Recently I was in a local coffee shop and a coffee cup was silhouetted beside a rainy window. Steam rising from the cup. Such a simple thing but I began thinking of how many stories begin with simple things and grow, cumulatively, until they become epics.
Like Pug dogs. So small yet so large in personality especially as they mature.
Here’s a painting I did that was inspired by these thoughts. I’ve titled it “Epic Tales of The Pug King”.
Epic Tales Of The Pug King – by Clancy – 16 x 20 – acrylic and gouache on board.
I wrote the story that’s ‘printed’ in the book depicted in the painting and hand-lettered it, with brush and acrylic, into place on the page-within-the-painting.
My wife came into my studio, saw my work-in-progress and said “What’s the rest of that story?”, saying that she wanted to turn the Pugs page for him and continue reading. Then she challenged me to write the rest of the story.
Right this minute I’m enjoying the visual pun – that the Pug’s epic story-poem, ahem, is really, really, short. Plus the setting and my character, the Pug dog, are not particularly grand as the word “epic” would imply.
And that’s in keeping with my feeling that the most important elements of this world are actually the mundane ones, the humble ones. Daily life and the qualities of it can have more impact on a person than the grandest once-in-a-lifetime vacation might.
I love this quote from Annie Dillard “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.”
Most of my artwork is me telling visual stories inspired by data from my real-life. A kind of “creative nonfiction”. When I do art commissions the client provides the life-data and I tell their story. A kind of “biography”. Elements from a persons real-life are woven into the portrait of their dog or cat. I love helping people tell their stories!
Like this commission I recently finished… pictured below… the coffee cup is special to the owner, the tee-shirt logo is important… and of course the dog looks like their very special dog, Potter.
I had such fun drawing this dog – (those ears!!!) – and working with the client who commissioned this portrait. They gave me such good data to work with!
“Potter” by Clancy (ink and gouache on handmade paper)
If you’re curious about some of my other commission work you can see them here.
On one of my walks near the Columbia River I had the pleasure of seeing, then meeting, a mutt. She was a beautiful white and buff longhaired dog, larger than a Labrador, stockier than a Greyhound and hairier than a Golden Retriever. I asked the owner what breed she was and the owner didn’t know. The dog and human had rescued each other. The dog was friendly, beautiful and let me make drawings of her in my sketchbook.
Fast forward to my currently in progress reading and books in art series – and the wonderful mutt I’d met made an appearance:
“Meditations For The Metrosexual Mutt” by Clancy – 16 x 20 inches – acrylic on cradled board – image copyright 2019
Yes, in “Meditations For The Metrosexual Mutt” I’ve spoofed a famous painting by James Whistler along with two of my own still life paintings. If you look at the titles I’ve used for each of my paintings you’ll get a hint about my theme…
“Life’s a bowl of cherries, stems pits and all” – by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – acrylic and gouache on board
The still life, pictured below, is on the deep cradled edge of “Meditations for the Metrosexual Mutt”, where it will only be seen if you’re able to see my work in person.
“Gala” by Clancy – acrylic and gouache on board
The selection of Whistler’s famous painting to spoof was deliberate as the art history around Whistler’s work is part of my meditation on life, beginnings, origin stories etc.
I imagined that the dog in my painting is reading a book titled “Meditations For The Metrosexual Mutt” – which is why I used that as the title for my work.
As you can tell I’m still thinking about “nesting ideas” and stories within stories…
Here’s a new painting in my “reading and books in art” series. I confess that I love printed dictionaries, thesaurus’s and puzzle/game related books. In my art studio resource shelves I have 8 dictionaries, 3 thesaurus’s and 5 puzzle/game related books. Art idea gold-mines in my opinion. Naturally a Boston Terrier would consult one of these books…
“The Arf Thesaurus” by Clancy – 16 x 20 inches – acrylic and gouache on board —- image copyright 2019
The puzzle in the painting is actually work-able – at least somewhat – if you could get the Boston Terrier to move his arm. It was fun to imagine a puzzle related to sounds (words?) a dog makes.
If you look in the upper corner of this painting you’ll see that I’ve spoofed another painting that I did earlier.
“Good Morning” – by Clancy – 11 x 17 inches – acrylic and gouache on board – image copyright 2019
As I’ve worked toward this exhibit theme of reading and books in art I’ve become aware again of my love of words so I’ve also been experimenting with abecedarian poems, nonsense poems and made up words. This is in conjunction with thinking about constructing some artist books related to my upcoming reading and books themed art exhibit.
