This week in household surrealism I’ve been thinking of love. Love in the sense of the poetry, the food, the care for and cleaning of things, generally creating a gentle environment for ourselves and others. Perhaps an environment also filled with souvenirs of loving moments as I wrote in my last post.
My recent children’s book This Rabbit was about knowing what you like. Well, this week I’ve been thinking about how it can take practice as adults to remember to let ourselves love openly, wholeheartedly and to unabashedly enjoy things.
Among these thoughts is the fact that tulips are in bloom when I live in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s a photo from my spouse’s garden.
In the morning sometimes I read a bit of poetry while having my breakfast and coffee. The photo below is a poem by Mary Oliver, from “New and Selected Poems Vol 1”, I see this poem as talking about wholeheartedly living life. A life well lived is lived bit by bit in thousands and thousands of mundane moments. Many of those moments (even in pre-pandemic times) happen at home.
Letting oneself wholeheartedly enjoy and love little parts of daily life – why is that so hard? Perhaps as adults we get caught up in the “gotta do’s” as I call them. We sometimes almost chain-smoke, metaphorically, one gotta-do duty after another forgetting that love and pleasure is often part of the reason we do things. By contrast it feels good to pay attention to whatever interests you and revel in that focused moment. This wholehearted enjoyment is a way to be gentle and loving to yourself and the people you love. Anyway, I thought of that while I doodled in my sketchbook.
Then I worked several days in a row to flesh out my thought using acrylic paint on cradled board. Yes, this is another piece destined for upcoming art exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars and at Caplan Art Designs.
Below is the finished painting I titled “The Minutest Concerns”.
The label on the bottle of cleaning fluid the mouse is using in my painting is actually a bit of collage. I’ve been using a falling apart copy of Jan Austen’s book Pride and Prejudice as my collage source. (See my last posts here and here for details)
Basically, in the bigger universal sense, things are okay, you are okay, and it’s okay to relax and enjoy just being yourself and liking and loving the world around you.
For example this photo below is part of my world that I love; I love picking up one of the books and reading a bit, I love just looking at the books on the shelves and I even love dusting them. Of course I confess that often I get distracted and stop dusting to read 😁
I love having lots of books so much that it feels like heaven. So I did this drawing and made a print of it…just in case someone else feels the same way. (This is part of the gift making I talked of last post) Even if I’m the only person who feels like this making a drawing and a print was a fun way to fully enjoy and love the feeling.
I also love the challenge of cooking. It took me a while to figure it out but I can now reliably make meatballs to store in the freezer for use whenever the odd meatball is wanted with pasta or rice or roasted vegetables.
Here’s my recipe as written in my kitchen sketchbook. Yes, this is another souvenir of love! Books and sketchbooks are the best souvenirs!
My sketchbook page will still be there long after the meatballs have all been eaten! Plus I can share this sketchbook page with people and thereby share the love.
That’s part of what I love about poetry, books, gardens and art they each nourish one’s spirit and are shareable. They’re part of how we know we’re loved and part of how we love other people and how we remember to love ourselves and the world around us. They’re part of how we connect emotionally with each other.
A dear friend loaned me this book “The 3000 Mile Garden”. It’s a wonderful almost voyeristic view of two people sharing their love of food and gardens with each other. And we readers get to see their intimate exchange of letters! The book has hand drawn maps and photos too! It’s a fun evening read.
These are the sorts of thoughts that inspire me as I work on my new household surrealism fine art series that I’m titling “Odditorium”. In addition to the art itself I’m also working on an exhibit statement- which is kindof like the synopsis on book covers – a short paragraph or two to interest viewers and help them understand what I’ve created. Wish me luck at crafting the sentences?
Anyway, I hope this week that you’ll remember to allow yourself to love whatever is commonplace in your world. See you next Monday?
While working on my new household surrealism art series I’ve been thinking of my art as souvenirs of special moments.
For example: a friends daughter and grandkids left a cup of daffodils for us on our porch. I photographed and sketched the flowers.
Here’s one of my sketchbook pages that seemed most promising for a painting idea.
