Illustrated shorts and other comforts

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, creative thinking, fine art, functional art, illustrated shorts, illustration, life of the mind, mental health, Numpurrs, printed books, product design, publications - publishing, published art, small things, story, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

It’s election time in the U.S. This year is particularly full of hopes and fears. So I’m focusing on comforts as a topic for my art projects. I’m thinking of the importance of the ability to provide self care, self comfort and to comfort others. To feel ones feelings and to continue on without getting stuck in the feelings.

Here’s a book I illustrated some time ago that I’ve continually found helpful in life – and in my creative life.

Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit – illustrated and collected by Sue Clancy
https://store.bookbaby.com/bookshop/book/index.aspx?bookURL=Dr-Bobs-Emotional-Repair-Program-First-Aid-Kit1

In the Dr Bob book there’s discussion of a self-care technique that I find most relevant to my creative life: keeping a list of things that I enjoy thinking about and, when worrying, to deliberately switch my thoughts to one of the things I enjoy thinking about. I’ve found that it’s helpful if at least one of the enjoyed thought topics on my list has gear. Gear; stuff I can buy, look at, use or touch in the real world.

Anyway here’s some items from my personal list of things I enjoy thinking about (in no particular order): fine art, art techniques, art supplies, reading, books, writing techniques, pens, papers, cooking, cooking techniques, food of all kinds, plants, wild animals, house pets, coffee, tea, mugs, cups, coffee urns, tea pots, jigsaw puzzles, playing cards, fabrics, fabric designs, lap blankets….

There are many more items on my list but you get the idea and I got tired of typing.

This strange year, 2020, with its pandemic and, in the U.S., weird political scene, I’ve thought a lot about those topics. As a result I’ve been branching out creatively.

Creating original fine art and one-of-a-kind handmade books for galleries, libraries, public organizations and clients homes and offices has long been my main focus. Well, the pandemic has caused me to adapt my thinking and find ways to put my artwork and books out in the world in ways that people could get them via mail order (or downloads) while at home rather than having to leave home and go to a particular place to see my work.

I still happily work with all of my art galleries and they have adapted to the pandemic as well, delivering and shipping art to clients, doing virtual tours etc. My new work simply augments what work I’ve already been doing with them. For instance people have sought, from my galleries, the original artwork for my books.

Primarily, creating print on demand books and objects has been a way for me to practice my own self care.

Anyway, the result has been the creation of real-life books, fabrics and objects that have been comforting to me as I’ve made them. I’ve been told by other people that they have been comforted by my work too. I have even heard that my work has been given as gifts and the comforts have been spread! I can’t describe adequately how happy that’s made me!

So I’ve been increasingly focused on creating original fine art which leads to creating my artist books on Blurb and also to creating theme related objects on my Zazzle and Spoonflower shops. Then on my portfolio page on my website I’m grouping them together.

For example on my Numpurrs portfolio page you can see images of the original fine art (and the art gallery handling it), my artist book for children titled Numpurrs. Besides info about the printed book there’s a related poster, calendar, jigsaw puzzle and mug. Here below is the Numpurrs mug – wouldn’t it be fun to have Alphabet soup out of this mug?

Numpurrs mug by Sue Clancy
https://www.zazzle.com/numpurrs_mug-168791615464778032

I’ve also created a new page on my website called “illustrated shorts“. The page has short examples of my thinking of fabric, note cards and coffee mugs as gallery wall spaces, so to speak.

For example here are a few of my illustrated short thoughts about love:

This is a page in my sketchbook
This was a redo of my sketchbook page on “good paper”
This is an “odd mug” I created with my design
https://www.zazzle.com/i_love_you_mug-168999488696149637

It’s fun, and comforting, for me to think about self care and to create art, books and objects that could be accessible for other people to use for their own self care or to be given to others. So I’m likely to continue such thoughts during the coming weeks as we all prepare for “non-normal” holidays.

Check in again next Monday? In the meantime, please take care of yourself.

Patch La Belle part 2

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, creative thinking, ebook, fine art, illustrated poem, illustrated shorts, illustration, Patch La Belle, poetry, printed books, product design, publications - publishing, reading in art, story, Sustainable creativity, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures

This week I thought about the importance of trying things. So I’ve reread my poetry sketchbook for poems on that topic.

