This Rabbit some lunch and books

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This week was filled with photographing my illustrations for a new children’s book tentatively titled “This Rabbit” (as I wrote last week). Then I uploaded the photos checking the digital images against the original artwork for accuracy of color. Sometimes I had to retake a photo.

Once all of the illustrations were digitally correct, more or less, I uploaded them into the software I use to make the printed books. My art studio supervisor cat, as you can see, helped with the process.

What I’m aiming for as I process the photos: I want to make an album of my fine artwork that just happens to be for kids. Kids need fine art too, in my opinion. So I’m striving for digitally capturing as much of the range of color and detail in the original artwork as possible. No camera or screen matches the capability of the human eye but I do the best with what I’ve got. I’m also trying to keep the soft feel of the original artwork on the off-white handmade papers.

My root idea with this new book “This Rabbit” is cultivating the skill of enjoying the many things there are to like and do. So that is always in the back of my mind as I work.

Here are the two poem lines I wrote to go with the two illustrations below:

This rabbit likes pretty pearls

This rabbit likes doing curls

This rabbit likes pretty pearls
This rabbit likes doing curls

After the photos of all 32 illustrations were digitized to suit me, it takes me a lot of time to do the digitizing to suit because I am the original Ms. Picky, but when I had the images as I wanted them then I worked on the books graphic layout and design. As I proceed with the layout/design part of this project I may need to take new photos of some of the artwork depending on how they look as I place them side by side in the book design … we will see how things go.

This new book is part of a series of children’s books I’m creating. So it will have a have similar cover design (and other format elements) to fit with the book series. However, for “This Rabbit” I decided to make the illustration images on each page larger, filling two thirds of the page or perhaps a bit more, filling almost to the three edges of each page.

I chose this layout because I’ve included small details within many of the artworks that might be missed if the images were smaller. My poem text is one single line within a small white space on the bottom of each page.

I will serialize some of “This Rabbit” on my Instagram page and give you more details of my working process (and my creative life) here on this blog each week.

Anyway, now you know what a busy week I’ve had. Needless to say lunches were quick-fix affairs. Like this broccoli pasta dish.

Here’s the recipe – a loose guide or philosophy really rather than a recipe. When I made the dish this week I used short pasta and added spinach. But the rest of the recipe was followed. It’s a recipe from my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook.

Copies of Favorites So Far are available here:
https://www.blurb.com/b/9759759-favorites-so-far

Despite being busy I still carved out time to read most evenings. In my last post I was still reading “The Mexican Tree Duck” by James Crumley. I finished that book and loved it! I’ll miss the main character Sughrue. Sughrue was a decent guy, a good friend to other characters in the story, someone who cared. I liked that! Crumley’s character and his writing style will be a hard act to follow.

As I cast about for which book to read next I realize that I want another protagonist with a strong decency streak. Not moralistic, self righteous, preachy or anything like that. I want a character who is just plain caring and kind. Even if they have flaws, faults and difficulties I want there to be a core of goodness, a sense of concern for their community, at the heart of the main character.

I’m ready for the good people to win a few … damnit!

So from my book shelves I pulled this book selection for consideration: The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers, Rumpole A La Carte by John Mortimer and Death of A Bore by M. C. Beaton.

A few more cups of coffee and I’ll decide which book to read more of later after my working day is done.

See you next Monday with more of my progress on “This Rabbit”? (And yes…so far my working title has stuck.)

Rabbits roses cups cards meatballs and book muchness

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I’m having fun with new combinations of colors. In a recent post I tried a yellow and grey color set. After posting about that a friend said she liked pink and grey together. So I tried that combination this week.

I’ve enjoyed playing with odd sized elements so I continued that in this new ink and gouache painting I’ve titled “The Comfort Was Indeed Beyond…”. Again I used some text collage from that falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice I’ve spoken of.

As mentioned in a prior post I’d played with yellow and grey colors while doing a cup pattern for fabrics on my Spoonflower shop… here’s how that turned out. I titled my pattern “Cups Of Comfort”

Cups of Comfort https://www.spoonflower.com/en/fabric/11145342-cups-comfort-by-sueclancy

And thinking of rabbits…I made an encouragement greeting card this week with a rabbit character. Everyone needs encouragement so by making this card I hope to help people encourage others in their life.

https://www.zazzle.com/an_encouragement_card-256714364349292219

Speaking of encouragement to keep going: we have had some serious snow in the Pacific Northwest United States. Over 18 inches! So that’s encouraged me to continue my reading, working in my studio and puttering in the kitchen. Taking everything that happens in life as encouragement to keep going seems a helpful habit of mind.

