This week the holiday begins at Caplan Art Designs with seven artists who have created 3D box sculptures. I’m one of the seven! My box sculpture is titled “Dogs On The Block”. Here’s a series of photos of my box. You know I like dogs…
More details about the exhibit of holiday boxes by seven artists.
Speaking further of dogs in art…there are several dog related artist books by me available at the Aurora Gallery. Here’s one of them…
And a dog appeared in my sketchbook this week
I’m also busy doing a few dog portrait commissions for holiday gifts so I’ll say no more about that.
Poetry about dogs is helpful reading material in the mornings before beginning a days dog portrait work.
I wrote in my last post that there may be hedgehogs and foxes in my upcoming sketchbook pages because I’m reading “The Hedgehog and the Fox” Isaiah Berlin’s famous essay about Tolstoy and history based on the Greek aphorism “The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing”
In his book Isaiah Berlin writes (I’m paraphrasing) of how history is actually created by a whole bunch of people but when we talk about a time in history we tend to single out one person as a “hero” and the lone “causal agent” of an event. Berlin writes of how as a creative person Tolstoy was naturally a “many things” fox but as he got older Tolstoy wanted to be a hedgehog with “one big thing” that explains everything.
My reading got me to thinking about hedgehogs, foxes, Tolstoy’s demands of himself as a creative person and how that aphorism related to creativity. I said something about that and my friend Liz Gauffreau asked me how hedgehogs relate to the literary world:
Well, besides the fact that both foxes and hedgehogs are so very cute and fun to draw and write about here are a few of my somewhat random thoughts while reading the essay by Isaiah Berlin. Don’t worry I’ll intersperse my thoughts with sketchbook drawings of hedgehogs and foxes using all 3 of the new fountain pens I described in my last post. (BTW there are even more fox and hedgehog sketchbook pages in my recent email newsletter )
As I read Berlin’s essay I’m realizing that as a creative person I use the fox-like kind of “knowing many things” in a free ranging playful open way while I’m in the midst of creating. I’m free-associating between many things while I’m on the hunt for how to best express my elusive thought. But once I’ve finished my creation and caught my thought then, if I’m not careful, I can curl up into a prickly ball hedgehog-like defensive about whether my creation “means” something, what it means, whether it was worth doing, which “one big things” label it belongs within…etc. Staying for any amount of time in such a prickly ball isn’t helpful.
This getting stuck in a hedgehog ball mode happened more often in my younger years but still occasionally I feel a despairing “what was the point of doing all that?” moment. By now I know not to “feed” such overly self-critical negative thoughts and to deliberately stretch out and switch my thinking to some other more pleasant topic. I know such moments will pass especially after a good meal, a good night’s sleep, time spent reading a novel or going for a walk with my spouse. It’s not always easy but that’s the way I deal with it. I avoid getting stuck by deliberately keeping fluid movements between the modes of fox and hedgehog. Anyway, in my mind, that’s one part of how hedgehogs and foxes figure in the creative/literary life.
Another part of how hedgehogs and foxes figure in to it: our creative life isn’t “one big thing”: we aren’t the sum total of one published book or one painting. We aren’t one label. A creative life is cumulative. Of course when people talk about artists or writers shorthand references – labels – are often made like “So And So is the insert genre label author of Famous Book”. But this is just a way of speaking, a verbal convention. It’s even a necessary one because we use helpful labels to find things, like books to read, and a name or a genre category label is a great starting place.
Yet during the lived reality of a creative life things aren’t so simplistic. Creativity is many-things fox like when we’re in the midst of our unnamed, unlabeled creative project. It can feel unfocused, messy, free ranging all over the territory at the beginning only slowly becoming focused over time as the thought “scent” is caught and the project develops towards completion. After completion then the one-big-thing hedgehog label can be applied. And while my diagram below simplifies the fox/hedgehog creative process please know that this process isn’t linear, its fluid, there will be foxhogs and hedgeoxes, there’ll be all sorts of fits and starts, beginnings and endings, rushing currents and still pools… before a project is finished.
This process of metamorphosis from fox to hedgehog is part of why it is such a challenge for writers and artists to think up loglines or book jacket blurbs or elevator speeches or art statements that sum up their creation in a few sentences (or a Tweet). To sum up their work of the last few years, work they sweated daily over, work they gnashed their teeth on – to distill what it was about using 150 words or less both encompasses and transcends the lived creative process itself. It’s hard to rise above the creative life meadows where the foxes and hedgehogs have played and, from a birds eye viewpoint, select a single meaning for the shorthand talking points. This difficulty is why it’s also a challenge to write query letters that briefly describe a manuscript submission. It’s hard to reduce a fox-y many splendors creation down to a hedgehog-y one big thing and to call the hedgehog an accurate, yet attractive, name.
By the way if you formulate the hedgehog one-big-thing, the logline or art statement, in advance and are rigid about it (i.e. curl up in a prickly hedgehog ball) the resulting project is seldom satisfying to either the foxes aka the creators themselves or to their audience.
And yet a hedgehog can be a great starting place – if you aren’t rigid about the hedgehog label and use it as a prompt! It’s highly likely that a creation that starts out as one defined hedgehog can shape-shift to a fox during the creative process and finish up needing an entirely different hedgehog-y label. So that’s another reason it’s a challenge at the end of a project to select the exact hedgehog that was metamorphosed from that fox. This is also part of the exhilarating fun of a creative life.