As I mentioned in my last post I’m working on a new children’s book for Storyberries.com titled Patch La Belle. As I work on this book I’m trying several new things but chiefly I’m trying to group many poems and illustrations together with a few themes as organizing factors. This is different from what I’ve done in the past where I did one poem with multiple illustrations as an entire book – as you can see on my portfolio page.

Anyway, here’s the pages I selected from my poetry sketchbook this week:

And below are the finished pages that I hand wrote and illustrated using ink and gouache. I use waterproof ink pens from jetpens.com on smooth hot press watercolor paper. I like the Holbein brand of gouache colors because they’re smooth and have strong pigments.

The watercolor paper I’m using is off-white and I hope that won’t be a problem when it comes to reproducing these pages. But I like the tender nostalgic feel of this paper and will endeavor to keep this soft tone in the final book. We’ll see how it goes. This is part of the risk of trying new things…

Part of Sue Clancy’s collection of poetry books

If I’ve posted the above video correctly you’ll be able to see part of my poetry book collection; books written by many other people, some famous, many not so familiar. My collection is in my dining room where I have breakfast and sketch. I find it soothing to read a short poem or story to start my day. I also have a collection of books containing short stories in the same room but this post is about poetry…so…

When it comes to writing my own poems I like to consult “The Book Of Forms” by Lewis Turco – pick a short poetry format, like limericks or couplets then think of a topic like “trying things” and play with related words and images. Some poems turn out okay, others don’t…the key thing, I think, is the willingness to write badly and trust that I’ll survive. So far that’s been true. And now after several years of regularly writing poems in my poetry sketchbook I’m able to reread it and find a few poems that are fun to illustrate and potential material for a new artist book.

Here’s a mantra I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall

Thumbtacked to Clancy’s studio wall

So I plan to keep working on Patch La Belle this week too. Will I see you here next Monday? Hope so. And I hope you enjoy whatever creative projects you’re working on this week too.

Numpurrs and a dragon

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It’s barely been a week and Numpurrs on Storyberries.com has been read over 3000 times! Here’s one kind comment:

“Thank you, this is exactly what teachers are looking for, online opportunities during virtual teaching makes teachers lives so much easier. That was perfect timing! And a beautifully illustrated and written book! The weird thing is, I just did a cat drawing lesson for 1st grade. Now we can read the book and learn how to draw a cat!”

How nice is that?! It made my artist heart sing! 

Here’s a link to my book Numpurrs on Storyberries.com – where you can see it (and many other stories) for free – https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-numpurrs-by-clancy-free-counting-books-for-kids/

So this week quickly filled with additional efforts to help teachers and parents: I also made a poster, a calendar and then a 676 piece jigsaw puzzle too.

Here’s what the poster looks like. It’s big, 23 inches square, big enough to be seen in the backgrounds of online classes.

Numpurrs posterhttps://www.zazzle.com/numpurrs_poster-228224328093121348

My copies of the printed book version of Numpurrs also arrived at my studio this week! So I photographed the book and created a portfolio webpage to hold all of my work on Numpurrs in one spot – to help the teachers find things easier – here’s that page https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/numpurrs/

Below are just a few of the photos of the printed book…you can see more on that portfolio page I just mentioned

I’m pleased with how the book turned out! Of course I can nitpick and find things I could have tweaked – that’s always the case with any creation. I think of art making as similar to cooking, you do your best to create a good meal then you say “good enough, let’s eat” and you go on to the next thing. Perhaps you make a note for yourself on that recipe as to what you’d do differently in the future – but you enjoy the meal as it is and you go on.

Speaking of going on: for years now I’ve been regularly jotting short poems in a small 3 x 5 inch book with my fountain pen. Now, as per discussions with the people at Storyberries, I’m working on illustrating some of the poems for a new book. As I wrote my last post I’d thought I’d do more on this new project this week than ended up happening – so more on these illustrated poems in coming posts.

Here’s a look at my little poetry sketchbook with some of the potential to-be-illustrated poems flagged with sticky notes.

I write with a fountain pen because they’re refillable. Fewer plastic bits of discarded pens to end up in the landfill this way. Besides a fountain pen – if you have a good quality one – can be super smooth to write with.

