Chapter 3: Readings From The Heart

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I’ve been asked how I manage projects, like my “Readings From The Heart” exhibit, over a long duration. Half jokingly I replied “one bite at a time”. My joke is in reference to this saying I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall.

Seriously though when starting I create a general big picture, a kind of map for the entire project. Or, if you prefer, an outline. When I design a long project I do a hybrid blend of the two writing techniques: outlining and seat-of-pantsing. I apply these writing technique concepts to fine art making. I described in my last post what my big picture became for this exhibit that opens this week; the exhibit statement and the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. Here’s a few photos of the printed catalog. An ebook version is also available.

But when I began, more than 8 months ago, my big picture for this project was extremely vague. It was akin to a map of a forest without many details. It was akin to a book jacket blurb, with barely a teaser of what might be inside. It was akin to a writer’s outline with whole sections labeled ‘more research needed’.

My big picture map/ loose outline, was handwritten on a legal pad. Vague as it was it still served as a starting point. I keep a notebook/file box for each project so I can store all of my notes in one spot for easy updating and consultation as I work by the seat of my pants and a lots of “Very Small Goals” (VSG) for the project.

Then with the vague map in hand I identified some Very Small Goals (VSG) that would help me start and proceed on my project. These VSG’s can be as small as ‘buy a new art boards by Friday’. The VSG’s change as the process develops. The trick with VSG’s is to make them absurdly small, easily achievable and very specific – including what and when. It’s important to also find some way make each VSG fun.

I think of the creative life as an Eco-system rather than an Ego-system – what’s important is participating, showing up and finding ways to keep things fun. I can’t stress enough the importance of playing and keeping things fun. That makes creativity over a long project sustainable. Here’s another saying I have thumbtacked to my studio wall.

As I proceed to work I know many changes to my big picture/exhibit design will happen. I also know I don’t live in the big picture. I move organically back and forth from big, medium and small pictures of a project. It’s okay to be uncertain, to experiment and play. I just remember to update my big picture map as I have new thoughts. Slowly over time the picture map comes into focus. A project also changes as life happens.

In this case I began my Readings series well over 8 months ago. Then the pandemic happened and threw a monkey wrenchs in my plans. For example I had to suddenly adapt the way I was artistically inspired: to change from being inspired by things I experienced out in the world to a stay-at-home life, things that I read about or only happened in my imagination.

So to think through how to cope with the pandemic and quarantine I reread Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit, which I had created some time back, about mental health coping skills and wrote notes, drew pictures in my sketchbook in order to think.

I also worked daily in my sketchbook on the topic of how to adapt finding books to read, and the development of one’s mental life to a stay at home quarantine situation. Eventually this book was published as Another Sketchbook in order to share my entire process.

Being in quarantine meant cooking at home more so I consulted our Favorites So Far book. This is a sketchbook full of recipes that were enjoyable ways to feed body and mind. You could say that my work on these artist books/sketchbooks is the medium picture, the inset details within the bigger map, the more developed areas in the outline.

A look at the original sketchbook page which is included in Favorites So Far

All of this sketchbook work inspired my fine art, where I developed specific thoughts with ink and gouache on board. You can almost think of the fine art as the most visible leaves and fruits on the artist book “trees”. In the exhibit catalog I’ve tried to show the connections between the artist books and the fine art I created.

Sometimes, as the pandemic continued, the fine art on the topics of reading, cooking and thinking felt too serious. Needing some self comfort and to have some fun I began drawing portraits of dogs and cats. In order to organize these dog and cat drawings I decided to make them into a children’s book as a gift for some kids in our friends’ lives. Many of my adult friends enjoy my dog and cat portraits so I decided to share each pet portrait on my Instagram page as I finished it in hopes of cheering my friends as I created the kids book.

The finished artwork became an artist book titled Alphapets and was picked up by Storyberries.com. A sequel Alphapets Too followed. Many stories begin with love and an alphabet – so this portrait project felt fun, relaxed and like a small picture, a detailed map insert or a sample bit of text to be fitted into an outline. (In fact, I spoofed some of the pet portraits within my larger fine art paintings.) Here are the pages in the big picture book Readings From The Heart that tell about the smaller picture of Alphapets and how it fits in.

The original artwork for both Alphapets and Alphapets Too is on exhibit at the Aurora Gallery during August and September. More details about those projects here with lots of pictures of the artwork.

