Wonders, my adopted Mom and real cheese

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, book design and layout, books, business of art, cat portrait, drawing as thinking, fine art, life of the mind, Odditerrarium, sketchbook, words and pictures

My adopted Mom’s favorite flower is the orchid. Both Dad and Mom enjoyed cats – even though sometimes the cats knocked over plants or books. So I thought those thoughts while creating a portrait of a friends cat. I’ve titled the finished painting “Wonders”. It joins the rest of my Odditerrarium series and is also 10 x 8 inches and made with ink and gouache.

Here’s a closer look at the details.

And here’s a link to the Instagram Reel I did of me painting another layer of yellow on “Wonders” https://www.instagram.com/reel/CdOX5mgpJuj/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

Below are some sketchbook pages from this week. In difficult times I find that helps having a sketchbook routine.

When I first met my adopted Mom and Dad I asked “how do I know you’re for real?”. Mom’s response was “Watch what I say and do over time”. So during almost every visit with them I brought my sketchbook along and took notes. Sometimes these notes got illustrated during the visit. Often the notes were rewritten and illustrated more neatly shortly after the visit. As time has marched I have used these sketchbooks as source material for making my books and other creative projects. For example when I put together “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” I referenced my sketchbooks and consulted Dad and he shared his original lecture notes.

Here’s a recent video of me reading a story from this book here – it’s still a favorite story all these years later!

My friend Sherri Kennedy has a great post here related to this topic of imaginations and “feeding” attitudes.

I also see a correlation to what Michael Graeme says in his blog here “Try to go deeper, into the sublime, and feel it.” We can choose what we focus on, we can fully experience our feelings (taking breaks as needed) and fully embrace whatever feeds our good wolves and let that in turn feed our creative souls.

Speaking of feeding things: I remember as a barely in my 20s young person visiting my adopted Mom and Dad. We would get to talking with books and papers strewn about, including my sketchbook and drawing tools, time would fly by and suddenly Mom would put a large plate amongst the books. On this plate would be an assortment of foods, many of which I hadn’t seen before: specialty cheeses, meats, crackers, fruits, vegetables and nuts. The first time that happened Mom explained “charcuterie plates” to me. From that time on during visits when such plates appeared she’d tell me “this is Gruyere cheese” or whatever the new-to-me cheese was, each visit was an ongoing education in life, literature and food. Needless to say all of our visits revolutionized my previous “processed cheese food slices” existence for the better!

Naturally I included Mom’s charcuterie instructions when I got around to reproducing my kitchen sketchbook, along with I hope a sense of the combination of drinks, foods and conversation about books.

Here’s one of my favorite photos of a younger me with Mom and Dad.

Here’s a photo showing how things often looked just before Mom would put a charcuterie plate down.

When I was looking through my photos for this blog I saw this one of Dad looking at one of my wee books.

I miss Dad and I miss Mom being healthy (last post)… I am beyond glad that they (and my 5 siblings) adopted me! I will always carry them on in my life and creativity. This, I think, is part of the idea of “working from life” perhaps even more than the act of looking at a real life object and drawing it.

And I find comfort in loving the colors outside my window and the light and shadows. May have to try painting the grey-blue, greens, browns with that salmon color…

And I get comforts in doing the work of my creative projects. Here’s my art studio dachshund supervisor helping me with the book design and layout for my Odditerrarium exhibit book.

In my last post I was working on my exhibit statement. I edited it this week…chiefly I remembered that I needed to say something in the statement about the art media I work with! Amazing how I could forget something so basic! Ha! Thank goodness for creating books and the editing processes!! Here’s the finished exhibit statement that I’ve sent to the Caplan Art Designs gallery.

A dear friend sent a surprise knowing that I love getting books by mail! Such fun to share a favorite author in common with a friend!

Mom’s self-care directions throughout my life often included advice to “remember to eat mindfully”. Indulgence in her opinion was welcome, necessary and to be done in moderate mindfulness. This week I made macaroni and cheese using onion, garlic with Gruyere and cheddar cheeses. The recipe is here.

I’m reading an autobiography “The Summer of a Dormouse” by John Mortimer. I love his fiction and his way of writing in general. This autobiography is adding to my good-wolves in that I can read about Mortimer going though difficult times in his personal life while simultaneously creating his pleasant fictional works. I’m reminded that it is possible – normal even – to be able to acknowledge difficulties and still create pleasant things.

I hope you’ll be able to feed your good wolves this week and create pleasant things too. See you next Monday.