We enjoy the arts for the fox-y complexity of many things in them – we talk about that complexity we enjoyed viscerally using simple hedgehog-y verbage. The fox represents a direct experience and a nonverbal expression of life. The hedgehog represents a definition and ways of talking about that artistic representation of life. We need both the foxes and the hedgehogs. The challenge is to remain loose, open, letting the foxes and hedgehogs become themselves while also keeping a benevolent watch over them.
What a work of art or literature “means” in the big scheme of it’s hedgehog label, is identified (if ever) after the work has been made and existed in the world a while. After the artist is finished then we use simple language to sum up what a creation meant. We give it a genre, a category, a label. That summing up or meaning finding is done and verified over the duration of time that the art exists – it gets reevaluated by the artist and by the audience constantly. The lables often get changed multiple times before they “settle” if they ever do. Almost all of Tolstoy’s work has gotten reevaluated numerous times since the era in which he was living and working.
From a creative person’s point of view I find it’s sanity-saving to not worry about the meaning of one work in the big scheme of things but to just get on with the next project. I don’t worry overmuch about the hedgehog labels I give my work for use when submitting or promoting it. As I wrote in my last post I’m regularly surprised by what labels publishers, distributors and art gallery owners place on my work. I just accept the label and these labels become tools I can use to talk with that distributor. For example I now can say to Storyberries “Here’s a new ABC123 Poetry book from me”. But even with that new knowledge generally my attitude when I’m working in my studio is “I’ll make the stuff and you can sort it out” rather than getting stuck on any of the potential labels while I’m in the creative process. Anyway, here’s a note on this topic that I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall.
The meaningfulness that is found after the creation is finished also has an element of danger. Sometimes because an artist is so tired upon completion they, in their fatigue, misjudge their own work and may mislabel it or even destroy it. Sometimes an artist gets stuck on a label and that impedes their progress. Sometimes the selected audience isn’t ready for a creative work and rejects it. Sometimes a work isn’t found to be meaningful until long after the artist and audience’s current era is gone and a new era begins. Sometimes a different audience within an artist’s lifetime finds the work more meaningful. Sometimes meanings and labels change over time too. Sometimes these new labels are helpful and sometimes they’re not.
So for all of those reasons I find it’s best to avoid gaslighting myself, i.e. making hard declarative statements about my work, either as I’m working on projects or whenever they’re finished. I just enjoy the process of making things. Other people can sort them into meanings and categories. That said, I do find the effort of succinctly summarizing my own creative works as a logline etc helpful as long as I don’t take it too seriously. Whatever you want to call it is fine with me as long as my personal foxes get to play and my hedgehogs stay cute.
Which brings me to book banning. I despise censorship because someone somewhere has decided in advance what a book or work of art “means” and they aren’t willing to let people decide that for themselves. They get rigid, in a hedgehog-y prickly defensive ball way, about everything fitting into their one big thing label whether that label is political or religious. They can’t, or won’t, deal with the foxes free ranging exploration. They’re allergic to questions and uncertainty. They reject categorically the concept of changes over time. They’ll decide they just don’t like one particular fox or hedgehog and insist that the external world must conform to their preferences.
Creativity is all about questions and dealing well with uncertainty. To be creative is to actively participate in change and growth. Creativity is a response to the world. Anyway, here’s an article about many of the current censorship efforts that I keep a careful eye on.
In my current art exhibit at the Aurora Gallery on the upper left shelf in the photo below is an artist book I made which tells a truth about rabbits and metaphorically about people. It’s called “The Rabbit” and it is about book banning.
I also participated from home by posting this: I #standwithsalman in favor of free expression. For the Aug 19 2022 @PENamerica event I’m reading from “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” by @SalmanRushdie – it’s one of my favorites – Here’s my reading on YouTube.
There now that I’ve finished this blog post I’ll deliberately avoid the one-big-thing type question of “did my efforts to write this blog post mean anything or matter in any way to the larger literary or creative culture?”. In such a question lies gaslighting madness. So instead of going there I accept that I enjoyed writing out my views of the creative process within the context of hedgehogs, foxes and the essay by Isaiah Berlin. And I hope my friend Liz will enjoy reading my thoughts on how hedgehogs and foxes relate to the literary world. There, that’s enough mattering and meaning for me.
Aha, now after rereading what I’ve written (and correcting the autocorrect 🙄) I see that there’s a few category and tag labels that I can use when publishing this blog post! Good enough…
I hope your creative week is full of playful foxes and hedgehogs. See you next Monday.
My exhibit “For You By Sue the ABC’s: Art, Books, Cards” opened at the Aurora Gallery. It was my first art event since my adopted Mom passed so it was hard in many ways. But I spent time talking with my spouse and being in touch with family and friends so that helped. I didn’t attend my art opening in person because I’m still being careful re Covid and, frankly, I didn’t want to cry in public. Even so I heard nice comments via social media from people who saw my exhibit during the opening and took the time to tell me they enjoyed it. It’s safe to say quite a wide spectrum of my emotions were covered.
Which made me glad that I’d spent time reading Marcus Aurelius recently. Over on A.M. Sketching I thought, as I sketched, about a quote from Marcus Aurelius – regarding not needing to always have opinions and the practice of letting opinions float by as they will. I find this is true of my emotions too – they come and go if I just let them alone. So, it helped this weekend to just let my emotions come and go without forming an opinion about how I felt. Not forming opinions about my emotions helped me to sustain both my creativity and my ability to do the business end, so to speak, of living a creative life during a personally difficult time.
