(There’s a surprise inside this blog suitable for all ages) This week has been a flurry of finishing pages, and the cover art for Patch La Belle. I’ve also been doing the graphic design hocus pocus for both the printed books version and an ebook version for Storyberries.com
As per my last post I’m still thinking about the topics of enjoying and trying things:
There’s the trying that is an effort to make something – like a cake or a book.
Then there’s the trying things so as to learn what you prefer – like a type of food or a hat.
Trying things also gives us abstract information about how much food is too much and what time bedtime is.
It’s an important lifelong skill to cultivate the willingness to try things.
And here’s a photo of me working on the cover art and finishing a few pages.
I slipped all the artwork into archival sleeves so the pages could be sorted without risk of damages. Prior to being sprayed with a fixative and varnish the gouache colors could be easily smeared.
I asked my first editor, my wife Judy, what page order she thought was best – and I sticky-note flagged her page order and it was such a good order that I followed it! And if you’re looking at the picture above thinking “that looks like a lot more pages than have been shown on this blog” – you’re correct, I’ve impishly saved some for when the book is formally released.
My desire to hand make all of the words and images for this book has also resulted in a relaxed way of working – everything exists in the real world and can be laid out on a table.
In the past when I’ve done a hybrid of computer typewritten words and hand made illustrations the page sorting and design was more abstracted. But this time everything was made by hand. The “graphic design hocus pocus” that I refer to above is simply the photography of the finished art and laying out the photos in a software package for uploading to Blurb.com the place that will print and ship the books on demand. A different software package is used to make the digital file for the ebook on Storyberries.com [Btw: the art page photos above are just quick pics for sharing here on social media. I have another camera for photos of art to be reproduced]
Here’s the cover artwork as photographed for reproduction. I think I managed to keep the warm tone of the off-white paper I used to make the original artwork. (Yippee!)
Anyway, showing Patch La Belle to the folks at Storyberries.com generated some excitement there! They said “it’s going to be really engaging and the families will spend a long time reading it and looking over the pictures… it’s so beautiful!”
As I worked this week on a new children’s book (see my last post) titled Patch La Belle I’ve thought more about the importance of enjoying and trying things regularly.
Too often we expect our enjoyments to be big life changing experiences when in reality a good life is a cumulative of many small pleasant moments. To have a good life one has to be able recognize a pleasant moment when it happens (even in the midst of a pandemic). This ability to recognize something enjoyable, while also absorbing it, is a skill to be learned and practiced all of one’s life.
Anyway, I spent time this week rereading my poetry sketchbooks, thinking, writing notes and sticky-flagging pages. Here’s a picture of two of my poetry sketchbooks. They’re small books, about 5 x 3.5 inches and I wrote in them with a fountain pen
As a way of working creatively I find it helpful to collect a bunch of thoughts into sketchbooks for sorting into something, a published book or an art exhibit, later. (I do a version of this sketchbook method with my fine art exhibits too.)
When I work in a sketchbook it feels random, the thought I’m recording feels unconnected to any future book or exhibit notion. The book or art exhibit ideas come later from rereading the sketchbooks and refining elements from my sketchbook. Essentially every sketchbook is a series of very rough drafts along with notes on what inspired me.
Here’s a page from my poetry sketchbook. Please note the margin notes, my thoughts in connection with my poem effort.
That poem with its marginalia sat for a long time. Months later I tried this effort, pictured below, to shape it a bit… still without a firm plan for what published book or exhibit it might become.
That finished art sat in my files for a while, gathering dust, unconnected to any project.
Then more recently when I was talking with the folks at Storyberries – www.storyberries.com – about formats for doing my words and picture combinations for them I remembered my illustrated giraffe poem and shared it with Storyberries. The above format of my poem it turned out wouldn’t work for my future Storyberries projects. So I shoved it back in my files.
Later on when rereading my poetry sketchbooks for the umpteenth time I came across the original poem yet again. As I reread my sketchbook I’m noting themes; multiple thoughts on a topic. The raw poem and my thoughts that inspired the giraffe poem fit with my reoccurring theme of trying things. Seeing this theme and thinking more on the topic is helping me to organize my current project Patch La Belle. So this week I reworked both the text and illustration for this particular poem.
