Being creative is like cooking – you get one meal cooked and cleaned up then it’s time for another meal. It’s the slog – long live the slog! Hooray for the slog! Okay so the word slog can have a negative connotation… I also call it a a good working rhythm! There’s a wonderful article about slogs aka work, talent and audacity from The Painters Keys. [Spoiler: it’s not the talent so much as the willingness to see it through]
Here’s some of my more finished than unfinished Dragon pages. I still have to ink all of the poem text and fill in certain visual elements on many of the pages but the entire book has been penciled!! Feels like an accomplishment… which I celebrated (more on that later in this post)! Anyway here are some of the mostly inked pages!!
If you recognize some of the pages, well that’s because I go through the book penciling. Then I go through the book inking this bit then I go through the book inking that bit then I go through the book….
See what I wrote earlier about slogging. Writers most obviously slog – you hear about novelists working on a draft of a novel for years, decades even. You hear about it taking years to rewrite and edit a novel. The same is true of my visual artistic life too. But the public doesn’t often hear about the slogs of a visual artist. I’ve written in the past about the similarities I see between art and writing – what I write here today is of a piece with that idea. Anyway, I find that it helps to celebrate small milestones of creative projects.
I penciled the entire How To Draw A Dragon book!! Yippee! So I celebrated by having margaritas with my spouse on our backyard patio. I also did a small painting in color. I’ve been thinking of of color as I have been working on “How to Draw A Dragon” a black and white line drawn book for other people to color. Indulging in both an adult drink and some gouache paints was decadent!!
And while I was painting the light outside changed but I kept painting.
While this looks like a complete painting done during the duration of a drink – and it is – but it is also only one piece of my much larger Odditorium exhibit. You might say this is like novelist writing one decent short paragraph during the time it takes to drink a margarita. A paragraph is not a novel. One painting is not an exhibit.
On another day this week my spouse snapped a photo of me drawing in my morning sketchbook. Below the photo you can see what I was sketching.
The next morning I got one of my small art boards and re-sketched my thought. This is what I love about keeping a sketchbook – I can explore thoughts messily in my sketchbook then later pick the thought I really like and re-explore and repeat with variations. I can try it in different sizes, art mediums and colors. This way there’s no pressure to get it right the first time. And I get to play with a group of fun thoughts as long as I like. Some might call it “flitting about” but I call it normal creativity. (See also my last post) Can you see how similar the visual art creative process is to the writers process of rewriting? Below I basically “rewrite” my thought.
I’m thinking this artwork will be fun on a mug for a gardener to use. There I go again dedicating a gift for someone – whether they ever see it or not. I mentioned doing this gift making / dedications in my last post. This mug and a card with the same artwork are on my Zazzle shop now.
I’ve even thought about color when eating this week – inspired by a recipe in my kitchen sketchbook Favorites So Far.
Below is one of the books I’ve been reading in the evenings before bed titled Nature’s Palette. My spouse gave it to me for my birthday earlier! Do you notice that some botanical and zoological drawings look sortof coloring book-like? Well in part that’s because long ago books were illustrated using etchings which were often colored by hand before being bound into a book. And from my past experience as a biological illustrator often both black line drawings and color drawings are needed for the same plant – so color is filled in (so to speak) after one has an accurate line drawing. Is it really any surprise that I’ve been thinking of color and coloring books lately?
I hope your week is full of color and delights for your senses. See you next Monday.
In my last post I talked about how I manage art projects and time. I have an heretical approach and I was asked for more details. Here goes:
One of my longtime interests is in how humans think, learn and how to maintain good mental health. I read on the topics often. Here’s a few of my bookshelves full of books on these topics.
I’ve learned that humans tend to learn best by hearing stories or anecdotes or metaphors or allegories. Or by seeing examples or demonstrations. Rarely does a direction “do it like this” get followed. This includes self-directions related to art projects and time management. Even if the direction is followed often the purpose for “doing it like this” is rarely fully understood at the time. This includes self-directions.
Let me tell a story to illustrate what I mean: Once there was a mother, with a very tiny kitchen, who always cut her pot roasts in half before cooking them. She taught her daughter to cook pot roast by explaining and demonstrating. Her daughter grew up and had a daughter of her own. One day the grandmother was visiting. The daughter was in her very large kitchen demonstrating cooking a pot roast to her young daughter. She said proudly “In our family we always cut the roast in half first. Isn’t that right mom?” The grandmother replied “Oh, no! The only reason I cut my roast in half was that I didn’t have a pot or a stove big enough to hold a whole roast!”
Being aware of this attribute of human thought and attention I approach self-directions about my own art projects and time use rather sideways. More details below.
The other interesting thing I’ve learned about human thinking is that good mental health and happiness often happens while we’re busy doing something else. Often with, and for, other people. I think the same is true of creativity.
Similarly when humans feel good about, curious about or interested in something they’re more likely to do it. If we make activities we want to do fun and easier to do it increases the likelihood that they’ll be done.
So I give myself directions about my projects in terms of what I *want* to do rather than what I must do and I accept that I may not fully understand what I’m doing, or why, until after the project is completed. I’m also careful to keep lots of projects in various stages of production so that I’m “busy doing something else” and not as likely to get too focused (and too critical) about one project.
I’ve mentioned it before but my approach to creative projects and time management has it’s roots in a mental health book I illustrated “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit“. Below are a few of the pages that relate to what I’m blogging about today.
For much of my creative life I have taken these concepts about human thinking/emotional health and applied them to my overall approach to creative projects and time management. It has helped me to consistently get projects done in a sustainable and enjoyable way. I say my approach is heretical because I have known art coaches and art teachers who advocate, for example, “strict discipline to do one thing till it’s done” as if we are machines and I strongly reject that notion. That’s too much like lunging and grabbing at a stray cat. That’s a sure fire way to spook the cat – or the ideas – away!