This last week I made an effort towards my new drawing tutorial gig via Nil-tech. I did a demo of drawing “Hedgehog in Shade“.
It’s a beginning… here’s a link if you’d like to see my very short tutorial effort.
Here’s a book I’m reading and enjoying. I find the main character’s way of cheerfully adapting to difficult circumstances very refreshing.
I’m going to read and rest some more. Thank you for reading and for your kind comments. See you next Monday.
This week war began and for a second being an artist felt frivolous. But in difficult times we need art more than ever. We need things and people that feed our spirits and remind us of why we’re glad to be alive. We need hope. That’s how we fight for democracy and win.
When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began I listened to the news and searched my bookshelves for a title I had gotten in 2003 not long after 9/11 and when war began in Iraq. My thoughts then, like now, turned to the role of artists during times of war. “Artists in Times of War” by Howard Zinn was very relevant in 2003 and still is even though the current event details are different.
Spoiler: artists are carriers of democracy. To quote from page 108 they are “profoundly democratic”. Democratic is defined as upholding, however imperfectly, the ideas of rule of law, of equality before the law, equality in access to resources, equality of representation in government and the human right of self determination. The Arts are a living language of a people, a dramatization of what they feel, what they need, what their hopes are … The Arts help people become self aware. Self-awareness helps people make choices and become active participants in their own lives and communities. That’s what makes living artists so dangerous in the viewpoint of authoritarians.
And perhaps equally important is the fact that artists help us, no matter how high flying the political rhetoric, to remember that the kids will still need to be entertained and educated, that adults will still need kindness, that dinner will still be wanted. Art, poetry and writing of all kinds can help us remember that the statistics a politician quotes represent actual people.
Speaking of dinner: a dear friend came over to visit for an evening and to ask me to sign some copies of two of my book titles that she plans to give as gifts! It was so good to see her!
We had a free ranging conversation about life, books, movies and my friend indulged me as I showed her my art projects in progress and outloud we played with what “could be”. This is an extremely exciting and valuable sort of conversation! Bouncing ideas around in loose “what if…” and “what about…” ways helps me in my creative process! It was so unbelievably good to get my friends input! Sharing artwork in its fragile beginning stages is risky and I’m so lucky to have trustworthy creative-playing friendships.
I made a new batch of potato soup (recipe last post) and when it was ready the three of us ate soup out of large mugs while sitting informally in the living room where it was warm and comfy.
I delighted in having fabric cocktail napkins with my Professional Dog portraits on them and enjoyed our friends chuckles when she saw the napkins!
Whenever I feel unsettled about world events besides talking with my spouse and trusted friends I deliberately tune in to awe. Meaning that I purposefully do some small thing that delights me, sparks my curiosity or causes me to notice something and say “wow!”. A good article I read this week on the topic of awe and why it’s important is here. An aspect of tuning in to the feeling of awe is to cultivate time to play in unstructured ways, to make time to wander, to ponder.
On a recent wandering meandering car drive we saw snowfall and large trees. That’s a guaranteed “wow” from me – I love the large evergreens any time of the year.
The feelings of awe, the feelings curiosity and the feelings of an aha moment are part of why I object so strongly to book banning (see a recent post). The attempts to control the mental resources available to others is a form of abuse. Banning preempts the victims ability to be self-aware and to be able use, as democracy offers, however imperfectly, the right of self determination. The restrictions of a person’s access to books and other mental resources is as serious as someone restricting a person’s access to food, water or healthcare.
During times of unrest I think taking the time to ponder is crucial because an artist is so much more than a reaction to or a mirror of society. If an artist is going to take action rather than simply knee jerk react to current events it takes time to think things through.
Here’s a paraphrased quote that I wrote on a card and thumbtacked to my studio wall.
Progress is happening on a new experimental art book for Storyberries! It’s a wordless visual poem about letter soup with only 10 panels plus front and back covers. 12 images total. Ink, acrylic and gouache are my art methods on another 2 inch square concertina zig zag folded book. I focused as I mentioned last post on rhythm, repetition and surprise. It will be a challenge to talk about this poem on this blog and on my social media without giving the poem’s punchline away immediately before Storyberries has a chance to distribute it but I’ll do my best.
In the photo below I’ve laid in the extreme dark and light areas to establish the contrast as well as to focus on the visual rhythm. I’m thinking of how the ebooks on Storyberries flow up and down so I’m designing my content to flow with that book motion. Will it work? I don’t know. 🤷♀️ Yes, my new poem is for a category on Storyberries called “experimental” for a reason! 🤣
The sortof weird thing is that I’ve not completely finished promoting “How The Cow Went Over The Moon” yet. So there might be some promotion overlap. Oh well. People read more than one book at a time anyway right?
A few evenings this week I took a break from reading “The Annotated Arabian Nights” to read “Suds in Your Eye” by Mary Lasswell. This book was published in 1942 when World War II began. What I’ve enjoyed about this book, besides seeing an artistic response to the wartime events of the 1942 era, is that no single person is the “hero” or center of the story. The story centers around how a group of people work together as a community. The concept of working together is also what drives the story plot. And “good food, great friends and cold beer” could be the books motto. This is such a good book to cheer up by! I’d list this book as an early example of the hopepunk genre (mentioned last post). And the illustrations are darling!
