On being home and enjoying books

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My family’s in self quarantine #stayhome and we’ve been talking (via phone/digital means) with friends who are doing the same. [If you are too – THANK YOU!]

Some of our friends say they’re viewing this quarantine time as a chance to read more books. That reminds me of how revolutionary it was for me to realize that if I started a book I did not have to finish it and that I could choose only fun books to read.

I think I realized this blinding flash of the obvious after graduating college…and no longer had to read for a grade.

Anyway, here’s some of my sketchbook pages with musings on reading fun books (both print and ebooks).

And here’s a link to over 3000 ebooks that are free to download. Surely there’s something fun to read in this lot!! 😁

Here, for any extra amusement in it, is a link to a YouTube video of me doing one of the drawings above: https://youtu.be/UJ_3ptI077s

On being at home and eating well

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In times like these we need to do what kindnesses we can for each other so I’ve decided to release my kitchen sketchbook earlier than planned. The title of this new artist book is Favorites So Far – a kitchen sketchbook. Details follow.

I spend most of my time working at home. Now, with coronavirus, more people, especially here in Washington state, are too. Welcome to my world. There’s lots of work but also books, good meals, drinks and snacks.

So perhaps it will be kind to go ahead and share more of how cooking at home fits with my working at home life? Hope so…

I was going to wait until just before my one-person art exhibit in June 2020 to officially debut this memoir cookbook, Favorites So Far, as many of the recipes relate to my artwork. I’ve been dribbling out teaser recipes on my Instagram page especially as they relate to the artwork as I finish the art. My original intention was to build momentum toward my June exhibit, display the artwork at the physical exhibit and have this 48 page sketchbook, itself intended as artwork, available as an accessory to the exhibit. You know, big splash.

But to heck with that. It seems kinder to share this book right now because people gotta eat.

Technically this book, Favorites So Far, is a printed 48 page memoir sketchbook – with my sketches on every page. That a meal could be made from it was just bonus. It’s suposed to be autobiographical amusement. But it really is a practical book, we refer to it for our own meals regularly.

Here’s a photo of the front and back covers of the printed book Favorites So Far:

Recently my co-author, Judy Sullens, and I got to talking: in the best of times what to cook/eat is a question. Door Dash and other innovative food delivery services are super helpful – but people suddenly being at home more… perhaps they’ll find it helpful to hear how a couple of busy creatives who’re not always flush with cash, not always remembering to get stuff at the store, how do they fill their belly’s?

So we decided to release the book now rather than wait. This link to the full color printed book has the entire book as a preview – and you can purchase it there too. https://www.blurb.com/b/9759759-favorites-so-far

The book is set up to be printed, 48 pages, full color, landscape format to showcase the artwork. And, since we’re not waiting to do a big splash at the exhibit, we’ve now set it up so the printed book can be shipped directly to you from the printer.

Perhaps even more helpfully we’ve set it up as an immediately downloadable ebook viewable on any device: Google Android devices, Kindle etc. It’s still 48 pages, full color with all the artwork. You can get the ebook version here. https://www.blurb.com/ebooks/709744-favorites-so-far (preview first 15 pgs)

Speaking of previews here’s some of the pages:

The title page
Book info page…. see, drawings on all pages!
Introduction page…how this book came to be.

And here are a few of the inner pages so you can see the memoir attributes.

More generally how I handle being a busy artist while not starving: after breakfast, before getting to work in my studio, I cut up veg and etc ingredients and throw them in a pot to slow cook until lunchtime. I work for several hours in my studio, take a short break to stir the pot. Back to work for another hour or so. Then lunch!

This is a pic of my sketchbook that Favorites So Far is a reproduction of – and a pot of just assembled stew:

And, yes, since it’s so near to St. Patrick’s Day I couldn’t resist posting this Irish stew recipe!

Oh, and we showed this sketchbook to a chef friend who said “I love it that a third of the book is cocktails!”

Hope you enjoy this book and that you eat well.