My approach to creativity is similar to the method for befriending a shy cat. You see a cat hiding in the bushes and you can’t see enough of the cat to know what breed it is, whether it’s healthy or not or whether it’s wearing a collar. So you get some cat treats and with very slow movements place the treats strategically to coax the cat into visibility. You remove yourself, slowly, to a short distance where you do your best to act as if you’re *not* interested in the cat. With patience the cat will emerge at it’s own pace and you can see it. No lunging and grabbing is necessary on your part!
My morning work in my sketchbook is akin to the cat treats strategically placed. I wake up and I just play with words in my poetry sketchbook or with images in my mixed media sketchbook. I do *not* take these efforts seriously. This is just something fun to do while still half asleep waiting while the coffee percolates. Of course I hope something good will come from this work and often it does but that “good” is to be determined much later. At the time I’m drawing or writing in my sketchbook I’m thinking of it as a fun gentle way to ease into the day.
I literally keep these sketchbooks handy in my breakfast nook along with a few pens and a small gouache watercolor set. The sketchbooks and the watercolor set are small 3 x 5 inches or so. Seldom have I spent more than 10 minutes on these efforts. You see, I’m busy doing something else besides creating – I’m making breakfast and eating it with my spouse. But I have this regular habit of luring ideas into my sketchbook.
Here’s a few recent sketchbook pages.
When my idea-cat begins to emerge from several weeks of my sketchbook morning work I’ll begin gently, tentatively, feeding and petting the idea. I do this by reading books somewhat related to my idea, by writing about my idea on a legal pad, brainstorming in a what-if-I manner.
After doing enough sketchbook work and legal pad what-if work that I feel I’ve got something, some idea emerging into visibility, I’ll sometimes draw a series of thumbnail drawings on loose paper in color to try different color arrangements. Or perhaps I make a folded paper dummy of a book idea. Perhaps I’ll make larger drawings – redrawing images from my sketchbook onto art paper. I am still just playing around and seeing what could happen.
The intention is to test the idea in my sketchbooks to see if it might become something more than a sketch in my sketchbook. A bit more time is spent, 20 or 30 mins in this phase of idea attracting. These writings and drawings are kept in a 3 ring binder by topic or perhaps with a tentative working title related to what my idea may become: an art exhibit series? A childrens book? A greeting card??? Things are left very open ended.
Still I am busy doing other things – specifically my main art project of the moment – the binder is just a way to keep all of my notions on a theme handy in one spot. This is like giving that still shy cat a temporary foster home. This way we’ll keep track of kitty, give it some time to adjust, learn about kitty and see how it goes.
Here’s my shelf of 3 ring binders
Here’s some photos from the 3 ring binder for my currently in progress “How To Draw A Dragon” project. There are several folded paper book dummies, several rewrites of the poem and many drawings.
If a 3 ring binder project collection goes well and the idea begins to show promise – by ‘promise I mean ‘potential to be fun’ – then it may move to the “main project” status. The idea cat has been adopted…however we’re still in the probationary period. Anything could happen. This is where I currently am on my ” How To Draw A Dragon” project.
Here’s a few of the “Dragon” pages I did this week.
A main project has the serious art supplies out for it. It has the studio space devoted to it. Time during a day will be set aside for it, but not an entire day, I mean an hour or two. Time is set aside in a task-oriented way not a from-when-to-when on the clock way. I have a master list of tasks to be done on a main project and each day I pick from 1 to 3 of those tasks and set them as a goal to accomplish that day. That’s the establishing a working rhythm that I spoke of last post.
The main project is taken a tiny bit more seriously as in I will erase and redraw whereas in my sketchbooks, legal pads or binders I’ll leave a drawing however it is. I will also write and rewrite with attention to spelling and grammar on a main project. As I go I’m feeling my way along. The uncertainty is normal. Perhaps my idea cat isn’t ready for such attention. Or perhaps it will thrive on it. We will take it slowly and see. My “How To Draw A Dragon” so far seems to be thriving meaning it is still growing and becoming and I’m having fun with it.
Below is a studio photo showing that “How To Draw A Dragon” is filling my easel and overflowing into nearby surfaces. My art supplies used for this project are left out and handy. I don’t open windows in my studio so no breeze disturbs my papers. If you were to visit my house today we would stay far away from my studio because I have things in a careful order for my projects sake. My cat and dog are trained to not disturb things in my studio. There’s a door to my studio and I use it to remain undisturbed. A main project filling the studio is a tender kitten. I handle gently. I have heard art coaches speak of clearing ones working area at the end of each workday — that’s another area where I heretically scream *nooooo!*
Even with the extra attention given to a main project I carefully keep it fun and playful. I will find ways to “feed” a project- to feed my unconscious mind – for example by reading books related to the topic I’m making art about. For my current How To Draw A Dragon project I’m reading about creativity – about creating poetry in particular- and the interplay between our left brains and right brains, between our inner adult selves and our inner child selves. The topical reading is kept up for a duration of a project as it helps with my focus and fun. I simply cannot stress this enough *keep a project fun* and the project will likely get finished.
Another helpful way I keep going on a main project is that I *dedicate* the project to someone – I give the project a purpose, a reason for being (something *not* related to money or fame). I give it something beyond myself. The person or people I dedicate my work to often never know. But I am busy making my main project *for* somebody. During this pandemic openly dedicating works, or embedding symbols a friend might recognize, has been a fun way to stay in touch.
Here’s the dedication page for my Dragon book. Dedications for my fine art most often just happens in my mind.
It may be that I work on something as a main project for a while and it stalls. The stall could happen at the 3 ring binder stage or earlier in the sketchbook stage. A project may fluidly move back and forth between these three stages over a lengthy time period. This is another part of my business of art/creative heresy – I think this fluidity is perfectly normal and fine! Uncertainty is okay! I see it as part of the creative process, part of the ways a creative mind (and a subconscious mind) naturally works. Human brains are not linear machines! This is another reason I work on multiple projects – one stalls and I shift attention to another until the stalled one wants attention again.
