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:
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:
Yesterday was a busy day full of play both in the kitchen and on a hike. Somehow in the mix I thought of a new-to-me way to combine my handwritten words and artwork on a page. Late last night I tried it in my sketchbook. Here’s what I did using ink and gouache:
Some time back I read an article in my local newspaper about teaching kids to snack healthy and to learn to trust their body’s cues about food. Since then I’ve been thinking of similarities between healthy snacking habits and developing a healthy creative life.
- Teach yourself how to recognize aesthetic cues/desires – and practice responding to them – over time. I think of aesthetic cues as mental indulge-ments; things like stories, poems, movies, music, art etc. that make you feel glad to be alive. Just like a kid has to learn how to try new foods and then practice recognizing what foods they enjoy eating. As we go through life our aesthetic preferences change – just like our food preferences do. So it’s helpful to continue to try new aesthetic/art snacks periodically – and practice trusting your own cues.
- Allow yourself to listen to your own aesthetic cues/voice without input from other people. This takes practice and no matter how experienced a person is one has to remember to return to listening to one’s own voice – rather like how sometimes a kid (or an adult) has to be reminded to pay attention to their plate and eat. (When my wife and I go to happy hour with our friends I have to remind myself to eat…I tend to focus on the conversation…)
- Give yourself permission to just practice. Practice-an-art-materials can be as simple as keeping a book of stories or poems handy for reading and a small book to write in. Think of it as adult playing. Some helpful mantras: “Nothing has to go right today”, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.” and “It’s okay to make mistakes and messes – it’s part of how we learn.”
- Set specific times to practice. These can be very short bursts of time. They can be event/circumstance based rather than clock based. i.e. I’ll practice reading/writing poems while the coffee/tea brews, the water boils or the oven pre-heats.
- Create a small place/drawer where your practice-an-art materials are kept handy. Perhaps a shelf where books related to your art snack indulge-ments are stored. Look for and collect objects, events, places that feed your creative-soul-heart-mind. Stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive. Plan to indulge in these things in small ways – daily.
- Set a habit (I hate the word “rule”) for what time per month you’ll indulge yourself – for an aesthetic “meal”, something more than a short snack – with someone else’s artwork: i.e. go to local art-openings, poetry/story slams, indie film nights, music jam nights or a visit to an art museum.
Here’s what I indulged myself with this morning as an art snack while my breakfast bread toasted:
The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats is a new-favorite poem. It reminds me that we can – and do – create our own solace.
It’s been my experience that one’s reading is the fertile soil from which all other creativity grows. So I find books like this one, “1000 Books To Read Before You Die” by James Mustich, an essential art studio tool.
The Mustich title is especially useful as it’s more like a restaurant guide than most “read-this” books; the suggested titles are sorted alphabetically by author, there are readable book note details about the genre/subject, when it was written, and other notable works by the author are listed. A “further reading” section about the author’s life and work or on the book’s subject is included. There’s a “try this” section listing other books by other authors suggested for the reader if they enjoyed the featured book. Helpfully “adaptions” of the featured title are also noted: films, plays, musical compositions and audio books. Hints are given whether you could read the book “in a sitting” or not. There is also a section of Mustich’s book that lists books sorted by genre/section: my favorites (so far) are “Lol”, “Mysterious Matters”, “Soul Food” and “Animal World”.
I find all of this pre-sorted book sorting helpful by making it easier to find books related to my creative topic. For example I’ve been reading books about objects lately since I’ve been doing some still life paintings. So yes, that has meant reading Marcel Proust and John Ruskin among other authors.
As you know I’ve been doing both food themed fine-art paintings as well as several food-recipe illustrations – so reading mystery novels that have food in them has been a good way to keep the “creative fun” going in my head while I wait for paint to dry. BTW, I found an online source for culinary themed mystery novels; https://www.cozy-mystery.com/blog/cozy-mystery-authors-with-culinary-themes-part-1.html)
One of my favorite things to do is sit for an hour or so before bed and read with my beverage of choice handy. If you follow my Instagram page occasionally I post what I’m reading and what I’m drinking. While it looks (and often feels) like pure indulgence I’d say that my time spent reading is one of the most important things I do to develop and maintain my creativity.
Anyway, here’s a photo of the book by Mustich – alongside one of my favorite wines by Burnt Bridge Cellars. And, don’t worry, I was sharing the bottle of wine with my wife… 😉
BTW, a local newspaper had a wonderful interview with James Mustich about what books did and didn’t get included in his “1000….”. Oh, and here’s a link to a local bookstore for more info about the book itself.