Speaking of habits of mind: I tend to blur the line between art studio work and my kitchen. Here’s my kitchen sketchbook and the meatball recipe I made this week. I make meatballs to freeze and store in my freezer to add as desired to future meals. I love having ingredients on hand that make other recipes easier.

These meatballs go well with many of the dishes in my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook- you can see it here: https://www.blurb.com/b/9759759-favorites-so-far

As I mentioned in my last post I’m working on a new children’s book with lots of rabbit characters. I did the illustrations first this time…mostly. Here I am working on the poem couplets to go with the illustrations. There’s a cup of tea at my side. My spouse took this photo.

I spread out my illustrations on a queen size bed to sort, resort then sort again. As I sort I’m referring to my poetry and rewriting. I have far more illustrations and poetry bits than will fit in a 32 page kids book. So I have still more sorting and winnowing to do.

This is a physical way of creating a book. With real-life illustrations laid out I’ll write the poems on index cards for sorting purposes. After I get them all sorted then I’ll start photographing the illustrations and typing the poem. Lots to be done. More about this project in future blog posts.

When I was thinking of describing, for this blog, my working process towards a children’s book I thought of my recent reading. Here’s a shelf of books I’ve been collecting on the topic of how our physical world, the objects, technology, the environment affect the ways we think. And vice versa: the ways we think affects our physical world.

When I work on a children’s book using physical elements as opposed to abstract outlines, book dummies or computer files it feels much like what I do in the kitchen. It feels like having a full pantry, a stocked freezer and refrigerator to choose from for making meals. “It” exists and all I have to do is rummage till I find it.

The work feels easier this way…and more fun!

For my pleasure reading this week – with coffee, hot tea or hot chocolate depending on the time of day – I’ve been reading a hard-boiled detective mystery.

I hope you’re snug, cozy and are able to rummage for the good things in your life. See you next Monday?

Linked by leaves lemons and literature

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I’m amazed at how easy it can be to change one’s perception and be inspired. For example I took these yellow lemons and set them next to a grey and cream cookie jar. Suddenly I have a color scheme I hadn’t thought of before.

The randomness of all the creative stimuli in the world can feel a bit chaotic. Making links between stimuli can be a puzzle. The challenge is devising methods to sift through the chaos to find the nuggets of inspiration that are relevant to our lives and our personal forms of creativity.

One way I find focus – or links – is to think about what I enjoy. For example hot beverages and books are reliable enjoyments for me so I often use that as a focal point when exploring color schemes, patterns or shapes.

Here’s an original drawing playing with colors using the books and beverages topic:

Then, later, after I’ve chosen a focal point and created a drawing I’m pleased with, I find ways to take my original drawings and make something that might add to the random pleasures in the world.

My entire creative process is a way of talking, listening and actively participating in the world.

Here’s what I did with the above original ink and gouache drawing of hot beverages and books: I made a fabric pattern of it for my Spoonflower shop.

https://www.spoonflower.com/en/fabric/9454398-hot-beverages-books-by-sueclancy

Yes, much of my artistic inspiration comes from my personal life. Below is one of my favorite hot beverages. I wrote the recipe in my sketchbook. A sketchbook is where I do a lot of my sifting through my thoughts and making links.

And here’s some random books I’ve been reading this week:

The Norton Reader 6th edition is a book of essays, a wide ranging freewheeling collection of essays. I like it for it’s oddness this way – most essay collections are more narrowly focused. This book was given to me back in the late 1980’s by one of my literature professors. I had gone to the professor’s office during the appointed office hours but just after I arrived the professor got a phone call. Those were the days of phones connected by cords, lines and an absence of answering machines. While my professor took the call I sat next to a table with books on it and picked up The Norton Reader. By the time my professor finished the call I had read several of the essays. The professor asked if I liked the book, I replied that I did, and she gave me the book to keep. I have read the book multiple times since those college days and this book currently lives in a place of honor on my dining room shelf with my poetry and short story book collections. It has influenced my creative thinking in ways too numerous to list here.

The other 3 titles in the stack of books in the photo below are all books that I similarly encountered randomly:

Darkness Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane was a recent gift, sent by mail, from a friend. I love a good mystery novel and this one is gripping. I’ve almost finished my first reading of it and …wow. Just. Wow. I had never heard of this author till my friend mentioned and sent the book! I’m grateful to my friend…

Given Sugar Given Salt is a book of poems by Jane Hirshfield. I love the way Hirshfield examines little things, small objects like buttons or our habits or ways we sleep. This book (along with Mary Oliver’s work) has been an influence on my own love of little things.

