Professional dogs, new books with mac and cheese

A Creative Life, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, children's book, creative thinking, Dogs in Art, fine art, greeting cards, publications - publishing, recipe illustration, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

All week I’ve been collecting photos of dogs from my friends and writing and rewriting the text for my newest childrens book project to be titled “The Professional Dog”.

I’ve been thinking of the 19th century parlor game called The Minister’s Cat and have been updating that game idea with a variety of professions and dogs. All of this is so I can play with my adult friends and together we can entertain some kids.

The way I’ve played The Minister’s Cat (in pre-pandemic times) is like this: a group of people in a circle start a clapping rhythm. One person starts with the letter A saying “The Minister’s Cat is an agile cat”. Then without skipping the beat the next person can either follow with another A word description like “The Minister’s Cat is an adventurous cat”. Or they can follow with a B word like “The Minister’s Cat is a brave cat”. And so forth the game goes through the alphabet in a clapping rhythm. If someone loses the rhythm or stumbles on an adjective then they’re out. In our adult games the penalty for being “out” was refilling everyone’s beverages.

Below are some scribbles of text on my legal pad. I’ve decided (I think) that there will be some letter repetitions just like there would be in an in-person game.

Below are some of the dog photos friends sent this week! There’s an Artist, a Dean, a Chef, a Guidance Counselor, a Lender and a Judge.

In my experience projects in this kind of messy stage of becoming are best left within my peripheral mental vision, so to speak, till they firm up.

As a result I did a good bit on my winter greeting cards project I spoke of in my last post. Below is another card notion – paper dolls on a postcard! I’m thinking it will be fun to mail this card to some kids I know.

Here’s a few of the cards on my Zazzle shop – including “Crowshoes” that I was working on in my last post. I’m also doing more recipe cards as my friend Bernadette of New Classic Recipes suggested.

I’m still waiting on the thingamajig that will hold my phone while I do videos. Insert a cartoon image of Charlie Brown waiting by the mailbox here. While I wait on the thingamajig to be shipped I’ve been making notes on stuff I want to share about creativity and living a creative life. Fun thoughts to think!

But what did come in the mail this week were the books I’d ordered from my local independent bookstore Vintage Books! I’ve read the top two books in an ebook format and wanted print copies they were so good! Besides both books speak to my interest in living a creative life.

And some days I want pasta. One of my favorite cookbooks for pasta is Macaroni and Cheese by Marlena Spieler. There’s a baked broccoli, cheese and pasta recipe that’s very yummy!

I hope your week is the best it can be. See you next Monday?

The professional dog and what’s in the cards

A Creative Life, animals in art, Art Licensing, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, children's book, greeting cards, household surrealism, pet portraits, visual thinking, whimsical art, words and pictures

I’m starting a new childrens poem project “The Professional Dog”. It’s an excuse to do a series of portraits of dogs owned by friends who have professions that fit neatly in an alphabetic format… accountant, botanist, chef…. (Yes, another abecedarian book!!)

Several friends – with dogs – have different professions that could fit for the same alphabetic letter. I know a botanist, a brewer and a baker. I know a chef, a councilor and a critic. Part of my work on this project is winnowing this list.

My book idea began in my small poetry sketchbook, the orange one in the picture, and is now in the messy draft stage on my legal pad.

I’m in the process of contacting friends and asking them to email or text photos of their dogs – and asking questions about their profession. These responses will help me narrow things down.

Here’s a few of the dog photos I’ve gotten from an Accountant, an Underwriter, an Inventory Manager, a Poet, a Nurse and an Entrepreneur.

In addition to this new book project I’ve been thinking more about greeting cards. Last year during the holidays it felt weird getting or sending cards that touched on pre-pandemic style large gatherings. I found I preferred getting and sending the cards that had winter scenery or literary poems or food/drink recipes. I did enjoy the family photo cards and “seeing” everyone that way.

So as I think of the upcoming holiday season I’m starting work on painting a short series of winter, food and book themed artworks intended for cards on my Zazzle shop. Here’s a sketch in my sketchbook with one of my winter theme notions.

Here’s a look at the finished art. I used my new butterfly palette that I’ve talked about in a prior post. These colors are literally based in scientific studies of butterflies and other bugs. It was fun to paint winter scenery using the butterfly colors! The color palette you see in this photo is what I call my “butterfly box”.

