I’m steadily progressing on my children’s book “The Professional Dog”. Here are three art pieces together so you can see how the colors flow from one piece to the next. This project will be both a book an art exhibit. So each piece needs to both work with the others and stand alone. My last post tells more about this project.
Below are closer looks at each of these pieces. The text for the book is below the art.
Progress is also happening at an even more rapid pace on my holiday box project for the Caplan Art Designs Gallery. I’ve been in touch with the Gallery, sharing photos of my progress privately with them and it’s been agreed that I won’t post much publicly yet about this project. It wouldn’t be good to get too far ahead in posting… the art isn’t due at the Gallery till November and the exhibit is later still… so we don’t want to give too many clues too early.
It’s hard to keep my excitement to myself but I can do this. Right? Right?
I trust it won’t be too much of a spoiler to say that doing dog paintings in black and white is helpful when I’m also doing a series of dog portraits in color. Nothing like painting in black, white and shades of grey to sharpen my observation skills. Very carefully I made sure that both of my main projects are dog related. This way the project concepts strengthen each other. Kind of like how doing similar but different physical exercises strengthen muscles better that just doing one kind of exercise.
Anyway, here’s a few sketchbook pages related to this holiday box project that we’re very carefully not talking about too much yet. Mums the word. Shhhh…
I heard this week from someone who got one of my fabricdesigns so they could sew nice things for a teacher in their life!! This makes my heart happy that my reading, literacy, fabricpattern on Spoonflower made someone smile!
Anyway, speaking of taking care… it’s soup weather here in the Pacific Northwest! So I got out one of our favorite cookbooks “The Big Book Of Soups and Stews” by Vollstedt and made the recipe for chicken noodle soup. I used precooked chicken as a shortcut but otherwise followed the recipe. It’s so yummy and really feels kind to the soul.
Speaking of kindness – I saw this in my local newspaper and took a photo so I could save it and share it. It feels important to me. Crucial even.
One of the other ways I’ve been gentle with myself this week is knocking off work a wee bit earlier so I can spend more time reading. I finished the George Saunders title I was reading in my last post. Saunders talked about and included stories from Chekhov which I enjoyed. So I’m reading more of Chekhov’s work.
I’m also reading “A Perry Mason Casebook” by Erle Stanley Gardner. Talk about two almost polar opposite kinds of writers! Chekhov’s characters, generally speaking, consider the feelings of other characters – the stories seem emotion driven. Gardner’s characters, generally, don’t consider or respond much to the emotion of other characters – these stories seem situation driven.
My response to each book is so very different that it almost seems unfair to compare them at all. They were written in such different era’s. Chekhov wrote in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. Gardner wrote in the 1950’s. But reading both books at the same time is a fun mental contrast – rather like the experience of contrasts that I remember from visiting the state fair; enjoying the quiet exhibits of quilts, animals, jams and jellies alongside noisy rides, carnival games, street performers and aerial acrobats.
Anyway, my spouse and I got a nice syrah wine from Burnt Bridge Cellars and had a glass of wine with our books in the evenings. Such fun!
Here’s hoping your week will give you many opportunities to be gentle and tender with yourself and the people in your life. See you next Monday.
My childrens book “The Professional Dog” has moved into color! Over the last week I’ve inked more than 12 of the illustrations just so I could see where I was going. Now I’m doing the same testing with colors. I’m using my butterfly palette (a post about that here) – it’s a fun challenge to paint dogs using a palette based in a scientific study of the color variations of butterflies. I have been using a few extra colors – most notably dark brown- but my primary color scheme is butterflies!
Below is a look at three of my Professional Dog illustrations together so you can see how the colors look.
Then here’s a closer look at each of those illustrations: my book text for each portrait is below.
Progress has also been happening on my holiday box project for an upcoming exhibit at Caplan Art Designs. I now have the overall design plan somewhat in view. In the photos below I’m working in my sketchbook to see if my plan has legs so to speak.
I’ll do more sketchbook work over the coming days towards this holiday box project. The box project has a firm deadline attached to it so I’m playing with it every day.
This is true now too of The Professional Dog. There’s a deadline but it’s not as firm as the box project deadline. Even so I have two main projects to work on every day! How nice is that?!
I am still planning to add to my ongoing “For Pleasant Encouragement” art print project and to my “odd greeting cards” project but progress on both of these is primarily in my sketchbook now. My daily focus is on my two main projects but I’m making regular notes in my sketchbook of my ideas for future cards and art prints for when I have time to do them!
