This Rabbit some lunch and books

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This week was filled with photographing my illustrations for a new children’s book tentatively titled “This Rabbit” (as I wrote last week). Then I uploaded the photos checking the digital images against the original artwork for accuracy of color. Sometimes I had to retake a photo.

Once all of the illustrations were digitally correct, more or less, I uploaded them into the software I use to make the printed books. My art studio supervisor cat, as you can see, helped with the process.

What I’m aiming for as I process the photos: I want to make an album of my fine artwork that just happens to be for kids. Kids need fine art too, in my opinion. So I’m striving for digitally capturing as much of the range of color and detail in the original artwork as possible. No camera or screen matches the capability of the human eye but I do the best with what I’ve got. I’m also trying to keep the soft feel of the original artwork on the off-white handmade papers.

My root idea with this new book “This Rabbit” is cultivating the skill of enjoying the many things there are to like and do. So that is always in the back of my mind as I work.

Here are the two poem lines I wrote to go with the two illustrations below:

This rabbit likes pretty pearls

This rabbit likes doing curls

This rabbit likes pretty pearls
This rabbit likes doing curls

After the photos of all 32 illustrations were digitized to suit me, it takes me a lot of time to do the digitizing to suit because I am the original Ms. Picky, but when I had the images as I wanted them then I worked on the books graphic layout and design. As I proceed with the layout/design part of this project I may need to take new photos of some of the artwork depending on how they look as I place them side by side in the book design … we will see how things go.

This new book is part of a series of children’s books I’m creating. So it will have a have similar cover design (and other format elements) to fit with the book series. However, for “This Rabbit” I decided to make the illustration images on each page larger, filling two thirds of the page or perhaps a bit more, filling almost to the three edges of each page.

I chose this layout because I’ve included small details within many of the artworks that might be missed if the images were smaller. My poem text is one single line within a small white space on the bottom of each page.

I will serialize some of “This Rabbit” on my Instagram page and give you more details of my working process (and my creative life) here on this blog each week.

Anyway, now you know what a busy week I’ve had. Needless to say lunches were quick-fix affairs. Like this broccoli pasta dish.

Here’s the recipe – a loose guide or philosophy really rather than a recipe. When I made the dish this week I used short pasta and added spinach. But the rest of the recipe was followed. It’s a recipe from my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook.

Copies of Favorites So Far are available here:
https://www.blurb.com/b/9759759-favorites-so-far

Despite being busy I still carved out time to read most evenings. In my last post I was still reading “The Mexican Tree Duck” by James Crumley. I finished that book and loved it! I’ll miss the main character Sughrue. Sughrue was a decent guy, a good friend to other characters in the story, someone who cared. I liked that! Crumley’s character and his writing style will be a hard act to follow.

As I cast about for which book to read next I realize that I want another protagonist with a strong decency streak. Not moralistic, self righteous, preachy or anything like that. I want a character who is just plain caring and kind. Even if they have flaws, faults and difficulties I want there to be a core of goodness, a sense of concern for their community, at the heart of the main character.

I’m ready for the good people to win a few … damnit!

So from my book shelves I pulled this book selection for consideration: The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers, Rumpole A La Carte by John Mortimer and Death of A Bore by M. C. Beaton.

A few more cups of coffee and I’ll decide which book to read more of later after my working day is done.

See you next Monday with more of my progress on “This Rabbit”? (And yes…so far my working title has stuck.)

Bunnies books and blooms

A Creative Life, animals in art, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, fabric design, greeting cards, handmade books, miniature art, Narrative Art, pattern design, poetry, rabbits in art, recipe illustration, surface design, visual story, visual thinking, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

As I mentioned in my last post I’ve been sorting and winnowing my illustrations and poetry for a new children’s book.

By writing the poem lines on index cards and having the illustrations on paper I can physically spread them out and sort them. This is very much the editing and rewriting process that the books on writing talk about. I’m doing draft after draft after draft just like they recommend – my drafting is just in tangible form.

For example I put numbers on yellow post it notes which affix on the archival sleeves holding the artwork. That post it note number corresponds to the poem line written on an index card. My legal pad contains a handwritten record of sequences I’ve tried aka manuscript drafts.

