This week was filled with photographing my illustrations for a new children’s book tentatively titled “This Rabbit” (as I wrote last week). Then I uploaded the photos checking the digital images against the original artwork for accuracy of color. Sometimes I had to retake a photo.
Once all of the illustrations were digitally correct, more or less, I uploaded them into the software I use to make the printed books. My art studio supervisor cat, as you can see, helped with the process.
What I’m aiming for as I process the photos: I want to make an album of my fine artwork that just happens to be for kids. Kids need fine art too, in my opinion. So I’m striving for digitally capturing as much of the range of color and detail in the original artwork as possible. No camera or screen matches the capability of the human eye but I do the best with what I’ve got. I’m also trying to keep the soft feel of the original artwork on the off-white handmade papers.
My root idea with this new book “This Rabbit” is cultivating the skill of enjoying the many things there are to like and do. So that is always in the back of my mind as I work.
Here are the two poem lines I wrote to go with the two illustrations below:
This rabbit likes pretty pearls
This rabbit likes doing curls
After the photos of all 32 illustrations were digitized to suit me, it takes me a lot of time to do the digitizing to suit because I am the original Ms. Picky, but when I had the images as I wanted them then I worked on the books graphic layout and design. As I proceed with the layout/design part of this project I may need to take new photos of some of the artwork depending on how they look as I place them side by side in the book design … we will see how things go.
This new book is part of a series of children’s books I’m creating. So it will have a have similar cover design (and other format elements) to fit with the book series. However, for “This Rabbit” I decided to make the illustration images on each page larger, filling two thirds of the page or perhaps a bit more, filling almost to the three edges of each page.
I chose this layout because I’ve included small details within many of the artworks that might be missed if the images were smaller. My poem text is one single line within a small white space on the bottom of each page.
I will serialize some of “This Rabbit” on my Instagram page and give you more details of my working process (and my creative life) here on this blog each week.
Anyway, now you know what a busy week I’ve had. Needless to say lunches were quick-fix affairs. Like this broccoli pasta dish.
Here’s the recipe – a loose guide or philosophy really rather than a recipe. When I made the dish this week I used short pasta and added spinach. But the rest of the recipe was followed. It’s a recipe from my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook.
Despite being busy I still carved out time to read most evenings. In my last post I was still reading “The Mexican Tree Duck” by James Crumley. I finished that book and loved it! I’ll miss the main character Sughrue. Sughrue was a decent guy, a good friend to other characters in the story, someone who cared. I liked that! Crumley’s character and his writing style will be a hard act to follow.
As I cast about for which book to read next I realize that I want another protagonist with a strong decency streak. Not moralistic, self righteous, preachy or anything like that. I want a character who is just plain caring and kind. Even if they have flaws, faults and difficulties I want there to be a core of goodness, a sense of concern for their community, at the heart of the main character.
I’m ready for the good people to win a few … damnit!
So from my book shelves I pulled this book selection for consideration: The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers, Rumpole A La Carte by John Mortimer and Death of A Bore by M. C. Beaton.
A few more cups of coffee and I’ll decide which book to read more of later after my working day is done.
See you next Monday with more of my progress on “This Rabbit”? (And yes…so far my working title has stuck.)
In a prior post I showed a fabric design in progress. This week I got a fabric swatch proof, pictured below, which I approved and have made publicly available now. I like the bright colors of it.
In the most recent children’s book I illustrated, Pembral Forgets, I used a leaf motif thought the book. The story Steve Tubbs wrote was about fall leaves. good food and a mother’s love. So as I was doing a version of the leaf motif for fabric naturally my thoughts ran towards the possibilities of the leaf fabric as napkins and table runners – things for kitchens. Anyway, the fabric is on my Spoonflower shop now as well as on the Pembral Forgets portfolio page.
In my last post I talked of using things I enjoy as a guide for subject matter in my art.
Well, that also applies to the types of creative pursuits to which I choose to apply my artwork. For example I’ve been thinking for some time now about how much I enjoy sending and receiving greeting cards in the snail mail.
In the photo below you’re looking at my fireplace at home and the cards I’ve gotten by mail displayed there on the mantel. Some are handmade cards. Some are vintage cards. Some are postcards and folded cards found in stores. I like them all and love the connections with the people who sent them!
I have dabbled in card making most of my life. But only in the last few years have I been semi serious about it. This week, however, I had the thought “What if greeting cards are little illustrated story books?” and my dabbling is suddenly more focused.
Below are a few of my greeting cards which are now on my Zazzle shop here. Some of my cards have rabbit characters but there are other animals too.
I want to make more cards now, for many reasons. But I realized this week that there’s a big reason: my pleasant memories of whenever my adopted Mom, Dad and I met in a bookstore cafe for lunch.
In addition to looking at the books no visit was complete without a visit to the greeting card section of the store. Dad was a psychiatrist and he used to tell me that sometimes when he had a patient with depression he would prescribe weekly visits to stores that sold greeting cards. He would ask that the patient write down descriptions of the cards that amused them to share in future appointments with him. Bonus points (so to speak) if they bought a card and mailed it to someone.
So yes, I want to make more cards in addition to my other artwork – in the “Hi Mom and Dad. 👋” sense of things as well as for my “help others share their stories” sensibility with which I run my creative business.
(Btw: this reasoning is why I do my fabric designs too)
Anyway you’re the first to see the whole collection of cards I’ve done so far. Plus these below…
Needless to say I’ve been busy this week. Fortunately I made a big batch of my “Simple Sauce” and stored it in a jar in my fridge for quick easy to prepare meals. Naan bread makes such a nice pizza crust: just spread on a spoonful of sauce, chop and add desired toppings then bake in a 425 degree oven.
My “Simple Sauce” recipe is in my kitchen sketchbook Favorites So Far. The whole book can be previewed here and you’re welcome to capture my recipe below.
For one meal my spouse and I were in the mood for bell peppers, onions and olives on the Naan bread crust. Yummy!
Speaking of good things, books and rabbits: I’m starting a new children’s book. One question I get asked “which comes first the art or the words?” and in the case of this new book the art largely came first. Here’s an array of the illustrations I’ve done so far along with my legal pad on which I’m scribbling book text drafts by hand using my fountain pen. More about this project in future posts.
More too about a new painting currently in progress…
Hope your week is full of your favorites too. See you next Monday?
A horrible but predictable insurrection happened in the US last week. My book shaped box to hold the original artwork for Pembral Forgets was at the needs-to-dry stage the day before, so Wednesday, January 6, 2021, the day of the attempted coup, I nervously read a lot of news. And thought of how a seditious insurrection was the inevitable outcome of the right-wing rhetoric of the last several weeks, months, years. But I don’t want to blog on that…. after time spent on the news Wednesday I drew in my sketchbook and read fiction to give myself a mental space from the violent seditious insurrection, to calm down and think.
So on to a more pleasant topic: here’s a few photos of the printed and bound version of Pembral Forgets – you can see more on my portfolio page. The print book is available on Blurb here.
The printed book is slightly different from the original artist book. Same content just a different presentation and minor differences in the book-info pages and, most obviously, the cover. There’s several reasons for this: an original artist book can only be enjoyed in person. And we’re in a pandemic so going to galleries isn’t an option for most people. Multiple printed books can be mailed directly to someone and can be enjoyed by many.
Yet when I create a book to be printed and widely enjoyed I still end up with a physical one-of-a-kind set of paintings. Since I’m a fine artist first and foremost I gravitate towards making things that can be hung on walls or displayed on stands/shelves. But see aforementioned pandemic which has made the use of other means of art production and distribution i.e. Blurb.com or Zazzle.com or Society6.com or Spoonflower.com on-demand shops helpful.
Even so I love making handmade boxes and used to regularly make them for the artist Deloss McGraw and others. So I look for excuses to make boxes…and am loving this box for Pembral Forgets!
Below is a series of photos of the box for Pembral Forgets that you saw a bit of in my last post. In this first photo I have laid the naked box on the handmade hand stenciled paper that I’ll use to cover the box. I lay the box on the paper and try to position it so the paper will be placed well when I glue it on.
I “mark” my choice of placement by creasing the paper slightly. Pencil marks would show through this delicate paper.
Glue is applied to the paper within the crease “marks”, the open box is laid onto the glue, then the box now loosely covered with glue-y paper is gently closed. I use a roller to press the paper firmly in place, wiping away any excess glue. Next, as in the photo below, I add glue to the flaps of paper and fold them around the edges of the box using a bone folder to get the creases smooth.
Then after carefully gluing all edges I turned the box over to check the paper placement.
Inserting wax paper allows me to close the just glued box without accidentally gluing the box shut.
At this point, Tuesday evening, I let the book box dry for a few days. It will be dry to the touch within hours but I have learned the hard way that too much handling too soon can cause the paper to slip.
Then the next day saw the news of the insurrection…
Here’s the fiction book I read as a spirit restorative…
The beverage in the picture is Clancy’s Special Chocolate and here’s the sketchbook drawing I did about how to make it. Whenever I feel stressed it helps to draw whatever is in front of me.
In case you wonder: I get my archival glue and other book-box-making supplies from Twinrocker.com
A helpful technique book about making boxes by hand is by Franz Zeier titled Books, Boxes and Portfolios; binding, construction and design step by step.
There’s still more to do on this project. So I hope to see you here next Monday after, hopefully, a more quiet week – but I know it’s not likely to be quiet here in the US – but no matter what kind of week it is I wish you some calm creative moments.
As we fast approach the deadline for shipping presents I begin to oogle the coffee, the tea and the buns. Let the Jolabokaflod begin! Let the hot chocolate flow! Bring out the books!
Here’s a quick meme to explain what Jolabokaflod is in case you’ve not yet had the pleasure…
My family officially begins our Jolabokaflod festivities around the 13th or so of December – if not earlier. Okay, truth be told, we celebrate Jolabokaflod all December long.
We did this in the pre-pandemic Before Times because by mid December most of the art gallery exhibit openings and parties have already happened. So we could enjoy ourselves with more time to read books. This pandemic year things are, well, weird. So I’m reveling in the Jolabokaflod normalcy. Plus the whole idea of Jolabokaflod is tailor made for a pandemic.
The following books are all books that were Jolabokaflod gifts, starting in early December. These are the ones that have been opened already.
Whiskey Galore by Compton Mackenzie was a surprise in the mail gift from my spouse who knew I had wanted my own copy. I’d read the library copy several times and had listed this title as a “book to cheer up by”. This book paired well with English Breakfast tea blend and candied orange slices. And occasionally had a shot of whiskey on the side.
A friend suggested, and gifted, by no-contact dropoff, “The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter” because it was a book she really enjoyed. I paired this book with a strong French Roast coffee regularly and added this book to my “fun lighthearted reads list”. The cinnamon bread was good with it too! Now my spouse is reading this one…so we’ll not say more about the book.
And then another friend said one of his favorite authors is James Crumley and he mailed a copy of Dancing Bear to me. I opened it and was hooked right from the start. I read the first 3 chapters without hardly being able to put the book down. I did, however, at some point manage to tear myself away from the book and make a hot chocolate to go with my reading.
Naturally my sketchbook figures in prominently this time of year too. It’s a book too so I include it in the festival! And I see Jolabokaflod generally as a chance to doodle and play and share books with friends and read with no strings attached.
When reading books or sketching I like to have a coaster or Mug Mats as I call them under my cup so that my beverages don’t moisten a table or a book. Consequently my sketching practice lately has run to making coasters too… here’s a collection of my Mug Mat designs https://www.zazzle.com/collections/mug_mats-119756908126091756
Also as part of my sketchbook practice I’ve written a short story that explains what happens to beverages when you’re reading. It’s like this:
In case you’ve wondered where the coffee goes: There are tiny rabbits, who creep up while you’re busy reading, install a drain spigot on the side of your cup and dispense coffee to the entire tiny rabbit crew. When your cup has been completely drained they remove and repair the spigot hole and run away.
All of this happens so fast you usually can’t see it – you’re left with the “I swear I’d just poured myself a cup of coffee and now it’s gone” sensation.
Watch for the tiny rabbits. Here’s a new odd mug to help…
Tiny rabbits like to hide in fabric things like placemats and pillows. In the photo below the tiny rabbits are somewhat hidden. They’re lounging and drinking coffee on a pillowcase. If you look carefully you can see them.
So the moral of my visual story is to watch for the tiny rabbits!
And please put a coaster under your mug in case a tiny rabbit spills a bit when siphoning out of your cup.
If I see you here next Monday there may be a book gift to you from me…
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:
All 4 of these books are from my sketchbook keeping practice. All are about ways to take care of ourselves and others. The 2 book that are most obviously from my sketchbooks, and are also about finding comfort during difficult times, say “sketchbook” on the cover.
From the Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit I learned that when in a difficult situation (like a pandemic) that’s beyond your control a strategy for dealing with it is to recognize the reality and the feelings – “I don’t like it” – but refrain from getting stuck there. Acknowledge what’s going on but then go on to find something you can enjoy despite the situation. In my sketchbook “Another Sketchbook” I tried to practice this.
For example the above sketchbook page says “eventually things will get better, in the meantime here are some drawings.”
That pretty well sums it up my way of coping.
More of the coping skills I practiced in a sketchbook format – and in the kitchen – were cooking related. Having a book of reliably good favorite dishes has been a solace.
A pot of soup cooking on the stove, good hot beverages and fun books to read really do restore my psyche. I find it helpful to remember this and deliberately revel in it.
So this week I started my Home Hare Care series again. This series celebrates the comforts of home. I had begun this series back in March 2020 during the first official lockdown. Now that my home state of Washington has sensibly begun another lockdown… it’s Home Hare Care season again.
So instead of the slaying dragons mode of response to feelings and difficulties I’m actively choosing a kinder more gentle way of responding.
It’s an “I see you” recognition of the dragon and then using calming techniques to soothe one’s self and peacefully cohabitate with the dragon.
So I drew a dragon, gave it a book to read and made a fabric pattern on my Spoonflower shop. Nice dragon, calm dragon, comfy cozy dragon, rest on this fluffy soft pillow dragon…😁
Since hot beverages feature on my list of soothing comforts it seems sensible to create a series of mugs. I’m calling it my Odd Mugs collection on my Zazzle store. I pretended the sides of mugs were sketchbook pages and reproduced some pages from Another Sketchbook.
See you here next Monday? In the meantime please take care of yourself and keep reading, cooking, drawing and doing whatever you do that’s soothing.
Well I didn’t expect that. My books sold out at the Aurora Gallery within 11 days. By request I’ve ordered more books to sign and deliver to the gallery asap.
I began doing this series of kids books as a gift for my friends and their kids and grandkids. When this pandemic began, for safety reasons, I started making my artist books on Blurb.com because they’ll print my books on demand and then mail those books from where they’re printed to any place in the world, including mailing books to my local friends.
Here’s a photo of all 5 of my children’s books. (Accessible on my shop page)
The worldwide aspect of Blurb has turned out to be a good thing also because all 5 of my children’s books are now on Storyberries.com as ebooks and audiobooks worldwide. Storyberries links to where a reader can get the printed books at the bottom of each ebook.
Even so I’ve gotten multiple direct questions about where to get printed versions of my children’s books so I’ve put them on my shop page as well as my portfolio pages.
Also on my portfolio pages are links to blog posts that show my working and thinking processes as I created the books.
What I hadn’t expected was the requests for signed books. I’ve been working on that: I’ve mailed signed labels for the book owner to affix in the book. And I’ve taken, in a pandemic safe way, a few signed books to the Aurora Gallery where they went quickly to new homes. I’ll have a few more signed books at the Aurora Gallery soon and the gallery is able to mail them on to a reader/collector.
Anyway, to be safest of all, I’m focused on working with places that can do the direct shipping of books and other items. I’m also enjoying making downloadable ebooks. (Look at the bottom of my shop page for ebooks I have there)
You see, I keep thinking “what if this pandemic is actually opportunity to slow down and really connect with people?”.
Books are ways to connect, in my opinion, and for that reason I make books. I may dedicate each book and have certain people in mind as I create my books but when I share on social media about my books (and other items) I share for anyone who needs a bit of comfort, a smile and a visual hug.
Here’s a look at the display at the Aurora Gallery before they sold out of my books.
At any rate I’m enjoying making my books available via Blurb and Storyberries and the Aurora Gallery and I’ve enjoyed hearing that my books have given people comfort and enjoyment during this time.
Most days I make an effort to catalog what I’m enjoying and finding comfort in these pandemic days. This is expanding my awareness of things, besides books, that help us connect with each other. But in my list making of comforting things I’ve found books and coffee so comforting so often that, for fun, I did a fabric pattern on the topic.
A friend liked my coffee and books fabric pattern and requested a coffee mug with it. So I did that. It’s fun to think of mugs as gallery walls or as book pages or even as pieces of fabric. And I get comfort from thinking creatively about the ordinary stuff of life and the comforts found there. I’m very grateful that both Spoonflower and Zazzle can ship my designs directly to someone.
I find it helpful to create things with specific people in mind. Sometimes the people know about my creation because they requested something or because I wrote a dedication in one of my books. Most often the person I had in mind while I was creating never knows about it.
As Kurt Vonnegut says “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”
A side effect of thinking of my artistic creations as gifts for someone I have in mind is that I’ve discovered that my books, fabrics, mugs, puzzles and other items have been purchased as gifts by one person for another person.
And I love this thought that what I make as a gift, in my mind, for someone I know becomes a real-life gift from one person to another person.
It feels like I’m the author of gifts to be given, as if my artistic mediums, my paints so to speak, are love and kindness shared between people. With that in mind I’ve begun making more note cards… like this…
The text on the inside of the card says “wishing you calmness and peace or at least comfortable sweatpants”
Yes, comfortable pants made my list of enjoyed comforts this week. So did thick socks and warm sweaters but this is enough typing for right now.
See you next Monday? Till then please make yourself comfortable and share a comfort with someone else.
It’s election time in the U.S. This year is particularly full of hopes and fears. So I’m focusing on comforts as a topic for my art projects. I’m thinking of the importance of the ability to provide self care, self comfort and to comfort others. To feel ones feelings and to continue on without getting stuck in the feelings.
Here’s a book I illustrated some time ago that I’ve continually found helpful in life – and in my creative life.
In the Dr Bob book there’s discussion of a self-care technique that I find most relevant to my creative life: keeping a list of things that I enjoy thinking about and, when worrying, to deliberately switch my thoughts to one of the things I enjoy thinking about. I’ve found that it’s helpful if at least one of the enjoyed thought topics on my list has gear. Gear; stuff I can buy, look at, use or touch in the real world.
Anyway here’s some items from my personal list of things I enjoy thinking about (in no particular order): fine art, art techniques, art supplies, reading, books, writing techniques, pens, papers, cooking, cooking techniques, food of all kinds, plants, wild animals, house pets, coffee, tea, mugs, cups, coffee urns, tea pots, jigsaw puzzles, playing cards, fabrics, fabric designs, lap blankets….
There are many more items on my list but you get the idea and I got tired of typing.
This strange year, 2020, with its pandemic and, in the U.S., weird political scene, I’ve thought a lot about those topics. As a result I’ve been branching out creatively.
Creating original fine art and one-of-a-kind handmade books for galleries, libraries, public organizations and clients homes and offices has long been my main focus. Well, the pandemic has caused me to adapt my thinking and find ways to put my artwork and books out in the world in ways that people could get them via mail order (or downloads) while at home rather than having to leave home and go to a particular place to see my work.
I still happily work with all of my art galleries and they have adapted to the pandemic as well, delivering and shipping art to clients, doing virtual tours etc. My new work simply augments what work I’ve already been doing with them. For instance people have sought, from my galleries, the original artwork for my books.
Primarily, creating print on demand books and objects has been a way for me to practice my own self care.
Anyway, the result has been the creation of real-life books, fabrics and objects that have been comforting to me as I’ve made them. I’ve been told by other people that they have been comforted by my work too. I have even heard that my work has been given as gifts and the comforts have been spread! I can’t describe adequately how happy that’s made me!
So I’ve been increasingly focused on creating original fine art which leads to creating my artist books on Blurb and also to creating theme related objects on my Zazzle and Spoonflower shops. Then on my portfolio page on my website I’m grouping them together.
For example on my Numpurrs portfolio page you can see images of the original fine art (and the art gallery handling it), my artist book for children titled Numpurrs. Besides info about the printed book there’s a related poster, calendar, jigsaw puzzle and mug. Here below is the Numpurrs mug – wouldn’t it be fun to have Alphabet soup out of this mug?
I’ve also created a new page on my website called “illustrated shorts“. The page has short examples of my thinking of fabric, note cards and coffee mugs as gallery wall spaces, so to speak.
For example here are a few of my illustrated short thoughts about love:
It’s fun, and comforting, for me to think about self care and to create art, books and objects that could be accessible for other people to use for their own self care or to be given to others. So I’m likely to continue such thoughts during the coming weeks as we all prepare for “non-normal” holidays.
Check in again next Monday? In the meantime, please take care of yourself.
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.
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.
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.
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!