Below is a closer look at my finished artwork. After I get a few more for-cards artwork pieces finished then I’ll upload all of the images and design the cards. I’ve titled this piece below “Crowshoes”

Crowshoes by Clancy

This week my spouse made homemade sugar cookies. Seriously comforting and yummy cookies! Cookies and a coloring book are two of the good things in this life, I think, so I posed this photo for use in telling on social media about my recent coloring book “How To Draw A Dragon

https://www.blurb.com/b/10815467-how-to-draw-a-dragon

Many of the baked goodies my spouse makes – like the sugar cookies in the photo above – are from recipes in “How To Bake Everything” by Mark Bittman. As an eater of baked goods I can vouch for this book!

As per my last post I am thinking seriously about doing more videos and have even ordered a thingamajig to hold my phone steady while I talk. It’s a fun – and a bit scary – to entertain the idea of talking on video generally about being creative and include things from my own creative life. I’m thinking I might call these short videos “Creativity chats” with a subtitle of the topic of that particular chat. 🤔 We’ll see. I heartily thank you for your kind encouragement to do more videos!

While I wait for the video apparatus to be shipped to me I’ll work towards “The Professional Dog” and will tell you more about what inspired this idea in future posts.

I hope your week is full of dog (or cat) cuddles, cookies and many other comforting things! See you next Monday.

How To Draw A Dragon, fine art and postal whimsy

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, Art Word Combinations, artist book, book design and layout, children's book, creative thinking, ebook, fine art, greeting cards, household surrealism, Odditorium, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

If you got a post titled “Dragon postal whimsy” I accidentally hit a button. Here’s the real post about “How To Draw A Dragon“! After a week spent creating cover art and scanning 36 pages there’s now a coloring book poem that exists in the world!

This is the book description:

“How do you draw a grumpy dragon? This coloring book story poem written and illustrated by the artist sue clancy shows you how.

This whimsical poem is also about how creativity works, how our creative child selves and our analytical adult selves can work together.”

Below is a look at the original manuscript.

I used the computer to put the text on the front and back covers. I thought long and hard about handwriting it all but I learned when I did Patch La Belle that handwritten text on a cover isn’t “searchable” and could be harder for people to find. That searchable issue isn’t a big concern for me coming from the art world as I do where one-of-a-kind things are the norm. But after thinking a while I opted to type the cover text for “How To Draw A Dragon” even though I hand drew and hand colored everything else.

So here’s the cover becoming…

And here’s what the cover became.

https://www.blurb.com/b/10815467-how-to-draw-a-dragon

I’m especially pleased that my book layout “thinking in page spreads” turned out so well! They line up in the middle when bound! In the first photo below you see my original art. Below that you see the printed book.

Since we’re still in a pandemic I have added a free printable pdf file for this book to my “shop” page where I have several of my free downloadable artist books. It’s on my to-do list to make a portfolio page for How To Draw A Dragon and have everything in one spot.

Storyberries will, eventually, also do a free ebook version of How To Draw A Dragon and have a link to the free printable pdf too. But that’s still in progress. I will update my still-to-be -made portfolio page and this blog when it’s been set up at Storyberries.

On another topic: My Odditorium exhibit will open in September at Caplan Art Designs with some additional new art for the series!

Since we are still in a pandemic the Gallery is doing all the prudent safety measures and I’m doing my part as best I can. Besides doing the virtual page about Odditorium I have done a series of videos on my YouTube channel about this exhibit as well as about why I do this work. I’ve made 5 videos in all but here’s the one about this exhibit. The Gallery will post my videos and share them with clients digitally thereby minimizing everyone’s exposure. I’m glad and grateful to work with a gallery that cares about the health of both their artists and their clients.

On still another topic: A friend recently enjoyed getting a card from me and called it “postal whimsy”. I like that phrase and asked for and was give permission to use it! So I’ve updated my Zazzle collection of odd greeting cards both with the “postal whimsy” phrase and some new card designs. I am getting serious about sending postal whimsy and helping cheer people. Below is one of my favorite cards…

https://www.zazzle.com/hare_in_the_sink_postcard-256418650416992132

This week was so busy that while I did make sure to eat meals of fruits, vegetables and whole grains – more often than not – I didn’t do any sketches or photos of the food. I just stuffed my quiche-hole and got to work.

Despite all of the busy-ness I still did drawings in my sketchbook in the mornings and my evening reading of books before bed. Makes for nice creative bookends, pun intended, to a day.

However busy your week is I hope it is bounded by pleasant things. See you next Monday? Or before then if I hit a wrong button again…

Dragon, the creativity cat and baby blankets

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, business of art, children's book, creative thinking, fabric design, Gifts, illustrated recipe, life of the mind, mental health, pattern design, poetry, recipe illustration, sketchbook, surface design, Sustainable creativity, This Rabbit, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

In my last post I talked about how I manage art projects and time. I have an heretical approach and I was asked for more details. Here goes:

One of my longtime interests is in how humans think, learn and how to maintain good mental health. I read on the topics often. Here’s a few of my bookshelves full of books on these topics.