Here I am starting to paint in acrylic on board…while carefully looking at a flower model.
And so my painting progressed by building up layers of color. I chose a mouse character, a shy mouse offering gifts, because I was thinking of the emotional risk a gift-giver bravely takes. Also I was thinking of the gifts of nature, like flowers, that are there if we’re able to notice the subtleties of colors, patterns and textures as they change with the seasons. I chose yellow croc shoes for my mouse character to wear because waterproof footwear is useful for puttering about outdoors where I live in the Pacific Northwest. So there are gifts of culture too. Gifts are to be found everywhere if you remember to look.
Below is the finished painting I’ve titled “Well, well…”. I looked through my falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for any words that would relate to gift giving or receiving. Finding the collage text is a lot like doing Blackout Poetry – I scan the Austen pages looking for words and phrases that fit my painting topic. For this painting I chose the phrase “Well, well…” because sometimes people say, when recieving a gift, “well, well, what have we here?”
Painting the little wrapped gift in the lower corner of my artwork reminded me of how much I enjoy making designs for tea towels…and using the towel to wrap a gift.
My adopted mom, back in the early 1990’s, made fabric bags with a drawstring for use and reuse in gift giving. She was environmentally friendly before it was cool. So even though I don’t have Mom’s flair with a sewing machine I love designing fabric patterns and thinking of the fabric being used to wrap a gift!
Here’s a closer look at the art I did for the tea towel. These were drawn, over time, from real life.
Speaking of hot sauce: this week I got brave and baked hashbrowns! Yes, bacon, eggs, hashbrowns served with hot sauce! Turns out I really can imitate the not-quite-so-greasy-spoon diner at home! And keep the coffee coming! Here’s a link for the recipe I used for hashbrowns.
But back to the artwork. I have 4 more paintings that I hope to finish before mid May. I’m scheduled to have one-person fine art exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars and Caplan Art Designs later this year so I want to have at least 18 to 20 new works for the shows. Wish me luck?
I’m calling this new art series “Odditorium”… I chose this title because I intend the entire group of my works to be “odd” uncommon visual stories about common things. For my title I merged my thoughts of the word odd with the word auditorium. “Odd” means different from the usual. “Auditorium” means a building or space for an audience. I want to make a mental space for looking anew – or looking oddly – at mundane things.
As I work in my sketchbook I ponder things like: Perhaps those flowers, that towel, that coffee mug are really souvenirs of pleasant moments in life? What if dealing well with mundane life is itself a gift or even an art form?
In his book “Keep Going” Austin Kleon talks of making art as a gift. There’s also a wonderful book by Lewis Hyde titled “The Gift“. The message I get from both of these books is to remember the people. Both art making and gift giving are about emotionally connecting with people and sharing moments together.
Often when I’m creating I think of a person I know, or have known (even if they’ve died), and I make something they might like. Or I make something that reflects a feeling of connection. The person I have in mind is often never explicitly told that I thought of them. So, that thing you like … well, it just might be a gift for you.
So I make souvenirs of kind gentle moments in life by depicting common objects and animal characters in imaginative, surprising and whimsical ways that hopefully give a viewer pleasure. This, in my mind, is household surrealism.
I also see a visual pun in putting my artwork onto ordinary household objects like fabric or mugs. By making my objects available digitally and via mail (see my gifts here) I’m musing about objects that enable people to emotionally connect in a socially distanced pandemic safe way. My thought is that my work is not just about the stuff; the objects or books, it’s about our connections and our perceptions within our mundane lives. Can we find love, comfort and even art in the ordinary?
Anyway, lots of work still to be done to get ready for my exhibits! I hope you have a pleasant week full of the gift of kind moments with people you love! See you here next Monday?
Behind these sketchbook thoughts is my ongoing thinking about Jane Austen’s work. In her novels – Pride and Prejudice most certainly – Austen writes of civility and the social comedy of manners. I see Austen’s work as exploring how stories affect civility and how the presence of civility, or lack thereof, in turn affects not just the individual but also the people around them and the larger society.
