their attention and discover what gives them that little *gasp* of wonder is a real pillar in the work that I do. That said, I am also a keen introvert. It is important to me to give as much time to my own internal wanderings and imaginings as it is to tend to those of others.

My paintings and illustrations often offer a glimpse into this rich inner world of my own. Much of my work revolves around animal imagery steeped in anthropomorphic themes. Blurring the lines between our complicated modern human lives and those of the animal kingdom provide us much to ponder. Perhaps through these imagined connections we might become better stewards of the natural world, thus reminding ourselves of our inherent animal qualities.

I am most proud of my willingness to consistently return to occupying the space of the beginner. When I remember this, I am my most fulfilled. As for what sets me apart from others, I would rather focus on what brings me into closer relationships with others. We spend so much of our time trying to separate from one another, building walls between each other, when in actuality, it is kinship we might follow instead. Kinship with not only our fellow human beings but kinship with all the living beings with whom we inhabit this amazing planet. In the end, building bridges instead of walls, getting to know others unlike us, becoming acquainted with our own wild nature, these are the key elements to living artfully in the world.

Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
Mentors can be found in the unlikeliest of places. Be open to learning new things. Others just ahead of you on the path will often offer you a leg up. These are the gems to trust. Remember to trust your own inner knowing. If a program, class, symposium, etc does not feel right to you, that is not a failure, rather it’s a sign that it’s not your specific path. You’ll know you’ve found the right teachers and mentors. Your heart will tell you. This has worked for me over the years.

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