The artwork and the index cards are laid out on a queen size bed in the number sequence I’d most recently tried. I read the poem out loud. Then I walk away after shutting the bedroom door so my cat won’t pounce on the artwork. Later, after lunch for example, I’ll go reread and view the artwork, perhaps make a change in the order of the art/poem by moving the art, the index card and the yellow post it notes. Then I’ll read the new order aloud. I’ll note the new numeric number order (draft!) on my legal pad. Then I’ll go do something else. Perhaps just before dinner I’ll repeat the above process before putting everything away for the evening. This short-burst working method allows space for my unconscious mind to work on my project.

As a result some of the illustrations didn’t stay in the queue. Some poem lines went into the bin. Some art and poem lines stayed but took their time to find their place. Eventually after more than a week of these daily sort/resort episodes gradually more of my sequences resonate with me.

As I sort the pictures and words I’m keeping my eye and ear open for what resonates. By resonate I mean that I keep returning the art and poem lines to a particular place or order that makes me smile, makes my heart sing. This resonance is found slowly, page spread by page spread. I just keep on sorting until all of the pages and the entire book sequence feels that heart-sing way, a feeling I call “taking root”.

After that “taking root” has happened then I read the poem aloud and show the artwork to my spouse. Further adjustments are made according to her suggestions. Then I live with any new sequence another day or so to double check how rooted it feels.

I think of this entire creative process as a lot like growing a garden from seed; you plant seeds, you water, you wait, you position the pot on a window sill to catch the sun, you water, wait…at times it feels like nothing is happening…then eventually you have a seedling big enough to safely transfer to another container.

I’m about to the point with this new book of transferring it to another container – meaning that I’m ready to photograph the artwork and begin the book layout design, the computer hocus pocus of it.

The probable title for my new book is “This Rabbit”. But we’ll see if that holds as I shift the book, idea-seed soil and all, to it’s new digital pot.

Speaking of seeds and gardens: here’s a new fabric pattern design with bunnies and blooms. I’m now waiting to see a proof fabric swatch before I approve it to be in my Spoonflower shop.

Last week there was winter weather in the Pacific Northwest and friends and family lost power which caused concerns. But they were brief concerns, quickly resolved, and everyone is fine. Whew.

Then the Texas snow, ice and severe cold storm happened and was not quickly resolved (still isn’t as of this writing). We used to live in Oklahoma and we still have friends in Oklahoma and friends and family living in Texas…so we worried. And made phone calls etc.

And as we worried about friends everywhere I made a greeting card design that couldn’t really be sent, due to the storms, to the people we worried about. But I made the card anyway – the act of making it helped.

https://www.zazzle.com/my_heart_is_with_you_note_card-256344942961836795

Worries distracted me some from my work on “This Rabbit” but not too much. My short-burst method of working accommodates such stuff-of-life.

Besides making the greeting card I puttered in my studio cleaning things. I came across some nice rice paper I’d forgotten I had so I stopped cleaning and made a small accordion book with the paper. It measures 6 inches tall by 2 inches wide when folded shut.

Still photos don’t do it justice so I made a video which you can see here here https://youtu.be/12uYkPo0d8M

One of the many people we worried about is named Beverly. Last year during the pandemic on my birthday Beverly called to wish me a happy day and as a present she talked me through her grilled cheese sandwich method. I’d taken notes on a scrap of paper during our call last year and saved the paper folded and slipped into the pocket of my kitchen sketchbook. This week, in solidarity with Beverly, I made the yummy sandwiches and transferred the notes into my sketchbook.

And here’s the sandwich. My half of the sandwich anyway…the sourdough bread slices we have are large so spouse and I split one sandwich.

At various points during any day I find that coffee and books are comforting. So are homemade oatmeal cookies. Here are cookies resting on cloth napkins made from my fabric pattern with a coffee and books motif. It’s the small comforts that add up. Especially when worried about friends…

As of this writing it seems that most of our Oklahoma and Texas friends and family are more or less fine physically. Whew. Now we wait to hear how the horrific price gouging in Texas will affect them…

Once again I am struck by the difference in response to disasters between regions of the United States. In the Pacific Northwest the utilities are regulated and public. It is generally presumed that people are what matters. In the midwest and south there’s less regulation and more privitization. It is generally presumed that private companies’ profits are very, very important.

I’ve been thinking all week of how the kind of government one has can affect one’s daily life for good or ill. So we worry about friends and family in unregulated privatized Texas. (There’s a well written article here in The New York Times about all this.)