I’ve learned that humans tend to learn best by hearing stories or anecdotes or metaphors or allegories. Or by seeing examples or demonstrations. Rarely does a direction “do it like this” get followed. This includes self-directions related to art projects and time management. Even if the direction is followed often the purpose for “doing it like this” is rarely fully understood at the time. This includes self-directions.

Let me tell a story to illustrate what I mean: Once there was a mother, with a very tiny kitchen, who always cut her pot roasts in half before cooking them. She taught her daughter to cook pot roast by explaining and demonstrating. Her daughter grew up and had a daughter of her own. One day the grandmother was visiting. The daughter was in her very large kitchen demonstrating cooking a pot roast to her young daughter. She said proudly “In our family we always cut the roast in half first. Isn’t that right mom?” The grandmother replied “Oh, no! The only reason I cut my roast in half was that I didn’t have a pot or a stove big enough to hold a whole roast!”

Being aware of this attribute of human thought and attention I approach self-directions about my own art projects and time use rather sideways. More details below.

The other interesting thing I’ve learned about human thinking is that good mental health and happiness often happens while we’re busy doing something else. Often with, and for, other people. I think the same is true of creativity.

Similarly when humans feel good about, curious about or interested in something they’re more likely to do it. If we make activities we want to do fun and easier to do it increases the likelihood that they’ll be done.

So I give myself directions about my projects in terms of what I *want* to do rather than what I must do and I accept that I may not fully understand what I’m doing, or why, until after the project is completed. I’m also careful to keep lots of projects in various stages of production so that I’m “busy doing something else” and not as likely to get too focused (and too critical) about one project.

I’ve mentioned it before but my approach to creative projects and time management has it’s roots in a mental health book I illustrated “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit“. Below are a few of the pages  that relate to what I’m blogging about today.

For much of my creative life I have taken these concepts about human thinking/emotional health and applied them to my overall approach to creative projects and time management. It has helped me to consistently get projects done in a sustainable and enjoyable way. I say my approach is heretical because I have known art coaches and art teachers who advocate, for example, “strict discipline to do one thing till it’s done” as if we are machines and I strongly reject that notion. That’s too much like lunging and grabbing at a stray cat. That’s a sure fire way to spook the cat – or the ideas – away!

My approach to creativity is similar to the method for befriending a shy cat.  You see a cat hiding in the bushes and you can’t see enough of the cat to know what breed it is, whether it’s healthy or not or whether it’s wearing a collar. So you get some cat treats and with very slow movements place the treats strategically to coax the cat into visibility. You remove yourself, slowly, to a short distance where you do your best to act as if you’re *not* interested in the cat. With patience the cat will emerge at it’s own pace and you can see it. No lunging and grabbing is necessary on your part!

My morning work in my sketchbook is akin to the cat treats strategically placed. I wake up and I just play with words in my poetry sketchbook or with images in my mixed media sketchbook. I do *not* take these efforts seriously. This is just something fun to do while still half asleep waiting while the coffee percolates. Of course I hope something good will come from this work and often it does but that “good” is to be determined much later. At the time I’m drawing or writing in my sketchbook  I’m thinking of it as a fun gentle way to ease into the day.

I literally keep these sketchbooks handy in my breakfast nook along with a few pens and a small gouache watercolor set. The sketchbooks and the watercolor set are small 3 x 5 inches or so. Seldom have I spent more than 10 minutes on these efforts. You see, I’m busy doing something else besides creating – I’m making breakfast and eating it with my spouse. But I have this regular habit of luring ideas into my sketchbook.

Here’s a few recent sketchbook pages.

When my idea-cat begins to emerge from several weeks of my sketchbook morning work I’ll begin gently, tentatively, feeding and petting the idea. I do this by reading books somewhat related to my idea, by writing about my idea on a legal pad, brainstorming in a what-if-I manner.

Here’s a look at my legal pad list that eventually became my book This Rabbit and here’s my portfolio page about that project including links to blog posts detailing my work process for that project.

After doing enough sketchbook work and legal pad what-if work that I feel I’ve got something, some idea emerging into visibility, I’ll sometimes draw a series of thumbnail drawings on loose paper in color to try different color arrangements. Or perhaps I make a folded paper dummy of a book idea. Perhaps I’ll make larger drawings – redrawing images from my sketchbook onto art paper. I am still just playing around and seeing what could happen.