Still noodling about this concept of nesting-ideas-within-nested-ideas I’d mentioned in my last post. We’ll see where it goes.
And yes, I love it when I take the time to sit and work a crossword puzzle. I’m not up to The New York Times puzzle level yet. Someday perhaps. I’ve known two people who could do the Sunday NYT puzzle in ink. They impressed me enough with their level of education/smarts that I started on the bunny-slope level of crosswords. They inspired me reading more widely too. I like to think I’ve gotten a little better at puzzling since then.
Do you like crossword puzzles?
I’ve begun a new series of fine art pieces intended for exhibits later this year. (Yes, I’ve a deadline dragon) And I’ve been thinking of how when I walk into a library or bookstore I feel like I’m entering a galaxy. Words and ideas that are interrelated with other words and ideas, like an array of planets and stars, or like nesting dolls or stuffed vegetables.
Also in my thoughts; the way I can experience something first hand but when I read about that same experience in a book I have a delightful momentary shock of recognition and I better understand my experience.
So I’m exploring these thoughts, as best I can, within my new series.
Here’s one of my new pieces:
“Good Smells: A Memoir of A Lifelong Pursuit” by Clancy – image copyright Sue Clancy 2019
You’ll notice, I’m sure, the “nesting” ideas of the coffee and mints. There’s a real still life, also by me, which is spoofed within the above painting that I will also include in my upcoming exhibit. I love the idea that a viewer could find the real-life painting that is referred to within another painting – sort of a “find the image” puzzle exhibit.
Here’s a picture of the still life referred to in the painting above:
“After Dinner” by Clancy – copyright Sue Clancy 2019
I’m also thinking it’ll be fun to also include at least one artist book version of an imaginary book depicted in one of my paintings – so the viewer could look at the painting and then leaf through a copy of the book depicted in the painting. But we’ll have to see how that works out.
Posting progress as I go… thanks for staying tuned.
Dealing well with deadlines is a topic often discussed among my fellow artists and writers. So I wondered “could I make a poem about deadlines, make it funny, illustrate it and create a book format that would accent the concept?” Fun challenge.
And here for a free download is what I came up with: Deadline Dragon Dance by Clancy. It’s a pdf file and will print using 2 sheets of 8.5 x 11 paper. One sheet is my 8 page book. The other sheet is the instructions on folding the book. Have fun! And yes, feel free to color the dragon before you fold it into the book.
Below is what The Deadline Dragon Dance looks like when you print it out, the “cover” is on the right at the top by the dragons nose, page one is on the left at the top behind the dragons head and the content proceeds counterclockwise from there. It’ll make more sense as a book once it is printed and folded. If you wonder, yes, I’ve somewhat bastardized the graphic design concept of layout for physical commercial printing.
Anyway, here is what The Deadline Dragon Dance looks like as a flat sheet-book:
And here is the instruction sheet on how to fold the above “book”:
The pdf file for free download again: DeadlineDragonDancebyClancy
Yep I had a lot of fun taking a stodgy concept like deadlines and combining it with humorous poetry, illustration and book arts! I used brush and ink as well as my fountain pen on Bristol paper.
What do you think? How do you deal with deadlines, both the ones you set for yourself and those set for you by others?
Last weekend I spent some time looking through my cookbook collection which sits on the shelves next to my poetry collection. Since I’ve been practicing both cooking and writing I look to my favorite “masters” in each genre for inspiration. It’s nice to have them all in one spot. Mollie Katzen, Aliza Green, Rick Bayless and Maryana Vollstedt are some of my favorite masters from the cooking world. Edward Gorey, Edward Lear, Ogden Nash and Shel Silverstein are some favorites from the poetry world.
I spent the most “looking-for-a-recipe-to-cook” time with Vollstedt’s cookbook “The Big Book Of Soups And Stews” as it was a cold weekend. Plus a hearty stew puts me in a happy “comfort food feast” frame of mind. But the most “just admiring a cook book” time was spent with Katzen. However I did use one of Katzen’s salad recipes to go alongside a stew. I love the way Katzen hand lettered her recipes and illustrated them in her “Moosewood Cookbook”. My poetry time was divided between Edward Gorey and Edward Lear.
This concept of mashing up wildly different genres as inspiration to make something new? Well Austin Kleon has written wonderful creative thinking technique books about that – specifically Steal Like An Artist!