Typically I paint food and drinks from my memory and imagination. Sort of. I take my sketchbook along and draw from life what I’m eating or drinking. But when I get paints out in my studio to do a “real” fine art piece I’m winging it from my sketchbook-aided memories of the food flavors and presentation. Recently I’ve done something different.
I’ve been working from “live” models in my studio. Here are my models as they came from the store:
You see, I’ve been thinking of that moment during a nice dinner out, when the waiter brings you some after dinner mints, and you sit with your friends munching them and gentling into the rest of the evening. But I can eat mints pretty quickly. (Mint is one of my favorite flavors) And in such a situation I’m usually focused on the conversation. So have I ever really looked at a mint? I mean really looked?
I bought some mint candies as art models for the serious artistic meditation thereof. And while I did look at (and eat) them I still ended up somewhat “winging it” when creating these paintings:
I think as paintings they worked out okay. While I tried some different colors (the purple, the teal and the orange) I feel I conveyed the minty goodness of the candies. I also think I managed to imply a story in each of them, at least an implication of people eating the mints.
At any rate I have really looked a mint now. Really looked.
I first “met” the Pacific Northwest in the novels of Tom Robbins. His book “Another Roadside Attraction” has a wonderful description of the grey-blue skies, the abundant rain, the soil and how the “…strawberries grow lustily…”.
Fast forward a number of years and on one of my first visits to the region I saw a field of strawberries growing wild near the ocean. I was enchanted.
Then after many years of vacations to this land of enchantments we moved from Oklahoma to the Pacific Northwest. One of the first things my wife and I did as new residents was to buy 4 Rainer strawberry plants and plant them in our back yard.
Each year those 4 plants multiplied themselves. And each year we share strawberries with neighbors, friends, family and try to think of new ways to use them.
This year’s new recipe is a strawberry daiquiri. Here’s the recipe I used – http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/frozen-strawberry-daiquiri-99140 – I went lighter on the lime juice than they suggest. It was quite yummy!
As you know from recent posts I’ve been practicing painting “stuff” a little more realistically – so I tried to get the glasses to look transparent and the fruits to look round and full. Here’s the painting, titled “Strawberry Daiquiris”.
Around the edges of working on cat portraits I’ve still been working with gouache. Specifically I’ve been testing it in my bound sketchbooks. Here are several pages, created with gouache and ink, in my current “kitchen sketchbook”. I have a series of kitchen sketchbooks, they are all small, around 3 by 5 inches, and I give each book a silly name. These books contain drawings of a recipe I was then-currently cooking – or a depiction of something I was drinking and eating. The following pages are from my “Mouthpiece Four” kitchen sketchbook. I have ambitions of publishing these sketchbooks… but that’s another blog post topic.
Chef Kim Mahan now has the printed cookbooks now available for ordering (and shipping) via the Class-Cooking website. http://www.class-cooking.com/classes-shop/kim-cooks-sue-draws – The Chef even has a few signed copies (signed by both of us) available just ask for a signed copy when you order.
Each cookbook page is unbound and on paper suitable either for cooking from or for framing – or both.
Followers of my artwork already know that I like to play with the book format. Does a book always have to be bound on one edge? I don’t think so. It also doesn’t have to be conventional-book-shaped. With this in mind I’m working with Chef Kim Mahan (www.class-cooking.com) to create an unconventional cookbook titled “Kim Cooks Sue Draws”. More details here: https://sueclancy.com/artist-books/kim-cooks-sue-draws/
Here’s the logo-label I drew using ink and color pencil. (and yes, this is a caricature of the Chef Kim and me)
Our book is not, and will not be, conventionally bound. In fact it might not be called a “book” by some people because it has recipes as tea towels, art prints and greeting cards. Eventually individual recipe-cards will be available (curated by the Chef for particular purposes) for home cooks to use on clipboards or under refrigerator magnets.
Though “Kim Cooks Sue Draws” is not bound along a spine it is a collection of related thoughts connected together in an obvious way. Which, in my opinion, is what a “book” really is.
So “Kim Cooks Sue Draws” is another artist book from me – and I’m lucky that Chef Kim is willing to play with me in this unconventional way. We both see this “book” as a set of playful yet practical artworks that you can use at home to cook, eat and share with people you love.
If this cookbook is to be considered “bound” in any way it would be on this website https://sueclancy.com/artist-books/kim-cooks-sue-draws/ – I use the word “bound” here to signify “collected together in one spot”. I’m sure the Chef will have additional places to put “Kim Cooks Sue Draws” both online and in her classroom.
The Chef and I are in the appetizer-days of this project and we have a full multi-course menu of plans… oh boy do we have plans! Please stay seated at the table… more yummy to come!