Way of all fresh food

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I’ve been working on a large painting and posted a pic of me at work on my Instagram page. A friend asked me to explain my symbolism when I finished it …so here goes:

First the painting. It’s titled “The Way Of All Fresh (Food)“. The size is 36 by 24 inches and I used ink, gouache and color pencil to make it.

The Way Of All Fresh (Food) – by Clancy

As evidenced by recent posts of my sketchbook pages I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the life of the mind. I’ve also been reading classic fiction on the topic: “Stoner” by John Williams, “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin and “The Way Of All Flesh” by Samuel Butler.

When creating fine art I like to use symbolism that originates in literature and mythology as a way to orient myself in order to create a visual story.

In this case Butler’s novel had me thinking, as I read, of the ways mental development, new learning – like love – can sneak up on us, and yet it’s something that we process daily. The challenges and necessity of purposefully participating in one’s own mental life dominated my thoughts – especially after I finished reading Butler. I thought of how the maintenance of one’s mind is similar to the maintenance of one’s physical body.

With that as a bare bones thesis I sought, and selected from literary history, symbols with which to construct my visual story:

Lizards represent inner life, taking time to reflect. (I also remembered a quote from the children’s book author Madeleine L’Engle “Love is a funny thing, shaped like a lizard, that runs up and down and tickles your gizzard.”)

Celery, in Ancient Greek writings, represents victory and a warding off of evil spirits. Parts of the celery plants were woven into garlands, crowns, and given to the winner of sporting events. They were also woven into funeral wreaths.

Parsley stands for useful knowledge, joy and feasting. (Practical stuff of life.)

Apples have a long literary history signaling love, knowledge, self-awareness, attainable joys….all elements of life that have been, in some stories, forbidden or used to trick (think Snow White and the 7 dwarves). So I see an element of good critical thinking skill development in an apple but I digress.

Bulldog represents tenacity, courage, willingness to do the right thing.

Cat represents curiosity.

In addition to playing with symbols I’ve also hidden what’s known in the movie and gaming industries as “easter eggs“. Some of the eggs I hid are:

The cat portrait in this painting is a spoof of my own artwork, i.e. there exists an artwork by me that’s similar to this painting within the painting. (There’s also a jigsaw puzzle I designed with this cat artwork.)

I’ve waved “hello” to many of my friends – the kitchen furniture waves to my interior decorator, visionary friend, Carolyn. The cutting board high-fives Kevin, a friend who’s a talented woodworker. The lizards are a shared giggle with my friend Kim. The socks are a howdy to Frank and Elaine. The purple shirt is there because of Beverly, Kris H and Erica M. The book and the heart-art are for my spouse – as always.

Since the lizards represent time to reflect I’ve included a clock near the heart and brain artwork with a special time on it. Most days by 10:40 a.m. I have spent time writing and drawing in my sketchbook. One of my methods to cultivate my own inner life. (And yes, I post these sketchbook pages on Instagram and make artist books from them. You can see some of the books here.)

Oh, almost forgot, there’s a yummy celery, apple and parsley salad recipe that goes with this painting too.

There now. I’ve told most, but not all, of the punchlines. Enjoy!

Pets people phrases and pages

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Here, below, are some new sketchbook pages – I’m still thinking towards publishing a version of my sketchbook. I’ve been encouraged to do this by friends who’ve looked at my book, as well as by my followers on social media – thank you all!!! Now without much further typing:

Art studio supervisor Hawkeye carefully examines my cat drawings.
The drawing under examination.
Art studio supervisor Rusty reacts to the phrase “eating…”

I see readers everywhere

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Living in the Pacific Northwest I see readers at the gym, at bus stops, in parks, sitting outside on benches, in the cafes, wineries, pubs and bistros – just about everywhere I look a book is in someone’s hand. Needless to say the library is a popular place as is the beloved locally owned bookstore, Vintage Books.

Below are a few of my sketches of people I’ve seen out and about. Along with quotes and musings.