If you’re curious about where I’m filming these chats here’s a blog post from some time ago that has a fun photo of the spot in my studio. It is still true for me what I write in that post that art is love made visible and that this spot in my studio is where I practice loving.
This week for the main special get-creative-in-the-kitchen project I added sauteed zucchini but otherwise mostly followed this creamy gnocchi sauce recipe https://www.acouplecooks.com/easy-creamy-gnocchi-sauce/ It was tasty but a bit more heavy than we like to eat so I probably won’t make this again. Still, I’ve not cooked gnocchi very often so it was fun to try it.
Contrary to what it may seem like having two main art projects with deadlines actually frees up my brain time. In addition to playing in my sketchbook I can get some reading done! I’m within whiskers of finishing “A Swim In The Pond In The Rain” by George Saunders for the 2nd time. Gosh I’m glad I bought my own printed copy of this book … it’s such a good source of creative encouragement!
Here’s hoping you have many sources of encouragement this week and that your cat similarly saves a chair for you in your happy place.
I’m starting a new childrens poem project “The Professional Dog”. It’s an excuse to do a series of portraits of dogs owned by friends who have professions that fit neatly in an alphabetic format… accountant, botanist, chef…. (Yes, another abecedarian book!!)
Several friends – with dogs – have different professions that could fit for the same alphabetic letter. I know a botanist, a brewer and a baker. I know a chef, a councilor and a critic. Part of my work on this project is winnowing this list.
My book idea began in my small poetry sketchbook, the orange one in the picture, and is now in the messy draft stage on my legal pad.
I’m in the process of contacting friends and asking them to email or text photos of their dogs – and asking questions about their profession. These responses will help me narrow things down.
Here’s a few of the dog photos I’ve gotten from an Accountant, an Underwriter, an Inventory Manager, a Poet, a Nurse and an Entrepreneur.
In addition to this new book project I’ve been thinking more about greeting cards. Last year during the holidays it felt weird getting or sending cards that touched on pre-pandemic style large gatherings. I found I preferred getting and sending the cards that had winter scenery or literary poems or food/drink recipes. I did enjoy the family photo cards and “seeing” everyone that way.
So as I think of the upcoming holiday season I’m starting work on painting a short series of winter, food and book themed artworks intended for cards on my Zazzle shop. Here’s a sketch in my sketchbook with one of my winter theme notions.
Here’s a look at the finished art. I used my new butterfly palette that I’ve talked about in a prior post. These colors are literally based in scientific studies of butterflies and other bugs. It was fun to paint winter scenery using the butterfly colors! The color palette you see in this photo is what I call my “butterfly box”.
Below is a closer look at my finished artwork. After I get a few more for-cards artwork pieces finished then I’ll upload all of the images and design the cards. I’ve titled this piece below “Crowshoes”
This week my spouse made homemade sugar cookies. Seriously comforting and yummy cookies! Cookies and a coloring book are two of the good things in this life, I think, so I posed this photo for use in telling on social media about my recent coloring book “How To Draw A Dragon“
Many of the baked goodies my spouse makes – like the sugar cookies in the photo above – are from recipes in “How To Bake Everything” by Mark Bittman. As an eater of baked goods I can vouch for this book!
As per my last post I am thinking seriously about doing more videos and have even ordered a thingamajig to hold my phone steady while I talk. It’s a fun – and a bit scary – to entertain the idea of talking on video generally about being creative and include things from my own creative life. I’m thinking I might call these short videos “Creativity chats” with a subtitle of the topic of that particular chat. 🤔 We’ll see. I heartily thank you for your kind encouragement to do more videos!
While I wait for the video apparatus to be shipped to me I’ll work towards “The Professional Dog” and will tell you more about what inspired this idea in future posts.
I hope your week is full of dog (or cat) cuddles, cookies and many other comforting things! See you next Monday.
My crocodile became a dragon as I’ve been working on a new childrens book. I’ve been alternating work in both my poetry sketchbook, the orange book on the left, and my black visual sketchbook on the right.
Below is a look at my handwritten poem text in my poetry sketchbook.
I also have a 3 ring binder in which I have collected sketches and drafts of the poem text. Initially I was calling my poem “How to paint a crocodile”. My idea was to do a coloring activity book featuring a human child and a realistic crocodile. But the humanness didn’t feel right to me. And the crocodile felt too, well, reptilian.