Our current times, tuning in to awe and books

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This week war began and for a second being an artist felt frivolous. But in difficult times we need art more than ever. We need things and people that feed our spirits and remind us of why we’re glad to be alive. We need hope. That’s how we fight for democracy  and win.

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began I listened to the news and searched my bookshelves for a title I had gotten in 2003 not long after 9/11 and when war began in Iraq. My thoughts then, like now, turned to the role of artists during times of war. “Artists in Times of War” by Howard Zinn was very relevant in 2003 and still is even though the current event details are different.

Spoiler: artists are carriers of democracy. To quote from page 108 they are “profoundly democratic”. Democratic is defined as upholding, however imperfectly, the ideas of rule of law, of equality before the law, equality in access to resources, equality of representation in government and the human right of self determination. The Arts are a living language of a people, a dramatization of what they feel, what they need, what their hopes are … The Arts help people become self aware. Self-awareness helps people make choices and become active participants in their own lives and communities. That’s what makes living artists so dangerous in the viewpoint of authoritarians.

And perhaps equally important is the fact that artists help us, no matter how high flying the political rhetoric, to remember that the kids will still need to be entertained and educated, that adults will still need kindness, that dinner will still be wanted. Art, poetry and writing of all kinds can help us remember that the statistics a politician quotes represent actual people.

Speaking of dinner: a dear friend came over to visit for an evening and to ask me to sign some copies of two of my book titles that she plans to give as gifts! It was so good to see her!

After serving wine I signed copies of The Professional Dog and Numpurrs. I also did little drawings in each book!

We had a free ranging conversation about life, books, movies and my friend indulged me as I showed her my art projects in progress and outloud we played with what “could be”. This is an extremely exciting and valuable sort of conversation! Bouncing ideas around in loose “what if…” and “what about…” ways helps me in my creative process! It was so unbelievably good to get my friends input! Sharing artwork in its fragile beginning stages is risky and I’m so lucky to have trustworthy creative-playing friendships.

I made a new batch of potato soup (recipe last post) and when it was ready the three of us ate soup out of large mugs while sitting informally in the living room where it was warm and comfy.

I delighted in having fabric cocktail napkins with my Professional Dog portraits on them and enjoyed our friends chuckles when she saw the napkins!

The Professional Dog cocktail napkins- https://www.spoonflower.com/en/home-decor/dining/cocktail-napkins/12418133-professional-dog-by-sueclancy

Whenever I feel unsettled about world events besides talking with my spouse and trusted friends I deliberately tune in to awe. Meaning that I purposefully do some small thing that delights me, sparks my curiosity or causes me to notice something and say “wow!”. A good article I read this week on the topic of awe and why it’s important is here. An aspect of tuning in to the feeling of awe is to cultivate time to play in unstructured ways, to make time to wander, to ponder.

On a recent wandering meandering car drive we saw snowfall and large trees. That’s a guaranteed “wow” from me – I love the large evergreens any time of the year.

The feelings of awe, the feelings curiosity and the feelings of an aha moment are part of why I object so strongly to book banning (see a recent post). The attempts to control the mental resources available to others is a form of abuse. Banning preempts the victims ability to be self-aware and to be able use, as democracy offers, however imperfectly, the right of self determination. The restrictions of a person’s access to books and other mental resources is as serious as someone restricting a person’s access to food, water or healthcare.

Books Are All We Know … art print by Clancy –  https://society6.com/product/books-are-all-we-know-of-heaven4207368_print?sku=s6-18617343p4a1v45

During times of unrest I think taking the time to ponder is crucial because an artist is so much more than a reaction to or a mirror of society. If an artist is going to take action rather than simply knee jerk react to current events it takes time to think things through.

Here’s a paraphrased quote that I wrote on a card and thumbtacked to my studio wall.

Progress is happening on a new experimental art book for Storyberries! It’s a wordless visual poem about letter soup with only 10 panels plus front and back covers. 12 images total. Ink, acrylic and gouache are my art methods on another 2 inch square concertina zig zag folded book. I focused as I mentioned last post on rhythm, repetition and surprise. It will be a challenge to talk about this poem on this blog and on my social media without giving the poem’s punchline away immediately before Storyberries has a chance to distribute it but I’ll do my best.

