Numpurrs 16, 17, 18, 19

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This week has been less busy but weird with wildfires and bad air quality where I live in SW Washington. (More re in a sec.) Despite it all I still made progress on my Numpurrs book (see also my last post for more project details)

Here are the poem lines that go with the illustrations I managed to get done this week:

Sixteen puts flowers out on a whim

Seventeen pours saucers of milk labeled skim

Eighteen opens fish oil good for the fur

Nineteen is so happy she starts to purr

To think about art and creating a book for children this week, as wildfires raged, as we worry about the safety of family and friends has, at times, felt a bit frivolous. But it is also an act of hope. An act of resilience. An act of pushing back against the darkness…

One of my sources of comfort in times of difficulty is to walk among my bookshelves at home, selecting a random book, reading a page or so and putting it back on the shelf. I often hope to find encouraging, uplifting passages. As you might know from my artist book Another Sketchbook I’ve been adapting this comfort recently to include ebooks. Here’s something I read this week from Albert Camus

I think creating art is a way of maintaining hope. Sharing art is a small act of kindness. So I keep on. Besides, I find it helpful to spend time each day focusing on something that is pleasing, enjoyable, as doing this helps me exercise and maintain my inner muscles that give me strength to push back.

Things that are enjoyable are what we push for, what we want to maintain, what we want to have more of in life because it’s not enough to merely endure. Besides doing whatever it is that helps us endure we need to also remember what we’re enduring for. And when the enduring is done to remember to appreciate what we have.

Thinking beyond the thing to be endured and the endurance process itself takes practice. Enjoying things is a skill to be practiced – and one doesn’t have to wait for a perfect time/situation/condition in which to practice. That time is now.

As Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors said “I urge you to please notice when you’re happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” “

Anyway, here’s my cat sitting where he can look out on the smokey world. It’s pleasant to watch him watch the world. This photo was taken about noon on Sunday.

And here’s my dog covering his nose, burrowing into a towel, in an effort to get away from the smell of smoke. He’s so sensible – and cute!

Besides working on my art projects and pulling books randomly from my shelves, I’ve still been reading the books I mentioned in my last post.

Also I’ve added to my daily reading an ebook, “The Cat Who Said Cheese” by Lilian Jackson Braun. Walking around inside my house, for gentle exercise, is more fun with a cozy mystery in hand. And since one of the current topics in my head is cats…. this book is lightweight fun for me to burrow into while still being somewhat on topic.

The air quality outdoors here has been so bad that, wisely, all the places hosting my current fine art exhibit “Readings From The Heart” closed temporarily to the public. As of 8 PM Sunday night the Airnow.gov site has my location’s air quality as “beyond index” meaning it is worse than the number they use to indicate really-awful-very-bad-horrible-dangerous. My nose and chest would agree with that assessment. (An air particulate level of 300 to 500 is considered hazardous – ours Sunday eve was well over 500. Monday morning the number is 414… update: at 6pm Monday we are at 517. My local paper has this article. )

But I tend to think that inside a difficulty is an opportunity – a chance to think beyond an immediate crisis – so just as soon as one Gallery told me they were closing I made the ebook version of my artist book about the exhibit available as a free download on my shop page. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you’ll find my free ebooks. You can also see all of my art in the current exhibits from the comfort of your phone here. And if this isn’t nice I don’t know what is!

Please find ways to keep hope alive, to keep enjoying something, to keep going forward somehow and be kind – I will do the same.

See you here next Monday

Chapter 3: Readings From The Heart

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I’ve been asked how I manage projects, like my “Readings From The Heart” exhibit, over a long duration. Half jokingly I replied “one bite at a time”. My joke is in reference to this saying I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall.

Seriously though when starting I create a general big picture, a kind of map for the entire project. Or, if you prefer, an outline. When I design a long project I do a hybrid blend of the two writing techniques: outlining and seat-of-pantsing. I apply these writing technique concepts to fine art making. I described in my last post what my big picture became for this exhibit that opens this week; the exhibit statement and the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. Here’s a few photos of the printed catalog. An ebook version is also available.