Because I’ve been depicting people reading so much in my fine art it’s probably no surprise that in my sketchbook I’ve been drawing people reading. Anyway, here’s a few more drawings from my sketchbook:

Lately, however, I’ve thought that there’s perhaps a value in showing my sketchbook pages, putting a human face, so to speak, on creative doings and beings. I’m even thinking I might gather some of these into a book. What do you think? Do you like seeing my sketches too?

lord of the fries

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I’ve learned that all fries are not the same; here in the Pacific Northwest the local brew pubs serve “Jojo’s”, which are often baked, not fried. From the plate of Jojo’s you could assemble whole potatoes Jenga game style and dip them in a special sauce as you eat the, ahem, game pieces. I’ve discovered that I like the Jojo’s much better than the limp, soggy with grease, loaded with salt, fries I remember from the past.

I’ve even tried cooking Jojo’s at home several times and had success! It was so easy to make I didn’t even do my usual kitchen sketchbook notes about the dish: briefly boil medium size unpeeled potatoes (one per person), let them cool. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut each cool potato in half and then into thick strips. (The potatoes are still firm). Lay parchment paper on a baking sheet with a lip. (Or if only serving 2 people grease a casserole dish) Pile the cut potatoes on the pan, drizzle olive oil, garlic, and/or salt and/or pepper, and/or cheese and mix with hands. Spread out into a layer and bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Watch carefully and at the end of baking, broil to make the potatoes crispy to suit. Here’s a photo of one of my efforts (in a casserole dish, potatoes with garlic and cheese)

My growing awareness of methods of cooking potatos tumbled into current politics, as the news has been about behavior in the American White House that reminded me of William Golding’s book “Lord Of The Flies”. I checked the book out from my public library and reread sections of it. I read this book back in high school but I’ve slept since then. Yes, I was remembering the book well; the way the book depicts the conflict between savagery and civilization. I didn’t reread the whole book. Current events mirror the books conflict well enough. Let’s just say I’m in favor of civilization, rule-of-law and basic human decency. (And also in favor of good quality hot chocolate)

Anyway, my mind kept contrasting the extremely unhealthy fries from my past with the still indulgent but healthier Jojo’s here in the PNW; contrasting the horrifyingly savage qualities of the current American administration with the ideals of Democracy, civilization, human rights – and hoping things will end better than they did in Golding’s book.

Here’s the painting I did with all of these thoughts – titled “Lord Of The Fries” – I’m sure you’ll see that I made artistic use of looking closely at my homecooked Jojo’s.

“Lord Of The Fries” by Clancy – 11 x 8 inches – ink and gouache on board

Clancy’s view of Tralfamadore

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In Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, the (ahem) text, for my recent painting (last post) Vonnegut talks of Tralfamadore another planet where time is viewed panoramically by the Tralfamadorians.

After posting about my painting “Slaughterhouse Chives” some friends said they’d like to see my view of Tralfamadore. So here, below, are several views of my artist book titled “Clancy’s View Of Tralfamadore * a homage to Kurt Vonnegut and other intervals of time”.

Including, (wink) a panoramic photo of the inside contents of my book. The book is 7 inches tall and 4.5 in wide when closed. It opens to span 36 inches. I made this book with ink and gouache on handmade paper.

Front cover
Back cover
Panoramic view of the contents

In my artwork generally I think about time a lot, about the importance of the present moment, how we create – or curate – our present moments to our good or ill or something between. I think of how books are time capsules, messages from another era, another geographic region, another lived duration.

One of my favorite quotes is from a book called A Sideways Look At Time by Jay Griffiths the quote goes “The French philosopher Henri Bergeson, who greatly influenced Proust, understood the sublime importance of the present moment “time is creation or it is nothing at all” and lived durations are not simply intervals but are the very stuff of reality.”

