I’m working towards 3 one-person fine art exhibits this year and I’m using writing techniques to design them. Gathering sources, aka a bibliography, is a starting spot for nonfiction works. So I’m borrowing that concept only I’m creating the books I’ll use as, ahem, source citations.
For example, in my last post I depicted a woman reading and having breakfast. Here is the source for the breakfast within the art… the source is my kitchen sketchbook:
During my exhibits I’ll want to show my sources (like a writer would) so I’ve published a new artist book based on my kitchen sketchbook titled Favorites So Far. The recipes come from both me and my spouse, a kind of memoir sketchbook cookbook… and part of the basis for my fine art. Anyway, here’s a picture of the cover:
That you could make your own meals from this book is a happy bonus…it’s primarily yummy source material!
I’m finishing up a fine art commission for someone’s holiday present. So instead of talking about that – here’s a painting I finished just before the holiday rush began. Titled “Hare Heritage” and created with ink and gouache.
As I work I’m experimenting with the 3rd person omniscient narrator – and other narrator writing techniques. The viewer of Hare Heritage (the third person) can see and speculate on 2 visual story-lines within this painting.
It’s a fun challenge to apply writing techniques to fine art! And using the topic of readers and books adds to the pun.
Most years near the holiday I do a miniature pet portrait project -creating small pet paintings people often give as gifts. This year I am doing this project as part of my popup shop at Vintage Books, http://www.vintage-books.net Dec 7th from 12 to 4 – and using people’s phone photos as inspiration.
This year I am also teaming up with a local frame shop, Aurora Gallery, http://www.auroragallery.com …. yes, Virginia, it is possible you could walk out of the bookstore Dec 7th with a small framed work of art!
As I have worked on this years version of this project I have been adjusting my portable art kit. .. I will be creating some of the pet portraits at the busy bustling bookstore. The main adjustment to my portable art kit has been the addition of the Pentel Water Brush. It is the blueish colored “pen” in this photo. The water brush stores water inside itself and allows me to work without a pan of water at my elbow. It works well and hopefully the “less potential mess” of it will be welcomed by bookstore staff
Dec 7th during my pop-up shop at Vintage Books https://www.vintage-books.net/ from noon to 4 I’ll be doing some “live drawing”; I’ll work in my sketchbook and if anyone wants a small portrait of their pet I’ll happily do one using a phone photo as inspiration.
These portraits I’ll do at the pop-up shop are what I call “quickie sketches” – less complex than the portraits I’m often commissioned to do via the Caplan Art Design Gallery or the Joseph Gierek Fine Art Gallery – more like what I do in my sketchbook and still a fun gift for the holiday. Each portrait I do will take about 20 minutes more or less. A command performance art piece! (What fun!!!)
Since I’ll be doing these portraits on-site at the Vintage Books bookstore I’m currently in the process of testing my portable art kit to make sure I’ll have everything I need. A dear friend let me come to her house with my art kit and do a practice session – on her kitchen table – with a pic of her dog on her phone! (pictured in this post)
I’m using my ink pens, my Pentel Water-Brushes (to minimize the need for a water source) color pencils and my gouache colors on handmade paper. During the practice session I discovered I need to pack a few more items – like more paper towels, some wax paper… – so I’ll practice some more between now and Dec. 7th!
I’ve been having a blast playing at being a North Pole elf, designing gifts for my upcoming pop-up shop at Vintage Books https://www.vintage-books.net/ Dec 7th from noon to 4pm! The Pacific Northwest social scene has been inspiring and guiding my thoughts.
Here in Vancouver all year long people get together regularly for happy hours, for pot-luck dinners and other social occasions. I love it! Then come October through to the new year there are parties, parties and parties!!! There are cookie parties, apple parties, wine parties, beer parties, cocktail parties, salad parties, game-night parties, pot-luck dinner parties…. and, of course, holiday stocking stuffer parties.
So as I’ve designed my products for the pop-up shop I’ve kept in mind the various stocking stuffer parties we’ve attended – as well as the local trend of giving handmade items and/or small-in-cost-and-size unique gifts to friends and family.
Anyway, I have very much enjoyed designing whimsical gifts thinking of my local friends, family and fans. I’m delighted that my local bookstore, Vintage Books, has asked me to do this pop-up shop and I’m also planning a performance-art aspect to the event – i.e. I’m going to do some “live drawing” pet portraits…. but more on that in another post.
Here’s a stocking with some of the stuff I’ve designed in it.
My friend and neighbor, who has two grandchildren under the age of 2, was showing me a vintage toy that was purchased for the kids; a red and blue ball with shaped holes in it, with the yellow-block shapes inside the ball. You pull open the ball, the yellow-shape blocks spill out and you can put the blocks back inside the ball by matching the block shape and the hole shape.
At the time I was working on an illustration and was stumped for the “language” that the space alien creature would be speaking. The “language” in my artwork would need to somehow imply the ways the content of a book can “fit” with or resonate with a reader.
My conversation with my neighbor helped – creative problem solved!!
On a recent trip to the library I saw a book titled “How To Draw And Write In Fountain Pen: A Modern Guide” by Ayano Usamura. (book link) The book reminded me that I’ve not talked about this essential studio tool in a while.
I’ve used a fountain pen almost daily since I was in art school at university. An illustration class required a fountain pen, a Pelikan Classic M200 , as one of it’s “textbooks” for the semester. We were taught the care and use of the pen – the pen care section of the book by Usamura mirrors what I was taught exactly. Part of the class requirement was to draw with the pen daily. The professor would periodically surprise-inspect our pens for proper care/maintenance and would look at our sketchbooks as part of our grade. Woe unto the student who forgot their pen.