When all of the artist books and all of the artworks were finished I reread my notes and used those to create the exhibit statement I spoke of in my last post. I also used these notes to create the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. That was the very last thing I did for the August and September exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars, the Aurora Gallery and Caplan Art Designs. Well, the last thing besides the framing and art delivery.

Below is a photo of all of my artist books that relate to my Readings From The Heart exhibit. Additionally I’ve created a webpage with all of this projects more than 20 fine art pieces and details about each of the 3 exhibits here.

All 6 artist books related to the Readings From The Heart fine art exhibit

During this time period I was interviewed for a Doodlewash feature about my work in which I describe my working methods, the materials I use, how my daily work routine goes, images of my artwork, etc – you can see that here: https://doodlewash.com/sue-clancy-artist-whimsical-visual-stories/

Here’s a picture of me working in a sketchbook

Clancy at work in a sketchbook

I hope this look at how I work on long projects has been amusing for you. The exhibits open this week. Many of my upcoming Instagram posts will likely be about that. And I will update the above mentioned portfolio pages too.

Then next Monday when I post here I hope to be beginning a new long-ish project; an illustrated poem for a children’s book titled Numpurrs. I found I quite enjoyed the serialized posts I did for Alphapets and Alphapets Too. So I look forward to doing that again!

Chapter 2: Readings From The Heart

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The purpose of art, in my opinion, is to cheer people and help them through stuff. My creative challenge during a pandemic has been how to share art during stages of quarantine.

In my last post I described how I’m doing three fine art exhibits in two states, in August and September, during this pandemic. Normally art exhibits are large-gathering social events. The gathering part is canceled but the exhibits will go on. All of us are just being creative about it. One of my solutions to the how-to-share problem has been to create artist books that can be shipped directly to you from the printer. My goal with these exhibits has been to be practical and amusing… and I think artist books help me do that.

One of the books I’ve made is an exhibit catalog, Readings From The Heart, that has the big picture, so to speak, of all of my exhibits. I also created the tiny picture, two alphabet books for children.

And in between there are three of my other artist books that also relate to my exhibit – and to coping with a pandemic:

Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit (mental health coping skills)

Another Sketchbook – more drawings from the heart (developing ones mental, creative life)

Favorites So Far– a kitchen sketchbook (enjoyably feeding body and mind)

The six artist books related to “Readings From The Heart” an art exhibit by Clancy

In total I’ve made 6 artist books to help cheer you that relate to my recent artwork. Poking about on my website www.sueclancy.com gives you access to everything – including some free ebooks I’ve playfully half hidden on my site.

In typical times when I exhibit art I write a short statement about it. The statement is used by the gallery for promoting the exhibit. In pre-pandemic times the statement would also be put on the gallery wall to serve as an explanation of my motivation for all of the art. People would walk up and read it. I would also be at the opening parties answering questions and talking with people. But since that’s not happening this year I put it all in my books – but in a much less formal way.

Even so here’s what I wrote for this exhibit spanning three galleries and two states: “Readings from the Heart
– It’s been a strange pandemic. Until recently I drew in my sketchbook from what I would see in the real world as I “ran around loose” in Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest. The pandemic altered that. As I stayed home, I began drawing people and animals more directly from my heart; from memory and imagination. This led to acknowledging that I deeply missed the local coffee shops, the winery, the pubs, the great the library, the bookstores, the museums, the gardens, the zoo… So, I began to experiment with how to adapt what it was that I enjoyed out in the world to this new “at home” life. This exhibit, and the artist books that accompany it, are my heart and mind’s adaption process.”

Because I have more space in my various artist books I went into more intimate details of what I was thinking and feeling – including cooking recipes and self-therapy techniques. I used a more conversational tone in my books as if you and I were chatting at an opening.

Favorites So Far – a kitchen sketchbook
One of the original sketchbook pages from Favorites So Far
A page from Favorites So Far
Another page from Favorites So Far

The galleries – Aurora GalleryBurnt Bridge CellarsCaplan Art Designs – will have photos and possibly video from my exhibits on their various social media and websites. Of course I’ve been sharing online too. Speaking of – here below is more of my artwork that relates to the topics within my artist books mentioned above.

Coffee To Go by Clancy
Sacred Dance of The Stewpot by Clancy
Pie In The Sky by Clancy
Midnight In The Garden Of Goode And Weeval by Clancy
The Way Of All Fresh by Clancy

As you can tell food, drinks and books are themes. I find it a useful mental health coping skill to be able to focus on small pleasures, to be able to experience subtle enjoyments.

