Ants are making progress… in my new artist book that is! In my last post I was working on “Ant Hology” using a collage of letters, ink and gouache. It’s another miniature 2 inch square book that opens to 20 inches long. Here’s the progress:
Now to do the graphic design hocus pocus and send a digital file containing all of these ants to Storyberries!
In my last post I shared a sketchbook page that had Anteaters in it … yes, there’s a new children’s book in progress. The text was written by Judy Sullens. Please notice that I used my ant research in this project too! Ha! Here’s the first illustration:
Here’s my studio supervisor dachshund supervising the paintings in progress. They need to be finished by the time you read this post so my supervisor is helping to keep me focused. Says the dog “Hey, where are you going..?”
Here’s a look at the two paintings on my easel now that they’re finished except for the varnishing, framing and delivering. Due Tuesday!
Storyberries contacted me about their release date for the ebook version of my Odditerrarium. Here’s a Reel about Odditerrarium on Storyberries that I did to help explain the visual story puzzle aspect of my Odditerrarium project.
When I was a kid I loved looking at coffee table books with paintings in them. Now I’m enjoying making books for children that contain my fine art because the little kid I once was would have absolutely loved a book like Odditerrarium!
Anyway, this week has been very busy but even so I still played in my sketchbook most mornings (you can see what I sketched via my Substack sketchbook emails here) and each evening I read books. Here’s what I’ve been reading:
And here’s the evening shift supervisor cat who makes sure we have whipped cream on our hot chocolate, maintain a regular reading program and still get to bed at a decent hour. Says the cat “Hey, you with the thumbs, quit poking about on the phone and get back to lap making and book reading.”
I hope your week is pleasant. See you next Monday.
My newest artist book “A Scoop Of Letter Soup” was just released on Storyberries.com and you can see it for free here! Yippee!!!
A video look at the original book “A Scoop Of Letter Soup” is here on YouTube and I did manage to make an Instagram Reel of it too!! I wrote last post about learning about Reels so I’m still feeling “look I did it!” about my new skill!! 🤣 And I’ve made a portfolio page where my currently in progress series of short experimental art books will be collected as they appear as ebooks on Storyberries. At some future time I may gather them into a printed book but for now this portfolio page is where they’ll exist outside of Storyberries. I’m loving the pun of making books by hand that are distributed as ebooks!!
Here are some still photos of the book
In one of the little concertina book blanks I made and talked about in last weeks post I am starting a new illustrated poem book. This will be a slow project to be worked on around the edges of other projects. But here’s how it goes: In my poetry sketchbook, seen in the upper part of the photo below, I have some poems that seem worth working with. After selecting one of my sketchbook poem rough drafts I did a few thumbnail doodles on a scrap of paper to try different placements of my poem text and artwork. The thumbnail doodle that I like best can be seen on the lower right in these photos. To the left is the concertina book blank and my efforts at doing the hand lettering and drawing “for real” aka neatly and possibly worthy for public viewing.
One benefit of working in a concertina book is that I can easily slip a bit of wax paper under the page I’m working on in order to prevent bleed-through of my inks or gouache paints.
Here’s the finished page.
A post ot two ago I wrote about one of my favorite books by Mary Lasswell “Suds In Your Eye” as one of the hopepunk style books I cheer up by. Lasswell was writing in the 1940’s so finding print copies of her work has been a bit of a personal quest.
One of my coveted Lasswell titles “One On The House” came via mail this week! A side benefit of being someone who creates artist books is that I have most of the tools for minor book repair on hand. The copy I could find (and afford) of “One On The House” was listed in acceptable condition but with a cover-spine issue. As you can see below the cover is barely hanging on by threads.
But the outside of the cover-spine is fine!
So I took a strip of archival mulberry paper and trimmed it to fit.
Then I laid the trimmed mulberry strip on wax paper and covered one side of the mulberry strip with archival neutral ph glue. I took the photo below while the strip was still wet after being put in place so it is still shiny in appearance. I used the bone folder to press the just glued paper into the cover spine fold. When the glue dries the mulberry paper will almost disappear and blend in with the books original paper.
I slipped clean wax paper in the crevice of the patch so if any glue oozes as I close the cover it won’t harm the rest of the book. Then I put some paper weights on the cover and let the book dry overnight. There were two other weak sections of the book spine that got this same repair treatment which is why you see three pieces of wax paper in the book in the photo below.
