the art technique of attention

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, books, drawing as thinking, ebook, fine art, illustration, mental health, story, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, writing and illustrating

I’ve been very busy getting ready for a one-person fine art exhibit at Caplan Art Designs that will open in September. (So my social media activity has slacked off lately.) Around the edges of creating new fine artwork, framing, paperwork and so forth I’ve been working towards a new print edition of “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”.

This story from the First Aid Kit has been a good reminder of an art technique I try to practice daily – even when I’m busy:

Attention

Even when I’m very busy I practice taking a moment within my day, wherever I am, in the here-and-now and pay attention to my 5 senses. I try to let go of any preconceived conceptions, to just expand my awareness. I also include, in this exercise, paying attention to my free-associations and my imagination during my 5-senses check-in moment. I’ll note my sensory experience and “watch”, like you’d watch television, the memories, thoughts and associations that cross my mind as a result of the sensory experience.  I’ll often make notes in my sketchbook.

What I “get” for my payment – when I pay attention – is the power to choose what to focus on when I’m at my art easel working.

This practice of paying attention to both sensory input and the content of my mind –  is a version of what Betty Edwards wrote about in her book “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” – in the section where she talks about chairs. How (and I’m paraphrasing) a drawing student first attempting to draw a chair will substitute their knowledge about chairs (4 legs, a square seat and back) and will draw a child-like symbol of a chair. One has to learn to see the shapes of the spaces around the chair as well as the shapes of the chair itself – what is actually seen (3 legs, a trapezoid shaped seat and back).

I find too often – especially when I’m busy – I’m substituting my “knowledge” about the world, my preconceptions, for what “is” in the world. So I find it helpful to practice seeing the shapes of spaces, so to speak, in my sensory experience of the world. And to see the shapes of spaces within my own mind.

Paying attention allows me to merge real-world phenomenon with my mental life and to choose to communicate, via art, in ways that are helpful, playful and fun.

Currently “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” only exists in e-book form. But as I said above, I’m working on that. This book has had such a profound impact on my own creative life that I want to have another print version around.

feeding good wolves

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I’ve been reading a book titled “Become America” by Eric Liu. In it Liu writes “To be a citizen is to be an artist…. ” Liu included examples of people imaging things like “why is this not a park?” and “How could these old folks and these little kids be making something together?”.

That got me thinking of how citizenship is an act of imagination. Governments, businesses – and of course artists – imagine all kinds of activities for their fellow citizens to participate in. Such imaginative action creates the civic world over time.

It is crucial, then, the kinds of imagination used and the intentions behind it. It matters which wolf gets fed: our good wolves or our bad ones.  Or if you prefer angels: do we encourage the “better angels of our natures”?

It far too easy for the human mind to think “It’s always been this way” when we see civic spaces or events. It takes a healthy imagination and some effort to remember that we, collectively, created “this way” bit by bit and that we can maintain it or change it by equally small mundane bits too.

When it comes to my own imagination – and maintaining the health of it and my own civic engagement – I’m constantly asking myself “which wolf does this idea/thought/event feed?” and then looking for the small mundane steps needed to create a banquet, a meal or a snack for my good wolves and better angels.

One step I’ve identified recently, something small and within reach, that I can do to encourage and maintain my own healthy imagination – and good citizenship – is to create a new printed edition of Dr.Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit. And to make it more widely available.

Currently there is only the ebook version out.  The first printed edition was done on an Espresso Book Machine at my local Powell’s bookstore.  That machine no longer exists. Sigh. Theoretically copies of the first printed edition may still be found out in the wide world – by clicking here – but it’s a challenge.  I want to make the book easier to find.

I, personally, want to have another printed copy of Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit. I want to put a copy in my bathroom. I want to read it when I brush my teeth. I want my good wolves to have more food to sink their teeth into. I want to maintain my healthy imagination – and to practice envisioning other good wolves with healthy imaginations also brushing their teeth…

Anyway, here’s one of my illustrations for the book:

TwoWolves

illustration by Sue Clancy for “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit

mixing the mundane and magical

A Creative Life, animals in art, art techniques, artistic inspirations, books, creative thinking, Dogs in Art, fine art, food in art, mental health, mundane and magical moments, Narrative Art, reading in art, story, visual story

I’ve been reading “Whiskey Galore” by Compton Mackenzie. Once again I realize that I enjoy the mix of real-life and a whimsical imaginative look at real-life. Mackenzie used a real-life event as the inspiration for his whimsy and did the mix extremely well.