So in my black sketchbook I tried a few more cartoon-like crocodile drawings. I’ve done many sketches and am only showing a few here in order to keep this post brief. Also not pictured are my sketches of various animals along my way to a decision to make the human child character into a rabbit.
The crocodile kept feeling too sinister in my sketches. So I dropped, temporarily, the coloring book concept and just painted who might be the main adult-like logical no-nonsense left-brain character to play opposite my rabbit right-brain creative playful child-like rabbit. The “adult” character it turns out is a dragon.
So I went with the dragon! In subsequent sketches I resumed my coloring book notion. The working title for my coloring book poem now is “How to draw a dragon”. I’m using the word ‘draw’ in the sense of ‘attract’ in addition to the usual sense of drawing with a pencil. Below are a few sketchbook drawings of the dragon in which I aim for busy adult postures – grumpy perhaps but not sinister.
Besides rewriting my poem in my poetry sketchbook I have also rewritten my poem on scraps of paper which are kept in my binder. There are -tons – more rewrites and sketches than I’ve shared in this post. Here I’m sharing just enough, I hope, to give you a sense of my working process. When I felt my poem was settled, more or less, I wrote it on a stiff paper so it could stand on my easel as I work. You can see it below.
When I spoke in a my last post of “having my crocodile project all over my studio” the photo below perhaps gives you a sense of what I mean. In this photo the papers on my easel look blank but there are pencil drawings on them. There’s also a blizzard of drawings in ink on tracing paper.
Multiple drawings on tracing paper enable me to draw a character similarly but holding or doing different things as the character goes through my story. Below you can propably see what I mean.
Yes, I know there are computer programs that would enable me to copy and paste character elements from one page to another. I have used such programs in the past. But I find it more satisfying to do original hand made drawings for every element within a book. I fancy myself as like a chef who prides herself on using local ingredients and cutting them up fresh when a dish is requested. A chef’s hand made dish is better, I think, than a frozen box meal reheated. But I digress.
Below is a “scene” or a stage set upon which my characters will act. I’ve made a master template in ink on tracing paper which I will use for reference – and for story foreshadowing – throughout my poem book.
Below is a look at some of the rabbit character sketches on tracing paper.
Below is a look at a few of my dragon character sketches. I feel I’ve finally found a balance between a grumpy adult appearance while not being too sinister.
Here’s a closer look at the Rabbit character.
As I build these pages I will do my story foreshadowing using many visual elements. So even after I get the entire book drawn the visual foreshadowing will still need to be carefully edited. But first I’ll get the entire book roughed in. Lots of work to do.
To help get me to my studio work more quickly in the mornings most of the evenings I’ve been making overnight oats. Into lidded mason jars I put some raw uncooked old fashioned oat meal, some milk to cover the oats, maple syrup, fruit like raspberries or blueberries (or both) and yogurt. Then I add a bit more milk as needed, put the lids on and put the jars in my refrigerator. In the mornings I don’t have to think of what’s for breakfast or spend time cooking. I can get right to my sketchbook work!
Also this week I delivered the artist books that the Aurora Gallery had requested along with some signed bookplates! You can see more about each of these books on my portfolio page.
My plan is to work steadily on my Dragon, a bit of work almost every day, until it’s finished. Some days only a short burst of work will happen but other days I’ll have more time to spend.
So along with my tracing paper templates I’ve made a strategy, a loose agenda/schedule, of items to be done on this project which I’ll use as a guide to enable me to pick up wherever I left off even if I only have 10 minutes of time to work. I’ll use the same guide if I have hours of time. Such a project schedule is a guideline – a suggested working rhythm – it is not a god to be worshipped or slavishly obeyed. My guide is a way for me to keep this project in small manageable chunks. Keeping it small helps me to maintain momentum and to keep it fun. (There’s even a business article here about the kind of strategy I’m talking about.)
I have already spent months working on this poem and have only just this week outlined, and otherwise prepared, 32 pages to draw, ink and hand letter over the coming weeks. In other words I am just now ready to begin in earnest. Forming a good steady working rhythm now is crucial. So is focusing on the fun.
Some sort of strategy – I like to call it “planning the mundane” – some consideration for keeping long haul projects like this manageable, not overwhelming, is important. But it’s the fun that is the lynchpin of what keeps a creative project sustainable. So I consider having fun the most serious aspect of living a creative life.
