the art technique of attention

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, books, drawing as thinking, ebook, fine art, illustration, mental health, story, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, writing and illustrating

I’ve been very busy getting ready for a one-person fine art exhibit at Caplan Art Designs that will open in September. (So my social media activity has slacked off lately.) Around the edges of creating new fine artwork, framing, paperwork and so forth I’ve been working towards a new print edition of “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”.

This story from the First Aid Kit has been a good reminder of an art technique I try to practice daily – even when I’m busy:

Attention

Even when I’m very busy I practice taking a moment within my day, wherever I am, in the here-and-now and pay attention to my 5 senses. I try to let go of any preconceived conceptions, to just expand my awareness. I also include, in this exercise, paying attention to my free-associations and my imagination during my 5-senses check-in moment. I’ll note my sensory experience and “watch”, like you’d watch television, the memories, thoughts and associations that cross my mind as a result of the sensory experience.  I’ll often make notes in my sketchbook.

What I “get” for my payment – when I pay attention – is the power to choose what to focus on when I’m at my art easel working.

This practice of paying attention to both sensory input and the content of my mind –  is a version of what Betty Edwards wrote about in her book “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” – in the section where she talks about chairs. How (and I’m paraphrasing) a drawing student first attempting to draw a chair will substitute their knowledge about chairs (4 legs, a square seat and back) and will draw a child-like symbol of a chair. One has to learn to see the shapes of the spaces around the chair as well as the shapes of the chair itself – what is actually seen (3 legs, a trapezoid shaped seat and back).

I find too often – especially when I’m busy – I’m substituting my “knowledge” about the world, my preconceptions, for what “is” in the world. So I find it helpful to practice seeing the shapes of spaces, so to speak, in my sensory experience of the world. And to see the shapes of spaces within my own mind.

Paying attention allows me to merge real-world phenomenon with my mental life and to choose to communicate, via art, in ways that are helpful, playful and fun.

Currently “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” only exists in e-book form. But as I said above, I’m working on that. This book has had such a profound impact on my own creative life that I want to have another print version around.

feeding good wolves

A Creative Life, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, ebook, food for thought, graphic narrative, illustration, small things, Sustainable creativity, words and pictures

I’ve been reading a book titled “Become America” by Eric Liu. In it Liu writes “To be a citizen is to be an artist…. ” Liu included examples of people imaging things like “why is this not a park?” and “How could these old folks and these little kids be making something together?”.

That got me thinking of how citizenship is an act of imagination. Governments, businesses – and of course artists – imagine all kinds of activities for their fellow citizens to participate in. Such imaginative action creates the civic world over time.

It is crucial, then, the kinds of imagination used and the intentions behind it. It matters which wolf gets fed: our good wolves or our bad ones.  Or if you prefer angels: do we encourage the “better angels of our natures”?

It far too easy for the human mind to think “It’s always been this way” when we see civic spaces or events. It takes a healthy imagination and some effort to remember that we, collectively, created “this way” bit by bit and that we can maintain it or change it by equally small mundane bits too.

When it comes to my own imagination – and maintaining the health of it and my own civic engagement – I’m constantly asking myself “which wolf does this idea/thought/event feed?” and then looking for the small mundane steps needed to create a banquet, a meal or a snack for my good wolves and better angels.

One step I’ve identified recently, something small and within reach, that I can do to encourage and maintain my own healthy imagination – and good citizenship – is to create a new printed edition of Dr.Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit. And to make it more widely available.

Currently there is only the ebook version out.  The first printed edition was done on an Espresso Book Machine at my local Powell’s bookstore.  That machine no longer exists. Sigh. Theoretically copies of the first printed edition may still be found out in the wide world – by clicking here – but it’s a challenge.  I want to make the book easier to find.

I, personally, want to have another printed copy of Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit. I want to put a copy in my bathroom. I want to read it when I brush my teeth. I want my good wolves to have more food to sink their teeth into. I want to maintain my healthy imagination – and to practice envisioning other good wolves with healthy imaginations also brushing their teeth…

Anyway, here’s one of my illustrations for the book:

TwoWolves

illustration by Sue Clancy for “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit

the point of it all

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, business of art, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, ebook, mental health, Sustainable creativity

As per my last post I’ve been starting new projects in my studio. I’m also having some down time to rest and recharge. While starting new projects I’m keeping in mind my studio statement.  Here it is on a 2 by 3 inch paper thumbtacked to my art studio wall.