The Blank Canvas by Anna Held Audette is a big “you can do this” support system even though the book is small in size. I dip into it often when I need a little pick-me-up.

All of the books in the above photo were gifted to me. I relish the randomness the book-as-gift adds to my creative life!

I thought a lot this week about those yellow lemons and that grey color together. And about hot beverages. The weather here has been cold, rainy, which makes hot beverages even more pleasant. Here’s what I drew exploring the yellows and greys:

This week I’ll probably do the digital hocus pocus to turn my grey and yellow cups drawing into a pattern repeated on fabric. (This process will be much like what I described last post.)

My other technique for creative focus – for finding links – is to ask myself what would feed my good wolves today?

This page is from this book: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dr-Bobs-Emotional-Repair-Program-First-Aid-Kit1

Then I think of art topics and creative projects that encourage my own thinking towards kindness and the other good-wolf attributes. And provide amusement and comfort.

For example here’s an ink and gouache painting I’ve titled “The Fall Collection”

“The Fall Collection” by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – ink, gouache and collage on board

And here’s another ink and gouache painting I’ve titled “Anyone Bring Cups?”

“Anyone Bring Cups?” by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – ink, gouache and collage on board

In both of these paintings – in addition to yellow, grey, leaves, lemons and cups (sortof) to link my thoughts together – I used a bit of text as collage along with my ink and gouache. The text is from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I had a much used copy of that title that has pages falling out so my spouse gifted me with a newer intact copy. So I’m lovingly recycling the old falling apart book into my fine art and my perception of Austen’s writing is shifting in nice ways as I do this.

I’m sure you noticed in the paintings that in addition to my use of yellows, greys, leaves, lemons I also used my current “everyman” characters in the form of rabbits.

As I describe in my last post I use techniques for writing as my guide towards creative thinking. In these paintings and in my fabric pattern designs I am following both pieces of advice given to writers: “write what you know” plus “write about what you want to know“. I am also imitating mystery genre writers who use the same characters and themes with subtle variations over multiple books.

Randomness and changing ones perceptions are such fun creative tools to play with! I hope you’ll enjoy some pleasant randomness this week too.

See you next Monday!

Leaves books and rabbits

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After finishing my Pembral Forgets project I was asked if I would make a fabric design from the leaf pattern I had created for the book Pembral Forgets which was written by Steve Tubbs and illustrated by me – (details here)

So this week I’ve been making a fabric pattern of leaves that I’m calling “Leaves From Pembral” and here’s my process…

First I cut out a 12 inch square area of the original hand stenciled paper I did for the Pembral Forgets book. Carefully I chose an area that wouldn’t have leaves touching the 4 edges of the paper. Then I used acrylic paints and created more stenciled leaves to fill in where there were gaps, trying to make the new design square balanced and interesting.

When the above was dry I “cut up my darling” – to borrow from advice given to writers about editing – and made all 4 outer edges now be on the inside of my 12 x 12 inch square paper. Basically I turn my design inside out.

Next I fill in the new gaps with more stenciled leaves.

Then when that was dry I photographed the finished design, trying to keep the soft creamy look of the original and keep the pattern square with my camera. This is easier said than done. After several attempts I was happy with this image below.

Next I uploaded my digital photos into my laptop and used the Spoonflower system to set up my pattern for a basic repeat…so my pattern will flow across any length of fabric without interruptions.

As I worked on the digital file I was thinking of leaves falling and then laying on a wet sidewalk.

What you see below is a screenshot of my finished pattern as I set it up to be repeated on a “fat quarter” an 18 x 21 inch area.

Now I’m waiting to get a proof sample from Spoonflower which I will approve – or not – before it gets added to my public shop on Spoonflower. https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/sueclancy After that I will tell the person who requested this fabric pattern that it’s there and will hope they’re pleased. In the meantime I hope this blog post will amuse…

I enjoyed playing with leaves in my sketchbook, too, this week – with my rabbits. Another bit of advice for writers is to develop a character and use them to explore ideas and situations instead of creating a new character each time one sits down to write. This technique is most obviously used by mystery novelists who create a character (or two) that repeat over a series of books.

I’ve borrowed this concept for writing and applied it to my fine art and artist books… I have certain motifs and characters – selected species really – which repeat in various ways throughout my projects within a span of time.