Already I’ve been doing some of this mixing in my work – but I want to do even more of that mundane/imagination mixing in my various art projects. Here’s what I did most recently: it’s 8 x 18 inches, ink and gouache on board – I’ve titled it “The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients”

TheSoupBookStartingWithIngredientsSM

“The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients” by Clancy

It mixes the real-life (mundane) action of consulting a cookbook recipe, perhaps for chicken soup, with a (magical) chicken rescue. “The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients” will be one of several new works for an upcoming one-person art exhibit in September at Caplan Art Designs in Portland Oregon. I’ll post the new artworks here as I get them done.

But back to the artwork itself: I enjoyed doing a panoramic visual story that continues what I began doing for my “Dear Readers” exhibit currently on display at Burnt Bridge Cellars. The new wider format let me put in more details, more “story-ness”.

“The Soup Book…..” was such fun to create that I plan to do more in this format! And of course do more general mixing of metaphors, more blurring the lines between the mundane and the magical in all of my work. We’ll see how it all goes of course.

Generally I’ve been thinking of how important it is, for living well (and good mental health), to be able to view mundane life with a “glass half full” attitude, to be able to see what is good/delightful, and to use curiosity and imagination (and good books) to stimulate ones own inner life. Which is why I aspire to do an even better artistic job of mixing the mundane and the magical.

BTW: “Whiskey Galore” has been made into a movie – and a very well done movie too! The book version has a bit more story to it – but the movie is wonderful and it’s not always that both the book and movie are equals in quality.

Now for a wee dram….. Slàinte mhath!

 

 

Dear Readers exhibit pun

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, author illustrator, books, Books In Art, Cats in art, Dogs in Art, reading in art, Uncategorized, words and pictures

Since my upcoming fine art exhibit, opening June 7, at Burnt Bridge Cellars is titled “Dear Readers” and contains nested ideas – for the additional pun of it I’ll have some artist books available. So here’s a pic of a few of the books I’ll have at the exhibit.

BooksBySC

There’s my Dogs and Cats and a Cookbook I illustrated (with Chef Kim Mahan’s recipes). And yes – there’s a little tiny mini-guide to drawing dogs! How’s that for a visual pun in an art exhibit full of paintings of dogs reading?

There are also cats and food depicted in my artwork… and of course books! So my books relate to my artwork which relates to my books…

Basically I’ve had a lot of fun playing with nested ideas!

BTW the “How to Draw Dogs” mini-guide is only available via the Brooklyn Art Library in New York …. except for the few I’ll have in my exhibit in Vancouver WA. 

A link to my Dear Readers exhibit statement that explains my thinking behind this exhibit is here.

More generally about my artist books here.

And now to get back to work framing and labeling everything…

strawberry dessert anatomy

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Here’s a page from my sketchbook that relates to a recent blog post: https://sueclancy.com/dogs-strawberries-and-cookbooks/

DessertAnatomy300

illustrated poetry about food

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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.

ForTheCooksPlentitude72

For the cooks plentitude – by Clancy https://www.theydrawandcook.com/artists/sue-clancy

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?

a mouse scrapbook and gift

A Creative Life, animals in art, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, ebook, graphic narrative, handmade books, illustrated shorts, sketchbook, small things, story, The Sketchbook Project, visual story, words and pictures

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!

cats book progress

A Creative Life, animals in art, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, Cats in art, Dogs in Art, Narrative Art, published art, travel art and writing, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing

I do better now, writing words-in-a-row, than I did once upon a time. Reading text has never been a problem for me – but speaking, and writing. Whew! Lets just say good speech therapists, theatre-acting coaches and writing class instructors are worth their weights in all the precious things in the world combined. As a kid practicing speaking by reading aloud from a comic book or a picture book felt less intimidating than reading aloud from a text-only book.

Even today I enjoy visiting art museums and galleries and looking at the artwork first, reading the labels last. I enjoy looking at coffee-table books with big glorious pictures – forming my own thoughts first – reading the words later.

Nowadays I read plenty of books cover to cover that have text only, no pictures at all. I even give demo’s and talk in front of 200 or more people without as much as a blink. (Wish my 10 year old self, who threw up at the thought of giving an oral book report, could see me now!)