Very carefully as I’m in the process of making artwork I avoid any sweeping declarative statements, to myself or anyone else, like “this is dumb” or “this is awesome”. I use moderate language statements, if a statement is needed and I can’t avoid it, I’ll say something like “so far so good” or “it’s a fun challenge”. To make a hard sweeping definitive declaration like “this is horrible” is to force a still-in-progress project into a labled pigeon hole. What may not work as a painting might be a good greeting card. I don’t know yet! When a project is in process I may think I am making X only to discover when I’ve finished that I’ve made Y instead. I deliberately leave linguistic and mental room for such progress! (See my pot roast story above) Harsh declarations make it hard to extract a project from the dispair/elation and continue. It makes it harder to allow a work to change from a painting to a greeting card. I prefer to leave room for discovering and being surprised by what a project becomes. It’s more fun that way. I would no more force an art project to become something than I would force a stray cat to accept a grooming before feeding it and earning its trust.
Here’s more from Dr Bob about being careful about self talk.
The tendency all humans have to take things too seriously- even obsessively – is another reason why I deliberately have multiple projects at various stages. One main studio project -or possibly two main projects- at a time but several other projects are being developed in my sketchbooks, legal pads and binders. This helps me not be too “precious” about any one of them. I work on something a while then stop working *while it’s still fun* and do something else. I find it helpful to try to stop working before I am too fatigued, while I’m still interested or enjoying my work and then move on to something else.
So I am always busy “doing something else” which allows my idea-cats space to breathe without micro-attention. This method allows my subconscious mind to work on my projects. I can trust that my inner voice will say “oh, let’s work on this!” when the next part of my idea is ripe. I can trust that I will keep returning to a project until it is finished.
When a main studio project is finished there is usually another project in a binder that’s developed enough that it’s ready for attention at my easel. No force to finish or start a project is needed. No strictness. No machine-like “discipline”. Knowing and accepting the way human minds are naturally has worked well for me. I work with my brain not against it. I am just playing around with topics that interest me. Like most real life fur covered cats I can trust that my idea-cats will tell me when it’s dinner time.
Speaking of dinner. The outstanding dinner of the week was broccoli pasta. I was out of fettuccine so I used short noodles but the recipe in my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook is still yummy!
Earlier this year I was asked to make some gender neutral fabric designs and put them on my Spoonflower shop so someone could get fabric with my designs and sew some bibs and blankets for a new baby.
Here’s a photo of me working at that time on the fabric pattern.
Here’s the finished original art
This week I was given, by the person who had requested the fabric patterns, pictures of some of the finished baby things they’ve made and permission to post about them! It was lovely having something fun like this to post about as my Dragon project is still becoming and is in the gawky teenage stage and camera shy.
Where I tend to run out of time in a day is the social media promotion thing. And frankly there are times, especially when I’m busy, that I’d rather just do my art projects than talk about them. But talking about them is necessary and most of the time I enjoy doing it so… Anyway, I really appreciate it when people share what I post or when someone sends me photos of themselves with my fine art or artist books or share photos of what they sewed with my fabric designs! It helps and is such fun to see!
Anyway, here’s the photos of a burp cloth and a few blankets my friend created with my fabrics! They turned out so well!! The sewing is marvelous!
Hope this description of how I manage my art projects and deal with time was interesting and even helpful to you as you do your own creative projects! Have a creative week and I’ll see you next Monday.
A work rhythm has been fairly firmly established. I wrote about that in my last post. My days now have a regularity that goes like this:
Breakfast time contains sketchbook drawings with or without characters from my currently in progress childrens book “How To Draw A Dragon”
Perhaps after eating breakfast I spend a few minutes more reading a poem or working the crossword puzzle with my spouse (we take turns doing 5 or 6 clues) while we finish our coffee. (The poem in the photo below is by Robert Service)
Then I pour another cup of coffee and carry it to the studio. There I look at the work I did last and my project schedule/guide that I described in my last post. I sip my coffee and settle in to work.
By now I’ve done about 10 of the 32 pages but even those, as you can probably see in the photos below, aren’t really finished. Some elements like the text will be the last to be inked and only after all 32 pages have been mostly finished. Similarly I will edit and ink all of the elements of foreshadowing for my poem story after all 32 pages are mostly inked.
As I work I am thinking of the pages both as page spreads and as individual pages.
These pages below have been quickly photographed where they are on my easel for sharing my progress with you here. My set up for photos for book reproductions is another thing entirely- and I’m not at that point yet.
The sharp eyed will probably notice that some changes have been made to my story setting and to my poem text since my last post.
Basically I’m in the early stages of this book project and everything is in flux and there aren’t “for public” images for this project yet.
And my books. I talk about one of the 9 books in my portfolio. Or I talk about one of my 10 books on Storyberries. Or I post a photo of my cat or dog. Or I post nothing at all. Especially as I settle into a project working rhythm I find I’m online less and less. That said I do enjoy finding your kind comments when I check in! And I thank you in advance for them.
Lunch, however, is rarely missed. This week the easiest meals were bean and grain bowls like this photo below and here’s the recipe scheme from my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook.
After lunch I head back to the studio for more work on my How To Draw A Dragon book. Generally speaking I get 2 pages finished per day. If I’m lucky I’ll get a start on a 3rd page. But my focus is on maintaining a work rhythm not in a quota of pages. If I have to totally redo a page and thus only get one page done in a day that’s fine! I just keep going! It’s a dance between discipline and the spaciousness of pleasurable play as talked about in this article.
I did take the time this week to go with my spouse to visit a new independent bookstore in our town Birdhouse Books! This was my book haul.