Besides the visit from a great friend this week my wife and I talked by phone with my adopted mom and big sister! Mom said she’s proud of me and that I’m to “Keep making art”! Big sister agreed! So I wrote the exact quote of Mom’s on a card and thumbtacked it to my studio wall just above the light switch for the room. That way I will always remember!
I hope your week contains many connections with your support system so that you feel encouraged to do all the good you can in this world.
Book banning is a hot topic with me because I’ve been on the receiving end of bans. Those occurrences happened in Oklahoma over 10 years ago when I lived there. To name just one example, in 2008 I was to have a one person art exhibit at the Oklahoma State Capital. More than a few of my paintings were banned from the Capital exhibit. I called my Tulsa Oklahoma gallery, Joseph Gierek Fine Art, to tell about being banned. The Gallery owner, Joe, said “Stay right there, I’ll come and pick them up!” Tulsa is about a 200 mile drive away from the Oklahoma Capital but Joe was there with his van in a trice. Then the Joseph Gierek Fine Art gallery did a special exhibit behind yellow caution tape in Tulsa and we called my one person exhibit “View At Your Own Risk” with a statement telling a bit about my work being banned. Oh my, was the Gierek Gallery brave! So that very weird experience of being banned turned out very well for me and for Joe!
After my spouse and I had newly relocated to Washington state I had an interview with the Caplan Art Designs Gallery. Having just moved I brought along to Caplan’s the finished artworks I had on hand which was some of my then recently banned-in-Oklahoma artwork. The Caplan Gallery immediately signed me up as a gallery artist and sold 4 of my paintings before the ink on my contract was dry! In Oklahoma my work had often been considered “subversive” or even “offensive” (there were a number of bans of and objections regarding my artwork) but in the Pacific Northwest my work – the very same artwork! – is considered “charming” and even “delightful” and “whimsical”. What a pleasant shift of perspective!
This painting below is one of my paintings that had been banned in Oklahoma but quite welcome in the Pacific Northwest. Allegedly this painting was banned in Oklahoma because of the semi nudity. 🙄 This photo is of the same banned art newly located in the Pacific Northwest where instead of offending adults it amused adults and children!! (Yes, I have found my happy place!!)
More to the point of my blog post today – in 2010 the public library where we then lived in Oklahoma was going to display a few LGBTQ friendly books under glass deep inside in the library. It seemed like almost the entire town turned out to protest in a 4 hours long city council event. The majority of the speakers were vehemently homophobic. After the event one young gay person committed suicide. It was that vitriolic. After the event we contacted a realtor in Washington state and asked her to please find us a home and that we would even consider a hole in the ground with a tarp on it. We needed out! Long story short we, with the help of a wonderful realtor, found and bought our Washington house sight-unseen over the internet and within 6 months of that Oklahoma council meeting we had moved! One of the best things we ever did!! Being gay in Washington is no big deal at all! Also no big deal: being an artist, a book reader or being deaf.
I don’t for one minute think that every book has to resemble and reflect the superficial attributes of a reader in order to be a book worth reading. As an adult I enjoy reading work about, and by, people unlike me but I can see how it would help young people to be able once and a while to see, in a book, a superficial likeness of themselves. It helps to feel less alone, even safe, wanted and welcome somewhere – even if that place is in a book.
I went though my entire childhood – as an avid, dare I say obsessive, reader – never once reading about a gay deaf artistically inclined tomboy girl living primarily with her grandmother and enduring “visits to hell” with her abusive biological uber-religious parents.
The only deaf person I ever read about in a book was Helen Keller and that didn’t feel relatable to me.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was the first time I read of violence and family dysfunction happening to someone besides me and that was SO relatable – even though all of the characters were boys. That book helped me feel less alone then and I can still quote verbatim from that book today.
Judy Blume’s “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret” helped me address my confusion about cruelty/weirdness about bodies that was done in the name of religion.
I didn’t encounter a gay character in any book until I went to college in 1986 and read “Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit” by Jeanette Winterson which had been written in 1985. And that book felt like a welcome healing salve to my 18 year old psyche.
I could go on naming books – many of them now banned – that really helped me get through things as a young person. But I’m sure you’re getting the idea of why wide availability of books (and art) matters so much to me.
So naturally my spouse and I in response to the spate of book banning in 2022 went looking for lists of banned books so we could buy copies of those books. If you too want to use banned book lists as book buying recommendations 😁 Below are the lists we found.
A juicy oh-so-delectible list of banned books for grownups at Powell’s one of my local Pacific Northwest independent bookstores. (I think most of my high school and college required reading is on this list!🤯)
I mentioned last post about Maus by Art Spiegelman being banned … well here is a great article about why that book is important and why it is shocking that, to quote from the article, “people could be more upset by mild profanity than they are by genocide.”
And another article speculating about why book banning and even book burning has become “a thing” in late 2021 and early 2022.
There’s also an article about a Texas lawmaker who wants to ban and burn 850 book titles statewide… but enough of that.
When things begin to feel overwhelming I find it helpful to look for one specific thing I can do something about. This is in the vein of “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”
Here’s an article we found about one specific library in Mississippi whose funding is being withheld by the mayor because he disapproves of some LGBTQ books. My wife and I chose this library and donated money. Then we spent time tweeting and sharing the info in hopes of getting more donations for them.