The intention is to test the idea in my sketchbooks to see if it might become  something more than a sketch in my sketchbook. A bit more time is spent, 20 or 30 mins in this phase of idea attracting. These writings and drawings are kept in a 3 ring binder by topic or perhaps with a tentative working title related to what my idea may become: an art exhibit series? A childrens book? A greeting card??? Things are left very open ended.

Still I am busy doing other things – specifically my main art project of the moment – the binder is just a way to keep all of my notions on a theme handy in one spot.  This is like giving that still shy cat a temporary foster home. This way we’ll keep track of kitty, give it some time to adjust, learn about kitty and see how it goes.

Here’s my shelf of 3 ring binders

Here’s some photos from the 3 ring binder for my currently in progress “How To Draw A Dragon” project. There are several folded paper book dummies, several rewrites of the poem and many drawings.

If a 3 ring binder project collection goes well and the idea begins to show promise – by ‘promise I mean ‘potential to be fun’ – then it may move to the “main project” status. The idea cat has been adopted…however we’re still in the probationary period. Anything could happen. This is where I currently am on my ” How To Draw A Dragon” project.

Here’s a few of the “Dragon” pages I did this week.

A main project has the serious art supplies out for it. It has the studio space devoted to it. Time during a day will be set aside for it, but not an entire day, I mean an hour or two. Time is set aside in a task-oriented way not a from-when-to-when on the clock way. I have a master list of tasks to be done on a main project and each day I pick from 1 to 3 of those tasks and set them as a goal to accomplish that day. That’s the establishing a working rhythm that I spoke of last post.

The main project is taken a tiny bit more seriously as in I will erase and redraw whereas in my sketchbooks, legal pads or binders I’ll leave a drawing however it is. I will also write and rewrite with attention to spelling and grammar on a main project. As I go I’m feeling my way along. The uncertainty is normal. Perhaps my idea cat isn’t ready for such attention. Or perhaps it will thrive on it. We will take it slowly and see. My “How To Draw A Dragon” so far seems to be thriving meaning it is still growing and becoming and I’m having fun with it.

Below is a studio photo showing that “How To Draw A Dragon” is filling my easel and overflowing into nearby surfaces. My art supplies used for this project are left out and handy. I don’t open windows in my studio so no breeze disturbs my papers. If you were to visit my house today we would stay far away from my studio because I have things in a careful order for my projects sake. My cat and dog are trained to not disturb things in my studio. There’s a door to my studio and I use it to remain undisturbed. A main project filling the studio is a tender kitten. I handle gently. I have heard art coaches speak of clearing ones working area at the end of each workday — that’s another area where I heretically scream *nooooo!*

Even with the extra attention given to a main project I carefully keep it fun and playful. I will find ways to “feed” a project- to feed my unconscious mind – for example by reading books related to the topic I’m making art about. For my current How To Draw A Dragon project I’m reading about creativity – about creating poetry in particular- and the interplay between our left brains and right brains, between our inner adult selves and our inner child selves. The topical reading is kept up for a duration of a project as it helps with my focus and fun. I simply cannot stress this enough *keep a project fun* and the project will likely get finished.

Another helpful way I keep going on a main project is that I *dedicate* the project to someone – I give the project a purpose, a reason for being (something *not* related to money or fame). I give it something beyond myself. The person or people I dedicate my work to often never know. But I am busy making my main project *for* somebody. During this pandemic openly dedicating works, or embedding symbols a friend might recognize, has been a fun way to stay in touch.

Here’s the dedication page for my Dragon book. Dedications for my fine art most often just happens in my mind.

It may be that I work on something as a main project for a while and it stalls. The stall could happen at the 3 ring binder stage or earlier in the sketchbook stage. A project may fluidly move back and forth between these three stages over a lengthy time period. This is another part of my business of art/creative heresy – I think this fluidity is perfectly normal and fine! Uncertainty is okay! I see it as part of the creative process, part of the ways a creative mind (and a subconscious mind) naturally works. Human brains are not linear machines! This is another reason I work on multiple projects – one stalls and I shift attention to another until the stalled one wants attention again.

Very carefully as I’m in the process of making artwork I avoid any sweeping declarative statements, to myself or anyone else, like “this is dumb” or “this is awesome”. I use moderate language statements, if a statement is needed and I can’t avoid it, I’ll say something like “so far so good” or “it’s a fun challenge”. To make a hard sweeping definitive declaration like “this is horrible” is to force a still-in-progress project into a labled pigeon hole. What may not work as a painting might be a good greeting card. I don’t know yet! When a project is in process I may think I am making X only to discover when I’ve finished that I’ve made Y instead. I deliberately leave linguistic and mental room for such progress! (See my pot roast story above) Harsh declarations make it hard to extract a project from the dispair/elation and continue. It makes it harder to allow a work to change from a painting to a greeting card. I prefer to leave room for discovering and being surprised by what a project becomes. It’s more fun that way. I would no more force an art project to become something than I would force a stray cat to accept a grooming before feeding it and earning its trust.