Short stories, poems and short essays give me an intellectual boost without requiring an investment of time like a long novel does. But sometimes a long novel is just the thing to accompany a long creative project. It just depends.
What’s not in question is the fact that time to sit and read each evening is essential to helping me maintain a steady working rhythm.
Hope your week has some good rhythms too! See you next Monday.
My crocodile became a dragon as I’ve been working on a new childrens book. I’ve been alternating work in both my poetry sketchbook, the orange book on the left, and my black visual sketchbook on the right.
Below is a look at my handwritten poem text in my poetry sketchbook.
I also have a 3 ring binder in which I have collected sketches and drafts of the poem text. Initially I was calling my poem “How to paint a crocodile”. My idea was to do a coloring activity book featuring a human child and a realistic crocodile. But the humanness didn’t feel right to me. And the crocodile felt too, well, reptilian.
So in my black sketchbook I tried a few more cartoon-like crocodile drawings. I’ve done many sketches and am only showing a few here in order to keep this post brief. Also not pictured are my sketches of various animals along my way to a decision to make the human child character into a rabbit.
The crocodile kept feeling too sinister in my sketches. So I dropped, temporarily, the coloring book concept and just painted who might be the main adult-like logical no-nonsense left-brain character to play opposite my rabbit right-brain creative playful child-like rabbit. The “adult” character it turns out is a dragon.
So I went with the dragon! In subsequent sketches I resumed my coloring book notion. The working title for my coloring book poem now is “How to draw a dragon”. I’m using the word ‘draw’ in the sense of ‘attract’ in addition to the usual sense of drawing with a pencil. Below are a few sketchbook drawings of the dragon in which I aim for busy adult postures – grumpy perhaps but not sinister.
Besides rewriting my poem in my poetry sketchbook I have also rewritten my poem on scraps of paper which are kept in my binder. There are -tons – more rewrites and sketches than I’ve shared in this post. Here I’m sharing just enough, I hope, to give you a sense of my working process. When I felt my poem was settled, more or less, I wrote it on a stiff paper so it could stand on my easel as I work. You can see it below.
When I spoke in a my last post of “having my crocodile project all over my studio” the photo below perhaps gives you a sense of what I mean. In this photo the papers on my easel look blank but there are pencil drawings on them. There’s also a blizzard of drawings in ink on tracing paper.
Multiple drawings on tracing paper enable me to draw a character similarly but holding or doing different things as the character goes through my story. Below you can propably see what I mean.
Yes, I know there are computer programs that would enable me to copy and paste character elements from one page to another. I have used such programs in the past. But I find it more satisfying to do original hand made drawings for every element within a book. I fancy myself as like a chef who prides herself on using local ingredients and cutting them up fresh when a dish is requested. A chef’s hand made dish is better, I think, than a frozen box meal reheated. But I digress.
Below is a “scene” or a stage set upon which my characters will act. I’ve made a master template in ink on tracing paper which I will use for reference – and for story foreshadowing – throughout my poem book.
Below is a look at some of the rabbit character sketches on tracing paper.
Below is a look at a few of my dragon character sketches. I feel I’ve finally found a balance between a grumpy adult appearance while not being too sinister.
Here’s a closer look at the Rabbit character.
As I build these pages I will do my story foreshadowing using many visual elements. So even after I get the entire book drawn the visual foreshadowing will still need to be carefully edited. But first I’ll get the entire book roughed in. Lots of work to do.
To help get me to my studio work more quickly in the mornings most of the evenings I’ve been making overnight oats. Into lidded mason jars I put some raw uncooked old fashioned oat meal, some milk to cover the oats, maple syrup, fruit like raspberries or blueberries (or both) and yogurt. Then I add a bit more milk as needed, put the lids on and put the jars in my refrigerator. In the mornings I don’t have to think of what’s for breakfast or spend time cooking. I can get right to my sketchbook work!
Also this week I delivered the artist books that the Aurora Gallery had requested along with some signed bookplates! You can see more about each of these books on my portfolio page.
My plan is to work steadily on my Dragon, a bit of work almost every day, until it’s finished. Some days only a short burst of work will happen but other days I’ll have more time to spend.
So along with my tracing paper templates I’ve made a strategy, a loose agenda/schedule, of items to be done on this project which I’ll use as a guide to enable me to pick up wherever I left off even if I only have 10 minutes of time to work. I’ll use the same guide if I have hours of time. Such a project schedule is a guideline – a suggested working rhythm – it is not a god to be worshipped or slavishly obeyed. My guide is a way for me to keep this project in small manageable chunks. Keeping it small helps me to maintain momentum and to keep it fun. (There’s even a business article here about the kind of strategy I’m talking about.)
I have already spent months working on this poem and have only just this week outlined, and otherwise prepared, 32 pages to draw, ink and hand letter over the coming weeks. In other words I am just now ready to begin in earnest. Forming a good steady working rhythm now is crucial. So is focusing on the fun.
Some sort of strategy – I like to call it “planning the mundane” – some consideration for keeping long haul projects like this manageable, not overwhelming, is important. But it’s the fun that is the lynchpin of what keeps a creative project sustainable. So I consider having fun the most serious aspect of living a creative life.
Hope your creative week is sustainably fun too! See you next Monday.
June 25 through the 28th we had an intense heatwave here in the Pacific Northwest. It was hot enough to melt cables on the streetcar. It was hotter than the Mojave desert. My spouse and I stayed in the room of our house with the ceiling fan and the portable air conditioning unit. We drank water like it was a career. We ate salty snacks to help stay hydrated. We hugged ice packs to help cool our cores.
Most homes in the Pacific Northwest don’t have A/C because normal summer temperatures average in the mid 70’s to low 80’s. Very rarely are the temps higher than 90 degrees. A strategy of opening windows and doors in the cool of morning and at night then closing them just before the temperature gets to the 70’s is usually enough to keep a house comfortable all day.