Hope your creative week is sustainably fun too! See you next Monday.
“Warning” by Jenny Joseph is one of my favorite poems. I particularly like these lines “…and hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes…”. But I hadn’t read that poem or thought of it in a while (you can see the entire poem here).
Earlier this month I received the prospectus for a “reclaimed canvas” art exhibit upcoming at the Aurora Gallery. (This is the project I hinted at in my last post.) The Reclaimed Canvas is an art exhibit asking the gallery artists to paint on something not normally used as a canvas or surface for painting. So I began this new project by rummaging around my studio for a not-typical thing to paint on. Look what I found – boxes of pens, pencils and beermats!
Suddenly I remembered the poem “Warning” by Jenny Joseph…. and had a good chuckle at myself. Of course I reread the poem and laughed some more.
Before we visited, and later moved to, the Pacific Northwest I didn’t think I liked beer. But here in the Pacific Northwest there are locally owned microbreweries and the beer is worth taste testing – and both the brewpubs and the beers often reflect the region in which they’re located. So having a beer in one of the microbrew pubs includes a bit of regional history and personal stories. Often there’s beautiful scenery too. Oh, and did I mention that the beer tastes surprisingly good?
As I looked through my collection of beermats in my pencil box I thought of poetry and word play in general. I also remembered our various visits to the brewpubs whose beermats I had in hand. I evaluated the qualities of the beermats themselves as a possible canvas for a painting.
Here’s the beermat I chose for my new painting project – the first photo shows the front of the beermat and then the next photo shows the back of it.
Bouy Beer is in Astoria Oregon and the brewpub sits right on the water. When entering the pub you can walk over a large glass floor. Through the glass floor you can often see the sea lions lounging on the pier beneath. We’ve enjoyed sitting in the pub on the waters edge, watching ships and marine wildlife. Sitting there, with a beer, I’m aware of the intimate connection this one spot has with the entire world: international ships come and go as do migrating whales, geese and sea lions. I love the way it is both a unique place with it’s own regional quirks and yet it openly, joyfully, participates in a wider world. It’s a wonderful reminder that one can be fully ones particular self while also being fully within, and open to, a diverse world. The food menu at Buoy Beer is also an enchanting fusion of world cuisines… but I dangerously digress. I have so many good memories of this particular pub and look forward to each visit. Oh, and they brew really good beers!
Anyway, for an animal character to use in my painting on the Buoy Beer beermat I thought about having a sea lion drinking beer, a great blue heron drinking beer, a whale drinking…. eventually, after a number of sketchbook drawings, I settled on the character of a bear. My main reasons for choosing a bear is that I could do a wordplay title for the finished art … but also the shape of bear, physically, could evoke the feeling and the relaxing-into-hybernation pose that I associate with the flavor of one of my favorite beers when it’s seasonally available at Bouy Beer.
Here’s a sketch I did when exploring my thoughts.
And below is the painting I did on one of the 4 inch round coasters I had collected during one of our trips to Bouy Beer (which I kept in a pencil box with the rest of my beermat collection – 🤣). I painted on the coaster with gouache and have titled it …wait for it… “Bear, Matt”
The back of my “Bear, Matt” painting has the title and other data written by hand.
I did seal the beermat with a clear primer before I began painting on it and when my painting was finished and dry I varnished the artwork. Plus the art will likely be framed at the Aurora Gallery. So what was once an ephemeral throw-away object now will potentially last quite a bit longer.
I think of this new project as fitting in with my recent household surrealism thinking: a mundane object was thought about in a new way.
With this thought, given my sense of humor, I simply couldn’t resist turning my original painting “Bear, Matt” back into ephemeral beermats. So on my Zazzle shop I made round paper coasters – beermats – that are copies or art prints of my original “Bear, Matt” artwork! The back of these printed coasters is blank. That’s one way you can tell the copy from the original. You can get these here.
After finishing “Bear, Matt” and delivering the original to the Aurora Galley a few days ago – I visited, in masked-up person, another favorite local independent bookstore called Daedalus Books. This bookstore is especially alluring for me with my interests in literature, fine art, poetry, books about books, artist books, literary studies, culture, history and philosophy. You can see how tempting it was… in the photo below is my book haul!