I am a professional artist who knows a lot about creating books by hand but that’s not the same thing as being a book conservation or restoration expert. My repair attempts on books are not on rare or valuable books. My repair attempts are on books for my own use. My copy of “One On The House” cost me 6 dollars and I repaired it because I want to easily read it without without causing more damage to the book. If I hadn’t done the repairs I’d bet that after the first read through the book would have fallen completely apart. I also want to keep this book on my “bookshelf to cheer up by” – more on that in a sec – so I want the book to be as hale and hearty as possible. Anyway, a very good resource book for such minor repairs is “The Care and Feeding of Books Old and New” by Rosenberg and Marcowitz. And a good source for book making or repair supplies is https://www.talasonline.com/
This photo below is of my “books to cheer up by” section I mentioned earlier. As you can see the book I repaired has taken its place on the shelf next to The Annotated Arabian Nights.
We poured a bit of bourbon and said “cheers” to the newcomers on our cheer-up bookshelf! For my own mental health sake it feels good to have a shelf full of reliable sources of good cheer.
As you see in the above photo one of the books there is titled “Mrs. Rasmussen’s Book of One-Arm Cookery”. Mrs. Rasmussen is one of Mary Lasswell’s reoccurring fictional characters who is famous for being able to cook very good meals while holding her beer in one hand.
I made Mrs. Rasmussen’s super yummy chili recipe and rice while holding my bourbon. But I did set my glass down when I chopped the onion. Even so I think Mrs. Rasmussen would have cheered my efforts. It did taste good!
One of our local independent bookstores, Powell’s, did a fundraiser for Ukraine. Naturally my wife and I ordered books. More than one box of books was mailed to us but the stack of books in the photo below was what was delivered while the chili cooked and the bourbon flowed.
Here’s hoping you too have a collection of books, soup, fur-friends and people that you love that can help cheer you up. So cheers! Till next Monday.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Book banning is a hot topic with me because I’ve been on the receiving end of bans. Those occurrences happened in Oklahoma over 10 years ago when I lived there. To name just one example, in 2008 I was to have a one person art exhibit at the Oklahoma State Capital. More than a few of my paintings were banned from the Capital exhibit. I called my Tulsa Oklahoma gallery, Joseph Gierek Fine Art, to tell about being banned. The Gallery owner, Joe, said “Stay right there, I’ll come and pick them up!” Tulsa is about a 200 mile drive away from the Oklahoma Capital but Joe was there with his van in a trice. Then the Joseph Gierek Fine Art gallery did a special exhibit behind yellow caution tape in Tulsa and we called my one person exhibit “View At Your Own Risk” with a statement telling a bit about my work being banned. Oh my, was the Gierek Gallery brave! So that very weird experience of being banned turned out very well for me and for Joe!
After my spouse and I had newly relocated to Washington state I had an interview with the Caplan Art Designs Gallery. Having just moved I brought along to Caplan’s the finished artworks I had on hand which was some of my then recently banned-in-Oklahoma artwork. The Caplan Gallery immediately signed me up as a gallery artist and sold 4 of my paintings before the ink on my contract was dry! In Oklahoma my work had often been considered “subversive” or even “offensive” (there were a number of bans of and objections regarding my artwork) but in the Pacific Northwest my work – the very same artwork! – is considered “charming” and even “delightful” and “whimsical”. What a pleasant shift of perspective!
This painting below is one of my paintings that had been banned in Oklahoma but quite welcome in the Pacific Northwest. Allegedly this painting was banned in Oklahoma because of the semi nudity. 🙄 This photo is of the same banned art newly located in the Pacific Northwest where instead of offending adults it amused adults and children!! (Yes, I have found my happy place!!)
More to the point of my blog post today – in 2010 the public library where we then lived in Oklahoma was going to display a few LGBTQ friendly books under glass deep inside in the library. It seemed like almost the entire town turned out to protest in a 4 hours long city council event. The majority of the speakers were vehemently homophobic. After the event one young gay person committed suicide. It was that vitriolic. After the event we contacted a realtor in Washington state and asked her to please find us a home and that we would even consider a hole in the ground with a tarp on it. We needed out! Long story short we, with the help of a wonderful realtor, found and bought our Washington house sight-unseen over the internet and within 6 months of that Oklahoma council meeting we had moved! One of the best things we ever did!! Being gay in Washington is no big deal at all! Also no big deal: being an artist, a book reader or being deaf.