Allegedly the recent heatwave was a once in a thousand year heat dome exacerbated by the climate crisis. Whatever you want to call it – it was very hot. And it took me most of a week to recover. 118 degrees outside and 93 degrees inside even with the air conditioning running full blast feels hotter than you can imagine. Hugging an ice pack like a teddy bear really helped.
During the heat wave I did a lot of reading and by habit I continued my daily drawing in my sketchbook. But my new crocodile project (prior post) is spread out in my studio where it was far too hot to stay more than a few minutes. So the only progress on my crocodile was an email discussion with the folks at Storyberries about formats. Still some forward motion and I’m glad of that!
Anyway, here’s some random sketchbook pages created under the ceiling fan next to the A/C. And yes, besides water we did drink our morning coffee.
What do you eat for meals when it’s record-breaking hot? Milkshakes, salads and sandwiches. Here’s the relevant pages from our Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook. I was glad I had made a book of our favorite foods to pull from because it was too hot to think properly much less be creative in the kitchen.
The process of dealing with the heat was something of a learning curve. Did I mention that heat is not normal for the cool rainy Pacific Northwest?! Here in case it’s needed – which I hope it won’t be – is an article about being safe in extreme heat.
Then later, July 2nd, there were my art openings at Burnt Bridge Cellars and at the Aurora Gallery! Fortunately I felt enough better by then to do social media to share about them.
Here below is what the Aurora Gallery shared of part of the Gallery exhibit. My “Bear, Matt” original art and a few of the prints can be seen in the lower left corner.
My original “Bear, Matt” painting was done on a beermat coaster I’d gotten on a trip to Buoy Beer. (details in an earlier post) So the back of the original art shows the brewpub logo. You can see both sides below.
In case you missed it here’s a blog post about my “Bear, Matt” project. The photo below shows a few of the prints. You know it’s a print because the back is plain except for my studio logos.
It was a treat this week, a real bright spot, to hear from my favorite college art history professor! She wrote of her delight in having gotten a copy of my new childrens book On Looking At Odditorium and her pleasure at still having one of my paintings in her dining room! Wow!! How nice is that?!
Back when her children were young I had the thrill of having her children as two of my “favorite fans” – one of her girls had even specifically picked out artwork of mine to buy for their very own collection! Oh, that ranks high in my list of happy memories!
Now this week my professor added to my happiness by sending me this photo!! In the top left corner you can see one of my artworks circa 20 years ago give or take. I remember being so excited back then when my painting found a home with this professor!
Also this week I got to sign some of my green dragon bookplates for another dear friend’s two grandkids!! That was another high point!!
It was also an uplift, during the heatwave itself, to post here the conversation I’d had earlier before the heatwave began with Mrs Perry, the guest art teacher I featured, and then to follow the readers comments!!
I just love doing the work I do and I would do it even if there wasn’t anybody around to notice. But I really like creating my artwork as part of an ongoing conversation with friends. And it certainly helped my own spirits this week to hear from friends that my artwork brings them joy!
So note to self: go ahead and write that fan letter, send that card, type that text and tell someone something kind. You might make a really big difference in someone’s week and help them get through a rough spell.
Stay cool and hydrated this week and know that I appreciate it that you follow my blog. See you next Monday.
Clancy: Hi Mrs Perry thanks for being here! What are you up to these days?
Mrs Perry: My crazy thought is to provide all 1879 Elementary schools in Washington State with 18 SEL/ART lessons for free. The SEL/ART lessons can be accessed for free through Mrs Perry’s Art Studio online library.
Clancy: Oooh! Ambitious! But wait a minute what’s SEL?
Mrs. Perry: SEL stands for Social Emotional Learning. With the release of ARP Funding -American Rescue Plan Funding- millions of dollars have been allocated to the school districts. I have been attending ARP webinars and listening to ARP podcasts. Every webinar and podcast I listen to states clearly the importance of covid recovery. They highly recommend SEL – Social Emotional Learning.
Turns out ART is all about SEL. I have been working with East Farms School Counselor, Savannah Maxwell. We are developing a SEL/ART program to address the issues students are experiencing due to the pandemic. We are developing the program for East Farms students but in addition we are adding 18 SEL/ART lessons to Mrs Perry’s Art Studio.
Creating art teaches innovation, problem solving, focus and perseverance. Perhaps more importantly, art helps students express emotion in a meaningful and positive way.
Clancy: Oh yes! I totally agree with you and I use art making as an emotional health tool in my own daily studio practice! My studio is in Western Washington you said your art studio is based in Washington state too is that right? What percentage of the schools here in Washington have art teachers on staff?
Mrs Perry: Yes, I’m on the East side of Washington state in Spokane. Only 7% of Washington Schools have an in house art instructor. In most cases if Elementary students get art it’s provided by the teachers. Mrs Perry’s Art Studio provides fine art lessons teaching OSPI art standards and most lessons can be integrated with student curriculum all designed to bring fine art to every elementary students, making it easy and convenient for the teachers, no prep, just a click of a button.
Clancy: Oh this is a wonderful project! Everyone needs art in their lives no matter how young or old so I think this is great that you’re making it so easy! But what about the art supplies needed for your lessons?
Mrs Perry: No art supplies are required, only pencil and paper is needed for every art project.
Clancy: Keeping the art supply needs simple is a great way to make learning something about art easier for everyone. There’s got to be a lot of pressure currently on teachers and students with the pandemic and distance learning. Doesn’t that add to the need for SEL?
Mrs Perry: Even though the teachers already address SEL daily in their classrooms, teachers are feeling more pressure and overwhelmed with another program to learn. Savannah and I have created the 18 lessons to benefit teachers and the students. SEL/ ART lessons are provided with a click of a button, and a big bonus, no prep.