Here’s a portion of the letter we got after donating which has the libraries snail mail address if that is preferred.
Two days later we saw that they had achieved their funding goal with still more time to spare!!! We’re hoping even more donations will happen!
Since I took the above screenshot the Ridgeland Library has adjusted their goal upwards… and is reaching the new goal too!! Yippee!!! Click this link to see up-to-the-minute progress. I’ve been monitoring and boy is it fun to see the library succeed!!!
Anyway, for me public libraries are intimately interconnected with basic human rights. Images and words make up the human mind much like air and water make up the human body – we need trusted sources for all of these. Humans are social beings intertwined mentality and physically with the community around them. Here’s a poem that illustrates this idea that I have written off by hand and thumbtacked to my studio wall where I see it often.
And that’s why I make artist books. It’s my “why” for most of my creative efforts really. It’s part of why I feel it’s important to be a participant in a community of artists, writers and readers. It’s why having an egalitarian community – at least on the gallery walls and the library shelves matters so much to me.
Books and art are communal in nature and utilizing them often is part of being fully human within a community.
I thought about my Vancouver USA downtown and how I love it that the 5 story library and the independent theatre are some of the tallest most iconic buildings. I also thought about the scrubjay blue birds that are native here.
Then I wondered just how did Mother Goose’s cow travel over the moon… and how do birds remember their songs?
Storyberries has even created a new book category for my work called “experimental art”!! Oh I’m gleefully looking forward to making more books for them to distribute!!!
So it can very truthfully be said that my new artistbook is a direct result of community !! Thank you all!! And I love you all too!! ❤🙌
I’ll repeat myself here because I am so excited and grateful to the Storyberries community for this new “experimental art books” category! Thanks for giving me such a valuable space to just be me! I’m so looking forward to sharing the fun of playing with imagination and creativity this way!
Speaking of imagination and being creative: there’s a wonderful article on creativity written by Luzemy Romero and Fleur Rodgers on Storyberries – and I have an illustration in it! But what’s fun is that these creativity tips the authors write about are things I do… Every. Single. Day! Especially the reading part!!! And if you go by chronological age I’m a grownup… so… the authors ideas apply to all ages. Anyway there are some really great creativity tips here https://www.storyberries.com/creativity-kids-how-to-help-your-child-to-be-creative-storyberries-parenting-portal/
Here’s my illustration within the article by Gamboa and Rodgers and a bit of the article text. We need a wide variety of stories in order to practice flexibility in our thinking and creativity. A variety of material, some of it liked, some disliked, gives our minds something to respond to within our own creativity.
Also on the intersection of creativity and libraries there’s a fun article right here about an 8 year old who wrote and illustrated a handmade book and slipped it into the public library collection in Boise Idaho!
This week our copies of Maus by Art Spiegelman came by mail from one of our local bookstores Daedalus Books!
I had posted on my Instagram page that I was looking online at our local indiebookstores to see if anyone had Maus and didn’t see it – as they indicated sold put or it wasn’t listed. Well @daedalusbookspdx commented on my post that they didn’t have all of their books online but that they *did* have copies of Maus!!! So I called them immediately and bought the copies of Maus!
In the past when we’ve visited Daedalus Books in person I’ve relished their “books about books” section… While I had the store on the phone I named a price range and asked the store to pick a book for me from that section and include it with our Maus copies… I also asked that they *not* tell me what title they selected! I love a good book surprise!
Here in the photos below is my surprise book! It’s perfect!!! It’s a book about giftbooks – which is what I create!!! (See my portfolio page) I’m beyond happy with my surprise book! I immediately wrote a postcard to tell Daedalus thank you!!! Wow! What a treat!!! I am so glad Daedalus had copies of Maus too!!
The last photo has contact info for Daedalus…and as I’ve learned you can just call them up, ask politely and they’ll hand you a smile in the form of a book !! Wow!!!
Come to think of it becoming a semi-vegetarian while in college in fried-meat-and-fried-potatoes Oklahoma was another, ahem, “interesting” experience. I’m not, and have never been, a strict vegetarian (I don’t want to be strict about anything) I just do like vegetables and well vegetarian meals frequently happen. But I remember accidentally shocking people in Oklahoma with vegetarian fare now and then. 🤷♀️
Back to the present yumminess… the mushroom chili was served in big mugs with crackers and a side of books to read. I’m lucky to have married a fellow avid book reader!
Here’s another favorite quote about books that I’ve handwritten and thumbtacked to my studio wall.
I hope your week is full of subversive literary, artistic and culinary delights and that you’re able to radically and wholeheartedly enjoy them!
Almost exclusively I used to do unique books as art objects that were displayed in art gallery exhibits. My one-of-a-kind books were then sold and that was that. Well, in 2020 after the pandemic began the galleries closed to the public and I began publishing my artist books in an on-demand way. My book is printed at the time it is ordered and mailed to the buyer. I did this so I could still share my visual stories and they could still be fairly unique i.e. not printed in large quantities. And as my portfolio page attests that’s the way I’ve now done twelve different artist book projects. As the galleries have adapted to the pandemic since March 2020 allowing the public to handle one-of-a-kind books, wisely I think, hasn’t come back into vogue.