I don’t for one minute think that every book has to resemble and reflect the superficial attributes of a reader in order to be a book worth reading. As an adult I enjoy reading work about, and by, people unlike me but I can see how it would help young people to be able once and a while to see, in a book, a superficial likeness of themselves. It helps to feel less alone, even safe, wanted and welcome somewhere – even if that place is in a book.
I went though my entire childhood – as an avid, dare I say obsessive, reader – never once reading about a gay deaf artistically inclined tomboy girl living primarily with her grandmother and enduring “visits to hell” with her abusive biological uber-religious parents.
The only deaf person I ever read about in a book was Helen Keller and that didn’t feel relatable to me.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was the first time I read of violence and family dysfunction happening to someone besides me and that was SO relatable – even though all of the characters were boys. That book helped me feel less alone then and I can still quote verbatim from that book today.
Judy Blume’s “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret” helped me address my confusion about cruelty/weirdness about bodies that was done in the name of religion.
I didn’t encounter a gay character in any book until I went to college in 1986 and read “Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit” by Jeanette Winterson which had been written in 1985. And that book felt like a welcome healing salve to my 18 year old psyche.
I could go on naming books – many of them now banned – that really helped me get through things as a young person. But I’m sure you’re getting the idea of why wide availability of books (and art) matters so much to me.
So naturally my spouse and I in response to the spate of book banning in 2022 went looking for lists of banned books so we could buy copies of those books. If you too want to use banned book lists as book buying recommendations 😁 Below are the lists we found.
A juicy oh-so-delectible list of banned books for grownups at Powell’s one of my local Pacific Northwest independent bookstores. (I think most of my high school and college required reading is on this list!🤯)
I mentioned last post about Maus by Art Spiegelman being banned … well here is a great article about why that book is important and why it is shocking that, to quote from the article, “people could be more upset by mild profanity than they are by genocide.”
And another article speculating about why book banning and even book burning has become “a thing” in late 2021 and early 2022.
There’s also an article about a Texas lawmaker who wants to ban and burn 850 book titles statewide… but enough of that.
When things begin to feel overwhelming I find it helpful to look for one specific thing I can do something about. This is in the vein of “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”
Here’s an article we found about one specific library in Mississippi whose funding is being withheld by the mayor because he disapproves of some LGBTQ books. My wife and I chose this library and donated money. Then we spent time tweeting and sharing the info in hopes of getting more donations for them.
Here’s a portion of the letter we got after donating which has the libraries snail mail address if that is preferred.
Two days later we saw that they had achieved their funding goal with still more time to spare!!! We’re hoping even more donations will happen!
Since I took the above screenshot the Ridgeland Library has adjusted their goal upwards… and is reaching the new goal too!! Yippee!!! Click this link to see up-to-the-minute progress. I’ve been monitoring and boy is it fun to see the library succeed!!!
Anyway, for me public libraries are intimately interconnected with basic human rights. Images and words make up the human mind much like air and water make up the human body – we need trusted sources for all of these. Humans are social beings intertwined mentality and physically with the community around them. Here’s a poem that illustrates this idea that I have written off by hand and thumbtacked to my studio wall where I see it often.
And that’s why I make artist books. It’s my “why” for most of my creative efforts really. It’s part of why I feel it’s important to be a participant in a community of artists, writers and readers. It’s why having an egalitarian community – at least on the gallery walls and the library shelves matters so much to me.
Books and art are communal in nature and utilizing them often is part of being fully human within a community.
I thought about my Vancouver USA downtown and how I love it that the 5 story library and the independent theatre are some of the tallest most iconic buildings. I also thought about the scrubjay blue birds that are native here.
Then I wondered just how did Mother Goose’s cow travel over the moon… and how do birds remember their songs?
Storyberries has even created a new book category for my work called “experimental art”!! Oh I’m gleefully looking forward to making more books for them to distribute!!!
So it can very truthfully be said that my new artistbook is a direct result of community !! Thank you all!! And I love you all too!! ❤🙌
I’ll repeat myself here because I am so excited and grateful to the Storyberries community for this new “experimental art books” category! Thanks for giving me such a valuable space to just be me! I’m so looking forward to sharing the fun of playing with imagination and creativity this way!