Another new project in progress contains a crocodile. In the photo below you can see my orange poetry sketchbook and my crocodile poem written by hand. Also in the photo is a binder that holds my drawing attempts, book dummies and poem drafts. Yes, I’m working on a new children’s book. I plan to update this blog over the coming weeks with my progress…
My spouse’s garden has lots of garlic scapes and some radish greens so the memorable meal this week was the pasta with radish greens and garlic scapes recipe below!
Hope your week is full of fun memories and your own collections of beermats, pencils and pens!
Literature and art are forms of self care and of care work. I’ve thought of this as I have worked in my household surrealism projects. Home is where most of us practice self care and care for others. We all need regular care and comfort, including the care and comforts to be found all of the Arts, so it feels crucial to have fine art, literature and music in ones home.
With that in mind this week I did a short video about why I make art. Spoiler alert: I want to make the visual art equivalent of freshly baked cookies and a kind note. Video here: https://youtu.be/GYiby2CfySc
And as part of those thoughts I’ve changed my avatar for most of my social media to this green dragon reading a book. For me green dragons represent creativity/imagination and books represent love and caring.
When I can I’ve directly signed the artist books I’ve written and illustrated. Often I’ve also doodled something right on the page. Like this…
But there are many times when that isn’t possible so I’ve signed and doodled on a piece of label paper and mailed that to the book owner for the book owner to affix in the book. That’s seemed to work. Finally I had the notion to make a bookplate specifically for this purpose. Hence the green dragon. Will update about the bookplate when I get them from the printer…
Anyway, here’s a look at some of the Odditorium artwork in the frames. I get the frames made at a local frame shop Aurora Gallery (www.auroragalleryonline.com) but I put the art in the frames myself. I think of how my paintings might hang on someone’s wall and lift spirits.
Here below are some of the odd greeting cards I’ve made with some of my Odditorium art. I love the pun of creating household surrealism artwork and then using that to make household items like greeting cards, mugs and coasters. The collection of Odd Cards is here and you can find some of the other items in my Zazzle shop.
These cards are long and skinny and come with an envelope. A message can be written on the back. I imagine someone smiling when getting one of these cards in the mail.
Since I told about the green dragon avatar and upcoming bookplate here’s a look at the two other logos I use on my cards, books and mugs.
Here’s another Odditorium painting “Favorite Walk” in its frame. The idea for this painting was a combination of outdoor walks my spouse and I enjoy along with red shoes a fellow artist family member has depicted in her artwork. So the red shoes are a “hello” to a family member….and they’re just fun!
Here’s us on a recent windy rainy walk in one of our favorite spots. I imagine you can see a relationship between my painting “Favorite Walk” and the landscape in the photos below.
So I am glad people will get to see my art in person and will be able to buy some of my artist book titles while enjoying some very good wine! Even given this good news I am continuing my virtual art exhibit efforts with the printed picture book Odditorium and the new (still in progress) portfolio page. And I’m glad my art will also be accessible via Caplan Art Designs. I tell ya it takes a village…
Here are some of the artist books (many of them signed) that will be available during my Odditorium exhibit. All of my books are also accessible digitally here and here. I imagine people looking at my books and enjoying sharing them with others even if they don’t see my original art in person.
Of course I don’t know for certain how my fine art or anything else will be received. Rarely do I actually see my artwork hanging in someone’s home or office. I can only create and imagine and that’s enough motivation for me. I do treasure the comments and photos people have shared with me of their joy and delight in my work!
I like the thought that via my art I may be contributing to people’s happiness. Human minds need books, art, music anything that healthily feeds the imagination. Minds need good nutrition just like bodies do. Mental health also includes the comforts of homemade cookies.
In my studio I keep this quote where I’ll see it often. “One must care about a world one will never see.” Bertrand Russell
Speaking of love and caring: here’s a super yummy homemade cookie recipe of my spouse’s creation!
May you have many pleasant moments of comfort this week with cookies and storytime of your own! See you next Monday?
Frankly, I’m tired. But it’s the I’ve-played-hard good kind of tired. So more pictures and less text in this post and you get a special peek … I’ve been thinking about Kurt Vonnegut’s book If this isn’t nice what is? Here’s an article I enjoyed about this Vonnegut book. Here’s a photo of the book in my library with other Vonnegut titles.
Below is one of the poems I read during breakfast this week in a book called Animal Poems. It’s one of the titles in the Pocket Poetry series by Everyman’s Library. (I love this series! Especially with breakfast!) The poem in the photo is by Wiliam Cowper. I love the last line “The comfort of a reasonable joy.” So I’ve also been thinking how important it is to have regular reasonable enjoyments. I take the phrase “reasonable enjoyments” to mean the simple kind that don’t require lots of money, a travel agent or dressy clothes. Anyway, here’s the poem.
