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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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:
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:
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)
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!
Here, below, are some new sketchbook pages – I’m still thinking towards publishing a version of my sketchbook. I’ve been encouraged to do this by friends who’ve looked at my book, as well as by my followers on social media – thank you all!!! Now without much further typing:
Living in the Pacific Northwest I see readers at the gym, at bus stops, in parks, sitting outside on benches, in the cafes, wineries, pubs and bistros – just about everywhere I look a book is in someone’s hand. Needless to say the library is a popular place as is the beloved locally owned bookstore, Vintage Books.
Below are a few of my sketches of people I’ve seen out and about. Along with quotes and musings.
Because I’ve been depicting people reading so much in my fine art it’s probably no surprise that in my sketchbook I’ve been drawing people reading. Anyway, here’s a few more drawings from my sketchbook:
Lately, however, I’ve thought that there’s perhaps a value in showing my sketchbook pages, putting a human face, so to speak, on creative doings and beings. I’m even thinking I might gather some of these into a book. What do you think? Do you like seeing my sketches too?
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.
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”
Thank you for sharing this present moment with me.
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.
On a recent trip to the library I saw a book titled “How To Draw And Write In Fountain Pen: A Modern Guide” by Ayano Usamura. (book link) The book reminded me that I’ve not talked about this essential studio tool in a while.
I’ve used a fountain pen almost daily since I was in art school at university. An illustration class required a fountain pen, a Pelikan Classic M200 , as one of it’s “textbooks” for the semester. We were taught the care and use of the pen – the pen care section of the book by Usamura mirrors what I was taught exactly. Part of the class requirement was to draw with the pen daily. The professor would periodically surprise-inspect our pens for proper care/maintenance and would look at our sketchbooks as part of our grade. Woe unto the student who forgot their pen.
Fast forward to now and I’m still drawing with my fountain pen daily. It’s my go-to tool for my on-going art studio philosophy: “Work in short bursts of time. Often.” When I’ve only a minute or two for creativity work I can easily, quickly, do an ink drawing without having to do any more “studio-set-up” than to open my sketchbook and pull the cap off my pen. Here’s todays fountain pen drawing:
Nowadays I prefer the Levenger True Writer. It’s the best fountain pen I’ve had yet. Writes and draws smooth lines with no pressure, less mess and less constant care needed than some other pens. I use the Noodlers brand fountain pen ink – the anti-feather black kind (also called “X-feather”). And of course these days I have a whole new appreciation for the environmental friendliness of a fountain pen; less used-up-pen-plastic-parts going into the land-fill.
Anyway, the book “How to Draw and Write in Fountain Pen” happily reminded me of what I’d been taught way back in the day at university. I brought the book home from the library to read and re-remember all the fountain pen tips and tricks. And, if the book was accurate to my fountain pen experience (it was!), I could mention it to you here on my blog – and photograph the book with my Levenger fountain pen for a post on my Instagram page.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go lovingly re-fill the ink in my fountain pen.
Update: After I had written the above post about fountain pens I went to dinner in Portland Oregon. From dinner we all walked to Oblation Papers and Press – where I happily discovered that they have a wide selection of fountain pens!! And staff who know the various pen brands! Here’s a link to their drool-worthy website https://www.oblationpapers.com/