Speaking of imagination and being creative: there’s a wonderful article on creativity written by Luzemy Romero and Fleur Rodgers on Storyberries – and I have an illustration in it! But what’s fun is that these creativity tips the authors write about are things I do… Every. Single. Day! Especially the reading part!!! And if you go by chronological age I’m a grownup… so… the authors ideas apply to all ages. Anyway there are some really great creativity tips here https://www.storyberries.com/creativity-kids-how-to-help-your-child-to-be-creative-storyberries-parenting-portal/
Here’s my illustration within the article by Gamboa and Rodgers and a bit of the article text. We need a wide variety of stories in order to practice flexibility in our thinking and creativity. A variety of material, some of it liked, some disliked, gives our minds something to respond to within our own creativity.
Also on the intersection of creativity and libraries there’s a fun article right here about an 8 year old who wrote and illustrated a handmade book and slipped it into the public library collection in Boise Idaho!
This week our copies of Maus by Art Spiegelman came by mail from one of our local bookstores Daedalus Books!
I had posted on my Instagram page that I was looking online at our local indiebookstores to see if anyone had Maus and didn’t see it – as they indicated sold put or it wasn’t listed. Well @daedalusbookspdx commented on my post that they didn’t have all of their books online but that they *did* have copies of Maus!!! So I called them immediately and bought the copies of Maus!
In the past when we’ve visited Daedalus Books in person I’ve relished their “books about books” section… While I had the store on the phone I named a price range and asked the store to pick a book for me from that section and include it with our Maus copies… I also asked that they *not* tell me what title they selected! I love a good book surprise!
Here in the photos below is my surprise book! It’s perfect!!! It’s a book about giftbooks – which is what I create!!! (See my portfolio page) I’m beyond happy with my surprise book! I immediately wrote a postcard to tell Daedalus thank you!!! Wow! What a treat!!! I am so glad Daedalus had copies of Maus too!!
The last photo has contact info for Daedalus…and as I’ve learned you can just call them up, ask politely and they’ll hand you a smile in the form of a book !! Wow!!!
Come to think of it becoming a semi-vegetarian while in college in fried-meat-and-fried-potatoes Oklahoma was another, ahem, “interesting” experience. I’m not, and have never been, a strict vegetarian (I don’t want to be strict about anything) I just do like vegetables and well vegetarian meals frequently happen. But I remember accidentally shocking people in Oklahoma with vegetarian fare now and then. 🤷♀️
Back to the present yumminess… the mushroom chili was served in big mugs with crackers and a side of books to read. I’m lucky to have married a fellow avid book reader!
Here’s another favorite quote about books that I’ve handwritten and thumbtacked to my studio wall.
I hope your week is full of subversive literary, artistic and culinary delights and that you’re able to radically and wholeheartedly enjoy them!
Almost exclusively I used to do unique books as art objects that were displayed in art gallery exhibits. My one-of-a-kind books were then sold and that was that. Well, in 2020 after the pandemic began the galleries closed to the public and I began publishing my artist books in an on-demand way. My book is printed at the time it is ordered and mailed to the buyer. I did this so I could still share my visual stories and they could still be fairly unique i.e. not printed in large quantities. And as my portfolio page attests that’s the way I’ve now done twelve different artist book projects. As the galleries have adapted to the pandemic since March 2020 allowing the public to handle one-of-a-kind books, wisely I think, hasn’t come back into vogue.
When making a printed version of my original artist books I try as best I can to maintain the look of the original work. I do very little – or ideally absolutely no – digital manipulation of my content. At most some text is typed. I even prefer to handwrite as much as possible. It’s important to me that people – especially kids – get to have a wide variety of homemade or handmade comforts whether it’s dinners, cookies, fine art or books.
Anyway, in the case of my new “How the cow…” book I typed the about the book and the dedication page text. But those pages and the covers are the only typed text. (I’ve learned the hard way that having these pages typed rather than handwritten helps the book be found via a search.)
I also scanned the handmade pattern I used for the cow book slipcase and the found sheet music I used for the tiny notes book cover. I scanned my handwritten text summary for the cow story. I did digitally “erase” the page number marks on my handwritten text because those numbers did not apply to the printed book. Other than erasing the pages numbers the handwritten page is the same in the printed book as it is in the original.