Here’s more from Dr Bob about being careful about self talk.

https://store.bookbaby.com/bookshop/book/index.aspx?bookURL=Dr-Bobs-Emotional-Repair-Program-First-Aid-Kit1

The tendency all humans have to take things too seriously- even obsessively – is another reason why I deliberately have multiple projects at various stages. One main studio project -or possibly two main projects- at a time but several other projects are being developed in my sketchbooks, legal pads and binders. This helps me not be too “precious” about any one of them. I work on something a while then stop working *while it’s still fun* and do something else. I find it helpful to try to stop working before I am too fatigued, while I’m still interested or enjoying my work and then move on to something else.

So I am always busy “doing something else” which allows my idea-cats space to breathe without micro-attention. This method allows my subconscious mind to work on my projects. I can trust that my inner voice will say “oh, let’s work on this!” when the next part of my idea is ripe. I can trust that I will keep returning to a project until it is finished.

When a main studio project is finished there is usually another project in a binder that’s developed enough that it’s ready for attention at my easel. No force to finish or start a project is needed. No strictness. No machine-like “discipline”. Knowing and accepting the way human minds are naturally has worked well for me. I work with my brain not against it. I am just playing around with topics that interest me. Like most real life fur covered cats I can trust that my idea-cats will tell me when it’s dinner time.

Speaking of dinner. The outstanding dinner of the week was broccoli pasta. I was out of fettuccine so I used short noodles but the recipe in my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook is still yummy!

https://www.blurb.com/b/9759759-favorites-so-far

Earlier this year I was asked to make some gender neutral fabric designs and put them on my Spoonflower shop so someone could get fabric with my designs and sew some bibs and blankets for a new baby.

Here’s a photo of me working at that time on the fabric pattern.

Here’s the finished original art

This week I was given, by the person who had requested the fabric patterns, pictures of some of the finished baby things they’ve made and permission to post about them! It was lovely having something fun like this to post about as my Dragon project is still becoming and is in the gawky teenage stage and camera shy.

Where I tend to run out of time in a day is the social media promotion thing. And frankly there are times, especially when I’m busy, that I’d rather just do my art projects than talk about them. But talking about them is necessary and most of the time I enjoy doing it so… Anyway, I really appreciate it when people share what I post or when someone sends me photos of themselves with my fine art or artist books or share photos of what they sewed with my fabric designs! It helps and is such fun to see!

Anyway, here’s the photos of a burp cloth and a few blankets my friend created with my fabrics! They turned out so well!! The sewing is marvelous!

Hope this description of how I manage my art projects and deal with time was interesting and even helpful to you as you do your own creative projects! Have a creative week and I’ll see you next Monday.

On Looking at Odditorium

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, book design and layout, books, children's book, creative thinking, ebook, household surrealism, Odditorium, On Looking At Odditorium, printed books, public art, published art, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

To my awareness there aren’t many books for children that talk about looking at an artist’s exhibit whether the fine art is in a book or on walls.

A child looking at a painting by Sue Clancy in the Caplan Art Designs gallery

I think looking at a book of fine art is similar to looking at a wordless picture book. Looking at one artist’s series of paintings on a gallery wall is like a wordless book too. But looking at fine art, while there are similarities to wordless picture books, it is also different; a collection of fine art often refers to the feelings and lived experiences of the artist in addition to any visual story there may be within the artwork itself.

So I’ve been lucky enough to work with Storyberries to create a childrens book On Looking At Odditorium that I hope will help kids enjoy looking at artwork and be able to speculate about the artist’s thinking.

Towards that end I created cartoon drawings of myself so they could take a trip (or tour) through a book of my Odditorium fine art exhibit and explain what I was thinking and how I created each painting.

Here’s a closer look at all of the avatar drawings. In many of my childrens books on Storyberries.com there’s a photo of me wearing a sweater. For consistency sake I drew myself in a sweater pointing this way and that.

Below are several sample pages from On Looking At Odditorium. You can see the avatar and a speech bubble on each page.

I want to encourage imaginations so in the book I try to both show and tell what using imagination is like.

For a childrens book I didn’t want to get too technical about art materials and methods but I did want to share something about them. I wanted to share especially when the materials and methods directly interacted with my imagination.

Below is a look at the book layout so you can see the little avatars on tour across a page spread.