For those who say a nice pen and hand bound book would be “too precious to use” I reply “your thoughts are precious too”. Buy quality supplies and use them with joy. It’s just stuff on Earth here to be enjoyed. (And if you just can’t bear it then buy whatever supplies you will actually use and get your thoughts written down. But remember that you really deserve the best.)

Below is the dragon poem you can see my handwritten draft of in the photo of my book above and the handwritten poem and illustration I got done this week with ink and gouache on nice paper.

More of that kind of thing here next Monday – I hope. Thanks for reading. Have a good week.

Numpurrs 20 & it sums up…

A Creative Life, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, cat portrait, ebook, fine art, food in art, graphic design, illustrated poem, illustration, math and numbers, Numpurrs, pet portraits, printed books, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

There now! Despite all the odds (see last post) I finished “Numpurrs”! I’ve also sent it in to Storyberries for distribution. When I sent it in this last week Storyberries said “I just LOVE it Sue!!! It has come together so nicely !!!! Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful work with us!!”

So I think it’s safe to say that they’re pleased! The book will be live on Storyberries.com very soon as they said they’ll “…schedule it for 9am Gold Coast time Australia on Monday morning.” Which works out to about 4 pm in Washington state, USA on Sunday. And I post these blog posts on Mondays but write them on Sunday morning’s… so, yes, I can have a bit of time zone confusion.

[Update: here’s the link to Numpurrs on Storyberries.com: https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-numpurrs-by-clancy-free-counting-books-for-kids/ ]

Time zone differences between where I live on the western US coast and the time where Storyberries is in Australia can confuse me even when I have help from the internet. My solution to working across continents and time zones is the same in publishing as it has been when I’ve done fine art exhibits outside of the U.S.A; get it all done early and everything into their hands as soon as humanly possible then let the people I’m working with sort the what-happens-when out at their end.

It helps that I work on the graphic design part of any book almost simultaneously with creating the fine art illustrations. This way by the time I finish creating the fine art illustrations I’ve almost finished the book design too.

The graphic design informs and affects my illustrations – in the number of illustrations needed, the size of them and so forth. But what I want to do in the first place with my illustrations/fine art at my easel (using ink and gouache on board) will also affect the graphic design.

This interdependence (and writing the poem is in there too) is related to the construction of my book idea in the first place in a which-comes-first chicken-or-egg kind of fashion. As a result of my working method the posting I do online nearly always slightly behind the action. My motto is create the thing first talk about it later.

Anyway, here’s a pic of me working on my laptop doing the book layout. I often do my computer work in the corner of my dining room near the cookbooks and am almost always cooking something on the stove. Taking breaks to stir something on the stove is so nice!

Sue Clancy creating “Numpurrs”

And here are the last poem lines in my book:

Twenty butters bread, risen with yeast

And it all sums up to a wonderful feast!

In the printed book my three panel “feast scene” will flow in sequence left to right and will line up side by side. But it worked pretty well in scroll ebook form too even tho it doesn’t line up at the edges. As I worked I had to think of both of these “flow” patterns when I was creating the images.

Even though I’m doing so much myself – which sounds like a lot of freedom – there are still constraints: page flow, number of pages allowed within the publication formats, where the blank pages must fall, printing product options, ebook construction and so forth. I see these constraints as the path, the way forward, the technical issues become part of my creative process.

When it came to creating the feast scene artwork in Numpurrs I consulted this book, Food and Feasting in Art by Silvia Malaguzzi

Many of these art historical images had the viewers eye moving left to right and or moving up and down. This served as a guide as I created my cat feast illustrations. (I love art history!)

Running into the graphic design publication constraints I mentioned earlier I only had 3 pages within which to fit my feast. When, in an early sketch, I fitted all 20 cats in – the cats were too small and the numbers couldn’t be easily read. Since the point of the book is to distinguish between cats and to recognize numbers I decided to make the cats and numbers bigger even tho it meant leaving out some cats.

Besides at almost every group photo I’ve ever participated in there were several people who declined to be in the picture. Perhaps we can pretend some of the cats in my artwork were similarly shy?