Anyway, hopefully we’ll all have a quieter week. I’ll keep working on my projects much like a seed works at growing no matter what else happens – being creative helps me cope with stuff. It also helps to share my work with you. Thank you so much for looking at my pictures, reading my words and for your kind comments. Catch up with you next Monday.

Rabbits roses cups cards meatballs and book muchness

A Creative Life, animals in art, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, fabric design, greeting cards, illustrated poem, illustrated recipe, poetry, rabbits in art, reading in art, recipe illustration, sketchbook, surface design, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

I’m having fun with new combinations of colors. In a recent post I tried a yellow and grey color set. After posting about that a friend said she liked pink and grey together. So I tried that combination this week.

I’ve enjoyed playing with odd sized elements so I continued that in this new ink and gouache painting I’ve titled “The Comfort Was Indeed Beyond…”. Again I used some text collage from that falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice I’ve spoken of.

As mentioned in a prior post I’d played with yellow and grey colors while doing a cup pattern for fabrics on my Spoonflower shop… here’s how that turned out. I titled my pattern “Cups Of Comfort”

Cups of Comfort https://www.spoonflower.com/en/fabric/11145342-cups-comfort-by-sueclancy

And thinking of rabbits…I made an encouragement greeting card this week with a rabbit character. Everyone needs encouragement so by making this card I hope to help people encourage others in their life.

https://www.zazzle.com/an_encouragement_card-256714364349292219

Speaking of encouragement to keep going: we have had some serious snow in the Pacific Northwest United States. Over 18 inches! So that’s encouraged me to continue my reading, working in my studio and puttering in the kitchen. Taking everything that happens in life as encouragement to keep going seems a helpful habit of mind.

Speaking of habits of mind: I tend to blur the line between art studio work and my kitchen. Here’s my kitchen sketchbook and the meatball recipe I made this week. I make meatballs to freeze and store in my freezer to add as desired to future meals. I love having ingredients on hand that make other recipes easier.

These meatballs go well with many of the dishes in my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook- you can see it here: https://www.blurb.com/b/9759759-favorites-so-far

As I mentioned in my last post I’m working on a new children’s book with lots of rabbit characters. I did the illustrations first this time…mostly. Here I am working on the poem couplets to go with the illustrations. There’s a cup of tea at my side. My spouse took this photo.

I spread out my illustrations on a queen size bed to sort, resort then sort again. As I sort I’m referring to my poetry and rewriting. I have far more illustrations and poetry bits than will fit in a 32 page kids book. So I have still more sorting and winnowing to do.

This is a physical way of creating a book. With real-life illustrations laid out I’ll write the poems on index cards for sorting purposes. After I get them all sorted then I’ll start photographing the illustrations and typing the poem. Lots to be done. More about this project in future blog posts.

When I was thinking of describing, for this blog, my working process towards a children’s book I thought of my recent reading. Here’s a shelf of books I’ve been collecting on the topic of how our physical world, the objects, technology, the environment affect the ways we think. And vice versa: the ways we think affects our physical world.

When I work on a children’s book using physical elements as opposed to abstract outlines, book dummies or computer files it feels much like what I do in the kitchen. It feels like having a full pantry, a stocked freezer and refrigerator to choose from for making meals. “It” exists and all I have to do is rummage till I find it.

The work feels easier this way…and more fun!

For my pleasure reading this week – with coffee, hot tea or hot chocolate depending on the time of day – I’ve been reading a hard-boiled detective mystery.

I hope you’re snug, cozy and are able to rummage for the good things in your life. See you next Monday?

Leaf fabric, greeting cards, books and rabbits

A Creative Life, animals in art, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, fabric design, functional art, greeting cards, illustrated recipe, kitchen art, mental health, pattern design, printed books, product design, publications - publishing, published art, rabbits in art, sketchbook, small things, surface design, visual story, visual thinking, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

In a prior post I showed a fabric design in progress. This week I got a fabric swatch proof, pictured below, which I approved and have made publicly available now. I like the bright colors of it.

In the most recent children’s book I illustrated, Pembral Forgets, I used a leaf motif thought the book.  The story Steve Tubbs wrote was about fall leaves. good food and a mother’s love. So as I was doing a version of the leaf motif for fabric naturally my thoughts ran towards the possibilities of the leaf fabric as napkins and table runners – things for kitchens. Anyway, the fabric is on my Spoonflower shop now as well as on the Pembral Forgets portfolio page.

https://www.spoonflower.com/en/home-decor/dining/table-runner/11145198-leaves-from-pembral-by-sueclancy

In my last post I talked of using things I enjoy as a guide for subject matter in my art.