In my last post I talked about the pace of creative life. I’ve still been thinking about the skill of crafting daily rhythms and here’s a link to an inspiring article I read on the topic: https://www.wired.com/story/calendar-tips-post-pandemic-reentry-organization/ Maintaining a daily rhythm has enabled me – to get very tired 🤣 – but also to have nearly everything completely finished two weeks early prior to delivery of all the art and books for my Odditorium exhibit. Being early gives me flexibility to have time to rest as well as to deal with any unexpected issues.
Below are some of my sketchbook pages … and some kitchen gadgets I looked at and thought about as I worked on one of the last paintings for this exhibit.
Here’s a photo my spouse took of me working out how flamingos might carry things.
Below is the finished painting on my easel drying. Below that is a close up of the dry painting. I titled it “Is Not This Nice?” The title fits with my thoughts recently and echos the collage text I found in my falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was fun to find text written by Austen that was similar to what Vonnegut said.
If the background of my painting reminds you of the ocean….we went there recently and seeing the sea lingered in my mind. The Pacific Ocean isn’t far from our house. I find it soothing to visit.
The other way I’ve been earning my tired is that I’ve been working on the exhibit catalog aka a picture book of my Odditorium exhibit. In addition to that I’ve been working on a kid friendly version of my exhibit catalog. Children need fine art in their lives too in my opinion. When I was a kid I would have loved to see a book talking about looking at fine art. That’s why I took the extra steps to make a children’s book version too. I have sent the kid friendly version to Storyberries.com and they have an exciting plan for the book design! Below is a screenshot of a post they did on Instagram about it!
Here’s a special early peek into the Odditorium – at my exhibit book!!! And a link so you can see the whole book!!! Even in the midst of being tired I’m excited!!
One of my reasonable enjoyments this week was my spouse’s homemade biscuits for breakfast. The recipe is in my kitchen sketchbook Favorites So Far and you can see more of it here.
More next Monday about the Odditorium exhibit book and the other fun stuff…after I have a bit of rest. Hope you have a good week full of relaxation and reasonable enjoyments.
One of the gifts of travel is the awareness that things don’t have to be what you’re used to in order to be enjoyable.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 I’ve been looking at household things with the eye of a traveler. I’m practicing being okay with things as they are, seeing them in new ways and enjoying them – like how I would enjoy things on a trip. Along the way it occurred to me that domestic arrangements are one place in life where things can be more or less to our preferences. Home is a place of fairly reliable comforts. There’s a gift of comfort in that.
The sketchbook I began this, ahem, journey in has been published as Another Sketchbook. I decided at first to view household things as if they were public monuments, things we might travel to see. Then I decided that was too distant…the people too small and far away. Then I decided I didn’t want to draw people after all because animals feel more comforting. Anyway, here are a few pages from Another Sketchbook…I’m hoping you can see how I got to my present Odditorium art series via this trail.
Here below is the book cover and a link where you can look through the entire book.
Of course after publishing Another Sketchbook I’ve kept on keeping a sketchbook. I post these new pages now and then on my social media. Here’s a few pages from my new sketchbook that are relevant to the painting you’ll see in this post.
While musing about the crows I often see in my yard I thought of how the kitchen gadgets I have are so useful. And I love herbs and spices – especially those from Penzeys. So I took a photo of the kitchen tools and spices I was about to use at that moment.
Then as the days progressed I began a new acrylic painting full of my thoughts about my ongoing efforts to dance and appeal, so to speak, to the various gods of good-food cooking. My spouse snapped this photo of me working.
As I worked I tried a new-to-me color scheme that includes magenta, an orange-red, a light pink, grass green, a grey-blue and a creamy yellow. The crows aren’t really black there’s a lot of dark purple and deep blues to their feathers. The color nuance shows more when you see the painting with a human eye. I have another camera that shows more of the color range that I use when taking pictures of the art for publication. Anyway, I’ve titled this new painting Domestic Comforts
Another thing I keep thinking about is the different speed of time at home. When traveling in the past I have tended to be very rushed and scheduled. But at home and in my art studio, which is in my house, I tend to be scheduled but usually much less rushed. In fact for quite some time – even before the pandemic – I have intentionally tried to maintain the habit of a steady but relaxed pace in my studio and home. Sustainability of energy is my focus. No, I don’t do this perfectly it’s an ongoing goal. During the pandemic this goal has strengthened as I’ve realized this habit also maintains a critical space for long-form thinking.