In my sketchbook page below I have leaves, books and rabbits. For almost a year now rabbits have been a constant character… (previously I have done series of Dogs and Cats … click on the word Dogs or Cats to see a collection within an artist book)

I posted the above photo on my social media pages and someone asked for an art print of my sketchbook page. So I created an art print of the sketchbook page on my Society 6 shop. The unframed print looks like this (below)

In the evenings I’ve been reading about meditation and, of course, reading a mystery novel. Thinking of little things; leaves, drops of water, ones breath are ways of calming oneself for meditation. Little things; scraps of paper, drops of blood, air quality are often clues in a mystery novel. So I keep thinking of little things…

I broke up a chocolate mint and put it in my hot chocolate. It was a tasty little touch – Yum!

I know it’s not a holiday but little pleasures really do make an ordinary day feel special.

Speaking of feeling special; my artwork was featured on Louise Primeau’s website https://louiseprimeau.com/featured-artist-sue-clancy-from-vancouver-wa/ Thank you for your kindness Louise!

Hope we all have many small pleasures to enjoy this week. See you here next Monday?

A box of leaves – Pembral Forgets

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The inside of a book is made up of pages which are called “leaves”. The handmade box I’ve been constructing holds all of the “loose leaves” for Pembral Forgets. I love the pun…a story about fall leaves housed in a box covered with a pattern of leaves, containing loose leaf pages….

Yes, I know…🤣 … Anyway…

Pembral Forgets is a story, written by Steve Tubbs and illustrated by me, about fall leaves, good food and an absent-minded boy who forgets something very important.

Below is a photo of me remembering to spray fix all of the loose pages to prevent smudges.

When I talked with the writer, Steve Tubbs, he expressed concern about the pages being properly protected. So in addition to spray fixing them I slipped each page into an archival clear sleeve.

After making doubly certain that the pages in the archive sleeves would still fit in the book shaped box I set about giving the box an “old book” trompe l’oeil effect using layered acrylic paints over handmade papers.

Multiple layers were needed to create the well-thumbed golden edged book pages appearance to the box sides. (In the background of the photo below you can see some of my character sketches for this book. I keep all such sketches until a project is absolutely finished…just in case.)

Once my book-pages effect on the edges of the box was dry enough to handle I applied the cover title. I had hand lettered, with ink, the Pembral Forgets title onto some of the same tissue-thin delicate paper I had used to make the overall leaf pattern cover paper. [See my previous blog post for details] I applied my archival book glue to the back of the handlettered bit of paper and carefully placed it onto the box.

I wanted the lettering to have a matte look and blend into the cover so that the only shiny, bold, parts to the cover are the stenciled pattern of leaves. (The photos in this post are “in progress” pics. My portfolio page has more photos of the finished project)

Because the paper is thin the applied paper with lettering on it lies flush with the cover itself. Since this box/book may be stored on a shelf just like any other book I don’t want any edges sticking up to catch on anything.

In addition to showing the flatness of the cover the photo below also shows the box edges more clearly.

While the cover title lettering was drying I applied similar lettering to the spine of the book. And worked on a colophon page… more on that in a bit.

I use various sizes of paperweights to hold just-glued papers flat while they dry. (In case you’re wondering beanbags make great paperweights.)

While things dried I created another tree scene – with ink and gouache – this one with frost on the ground and a pond. This tree image is unique to this artist book box version of Pembral Forgets and doesn’t appear in the printed book reproductions.

There are many reasons for having unique pages in the box but the main reason is I have a more flexible page count in a one-of-a-kind book with loose leaves than I do when creating book reproductions.

The photo below shows my handmade box without the loose leaf content pages in it so you can see the bottom of the box. There’s a raised area (the leaf pattern to the right) that has a recessed “valley” near the box walls to allow fingers to pick up the last loose leaf page easily. Also attached to that raised area in the well of the box is a black ribbon for the pages to rest on so they can easily be lifted out.

Here’s the bookmark ribbon with the loose leaf content pages in place

Below is a close view of the colophon page. A colophon gives info about a book authorship, publication and any information that’s relevant to the book creation. I glued it onto the inside front cover aka the inside lid of the box. Since I handmade the box I signed the colophon page.

The box lid has a “tray” which fits inside the box when closed. (Yes, that was very tricky to measure and create. Have I mentioned that I like puzzles?)

Anyway, perhaps in the photo below you can see how that brown tray edge on the box lid fits into the inside of the box. Or perhaps clicking on the video link below the photo gives you a better idea.

Here is a video look at this project

https://youtu.be/p5By-g5AR6E

This week wasn’t necessarily calmer politically speaking than I wrote of in my last post but in a personal sense I stayed busier. So that in itself was calming. I was glad to see that Trump was impeached for a second time. I am nervous about the upcoming inauguration of President Joe Biden – I want his administration to be safe…

So I will do creative work, read, cook, go for walks and find solace anywhere I can while I wait and hope.