In the photo below I’ve laid in the extreme dark and light areas to establish the contrast as well as to focus on the visual rhythm. I’m thinking of how the ebooks on Storyberries flow up and down so I’m designing my content to flow with that book motion. Will it work? I don’t know. 🤷‍♀️ Yes, my new poem is for a category on Storyberries called “experimental” for a reason! 🤣

The sortof weird thing is that I’ve not completely finished promoting “How The Cow Went Over The Moon” yet. So there might be some promotion overlap. Oh well. People read more than one book at a time anyway right?

A few evenings this week I took a break from reading “The Annotated Arabian Nights” to read “Suds in Your Eye” by Mary Lasswell. This book was published in 1942 when World War II began. What I’ve enjoyed about this book, besides seeing an artistic response to the wartime events of the 1942 era, is that no single person is the “hero” or center of the story. The story centers around how a group of people work together as a community. The concept of working together is also what drives the story plot. And “good food, great friends and cold beer” could be the books motto. This is such a good book to cheer up by! I’d list this book as an early example of the hopepunk genre (mentioned last post). And the illustrations are darling!

Besides the visit from a great friend this week my wife and I talked by phone with my adopted mom and big sister! Mom said she’s proud of me and that I’m to “Keep making art”! Big sister agreed! So I wrote the exact quote of Mom’s on a card and thumbtacked it to my studio wall just above the light switch for the room. That way I will always remember!

I hope your week contains many connections with your support system so that you feel encouraged to do all the good you can in this world.

See you next Monday?

Miniature art, dogs, cows and books

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This week had a cow in it (more on that in this post) and a dog portrait. I selected one of my sketchbook drawings as an idea for what to paint using the new brush technique I learned from the book, Miniature Art by Joan Cornish Willies that I talked about in my last post. Here’s the sketchbook page.

This ink, gouache and watercolor painting below is 8 x 10 inches in size, well within the “miniature art” definitions. The brush method recommended in the book “Miniature Art” by Joan Cornish Willies is to lay a round pointer brush on its side in the paint and rolling it to absorb the paint while maintaining the point on the brush.  Dipping, pressing or stabbing the brush point in the paint, however gently, makes the brush point spread out and thus makes doing fine detail within a painting more difficult.

Here’s a look at the whole painting I’ve finished and titled “A Tale-carrier”

The new brush technique did help me get more fine details. Particularly around the dog’s eyes, nose and on the books. Here’s a closer look…

I’m loving the way creating finer details enables me to combine the human senses of touch and sight in this new miniature work! And I enjoyed making a miniature that knows it’s a miniature! Lol! It’s amazing what a gift awareness can be! Here’s an even closer look…

I do feel a bit of “well, duh”… of course laying a brush on its side and rotating the brush in the paint would help retain the brush point even while loading it with pigment! Ah well! Just goes to show that you really can teach an artist with 25 plus years of experience a new trick or two! Lol!

This week someone asked if I would pretty please make a mug with my “green leprechaun man” on it…

…so I did. https://www.zazzle.com/inhale_exhale_morning_mug-168743417915348054

https://www.zazzle.com/inhale_exhale_morning_mug-168743417915348054

Also this week another printed book on the topic of miniature art came in the mail from one of my local bookstores. The Big Book Of Tiny Art by Karen Libecap is just plain fun to look at and read. It does have a good review of pencil techniques as well as use of color. The main attraction for me is the “watch-it-develop” sequences of photos that document ways to achieve tiny details. Oh, and the gallery of examples of finished miniature artworks is a treat. This book is encouraging and pleasing in tone – which will make it nice to have on my shelves. No Earth shattering art technique BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) moments in this book like there was in reading Miniature Art by Joan Cornish Willies. But the friendly can-do spirit and lack of snooty-ness in the Tiny Art book by Libecap, I think, means more people- myself included- are more likely to keep trying this art form. Plus I just love it that these tiny art techniques are so applicable to what I do in my sketchbooks.

So now when I draw in my sketchbook I’m trying for more details – like the feathers on this bird.

As you know in the evenings I’ve been reading a print copy of The Annotated Arabian Nights. On my ebook reader, which I read while exercising, is “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. So in addition to the story-within-stories format of the Nights and the lovely idea (last post) about the genre of “mirrors for princes” that I encountered in the annotations of the Arabian Nights I’m getting a regular therapeutic dose of Adam’s gentle absurdity.

Thus I’ve been pondering just how it is that Mother Goose’s cow went over the moon. And our human habit of having sacred cows… beliefs that take us into the stratosphere away from reality. Consequently there’s a new wordless book in progress on my easel.

Here’s a closer look at the sequence of pages

As I write this blog post I have put these pages under smooth boards with weights on them so they’ll be flat. I’ll be making a physical artist book from these pages and then both a printed book and an ebook version. More about this in upcoming posts.