After sending everything in to Storyberries, and after being given the release schedule, I was asked to send in a new photo of all three of the feast panels as one image. There are design constraints and issues at their end too – and we’re in this project together. So I hustled (time zones remember…) and sent this photo in:

Since my book idea is about distinguishing between cats and numbers I also used 4 of my allotted pages to include the photos of real life cats that my friends had sent to me for use as reference to create my artwork. Like the feast scene artwork not every cat illustrated in the book is on the cat photo pages… again it was a case of if I fit in every photo the cats were too small to see well. And in some cases the photos my friends sent was fine for my art reference use but it wasn’t high enough resolution for a printed book. Since I’m doing both print and ebook forms I had to design for both to look the same. Perhaps it can add fun to also distinguish which cat is there and which isn’t and also to see some of the source material I worked with?

Here’s what the Numpurrs book cover looks like, and the dedication page where I thank my friends for all of their help.

Numpurrs by Clancy – https://www.blurb.com/b/10297565-numpurrs

You can see a preview of the entire book Numpurrs via this link: https://www.blurb.com/b/10297565-numpurrs

You can see all of my artwork and my blog posts containing my thinking as I developed this project on the webpage here.

Here, again, is the link on Storyberries where you can see what they ended up doing with the new feast scene photo I hustled to send in …. https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-numpurrs-by-clancy-free-counting-books-for-kids/

On my Instagram page I will tell more about Numpurrs as things on Storyberries develop. (An audiobook version is in the works etc)

Next Monday this blog will move on to my next art project…

Thanks again for reading and adding to the Numpurrs fun!

Numpurrs 16, 17, 18, 19

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, cat portrait, Cats in art, creative thinking, ebook, fine art, illustrated poem, illustration, life of the mind, math and numbers, mental health, Numpurrs, pet portraits, publications - publishing, small things, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

This week has been less busy but weird with wildfires and bad air quality where I live in SW Washington. (More re in a sec.) Despite it all I still made progress on my Numpurrs book (see also my last post for more project details)

Here are the poem lines that go with the illustrations I managed to get done this week:

Sixteen puts flowers out on a whim

Seventeen pours saucers of milk labeled skim

Eighteen opens fish oil good for the fur

Nineteen is so happy she starts to purr

To think about art and creating a book for children this week, as wildfires raged, as we worry about the safety of family and friends has, at times, felt a bit frivolous. But it is also an act of hope. An act of resilience. An act of pushing back against the darkness…

One of my sources of comfort in times of difficulty is to walk among my bookshelves at home, selecting a random book, reading a page or so and putting it back on the shelf. I often hope to find encouraging, uplifting passages. As you might know from my artist book Another Sketchbook I’ve been adapting this comfort recently to include ebooks. Here’s something I read this week from Albert Camus

I think creating art is a way of maintaining hope. Sharing art is a small act of kindness. So I keep on. Besides, I find it helpful to spend time each day focusing on something that is pleasing, enjoyable, as doing this helps me exercise and maintain my inner muscles that give me strength to push back.

Things that are enjoyable are what we push for, what we want to maintain, what we want to have more of in life because it’s not enough to merely endure. Besides doing whatever it is that helps us endure we need to also remember what we’re enduring for. And when the enduring is done to remember to appreciate what we have.

Thinking beyond the thing to be endured and the endurance process itself takes practice. Enjoying things is a skill to be practiced – and one doesn’t have to wait for a perfect time/situation/condition in which to practice. That time is now.

As Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors said “I urge you to please notice when you’re happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” “

Anyway, here’s my cat sitting where he can look out on the smokey world. It’s pleasant to watch him watch the world. This photo was taken about noon on Sunday.

And here’s my dog covering his nose, burrowing into a towel, in an effort to get away from the smell of smoke. He’s so sensible – and cute!

Besides working on my art projects and pulling books randomly from my shelves, I’ve still been reading the books I mentioned in my last post.

Also I’ve added to my daily reading an ebook, “The Cat Who Said Cheese” by Lilian Jackson Braun. Walking around inside my house, for gentle exercise, is more fun with a cozy mystery in hand. And since one of the current topics in my head is cats…. this book is lightweight fun for me to burrow into while still being somewhat on topic.