Well, that also applies to the types of creative pursuits to which I choose to apply my artwork. For example I’ve been thinking for some time now about how much I enjoy sending and receiving greeting cards in the snail mail.

In the photo below you’re looking at my fireplace at home and the cards I’ve gotten by mail displayed there on the mantel. Some are handmade cards. Some are vintage cards. Some are postcards and folded cards found in stores. I like them all and love the connections with the people who sent them!

I have dabbled in card making most of my life. But only in the last few years have I been semi serious about it. This week, however, I had the thought “What if greeting cards are little illustrated story books?” and my dabbling is suddenly more focused.

Below are a few of my greeting cards which are now on my Zazzle shop here. Some of my cards have rabbit characters but there are other animals too.

I want to make more cards now, for many reasons. But I realized this week that there’s a big reason: my pleasant memories of whenever my adopted Mom, Dad and I met in a bookstore cafe for lunch.

In addition to looking at the books no visit was complete without a visit to the greeting card section of the store. Dad was a psychiatrist and he used to tell me that sometimes when he had a patient with depression he would prescribe weekly visits to stores that sold greeting cards. He would ask that the patient write down descriptions of the cards that amused them to share in future appointments with him. Bonus points (so to speak) if they bought a card and mailed it to someone.

So yes, I want to make more cards in addition to my other artwork – in the “Hi Mom and Dad. 👋” sense of things as well as for my “help others share their stories” sensibility with which I run my creative business.

(Btw: this reasoning is why I do my fabric designs too)

Anyway you’re the first to see the whole collection of cards I’ve done so far. Plus these below…

https://www.zazzle.com/hoppy_birthday_card-256207685042397378
https://www.zazzle.com/hoppy_birthday_card-256207685042397378
https://www.zazzle.com/nurse_cat_folded_note_card-256284055535885605
https://www.zazzle.com/nurse_cat_folded_note_card-256284055535885605
https://www.zazzle.com/good_wishes_rabbits_greeting_card-256150049299175963
https://www.zazzle.com/good_wishes_rabbits_greeting_card-256150049299175963

Needless to say I’ve been busy this week. Fortunately I made a big batch of my “Simple Sauce” and stored it in a jar in my fridge for quick easy to prepare meals. Naan bread makes such a nice pizza crust: just spread on a spoonful of sauce, chop and add desired toppings then bake in a 425 degree oven.

My “Simple Sauce” recipe is in my kitchen sketchbook Favorites So Far. The whole book can be previewed here and you’re welcome to capture my recipe below.

https://www.blurb.com/b/9759759-favorites-so-far
https://www.blurb.com/b/9759759-favorites-so-far

For one meal my spouse and I were in the mood for bell peppers, onions and olives on the Naan bread crust. Yummy!

Speaking of good things, books and rabbits: I’m starting a new children’s book. One question I get asked “which comes first the art or the words?” and in the case of this new book the art largely came first. Here’s an array of the illustrations I’ve done so far along with my legal pad on which I’m scribbling book text drafts by hand using my fountain pen. More about this project in future posts.

More too about a new painting currently in progress…

Hope your week is full of your favorites too. See you next Monday?

Linked by leaves lemons and literature

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I’m amazed at how easy it can be to change one’s perception and be inspired. For example I took these yellow lemons and set them next to a grey and cream cookie jar. Suddenly I have a color scheme I hadn’t thought of before.

The randomness of all the creative stimuli in the world can feel a bit chaotic. Making links between stimuli can be a puzzle. The challenge is devising methods to sift through the chaos to find the nuggets of inspiration that are relevant to our lives and our personal forms of creativity.

One way I find focus – or links – is to think about what I enjoy. For example hot beverages and books are reliable enjoyments for me so I often use that as a focal point when exploring color schemes, patterns or shapes.

Here’s an original drawing playing with colors using the books and beverages topic:

Then, later, after I’ve chosen a focal point and created a drawing I’m pleased with, I find ways to take my original drawings and make something that might add to the random pleasures in the world.

My entire creative process is a way of talking, listening and actively participating in the world.