ClancyStudioStatement

I jokingly say that my mission in life is to wear pencils down to nubs. And I do think that’s true on one level at least – I practice drawing and writing daily and lots of pencils get used. So that must be the point right?!

PencilPoints

Yes, daily practice is indeed the point! (And yes, I like the Blackwing pencils a whole lot!)

But, seriously, these statements are true in my experience: “What you repeat sticks. What you don’t repeat goes away.” – “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.” and “Nothing has to go right today” – all of these concepts come from an artist book I did. (More about that here).

It has been crucial for me to purposefully design my daily artistic habits (repetitions!). And to focus on maintaining the habit-ness of creativity rather than being out-come based about my creative output. (it’s okay if today’s artwork is not perfect!)

It’s also important to take breaks. Both the design of daily creative habits and the breaks from them are part of making my creative life sustainable. The point is to have fun being creative and to keep it fun!

Over on my Instagram page I’ll post a pic of at least one of the things I’m doing to rest and recharge…

books and readers everywhere and in my sketchbook too

A Creative Life, art exhibit, artist book, artistic inspirations, Books In Art, drawing as thinking, ebook, kitchen art, reading in art, recipe illustration, sketchbook, visual thinking

One of the many things I love about the Pacific Northwest are the indie bookstores and all of the people I see reading. Almost every time I’m in town I see people reading printed books in coffeeshops, in cafes, in the park, in the library, in line at the post office, waiting for the bus and even while walking down the sidewalk.

For example here’s a sketchbook page (left side) I did just after passing by the lobby of one of the downtown apartment-plexes. There’s a lobby on the first floor and a guy was sitting in a chair reading with his dog on his lap. (I added the cat – just for fun.)

I did the other page (on the right) on the same walk, but just after walking past a café window where a lady was having a dessert and coffee. The book she was reading was about the same small size as her cake! So I had to note that!

ArmchairBook

Below are several more pages from my “running around loose” sketchbook (a book I take with me when I go to town) as well as a few from my “kitchen sketchbook” (a book I keep in my kitchen at home to doodle in while I wait for water to boil etc.)

These pages – and my many other sketchbook pages full of readers and books – have been feeding my current  “reading and books in art” fine art series that I’ve been posting about in my last several posts. This series of paintings is for an upcoming exhibit. Plus books are a fun topic for me to use in my artistic practice to, well, practice.

I’m still thinking hard about my notion of nesting ideas (like the way one book refers to another book etc.) and this week I’ve added a twist; in past years to accompany my fine art exhibits I’ve included ebook versions of my sketchbooks. What if this year, instead of an ebook, I did a limited edition printed book? And what if it was a book that collected some of my sketches of human readers and possibly included some of my poems/short stories?  So that the poem/story related to the human reader, what they might be reading and also to the fine art?  It would be a way for me to include the story alluded to within my recent painting Epic Tales Of The Pug King for example.

Hmmm…  I’ll keep thinking. And I’ll probably post some of my human reader sketches/illustrations here too and see what you think.

Oh, and to add another layer to my nesting-ideas concept, over on my Instagram page I’m occasionally posting books I’m currently reading.

a mouse scrapbook and gift

A Creative Life, animals in art, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, ebook, graphic narrative, handmade books, illustrated shorts, sketchbook, small things, story, The Sketchbook Project, visual story, words and pictures

Here are a few pages from my tiny sketchbook for the Brooklyn Art Library titled “A. Mouse’s Book Of Scraps”.  And since you follow me here’s my entire book, free download, as my thank-you-for-following-me gift: AMousesBookOfScrapsByClancy

I’m doing this gifting by permission of our books author Mr. A. Mouse of course. <wink> We, Mr. A. Mouse and I,  hope you like it!

And yes, this 2.33 inch by 1.66 inch book is a humorous parody or spoof on the concept of collecting and publishing…

In a recent post I spoke of this book and of the Brooklyn Art Library’s Tiny Sketchbook Project in general well here’s a link https://www.brooklynartlibrary.com/

You can also see more of my downloadable artist books on this page. Your patronage and support means a lot! Thank you!

coffee and conversations with friends

A Creative Life, artistic inspirations, ebook, still life, story, words and pictures

I’ve been thinking of how essential friendly conversations are – and remembering a story Dr. Bob Hoke* once told. It went like this.