A dear friend and fellow artist Donna Young https://www.donnayoung.com/ and I used to fairly regularly visit each other’s studios in pre-pandemic times. Recently Donna posted a photo of her studio and asked me to post a photo of mine. Here it is below!

I’m sure you’ll recognize one of the dog paintings on my easel. The other dog you’ll probably see next Monday. And I’m sure you’ll notice my new magnifying glass (last post) in use!

If you were standing in my studio, where I took this photo, to your left would be a stack of boards and weights holding down my “How The Cow Went Over The Moon” pages. More about that next Monday too.

Thanks for reading this post. I hope your week is kind to you and I’ll look forward to sharing more with you on Monday!

Crocodile to dragon transition

A Creative Life, Alphapets, Alphapets Too, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, book design and layout, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, illustrated poem, Numpurrs, poetry, Sustainable creativity, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

My crocodile became a dragon as I’ve been working on a new childrens book. I’ve been alternating work in both my poetry sketchbook, the orange book on the left, and my black visual sketchbook on the right.

Below is a look at my handwritten poem text in my poetry sketchbook.

I also have a 3 ring binder in which I have collected sketches and drafts of the poem text. Initially I was calling my poem “How to paint a crocodile”. My idea was to do a coloring activity book featuring a human child and a realistic crocodile. But the humanness didn’t feel right to me. And the crocodile felt too, well, reptilian.

So in my black sketchbook I tried a few more cartoon-like crocodile drawings. I’ve done many sketches and am only showing a few here in order to keep this post brief. Also not pictured are my sketches of various animals along my way to a decision to make the human child character into a rabbit.

The crocodile kept feeling too sinister in my sketches. So I dropped, temporarily, the coloring book concept and just painted who might be the main adult-like logical no-nonsense left-brain character to play opposite my rabbit right-brain creative playful child-like rabbit. The “adult” character it turns out is a dragon.

So I went with the dragon! In subsequent sketches I resumed my coloring book notion. The working title for my coloring book poem now is “How to draw a dragon”. I’m using the word ‘draw’ in the sense of ‘attract’ in addition to the usual sense of drawing with a pencil. Below are a few sketchbook drawings of the dragon in which I aim for busy adult postures – grumpy perhaps but not sinister.

Besides rewriting my poem in my poetry sketchbook I have also rewritten my poem on scraps of paper which are kept in my binder. There are -tons – more rewrites and sketches than I’ve shared in this post. Here I’m sharing just enough, I hope, to give you a sense of my working process. When I felt my poem was settled, more or less, I wrote it on a stiff paper so it could stand on my easel as I work. You can see it below.

When I spoke in a my last post of “having my crocodile project all over my studio” the photo below perhaps gives you a sense of what I mean. In this photo the papers on my easel look blank but there are pencil drawings on them. There’s also a blizzard of drawings in ink on tracing paper.

Multiple drawings on tracing paper enable me to draw a character similarly but holding or doing different things as the character goes through my story. Below you can propably see what I mean.

Yes, I know there are computer programs that would enable me to copy and paste character elements from one page to another. I have used such programs in the past. But I find it more satisfying to do original hand made drawings for every element within a book. I fancy myself as like a chef who prides herself on using local ingredients and cutting them up fresh when a dish is requested. A chef’s hand made dish is better, I think, than a frozen box meal reheated. But I digress.

Below is a “scene” or a stage set upon which my characters will act. I’ve made a master template in ink on tracing paper which I will use for reference – and for story foreshadowing – throughout my poem book.

Below is a look at some of the rabbit character sketches on tracing paper.

Below is a look at a few of my dragon character sketches. I feel I’ve finally found a balance between a grumpy adult appearance while not being too sinister.

Here’s a closer look at the Rabbit character.

As I build these pages I will do my story foreshadowing using many visual elements. So even after I get the entire book drawn the visual foreshadowing will still need to be carefully edited. But first I’ll get the entire book roughed in. Lots of work to do.

To help get me to my studio work more quickly in the mornings most of the evenings I’ve been making overnight oats. Into lidded mason jars I put some raw uncooked old fashioned oat meal, some milk to cover the oats, maple syrup, fruit like raspberries or blueberries (or both) and yogurt. Then I add a bit more milk as needed, put the lids on and put the jars in my refrigerator. In the mornings I don’t have to think of what’s for breakfast or spend time cooking. I can get right to my sketchbook work!