Here’s what I did with the above original ink and gouache drawing of hot beverages and books: I made a fabric pattern of it for my Spoonflower shop.

https://www.spoonflower.com/en/fabric/9454398-hot-beverages-books-by-sueclancy

Yes, much of my artistic inspiration comes from my personal life. Below is one of my favorite hot beverages. I wrote the recipe in my sketchbook. A sketchbook is where I do a lot of my sifting through my thoughts and making links.

And here’s some random books I’ve been reading this week:

The Norton Reader 6th edition is a book of essays, a wide ranging freewheeling collection of essays. I like it for it’s oddness this way – most essay collections are more narrowly focused. This book was given to me back in the late 1980’s by one of my literature professors. I had gone to the professor’s office during the appointed office hours but just after I arrived the professor got a phone call. Those were the days of phones connected by cords, lines and an absence of answering machines. While my professor took the call I sat next to a table with books on it and picked up The Norton Reader. By the time my professor finished the call I had read several of the essays. The professor asked if I liked the book, I replied that I did, and she gave me the book to keep. I have read the book multiple times since those college days and this book currently lives in a place of honor on my dining room shelf with my poetry and short story book collections. It has influenced my creative thinking in ways too numerous to list here.

The other 3 titles in the stack of books in the photo below are all books that I similarly encountered randomly:

Darkness Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane was a recent gift, sent by mail, from a friend. I love a good mystery novel and this one is gripping. I’ve almost finished my first reading of it and …wow. Just. Wow. I had never heard of this author till my friend mentioned and sent the book! I’m grateful to my friend…

Given Sugar Given Salt is a book of poems by Jane Hirshfield. I love the way Hirshfield examines little things, small objects like buttons or our habits or ways we sleep. This book (along with Mary Oliver’s work) has been an influence on my own love of little things.

The Blank Canvas by Anna Held Audette is a big “you can do this” support system even though the book is small in size. I dip into it often when I need a little pick-me-up.

All of the books in the above photo were gifted to me. I relish the randomness the book-as-gift adds to my creative life!

I thought a lot this week about those yellow lemons and that grey color together. And about hot beverages. The weather here has been cold, rainy, which makes hot beverages even more pleasant. Here’s what I drew exploring the yellows and greys:

This week I’ll probably do the digital hocus pocus to turn my grey and yellow cups drawing into a pattern repeated on fabric. (This process will be much like what I described last post.)

My other technique for creative focus – for finding links – is to ask myself what would feed my good wolves today?

This page is from this book: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dr-Bobs-Emotional-Repair-Program-First-Aid-Kit1

Then I think of art topics and creative projects that encourage my own thinking towards kindness and the other good-wolf attributes. And provide amusement and comfort.

For example here’s an ink and gouache painting I’ve titled “The Fall Collection”

“The Fall Collection” by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – ink, gouache and collage on board

And here’s another ink and gouache painting I’ve titled “Anyone Bring Cups?”

“Anyone Bring Cups?” by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – ink, gouache and collage on board

In both of these paintings – in addition to yellow, grey, leaves, lemons and cups (sortof) to link my thoughts together – I used a bit of text as collage along with my ink and gouache. The text is from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I had a much used copy of that title that has pages falling out so my spouse gifted me with a newer intact copy. So I’m lovingly recycling the old falling apart book into my fine art and my perception of Austen’s writing is shifting in nice ways as I do this.

I’m sure you noticed in the paintings that in addition to my use of yellows, greys, leaves, lemons I also used my current “everyman” characters in the form of rabbits.

As I describe in my last post I use techniques for writing as my guide towards creative thinking. In these paintings and in my fabric pattern designs I am following both pieces of advice given to writers: “write what you know” plus “write about what you want to know“. I am also imitating mystery genre writers who use the same characters and themes with subtle variations over multiple books.

Randomness and changing ones perceptions are such fun creative tools to play with! I hope you’ll enjoy some pleasant randomness this week too.

See you next Monday!

Leaves books and rabbits

A Creative Life, animals in art, Art Licensing, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, creative thinking, fabric design, pattern design, printed books, product design, published art, rabbits in art, reading in art, recipe illustration, sketchbook, small things, surface design, Sustainable creativity, visual story, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

After finishing my Pembral Forgets project I was asked if I would make a fabric design from the leaf pattern I had created for the book Pembral Forgets which was written by Steve Tubbs and illustrated by me – (details here)

So this week I’ve been making a fabric pattern of leaves that I’m calling “Leaves From Pembral” and here’s my process…

First I cut out a 12 inch square area of the original hand stenciled paper I did for the Pembral Forgets book. Carefully I chose an area that wouldn’t have leaves touching the 4 edges of the paper. Then I used acrylic paints and created more stenciled leaves to fill in where there were gaps, trying to make the new design square balanced and interesting.