When making a printed version of my original artist books I try as best I can to maintain the look of the original work. I do very little – or ideally absolutely no – digital manipulation of my content. At most some text is typed. I even prefer to handwrite as much as possible. It’s important to me that people – especially kids – get to have a wide variety of homemade or handmade comforts whether it’s dinners, cookies, fine art or books.
Anyway, in the case of my new “How the cow…” book I typed the about the book and the dedication page text. But those pages and the covers are the only typed text. (I’ve learned the hard way that having these pages typed rather than handwritten helps the book be found via a search.)
I also scanned the handmade pattern I used for the cow book slipcase and the found sheet music I used for the tiny notes book cover. I scanned my handwritten text summary for the cow story. I did digitally “erase” the page number marks on my handwritten text because those numbers did not apply to the printed book. Other than erasing the pages numbers the handwritten page is the same in the printed book as it is in the original.
With those very few digital documents in my 28 page book layout I created end papers of a sort to flank or wrap each story within the printed book. The original artist books are themselves covered with these patterns.
The scanned blue bubble pattern was the basis for the printed book cover.
As you can see the covers of both the original book and the printed version are similar.
The artwork in the cow story is just a bit smaller in the printed version than the original. But as you can see the colors are a very close match! Also the printed book is conventionally bound so I set up my layout like a comic book rather than in the folded concertina form of the original. I don’t yet know of any printer who prints and mails concertina style books. The two illustrations per page layout allowed me to fill the seven inch square printed pages. (In the photos below the original handmade book is at the top)
The “Tiny Notes” original artwork is reproduced at a much larger size in the printed book. The original book is 2.25 inches square. The printed book is 7 inches square. Again the colors printed are pretty close to what’s in the original!
So you can see the scales of the books in relation to a human. My spouse took these photos of me and the books…
The original concertina format cow book unfolds to four feet long. Almost as tall as me!
The original concertina tiny notes book is only 20 inches long unfolded.
You can see more of these book pages and details on my portfolio site. I’ve no idea if these original artist books will someday go to an art gallery even for display under glass.
For now I’m having fun making books intentionally for printing and mailing directly to people. It may sound odd to say this but this new way of sharing my books feels more personal and I feel like many more people are able to see and own my work this way.
This week my coloring book poem “How To Draw A Dragon” was read aloud on Kidz Stories And More !!! You can see it here https://youtu.be/EUVeDjqiz30 When we were discussing the creation of this video Kidz Stories and I decided to make my book pages so they could be downloaded for free so kids could color along with the video! The download is available here and the directions are also in the video link. I’m seeing this as possibly another fun new way to share my artist books!
Also this week someone shared this photo saying how happy they are with a portrait I painted of their cat and how it has been framed by the Aurora Gallery!! That makes me happy!!!!!
My spouse mentioned the current news about book banning and that one of the titles banned is “A Light in the Attic” by Shel Silverstein. We have that book in our dining room poetry collection. It’s a favorite! Hearing that news led to both of us looking up what other books we have on our shelves that are banned. It was a fun scavenger hunt of sorts! 🤣 Turns out we have a large number of banned titles throughout our book collection. Two shelves in our dining room alone yield 4 books/authors who have been banned… even as recently as 2022.
Here’s one of the articles we read about banned books. Naturally we got online and ordered more banned books from our local independent bookstore. 😁 One of the banned books I tried to order was Maus by Art Spiegelman (here’s an article about that book) but all of my usual indy bookstores were sold out! But there were other banned books available which we happily bought.
I’ll leave some memes about book banning here just in case someone wants one.
I hope your week is similarly filled with subversive literary delights and some homemade comforts.
This week I finished the dog painting you saw in my sketchbook and on my easel in my last post. The cow is still active in the field of my imagination as is a wee bird. More on that later in this post.
Here’s the completed dog portrait titled “Being exquisite”. Like the dog portrait in my last post this new one is 8 x 10 inches and uses that nifty new brush technique (last post)! I’m having such fun with all of these tiny details!
Like the fur between his eyes and the nose… below are two photo views so you can see.
And the details of the dandelions! Oh that was fun!!
This past week has been filled with gluing the cow artwork pages onto a piece of paper cut 4.25 inches x 4 feet long and folding it so that it zigzags into panels 4.25 x 6.25 inches in size. Plus the week was spent making a slipcase for my book which can be called a leporello, a concertina or an accordion format. Everything was made from scratch: raw archival book binders board, white flat paper and glue. When the story pages are folded they’re almost 1 inch thick so the slipcase accounts for that. Below are photos of the slipcase and the concertina book.
For more details on the Leporello, Concertina or Accordion style folded books here’s a good link https://wp.me/p4va0m-gU
Here’s a reference book I’ve used for years when I’m constructing books and making boxes from scratch. I altered methods described in this book to make the cow book slipcase. The book is Books Boxes and Portfolios by Franz Zeier
Behind these analog scenes I’ve been working on the digital files for a printed version of “How the cow went over the moon”. In pre-pandemic days I’d have made this one handmade book and sent it to a gallery like the 23 Sandy who would have exhibited it and sold it to a private collection or to a public collection. For example the UCLA Fine arts library has one of my books, so does the Bainbridge Island Art Museum.
Then the pandemic happened and I began making reproductions of my books available via Blurb which can print then mail my books directly to the buyer. That seemed a more pandemic safe way to share my artist books. It is also why I say that I approach self-publishing from a fine art perspective.