With those very few digital documents in my 28 page book layout I created end papers of a sort to flank or wrap each story within the printed book. The original artist books are themselves covered with these patterns.
The scanned blue bubble pattern was the basis for the printed book cover.
As you can see the covers of both the original book and the printed version are similar.
The artwork in the cow story is just a bit smaller in the printed version than the original. But as you can see the colors are a very close match! Also the printed book is conventionally bound so I set up my layout like a comic book rather than in the folded concertina form of the original. I don’t yet know of any printer who prints and mails concertina style books. The two illustrations per page layout allowed me to fill the seven inch square printed pages. (In the photos below the original handmade book is at the top)
The “Tiny Notes” original artwork is reproduced at a much larger size in the printed book. The original book is 2.25 inches square. The printed book is 7 inches square. Again the colors printed are pretty close to what’s in the original!
So you can see the scales of the books in relation to a human. My spouse took these photos of me and the books…
The original concertina format cow book unfolds to four feet long. Almost as tall as me!
The original concertina tiny notes book is only 20 inches long unfolded.
You can see more of these book pages and details on my portfolio site. I’ve no idea if these original artist books will someday go to an art gallery even for display under glass.
For now I’m having fun making books intentionally for printing and mailing directly to people. It may sound odd to say this but this new way of sharing my books feels more personal and I feel like many more people are able to see and own my work this way.
This week my coloring book poem “How To Draw A Dragon” was read aloud on Kidz Stories And More !!! You can see it here https://youtu.be/EUVeDjqiz30 When we were discussing the creation of this video Kidz Stories and I decided to make my book pages so they could be downloaded for free so kids could color along with the video! The download is available here and the directions are also in the video link. I’m seeing this as possibly another fun new way to share my artist books!
Also this week someone shared this photo saying how happy they are with a portrait I painted of their cat and how it has been framed by the Aurora Gallery!! That makes me happy!!!!!
My spouse mentioned the current news about book banning and that one of the titles banned is “A Light in the Attic” by Shel Silverstein. We have that book in our dining room poetry collection. It’s a favorite! Hearing that news led to both of us looking up what other books we have on our shelves that are banned. It was a fun scavenger hunt of sorts! 🤣 Turns out we have a large number of banned titles throughout our book collection. Two shelves in our dining room alone yield 4 books/authors who have been banned… even as recently as 2022.
Here’s one of the articles we read about banned books. Naturally we got online and ordered more banned books from our local independent bookstore. 😁 One of the banned books I tried to order was Maus by Art Spiegelman (here’s an article about that book) but all of my usual indy bookstores were sold out! But there were other banned books available which we happily bought.
I’ll leave some memes about book banning here just in case someone wants one.
I hope your week is similarly filled with subversive literary delights and some homemade comforts.
If you got a post titled “Dragon postal whimsy” I accidentally hit a button. Here’s the real post about “How To Draw A Dragon“! After a week spent creating cover art and scanning 36 pages there’s now a coloring book poem that exists in the world!
This is the book description:
“How do you draw a grumpy dragon? This coloring book story poem written and illustrated by the artist sue clancy shows you how.
This whimsical poem is also about how creativity works, how our creative child selves and our analytical adult selves can work together.”
Below is a look at the original manuscript.
I used the computer to put the text on the front and back covers. I thought long and hard about handwriting it all but I learned when I did Patch La Belle that handwritten text on a cover isn’t “searchable” and could be harder for people to find. That searchable issue isn’t a big concern for me coming from the art world as I do where one-of-a-kind things are the norm. But after thinking a while I opted to type the cover text for “How To Draw A Dragon” even though I hand drew and hand colored everything else.
So here’s the cover becoming…
And here’s what the cover became.
I’m especially pleased that my book layout “thinking in page spreads” turned out so well! They line up in the middle when bound! In the first photo below you see my original art. Below that you see the printed book.
Since we’re still in a pandemic I have added a free printable pdf file for this book to my “shop” page where I have several of my free downloadable artist books. It’s on my to-do list to make a portfolio page for How To Draw A Dragon and have everything in one spot.
Storyberries will, eventually, also do a free ebook version of How To Draw A Dragon and have a link to the free printable pdf too. But that’s still in progress. I will update my still-to-be -made portfolio page and this blog when it’s been set up at Storyberries.