This week Storyberries added an audiobook to my On Looking At Odditorium book there! How nice is that?

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

Also this week I delivered the artist books that the Aurora Gallery had requested along with some signed bookplates! You can see more about each of these books on my portfolio page.

My plan is to work steadily on my Dragon, a bit of work almost every day, until it’s finished. Some days only a short burst of work will happen but other days I’ll have more time to spend.

So along with my tracing paper templates I’ve made a strategy, a loose agenda/schedule, of items to be done on this project which I’ll use as a guide to enable me to pick up wherever I left off even if I only have 10 minutes of time to work. I’ll use the same guide if I have hours of time. Such a project schedule is a guideline – a suggested working rhythm – it is not a god to be worshipped or slavishly obeyed. My guide is a way for me to keep this project in small manageable chunks. Keeping it small helps me to maintain momentum and to keep it fun. (There’s even a business article here about the kind of strategy I’m talking about.)

I have already spent months working on this poem and have only just this week outlined, and otherwise prepared, 32 pages to draw, ink and hand letter over the coming weeks. In other words I am just now ready to begin in earnest. Forming a good steady working rhythm now is crucial. So is focusing on the fun.

Some sort of strategy – I like to call it “planning the mundane” – some consideration for keeping long haul projects like this manageable, not overwhelming, is important. But it’s the fun that is the lynchpin of what keeps a creative project sustainable. So I consider having fun the most serious aspect of living a creative life.

Hope your creative week is sustainably fun too! See you next Monday.

Guest Art Teacher Feature: Mrs. Perry

A Creative Life, art techniques, Artist interviews and profiles, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, Guest Teacher Feature, life of the mind, mental health, On Looking At Odditorium, visual thinking

I’ve recently made a childrens book about looking at art. I think of my book as a resource book about observational skills for use by teachers and parents.

Which means as I created my On Looking At Odditorium book I also spent a lot of time thinking of the teachers, professors and other helpful adults who have been prominent in my own creative life.

So I’ve decided to guest feature teachers on my blog now and then.

The first teacher to be featured is Sami Perry from Mrs Perry’s Art Studio. Here’s our conversation:

https://mrsperrysartstudio.com/

Clancy: Hi Mrs Perry thanks for being here! What are you up to these days?

Mrs Perry: My crazy thought is to provide all 1879 Elementary schools in Washington State with 18 SEL/ART lessons for free. The SEL/ART lessons can be accessed for free through Mrs Perry’s Art Studio online library.

Clancy: Oooh! Ambitious! But wait a minute what’s SEL?

Mrs. Perry: SEL stands for Social Emotional Learning. With the release of ARP Funding -American Rescue Plan Funding- millions of dollars have been allocated to the school districts. I have been attending ARP webinars and listening to ARP podcasts. Every webinar and podcast I listen to states clearly the importance of covid recovery. They highly recommend SEL – Social Emotional Learning.

Turns out ART is all about SEL. I have been working with East Farms School Counselor, Savannah Maxwell. We are developing a SEL/ART program to address the issues students are experiencing due to the pandemic. We are developing the program for East Farms students but in addition we are adding 18 SEL/ART lessons to Mrs Perry’s Art Studio.

Creating art teaches innovation, problem solving, focus and perseverance. Perhaps more importantly, art helps students express emotion in a meaningful and positive way.

Clancy: Oh yes! I totally agree with you and I use art making as an emotional health tool in my own daily studio practice! My studio is in Western Washington you said your art studio is based in Washington state too is that right? What percentage of the schools here in Washington have art teachers on staff?

Mrs Perry: Yes, I’m on the East side of Washington state in Spokane. Only 7% of Washington Schools have an in house art instructor. In most cases if Elementary students get art it’s provided by the teachers. Mrs Perry’s Art Studio provides fine art lessons teaching OSPI art standards and most lessons can be integrated with student curriculum all designed to bring fine art to every elementary students, making it easy and convenient for the teachers, no prep, just a click of a button.

Clancy: Oh this is a wonderful project! Everyone needs art in their lives no matter how young or old so I think this is great that you’re making it so easy! But what about the art supplies needed for your lessons?

Mrs Perry: No art supplies are required, only pencil and paper is needed for every art project.

Clancy: Keeping the art supply needs simple is a great way to make learning something about art easier for everyone. There’s got to be a lot of pressure currently on teachers and students with the pandemic and distance learning. Doesn’t that add to the need for SEL?