You can see much more of the artwork from my exhibits on my portfolio page. I hope it all makes you smile at least a little.

Here’s a pic of me working in gouache and ink on the largest painting.

Sue Clancy at work on “The Way Of All Fresh”

Alphapets Too: A,B,C and D

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Here begins Alphapets Too my sequel to Alphapets by Clancy as per the request of my fans and Storyberries – the publisher/distribution house I’ve been working with! (See my last post for details)

The Alphapets Too pet portrait project this week is brought to you by the letters A, B, C and D. Here’s my abecedarian poem to go with these letters and artwork :

Abby adores the window ledge

Bunny bounces into the hedge

Clark craves a wee bite of flower

Dash delights in a cool rain shower

Here’s the artwork (somewhere on each piece is an alphabetical letter):

I did portraits of a parakeet, a rabbit, a tortoise and a cockatiel.

In researching these common house pets that are not dogs or cats I realized that I’d never drawn a parakeet before. So it was fun to practice drawing them, to see how many different shades of blue parakeets there are and to create Abby. I now have a new image in mind when I think of a “blue bird of happiness.”

For Bunny I had a lot of drawing rabbits experience to work with. On my Instagram pages I’ve been doing a “Home Hare Care” series of rabbits doing self-care comforting activities at home – some are complex art pieces. So it was relaxing for me this week to pull a simple rabbit out of my drawing hat. Lol!!

Some friends have kept a happy tortoise for years in their condo patio garden. Their tortoise has a different name but shares Clark’s enjoyment of eating flowers. We know about flowers as tortoise guilty pleasures because of holiday card exchanges we have with our friends.

I’ve drawn cockatiel birds before – usually having cocktail drinks – but I learned during my research for this book that some cockatiels like to accompany their human in the shower – if the human doesn’t have the water too hot. So I had fun making dash-shaped water drops and naming the bird in my portrait Dash.

Like my original Alphapets this artwork, too, was created with ink, gouache and color pencil. I do these portraits on board, size 3.5 x 2.5 inches. The original art will be framed…eventually … and be a miniature art exhibit at the Aurora Gallery.

I will also be making an artist book titled Alphapets Too – in a format like “Alphapets by Clancy”. You can see print and ebook versions of “Alphapets” by clicking here.

And when I get it all done “Alphapets Too” will be available on Storyberries.com (Btw: there are two different stories by me currently on Storyberries.com- search the site by my name)

You can follow my progress during the week on my Instagram pages and see the nitty gritty details of my creative process in my Monday blog posts.

Thanks again for coming on this adventure with me!

Starting Alphapets Too

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As I mentioned in my last post my book Alphapets by Clancy has been such a hit at Storyberries.com that they want a sequel – and my fans do also! So this week I’ve begun Alphapets Too.

For several days I looked for popular house pets that are not cats or dogs. I made a list of over 26 kinds of pets: parakeets, hedgehogs, hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, turtles, lizards…and so forth. I didn’t realize there were so many house pet options! Here’s a photo of me doing some of this research work – with the help of my dachshund.

As I saw images of hedgehogs, turtles, newts, frogs, gerbils and such I practiced drawing the animals in my sketchbook. I just drew the animals and had fun with them in my sketchbook – merging the animal drawing practice with whatever thoughts I was having at the moment. I regularly post my sketchbook pages on my Instagram page (@artistclancy).

Also in short bursts over several days I wrote a new poem for Alphapets Too. I write in longhand on a legal pad with a fountain pen. Typically I sit in my dining room near a collection of books on writing and several dictionaries. I view this as play-time and since I’m just writing drafts I take nothing seriously. It’s all play. So I make sure to have a fun beverage at hand. Milk and cookies. Coffee or tea. Or as in one of the photos below a yummy steaming hot mug of “lemony lucious luck”.

To make “Lemony Lucious Luck” heat water in a tea kettle, cut 2 to 3 generous slices of a fresh lemon and remove the seeds. Put the lemon slices in a mug. Put a bit of honey onto the lemon. Pour hot water over all. Let it steep a bit and enjoy!

That’s my creative process in a 12 ounce mug-size description.