Clancy: We’re all in this together aren’t we? Hey, can we see one of your lessons and see the kind of thing you’re doing?
Mrs Perry: How about a Monstar? It’s one of the 3 free lessons I offer: Little Monstar is so much fun and teaches art standard for K-1st grades. Zentangle Sea Turtle is loved by 2nd-3rd grade. Zentangle Tree teaches art techniques and art standards for 4th-6th grade. Zentangle is drawing style that uses patterns to help students with focus and concentration.
Art lessons are divided into 2 parts to better accommodate class time availability.
Clancy: Wow! Thank you for your generosity!! These look like such fun!! What’s your website address again and what else can you tell us about your art lessons?
Mrs Perry: Mrs Perry’s Art Studio is a professional online art lesson annual subscription, similar to Mystery Science, but teaches fine art. It is an opportunity to bring art lessons to a school at a fraction of the cost of hiring an art teacher and it makes art lessons easily accessible to all staff and students! Here’s my website https://mrsperrysartstudio.com/
The art lessons were created by me – Sami Perry – a local Spokane Washington Artist and the Resident Artist at East Farms S.T.E.A.M. Magnet School, this flagship program has solidified the “A” for ART!
Each lesson within the online library focuses on developing imagination and creativity while building self esteem. The O.S.P.I. educational art standards are embedded within the art curriculum and is presented in a simple and easy to follow instructional medley complete with supply lists.
Mrs Perry’s Art Studio is a fine arts lesson library filled with over 50 lessons (and growing) for grades K-6th. It’s fun, it’s inspiring and it’s educational. For even more entertainment Mrs Perry’s dog Beulah teaches the art vocabulary. She’s a hit and kids listen!
Clancy: A dog!! I love dogs!! Can we see a picture of Beulah on your website?
Mrs Perry: Yes, here’s Beulah.
Clancy: Oh, what a handsome dog!!!Thanks so much for sharing all of this with me! I wish you the best of luck!! Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to leave us with?
Mrs Perry: “Art has the role in education of helping children become like themselves instead of more like someone else” ~ Sydney Gurewitz Clemens
To my awareness there aren’t many books for children that talk about looking at an artist’s exhibit whether the fine art is in a book or on walls.
I think looking at a book of fine art is similar to looking at a wordless picture book. Looking at one artist’s series of paintings on a gallery wall is like a wordless book too. But looking at fine art, while there are similarities to wordless picture books, it is also different; a collection of fine art often refers to the feelings and lived experiences of the artist in addition to any visual story there may be within the artwork itself.
So I’ve been lucky enough to work with Storyberries to create a childrens book On Looking At Odditorium that I hope will help kids enjoy looking at artwork and be able to speculate about the artist’s thinking.
Towards that end I created cartoon drawings of myself so they could take a trip (or tour) through a book of my Odditorium fine art exhibit and explain what I was thinking and how I created each painting.
Here’s a closer look at all of the avatar drawings. In many of my childrens books on Storyberries.com there’s a photo of me wearing a sweater. For consistency sake I drew myself in a sweater pointing this way and that.
I want to encourage imaginations so in the book I try to both show and tell what using imagination is like.
For a childrens book I didn’t want to get too technical about art materials and methods but I did want to share something about them. I wanted to share especially when the materials and methods directly interacted with my imagination.
Below is a look at the book layout so you can see the little avatars on tour across a page spread.
The adult version of my Odditorium exhibit coffee table book does not have the avatar or descriptions. Here’s what the cover of the adult book looks like.
And here’s the childrens book version titled “On Looking At Odditorium“. The cover design is very similar to the adult book on purpose – to emphasize that anyone of any age can look at art. The layout inside this book is different as is the kind of paper for the printed books. I wanted paper likely to withstand children’s hands.
Storyberries has a extra special ebook edition that went live within hours of this post. And I love the nesting specialness of this project: it’s a fine art exhibit called Odditorium at Burnt Bridge Cellars via Caplan Art Designs that has a companion exhibit book titled Odditorium. The Odditorium exhibit book then has a companion childrens book version titled On Looking At Odditorium. Then the special ebook on Storyberries – which you can see here for free – about looking at On Looking At Odditorium! Here’s what the Storyberries ebook version looks like at the top…
Did you get all the nesting nuances to this project? I’ve hopefully laid it all out clearly on my portfolio page about this project… but even if no one besides me sees the nesting qualities – thinking about it in this interlocking way served to help me construct it all – my main point is for people to have fun.
Needless to say it’s been a very busy week. There’s been food, some of it tasty and blog-worthy, but I was tired and just ate it without photos or noting recipes.
Also due to busy-ness not much was done on my new crocodile project mentioned last post. But I have kept up my sketchbook activities and reading books of an evening. Sketching and reading are like breathing.
So I’ll not promise anything specific for next Monday… but there will be something. Hopefully, something that encourages your own creative life or is at least entertaining for you.
Till next time – have a good week looking at stuff.
“Warning” by Jenny Joseph is one of my favorite poems. I particularly like these lines “…and hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes…”. But I hadn’t read that poem or thought of it in a while (you can see the entire poem here).
Earlier this month I received the prospectus for a “reclaimed canvas” art exhibit upcoming at the Aurora Gallery. (This is the project I hinted at in my last post.) The Reclaimed Canvas is an art exhibit asking the gallery artists to paint on something not normally used as a canvas or surface for painting. So I began this new project by rummaging around my studio for a not-typical thing to paint on. Look what I found – boxes of pens, pencils and beermats!
Suddenly I remembered the poem “Warning” by Jenny Joseph…. and had a good chuckle at myself. Of course I reread the poem and laughed some more.