But when I began, more than 8 months ago, my big picture for this project was extremely vague. It was akin to a map of a forest without many details. It was akin to a book jacket blurb, with barely a teaser of what might be inside. It was akin to a writer’s outline with whole sections labeled ‘more research needed’.

My big picture map/ loose outline, was handwritten on a legal pad. Vague as it was it still served as a starting point. I keep a notebook/file box for each project so I can store all of my notes in one spot for easy updating and consultation as I work by the seat of my pants and a lots of “Very Small Goals” (VSG) for the project.

Then with the vague map in hand I identified some Very Small Goals (VSG) that would help me start and proceed on my project. These VSG’s can be as small as ‘buy a new art boards by Friday’. The VSG’s change as the process develops. The trick with VSG’s is to make them absurdly small, easily achievable and very specific – including what and when. It’s important to also find some way make each VSG fun.

I think of the creative life as an Eco-system rather than an Ego-system – what’s important is participating, showing up and finding ways to keep things fun. I can’t stress enough the importance of playing and keeping things fun. That makes creativity over a long project sustainable. Here’s another saying I have thumbtacked to my studio wall.

As I proceed to work I know many changes to my big picture/exhibit design will happen. I also know I don’t live in the big picture. I move organically back and forth from big, medium and small pictures of a project. It’s okay to be uncertain, to experiment and play. I just remember to update my big picture map as I have new thoughts. Slowly over time the picture map comes into focus. A project also changes as life happens.

In this case I began my Readings series well over 8 months ago. Then the pandemic happened and threw a monkey wrenchs in my plans. For example I had to suddenly adapt the way I was artistically inspired: to change from being inspired by things I experienced out in the world to a stay-at-home life, things that I read about or only happened in my imagination.

So to think through how to cope with the pandemic and quarantine I reread Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit, which I had created some time back, about mental health coping skills and wrote notes, drew pictures in my sketchbook in order to think.

I also worked daily in my sketchbook on the topic of how to adapt finding books to read, and the development of one’s mental life to a stay at home quarantine situation. Eventually this book was published as Another Sketchbook in order to share my entire process.

Being in quarantine meant cooking at home more so I consulted our Favorites So Far book. This is a sketchbook full of recipes that were enjoyable ways to feed body and mind. You could say that my work on these artist books/sketchbooks is the medium picture, the inset details within the bigger map, the more developed areas in the outline.

A look at the original sketchbook page which is included in Favorites So Far

All of this sketchbook work inspired my fine art, where I developed specific thoughts with ink and gouache on board. You can almost think of the fine art as the most visible leaves and fruits on the artist book “trees”. In the exhibit catalog I’ve tried to show the connections between the artist books and the fine art I created.

Sometimes, as the pandemic continued, the fine art on the topics of reading, cooking and thinking felt too serious. Needing some self comfort and to have some fun I began drawing portraits of dogs and cats. In order to organize these dog and cat drawings I decided to make them into a children’s book as a gift for some kids in our friends’ lives. Many of my adult friends enjoy my dog and cat portraits so I decided to share each pet portrait on my Instagram page as I finished it in hopes of cheering my friends as I created the kids book.

The finished artwork became an artist book titled Alphapets and was picked up by Storyberries.com. A sequel Alphapets Too followed. Many stories begin with love and an alphabet – so this portrait project felt fun, relaxed and like a small picture, a detailed map insert or a sample bit of text to be fitted into an outline. (In fact, I spoofed some of the pet portraits within my larger fine art paintings.) Here are the pages in the big picture book Readings From The Heart that tell about the smaller picture of Alphapets and how it fits in.

The original artwork for both Alphapets and Alphapets Too is on exhibit at the Aurora Gallery during August and September. More details about those projects here with lots of pictures of the artwork.

When all of the artist books and all of the artworks were finished I reread my notes and used those to create the exhibit statement I spoke of in my last post. I also used these notes to create the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. That was the very last thing I did for the August and September exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars, the Aurora Gallery and Caplan Art Designs. Well, the last thing besides the framing and art delivery.