Also this week I varnished all of the original artwork for Alphapets and delivered the art to the Aurora Gallery for framing and exhibition. Since the coronavirus pandemic is what it is, the delivery-to-the-gallery process was very different. In addition to wearing a mask it was arranged that I would leave the art just inside the gallery door, holler that I was there and then go home. Details about the framing and exhibition were arranged via phone and text.

Since all of the Alphapets artwork is small – 3.5 x 2.5 inches – all 26 pieces fit into a box that fit into a gallon size zip bag. It was rainy the day I delivered the art so I put the box in the plastic. Having everything in one box made the art delivery easy.

Due to the novel coronavirus the exhibit will likely be online only and will be on the Aurora Gallery social media pages – https://auroragalleryonline.com – All of this is very different – but quite doable! Here’s some photos of me spray varnishing and then, days later after the varnish was dry, delivering the Alphapets…

Its been a busy week. As mentioned in my last post I hoped to start creating the new artwork for Alphapets Too. That didn’t get as far along as I’d hoped. Ah well. Something to look forward to posting about next Monday!

Hope to see you then!

Here’s the link to both print and ebook forms of “Alphapets by Clancy”

Thanks again for reading and riding this ride with me!

Clancy’s view of Tralfamadore

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

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

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

Front cover
Back cover
Panoramic view of the contents

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for sharing this present moment with me.

Slaughterhouse Chives or what came from my sketchbooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My loose sketchbook to fine art method

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

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

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

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

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

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

I tried the drawing a few times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

writing techniques my kitchen sketchbook and fine art

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I’m working towards 3 one-person fine art exhibits this year and I’m using writing techniques to design them. Gathering sources, aka a bibliography, is a starting spot for nonfiction works. So I’m borrowing that concept only I’m creating the books I’ll use as, ahem, source citations.

For example, in my last post I depicted a woman reading and having breakfast. Here is the source for the breakfast within the art… the source is my kitchen sketchbook:

During my exhibits I’ll want to show my sources (like a writer would) so I’ve published a new artist book based on my kitchen sketchbook titled Favorites So Far. The recipes come from both me and my spouse, a kind of memoir sketchbook cookbook… and part of the basis for my fine art. Anyway, here’s a picture of the cover:

That you could make your own meals from this book is a happy bonus…it’s primarily yummy source material!

If you want to you can get a copy of this book via this link: https://www.blurb.ca/b/9759759-favorites-so-far

I’ll post more on this topic over the coming months.

local stocking stuffers for readers

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I’ve been having a blast playing at being a North Pole elf, designing gifts for my upcoming pop-up shop at Vintage Books https://www.vintage-books.net/ Dec 7th from noon to 4pm!  The Pacific Northwest social scene has been inspiring and guiding my thoughts.

Here in Vancouver all year long people get together regularly for happy hours, for pot-luck dinners and other social occasions. I love it! Then come October through to the new year there are parties, parties and parties!!!  There are cookie parties, apple parties, wine parties, beer parties, cocktail parties, salad parties, game-night parties, pot-luck dinner parties…. and, of course, holiday stocking stuffer parties.

So as I’ve designed my products for the pop-up shop I’ve kept in mind the various stocking stuffer parties we’ve attended – as well as the local trend of giving handmade items and/or small-in-cost-and-size unique gifts to friends and family.

Anyway, I have very much enjoyed designing whimsical gifts thinking of my local friends, family and fans.  I’m delighted that my local bookstore, Vintage Books, has asked me to do this pop-up shop and I’m also planning a performance-art aspect to the event – i.e. I’m going to do some “live drawing” pet portraits…. but more on that in another post.

Here’s a stocking with some of the stuff I’ve designed in it.

StockingStuffers300

A few of the gift items with my artwork on them that I’ve designed for my upcoming pop-up shop at Vintage Books https://www.vintage-books.net/

yarns heard around the world

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I realized recently that the “bedtime story” ritual, for both children and adults, is nearly universal across cultures. While there is scientific evidence (see links here and here) that reading printed books before bed can help you sleep and provide other benefits – for me it’s plain indulgence.  Naturally bedtime-reading is subject matter for one of my artworks that will be included in an upcoming exhibit in September at Caplan Art Designs:

YarnsHeardAroundTheWorldSM

Yarns Heard Around The World – by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – ink, gouache on board

For fun as I created this piece I combined my thoughts about bedtime reading with the concepts of teams and coaches…. counting sheep is a world-wide sport. Right? Lol!