Before we visited, and later moved to, the Pacific Northwest I didn’t think I liked beer. But here in the Pacific Northwest there are locally owned microbreweries and the beer is worth taste testing – and both the brewpubs and the beers often reflect the region in which they’re located. So having a beer in one of the microbrew pubs includes a bit of regional history and personal stories. Often there’s beautiful scenery too. Oh, and did I mention that the beer tastes surprisingly good?
As I looked through my collection of beermats in my pencil box I thought of poetry and word play in general. I also remembered our various visits to the brewpubs whose beermats I had in hand. I evaluated the qualities of the beermats themselves as a possible canvas for a painting.
Here’s the beermat I chose for my new painting project – the first photo shows the front of the beermat and then the next photo shows the back of it.
Bouy Beer is in Astoria Oregon and the brewpub sits right on the water. When entering the pub you can walk over a large glass floor. Through the glass floor you can often see the sea lions lounging on the pier beneath. We’ve enjoyed sitting in the pub on the waters edge, watching ships and marine wildlife. Sitting there, with a beer, I’m aware of the intimate connection this one spot has with the entire world: international ships come and go as do migrating whales, geese and sea lions. I love the way it is both a unique place with it’s own regional quirks and yet it openly, joyfully, participates in a wider world. It’s a wonderful reminder that one can be fully ones particular self while also being fully within, and open to, a diverse world. The food menu at Buoy Beer is also an enchanting fusion of world cuisines… but I dangerously digress. I have so many good memories of this particular pub and look forward to each visit. Oh, and they brew really good beers!
Anyway, for an animal character to use in my painting on the Buoy Beer beermat I thought about having a sea lion drinking beer, a great blue heron drinking beer, a whale drinking…. eventually, after a number of sketchbook drawings, I settled on the character of a bear. My main reasons for choosing a bear is that I could do a wordplay title for the finished art … but also the shape of bear, physically, could evoke the feeling and the relaxing-into-hybernation pose that I associate with the flavor of one of my favorite beers when it’s seasonally available at Bouy Beer.
Here’s a sketch I did when exploring my thoughts.
And below is the painting I did on one of the 4 inch round coasters I had collected during one of our trips to Bouy Beer (which I kept in a pencil box with the rest of my beermat collection – 🤣). I painted on the coaster with gouache and have titled it …wait for it… “Bear, Matt”
The back of my “Bear, Matt” painting has the title and other data written by hand.
I did seal the beermat with a clear primer before I began painting on it and when my painting was finished and dry I varnished the artwork. Plus the art will likely be framed at the Aurora Gallery. So what was once an ephemeral throw-away object now will potentially last quite a bit longer.
I think of this new project as fitting in with my recent household surrealism thinking: a mundane object was thought about in a new way.
With this thought, given my sense of humor, I simply couldn’t resist turning my original painting “Bear, Matt” back into ephemeral beermats. So on my Zazzle shop I made round paper coasters – beermats – that are copies or art prints of my original “Bear, Matt” artwork! The back of these printed coasters is blank. That’s one way you can tell the copy from the original. You can get these here.
After finishing “Bear, Matt” and delivering the original to the Aurora Galley a few days ago – I visited, in masked-up person, another favorite local independent bookstore called Daedalus Books. This bookstore is especially alluring for me with my interests in literature, fine art, poetry, books about books, artist books, literary studies, culture, history and philosophy. You can see how tempting it was… in the photo below is my book haul!
Another new project in progress contains a crocodile. In the photo below you can see my orange poetry sketchbook and my crocodile poem written by hand. Also in the photo is a binder that holds my drawing attempts, book dummies and poem drafts. Yes, I’m working on a new children’s book. I plan to update this blog over the coming weeks with my progress…
My spouse’s garden has lots of garlic scapes and some radish greens so the memorable meal this week was the pasta with radish greens and garlic scapes recipe below!
Hope your week is full of fun memories and your own collections of beermats, pencils and pens!
Last week I took 3 boxes containing all of my Odditorium fineart into Burnt Bridge Cellars where it will be through the end of July. Everything I’ve done over the last year is now in the capable hands of the winery and the Caplan Art Designs art gallery!
My spouse took this photo as I paused with one of the boxes on my way into the back patio door of the winery.
Due to our state’s Covid19 protocols reservations are needed for drinking and eating indoors or outdoors at the winery. Masked people are welcome to drop in to see the fine art and buy bottles or growlers of wines. When not seated masks are required.
While not exactly a full art opening the winery took reservations for a special Friday night dinner: marinated salmon or chicken sate by Class Cooking and of course one could sit and enjoy a variety of wines!! Masks can be removed when seated it’s just when walking about that they’re needed.
Friday night there was live music outside on the winery patio. And you could go inside to see my fineart and artistbooks then you could go outside to hear the music or vice versa.
These photos below are a look at my Odditorium artexhibit on the winery walls before people came (there are more photos here).
Below is a photo of the artist books that are in the basket in the photo above.
And my green dragon bookplates did come in time!! I had hoped in my last post to sign a few of the bookplates for the exhibit in case someone wanted one in one of my books.
Anyway, I was very aware all week that in the best of times and conditions I don’t hear well. Add the masks worn sensibly during a fading pandemic and lip reading isn’t an option either. So I made the decision to stay home even though I could have made a reservation at Burnt Bridge Cellars and spent at least some time at the winery during the first Friday my Odditorium art exhibit was available.
But I know myself and I know that if I saw someone looking at my art I’d want to pop up from my seat put my mask on and try to talk with them and try to hear what they’d say even knowing it wouldn’t be likely…. so I just chose to not put myself in that situation.