When the above was dry I “cut up my darling” – to borrow from advice given to writers about editing – and made all 4 outer edges now be on the inside of my 12 x 12 inch square paper. Basically I turn my design inside out.

Next I fill in the new gaps with more stenciled leaves.

Then when that was dry I photographed the finished design, trying to keep the soft creamy look of the original and keep the pattern square with my camera. This is easier said than done. After several attempts I was happy with this image below.

Next I uploaded my digital photos into my laptop and used the Spoonflower system to set up my pattern for a basic repeat…so my pattern will flow across any length of fabric without interruptions.

As I worked on the digital file I was thinking of leaves falling and then laying on a wet sidewalk.

What you see below is a screenshot of my finished pattern as I set it up to be repeated on a “fat quarter” an 18 x 21 inch area.

Now I’m waiting to get a proof sample from Spoonflower which I will approve – or not – before it gets added to my public shop on Spoonflower. https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/sueclancy After that I will tell the person who requested this fabric pattern that it’s there and will hope they’re pleased. In the meantime I hope this blog post will amuse…

I enjoyed playing with leaves in my sketchbook, too, this week – with my rabbits. Another bit of advice for writers is to develop a character and use them to explore ideas and situations instead of creating a new character each time one sits down to write. This technique is most obviously used by mystery novelists who create a character (or two) that repeat over a series of books.

I’ve borrowed this concept for writing and applied it to my fine art and artist books… I have certain motifs and characters – selected species really – which repeat in various ways throughout my projects within a span of time.

In my sketchbook page below I have leaves, books and rabbits. For almost a year now rabbits have been a constant character… (previously I have done series of Dogs and Cats … click on the word Dogs or Cats to see a collection within an artist book)

I posted the above photo on my social media pages and someone asked for an art print of my sketchbook page. So I created an art print of the sketchbook page on my Society 6 shop. The unframed print looks like this (below)

In the evenings I’ve been reading about meditation and, of course, reading a mystery novel. Thinking of little things; leaves, drops of water, ones breath are ways of calming oneself for meditation. Little things; scraps of paper, drops of blood, air quality are often clues in a mystery novel. So I keep thinking of little things…

I broke up a chocolate mint and put it in my hot chocolate. It was a tasty little touch – Yum!

I know it’s not a holiday but little pleasures really do make an ordinary day feel special.

Speaking of feeling special; my artwork was featured on Louise Primeau’s website https://louiseprimeau.com/featured-artist-sue-clancy-from-vancouver-wa/ Thank you for your kindness Louise!

Hope we all have many small pleasures to enjoy this week. See you here next Monday?

A coffee a book and a bun

A Creative Life, animals in art, Art Licensing, Art Word Combinations, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, Books In Art, drinks in art, home hare care, mental health, mundane and magical moments, Narrative Art, pattern design, rabbits in art, reading in art, small things, story, visual story, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

As we fast approach the deadline for shipping presents I begin to oogle the coffee, the tea and the buns. Let the Jolabokaflod begin! Let the hot chocolate flow! Bring out the books!

Here’s a quick meme to explain what Jolabokaflod is in case you’ve not yet had the pleasure…

My family officially begins our Jolabokaflod festivities around the 13th or so of December – if not earlier. Okay, truth be told, we celebrate Jolabokaflod all December long.

We did this in the pre-pandemic Before Times because by mid December most of the art gallery exhibit openings and parties have already happened. So we could enjoy ourselves with more time to read books. This pandemic year things are, well, weird. So I’m reveling in the Jolabokaflod normalcy. Plus the whole idea of Jolabokaflod is tailor made for a pandemic.

The following books are all books that were Jolabokaflod gifts, starting in early December. These are the ones that have been opened already.

Whiskey Galore by Compton Mackenzie was a surprise in the mail gift from my spouse who knew I had wanted my own copy. I’d read the library copy several times and had listed this title as a “book to cheer up by”. This book paired well with English Breakfast tea blend and candied orange slices. And occasionally had a shot of whiskey on the side.