Once upon a time there was a king who was very busy from morning until evening chairing meetings and making decisions. When the king went home in the evening he wanted perfect silence; he didn’t talk to his very beautiful queen or his servants and he didn’t allow them to talk either. A no-talking policy reigned whether he was home or not. His queen was very unhappy and his servants didn’t stay in his employ long – even though the king was very rich and the queen and servants didn’t lack any material thing.

Eventually he noticed that his poorly paid chief advisor had a very happy wife. The advisor also had servants who had been in his employ for decades despite the fact that the advisor couldn’t pay them as well as others might.

The king attributed his advisors success in these relationships to sheer luck. One day the king demanded that the advisor swap. The advisor’s wife and servants went to live with the king. The king’s queen and servants went to live with the advisor.

A year went by. And the king noticed that most of the advisor’s former servants had left the king’s employment (despite their higher wages) and the advisor’s wife was now sad all the time. The king was also aware that his queen now laughed most of the time and his former servants, now in the poorly paid employment of the advisor, had stayed the entire year.

The king called his advisor and demanded “How have you done this?”.

“Your highness, almost every night I spend time asking everyone how their day had gone. I ask them how their children are. I listen to their hopes and dreams. I ask them to tell me stories and jokes. I tell them stories and jokes. I tell them about my day, my hopes and dreams.  Neighbors and friends often drop by to visit – whether I’m home or not – and we offer the visitors what little we have to eat or drink. We accept what they offer us. We also visit other people.” replied the advisor.

The king reversed the swap and though it took some time he eventually became a good conversationalist with his queen and current servants (who began to stay in his employ longer).  Above the entrance to his home, to help him remember, the king had a sign painter paint this phrase: “To be a good conversationalist is to have a good life.”

That’s the end of the story as I recall it. As I was remembering the story I painted this:

CoffeeWithFriends72

“Coffee With Friends” – by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches- acrylic and gouache on board

*Dr. Bob Hoke is the psychiatrist for whom I compiled and illustrated “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” (link to that book here https://store.bookbaby.com//bookshop/book/index.aspx?bookURL=dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit )

The story in this post was not included in the First Aid Kit because both Dr. Bob and I thought the “wife swapping” story element would be distracting within the book – even though it is a way within this particular story to demonstrate the point about conversation.

Ah well.

And in this still life artwork I experimented – swapped you might say – using a color I don’t use often: turquoise instead of the color I was tempted to reach for first. I feel I’m broadening my color-conversation skills at least.

birthday book

A Creative Life, artist book, artistic inspirations, drawing as thinking, ebook, sketchbook, travelogue, visual story

It’s my birthday so you get a present! Because you’re a regular reader of my posts, here is a free downloadable e-book copy of my “Running Around Loose” sketchbook. It’s a pdf file, click RunningLooseVanEd1byClancy to download the book for free (it’s a birthday gift!). I’ll include a few sample pages in this post so you’ll have some clues as to what you’ll get when you open the file. Enjoy! And thanks again for looking at my stuff!

Now please pass the strawberries and whipped cream.

RiverwalkJavaHouse

HouseConcert

McMenamins

SavonaCoffeeRiverwalk

pages from “Running Around Loose in Vancouver WA” by Clancy

Oh yes – you can find more of my artist books here: https://sueclancy.com/shop/  and here: https://sueclancy.com/artist-books/

community creatures and why a book too

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, ebook, fine art, Narrative Art, visual thinking

Here are more pages from my “Running Around Loose” sketchbook – link to the ebook here – and the fine art pieces they inspired. These are in a current exhibit, titled “Community Creatures” at The Anstine Gallery.  I don’t think an artist’s life has to be too mysterious – so I show my sketchbooks when I can in whatever formats I can; ebook, hard-copy book, photocopied pages thumbtacked on a wall. Whatever works for that particular exhibit.  Besides I’ve been told that people enjoy seeing my sketches too – and for me that’s reason enough to do the “extra” work. I enjoy demonstrating the fact that “artistic inspiration” can come from very mundane sources. Anyway, I’m sure you can see the connections between the sketches and the artwork in this post. 