That format fits much better with Storyberries guidelines and with my desire [more on that here] to do an entirely handwritten book. Now the poem has a place, it has become – at least for now – part of my newest children’s book effort. It will stay there till all of my pages for this project are finished and I reread them and decide what ultimately fits together best.
This project still feels “in flux” and uncertain but I just keep working, trusting that as I bring my vague notions into the real world as touchable objects I can see better what to do with them. My project idea firms up as I work. The trick is to roll with the feelings of uncertainty until that point.
And here are some more new Patch La Belle pages that have been done and redone in similar fashion to what I’ve just described. To save time I’m skipping ahead, omitting the sketchbook draft pages, and showing the finished work here.
I’m sure you’re seeing my working method now. My way of getting a thought outside of my head into a sketchbook, however messily, however vaguely, and then working with it multiple times in multiple ways just to see what it can become.
It’s my way of trying out ideas, of practicing enjoying something, of taking a notion and playfully exploring it. It’s also a way to have a small pleasant moment of fun regularly.
Thanks for reading. See you here next Monday?
P.S. if you’re just joining this party – welcome! – and you can see my other children’s book projects on my portfolio page here.
This week I thought about the importance of trying things. So I’ve reread my poetry sketchbook for poems on that topic.
As I mentioned in my last post I’m working on a new children’s book for Storyberries.com titled Patch La Belle. As I work on this book I’m trying several new things but chiefly I’m trying to group many poems and illustrations together with a few themes as organizing factors. This is different from what I’ve done in the past where I did one poem with multiple illustrations as an entire book – as you can see on my portfolio page.
Anyway, here’s the pages I selected from my poetry sketchbook this week:
And below are the finished pages that I hand wrote and illustrated using ink and gouache. I use waterproof ink pens from jetpens.com on smooth hot press watercolor paper. I like the Holbein brand of gouache colors because they’re smooth and have strong pigments.
The watercolor paper I’m using is off-white and I hope that won’t be a problem when it comes to reproducing these pages. But I like the tender nostalgic feel of this paper and will endeavor to keep this soft tone in the final book. We’ll see how it goes. This is part of the risk of trying new things…
If I’ve posted the above video correctly you’ll be able to see part of my poetry book collection; books written by many other people, some famous, many not so familiar. My collection is in my dining room where I have breakfast and sketch. I find it soothing to read a short poem or story to start my day. I also have a collection of books containing short stories in the same room but this post is about poetry…so…
When it comes to writing my own poems I like to consult “The Book Of Forms” by Lewis Turco – pick a short poetry format, like limericks or couplets then think of a topic like “trying things” and play with related words and images. Some poems turn out okay, others don’t…the key thing, I think, is the willingness to write badly and trust that I’ll survive. So far that’s been true. And now after several years of regularly writing poems in my poetry sketchbook I’m able to reread it and find a few poems that are fun to illustrate and potential material for a new artist book.
Here’s a mantra I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall
So I plan to keep working on Patch La Belle this week too. Will I see you here next Monday? Hope so. And I hope you enjoy whatever creative projects you’re working on this week too.
I’ve started a new illustrated poetry children’s book for Storyberries.com This time I’m writing and illustrating a bunch of poems. Up till now each book, Alphapets, Alphapets Too and Numpurrs were a single poem long. Lots of illustrations tied together with one poetic story.
So this new project feels dangerously different and daring. I find it helpful in a creative life to scare yourself now and then.
In my last post I showed my 3.5 x 5 x 1 inch poetry sketchbook, that I’ve worked in over the last several years, and told of reading through and sticky note flagging potential poems to be illustrated. Here it is bristling with sticky notes.
Here’s a close look at 3 of my poetry sketchbook pages that I chose to illustrate this week.
And here’s the weeks finished pages:
I’ve decided to hand write and hand draw everything in this book. Since Storyberries.com is a website of ebooks for kids my thinking is that it’d be fun, whimsical, amusing – harmlessly mischievous even – to fill a digital medium, the ebook, with hand-made marks.
As a working title – and probably the final title – I’m using “Patch La Belle: playful paintings and poetry”. The definition of the word “patch” and the definition of the French “la belle” play into my thoughts as this project feels like a patchwork of many lovely things. A stitching together of meditations on a theme of pleasant day dreams.