A friend suggested, and gifted, by no-contact dropoff, “The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter” because it was a book she really enjoyed. I paired this book with a strong French Roast coffee regularly and added this book to my “fun lighthearted reads list”. The cinnamon bread was good with it too! Now my spouse is reading this one…so we’ll not say more about the book.

And then another friend said one of his favorite authors is James Crumley and he mailed a copy of Dancing Bear to me. I opened it and was hooked right from the start. I read the first 3 chapters without hardly being able to put the book down. I did, however, at some point manage to tear myself away from the book and make a hot chocolate to go with my reading.

Naturally my sketchbook figures in prominently this time of year too. It’s a book too so I include it in the festival! And I see Jolabokaflod generally as a chance to doodle and play and share books with friends and read with no strings attached.

When reading books or sketching I like to have a coaster or Mug Mats as I call them under my cup so that my beverages don’t moisten a table or a book. Consequently my sketching practice lately has run to making coasters too… here’s a collection of my Mug Mat designs https://www.zazzle.com/collections/mug_mats-119756908126091756

Also as part of my sketchbook practice I’ve written a short story that explains what happens to beverages when you’re reading. It’s like this:

In case you’ve wondered where the coffee goes: There are tiny rabbits, who creep up while you’re busy reading, install a drain spigot on the side of your cup and dispense coffee to the entire tiny rabbit crew. When your cup has been completely drained they remove and repair the spigot hole and run away.

All of this happens so fast you usually can’t see it – you’re left with the “I swear I’d just poured myself a cup of coffee and now it’s gone” sensation.

Watch for the tiny rabbits. Here’s a new odd mug to help…

https://www.zazzle.com/where_the_coffee_goes_mug-168824736751818592

Yes, I enjoy the pun of putting artwork about books and coffee onto a mug. It seemed so right for Jolabokaflod this year. Here’s a look at the original artwork off the mug, so to speak:

And while thinking my thoughts about tiny rabbits and coffee I did a related fabric design called “coffee and a bun” on my Spoonflower shop https://www.spoonflower.com/designs/10924656-coffee-bun-by-sueclancy

Here below is a closer look at my design

Tiny rabbits like to hide in fabric things like placemats and pillows. In the photo below the tiny rabbits are somewhat hidden. They’re lounging and drinking coffee on a pillowcase. If you look carefully you can see them.

So the moral of my visual story is to watch for the tiny rabbits!

And please put a coaster under your mug in case a tiny rabbit spills a bit when siphoning out of your cup.

If I see you here next Monday there may be a book gift to you from me…

Happy Jolabokaflod in advance!

Stocking whimsy

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Stockings were hung by the whimsy with care in hopes of the giggling soon to be there…

Okay so that’s not how the poem really goes. Still I’m thinking of ways to keep up my sense of humor and share a chuckle with other people. Imaginative play and laughter are crucial to mental health and humor seems more important this year, 2020, than ever.

My what a creative challenge this year has been on all levels. For example, instead of the usual holiday art gallery openings and parties my galleries are doing things differently: open by appointment, digitally showing work, shipping and delivering directly. Some are also doing limited hours “popup” shops with items that can be picked up curbside or quickly and safely in the gallery.

Through all of the changes my creative efforts still focus on hopefully making you grin.

Toward that goal here’s a few of my gouache and ink paintings available via the Caplan Art Designs gallery www.caplanartdesigns.com

Here, below, are a few paintings at the Joseph Gierek Fine Art Gallery in Tulsa, Oklahoma

And there are more than a few paintings – artwork that is reproduced in my artist books for children – many of my artist books (signed) and other stocking stuffers at the Aurora Gallery – www.auroragalleryonline.com

Besides fine art and artist books for the Aurora Gallery popup event, Dec 12 from 12 to 4 pm, I’ve created some small stocking stuffers: book mark ribbons, playing cards, drink coasters and other items not pictured below.

Besides paintings that include socks, I even made a few largish non holiday theme stockings that can hold smaller gifts.

Perhaps you’re noticing some common themes in my work: books, beverages, music and funky socks. All various comforts that can be enjoyed at home.

And it’s all whimsical. Humor is important to me because a sense of humor is one of our best tools for thinking and living well – despite circumstances.

Anyway, I’ve been enjoying the puns within puns… my fine art about reading books that becomes a bookmark ribbon for a reader. Or my fine art that includes a beverage becoming a drink coaster…

No, I don’t expect that everyone will understand all of my jokes – certainly not the “meta” ones – I’m just hoping you’ll get a surprise and a smile from my work.