Below is a photo of all of my artist books that relate to my Readings From The Heart exhibit. Additionally I’ve created a webpage with all of this projects more than 20 fine art pieces and details about each of the 3 exhibits here.

All 6 artist books related to the Readings From The Heart fine art exhibit

During this time period I was interviewed for a Doodlewash feature about my work in which I describe my working methods, the materials I use, how my daily work routine goes, images of my artwork, etc – you can see that here: https://doodlewash.com/sue-clancy-artist-whimsical-visual-stories/

Here’s a picture of me working in a sketchbook

Clancy at work in a sketchbook

I hope this look at how I work on long projects has been amusing for you. The exhibits open this week. Many of my upcoming Instagram posts will likely be about that. And I will update the above mentioned portfolio pages too.

Then next Monday when I post here I hope to be beginning a new long-ish project; an illustrated poem for a children’s book titled Numpurrs. I found I quite enjoyed the serialized posts I did for Alphapets and Alphapets Too. So I look forward to doing that again!

8 Free downloadable artist books from Clancy

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For those staying at home (thank you!) I’ve made 8 of my artist books free downloadable ebooks. Go to this page https://sueclancy.com/shop/ scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and you’ll find them. Add the books you want to a cart, check out and that process gives you the free downloadable file(s).

Some of my books, like “The Crow And The Waterjug” are for little kids. Other books adults will enjoy on an adult level while still being able to share with kids of any age. My book topics range from drawing cats, to cooking dinner, people and places in the PNW and of course mice who author books.

Here’s some photos of the original book art from which the free ebooks came.

I hope these free ebooks give you some smiles.

On being at home and eating well

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In times like these we need to do what kindnesses we can for each other so I’ve decided to release my kitchen sketchbook earlier than planned. The title of this new artist book is Favorites So Far – a kitchen sketchbook. Details follow.

I spend most of my time working at home. Now, with coronavirus, more people, especially here in Washington state, are too. Welcome to my world. There’s lots of work but also books, good meals, drinks and snacks.

So perhaps it will be kind to go ahead and share more of how cooking at home fits with my working at home life? Hope so…

I was going to wait until just before my one-person art exhibit in June 2020 to officially debut this memoir cookbook, Favorites So Far, as many of the recipes relate to my artwork. I’ve been dribbling out teaser recipes on my Instagram page especially as they relate to the artwork as I finish the art. My original intention was to build momentum toward my June exhibit, display the artwork at the physical exhibit and have this 48 page sketchbook, itself intended as artwork, available as an accessory to the exhibit. You know, big splash.

But to heck with that. It seems kinder to share this book right now because people gotta eat.

Technically this book, Favorites So Far, is a printed 48 page memoir sketchbook – with my sketches on every page. That a meal could be made from it was just bonus. It’s suposed to be autobiographical amusement. But it really is a practical book, we refer to it for our own meals regularly.

Here’s a photo of the front and back covers of the printed book Favorites So Far:

Recently my co-author, Judy Sullens, and I got to talking: in the best of times what to cook/eat is a question. Door Dash and other innovative food delivery services are super helpful – but people suddenly being at home more… perhaps they’ll find it helpful to hear how a couple of busy creatives who’re not always flush with cash, not always remembering to get stuff at the store, how do they fill their belly’s?

So we decided to release the book now rather than wait. This link to the full color printed book has the entire book as a preview – and you can purchase it there too. https://www.blurb.com/b/9759759-favorites-so-far

The book is set up to be printed, 48 pages, full color, landscape format to showcase the artwork. And, since we’re not waiting to do a big splash at the exhibit, we’ve now set it up so the printed book can be shipped directly to you from the printer.

Perhaps even more helpfully we’ve set it up as an immediately downloadable ebook viewable on any device: Google Android devices, Kindle etc. It’s still 48 pages, full color with all the artwork. You can get the ebook version here. https://www.blurb.com/ebooks/709744-favorites-so-far (preview first 15 pgs)

Speaking of previews here’s some of the pages:

The title page
Book info page…. see, drawings on all pages!
Introduction page…how this book came to be.

