the art technique of attention

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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

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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 feeling of milkshakes

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One of my favorite desserts uses fresh fruit from our garden and or the local farmers market. Naturally I meditated on what I feel like when I’m eating one of these milkshakes and described it with my recipe illustration. (clue: a parade…)

I used ink and gouache on handmade paper to create the original art-plus-recipe. The handmade paper is very absorbent so the gouache looks more like “watercolor” than it does when I work on board.

The recipe is called “sloppy” because I don’t bother to blend the ingredients before serving the milkshake. I like the big chunks of fruit. Anyway, If you make the recipe I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!

SloppyMilkshakes

Sloppy milkshakes by Sue Clancy (original art and recipe) – 6 x 18 inches – ink and gouache on handmade paper

strawberry dessert anatomy

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Here’s a page from my sketchbook that relates to a recent blog post: https://sueclancy.com/dogs-strawberries-and-cookbooks/

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reading a dachshunds ode

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As I mentioned regarding the “Leaves and Grounds: Poems for the Canine Soul” painting I wrote of in my last post here, below, is another artwork with a concept related to, nested within, the afore mentioned painting. Also in this post is a poem that I wrote that relates to the ‘Leaves and Grounds’ concept.

ItsMagic-PrintThisOne

It’s Magic – by Clancy – ink and gouache on paper

A Dog’s Ode To Spring
By Clancy

Oh, there’s sunshine
Glorious sunshine
Makes a dachshund want to roll!
Let me out
To run about
Compost is good for my soul!
Oh, the mounds
Of leaves and grounds
This dog’s heading for the pile!
Where the digging is best
I’ll make my nest
Don’t wait I’ll be here a while!
I may be groomed
But that’s all doomed
‘cause I’ll do what makes me grin!
Oh, the sunshine
Glorious sunshine
I’m here till you shout “get in!”

 

epic pug sitting

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Recently I did a post titled Pug Epic Book In Art – (the post is about my painting in which a pug sits in a café reading a book) – since then I’ve also mused about a character who wrote the book the pug in the painting is reading. Here is an illustration of who I imagine is sitting to write the story “Epic Tales of the Pug King” – the book being read by the other pug in the painting:

Epic300

“Epic” by Clancy – ink and gouache on paper

And I’ve written the full text of the story that I hand lettered on the painted-book within my painting referred to in the prior post – the painting that when my wife saw it said she’d like to read the rest of the story of which only a part was depicted within the painting. So here’s the story:

Epic Tales Of The Pug, King  – by Clancy

The Pug King’s elegantly chipped ceramic bowl appeared before him resplendent with gravy, chunks of meat and yams. His Majesty tasted the gravy, then a meat chunk, the gravy again, then a yam, a meat chunk with the gravy and a piece of yam with gravy. He licked his lips, the bowl and his lips again. The Royal Feast was done; the dog sought some sport to aid all digestion and to his owner cried “Sir, Fool! Kneel now and play some ball!” The owner bowed and bent his knee. “Fetch!” he said and flung a mighty fling. The ball arched high into the air across the green expanse of Royal lawn. His Majesty ran flowing, majestically, swiftly, across the grass, conquering the ball and returning back to his owner. Three times, four times they did this at the King’s command. On the 12th time the owner knelt, patted the Monarch’s silken head, saying “Enough now, lets go inside and get ready for bed.” His Royal Majesty barked sharply. “Sir Fool, there’s a King’s personal business still to do…”

illustrated poetry about food

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Last weekend I spent some time looking through my cookbook collection which sits on the shelves next to my poetry collection. Since I’ve been practicing both cooking and writing I look to my favorite “masters” in each genre for inspiration. It’s nice to have them all in one spot.  Mollie Katzen, Aliza Green, Rick Bayless and Maryana Vollstedt are some of my favorite masters from the cooking world.  Edward Gorey, Edward Lear, Ogden Nash and Shel Silverstein are some favorites from the poetry world.