As it’s getting colder here where I live in the Pacific Northwest- and since I’ve been staying so busy – reheating a pot of soup was simply easier to manage. Here’s a link to the soup recipe I enjoyed. Lentil Lemon Orzo Soup

I finished the Theodora Goss novel that I’ve been reading during my last several posts. I liked the way Goss writes and I found her monsters a pleasant diversion.

A friend kindly sent me some books by mail – so I’m enjoying them now!

I’ve been requested to make some art prints of a few of the pages from Pembral Forgets so this week I’ll do that and will update my Pembral Forgets portfolio page with those details! What fun!

See you here next Monday. Hope your week is as good as it can be.

A box for Pembral Forgets

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A horrible but predictable insurrection happened in the US last week. My book shaped box to hold the original artwork for Pembral Forgets was at the needs-to-dry stage the day before, so Wednesday, January 6, 2021, the day of the attempted coup, I nervously read a lot of news. And thought of how a seditious insurrection was the inevitable outcome of the right-wing rhetoric of the last several weeks, months, years. But I don’t want to blog on that…. after time spent on the news Wednesday I drew in my sketchbook and read fiction to give myself a mental space from the violent seditious insurrection, to calm down and think.

So on to a more pleasant topic: here’s a few photos of the printed and bound version of Pembral Forgets – you can see more on my portfolio page. The print book is available on Blurb here.

The printed book is slightly different from the original artist book. Same content just a different presentation and minor differences in the book-info pages and, most obviously, the cover. There’s several reasons for this: an original artist book can only be enjoyed in person. And we’re in a pandemic so going to galleries isn’t an option for most people. Multiple printed books can be mailed directly to someone and can be enjoyed by many.

Yet when I create a book to be printed and widely enjoyed I still end up with a physical one-of-a-kind set of paintings. Since I’m a fine artist first and foremost I gravitate towards making things that can be hung on walls or displayed on stands/shelves. But see aforementioned pandemic which has made the use of other means of art production and distribution i.e. Blurb.com or Zazzle.com or Society6.com or Spoonflower.com on-demand shops helpful.

Even so I love making handmade boxes and used to regularly make them for the artist Deloss McGraw and others. So I look for excuses to make boxes…and am loving this box for Pembral Forgets!

Below is a series of photos of the box for Pembral Forgets that you saw a bit of in my last post. In this first photo I have laid the naked box on the handmade hand stenciled paper that I’ll use to cover the box. I lay the box on the paper and try to position it so the paper will be placed well when I glue it on.

I “mark” my choice of placement by creasing the paper slightly. Pencil marks would show through this delicate paper.

Glue is applied to the paper within the crease “marks”, the open box is laid onto the glue, then the box now loosely covered with glue-y paper is gently closed. I use a roller to press the paper firmly in place, wiping away any excess glue. Next, as in the photo below, I add glue to the flaps of paper and fold them around the edges of the box using a bone folder to get the creases smooth.

Then after carefully gluing all edges I turned the box over to check the paper placement.

Inserting wax paper allows me to close the just glued box without accidentally gluing the box shut.

At this point, Tuesday evening, I let the book box dry for a few days. It will be dry to the touch within hours but I have learned the hard way that too much handling too soon can cause the paper to slip.

Then the next day saw the news of the insurrection…

Here’s the fiction book I read as a spirit restorative…

The beverage in the picture is Clancy’s Special Chocolate and here’s the sketchbook drawing I did about how to make it. Whenever I feel stressed it helps to draw whatever is in front of me.

In case you wonder: I get my archival glue and other book-box-making supplies from Twinrocker.com

A helpful technique book about making boxes by hand is by Franz Zeier titled Books, Boxes and Portfolios; binding, construction and design step by step.

There’s still more to do on this project. So I hope to see you here next Monday after, hopefully, a more quiet week – but I know it’s not likely to be quiet here in the US – but no matter what kind of week it is I wish you some calm creative moments.

Jolabokaflod and hot chocolate

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Happy Jolabokaflod in advance! In my last post I hinted that I’d have a gift book for you. I have several! And some hot chocolate. Some assembly required… If you’re just joining this party – welcome! – and if you’re not familiar here’s another meme that tells what Jolabokaflod is.