Since we are still in a pandemic the Gallery is doing all the prudent safety measures and I’m doing my part as best I can. Besides doing the virtual page about Odditorium I have done a series of videos on my YouTube channel about this exhibit as well as about why I do this work. I’ve made 5 videos in all but here’s the one about this exhibit. The Gallery will post my videos and share them with clients digitally thereby minimizing everyone’s exposure. I’m glad and grateful to work with a gallery that cares about the health of both their artists and their clients.
On still another topic: A friend recently enjoyed getting a card from me and called it “postal whimsy”. I like that phrase and asked for and was give permission to use it! So I’ve updated my Zazzle collection of odd greeting cards both with the “postal whimsy” phrase and some new card designs. I am getting serious about sending postal whimsy and helping cheer people. Below is one of my favorite cards…
This week was so busy that while I did make sure to eat meals of fruits, vegetables and whole grains – more often than not – I didn’t do any sketches or photos of the food. I just stuffed my quiche-hole and got to work.
Despite all of the busy-ness I still did drawings in my sketchbook in the mornings and my evening reading of books before bed. Makes for nice creative bookends, pun intended, to a day.
However busy your week is I hope it is bounded by pleasant things. See you next Monday? Or before then if I hit a wrong button again…
To my awareness there aren’t many books for children that talk about looking at an artist’s exhibit whether the fine art is in a book or on walls.
I think looking at a book of fine art is similar to looking at a wordless picture book. Looking at one artist’s series of paintings on a gallery wall is like a wordless book too. But looking at fine art, while there are similarities to wordless picture books, it is also different; a collection of fine art often refers to the feelings and lived experiences of the artist in addition to any visual story there may be within the artwork itself.
So I’ve been lucky enough to work with Storyberries to create a childrens book On Looking At Odditorium that I hope will help kids enjoy looking at artwork and be able to speculate about the artist’s thinking.
Towards that end I created cartoon drawings of myself so they could take a trip (or tour) through a book of my Odditorium fine art exhibit and explain what I was thinking and how I created each painting.
Here’s a closer look at all of the avatar drawings. In many of my childrens books on Storyberries.com there’s a photo of me wearing a sweater. For consistency sake I drew myself in a sweater pointing this way and that.
I want to encourage imaginations so in the book I try to both show and tell what using imagination is like.
For a childrens book I didn’t want to get too technical about art materials and methods but I did want to share something about them. I wanted to share especially when the materials and methods directly interacted with my imagination.
Below is a look at the book layout so you can see the little avatars on tour across a page spread.
The adult version of my Odditorium exhibit coffee table book does not have the avatar or descriptions. Here’s what the cover of the adult book looks like.
And here’s the childrens book version titled “On Looking At Odditorium“. The cover design is very similar to the adult book on purpose – to emphasize that anyone of any age can look at art. The layout inside this book is different as is the kind of paper for the printed books. I wanted paper likely to withstand children’s hands.
Storyberries has a extra special ebook edition that went live within hours of this post. And I love the nesting specialness of this project: it’s a fine art exhibit called Odditorium at Burnt Bridge Cellars via Caplan Art Designs that has a companion exhibit book titled Odditorium. The Odditorium exhibit book then has a companion childrens book version titled On Looking At Odditorium. Then the special ebook on Storyberries – which you can see here for free – about looking at On Looking At Odditorium! Here’s what the Storyberries ebook version looks like at the top…
Did you get all the nesting nuances to this project? I’ve hopefully laid it all out clearly on my portfolio page about this project… but even if no one besides me sees the nesting qualities – thinking about it in this interlocking way served to help me construct it all – my main point is for people to have fun.
Needless to say it’s been a very busy week. There’s been food, some of it tasty and blog-worthy, but I was tired and just ate it without photos or noting recipes.
Also due to busy-ness not much was done on my new crocodile project mentioned last post. But I have kept up my sketchbook activities and reading books of an evening. Sketching and reading are like breathing.
So I’ll not promise anything specific for next Monday… but there will be something. Hopefully, something that encourages your own creative life or is at least entertaining for you.
Till next time – have a good week looking at stuff.
I’ve illustrated Pembral Forgets written by Steve Tubbs and in my last post I talked about my process of creating the cover and my leaf motif that flows through the book.
Well here, below, are some of the finished illustrations with the text so you can see what I mean.
Later on in the story there are some really large leaves… but as you can tell from the images above I depict leaves from a distance as well as nearer to hand.