I spent the most “looking-for-a-recipe-to-cook” time with Vollstedt’s cookbook “The Big Book Of Soups And Stews” as it was a cold weekend. Plus a hearty stew puts me in a happy “comfort food feast” frame of mind. But the most “just admiring a cook book” time was spent with Katzen. However I did use one of Katzen’s salad recipes to go alongside a stew. I love the way Katzen hand lettered her recipes and illustrated them in her “Moosewood Cookbook”.  My poetry time was divided between Edward Gorey and Edward Lear.

This concept of mashing up wildly different genres as inspiration to make something new? Well Austin Kleon has written wonderful creative thinking technique books about that – specifically Steal Like An Artist!

Anyway I combined my big pot of stew thoughts with the limerick poem form for this poem I wrote and illustrated below – which has been published now on They Draw & Cook.

ForTheCooksPlentitude72

For the cooks plentitude – by Clancy https://www.theydrawandcook.com/artists/sue-clancy

I’m still practicing combining India ink and gouache – and doing text with a brush.  I used a smaller size brush this time for the type – and all lower case letters.  This brush-and-ink type style felt looser, more relaxed, than the type I did with a fountain pen for the birthday card – though both projects use a similar lower case.  I like both methodologies and will probably use both techniques as they fit with the project at hand. But this brush style… I’m liking it and am finding my hand reaching for a brush more often.

What do you think?

carried away by a book illustrated poem

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I’ve decided recently to practice my poetry and short-short story writing by writing something, no matter how bad, every day. If there’s anything illustration worthy I’ll illustrate it.  Out of all I’ve done thus far this seemed worthy:

LookLook72

poem and illustration by Clancy

Doing the poem text with a brush was new and different for me. It was looser and I think I like it. Typically I’ve used a dip-pen and been “tight” about it. I’ve also tended toward handwritten capital letters as you know from my illustrated recipes. It’s a text-style habit that harkens back to my years as a professional cartoonist and biological illustrator.

But for this poem when I used capital letters via ink-and-brush the text seemed too thick and shout-y.  I’m now thinking I’ll experiment with all lower case writing. And a smaller brush.  Or maybe a fountain pen rather than a dip-pen.

I’ll try a different hand-written style, and technique, if I happen to write another illustration worthy poem. We’ll see… I’ve got a lot of bad poetry to write between now and then I suspect.

What do you think about the all capital letters via brush style?

sketching the coast

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Happy New Year everyone! New on newsstands is a magazine, Oregon Coast Magazine, in which is a 4 page article that I both wrote and illustrated!  It was such fun to do a “sketching the coast” article for them that I want to do more such writing plus illustrating this year. Here’s a link for Oregon Coast Magazine https://oregoncoastmagazine.com/.

SketchingTheCoast1819a72

candied fabric peppermint flavor

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In between Holiday fine art commissions I’ve been reading about the writers technique of flash fiction and flash non-fiction. And I’ve realized that this is what I’ve been doing all this time – illustrated flash. Or “illustrated shorts” as I call them.  Like the short-short story writers do I take a nugget of a thought or feeling and describe it – but using visual art instead of words.

For example: I’ve sometimes looked at bowls of peppermint candies and thought of how fun it’d be to fling the mints up in the air and let it “rain” mints for a second. I’ve never done it – probably wouldn’t ever do it – but it’s fun to imagine. So I’ve been working on a fabric pattern design with that in mind.

CandyPattern72

I’ve done more of a red emphasis on the mints even though it’s not realistic to the mint examples in the photo because I had some mints recently that had more red on them. They aren’t in the photo because I ate them. All of them. And I’m not sorry I did either!

Anyway, after finishing the peppermint candy pattern artwork I scanned the artwork, took the digital file and set it up to become tea towels or napkins.  Here’s a picture of the tea towel.

By illustrating fabric, in flash-fiction style, I’m able to get across my fleeting “tossed mints” feeling/thought but in a way that’s succinct (like a short-short story) and it’s also of practical use.

It suits my sense of humor to combine both the fleeting and the practical…

Happy Holiday’s in advance!  Now I’ll go back to being one of Santa’s elves…