Mrs Perry: Even though the teachers already address SEL daily in their classrooms, teachers are feeling more pressure and overwhelmed with another program to learn. Savannah and I have created the 18 lessons to benefit teachers and the students. SEL/ ART lessons are provided with a click of a button, and a big bonus, no prep.

Clancy: We’re all in this together aren’t we? Hey, can we see one of your lessons and see the kind of thing you’re doing?

Mrs Perry: How about a Monstar? It’s one of the 3 free lessons I offer:
Little Monstar is so much fun and teaches art standard for K-1st grades.
Zentangle Sea Turtle is loved by 2nd-3rd grade.
Zentangle Tree teaches art techniques and art standards for 4th-6th grade.
Zentangle is drawing style that uses patterns to help students with focus and concentration.

Here are some links:
“Little Monstar” – https://mrsperrysartstudio.com/free-video-1/

Sea Turtle – Part I- https://mrsperrysartstudio.com/free-video-3/

Sea Turtle – Part II- https://mrsperrysartstudio.com/free-video-5/

Zentangle Tree – Part I- https://mrsperrysartstudio.com/free-video-4/

Zentagle Tree – Part II –https://mrsperrysartstudio.com/free-video-6/

Art lessons are divided into 2 parts to better accommodate class time availability.

Clancy: Wow! Thank you for your generosity!! These look like such fun!!
What’s your website address again and what else can you tell us about your art lessons?

Mrs Perry: Mrs Perry’s Art Studio is a professional online art lesson annual subscription, similar to Mystery Science, but teaches fine art. It is an opportunity to bring art lessons to a school at a fraction of the cost of hiring an art teacher and it makes art lessons easily accessible to all staff and students! Here’s my website
https://mrsperrysartstudio.com/

The art lessons were created by me – Sami Perry – a local Spokane Washington Artist and the Resident Artist at East Farms S.T.E.A.M. Magnet School, this flagship program has solidified the “A” for ART!

Each lesson within the online library focuses on developing imagination and creativity while building self esteem. The O.S.P.I. educational art standards are embedded within the art curriculum and is presented in a simple and easy to follow instructional medley complete with supply lists.

Mrs Perry’s Art Studio is a fine arts lesson library filled with over 50 lessons (and growing) for grades K-6th. It’s fun, it’s inspiring and it’s educational. For even more entertainment Mrs Perry’s dog Beulah teaches the art vocabulary. She’s a hit and kids listen!

Clancy: A dog!! I love dogs!! Can we see a picture of Beulah on your website?

Mrs Perry: Yes, here’s Beulah.

Clancy: Oh, what a handsome dog!!!Thanks so much for sharing all of this with me! I wish you the best of luck!! Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to leave us with?

Mrs Perry: “Art has the role in education of helping children become like themselves instead of more like someone else” ~ Sydney Gurewitz Clemens

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!

Patch La Belle part 3

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As I worked this week on a new children’s book (see my last post) titled Patch La Belle I’ve thought more about the importance of enjoying and trying things regularly.

Too often we expect our enjoyments to be big life changing experiences when in reality a good life is a cumulative of many small pleasant moments. To have a good life one has to be able recognize a pleasant moment when it happens (even in the midst of a pandemic). This ability to recognize something enjoyable, while also absorbing it, is a skill to be learned and practiced all of one’s life.

Anyway, I spent time this week rereading my poetry sketchbooks, thinking, writing notes and sticky-flagging pages. Here’s a picture of two of my poetry sketchbooks. They’re small books, about 5 x 3.5 inches and I wrote in them with a fountain pen

As a way of working creatively I find it helpful to collect a bunch of thoughts into sketchbooks for sorting into something, a published book or an art exhibit, later. (I do a version of this sketchbook method with my fine art exhibits too.)

When I work in a sketchbook it feels random, the thought I’m recording feels unconnected to any future book or exhibit notion. The book or art exhibit ideas come later from rereading the sketchbooks and refining elements from my sketchbook. Essentially every sketchbook is a series of very rough drafts along with notes on what inspired me.

Here’s a page from my poetry sketchbook. Please note the margin notes, my thoughts in connection with my poem effort.

That poem with its marginalia sat for a long time. Months later I tried this effort, pictured below, to shape it a bit… still without a firm plan for what published book or exhibit it might become.

That finished art sat in my files for a while, gathering dust, unconnected to any project.

Then more recently when I was talking with the folks at Storyberries – www.storyberries.com – about formats for doing my words and picture combinations for them I remembered my illustrated giraffe poem and shared it with Storyberries. The above format of my poem it turned out wouldn’t work for my future Storyberries projects. So I shoved it back in my files.