I put that quote as a long-running phrase across the entire 36 inch accordion format that makes up “Clancy’s View Of Tralfamadore…” Around that phrase I’ve included references to the intervals of lived durations, Vonnegut (of course) and other authors I’ve read recently who’ve passed on to the eternal library in the sky. Also included are meaningful time intervals related to flowers/plants and soup. Each duration mentioned is an important part of this interval I’m living in. (For example; I’m aware that without flowers we wouldn’t have vegetables and other soup ingredients, or paper or…)

And for any extra amusement in it here’s a video of “Clancy’s View Of Tralfamador * a homage to Kurt Vonnegut and other intervals of time”

Video of the one- of-a-kind artist book by Clancy titled “Clancy’s View of Tralfamadore * a homage to Kurt Vonnegut and other intervals of time”

Thank you for sharing this present moment with me.

Slaughterhouse Chives or what came from my sketchbooks

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My last post featured my sketchbook pages and those sketches added to my reading in Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut were combined in my mind becoming this fine art piece I’ve titled “Slaughterhouse Chives”

“Slaughterhouse Chives” by Clancy – 24 x 18 inches – gouache and ink on board.

If you saw my last post you may recognize the man’s gesture from my “loosey” sketchbook studies.

I combined the man’s gesture with my soup thoughts, a recipe I cooked this week (and posted on my Instagram page) from my kitchen sketchbook. Then I read around in both Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut.

The Vonnegut title, with its focus on time (and other things) fit best with the thoughts I’d noted in my sketchbooks. (And my thoughts about current absurd American politics.) Reading the Vonnegut book helped me pull together all of my thoughts. Then I did a preliminary drawing, tweaked the drawing over a few days, transfered it to a board and painted.

Here’s some closeup details of sections within my painting:

There now. As Kurt Vonnegut says so often “And So It Goes”.

My loose sketchbook to fine art method

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Recently I blogged about my kichen sketchbook keeping method. Here’s my “running around loose” sketchbook method. Yes, this is a different sketchbook. Both books are related to my current fine artworks.

My “running around loose” – aka “loosey” book (pronounced ‘Lucy’) – is a sketchbook measuring 3.5 x 5.5 inches and half an inch thick with a ribbon bookmark, an elastic closure and lightweight watercolor paper inside. Here’s a picture of it and my gouache palette which is the same size as my book. Also pictured is my water brush and a Tombow waterproof brushpen. Everything can fit in a small bag or jacket pocket.

When I’m out in the world, with my “loosey” book, I’m keeping an eye/ear open for things that catch my attention. Things I want to think more about. There are no strict rules, no pressure to make “art” in this book. I’m just noting what catches my attention. It’s like meditation in this sense.

Recently my spouse and I had lunch at a local bistro. My attention was caught by an accent I couldn’t place when a man at a table nearby spoke to a waiter. So using my glance-memory method I kept paying attention.

My glance-memory method is this – once my attention is caught I quick glance several times and jot random words: man, scar, blue, reads, coffee, space, reads, careful spaces for book/consumables, vertical spoon, triangle space, book arms length.

The above word list translates to: After the man ordered he pulled out a book and began to read. His coffee came and he very carefully sipped his coffee well away from his book. His careful use of physical space kept my attention. Then his soup came. He shifted the book so it was held at arms length from the bowl and coffee. What an interesting gesture! I also noticed other things: a scar on his cheek, the blue shirt he wore, the vertical way he held his spoon. His gestures and sense of space held my attention. So I pulled my “loosey” book out jotted the word list mentioned above and did some quick sketches. I didn’t worry about getting an exact likeness. What I tried to capture was the gesture. I used quick glances so I wouldn’t attract his attention to what I was doing.

I tried the drawing a few times.

This second sketch, with the triangle shaped space under his elbow best captured the gesture.

I wrote the phrases on each page because they came to mind while I was drawing.

I also noted that as I drew I thought about soup, the care/repair of books, Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” and, inexplicably, Kurt Vonnegut’s book “Slaughterhouse Five”.

Where all these thoughts will go I’m not certain but I’m starting a new 18 x 24 size fine art piece for my ongoing Readers Series this week. I’m sure these sketchbook notes will get used somehow.

I’ll also make soups at home. It’s going to be cold weather. And I have well used copies of both Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” and Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five” which I’ll look at over the week.

Now you know the way of my “loosey” sketchbook adventures. I’ll share what happens next in upcoming posts.