The air quality outdoors here has been so bad that, wisely, all the places hosting my current fine art exhibit “Readings From The Heart” closed temporarily to the public. As of 8 PM Sunday night the Airnow.gov site has my location’s air quality as “beyond index” meaning it is worse than the number they use to indicate really-awful-very-bad-horrible-dangerous. My nose and chest would agree with that assessment. (An air particulate level of 300 to 500 is considered hazardous – ours Sunday eve was well over 500. Monday morning the number is 414… update: at 6pm Monday we are at 517. My local paper has this article. )

But I tend to think that inside a difficulty is an opportunity – a chance to think beyond an immediate crisis – so just as soon as one Gallery told me they were closing I made the ebook version of my artist book about the exhibit available as a free download on my shop page. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you’ll find my free ebooks. You can also see all of my art in the current exhibits from the comfort of your phone here. And if this isn’t nice I don’t know what is!

Please find ways to keep hope alive, to keep enjoying something, to keep going forward somehow and be kind – I will do the same.

See you here next Monday

Numpurrs 8, 9, 10, 11

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, cat portrait, Cats in art, creative thinking, fine art, food in art, illustrated poem, illustrated recipe, illustration, kitchen art, math and numbers, miniature art, Numpurrs, pet portraits, poetry, publications - publishing, published art, sketchbook, sketchbook suppers, Sustainable creativity, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

It’s been another busy week but there’s still been progress on my new artist book for children called Numpurrs. On Storyberries.com I had done a counting book titled “The Crow and the Water Jug” so Storyberries wants another book from me related to numbers and math.

Here’s my progress: the finished poem lines that fit with my next 4 illustrations for Numpurrs

Eight divides the large wheels of brie

Nine adds mice caught in the lea

Ten has a bird as big as the sky

Eleven bakes a vegetable pie

To create the illustrations I chose the cats-to-be-illustrated from the various photos of cats that my friends have shared. My happy thoughts of my friends – and their cat photos – inspired which cat to pair with which number and poem line. Life near-to-hand provides so much of my inspiration. I made these paintings with ink and gouache on board. They’re small, 3.5 x 2.5 inches. Just little savory slices of a good life…

As I wrote in my last post I’m still using the Dictionary Of Color Combinations as a playful inspiration source for my color schemes.

I’m also still reading the cat-themed book “I Am A Cat” by Soseki Natsume that I spoke of in my last post.

Speaking of slices – my last post also spoke of pizza…and I did manage to get that indulgence, and a movie worked into this busy week. It was so enjoyable! Here’s what my homemade pizza looked like

I used my simple sauce recipe from my published kitchen sketchbook “Favorites So Far” and topped it with mozzarella, gruyere and Comte cheeses. Simple pizza – sauce and cheese – but I adult-ed it, so to speak, with my homemade sauce and cheese choices. Here’s my sauce recipe:

This page is from “Favorites So Far
You can see the whole sketchbook here.

And yes, my cat shamelessly begged for bites of the cheeses.

Part of what I was busy doing this week was answering questions about my upcoming exhibit at the Caplan Art Designs gallery. One of the questions asked what inspired the artworks with birds in them. My answer: the poem from Emily Dickinson “Hope is a thing with feathers…” In these strange and interesting times maintaining one’s human spirit, hope and good mental health is crucial. So my entire exhibit is about that. You can see a virtual exhibit tour of sorts webpage here (hint: the very newest pieces have birds reading books) https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/readings-from-the-heart/

Anyway, thanks for reading. I’ll post during the week on my Instagram page and sum up here next Monday.

I wish you peace, a lap full of purrs and a plate full of good pizza.

Numpurrs 4, 5, 6, 7

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, cat portrait, Cats in art, creative thinking, fine art, illustrated poem, illustration, Numpurrs, pet portraits, poetry, publications - publishing, published art, Sustainable creativity, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

It’s been a busy week but there’s┬ástill been progress on my new artist book for children called Numpurrs. On Storyberries.com I had done a counting book titled “The Crow and the Water Jug” and it’s been popular with readers so Storyberries wants another book from me related to numbers and math.

In my last posts I’ve written about how I work in short bursts [Very Small Goals] until my idea has firmed up a bit. But this week let’s cut the chatter and get right to it…

Here are the finished poem lines that fit with my next 4 illustrations for Numpurrs

Four brings jugs of heavy sweet cream

Five fetches trout in from the stream

Six tallies the tables and chairs

Seven moves them from under the stairs

I chose the cats-to-be-illustrated from the various photos of cats that my friends have been kind enough to share. The cat photos themselves – and my happy thoughts of my friends – inspired which cat to pair with which number and poem line.