And here are a few of the inner pages so you can see the memoir attributes.

More generally how I handle being a busy artist while not starving: after breakfast, before getting to work in my studio, I cut up veg and etc ingredients and throw them in a pot to slow cook until lunchtime. I work for several hours in my studio, take a short break to stir the pot. Back to work for another hour or so. Then lunch!

This is a pic of my sketchbook that Favorites So Far is a reproduction of – and a pot of just assembled stew:

And, yes, since it’s so near to St. Patrick’s Day I couldn’t resist posting this Irish stew recipe!

Oh, and we showed this sketchbook to a chef friend who said “I love it that a third of the book is cocktails!”

Hope you enjoy this book and that you eat well.

Way of all fresh food

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I’ve been working on a large painting and posted a pic of me at work on my Instagram page. A friend asked me to explain my symbolism when I finished it …so here goes:

First the painting. It’s titled “The Way Of All Fresh (Food)“. The size is 36 by 24 inches and I used ink, gouache and color pencil to make it.

The Way Of All Fresh (Food) – by Clancy

As evidenced by recent posts of my sketchbook pages I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the life of the mind. I’ve also been reading classic fiction on the topic: “Stoner” by John Williams, “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin and “The Way Of All Flesh” by Samuel Butler.

When creating fine art I like to use symbolism that originates in literature and mythology as a way to orient myself in order to create a visual story.

In this case Butler’s novel had me thinking, as I read, of the ways mental development, new learning – like love – can sneak up on us, and yet it’s something that we process daily. The challenges and necessity of purposefully participating in one’s own mental life dominated my thoughts – especially after I finished reading Butler. I thought of how the maintenance of one’s mind is similar to the maintenance of one’s physical body.

With that as a bare bones thesis I sought, and selected from literary history, symbols with which to construct my visual story:

Lizards represent inner life, taking time to reflect. (I also remembered a quote from the children’s book author Madeleine L’Engle “Love is a funny thing, shaped like a lizard, that runs up and down and tickles your gizzard.”)

Celery, in Ancient Greek writings, represents victory and a warding off of evil spirits. Parts of the celery plants were woven into garlands, crowns, and given to the winner of sporting events. They were also woven into funeral wreaths.

Parsley stands for useful knowledge, joy and feasting. (Practical stuff of life.)

Apples have a long literary history signaling love, knowledge, self-awareness, attainable joys….all elements of life that have been, in some stories, forbidden or used to trick (think Snow White and the 7 dwarves). So I see an element of good critical thinking skill development in an apple but I digress.

Bulldog represents tenacity, courage, willingness to do the right thing.

Cat represents curiosity.

In addition to playing with symbols I’ve also hidden what’s known in the movie and gaming industries as “easter eggs“. Some of the eggs I hid are:

The cat portrait in this painting is a spoof of my own artwork, i.e. there exists an artwork by me that’s similar to this painting within the painting. (There’s also a jigsaw puzzle I designed with this cat artwork.)

I’ve waved “hello” to many of my friends – the kitchen furniture waves to my interior decorator, visionary friend, Carolyn. The cutting board high-fives Kevin, a friend who’s a talented woodworker. The lizards are a shared giggle with my friend Kim. The socks are a howdy to Frank and Elaine. The purple shirt is there because of Beverly, Kris H and Erica M. The book and the heart-art are for my spouse – as always.

Since the lizards represent time to reflect I’ve included a clock near the heart and brain artwork with a special time on it. Most days by 10:40 a.m. I have spent time writing and drawing in my sketchbook. One of my methods to cultivate my own inner life. (And yes, I post these sketchbook pages on Instagram and make artist books from them. You can see some of the books here.)

Oh, almost forgot, there’s a yummy celery, apple and parsley salad recipe that goes with this painting too.

There now. I’ve told most, but not all, of the punchlines. Enjoy!

Pets people phrases and pages

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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:

Art studio supervisor Hawkeye carefully examines my cat drawings.
The drawing under examination.
Art studio supervisor Rusty reacts to the phrase “eating…”