While it was a sensible decision I still had some upset feelings about it. So I worked on remembering this 👇
Bookstores and libraries have often been my places of consolation. So my spouse and I went and had our first in-person visit to a local independent bookstore Vintage Books ! We’ve both been buying online from Vintage Books for a year now…but the impulse buying when indiebookstore shopping in person can’t be beat!! https://www.vintage-books.net/
Here’s a selfie I snapped inside the store. At the time we went there were only two other customers and two store employees. We were all spread out throughout the store. It was silent (at least to my perception) except for one of the two store cats who sat up when I neared the shelf where she lay and said “meow”. Vintage Books has both new and used books so the store smelled like book heaven even though my mask. I loved the sights of the colorful book spines and book covers displayed on shelves from floor to ceiling. The staff write handwritten notes about books and I enjoy seeing the various handwriting styles in various places on the shelves. There were multiple spaces where books from different topics/genres had been collected together with staff comments like “if you like the topic in this book then you may like these too” – and that’s a sure way to get me to impulse buy! 🤣
Here’s a photo of my book haul.
Then after we got home I used my usual “how to pick a book” method. I’ve described it in Another Sketchbook and also included it on this coffee mug in my Zazzle shop.
It felt so good to have an extended length of time reading!!
Another soul satisfying restorative was finding that my order from Paperblanks came!!! (https://www.paperblanks.com/en/) Yippee!!! I buy blank books 5 or 6 at a time because it gives me the joyous feeling that I can write with impunity. I can draw with abandon. I can liberally spread the sunshine of my imagination. I can run around with my pen… I can…I can… I can…❤❤❤❤🖋🖋🖋☕☕❤❤❤❤
So this weekend I immersed myself in my books, I dipped into novels like a diver into a swimming pool. I also swam freely in my new orange poetry sketchbook book (mentioned last post). The orange book was the last unused book from my last order-of-5 books. Whenever I get to the last few books I order more immediately.
Several meals this week were quick sandwiches: cream cheese, various vegetables chopped up and some spring greens on lavash bread rolled up. A rolled sandwich only requires one hand to hold it which leaves the other hand free to hold a book! The Atoria Lavash are some of the best I’ve tasted and they ship directly from the bakery! Anyway here’s a link to the sandwich rolling technique https://www.atoriasfamilybakery.com/wrap-like-a-pro/
While my Odditorium exhibit will run through the end of July in subsequent posts I’m going to turn this blog towards new projects. I’ve already started new fine art that continues this Odditorium theme. The new art will be destined for exhibit in September. There’s also the children’s book version of my Odditorium exhibit book still to be released. So periodically on this blog I will probably return to this theme. But I’ve also got a different project in progress that I also want to share with you…
More about that next Monday. I hope your week is a good one!
Literature and art are forms of self care and of care work. I’ve thought of this as I have worked in my household surrealism projects. Home is where most of us practice self care and care for others. We all need regular care and comfort, including the care and comforts to be found all of the Arts, so it feels crucial to have fine art, literature and music in ones home.
With that in mind this week I did a short video about why I make art. Spoiler alert: I want to make the visual art equivalent of freshly baked cookies and a kind note. Video here: https://youtu.be/GYiby2CfySc
And as part of those thoughts I’ve changed my avatar for most of my social media to this green dragon reading a book. For me green dragons represent creativity/imagination and books represent love and caring.
When I can I’ve directly signed the artist books I’ve written and illustrated. Often I’ve also doodled something right on the page. Like this…
But there are many times when that isn’t possible so I’ve signed and doodled on a piece of label paper and mailed that to the book owner for the book owner to affix in the book. That’s seemed to work. Finally I had the notion to make a bookplate specifically for this purpose. Hence the green dragon. Will update about the bookplate when I get them from the printer…
Anyway, here’s a look at some of the Odditorium artwork in the frames. I get the frames made at a local frame shop Aurora Gallery (www.auroragalleryonline.com) but I put the art in the frames myself. I think of how my paintings might hang on someone’s wall and lift spirits.
Here below are some of the odd greeting cards I’ve made with some of my Odditorium art. I love the pun of creating household surrealism artwork and then using that to make household items like greeting cards, mugs and coasters. The collection of Odd Cards is here and you can find some of the other items in my Zazzle shop.
These cards are long and skinny and come with an envelope. A message can be written on the back. I imagine someone smiling when getting one of these cards in the mail.
Since I told about the green dragon avatar and upcoming bookplate here’s a look at the two other logos I use on my cards, books and mugs.
Here’s another Odditorium painting “Favorite Walk” in its frame. The idea for this painting was a combination of outdoor walks my spouse and I enjoy along with red shoes a fellow artist family member has depicted in her artwork. So the red shoes are a “hello” to a family member….and they’re just fun!
Here’s us on a recent windy rainy walk in one of our favorite spots. I imagine you can see a relationship between my painting “Favorite Walk” and the landscape in the photos below.
So I am glad people will get to see my art in person and will be able to buy some of my artist book titles while enjoying some very good wine! Even given this good news I am continuing my virtual art exhibit efforts with the printed picture book Odditorium and the new (still in progress) portfolio page. And I’m glad my art will also be accessible via Caplan Art Designs. I tell ya it takes a village…
Here are some of the artist books (many of them signed) that will be available during my Odditorium exhibit. All of my books are also accessible digitally here and here. I imagine people looking at my books and enjoying sharing them with others even if they don’t see my original art in person.
Of course I don’t know for certain how my fine art or anything else will be received. Rarely do I actually see my artwork hanging in someone’s home or office. I can only create and imagine and that’s enough motivation for me. I do treasure the comments and photos people have shared with me of their joy and delight in my work!
I like the thought that via my art I may be contributing to people’s happiness. Human minds need books, art, music anything that healthily feeds the imagination. Minds need good nutrition just like bodies do. Mental health also includes the comforts of homemade cookies.
In my studio I keep this quote where I’ll see it often. “One must care about a world one will never see.” Bertrand Russell
Speaking of love and caring: here’s a super yummy homemade cookie recipe of my spouse’s creation!
May you have many pleasant moments of comfort this week with cookies and storytime of your own! See you next Monday?