My kitchen sketchbook methods

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What’s for dinner? I began keeping a kitchen sketchbook years ago so I could answer that question with a reliably pleasing meal. In a blog post recently I talked of how my kitchen sketchbook, a sketchbook solely devoted to the topic of food, is “feeding” my current fine art series to be exhibited later this year. After posting someone said they’d be interested in my process of ‘kitchen sketchbook keeping’ as they’d like to create such a keepsake for their family. So my process goes like this …

I see a recipe, in a library book, a cookbook I own or online ( I follow some food blogs and Instagram accounts: Food In Books, In Diane’s Kitchen, TikiChefKim ) and I decide to try the recipe. Here’s a cookbook I found in my local library. I looked through it identifying several recipes that look possible.

Often in reading the recipe I realize that it includes an item someone at my table is allergic to, or strongly likes/dislikes, or the recipe includes an ingredient I don’t have in my cabinets. Some adaptions, adjustments, are made. In this case, pictured below, I don’t have Borlotti beans so I substitute Cranberry beans (another Italian dry bean) which I do have. I write my adjustments on my scrap of paper.

And here’s a close up of my writing on the scrap of paper.

Things I’m looking for in a recipe are: easy to make, variable when served as leftovers and yummy for the people at my table. Sometimes it can be a day or two between reading a recipe and doing the actual cooking. Whenever I do start cooking I tweek my notes on my scrap of paper.

The first meal of my Cranberry Beans and Cabbage with Rosemary Breadcrumbs was served alongside sauteed Brussels Sprouts for a vegetarian dinner. It was an easy meal for me, the cook, to prepare: I didn’t have to spend lots of time in the kitchen fussing and could work in my art studio while the beans cooked. The meal, as served, tasted yummy to both me and my spouse. So I saved my scrap of paper with my recipe notes. (If the recipe had been too fussy, or not yummy, the paper scrap would be discarded)

The next day was a busy one so just before lunch I hurridly scooped some leftover Cranberry Beans, Cabbage and Breadcrumbs into individual portion size oven safe dishes, threw a few frozen Itallian meatballs onto the beans, covered each dish with aluminum foil, put them into the oven for 30 mins and returned to my art project. When the timer went off lunch was ready.

Lunch was quite quick, yummy and got high mark’s for its ease and versatility! So the scrap of paper with the recipe got slipped in to its potential spot in my kitchen sketchbook. The next day was similarly hectic so the third re-heat of leftover Cranberry Beans and Cabbage was similar except I put an Itallian sausage in place of the meatballs.

The result was so yummy that this recipe, as adapted, earned “keeper” status, meaning it goes into my kitchen sketchbook.

During the next available 10 minutes I did a short-burst and, all at once, wrote my adapted recipe in pencil in my kitchen sketchbook.

A few days later I spent 5 minutes or so using a Micron ink pen to write over the pencil, tweeking the lettering spacing as I inked.

On still another day during another spare 5 minutes I did more inking, tweeking wording and letter spacing as I went. In the pic below you can see how different the ink work is from the original pencil.

On still another day I snuck in a moment and I erased all of the pencil marks.

Then on successive days as I worked on other art projects whenever I had a bit of color that’d also fit with something on my recipe page I’d take a minute dab the color into my kitchen sketchbook, leave the sketchbook open to dry, then I’d wash out my brush and return to my main art project.

I used color and boldness of ink to indicate ingredients and order of instructions. So in the future I’ll be able to glance through my sketchbook and easily plan dinner!

My kitchen sketchbook is 3.5 x 5 inches when closed and a half inch thick. It’s pages are a lightweight watercolor paper that takes ink and gouache fairly well if I don’t get too vigorous with it.

For my upcoming art exhibits this year, as part of my, ahem, bibliography, I’ve made artistbook copies of my kitchen sketchbook titled “Favorites So Far”. You can get a copy in advance via this link. As published the book is 8 x 10 inches, a bit larger than the original sketchbook.

And now you know how my busy, we don’t want to starve, art studio solves the “what’s for dinner” question.