I also use leaf shapes as logos on story related objects… for example in the photo below look for the leaf on the sugar and the market sacks. I do this in multiple places within the story in order to emphasize the fall leaves aspect of the story – and to visually bring the leaf motif and good food motifs together.
There are illustrations on every one of the 38 pages of Pembral Forgets… lots of leaves blowing through this book!
Since the author Steve Tubbs was inspired by thoughts of himself as a kid and memories of his own mother – I wanted my illustrations to have a warm soft nostalgic feeling in addition to the colors of Fall. So I used a cream colored handmade watercolor paper for my ink and gouache illustrations.
Since the warm, creamy, yet fall colors are what I wanted for the pages in the artist book reproductions – I’m also making the original artist book box (talked about in my last post) have a similar cream color on the book-shaped box edges where pages are.
I still have lots of work to do on the one-of-a-kind artist book box that will hold all of the original illustrations and text. Also there’s a few more pages for the one-of-a-kind book to do…. more about that in future posts.
And I’m in the process of making a webpage about Pembral Forgets. It includes a short conversation with the author, Stev Tubbs, as well as images of more of the finished art. You can see it here: https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/pembral-forgets/
But in case you think I came up with the cover and these illustrations perfectly right from the first: Here’s a leaf motif pattern I tried before hitting upon the motif and color scheme I finished with.
I decided this leaf pattern was too green and too uniformly regular. Then I proceeded to do the pattern I showed you in my last post and what you see on the Pembral Forgets finished book cover. But as a pattern design goes this more-green autumn leaf pattern was fine – it just didn’t fit the creamy nostalgic vibe I wanted for Pembral Forgets.
I’m still happily reading “European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman” by Theodora Goss – and taking things a wee bit slower but I’ll see you here next Monday! Stay safe – and here’s hoping for a better new year for everyone.
Happy Jolabokaflod in advance! In my last post I hinted that I’d have a gift book for you. I have several! And some hot chocolate. Some assembly required… If you’re just joining this party – welcome! – and if you’re not familiar here’s another meme that tells what Jolabokaflod is.
Since I’ve been asked by several people: here’s info about the art media gouache, why it makes me grin and my working cycles with it.
Gouache is a water based paint. It’s more opaque than watercolor. Using gouache feels like spreading soft butter on toast. Applied gouache dries quickly but is easily made moist and workable again. It dries to a matte non sticky appearance which makes it suitable for use in bound sketchbooks, in folded artist books as well as for fine art to be framed. Gouache also reproduces well via various printing mechanisms on fabrics, in printed books and on many other surfaces.
In the studio, because I don’t have to worry about my gouache paints becoming unusable on my palette before I can use them (as is sometimes an issue with acrylics), gouache is suited to my busy life. I call this my gouache and grin cycle.
I prefer to work on multiple art projects at a time in “short bursts” on each project. Rather than count on a long span of uninterrupted time I dash in and work a bit on an art project, then go make lunch or do whatever stuff-of-life or other work matter that needs to be done. Then I cycle back to an art project…
To borrow a sports analogy I just try to advance the ball, my various art projects, a little bit each day rather than doing a project all at once. I try to amuse myself with whimsical art making, aka spreading color, for at least a few minutes every day no matter what else is happening in life. The qualities and attributes of gouache help me to do this, to keep my creative games in play – come heck or high water.
Here’s a series of photos showing my gouache working methods in my sketchbook. (This is also my work method for fine art and other projects.) In the first photo you see my 3 x 5 inch watercolor sketchbook held open with clips. Also pictured from the top left and rotating clockwise: paper towel, peppermint candy model, graphite pencil, 3 watercolor pencils, 2 waterproof ink pens, a water brush and my lidded paint palette with its wells of various dry gouache colors.
In the photo below I begin 3 demo peppermints: the top left mint is sketched in graphite pencil and waterproof ink pens. The bottom left mint is drawn in watercolor pencil only. The mint on the bottom right page was doodled in all of the above; graphite pencil, ink and watercolor pencil. [The quote was just on the sketchbook page I chose to use for this demo.]
So you can see what they look like here in the photo below are two tubes of gouache paints. I like the Holbein Artist Designers Gouache brand best but the Winsor and Newton brand is good too. (There’s a monster called “acryla gouache” also available on the market which I avoid like a character would avoid a flesh eating zombie in a horror film.)