The adult version of my Odditorium exhibit coffee table book does not have the avatar or descriptions. Here’s what the cover of the adult book looks like.

https://www.blurb.com/b/10698335-odditorium

And here’s the childrens book version titled “On Looking At Odditorium“. The cover design is very similar to the adult book on purpose – to emphasize that anyone of any age can look at art. The layout inside this book is different as is the kind of paper for the printed books. I wanted paper likely to withstand children’s hands.

https://www.blurb.com/b/10758158-on-looking-at-odditorium

Storyberries has a extra special ebook edition that went live within hours of this post. And I love the nesting specialness of this project: it’s a fine art exhibit called Odditorium at Burnt Bridge Cellars via Caplan Art Designs that has a companion exhibit book titled Odditorium. The Odditorium exhibit book then has a companion childrens book version titled On Looking At Odditorium. Then the special ebook on Storyberries – which you can see here for free – about looking at On Looking At Odditorium! Here’s what the Storyberries ebook version looks like at the top…

https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-odditorium-free-art-books-for-kids/

Did you get all the nesting nuances to this project? I’ve hopefully laid it all out clearly on my portfolio page about this project… but even if no one besides me sees the nesting qualities – thinking about it in this interlocking way served to help me construct it all – my main point is for people to have fun.

Needless to say it’s been a very busy week. There’s been food, some of it tasty and blog-worthy, but I was tired and just ate it without photos or noting recipes.

Also due to busy-ness not much was done on my new crocodile project mentioned last post. But I have kept up my sketchbook activities and reading books of an evening. Sketching and reading are like breathing.

So I’ll not promise anything specific for next Monday… but there will be something. Hopefully, something that encourages your own creative life or is at least entertaining for you.

Till next time – have a good week looking at stuff.

Of beermats, bears, books, poems, crocodiles and garden garlic scapes

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, books, children's book, creative thinking, drinks in art, fine art, functional art, household surrealism, life of the mind, poetry, travel art and writing, travelogue, visual story, visual thinking, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

“Warning” by Jenny Joseph is one of my favorite poems. I particularly like these lines “…and hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes…”. But I hadn’t read that poem or thought of it in a while (you can see the entire poem here).

Earlier this month I received the prospectus for a “reclaimed canvas” art exhibit upcoming at the Aurora Gallery. (This is the project I hinted at in my last post.) The Reclaimed Canvas is an art exhibit asking the gallery artists to paint on something not normally used as a canvas or surface for painting. So I began this new project by rummaging around my studio for a not-typical thing to paint on. Look what I found – boxes of pens, pencils and beermats!

Suddenly I remembered the poem “Warning” by Jenny Joseph…. and had a good chuckle at myself. Of course I reread the poem and laughed some more.

Before we visited, and later moved to, the Pacific Northwest I didn’t think I liked beer. But here in the Pacific Northwest there are locally owned microbreweries and the beer is worth taste testing – and both the brewpubs and the beers often reflect the region in which they’re located. So having a beer in one of the microbrew pubs includes a bit of regional history and personal stories. Often there’s beautiful scenery too. Oh, and did I mention that the beer tastes surprisingly good?

As I looked through my collection of beermats in my pencil box I thought of poetry and word play in general. I also remembered our various visits to the brewpubs whose beermats I had in hand. I evaluated the qualities of the beermats themselves as a possible canvas for a painting.

Here’s the beermat I chose for my new painting project – the first photo shows the front of the beermat and then the next photo shows the back of it.

Bouy Beer is in Astoria Oregon and the brewpub sits right on the water. When entering the pub you can walk over a large glass floor. Through the glass floor you can often see the sea lions lounging on the pier beneath. We’ve enjoyed sitting in the pub on the waters edge, watching ships and marine wildlife. Sitting there, with a beer, I’m aware of the intimate connection this one spot has with the entire world: international ships come and go as do migrating whales, geese and sea lions. I love the way it is both a unique place with it’s own regional quirks and yet it openly, joyfully, participates in a wider world. It’s a wonderful reminder that one can be fully ones particular self while also being fully within, and open to, a diverse world. The food menu at Buoy Beer is also an enchanting fusion of world cuisines… but I dangerously digress. I have so many good memories of this particular pub and look forward to each visit. Oh, and they brew really good beers!

Anyway, for an animal character to use in my painting on the Buoy Beer beermat I thought about having a sea lion drinking beer, a great blue heron drinking beer, a whale drinking…. eventually, after a number of sketchbook drawings, I settled on the character of a bear. My main reasons for choosing a bear is that I could do a wordplay title for the finished art … but also the shape of bear, physically, could evoke the feeling and the relaxing-into-hybernation pose that I associate with the flavor of one of my favorite beers when it’s seasonally available at Bouy Beer.