Long form thinking is a term usually applied to reading and literacy. It’s a discussion of cultivating the ability to pay attention. There’s an article by James Patterson here and another related article here on the long form thinking as it relates to literacy.
I think of the term long form thinking as applying more generally to creative efforts that stretch over a longer span of time. The actual work may be done in fits and starts or in short bursts of actual hands on time but a thought is held in mind, come what may, over an extended time period. Long-form thinking, in my opinion, allows for a sustained leisurely attitude towards time for art, for reading and writing. Creativity requires time to meander and travel in ones mind – even while cooking dinner or mowing the lawn one plays with the thought topics currently being considered.
Long-form thinking purposefully includes time for making homemade cookies or any other bits of meandering fun. This week I tried a cinnamon sugar cookie recipe. I cut this recipe in half, dumped all the ingredients in my Cuisinart (kitchen gadget!) blended the dough and otherwise followed the recipe directions.
The cookies turned out very yummy!! As hinted above taking the time to read books is an essential part of my creative process – with or without hot from the oven cookies and hot chocolate. Here’s one of the books I’m reading…
My art is a part of my life and vice versa. Creativity is a continuous thing I’m committed to doing within and amongst all of the various domestic concerns and that’s-life stuff.
In fact I view the public aspect of my creative life of making artist books and art exhibits as like the game of musical chairs. I do steady continuous studio work then about a month before the fine art exhibit goes up the music stops. As in the hands on action of creating paintings temporarily stops, and I start framing, photographing, publishing everything I finished up to that point.
It is exciting as I frame and publish the artwork to both see and feel my Odditorium series coming together. The work that I began last year will be exhibited this year in June and July at Burnt Bridge Cellars and when my work is on their walls that will add to my ongoing Odditorium thoughts. Then there’s another exhibit at the Caplan Art Designs Gallery in September. After delivering art to Burnt Bridge Cellars later this month the music (active painting) starts again – specifically the thoughts I have when seeing my works hung together will inspire more work in the series. Then I will begin making the new art in this Odditorium series with an eye towards the next exhibit. Some of the art at Burnt Bridge Cellars along with the freshly made new art will go to Caplan Art Designs when the music stops again at the end of August. This is the way my exhibits grow and travel.
So yes I like long-form thinking. I like projects that stretch over a years time. This allows me to explore a topic from several angles as well as to change my approach as I’ve described in this post. It’s risky as I don’t know at the beginning where my thoughts will go. Plus I do all of the hands on work in short bursts of time each day so I “live in” small slices of my thoughts. My sketchbook is the way I both develop the exhibit idea and keep track of my thoughts – but still the uncertainty is there. I’ve just learned to ride with it.
My long-form working process is like reading a long novel – when you have a few minutes you read a paragraph or a page or two a day. When you begin reading you’ve no idea where the book is going. But if you keep reading a bit per day pretty soon you’ve read the whole book and you know the book conclusion. Same goes with creating an art exhibit.
There’s an excellent article here about the counterculture of commitment. It describes well what I’m talking about. I see this concept of long-form thinking (aka commitment) as similar to the idea of slow food/ home cooked food but about the subject of creativity. Inherent in this notion is the acceptance that things can develop slowly over time and that slowness allows for uncertainty and changes of mind.
I have a quote by Christopher Morley thumbtacked to my art studio wall. The quote applies, in my view anyway, to ones sense of time and space too.
It’s okay maybe even good to be a little odd. It’s not a goal to have domestic life or travel or art projects or life in general be perfect. The goal is to have the coping skills to deal well with imperfections when they happen. To be able to do the domestic dances and appeal well enough to the gods (metaphorically) of home cooking. Or to the gods of plumbing or whatever the household issues may be. To be relaxed and calm enough that one’s able to see the solutions, comforts and enjoyments near to hand. This is my approach to art projects too. Slow but steady, to have the coping skills to fix artistic mistakes, to adjust, to try something new.
Since this month began – besides framing the artwork a bit per day – I’ve been creating an exhibit catalog, a coffee table picture book of my exhibit. Last year during the worst of the pandemic it seemed to please fans of my artwork that they were able to get a printed book or an ebook of my entire art exhibit. So that’s why I’m doing a book this year too.