Here’s some of the books I’ve been looking at (besides the ebook murder mysteries on my phone): Living With Books by Helen E. Haines, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (my new copy!), The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, Art Matters by Peter de Bolla, In the Presence of Fear by Wendell Berry.
So in multiple ways I’ve been pondering the mundane roll-sleeves-up get-hat-gloves-boots-on kind of work it takes to have a humane civilization. Pleasantness takes effort, talent and perseverance. It can take effort to remember to notice and accept when something is pleasant and then to share it.
As Kurt Vonnegut said “I urge you to please notice when you’re happy and exclaim or murmur or think at some point “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.””
The odd surprises which delight us in nature, in cooking, in art, in literature and in music help us to cope, to see things anew, to remember why we’re working so hard – and that’s what the Arts are for, I think, to help us remember our humanity, our capability to be humane.
Anyway, I eventually finished this painting and titled it “Of Civility”. As per my last post I used some collage text from my old falling apart copy of Pride and Prejudice. This is another piece for art exhibits later this year.
Yes, it may take effort sometimes to be civil and show civility … but forward looking pleasantness usually works out better. As Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Also while thinking on these topics I made a coffee mug design for my Zazzle shop. My hand lettering on the mug says “I love you…you’re probably thinking ‘but you don’t even know me’ … but if people can hate people they don’t even know then I can love…so, I love you.” (Yes, I consider this mug tangentially part of the “household surrealism” work I spoke of in my last post” – my whimsical enjoyment of mundane things which includes making items that could be given as gifts)
Speaking of mundane pleasures, thanks to “An Invitation To Indian Cooking” by Madhur Jaffrey, I have finally learned to consistently make good Basmati rice on the stovetop! (My rice cooker bit the dust so making rice stovetop became a project)
Some quotes I like about rice:
And here’s another sketchbook page … I keep thinking about this one…
I hope you have a pleasant week full of gentle stories, kindness, civility, some odd delightful surprises and a very good bowl of rice. See you next Monday?
I’m practicing household surrealism as I work towards fine art exhibits later this year. Ordinary objects and plants are sources of inspiration.
Here’s a few sketchbook pages in which I’m playfully combining hats and plants.
Below are some primrose flowers a friend gave us. They sat on my table and I drew them and photographed them.
The flowers eventually became part of a hat in an acrylic painting I’ve titled “Of Sense”.
In my new series of artworks for exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars and Caplan Art Designs I’m using a bit of collage. The collage elements come from my old falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”.
I replaced that old Austen book with a newer intact copy. I’m enjoying my Austen collection. Just like a writer constructs a bibliography for a book being written I tend to have a bibliography behind my fine art exhibits. Jane Austen’s prominent in this year’s art bibliography … I plan to talk more about that in coming posts.
My sketchbooks also reveal what’s on my mind – and I’ll post pages from them too. My sketchbook pages in this post have quotes about dealing with emotions. Jane Austen’s work is about emotions and the social comedy of dealing with ones own emotions or reading the emotions of other people. So I’ve been thinking about that…
My most recent published sketchbook “Another Sketchbook” is a prequel to my current sketchbook and fine art series. You can see it here. Spoiler alert: it’s lots of drawings about books and cultivating one’s mental life.
It’s nothing new for me to be as fully my odd self as possible – in fact I’m doing this as I work towards my new fine art exhibits – but I saw this image below on Austin Kleon‘s Instagram – and I thought heck yes. So I’m going to continue to be odd with household things for a while as I contemplate emotional health and Jane Austen out loud – so to speak.
If you haven’t seen Austin Kleon’s books, blog or newsletter it’s worth a look.
My recent children’s book “This Rabbit” has been read over 11 thousand times on Storyberries.com as of this writing! Wow! Thank you! 🤗 And yes, I plan to make more kids books … as one of my followers you’ll be the first to know. But for a while there’ll be odd household surrealism from me in this space and I hope you enjoy it.
See you next Monday? Stay weird and know that you’re loved by the universe.