Anyway, more here next Monday and thanks for reading!
It’s barely been a week and Numpurrs on Storyberries.com has been read over 3000 times! Here’s one kind comment:
“Thank you, this is exactly what teachers are looking for, online opportunities during virtual teaching makes teachers lives so much easier. That was perfect timing! And a beautifully illustrated and written book! The weird thing is, I just did a cat drawing lesson for 1st grade. Now we can read the book and learn how to draw a cat!”
So this week quickly filled with additional efforts to help teachers and parents: I also made a poster, a calendar and then a 676 piece jigsaw puzzle too.
Here’s what the poster looks like. It’s big, 23 inches square, big enough to be seen in the backgrounds of online classes.
My copies of the printed book version of Numpurrs also arrived at my studio this week! So I photographed the book and created a portfolio webpage to hold all of my work on Numpurrs in one spot – to help the teachers find things easier – here’s that page https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/numpurrs/
Below are just a few of the photos of the printed book…you can see more on that portfolio page I just mentioned
I’m pleased with how the book turned out! Of course I can nitpick and find things I could have tweaked – that’s always the case with any creation. I think of art making as similar to cooking, you do your best to create a good meal then you say “good enough, let’s eat” and you go on to the next thing. Perhaps you make a note for yourself on that recipe as to what you’d do differently in the future – but you enjoy the meal as it is and you go on.
Speaking of going on: for years now I’ve been regularly jotting short poems in a small 3 x 5 inch book with my fountain pen. Now, as per discussions with the people at Storyberries, I’m working on illustrating some of the poems for a new book. As I wrote my last post I’d thought I’d do more on this new project this week than ended up happening – so more on these illustrated poems in coming posts.
Here’s a look at my little poetry sketchbook with some of the potential to-be-illustrated poems flagged with sticky notes.
I write with a fountain pen because they’re refillable. Fewer plastic bits of discarded pens to end up in the landfill this way. Besides a fountain pen – if you have a good quality one – can be super smooth to write with.
For those who say a nice pen and hand bound book would be “too precious to use” I reply “your thoughts are precious too”. Buy quality supplies and use them with joy. It’s just stuff on Earth here to be enjoyed. (And if you just can’t bear it then buy whatever supplies you will actually use and get your thoughts written down. But remember that you really deserve the best.)
Below is the dragon poem you can see my handwritten draft of in the photo of my book above and the handwritten poem and illustration I got done this week with ink and gouache on nice paper.
More of that kind of thing here next Monday – I hope. Thanks for reading. Have a good week.
There now! Despite all the odds (see last post) I finished “Numpurrs”! I’ve also sent it in to Storyberries for distribution. When I sent it in this last week Storyberries said “I just LOVE it Sue!!! It has come together so nicely !!!! Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful work with us!!”
So I think it’s safe to say that they’re pleased! The book will be live on Storyberries.com very soon as they said they’ll “…schedule it for 9am Gold Coast time Australia on Monday morning.” Which works out to about 4 pm in Washington state, USA on Sunday. And I post these blog posts on Mondays but write them on Sunday morning’s… so, yes, I can have a bit of time zone confusion.
Time zone differences between where I live on the western US coast and the time where Storyberries is in Australia can confuse me even when I have help from the internet. My solution to working across continents and time zones is the same in publishing as it has been when I’ve done fine art exhibits outside of the U.S.A; get it all done early and everything into their hands as soon as humanly possible then let the people I’m working with sort the what-happens-when out at their end.
It helps that I work on the graphic design part of any book almost simultaneously with creating the fine art illustrations. This way by the time I finish creating the fine art illustrations I’ve almost finished the book design too.
The graphic design informs and affects my illustrations – in the number of illustrations needed, the size of them and so forth. But what I want to do in the first place with my illustrations/fine art at my easel (using ink and gouache on board) will also affect the graphic design.
This interdependence (and writing the poem is in there too) is related to the construction of my book idea in the first place in a which-comes-first chicken-or-egg kind of fashion. As a result of my working method the posting I do online nearly always slightly behind the action. My motto is create the thing first talk about it later.