So here’s one of your gift books that I’ve written and illustrated titled “B Mouse Reads A Book” – it’s a book-within-a-book book. I’ve created a wordless story about B Mouse who is reading and enjoying a book titled “A Mouse’s Book Of Scraps

Yes, I simply couldn’t resist a visual pun about books for Jolabokaflod – the holiday book flood!

Click here to be able to, for free, add “B Mouse Reads A Book” to your cart so you can download it and have it on your device. Below is one of the pages …

There’s also the option to download and read “A Mouse’s Book Of Scraps” the very book B Mouse is reading too – you can go here to, for free, add it to your cart and download it too.

Both “B Mouse Reads A Book” and “A Mouse’s Book Of Scraps” are my whimsical look at enjoying books, collections of things and publishing books.

Both of these books can also be seen on Storyberries.com – without downloading anything there – by clicking this link to see “B Mouse Reads A Book“. At the bottom of that story there’s some words “click here to read the story B Mouse is reading” and that takes you to “A Mouse’s Book Of Scraps

There are more free artist books that I wrote and illustrated available to download for free at the bottom of my shop page.

And on Storyberries.com there are 8 free books written and illustrated by me – just search the Storyberries site for my name, Sue Clancy

Now that you have some gifted books to read, here’s my hot chocolate recipe!

Enjoy yourself!! See you next Monday.

P. S. I’ve been off social media busy working on a new artist book… I hope to start sharing it here soon.

Stocking whimsy

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Stockings were hung by the whimsy with care in hopes of the giggling soon to be there…

Okay so that’s not how the poem really goes. Still I’m thinking of ways to keep up my sense of humor and share a chuckle with other people. Imaginative play and laughter are crucial to mental health and humor seems more important this year, 2020, than ever.

My what a creative challenge this year has been on all levels. For example, instead of the usual holiday art gallery openings and parties my galleries are doing things differently: open by appointment, digitally showing work, shipping and delivering directly. Some are also doing limited hours “popup” shops with items that can be picked up curbside or quickly and safely in the gallery.

Through all of the changes my creative efforts still focus on hopefully making you grin.

Toward that goal here’s a few of my gouache and ink paintings available via the Caplan Art Designs gallery www.caplanartdesigns.com

Here, below, are a few paintings at the Joseph Gierek Fine Art Gallery in Tulsa, Oklahoma

And there are more than a few paintings – artwork that is reproduced in my artist books for children – many of my artist books (signed) and other stocking stuffers at the Aurora Gallery – www.auroragalleryonline.com

Besides fine art and artist books for the Aurora Gallery popup event, Dec 12 from 12 to 4 pm, I’ve created some small stocking stuffers: book mark ribbons, playing cards, drink coasters and other items not pictured below.

Besides paintings that include socks, I even made a few largish non holiday theme stockings that can hold smaller gifts.

Perhaps you’re noticing some common themes in my work: books, beverages, music and funky socks. All various comforts that can be enjoyed at home.

And it’s all whimsical. Humor is important to me because a sense of humor is one of our best tools for thinking and living well – despite circumstances.

Anyway, I’ve been enjoying the puns within puns… my fine art about reading books that becomes a bookmark ribbon for a reader. Or my fine art that includes a beverage becoming a drink coaster…

No, I don’t expect that everyone will understand all of my jokes – certainly not the “meta” ones – I’m just hoping you’ll get a surprise and a smile from my work.

Please do whatever you need to do this week to maintain your sense of humor and whimsy. Playfulness helps us cope.

A good laugh heals a lot of hurts – Madeline L’Engle

Gouache and grin cycles

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, ebook, fine art, food in art, illustration, mental health, printed books, product design, publications - publishing, published art, Sustainable creativity

Since I’ve been asked by several people: here’s info about the art media gouache, why it makes me grin and my working cycles with it.

Gouache is a water based paint. It’s more opaque than watercolor. Using gouache feels like spreading soft butter on toast. Applied gouache dries quickly but is easily made moist and workable again. It dries to a matte non sticky appearance which makes it suitable for use in bound sketchbooks, in folded artist books as well as for fine art to be framed. Gouache also reproduces well via various printing mechanisms on fabrics, in printed books and on many other surfaces.

In the studio, because I don’t have to worry about my gouache paints becoming unusable on my palette before I can use them (as is sometimes an issue with acrylics), gouache is suited to my busy life. I call this my gouache and grin cycle.

I prefer to work on multiple art projects at a time in “short bursts” on each project. Rather than count on a long span of uninterrupted time I dash in and work a bit on an art project, then go make lunch or do whatever stuff-of-life or other work matter that needs to be done. Then I cycle back to an art project…

To borrow a sports analogy I just try to advance the ball, my various art projects, a little bit each day rather than doing a project all at once. I try to amuse myself with whimsical art making, aka spreading color, for at least a few minutes every day no matter what else is happening in life. The qualities and attributes of gouache help me to do this, to keep my creative games in play – come heck or high water.