While painting these cat portraits with my gouache and ink method I’m still using the Dictionary of Color Combinations that I spoke of in my last post and playing around with colors. Working in small chunks steadily – and keeping it fun – gets things done despite all else.

As I said it’s been an extremely busy week but to keep myself in a feline fun frame of mind I found time to amuse myself with this quirky book about a cat. It’s an enjoyable read, the reviews that call it a “comic masterpiece” have it correctly I think. If you’re interested this link and this one tell more details about the book.

If you’re wondering what I’ve been so busy doing: I finished up some new fine art pieces for an upcoming exhibit at the Caplan Art Designs gallery – I also added my new art pieces to this virtual exhibit tour of sorts webpage here (hint: the newest pieces have birds reading books) https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/readings-from-the-heart/

I’ll post more of my Numpurrs progress during the week on my Instagram etc. social media pages and then sum up with more details about my creative process in a blog post next Monday.

But first let there be pizza, time to read books and watch movies.

Thanks for reading, commenting and buying my artist books – you help me keep going.

Numpurrs 0, 1, 2, 3

A Creative Life, animals in art, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, cat portrait, Cats in art, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, fine art, illustrated poem, illustration, math and numbers, Numpurrs, pet portraits, poetry, publications - publishing, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

Here’s this weeks progress on my new artist book for children to be titled Numpurrs. On Storyberries.com I had done a counting book titled “The Crow and the Water Jug” and it’s been popular with readers so Storyberries wants another book related to numbers and math from me.

As I wrote in my last post when I start a new project I work in short bursts [Very Small Goals] until my idea has firmed up a bit. By “firm up” I mean that there’s a draft nearly finished and all the research and other materials have been collected. Even some messy doodle-drawings have been done. There’s now a “there” there – something to work with.

Then my project moves into the “more serious” project slot within my day. Instead of only spending 10 or 20 minutes on my project I’ll spend 30 to 40. Adjustments to my idea are still happening, things are still uncertain but it’s becoming clearer. I rewrite my text drafts more in a more legible way. I begin doing the illustrations more carefully using ink and gouache on board. (And yes, I redraw and repaint, in short bursts, till I’m somewhat satisfied with each portrait.)

Here are the finished poem lines that fit with my first 4 illustrations for Numpurrs

Zero has nothing but wants to eat

One lists numbers of friends who can meet

Two proposes a potluck fondue

Three invites him, her, them and you

I selected the potential cats-to-be-illustrated from the various photos of cats that my friends have been kind enough to share. The cat photos themselves inspired which cat to pair with which number and poem line. Also in my inspiration mill where some things me friends told me about their cats.

I decided to begin my poem-story with Zero because the concept of zero – nothing – was revolutionary in the early days of math. (A fun article about the history of Zero is here) Nothing is so often the start of something that it suits my sense of humor to have the catalyst (pun intended) for my story being a cat who has nothing…

The cat for number 1 was sent by a friend who told me the Japanese word for the numeral one – Ichiban. I toyed with the idea of using different languages, different kinds of clothing… for each numeral…

But as I drafted and doodled and read about numbers I decided to keep the illustrations simple, and each drawing similarly formatted, so as to keep my book focused on the numbers and the diversity of cats. This book is intended to amuse the adult fans of my work but also – primarily even – to help kids gain awareness of numbers. I plan to have the poem text have each number spelled out, such as, “Zero” while the illustrations have the matching number, i.e. “0,” in them. Since English is my primary language I decided to stick with that.

Where I’m playing visually in my Numpurrs project is with color combinations. Some time ago I got a book titled “A Dictionary Of Color Combinations” from one of my local bookstores, Ampersand Gallery and Fine Books. The book is primarily in Japanese with a smattering of English. Even though I don’t read Japanese this book has been a wonderful resource for color combination ideas. I’m using it much like I used a rhyming dictionary when composing my poem. Here’s some photos of this book:

I’ll post more of my Numpurrs progress during the week on my Instagram etc. social media pages and then sum up with more details about my creative process in a blog post next Monday.