Later on when rereading my poetry sketchbooks for the umpteenth time I came across the original poem yet again. As I reread my sketchbook I’m noting themes; multiple thoughts on a topic. The raw poem and my thoughts that inspired the giraffe poem fit with my reoccurring theme of trying things. Seeing this theme and thinking more on the topic is helping me to organize my current project Patch La Belle. So this week I reworked both the text and illustration for this particular poem.

That format fits much better with Storyberries guidelines and with my desire [more on that here] to do an entirely handwritten book. Now the poem has a place, it has become – at least for now – part of my newest children’s book effort. It will stay there till all of my pages for this project are finished and I reread them and decide what ultimately fits together best.

This project still feels “in flux” and uncertain but I just keep working, trusting that as I bring my vague notions into the real world as touchable objects I can see better what to do with them. My project idea firms up as I work. The trick is to roll with the feelings of uncertainty until that point.

And here are some more new Patch La Belle pages that have been done and redone in similar fashion to what I’ve just described. To save time I’m skipping ahead, omitting the sketchbook draft pages, and showing the finished work here.

I’m sure you’re seeing my working method now. My way of getting a thought outside of my head into a sketchbook, however messily, however vaguely, and then working with it multiple times in multiple ways just to see what it can become.

It’s my way of trying out ideas, of practicing enjoying something, of taking a notion and playfully exploring it. It’s also a way to have a small pleasant moment of fun regularly.

Thanks for reading. See you here next Monday?

P.S. if you’re just joining this party – welcome! – and you can see my other children’s book projects on my portfolio page here.

Numpurrs 0, 1, 2, 3

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Here’s this weeks progress on my new artist book for children to be titled Numpurrs. On Storyberries.com I had done a counting book titled “The Crow and the Water Jug” and it’s been popular with readers so Storyberries wants another book related to numbers and math from me.

As I wrote in my last post when I start a new project I work in short bursts [Very Small Goals] until my idea has firmed up a bit. By “firm up” I mean that there’s a draft nearly finished and all the research and other materials have been collected. Even some messy doodle-drawings have been done. There’s now a “there” there – something to work with.

Then my project moves into the “more serious” project slot within my day. Instead of only spending 10 or 20 minutes on my project I’ll spend 30 to 40. Adjustments to my idea are still happening, things are still uncertain but it’s becoming clearer. I rewrite my text drafts more in a more legible way. I begin doing the illustrations more carefully using ink and gouache on board. (And yes, I redraw and repaint, in short bursts, till I’m somewhat satisfied with each portrait.)

Here are the finished poem lines that fit with my first 4 illustrations for Numpurrs

Zero has nothing but wants to eat

One lists numbers of friends who can meet

Two proposes a potluck fondue

Three invites him, her, them and you

I selected the potential cats-to-be-illustrated from the various photos of cats that my friends have been kind enough to share. The cat photos themselves inspired which cat to pair with which number and poem line. Also in my inspiration mill where some things me friends told me about their cats.

I decided to begin my poem-story with Zero because the concept of zero – nothing – was revolutionary in the early days of math. (A fun article about the history of Zero is here) Nothing is so often the start of something that it suits my sense of humor to have the catalyst (pun intended) for my story being a cat who has nothing…

The cat for number 1 was sent by a friend who told me the Japanese word for the numeral one – Ichiban. I toyed with the idea of using different languages, different kinds of clothing… for each numeral…

But as I drafted and doodled and read about numbers I decided to keep the illustrations simple, and each drawing similarly formatted, so as to keep my book focused on the numbers and the diversity of cats. This book is intended to amuse the adult fans of my work but also – primarily even – to help kids gain awareness of numbers. I plan to have the poem text have each number spelled out, such as, “Zero” while the illustrations have the matching number, i.e. “0,” in them. Since English is my primary language I decided to stick with that.

Where I’m playing visually in my Numpurrs project is with color combinations. Some time ago I got a book titled “A Dictionary Of Color Combinations” from one of my local bookstores, Ampersand Gallery and Fine Books. The book is primarily in Japanese with a smattering of English. Even though I don’t read Japanese this book has been a wonderful resource for color combination ideas. I’m using it much like I used a rhyming dictionary when composing my poem. Here’s some photos of this book:

I’ll post more of my Numpurrs progress during the week on my Instagram etc. social media pages and then sum up with more details about my creative process in a blog post next Monday.