Here’s a series of photos showing my gouache working methods in my sketchbook. (This is also my work method for fine art and other projects.) In the first photo you see my 3 x 5 inch watercolor sketchbook held open with clips. Also pictured from the top left and rotating clockwise: paper towel, peppermint candy model, graphite pencil, 3 watercolor pencils, 2 waterproof ink pens, a water brush and my lidded paint palette with its wells of various dry gouache colors.

In the photo below I begin 3 demo peppermints: the top left mint is sketched in graphite pencil and waterproof ink pens. The bottom left mint is drawn in watercolor pencil only. The mint on the bottom right page was doodled in all of the above; graphite pencil, ink and watercolor pencil. [The quote was just on the sketchbook page I chose to use for this demo.]

So you can see what they look like here in the photo below are two tubes of gouache paints. I like the Holbein Artist Designers Gouache brand best but the Winsor and Newton brand is good too. (There’s a monster called “acryla gouache” also available on the market which I avoid like a character would avoid a flesh eating zombie in a horror film.)

I begin painting by laying down the local color – the general color an item is supposed to be. At this point I don’t worry about shadows or highlights or details. I just get the color shapes down – in this case for the peppermint candies.

I did not squeeze out new paint from my tubes when I began. I got my water brush wet and put a few drops of water on the dried red gouache already on my palette so I can use the newly moistened color. I add a small amount of moisture to a portion of the dried chunk of red gouache until that portion feels like soft butter, then I paint the candy stripes.

Here’s a closer look.

Now I get the general color and shape down for the wrapper in the same method. I put a drop or two of water on my blue gouache color, get my brush damp, dab at the blue paint a second or two to get a portion of it moistened and softened – then I paint.

Now I create the cast shadows using a watery mixture of the red and blue gouache colors. To make the watery mixture on the lid of my palette I dipped my brush on the now moist blue color, dab on an area of the lid, then dab the brush clean on the paper towel, then dipping into the now moist red and adding it to the tiny blue puddle, mixing till it’s a purple color I want for the shadow. Then I add a tiny bit of plain water to the newly mixed purple till it’s a small fingernail size puddle of watery purple – this enables me to do the cast shadows in a faint shadowy way.

Now I do squeeze out a tiny amount of the white gouache from the tube and use it, fresh from the tube, to make the highlights on the candy and wrappers. Note in the photo below how the white gouache can completely obscure the darkest ink lines. This is part of what I love about gouache – any mistake can be covered with the opaque paints. If an edge in a painting needs to be softened or a color edge blended all I need is a wet brush.

Then in a few minutes, perhaps the length of time it takes for a decent sip or two of coffee, when the paint is dry I go back over the paint with ink lines or watercolor pencil lines to snap the details into sharper focus.

Now that I’ve finished painting I leave my sketchbook and my palette open and let them dry completely. I even leave the shadow color mixture on my palette lid to dry. All I will need to do to reuse the mixed color in the future is to get my brush wet and dip in.

Peppermints are one of my guaranteed-to-make-me-grin art subjects that don’t require a lot of time or planning. I’ve learned over years of painting peppermints that different candy makers have their own peppermint candy look. And I don’t mean the wrapper.

Here’s a fabric pattern I did of peppermints for my Spoonflower shop. I used the gouache techniques I describe above to create this pattern. But do you notice how these mints are different from the ones I did in the demo above? Different candy maker… yummy too!

More about my “Peppermint Candies” fabric pattern is here: https://www.spoonflower.com/en/fabric/8224417-peppermint-candies-by-sueclancy

To illustrate what I mean about working in short bursts despite life situations. A hot water pipe burst on our hot water heater recently. (Talk about heck and high water! 🤦‍♀️) After we got the immediate crisis dealt with I did little quick bouts of drawing as a self calming technique. Also while waiting for plumbers etc restoration crews I doodled and painted in my sketchbook. Gouache makes it easy for me do short bursts of spreading color which makes me smile. And having had a brief grin makes dealing with life much better.

Anyway, there’s a new artist book I’ve done for children called “B Mouse Reads A Book”. In it you can see my original ink and gouache artwork, and how the art media is on folded paper in this video on my YouTube channel. Because this book was meant to be handled in a gallery I used a spray fix varnish to make sure the gouache wouldn’t smear or run.