Anyway, here’s a pic of me working on my laptop doing the book layout. I often do my computer work in the corner of my dining room near the cookbooks and am almost always cooking something on the stove. Taking breaks to stir something on the stove is so nice!
And here are the last poem lines in my book:
Twenty butters bread, risen with yeast
And it all sums up to a wonderful feast!
In the printed book my three panel “feast scene” will flow in sequence left to right and will line up side by side. But it worked pretty well in scroll ebook form too even tho it doesn’t line up at the edges. As I worked I had to think of both of these “flow” patterns when I was creating the images.
Even though I’m doing so much myself – which sounds like a lot of freedom – there are still constraints: page flow, number of pages allowed within the publication formats, where the blank pages must fall, printing product options, ebook construction and so forth. I see these constraints as the path, the way forward, the technical issues become part of my creative process.
When it came to creating the feast scene artwork in Numpurrs I consulted this book, Food and Feasting in Art by Silvia Malaguzzi
Many of these art historical images had the viewers eye moving left to right and or moving up and down. This served as a guide as I created my cat feast illustrations. (I love art history!)
Running into the graphic design publication constraints I mentioned earlier I only had 3 pages within which to fit my feast. When, in an early sketch, I fitted all 20 cats in – the cats were too small and the numbers couldn’t be easily read. Since the point of the book is to distinguish between cats and to recognize numbers I decided to make the cats and numbers bigger even tho it meant leaving out some cats.
Besides at almost every group photo I’ve ever participated in there were several people who declined to be in the picture. Perhaps we can pretend some of the cats in my artwork were similarly shy?
After sending everything in to Storyberries, and after being given the release schedule, I was asked to send in a new photo of all three of the feast panels as one image. There are design constraints and issues at their end too – and we’re in this project together. So I hustled (time zones remember…) and sent this photo in:
Since my book idea is about distinguishing between cats and numbers I also used 4 of my allotted pages to include the photos of real life cats that my friends had sent to me for use as reference to create my artwork. Like the feast scene artwork not every cat illustrated in the book is on the cat photo pages… again it was a case of if I fit in every photo the cats were too small to see well. And in some cases the photos my friends sent was fine for my art reference use but it wasn’t high enough resolution for a printed book. Since I’m doing both print and ebook forms I had to design for both to look the same. Perhaps it can add fun to also distinguish which cat is there and which isn’t and also to see some of the source material I worked with?
Here’s what the Numpurrs book cover looks like, and the dedication page where I thank my friends for all of their help.
This week has been less busy but weird with wildfires and bad air quality where I live in SW Washington. (More re in a sec.) Despite it all I still made progress on my Numpurrs book (see also my last post for more project details)
Here are the poem lines that go with the illustrations I managed to get done this week:
Sixteen puts flowers out on a whim
Seventeen pours saucers of milk labeled skim
Eighteen opens fish oil good for the fur
Nineteen is so happy she starts to purr
To think about art and creating a book for children this week, as wildfires raged, as we worry about the safety of family and friends has, at times, felt a bit frivolous. But it is also an act of hope. An act of resilience. An act of pushing back against the darkness…
One of my sources of comfort in times of difficulty is to walk among my bookshelves at home, selecting a random book, reading a page or so and putting it back on the shelf. I often hope to find encouraging, uplifting passages. As you might know from my artist book Another Sketchbook I’ve been adapting this comfort recently to include ebooks. Here’s something I read this week from Albert Camus
I think creating art is a way of maintaining hope. Sharing art is a small act of kindness. So I keep on. Besides, I find it helpful to spend time each day focusing on something that is pleasing, enjoyable, as doing this helps me exercise and maintain my inner muscles that give me strength to push back.
Things that are enjoyable are what we push for, what we want to maintain, what we want to have more of in life because it’s not enough to merely endure. Besides doing whatever it is that helps us endure we need to also remember what we’re enduring for. And when the enduring is done to remember to appreciate what we have.
Thinking beyond the thing to be endured and the endurance process itself takes practice. Enjoying things is a skill to be practiced – and one doesn’t have to wait for a perfect time/situation/condition in which to practice. That time is now.
As Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors 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.” “
Anyway, here’s my cat sitting where he can look out on the smokey world. It’s pleasant to watch him watch the world. This photo was taken about noon on Sunday.
And here’s my dog covering his nose, burrowing into a towel, in an effort to get away from the smell of smoke. He’s so sensible – and cute!
Besides working on my art projects and pulling books randomly from my shelves, I’ve still been reading the books I mentioned in my last post.
Also I’ve added to my daily reading an ebook, “The Cat Who Said Cheese” by Lilian Jackson Braun. Walking around inside my house, for gentle exercise, is more fun with a cozy mystery in hand. And since one of the current topics in my head is cats…. this book is lightweight fun for me to burrow into while still being somewhat on topic.
The air quality outdoors here has been so bad that, wisely, all the places hosting my current fine art exhibit “Readings From The Heart” closed temporarily to the public. As of 8 PM Sunday night the Airnow.gov site has my location’s air quality as “beyond index” meaning it is worse than the number they use to indicate really-awful-very-bad-horrible-dangerous. My nose and chest would agree with that assessment. (An air particulate level of 300 to 500 is considered hazardous – ours Sunday eve was well over 500. Monday morning the number is 414… update: at 6pm Monday we are at 517. My local paper has this article. )
But I tend to think that inside a difficulty is an opportunity – a chance to think beyond an immediate crisis – so just as soon as one Gallery told me they were closing I made the ebook version of my artist book about the exhibit available as a free download on my shop page. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you’ll find my free ebooks. You can also see all of my art in the current exhibits from the comfort of your phone here. And if this isn’t nice I don’t know what is!
Please find ways to keep hope alive, to keep enjoying something, to keep going forward somehow and be kind – I will do the same.
I didn’t think it possible to be even busier this week than last week but I was. Still there’s been progress on my new artist book for children called Numpurrs. On Storyberries.com I had done a counting book titled “The Crow and the Water Jug” so Storyberries wants another book from me related to numbers and math.
Here’s my progress: the finished poem lines that fit with my next 4 illustrations for Numpurrs
Twelve spoons out all of the treats
Thirteen plans who will sit in which seats
Fourteen carries dishes piled so high
Fifteen slices the roasted magpie
As I worked on these cat portraits, in snatches of time, I chose the cats-to-be-illustrated from photos of cats that my friends have shared. My friends also shared stories about their cats – and both the stories and photos inspired which cat to pair with which number and poem line.
Also informing my work on these cat portraits are the books I’ve been reading. More details below. But did you know that magpies relate to math? So does carrying … math fiction as a genre to explore is lots of fun!
Anyway I don’t expect that the parents reading my Numpurrs to their kids will see all the math related research I’m putting in – the research is just a way for me to learn and enjoy this topic as I create my book Numpurrs. It helps keep me on track and inspired even when I’m not working on a cat portrait.
Anyway, I made these cat paintings with ink and gouache on board. They’re small, 3.5 x 2.5 inches. Both the small size of each portrait and my art media enable me to work in short bursts as time allows. If these works were in any other size or media I can’t imagine how I would have shoehorned this project into this week. As it was having this project to do in this way inserted a nice bit of relaxation and fun!
The rest of what I have been so busy on would require lots of typing. Let it suffice to say that it’s very happy business (fine art commissions!) and that I enjoy it all very much!
Here in this blog my point is to show how I develop new projects and sustain my interest in them over a duration, despite a busy life. It’s a peek behind the scenes you can say in my creative life. So I’m trying to keep my writing here about the newest project under current development.
As I alluded to above here are some books that are helping me sustain my inspiration for this project. In addition to conversation with my friends about their cats I peek at one or the other of these books as I get a moment.
I’ve written about some of these books in my last posts but the book titles in the above photo are (from the top):
A Dictionary Of Color Combinations by Sanzo Wada – A link for this book in the bookstore Ampersand where I got my copy is here
I Am A Cat by Soseki Natsume – this link has a wonderful review/discussion of this book. The article mentions that this book was originally written serially, in installments. In addition to making this book readable for the busy times of life I also see it as informative on how to construct a story to be serialized. Besides all that it’s just a fun romp inside a cat’s mind!