The Anstine Gallery’s facebook page is here https://www.facebook.com/The-Rebecca-Anstine-Gallery-336799326827686/.

More about my ebooks and artist books available at www.sueclancy.com

community creatures running loose at the Anstine Gallery

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, drawing as thinking, ebook, public art, sketchbook, travel art and writing, visual story

The art was delivered to the Anstine Gallery this morning. The snow I’d worried about in my last post wasn’t a problem! (Whew!) The Anstine Gallery is located in a government building in Vancouver so I’m doing what I often do – trying to make people in serious places laugh.

Adults in general, I find, tend to be focused on day-to-day problems and people in certain professions; in the medical field, in law and in city or county government, in addition to having the regular allotment of adult-hood type responsibilities have entire work-days filled with problem-solving.

So with this exhibit – titled “Community Creatures” I wanted to share humorous artwork that was based on what is, in my opinion, working well in Vancouver.

A community is made up of its social vitality. The physical structures of the place; sidewalks, multi-use buildings, zoning laws, environmental policies, parks, public art and so forth all impact – in a behind the scenes way – the social vitality of a place. I see the city/county as doing well because of what I observe when I “run around loose”.

Where we most often see, or are most easily aware of, social vitality is in the small businesses, I mean the honest-to-goodness personally owned business – where the owner actually works there.  So that’s where I started – I’ve recorded my experiences in my sketchbook of running around loose in Vancouver, then I created characters (the ‘creatures’) and a fine-art-visual-story that transformed my real-life sketches into a metaphoric or literary depiction of an element of life in Vancouver.

Here are a series of sketches paired with the artworks. I’m sure you’ll be able to see what relates to what.

Naturally there is crossover between the different sketchbook pages and each finished art piece. The above is just a sample. You can download my entire “Running Around Loose – Vancouver WA” sketchbook in ebook form here:  https://sueclancy.com/product/running-around-loose-vancouver-wa-edition-1-by-sue-clancy/

running around loose art exhibit

A Creative Life, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, ebook, fine art, public art, visual thinking

Soon I’m delivering artwork to the Anstine Gallery – an art gallery located in a governmental building in Vancouver WA. – for a one woman exhibit titled “Community Creatures”.  Since it’s in a government building I’m taking the opportunity to celebrate, with artwork, aspects of the community I love.

I’ve titled the exhibit “Community Creatures” because the characters I’ve used for all of the fine art pieces range widely: there’s a frog, a longhorn steer, a peacock, a seahorse, a rabbit and of course some dogs and cats. Each character, and the actions depicted in the artwork,  represents some aspect of the Vancouver community that I appreciate.  As I’ve run around loosely enjoying things I’ve documented them in my sketchbook. Then I’ve pulled elements recorded in my sketchbook for fine art.

So I’m also sharing my sketchbook, the words-and-pictures behind the fine art, in two ways: one as a hand-sewn book that will be in the exhibit, and as an ebook (here) titled “Running Around Loose” that people can download and have on their phone when they go to my exhibit. Or if they can’t come to the exhibit they can still enjoy the show – via my sketchbook.

For example here is one of my sketchbook pages.

BurntBridge

And below is one of my artwork, titled “Massive Mastiff Munching” that flowed from the above sketchbook page and other pages like it. For example I’m also combining (as documented in other sketchbook pages) the “tapas”, or small plates, way of eating that many places offer – including the winery mentioned in the above sketchbook page.

MassiveMastiffMunchingA72.jpg

You can probably see several connections between the sketchbook page and the artwork.

I suppose with the art and the book combined the entire exhibit could be called “Community Creatures… Running Around Loose” – and I like the humor of that, but I’ve left the phrases separate in order to distinguish between the exhibit and the book. Anyway, hopefully everything I’ve done will make people smile.

I’ll post more about this exhibit and my thinking in the coming days – but just now I’m hoping that our recent snowfall won’t interfere too much with delivery day.  The local independently owned (imagine that!!)  newspaper, The Columbian, has headlines for yesterday and today: “Snow sticks around; School districts announce closures, later starts today with messy commute likely” and “A Day to take off; snow, ice prompt school closures, delays in services in Clark County”.  It is snowing as I type this … so I’ll be in touch with the exhibit curator and we’ll see….