Thanks for reading!

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 1: Readings From The Heart

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My fine art exhibit schedule was thrown a loop this year. Three exhibits now happen in August and September. This is due to the global pandemic and the too slow response to the virus in the U. S. to which we’re all adapting. Changing exhibit schedules has been a challenge but one of the more easily dealt with.

Since March I’ve been processing, via my sketchbook and my fine art how to adapt to this new “at home” life and stay mentally healthy and creative. All of my artistic efforts have been about adaptation and maintenance of physical and mental health.

It amazes me to realize how much of my pre-pandemic mental stimulation relied on my travels away from my studio, relied on what I could see, hear, taste and experience “out there”, in the coffee shops, the restaurants, the museums and the gardens. Even when it was time to pick a new novel to read I’d rely on a trip to a physical library or bookstore to inspire what book to read next.

Yes, I was the kind of kid who got told “quit touching everything” when my grandmother and I’d go to stores. So how to change my habit of wanting to “be there”?

It was critical to begin my stay home adaptation process – because I couldn’t change the pandemic situation I had to change my attitude about it. For help I reread an artist book I created years ago titled Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit.

Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit – collected and illustrated by Clancy

I also drew every day in my sketcbook on the topic of books. Stories are how human brains process whatever happens in life so I felt I needed to get a firmer grip on my access to and my thinking about books and the life of the mind. You can see my process develop in my sketchbook because I’ve reproduced my sketchbook under this title: Another Sketchbook – more drawings from the heart

Another Sketchbook: more drawings from the heart – by Clancy

The self quarantine aspect of the coronavirus concerned me on a personal level but also on a communal one. Humans are social beings. I wanted to maintain my own mental health and possibly help others maintain theirs as the health of the community would help all of the individuals within it.

To clarify my thoughts about self comforting and to try to cheer people up – myself included – I made book themed fine art. Here are a few of the pieces:

Hare Heritage by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – ink and gouache on board
Sheldon’s Way – by Clancy – 7 x 5 inches – ink and gouache on board
A History Of The Sock Monkey – by Clancy – 7 x 5 inches – ink and gouache on board
Slaughterhouse Chives – by Clancy – 24 x 18 inches – ink and gouache on board

These artworks, and others, will be physically exhibited at Burnt Bridge Cellars and Caplan Art Designs in August and September. The pandemic being what it is there are limited open hours, appointments necessary and other special arrangements for the safety and health of everyone. For example: at the winery, Burnt Bridge Cellars, it’s possible to pickup a bottle of wine and my books curbside.

Primarily I’m making my artist books available to be shipped directly from the printer. Or to be downloaded digitally.

Like I say, it’s been a strange pandemic – many creative adaptations have been required.

Another example: due to the coronavirus there won’t be the typical art openings where lots of people come and visit with me about my work. So as an adaptation I have created an exhibit catalog, both printed and ebook versions, titled “Readings From The Heart” in an effort to share the big picture of my thinking behind my artwork in a safe and hopefully fun way….with images of the art of course. The catalog also explains how the other artist books relate to the fine art. Below is a look at the catalog cover:

Readings From The Heart: a fine art exhibit catalog – by Clancy

Since the prelude to any story is knowing the alphabet, as I worked on the fine art I also created two children’s books titled “Alphapets” and “Alphapets Too“. The original artwork for those books will be exhibited by the Aurora Gallery. Some of the Alphapets paintings appear in the background of the larger paintings. (I do love the painting within a painting playfulness)

Because all of my recent artwork is on the same theme – just slightly different perspectives – I’ve titled the three gallery exhibits that span two states “Readings From The Heart” and subtitled each Washington Chapter, Oregon Chapter and Alphapets.

I’m hoping my efforts will amuse you. All of it has helped me deal with this pandemic – and to smile. As Gerhard Richter says “Art is the highest form of hope.”

These exhibits open in early August and run through September. If you’re interested in any of the artworks – or in the wine – please contact each gallery. There will be images and virtual tours on social media if you follow each gallery online:

Caplan Art Designs (ebook versions of the exhibit catalog will be available as will access to my other books)

Burnt Bridge Cellars (it will be possible to curbside pick up bottles of wine and my artist books)

Aurora Gallery (copies of my artist books for children will also be available)

All of the six artist books related to my exhibits can be found online here. I will post again next Monday with another “chapter” of Readings From The Heart and exhibiting art during a pandemic.

Here’s a photo of me working on a painting.

Sue Clancy at work