Here’s a sketch I did when exploring my thoughts.

And below is the painting I did on one of the 4 inch round coasters I had collected during one of our trips to Bouy Beer (which I kept in a pencil box with the rest of my beermat collection – 🤣). I painted on the coaster with gouache and have titled it …wait for it… “Bear, Matt”

The back of my “Bear, Matt” painting has the title and other data written by hand.

I did seal the beermat with a clear primer before I began painting on it and when my painting was finished and dry I varnished the artwork. Plus the art will likely be framed at the Aurora Gallery. So what was once an ephemeral throw-away object now will potentially last quite a bit longer.

I think of this new project as fitting in with my recent household surrealism thinking: a mundane object was thought about in a new way.

With this thought, given my sense of humor, I simply couldn’t resist turning my original painting “Bear, Matt” back into ephemeral beermats. So on my Zazzle shop I made round paper coasters – beermats – that are copies or art prints of my original “Bear, Matt” artwork! The back of these printed coasters is blank. That’s one way you can tell the copy from the original. You can get these here.

https://www.zazzle.com/bear_matt_paper_coaster-256396249111967834

After finishing “Bear, Matt” and delivering the original to the Aurora Galley a few days ago – I visited, in masked-up person, another favorite local independent bookstore called Daedalus Books. This bookstore is especially alluring for me with my interests in literature, fine art, poetry, books about books, artist books, literary studies, culture, history and philosophy. You can see how tempting it was… in the photo below is my book haul!

Another new project in progress contains a crocodile. In the photo below you can see my orange poetry sketchbook and my crocodile poem written by hand. Also in the photo is a binder that holds my drawing attempts, book dummies and poem drafts. Yes, I’m working on a new children’s book. I plan to update this blog over the coming weeks with my progress…

My spouse’s garden has lots of garlic scapes and some radish greens so the memorable meal this week was the pasta with radish greens and garlic scapes recipe below!

Hope your week is full of fun memories and your own collections of beermats, pencils and pens!

See you next Monday?

Flamingos enjoying life in the Odditorium

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Frankly, I’m tired. But it’s the I’ve-played-hard good kind of tired. So more pictures and less text in this post and you get a special peek … I’ve been thinking about Kurt Vonnegut’s book If this isn’t nice what is? Here’s an article I enjoyed about this Vonnegut book. Here’s a photo of the book in my library with other Vonnegut titles.

Below is one of the poems I read during breakfast this week in a book called Animal Poems. It’s one of the titles in the Pocket Poetry series by Everyman’s Library. (I love this series! Especially with breakfast!) The poem in the photo is by Wiliam Cowper. I love the last line “The comfort of a reasonable joy.” So I’ve also been thinking how important it is to have regular reasonable enjoyments. I take the phrase “reasonable enjoyments” to mean the simple kind that don’t require lots of money, a travel agent or dressy clothes. Anyway, here’s the poem.

In my last post I talked about the pace of creative life. I’ve still been thinking about the skill of crafting daily rhythms and here’s a link to an inspiring article I read on the topic: https://www.wired.com/story/calendar-tips-post-pandemic-reentry-organization/  Maintaining a daily rhythm has enabled me – to get very tired 🤣 – but also to have nearly everything completely finished two weeks early prior to delivery of all the art and books for my Odditorium exhibit. Being early gives me flexibility to have time to rest as well as to deal with any unexpected issues.

Below are some of my sketchbook pages … and some kitchen gadgets I looked at and thought about as I worked on one of the last paintings for this exhibit.

Here’s a photo my spouse took of me working out how flamingos might carry things.

Below is the finished painting on my easel drying. Below that is a close up of the dry painting. I titled it “Is Not This Nice?” The title fits with my thoughts recently and echos the collage text I found in my falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was fun to find text written by Austen that was similar to what Vonnegut said.

Is Not This Nice? By Clancy – acrylic and collage on board

If the background of my painting reminds you of the ocean….we went there recently and seeing the sea lingered in my mind. The Pacific Ocean isn’t far from our house. I find it soothing to visit.

By now my studio is chock full of boxes of framed art ready for exhibit at Burnt Bridge Cellars and Caplan Art Designs. This is part of how I earned my tiredness.

The other way I’ve been earning my tired is that I’ve been working on the exhibit catalog aka a picture book of my Odditorium exhibit. In addition to that I’ve been working on a kid friendly version of my exhibit catalog. Children need fine art in their lives too in my opinion. When I was a kid I would have loved to see a book talking about looking at fine art. That’s why I took the extra steps to make a children’s book version too. I have sent the kid friendly version to Storyberries.com and they have an exciting plan for the book design! Below is a screenshot of a post they did on Instagram about it!