Anyway I combined my big pot of stew thoughts with the limerick poem form for this poem I wrote and illustrated below – which has been published now on They Draw & Cook.
I’m still practicing combining India ink and gouache – and doing text with a brush. I used a smaller size brush this time for the type – and all lower case letters. This brush-and-ink type style felt looser, more relaxed, than the type I did with a fountain pen for the birthday card – though both projects use a similar lower case. I like both methodologies and will probably use both techniques as they fit with the project at hand. But this brush style… I’m liking it and am finding my hand reaching for a brush more often.
What do you think?
Some time back I read an article in my local newspaper about teaching kids to snack healthy and to learn to trust their body’s cues about food. Since then I’ve been thinking of similarities between healthy snacking habits and developing a healthy creative life.
- Teach yourself how to recognize aesthetic cues/desires – and practice responding to them – over time. I think of aesthetic cues as mental indulge-ments; things like stories, poems, movies, music, art etc. that make you feel glad to be alive. Just like a kid has to learn how to try new foods and then practice recognizing what foods they enjoy eating. As we go through life our aesthetic preferences change – just like our food preferences do. So it’s helpful to continue to try new aesthetic/art snacks periodically – and practice trusting your own cues.
- Allow yourself to listen to your own aesthetic cues/voice without input from other people. This takes practice and no matter how experienced a person is one has to remember to return to listening to one’s own voice – rather like how sometimes a kid (or an adult) has to be reminded to pay attention to their plate and eat. (When my wife and I go to happy hour with our friends I have to remind myself to eat…I tend to focus on the conversation…)
- Give yourself permission to just practice. Practice-an-art-materials can be as simple as keeping a book of stories or poems handy for reading and a small book to write in. Think of it as adult playing. Some helpful mantras: “Nothing has to go right today”, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.” and “It’s okay to make mistakes and messes – it’s part of how we learn.”
- Set specific times to practice. These can be very short bursts of time. They can be event/circumstance based rather than clock based. i.e. I’ll practice reading/writing poems while the coffee/tea brews, the water boils or the oven pre-heats.
- Create a small place/drawer where your practice-an-art materials are kept handy. Perhaps a shelf where books related to your art snack indulge-ments are stored. Look for and collect objects, events, places that feed your creative-soul-heart-mind. Stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive. Plan to indulge in these things in small ways – daily.
- Set a habit (I hate the word “rule”) for what time per month you’ll indulge yourself – for an aesthetic “meal”, something more than a short snack – with someone else’s artwork: i.e. go to local art-openings, poetry/story slams, indie film nights, music jam nights or a visit to an art museum.
Here’s what I indulged myself with this morning as an art snack while my breakfast bread toasted:
The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats is a new-favorite poem. It reminds me that we can – and do – create our own solace.
Here are a few pages from my tiny sketchbook for the Brooklyn Art Library titled “A. Mouse’s Book Of Scraps”. And since you follow me here’s my entire book, free download, as my thank-you-for-following-me gift: AMousesBookOfScrapsByClancy
I’m doing this gifting by permission of our books author Mr. A. Mouse of course. <wink> We, Mr. A. Mouse and I, hope you like it!
And yes, this 2.33 inch by 1.66 inch book is a humorous parody or spoof on the concept of collecting and publishing…
In a recent post I spoke of this book and of the Brooklyn Art Library’s Tiny Sketchbook Project in general well here’s a link https://www.brooklynartlibrary.com/
You can also see more of my downloadable artist books on this page. Your patronage and support means a lot! Thank you!
Some twins I’m lucky enough to know turned one year old today. So in collaboration with my wife, I wrote a poem and illustrated it for them. It was a good opportunity to practice art word combinations. And I think they’ll like it. Their parents and grandparents seemed to. Anyway here’s a picture of the birthday card:
I used a fountain pen to write the poem text this time. Last time I’d illustrated one of my poems I’d used brush and ink. For this birthday poem lower case letters were used. I like the lower case style. At least for this poem… The fountain pen was easier to control (and something I’m used to) and the neatness of the type and the softness of the lower case style are pleasing to me.
When I’d finished lettering the poem I then drew the illustration in brush and ink. After that dried I used gouache to give it color. That method too was an experiment in using ink and gouache in combination.
I am pleased with the resulting art word combination and will likely do that again; lower case letters and all.
What do you think of this lettering style?