Fast forward to now and I’m still drawing with my fountain pen daily. It’s my go-to tool for my on-going art studio philosophy: “Work in short bursts of time. Often.” When I’ve only a minute or two for creativity work I can easily, quickly, do an ink drawing without having to do any more “studio-set-up” than to open my sketchbook and pull the cap off my pen. Here’s todays fountain pen drawing:
Nowadays I prefer the Levenger True Writer. It’s the best fountain pen I’ve had yet. Writes and draws smooth lines with no pressure, less mess and less constant care needed than some other pens. I use the Noodlers brand fountain pen ink – the anti-feather black kind (also called “X-feather”). And of course these days I have a whole new appreciation for the environmental friendliness of a fountain pen; less used-up-pen-plastic-parts going into the land-fill.
Anyway, the book “How to Draw and Write in Fountain Pen” happily reminded me of what I’d been taught way back in the day at university. I brought the book home from the library to read and re-remember all the fountain pen tips and tricks. And, if the book was accurate to my fountain pen experience (it was!), I could mention it to you here on my blog – and photograph the book with my Levenger fountain pen for a post on my Instagram page.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go lovingly re-fill the ink in my fountain pen.
Update: After I had written the above post about fountain pens I went to dinner in Portland Oregon. From dinner we all walked to Oblation Papers and Press – where I happily discovered that they have a wide selection of fountain pens!! And staff who know the various pen brands! Here’s a link to their drool-worthy website https://www.oblationpapers.com/
Here’s the cover for the new print version of “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”. Keeping the hand-drawn look for the cover was important. Half of this book is filled with hand-drawn graphic-novel type stories. And the book originated in my sketchbook. So it seemed a no-brainer to keep the cover art “organic” looking. Here are both the front and back covers:
Cover art for the back of “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”
Cover art for the front of “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”
Yes, I did see this new print version as an opportunity to hand-write the entire book and considered it strongly. However from the outset of this project when we did the first printed editions small run, Dr. Bob Hoke wanted the book to be as easily accessible as possible – including constructing a book that would feel “simple” and even fun.
So as I designed this new print version I decided that typing the text of Dr. Bob’s lecture notes, rather than hand writing it would be more in keeping with Dr. Hoke’s methods. By typing I could also choose fonts and formats that would be easier for anyone, including dyslexics, to read. “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” is also small in size; 5.5 x 8.5 inches and only 56 pages long.
As I mentioned above, half the book is drawings… so I worked to make the cover art fit with the cartoon drawings inside the book.
“Feelings are guides not gods” is a phrase from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”, the new print version I’m currently working on. The concept is illustrated by this story:
Here’s some text from the book related to the artwork: “Do you think that feelings keep you from doing things? More good news – they don’t! We’ve all done many things we didn’t feel like doing – such as going to school or work when we didn’t feel like it – which proves that: Feelings don’t keep us from doing things. Moreover, when you do that thing you feel scared to do, you are nourishing your courage…… Remember, you are responsible for your feelings not responsible to them.” (see the Eggplant story above)
Cultivating and maintaining a high level of Emotional Intelligence is essential to well-being (and creativity). Good mental health is about more than just the absence of mental illness – it is the presence of good coping skills, being able to self-regulate, to see feelings as a guide whether the feelings are your own or someone else’s. (Btw: there’s a good article about teaching Emotional Intelligence here.)
I’ve found Dr. Bob’s concept of “feelings are guides not gods” applies to creativity, and the creative life, as well. Whether or not I feel a particular way doesn’t have to affect whether or not I make my artwork. My feelings are not a “god” to be obeyed. If it’s time to work in the studio, however short or long the time-to-work I’ve allotted is, off I go to my creative work no matter how happy, sad or inspired I feel at the moment.
Where I use my feelings as a “guide” is when I’m out in the world on the lookout for possible art-topics. I keep my inner eye open for things that capture my curiosity and my imagination. Then I keep a list of those things and my feelings related to them in my sketchbooks for future art-making. My use of this “feelings as guide” technique has helped me create many helpful guidebooks, so to speak, for my own creative life. I find it a sustainable creative practice.
All that aside I’d like to add that eggplant can, once in a while, be a very good vegetable – especially as eggplant parmesan.
Recently I’ve been super busy with fine-art exhibits and other illustration projects. But now I’m back to regular work on a new print version of “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”. During my work on the pages about Dr. Bob’s S.W.I.F.T. finger therapy I remembered how valuable this concept is when I’m in the middle of an art project.
While a project is not a person all creative projects also have an ugly-duckling stage. A point in which they’re more “mess” than “masterpiece”. A point in which things are happening with the colors and shapes that may not be what I intended or hoped for.
I’ve found the S.W.I.F.T therapy helps me remember to calm down about the mess. If a creative person gets too angst-y about the in-progress project it stops the flow of creativity. Possibly leading to a creative block. Remembering to think of “So What If….” finger therapy helps me relax and to do nothing radical to the in-progress project during my don’t-like-it moment. It enables me to let go, and approach the project later with an open, playful, mind. Perhaps after lunch, perhaps the next day.
Page from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” collected and illustrated by Clancy
If you’ve just joined my blog (and thank you for that!) here’s the last post about this project. The last post covers another mental-health technique that relates, in my mind anyway, to living the sustainable creative life.
I began learning these mental-health techniques and applying them to my creative life back in the 1990’s. I’m still creating new artwork daily. Still loving it. Something works.
Hope this book and these posts will help you too. All the best…