Here’s a special early peek into the Odditorium – at my exhibit book!!! And a link so you can see the whole book!!! Even in the midst of being tired I’m excited!!

One of my reasonable enjoyments this week was my spouse’s homemade biscuits for breakfast. The recipe is in my kitchen sketchbook Favorites So Far and you can see more of it here.

More next Monday about the Odditorium exhibit book and the other fun stuff…after I have a bit of rest. Hope you have a good week full of relaxation and reasonable enjoyments.

Crows, writing, art and the odd sandwich

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This week in the Odditorium aka household  surrealism I thought of how often I use the same pens to write and draw with.

It’s not surprising really as elsewhere in this blog I have written about the similarities I see between art making and writing. Here’s a link about that… https://sueclancy.com/similarities-of-art-and-writing/

These thoughts swirled in mind as I watched the crows in my yard. I don’t know where the wingtip shoes came from… but here they are in my sketchbook.

From my morning reading I added the quote from Plutarch. And I thought of how all too often we see only what we expect to see. It takes practice to work on our inner selves, to moderate our expectations and let things just be however they are. Then I put away my book and puttered in my studio cleaning things up, sorting pen nibs back into their places and cleaning the nib holders.

With these thoughts still swirling I started a new painting loosely based on my sketchbook page above. After a few days of work my spouse snapped this photo.

And then my spouse took this photo to show that sometimes I “hide” things on the edges of the paintings I do on cradled board.

Some time later I took a photo of the finished painting. I’ve titled it “Enjoyment”. I keep thinking of how we can choose to dip our pens in our pleasures and write them on our souls rather than rehearse the things that upset us. That choice can change one’s attitude and the kind of day one has.

Here’s a close up photo of the area of “Enjoyment” that contains the collage elements. I carefully chose text from the falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that I’ve mentioned in recent posts. So much of Austen’s work is a social comedy of people’s expectations and emotions. That’s why I choose this book for my collage source material besides the fact that it was already falling apart and was handy. (I have a collection of collage material to choose from and could have chosen some other theme.)

After I posted “Enjoyment” on social  media a friend who had studied poetry and Victorian literature in college commented that crows represent transformation. And the symbolism of crows was definitely on my mind. What a good word the word transformation is and I appreciate my friend for reminding me of it. When we are able to remember to enjoy the smallest of pleasures – and to be curious – we are in a position to transform moments of stress into something manageable.

Getting curious and writing and drawing (however well or poorly) are all tools of the emotional transformation process.

It wasn’t until later after conversation with my friend that I realized that in my new crow painting I echoed a theme (transformation) I have played with before. Such as when I took a tale by Aesop and made a wordless story “The Crow And The Water Jug” (you can also see the whole book via this link at Storyberries.com )

The Crow and the Water Jug – a wordless Aesop counting story – by Clancy https://www.blurb.com/b/10109198-the-crow-and-the-water-jug

More details about this children’s  book project on my portfolio page.

As I mentioned last post I’ve been working on writing a short summary for my entire fine art exhibit that I’m calling Odditorium.  Writing in my sketchbook as I work on art projects helps me focus my fine art onto a clear theme. I write my thoughts down as I work on fine art and vice versa so there’s a *lot* of both writing and art to winnow when it’s time to write an exhibit summary statement. Besides helping me sort my own thoughts the short summary text is something that Burnt Bridge Cellars and Caplan Art Designs will use when talking about my exhibit with the public. Anyway, after more rewrites than most humans can count without a calculator here’s what I came up with:

Odditorium: I’ve been practicing household surrealism; painting visual stories inspired by looking in an uncommon way at common objects and plants. A useful mental health technique for dealing well with feelings is to deliberately look at the feeling in a new way. This is what I’m practicing when I do household surrealism. I take ordinary things found about the house and depict them in odd, different from the usual, ways so that instead of feeling mundane they evoke feelings of magic, wonder and laughter. Perhaps the flowers, the wine opener, the coffee mug are really souvenirs of pleasant moments in life?

I use gouache, ink, color pencil acrylic and collage to make my images. The collage text is from a falling apart copy of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen that I had in the house. Austen wrote about emotions and dealing with them so I enjoy the visual pun of including bits of her text in this series. I use animal characters because an animal behaving like a human highlights our humanity.

That’s the end of my statement which counts to about 200 words. I may tweak at it a bit more. But there it is.

No grand food experiments to crow (sorry!) about this week but I did repeat a reliably good sandwich recipe.

So I hope you have a very good week. See you next Monday?