Imaginary Numbers by William Fruct – I found my copy this book years ago in one of my local bookstores. I looked online just now for it and the best source for more information about this title that I could find is here at ABE Books.
Werner’s Nomenclature Of Colors by P. Syme. – The bookstore where I got my copy no longer has this title but you can see a fun article about this book, along with photos of the pages here.
So now you know how my week went: working on many projects, reading bits in books, thinking, musing, playing and adding new art progress, small bit by small bit, to my Numpurrs while also living life.
Anyway, thanks for reading. I’ll post during the week on my Instagram page and sum up here next Monday.
I hope your week is peaceful, fun and filled with your own creativity.
P.S. I also include photos of my other projects on my Instagram pages and elsewhere on www.sueclancy.com
It’s been another busy week but there’s still been progress on my new artist book for children called Numpurrs. On Storyberries.com I had done a counting book titled “The Crow and the Water Jug” so Storyberries wants another book from me related to numbers and math.
Here’s my progress: the finished poem lines that fit with my next 4 illustrations for Numpurrs
Eight divides the large wheels of brie
Nine adds mice caught in the lea
Ten has a bird as big as the sky
Eleven bakes a vegetable pie
To create the illustrations I chose the cats-to-be-illustrated from the various photos of cats that my friends have shared. My happy thoughts of my friends – and their cat photos – inspired which cat to pair with which number and poem line. Life near-to-hand provides so much of my inspiration. I made these paintings with ink and gouache on board. They’re small, 3.5 x 2.5 inches. Just little savory slices of a good life…
As I wrote in my last post I’m still using the Dictionary Of Color Combinations as a playful inspiration source for my color schemes.
I’m also still reading the cat-themed book “I Am A Cat” by Soseki Natsume that I spoke of in my last post.
Speaking of slices – my last post also spoke of pizza…and I did manage to get that indulgence, and a movie worked into this busy week. It was so enjoyable! Here’s what my homemade pizza looked like
I used my simple sauce recipe from my published kitchen sketchbook “Favorites So Far” and topped it with mozzarella, gruyere and Comte cheeses. Simple pizza – sauce and cheese – but I adult-ed it, so to speak, with my homemade sauce and cheese choices. Here’s my sauce recipe:
And yes, my cat shamelessly begged for bites of the cheeses.
Part of what I was busy doing this week was answering questions about my upcoming exhibit at the Caplan Art Designs gallery. One of the questions asked what inspired the artworks with birds in them. My answer: the poem from Emily Dickinson “Hope is a thing with feathers…” In these strange and interesting times maintaining one’s human spirit, hope and good mental health is crucial. So my entire exhibit is about that. You can see a virtual exhibit tour of sorts webpage here (hint: the very newest pieces have birds reading books) https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/readings-from-the-heart/
Anyway, thanks for reading. I’ll post during the week on my Instagram page and sum up here next Monday.
I wish you peace, a lap full of purrs and a plate full of good pizza.
It’s been a busy week but there’s still been progress on my new artist book for children called Numpurrs. On Storyberries.com I had done a counting book titled “The Crow and the Water Jug” and it’s been popular with readers so Storyberries wants another book from me related to numbers and math.
In my last posts I’ve written about how I work in short bursts [Very Small Goals] until my idea has firmed up a bit. But this week let’s cut the chatter and get right to it…
Here are the finished poem lines that fit with my next 4 illustrations for Numpurrs
Four brings jugs of heavy sweet cream
Five fetches trout in from the stream
Six tallies the tables and chairs
Seven moves them from under the stairs
I chose the cats-to-be-illustrated from the various photos of cats that my friends have been kind enough to share. The cat photos themselves – and my happy thoughts of my friends – inspired which cat to pair with which number and poem line.
While painting these cat portraits with my gouache and ink method I’m still using the Dictionary of Color Combinations that I spoke of in my last post and playing around with colors. Working in small chunks steadily – and keeping it fun – gets things done despite all else.
As I said it’s been an extremely busy week but to keep myself in a feline fun frame of mind I found time to amuse myself with this quirky book about a cat. It’s an enjoyable read, the reviews that call it a “comic masterpiece” have it correctly I think. If you’re interested this link and this one tell more details about the book.