Thanks for reading!

Beginning Numpurrs

A Creative Life, animals in art, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, cat portrait, Cats in art, fine art, illustrated poem, math and numbers, Numpurrs, pet portraits, poetry, printed books, publications - publishing, published art, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

I’m starting a new artist book for children to be titled Numpurrs. On Storyberries.com I had done a counting book titled “The Crow and the Water Jug” and it’s been popular with readers so Storyberries wants another book related to numbers and math from me. So here goes…

As I mentioned in my last post I work in short bursts, 10 or 20 minute increments, small time segments that cover a Very Small Goal (VSG) towards a project. I do these short bursts of VSG’s almost daily. Other projects – and life – take up time so working in short bursts on VSG’s is my way to do some new creative project without requiring a large chunk of time.

For example on successive days my VSG’s were 10 minute tasks like; gather my legal pads, refill my fountain pen, look at past poetry about counting, brainstorm a “thesis”, write a list of VSG’s, gather reference photos, doodle possible illustrations, write drafts of a poem… and so forth.

For my “thesis” aka the root idea of my Numpurrs book I thought of how cats often bring presents to their humans of some, delectable morsel, from a cats point of view. Some mouse or bird brought as a gift to the human as a contributing dish for dinner. My cats have in the past been so, ahem, generous. I added that thought to the human concept of potluck dinners and how all the various contributions of dishes “add up” to an extravagant meal.

With that in mind I wrote draft after draft – sometimes in short bursts of 2 lines at a time – of my potential Numpurrs poem in my legal pad. Here’s a photo of my messy handwritten poem draft number 5 or so.

Longhand draft of Numpurrs by Clancy

During this time I reached out to several friends and asked for photos of their feline companions. I asked friends because many have shared or can share stories of their cats personality. These photos will inspire lines of my poem and the potential illustrations. This was also just a fun topic to share with my friends. Here are some of my sketchbook doodles of cats, a way to “warm up” and begin.

Cat sketchbook by Clancy
Cat sketchbook by Clancy

Here’s a photo of my cat Hawkeye.

Everything at this point is in flux. I’m quite okay with this uncertainty – it’s an exhilarating part of the creative process made achievable by working in small chunks.

My evening reading to relax before bed is also tangentially related to my Numpurrs project. There may be a bit of additional inspiration in it – who knows. Besides it’s fun reading.

I’ll post my progress on my Instagram page during the week and write more details about my creative process here on Monday. We’ll see how much I get done – or not. Among my upcoming Instagram posts about Numpurrs you’ll see posts about my fine art exhibits that are currently up – and one still to come. So I’ve a lot going on this week. Full details about all of the exhibits are on my portfolio project pages.

Oh, I almost forgot: you can see The Crow and the Water Jug on Storyberries.com and you can also preview the printed book here.

Chapter 3: Readings From The Heart

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I’ve been asked how I manage projects, like my “Readings From The Heart” exhibit, over a long duration. Half jokingly I replied “one bite at a time”. My joke is in reference to this saying I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall.

Seriously though when starting I create a general big picture, a kind of map for the entire project. Or, if you prefer, an outline. When I design a long project I do a hybrid blend of the two writing techniques: outlining and seat-of-pantsing. I apply these writing technique concepts to fine art making. I described in my last post what my big picture became for this exhibit that opens this week; the exhibit statement and the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. Here’s a few photos of the printed catalog. An ebook version is also available.

But when I began, more than 8 months ago, my big picture for this project was extremely vague. It was akin to a map of a forest without many details. It was akin to a book jacket blurb, with barely a teaser of what might be inside. It was akin to a writer’s outline with whole sections labeled ‘more research needed’.

My big picture map/ loose outline, was handwritten on a legal pad. Vague as it was it still served as a starting point. I keep a notebook/file box for each project so I can store all of my notes in one spot for easy updating and consultation as I work by the seat of my pants and a lots of “Very Small Goals” (VSG) for the project.

Then with the vague map in hand I identified some Very Small Goals (VSG) that would help me start and proceed on my project. These VSG’s can be as small as ‘buy a new art boards by Friday’. The VSG’s change as the process develops. The trick with VSG’s is to make them absurdly small, easily achievable and very specific – including what and when. It’s important to also find some way make each VSG fun.