When I did the first printed book, Alphapets, in early 2020, I was contacted by Storyberries who wanted to distribute the ebook version. Well it’s been so much fun to make my books available in an on-demand way (my books are only printed when they’re ordered) and even more fun to share with readers on Storyberries that this fun is now factored in to my book designs.
For example: as I’ve been making the digital files for the printed book (and for Storyberries) I took the photos below of the handmade books with a piece of candy to show scale. I did this because it might amuse readers to see the original books in the printed book version. And perhaps help the younger readers be aware that books are made by people just like them.
This week I’ve also been talking with Storyberries and – dear blog reader you’re getting this news first – they’ll be making an “art experimental” story category for my work!! How fun is that? I so wanted arty quirky books when I was a kid… and now I’m making them and getting to fill a whole childrens book category with ebook versions of my artist books!!! I’m over-the-moon excited and yes that pun was intended! 🤣
As I wrote in my last post I’ve been reading The Annotated Arabian Nights and I sat up and took notice when the annotation mentioned a literary genre called “mirrors for princes”. So as a companion to my “How the cow went over the moon” book message (?) about not being too serious and remaining down-to-earth I’ve been thinking of the importance of remembering joy.
So here’s a look at what will be the second wordless poem in the printed book. This poem is titled “Tiny notes to the sun”
This book too is a leporello format but instead of a slip cover it’s got hardback covers. This book is 2.25 inches square when closed and opens out to 20 inches in length.
The photos below that have a peppermint candy in them are the pics I’ll put into the printed book version because it might amuse people to see them too.
As I mentioned earlier I’ve been working simultaneously on the book layout and design for the printed version of “How the cow went over the moon” … and I’m using visual elements of the original artist books … here’s a look. 👇
This week the Caplan Art Designs Gallery sent photos of my 3d box project “All the Chances” in it’s new space! And look, the client’s pet rabbit approved!!
And someone else sent me photos of their dog approving the dog portrait I painted and the way the Aurora Gallery framed the portrait! So glad their dog approved!!
Here below is the framed portrait on the dog’s “Clancy art” wall!! Isn’t that sweet?! A whole wall!! Wow!! This makes my artist heart so happy!!
In the coming days Kidz Stories plans to read my book “How to draw a dragon” out loud on their YouTube channel and, since it’s a coloring book, they’re hosting a color-along!! I’ll post a link to the video when I have it. In preparation to help kids to be able to color-along I’ve made my coloring book a free download here on my portfolio page!
I hope your week is full of your favorite colors and comforts. See you next Monday.
… maybe not. 🤣 Anyway, below are closer views of each dog portrait and below each is the text line in the book.
As mentioned in a prior post the Aurora Gallery quickly sold out of my book The Professional Dog and asked me to bring more asap. So I did. When I delivered the books I saw the nice display the Gallery has done for The Professional Dog.
They even put this notice on the bin that had held printed copies of my book…
…so they were happy to see me come in with these freshly signed copies.
Here’s a closer look at the display. Someone at the Aurora Gallery does hand lettering extremely well!
Here’s the other display rack at the Gallery with my books and cards. I like it that this rack looks so ordinary as I think it may help people consider getting my books as gifts without feeling too “precious” about it. As regular readers of this blog already know I create my books as I do an art object rather than as a book publisher in the traditional sense.
But I include these sketchbook pages in this post because they’re good descriptions of how we handle our holiday jolly book flood (Jolabokaflod)
As mentioned last post, and hinted above, we started our Jolabokaflod festivities by ordering books online from a number of our local independent bookstores. Our book orders will come to our doorstep in waves, or small tsunami floods.
What we got for each other: “The Boy, the mole, the fox and the horse” by Charlie Mackesy, “A Surprise For Christmas” a collection of short mystery stories from British Library Crimes Classics as well as novels by Kate Carlisle, Sarah Dreher and John Mortimer.
A few days later from the bookstore Another Read Through we got the books pictured below. When we ordered we selected one of their book bundles. A book bundle, according to the bookstore, is a surprise set of books the store selects for you based on your stated preferences. Since both my spouse and I enjoy a good surprise we ordered a small book bundle, told our preferences … and the store sent us titles by Louise Penny and a Christopher Moore! We are both very pleased with our book surprise! Also very pleasant, perhaps even best of all, was the handwritten note from the store owner!
We got all of our holiday cards into the mail. And our mantel is filling with holiday cards sent to us! That’s one of the fun aspects of this time of year, the sending and receiving of cards.
So you can see it better here’s a closer look at the card image I made by hand using ink and gouache and then photographed for reproductions using moo.com
Months ago when I created the artwork my spouse took a photo of me working on it because it might amuse people to see it. Here ’tis 👇
Here’s the sketchbook page drawing had done before beginning the ink and gouache painting of this image idea. I’m sure you can see what parts of the drawing I kept and what I changed when I did the painting version. Most notably I changed the angles of the sled, the ski’s and the pile of books.
Since we’re nearly upon the holiday I’m going to post more sketchbook pages on my social media and on this blog next Monday…
…and as my sketchbook page above says I hope your holiday is full of love in ways that make you glad to be alive.
As per the Aurora Gallery request (last post) I have signed some more copies of The Professional Dog and by the time you read this post I will have delivered them to the Gallery. (I’ll update my social media re…)
We customize the Jolabokaflod tradition for ourselves in that we don’t limit the book gifting to just the evening of the 24th. Also we modify the tradition from gifting “new books published this year” and expanding it to include “used books that are new to us”.