So it has become a philosophical point to ponder with me – when is text important? When is an image important? When to have the words? When to have the pictures? How much of either?

For example I love it that signs for the restrooms are often pictograms. You can “read” them no matter what your language – or your linguistic skill level. Much of our international travel culture utilizes visual maps and non-verbal way-finding signs for things like hospitals, airports and government buildings – using pictograms rather than single language dependent text.

As I’ve worked on a new artist book containing my cat themed fine art I’ve thought a lot about whether or not to have text along with the images. If text – how much? Text located where in the book?

When I did my book “Dogs” I had the text at the end – and didn’t include much of it there either. The majority of the book is images.

On the one hand I spend quite a lot of time coming up with the titles for each of my artworks and it seems almost a shame to not list the titles. But I’ve often noticed – at museums and galleries – that people read the label-wall-text and sometimes forget to look at the pictures.

So sometimes I deliberately create text for use in my fine art gallery exhibits… just to be contrary. I’ve even created whole artist books with text and sketches to accompany my fine art exhibits. But sometimes I omit text completely and rely on my art images alone, the curious can ask the person running the gallery for more info. In this way I purposefully encourage people to verbally-talk with each other. Which way I go – words and/or pictures – often depends on the exhibit.

Like I say for me the words and pictures question is an ongoing, almost daily, one.

People seem to enjoy my Dogs book as it is – largely without text. And I’ve noticed that I’ve sold that book fairly well in non-English speaking countries. People of all ages seem to like it. So….

“Cats by Sue Clancy” will be largely wordless too.  Here’s what the cover will look like:

cover_2

The front cover of the artist book “Cats by Sue Clancy” – http://www.blurb.com/b/8837851-cats

The book is square, 7×7 in, 18×18 cm and 22 pages – full color.  Here’s an early-reader link to the book http://www.blurb.com/b/8837851-cats  In fact “Cats” has even fewer words than “Dogs” does – but more pictures in full color.

I’m sure I’ll continue to have this words and pictures discussion with myself in every book and every art exhibit I create.  But I’m curious about your thoughts: do you look at words first? Or pictures first? What are your thoughts about wordless books?

more bourbon please less bull

A Creative Life, artistic inspirations, books, mental health, still life

I’ve been thinking lately about the various ways that language is used and how that usage relates to being human.

For example: it helps human relationships if people are sincere, honest and as clear in their verbal communications as possible.  Deliberate efforts to use language so as to mislead others to one’s own advantage is the opposite of helpful human relating.

Being a language-using human means to try to make mental connections between ideas/concepts and that includes trying to connect with other humans. Human existence and experience are about making connections and evaluating the qualities of those on-going connections, selecting the helpful and meaningful ones, expanding the number of “good relationships”.  We create the world together.

Bullshitting is an effort to avoid making meaningful connections.  To bullshit is to manipulate language so as to avoid relating directly with people in fact-based, rational, practical ways.

To share a drink (whether alcoholic beverages or not), to share food and to share books is an expression of a strong desire to meaningfully connect with someone. Sharing drinks, food, books, sports and many other collaborative/cooperative activities are ways we develop relationships and nurture on-going connections.

I’ve recently re-read “Bullshit” by Harry G. Frankfurt, mused on it’s contents so much (see the above verbiage) that I’ve included the book in a painting.  And yes I really did use lots of sticky-notes in my copy of Frankfurt’s book, my effort to make connections between the concepts I found there.

Now that we’ve discussed “Bullshit” –  what beverages do you like to drink?

NeedMoreBourbon72

“Need More Bourbon” by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – acrylic and gouache on board.

 

 

on sketchbooks and sharing

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I tend to live my life with my sketchbook in hand. Consequently this means meeting up with friends and answering the “What have you been doing lately?” questions by handing them my physical sketchbook. More than one friend has looked at my book and said “Why don’t you publish these?”. And I’ve had very loose ambitions of publishing some of them…

But finally after hearing the request for the umpteenth time I’ve begun setting up a system so I can do that. Here’s the link I’m working on – https://sueclancy.com/shop/

And here are some random pages from some of the ebooks currently in my “shop”. I will be publishing more of my sketchbooks and artist books as ebooks as time goes on…