I think of the creative life as an Eco-system rather than an Ego-system – what’s important is participating, showing up and finding ways to keep things fun. I can’t stress enough the importance of playing and keeping things fun. That makes creativity over a long project sustainable. Here’s another saying I have thumbtacked to my studio wall.

As I proceed to work I know many changes to my big picture/exhibit design will happen. I also know I don’t live in the big picture. I move organically back and forth from big, medium and small pictures of a project. It’s okay to be uncertain, to experiment and play. I just remember to update my big picture map as I have new thoughts. Slowly over time the picture map comes into focus. A project also changes as life happens.

In this case I began my Readings series well over 8 months ago. Then the pandemic happened and threw a monkey wrenchs in my plans. For example I had to suddenly adapt the way I was artistically inspired: to change from being inspired by things I experienced out in the world to a stay-at-home life, things that I read about or only happened in my imagination.

So to think through how to cope with the pandemic and quarantine I reread Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit, which I had created some time back, about mental health coping skills and wrote notes, drew pictures in my sketchbook in order to think.

I also worked daily in my sketchbook on the topic of how to adapt finding books to read, and the development of one’s mental life to a stay at home quarantine situation. Eventually this book was published as Another Sketchbook in order to share my entire process.

Being in quarantine meant cooking at home more so I consulted our Favorites So Far book. This is a sketchbook full of recipes that were enjoyable ways to feed body and mind. You could say that my work on these artist books/sketchbooks is the medium picture, the inset details within the bigger map, the more developed areas in the outline.

A look at the original sketchbook page which is included in Favorites So Far

All of this sketchbook work inspired my fine art, where I developed specific thoughts with ink and gouache on board. You can almost think of the fine art as the most visible leaves and fruits on the artist book “trees”. In the exhibit catalog I’ve tried to show the connections between the artist books and the fine art I created.

Sometimes, as the pandemic continued, the fine art on the topics of reading, cooking and thinking felt too serious. Needing some self comfort and to have some fun I began drawing portraits of dogs and cats. In order to organize these dog and cat drawings I decided to make them into a children’s book as a gift for some kids in our friends’ lives. Many of my adult friends enjoy my dog and cat portraits so I decided to share each pet portrait on my Instagram page as I finished it in hopes of cheering my friends as I created the kids book.

The finished artwork became an artist book titled Alphapets and was picked up by Storyberries.com. A sequel Alphapets Too followed. Many stories begin with love and an alphabet – so this portrait project felt fun, relaxed and like a small picture, a detailed map insert or a sample bit of text to be fitted into an outline. (In fact, I spoofed some of the pet portraits within my larger fine art paintings.) Here are the pages in the big picture book Readings From The Heart that tell about the smaller picture of Alphapets and how it fits in.

The original artwork for both Alphapets and Alphapets Too is on exhibit at the Aurora Gallery during August and September. More details about those projects here with lots of pictures of the artwork.

When all of the artist books and all of the artworks were finished I reread my notes and used those to create the exhibit statement I spoke of in my last post. I also used these notes to create the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. That was the very last thing I did for the August and September exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars, the Aurora Gallery and Caplan Art Designs. Well, the last thing besides the framing and art delivery.

Below is a photo of all of my artist books that relate to my Readings From The Heart exhibit. Additionally I’ve created a webpage with all of this projects more than 20 fine art pieces and details about each of the 3 exhibits here.

All 6 artist books related to the Readings From The Heart fine art exhibit

During this time period I was interviewed for a Doodlewash feature about my work in which I describe my working methods, the materials I use, how my daily work routine goes, images of my artwork, etc – you can see that here: https://doodlewash.com/sue-clancy-artist-whimsical-visual-stories/

Here’s a picture of me working in a sketchbook

Clancy at work in a sketchbook

I hope this look at how I work on long projects has been amusing for you. The exhibits open this week. Many of my upcoming Instagram posts will likely be about that. And I will update the above mentioned portfolio pages too.

Then next Monday when I post here I hope to be beginning a new long-ish project; an illustrated poem for a children’s book titled Numpurrs. I found I quite enjoyed the serialized posts I did for Alphapets and Alphapets Too. So I look forward to doing that again!