We do adhere strictly to the “read new books immediately upon receiving them accompanied by hot chocolate” aspect of Jolabokaflod.
How is this different from the normal Clancy evening read and have hot chocolate habit? Whenever the new books are delivered by mail we open them and start reading! In other words we don’t wait till evening to begin. It’s decadently fun to stop everything in the middle of the day and flop onto the couch with a new book!
So I’ll see you next Monday with more Professional Dog artwork, probably some of my sketchbook pages and some books I’m reading for Jolabokaflod!
Happy Jolabokaflod or whatever holiday you celebrate! May your celebrations be exactly what’s most comfortable for you and yours.
There are 3 major art gallery exhibits in my life but more on that in a bit. First here are this weeks 3 dogs from The Professional Dog.
Here’s a larger image of each dog portrait with the book text beneath.
In times past I went in person to local exhibits especially when my work was featured. But I haven’t gone physically to one since the start of the pandemic in 2020. The galleries are handling openings much differently too, more videos and social media online, more appointments and more shipping and delivery.
This is now the 2nd year of things working this new way and I have discovered a wonderful benefit – deaf me can “hear” people better because everything is written. Lip reading and trying to hear with my hearing aids in a noisy Gallery isn’t an issue now so I feel like my engagement with people has improved! But because I’ve spent more than 30 years doing in person exhibits and only 2 years doing exhibits virtually I still get nervous about this new method even though I think I like it.
So before the Holiday Box Exhibit began at Caplan Art Designs on Thursday evening I charged up my phone and kept my phone on so I could see and respond to anything happening at the Gallery.
The Caplan Art Designs Gallery began posting on social media in advance of the Thursday opening, sharing 2 or 3 of the 7 artist’s work per post. Then as the opening began Thursday night the Gallery posted videos of the entire exhibit and some photos of people at the Gallery… not the crowds of the pre-pandemic days but safe methods of visiting. It did my artist heart good to see them and know that everyone was so caring!
I tried to quickly share on my social media what the Gallery posted or to echo it at least. People who follow the Gallery social media commented there. People who follow me commented on my pages. I tried to be quickly responsive. The Gallery owner and 2 associates were sharing and replying on the Gallery pages and the artist pages too. Below is an example of one of the Gallery posts prior to the event…
… and the Gallery shared the comments made in person at the Gallery about the work during the evening. One client said my work reminded them of Piero Fornasseti. I had to Google Fornasseti first but after I looked I agreed and made a note to myself to study more!
Early in the evening my work “All The Chances” sold! By the end of the evening 5 out of 7 artists works had sold and it was quickly apparent that the entire 7 piece exhibit would likely be sold before the weekend was over.
I am constantly proud of and amazed by how well and how creatively the Caplan Gallery has dealt with the pandemic challenges.
So it was quite a hectic opening evening even though I (and many others) participated online from home. I was tired at the end of the night but not half as worn out as I have been back in the days of attending exhibits in person and trying to hear in a noisy room. Again this new pandemic way of exhibit openings felt more satisfying like I had been able to more fully engage with people.
When I think about it this new way of doing openings is akin to arts and antique auctions, where there’s the in person bidding, the phone bidding and the online bidding. And somehow everything is kept organized.
Anyway, this photo below got posted within minutes of the sale… and was such a delightful surprise!
The very next night, Friday, was the opening exhibit at the Aurora Gallery!This Gallery too has been amazing in their ability to adapt and respond to pandemic challenges. The Aurora Gallery told me that they sold out of my signed copies of The Professional Dog (and would I please restock asap) and they said that there was a “socially distanced line of people buying Clancy fine art and artist books”!
Several of the people who went to the Aurora Gallery posted on social media about their visit or texted me directly! Oh this is such a fun way to share and enjoy art together!
I love hearing from people who are enjoying something I made. Below are some photos shared by someone who’d put my whimsical coasters around their table!
I’ve loved sharing cheerfulness in unexpected ways like this! I like it when people are able to be creative using things I’ve made! My coasters or “mug mats” are available individually on my Zazzle shop…
…and they’re available as sets only at the Aurora Gallery but the gallery will ship anywhere.
I’ve also enjoyed it that people have asked me to make, using my artwork from The Professional Dog series, cups, prints, face masks (for kids and adults) and fabric! There was even a request for a simple 30 piece jigsaw puzzle with extra large pieces for kids!
I wonder if this is how Santa does it, gets requests first and then puts the elves to work? 🤔 Artwork, books and gift giving are about connecting with people so…
December 9 there’s another exhibit with some of my artwork at Joseph Gierek Fine Art in Oklahoma! I will be supporting this exhibit from my Pacific Northwest home too. I’ve worked with Joe for about 25 years and he’s one of the most innovative Gallery people in the business! He tells about selling art from the trunk of his car way back when he was starting out… the things he has dealt with and come out on top over are inspiring. I wish he’d write a book.
Anyway it really helps me to get through these challenging times to be surrounded by creative and encouraging Gallery owners!
Despite all of the past weeks activity I’ve still been managing (mostly) to sketch in the mornings and have hot chocolate and read a bit before bed. (See the hot chocolate recipe above) Perhaps after this week I can rest more? We’ll see…
I hope your upcoming week is a good one! See you next Monday?