Additionally I’m doing a few greeting cards and coffee mugs with my art from this series. Both the cards and mugs are in keeping with the root idea of my Odditorium series – taking an uncommon view of ordinary household things and surreally creating souvenirs of pleasant moments. Here below is an example of a note card with the artwork I wrote about in my last post.
Yes, the temptation to stress, to worry, to rush is there, especially as the day nears to deliver all of the artwork. But I remember those pre-pandemic travels when I rushed mightily because the day the trip ended was coming nearer and I didn’t want to miss anything … what I remember now of those trips isn’t the scenery or the food but the stress and rush. So I try to remain calm now and go slowly as I continue towards the exhibit. And I rest knowing my thinking-work will continue …
Thanks for reading! I hope you have many enjoyable domestic comforts this week – and if you try the cookies I hope you like them. See you next Monday?
These thoughts swirled in mind as I watched the crows in my yard. I don’t know where the wingtip shoes came from… but here they are in my sketchbook.
From my morning reading I added the quote from Plutarch. And I thought of how all too often we see only what we expect to see. It takes practice to work on our inner selves, to moderate our expectations and let things just be however they are. Then I put away my book and puttered in my studio cleaning things up, sorting pen nibs back into their places and cleaning the nib holders.
With these thoughts still swirling I started a new painting loosely based on my sketchbook page above. After a few days of work my spouse snapped this photo.
And then my spouse took this photo to show that sometimes I “hide” things on the edges of the paintings I do on cradled board.
Some time later I took a photo of the finished painting. I’ve titled it “Enjoyment”. I keep thinking of how we can choose to dip our pens in our pleasures and write them on our souls rather than rehearse the things that upset us. That choice can change one’s attitude and the kind of day one has.
Here’s a close up photo of the area of “Enjoyment” that contains the collage elements. I carefully chose text from the falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that I’ve mentioned in recent posts. So much of Austen’s work is a social comedy of people’s expectations and emotions. That’s why I choose this book for my collage source material besides the fact that it was already falling apart and was handy. (I have a collection of collage material to choose from and could have chosen some other theme.)
After I posted “Enjoyment” on social media a friend who had studied poetry and Victorian literature in college commented that crows represent transformation. And the symbolism of crows was definitely on my mind. What a good word the word transformation is and I appreciate my friend for reminding me of it. When we are able to remember to enjoy the smallest of pleasures – and to be curious – we are in a position to transform moments of stress into something manageable.
Getting curious and writing and drawing (however well or poorly) are all tools of the emotional transformation process.
It wasn’t until later after conversation with my friend that I realized that in my new crow painting I echoed a theme (transformation) I have played with before. Such as when I took a tale by Aesop and made a wordless story “The Crow And The Water Jug” (you can also see the whole book via this link at Storyberries.com )
As I mentioned last post I’ve been working on writing a short summary for my entire fine art exhibit that I’m calling Odditorium. Writing in my sketchbook as I work on art projects helps me focus my fine art onto a clear theme. I write my thoughts down as I work on fine art and vice versa so there’s a *lot* of both writing and art to winnow when it’s time to write an exhibit summary statement. Besides helping me sort my own thoughts the short summary text is something that Burnt Bridge Cellars and Caplan Art Designs will use when talking about my exhibit with the public. Anyway, after more rewrites than most humans can count without a calculator here’s what I came up with:
Odditorium: I’ve been practicing household surrealism; painting visual stories inspired by looking in an uncommon way at common objects and plants. A useful mental health technique for dealing well with feelings is to deliberately look at the feeling in a new way. This is what I’m practicing when I do household surrealism. I take ordinary things found about the house and depict them in odd, different from the usual, ways so that instead of feeling mundane they evoke feelings of magic, wonder and laughter. Perhaps the flowers, the wine opener, the coffee mug are really souvenirs of pleasant moments in life?
I use gouache, ink, color pencil acrylic and collage to make my images. The collage text is from a falling apart copy of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen that I had in the house. Austen wrote about emotions and dealing with them so I enjoy the visual pun of including bits of her text in this series. I use animal characters because an animal behaving like a human highlights our humanity.
That’s the end of my statement which counts to about 200 words. I may tweak at it a bit more. But there it is.
No grand food experiments to crow (sorry!) about this week but I did repeat a reliably good sandwich recipe.
So I hope you have a very good week. 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?