Please do whatever you need to do this week to maintain your sense of humor and whimsy. Playfulness helps us cope.

A good laugh heals a lot of hurts – Madeline L’Engle

Childrens books and other comforts

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Well I didn’t expect that. My books sold out at the Aurora Gallery within 11 days. By request I’ve ordered more books to sign and deliver to the gallery asap.

I began doing this series of kids books as a gift for my friends and their kids and grandkids. When this pandemic began, for safety reasons, I started making my artist books on Blurb.com because they’ll print my books on demand and then mail those books from where they’re printed to any place in the world, including mailing books to my local friends.

Here’s a photo of all 5 of my children’s books. (Accessible on my shop page)

The worldwide aspect of Blurb has turned out to be a good thing also because all 5 of my children’s books are now on Storyberries.com as ebooks and audiobooks worldwide. Storyberries links to where a reader can get the printed books at the bottom of each ebook.

Even so I’ve gotten multiple direct questions about where to get printed versions of my children’s books so I’ve put them on my shop page as well as my portfolio pages.

Also on my portfolio pages are links to blog posts that show my working and thinking processes as I created the books.

What I hadn’t expected was the requests for signed books. I’ve been working on that: I’ve mailed signed labels for the book owner to affix in the book. And I’ve taken, in a pandemic safe way, a few signed books to the Aurora Gallery where they went quickly to new homes. I’ll have a few more signed books at the Aurora Gallery soon and the gallery is able to mail them on to a reader/collector.

Anyway, to be safest of all, I’m focused on working with places that can do the direct shipping of books and other items. I’m also enjoying making downloadable ebooks. (Look at the bottom of my shop page for ebooks I have there)

You see, I keep thinking “what if this pandemic is actually opportunity to slow down and really connect with people?”.

Books are ways to connect, in my opinion, and for that reason I make books. I may dedicate each book and have certain people in mind as I create my books but when I share on social media about my books (and other items) I share for anyone who needs a bit of comfort, a smile and a visual hug.

Here’s a look at the display at the Aurora Gallery before they sold out of my books.

At any rate I’m enjoying making my books available via Blurb and Storyberries and the Aurora Gallery and I’ve enjoyed hearing that my books have given people comfort and enjoyment during this time.

Most days I make an effort to catalog what I’m enjoying and finding comfort in these pandemic days. This is expanding my awareness of things, besides books, that help us connect with each other. But in my list making of comforting things I’ve found books and coffee so comforting so often that, for fun, I did a fabric pattern on the topic.

Coffee and Books fabric pattern – https://www.spoonflower.com/en/fabric/9454365-coffee-books-by-sueclancy

A friend liked my coffee and books fabric pattern and requested a coffee mug with it. So I did that. It’s fun to think of mugs as gallery walls or as book pages or even as pieces of fabric. And I get comfort from thinking creatively about the ordinary stuff of life and the comforts found there. I’m very grateful that both Spoonflower and Zazzle can ship my designs directly to someone.

Coffee and Books mug – https://www.zazzle.com/coffee_and_books_mug-168903127961605425

I find it helpful to create things with specific people in mind. Sometimes the people know about my creation because they requested something or because I wrote a dedication in one of my books. Most often the person I had in mind while I was creating never knows about it.

As Kurt Vonnegut says “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

A side effect of thinking of my artistic creations as gifts for someone I have in mind is that I’ve discovered that my books, fabrics, mugs, puzzles and other items have been purchased as gifts by one person for another person.

And I love this thought that what I make as a gift, in my mind, for someone I know becomes a real-life gift from one person to another person.

It feels like I’m the author of gifts to be given, as if my artistic mediums, my paints so to speak, are love and kindness shared between people. With that in mind I’ve begun making more note cards… like this…

Hammy’s Comfy Pants card – https://www.zazzle.com/hammys_comfy_pants_card-256444659563201670

The text on the inside of the card says “wishing you calmness and peace or at least comfortable sweatpants”

Yes, comfortable pants made my list of enjoyed comforts this week. So did thick socks and warm sweaters but this is enough typing for right now.

See you next Monday? Till then please make yourself comfortable and share a comfort with someone else.

Numpurrs 16, 17, 18, 19

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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.

See you here next Monday