But since the pandemic hit there’s no going to art galleries to handle or view artist books in person. So I was lucky enough to have “B Mouse Reads A Book” published as an ebook here on Storyberries.com! They also included the book B Mouse is reading too…it’s another artist book I created as part of the B Mouse Reads A Book story…there’s a link at the bottom of the B Mouse book that you can click to see the companion book.

“B Mouse Reads A Book” by Clancy – https://www.storyberries.com/free-books-for-kids-b-mouse-reads-a-book-by-sue-clancy-bedtime-stories/

I’m sure you can recognize in the image above the ways I did my combinations of ink and gouache. The video shows how flexible gouache can be when applied on paper bound or folded as pages. The ebook shows how well the nuances of the colors show even as a digital image.

If you look at my portfolio pages you can see my ink and gouache work as both fine art framed in an art gallery setting as well as reproduced in printed books.

Most of my jigsaw puzzle designs, greeting cards and odd mugs on my Zazzle shop were also created with my combinations of ink, watercolor pencil and gouache. It’s a very versatile media.

That reminds me to tell of another practical matter: if you apply gouache too thickly it can pop or flake off. Especially in a folded or bound paper book. And when scanning or photographing gouache artwork for reproduction a too-thick gouache application can cast shadows unrelated to the artwork subject. So I apply gouache as if I were basting bread with semi melted or melted butter.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and found it helpful for when you try gouache yourself.

See you here next Monday. And in case you’d like to know even more about gouache – here below are a few links to more information about painting with gouache:

COMBINE WATERCOLOR AND GOUACHE TIPS https://www.erikalancaster.com/art-blog/3-tips-to-combine-watercolor-and-gouache-like-a-pro

GOUACHE INFO (VERY GOOD)
https://www.skillshare.com/blog/learn/7-artists-using-gouache-in-gorgeous-ways

GOUACHE SKILLS
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.skillshare.com/blog/learn/8-gouache-paint-pro-tips-you-should-know%3Fformat=amp

GOUACHE IN SKETCHBOOKS
https://juliabausenhardt.com/how-to-get-started-with-gouache-paint/

LENA RIVO – GOUACHE
https://www.lenarivo.com/guide-to-gouache and generally see
https://www.lenarivo.com

Hare be books dragons and comforts

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In my last post I wrote about my children’s books. Here are 4 of my books for those over age 18:

Dogs by Sue Clancy

Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit

Another Sketchbook

Favorites So Far

All 4 of these books are from my sketchbook keeping practice. All are about ways to take care of ourselves and others. The 2 book that are most obviously from my sketchbooks, and are also about finding comfort during difficult times, say “sketchbook” on the cover.

From the Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit I learned that when in a difficult situation (like a pandemic) that’s beyond your control a strategy for dealing with it is to recognize the reality and the feelings – “I don’t like it” – but refrain from getting stuck there. Acknowledge what’s going on but then go on to find something you can enjoy despite the situation. In my sketchbook “Another Sketchbook” I tried to practice this.

For example the above sketchbook page says “eventually things will get better, in the meantime here are some drawings.”

That pretty well sums it up my way of coping.

More of the coping skills I practiced in a sketchbook format – and in the kitchen – were cooking related. Having a book of reliably good favorite dishes has been a solace.

A pot of soup cooking on the stove, good hot beverages and fun books to read really do restore my psyche. I find it helpful to remember this and deliberately revel in it.

So this week I started my Home Hare Care series again. This series celebrates the comforts of home. I had begun this series back in March 2020 during the first official lockdown. Now that my home state of Washington has sensibly begun another lockdown… it’s Home Hare Care season again.

So instead of the slaying dragons mode of response to feelings and difficulties I’m actively choosing a kinder more gentle way of responding.

It’s an “I see you” recognition of the dragon and then using calming techniques to soothe one’s self and peacefully cohabitate with the dragon.

The concept is really an Inuit one – a variation on it anyway. There’s an article here that describes the concept well titled “How Inuit Parents Teach Kids To Control Their Anger

So I drew a dragon, gave it a book to read and made a fabric pattern on my Spoonflower shop. Nice dragon, calm dragon, comfy cozy dragon, rest on this fluffy soft pillow dragon…😁

Since hot beverages feature on my list of soothing comforts it seems sensible to create a series of mugs. I’m calling it my Odd Mugs collection on my Zazzle store. I pretended the sides of mugs were sketchbook pages and reproduced some pages from Another Sketchbook.

See you here next Monday? In the meantime please take care of yourself and keep reading, cooking, drawing and doing whatever you do that’s soothing.