I begin painting by laying down the local color – the general color an item is supposed to be. At this point I don’t worry about shadows or highlights or details. I just get the color shapes down – in this case for the peppermint candies.
I did not squeeze out new paint from my tubes when I began. I got my water brush wet and put a few drops of water on the dried red gouache already on my palette so I can use the newly moistened color. I add a small amount of moisture to a portion of the dried chunk of red gouache until that portion feels like soft butter, then I paint the candy stripes.
Here’s a closer look.
Now I get the general color and shape down for the wrapper in the same method. I put a drop or two of water on my blue gouache color, get my brush damp, dab at the blue paint a second or two to get a portion of it moistened and softened – then I paint.
Now I create the cast shadows using a watery mixture of the red and blue gouache colors. To make the watery mixture on the lid of my palette I dipped my brush on the now moist blue color, dab on an area of the lid, then dab the brush clean on the paper towel, then dipping into the now moist red and adding it to the tiny blue puddle, mixing till it’s a purple color I want for the shadow. Then I add a tiny bit of plain water to the newly mixed purple till it’s a small fingernail size puddle of watery purple – this enables me to do the cast shadows in a faint shadowy way.
Now I do squeeze out a tiny amount of the white gouache from the tube and use it, fresh from the tube, to make the highlights on the candy and wrappers. Note in the photo below how the white gouache can completely obscure the darkest ink lines. This is part of what I love about gouache – any mistake can be covered with the opaque paints. If an edge in a painting needs to be softened or a color edge blended all I need is a wet brush.
Then in a few minutes, perhaps the length of time it takes for a decent sip or two of coffee, when the paint is dry I go back over the paint with ink lines or watercolor pencil lines to snap the details into sharper focus.
Now that I’ve finished painting I leave my sketchbook and my palette open and let them dry completely. I even leave the shadow color mixture on my palette lid to dry. All I will need to do to reuse the mixed color in the future is to get my brush wet and dip in.
Peppermints are one of my guaranteed-to-make-me-grin art subjects that don’t require a lot of time or planning. I’ve learned over years of painting peppermints that different candy makers have their own peppermint candy look. And I don’t mean the wrapper.
Here’s a fabric pattern I did of peppermints for my Spoonflower shop. I used the gouache techniques I describe above to create this pattern. But do you notice how these mints are different from the ones I did in the demo above? Different candy maker… yummy too!
To illustrate what I mean about working in short bursts despite life situations. A hot water pipe burst on our hot water heater recently. (Talk about heck and high water! 🤦♀️) After we got the immediate crisis dealt with I did little quick bouts of drawing as a self calming technique. Also while waiting for plumbers etc restoration crews I doodled and painted in my sketchbook. Gouache makes it easy for me do short bursts of spreading color which makes me smile. And having had a brief grin makes dealing with life much better.
Anyway, there’s a new artist book I’ve done for children called “B Mouse Reads A Book”. In it you can see my original ink and gouache artwork, and how the art media is on folded paper in this video on my YouTube channel. Because this book was meant to be handled in a gallery I used a spray fix varnish to make sure the gouache wouldn’t smear or run.
But since the pandemic hit there’s no going to art galleries to handle or view artist books in person. So I was lucky enough to have “B Mouse Reads A Book” published as an ebook here on Storyberries.com! They also included the book B Mouse is reading too…it’s another artist book I created as part of the B Mouse Reads A Book story…there’s a link at the bottom of the B Mouse book that you can click to see the companion book.
I’m sure you can recognize in the image above the ways I did my combinations of ink and gouache. The video shows how flexible gouache can be when applied on paper bound or folded as pages. The ebook shows how well the nuances of the colors show even as a digital image.
If you look at my portfolio pages you can see my ink and gouache work as both fine art framed in an art gallery setting as well as reproduced in printed books.
That reminds me to tell of another practical matter: if you apply gouache too thickly it can pop or flake off. Especially in a folded or bound paper book. And when scanning or photographing gouache artwork for reproduction a too-thick gouache application can cast shadows unrelated to the artwork subject. So I apply gouache as if I were basting bread with semi melted or melted butter.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and found it helpful for when you try gouache yourself.
See you here next Monday. And in case you’d like to know even more about gouache – here below are a few links to more information about painting with gouache: