the art technique of attention

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

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

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

Attention

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

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

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

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

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

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

mixing the mundane and magical

A Creative Life, animals in art, art techniques, artistic inspirations, books, creative thinking, Dogs in Art, fine art, food in art, mental health, mundane and magical moments, Narrative Art, reading in art, story, visual story

I’ve been reading “Whiskey Galore” by Compton Mackenzie. Once again I realize that I enjoy the mix of real-life and a whimsical imaginative look at real-life. Mackenzie used a real-life event as the inspiration for his whimsy and did the mix extremely well.

Already I’ve been doing some of this mixing in my work – but I want to do even more of that mundane/imagination mixing in my various art projects. Here’s what I did most recently: it’s 8 x 18 inches, ink and gouache on board – I’ve titled it “The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients”

TheSoupBookStartingWithIngredientsSM

“The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients” by Clancy

It mixes the real-life (mundane) action of consulting a cookbook recipe, perhaps for chicken soup, with a (magical) chicken rescue. “The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients” will be one of several new works for an upcoming one-person art exhibit in September at Caplan Art Designs in Portland Oregon. I’ll post the new artworks here as I get them done.

But back to the artwork itself: I enjoyed doing a panoramic visual story that continues what I began doing for my “Dear Readers” exhibit currently on display at Burnt Bridge Cellars. The new wider format let me put in more details, more “story-ness”.

“The Soup Book…..” was such fun to create that I plan to do more in this format! And of course do more general mixing of metaphors, more blurring the lines between the mundane and the magical in all of my work. We’ll see how it all goes of course.

Generally I’ve been thinking of how important it is, for living well (and good mental health), to be able to view mundane life with a “glass half full” attitude, to be able to see what is good/delightful, and to use curiosity and imagination (and good books) to stimulate ones own inner life. Which is why I aspire to do an even better artistic job of mixing the mundane and the magical.

BTW: “Whiskey Galore” has been made into a movie – and a very well done movie too! The book version has a bit more story to it – but the movie is wonderful and it’s not always that both the book and movie are equals in quality.

Now for a wee dram….. Slàinte mhath!

 

 

the point of it all

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

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

ClancyStudioStatement

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

PencilPoints

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

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

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

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

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

art snacks

A Creative Life, artistic inspirations, business of art, creative thinking, food for thought, mental health, small things, Sustainable creativity, words and pictures

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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…)
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:

InnisfreeWBYeats72

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.

books and creativity

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, food for thought, food in art, mental health, still life, Sustainable creativity

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… 😉

1000BooksToRead

1000 Books To Read Before You Die by James Mustich

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.

more bourbon please less bull

A Creative Life, artistic inspirations, books, mental health, still life

I’ve been thinking lately about the various ways that language is used and how that usage relates to being human.

For example: it helps human relationships if people are sincere, honest and as clear in their verbal communications as possible.  Deliberate efforts to use language so as to mislead others to one’s own advantage is the opposite of helpful human relating.

Being a language-using human means to try to make mental connections between ideas/concepts and that includes trying to connect with other humans. Human existence and experience are about making connections and evaluating the qualities of those on-going connections, selecting the helpful and meaningful ones, expanding the number of “good relationships”.  We create the world together.

Bullshitting is an effort to avoid making meaningful connections.  To bullshit is to manipulate language so as to avoid relating directly with people in fact-based, rational, practical ways.

To share a drink (whether alcoholic beverages or not), to share food and to share books is an expression of a strong desire to meaningfully connect with someone. Sharing drinks, food, books, sports and many other collaborative/cooperative activities are ways we develop relationships and nurture on-going connections.

I’ve recently re-read “Bullshit” by Harry G. Frankfurt, mused on it’s contents so much (see the above verbiage) that I’ve included the book in a painting.  And yes I really did use lots of sticky-notes in my copy of Frankfurt’s book, my effort to make connections between the concepts I found there.

Now that we’ve discussed “Bullshit” –  what beverages do you like to drink?

NeedMoreBourbon72

“Need More Bourbon” by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – acrylic and gouache on board.

 

 

community creatures curated

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, fine art, mental health, Narrative Art, public art, sketchbook

Here are some pictures from the Anstine Gallery exhibit of my artwork titled “Community Creatures”.  I’ve noticed that adults sometimes become problem oriented, especially in certain professions. So I delight in, via the Anstine Gallery, bringing humorous art to a government building in Vancouver. Doing my small part to bring a smile to your day. All of my artwork in this exhibit is about what I enjoy in town. I’ve also included my sketchbook pages for your additional amusement.

My last post about this exhibit is here: https://sueclancy.com/community-creatures-running-loose-at-the-anstine-gallery/  – and it shows direct links between sketchbook pages and the fine art pieces.

My sketchbook “Running Around Loose in Vancouver WA” is available as an ebook here: https://sueclancy.com/product/running-around-loose-vancouver-wa-edition-1-by-sue-clancy/  I like to think that my sketchbook will be amusing even for people who can’t come to see the original fine artwork.

the rough bark of culture

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, Authors, books, creative thinking, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, fine art, handmade books, handmade papers, mental health, visual thinking, words and pictures

This coming Friday at the Joseph Gierek Fine Art Gallery (www.gierek.com) an experimental art exhibit of mine titled “The Rough Bark Of Culture” opens!

Yes, there are dogs. Lots of dogs. About 24 of them. Dog art that is. Clancy style.

The experimental part of this exhibit is that instead of being 24 works framed and hanging on the wall like a typical art installation – I’ve added my artist book thinking to my fine-art exhibit idea.  Which means my entire exhibit is intended to be an intimate experience.  Think curling up with a book. Or playing with a deck of cards.

Lucky for artist-me the gallery owner is willing to be playful.

Here’s what gallery-visitors will find: a box that looks like a leather bound book. I made the box and covered it with my hand dyed paper, paper that I’ve given a rough physical and visual texture. I designed the cover and the spine and various elements so that it appears like a book.  When closed this book-box measures 9 inches tall 7 inches wide and 2.5 inches deep. When you open the top “cover” it opens out to be 14 inches wide.

TRBOCCover72

Below are a couple of different angle-views of the cover so you can see the spine has the typical book-markings and that the edges of the box are painted to look like book text block “pages”.

Inside the book-box cover is a handwritten statement that puts my art-object-exhibit in a context.

TRBOCopen172

Then further inside there are 24 individual hand created dog art pieces done in my ink on handmade paper style. Each artwork is in an archival sleeve so that a viewer can flip through the box-contents like a book. (there’s even a ribbon to help people lift out the ‘pages’) Or the viewer can take out the pages and lay them out on a table and re-sort them.

TRBOCopenspread72

Below is some of my thinking behind the exhibit – including my resource book list. I referred to some of this book-research-resource mining in an early blog post here.

General exhibit thoughts for “The Rough Bark of Culture” by Sue Clancy

It is said that humans are the only animal that laughs, cooks (using heat and spices/herbs), develops music, creates art, writes/collects/organizes/shares information across time and space, sorts things numerically and devises elaborate rules for playing games simply for amusement. The ability to read and absorb information via symbols in pictorial and written form is also a uniquely human ability.

Humans are curious, they experiment, seeking novelty and creativity. Wanting enthusiasm – not boredom – they play. Play is part of being human. Play is also an essential component of being creative.

Creativity, communication and organization are attributes of being human. But in modern times it can be hard (rough) to carve out time to play, to be creative, to sort and organize information – to do those very things that make us human.

This exhibit is about what makes us human.

Why dogs? Dogs are enthusiastic about being alive – that’s why I’ve chosen them as my character “actors” in my artwork.  It’s a way of remembering that humans have the ability to create the world around them in ways that make life more comfortable, more fun – so that we can be more enthusiastic about being alive.

Reference material:

“Wonderland: How play made the modern world” by Steven Johnson

“The Creative Spark: How imagination made humans exceptional” by Agustin Fuentes

A quote I used as a guiding light – so to speak:

“To imagine is everything. To know is nothing at all.” Anatole France

Exhibit statement (which means I neatened up for handwritten inclusion in my book-box the thoughts outlined above):

It is said that humans are the only animal that; laughs, cooks (using heat and spices/herbs), specially crafts beverages, develops music, creates art, writes/collects/shares information across time and space, sorts things numerically, reads books/information in order to learn and devises elaborate rules for playing games simply for amusement. Humans sometimes share with dogs an enthusiasm at being alive – seeking novelty and creativity rather than boredom.  Unlike a dog, humans are able to plan and organize our time. We can defer gratification. Yet modern life sometimes makes it hard to carve out time to be creative – rough to do the very things that make us human; play.  This exhibit is about remembering to be human and enjoy life.

TRBOCspread72

If you want a flavor, a hint, of what this exhibit is like there’s my conventionally printed and bound book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” – https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dogs-By-Sue-Clancy

Creating a conventional book on this exhibit topic helped cement my idea that I also wanted my viewers to be able to physically “play” with my artwork. Even so – I’m proud of the printed and bound book too. It’s playfulness of a different sort. And able to be more widely available than a one-of-a-kind-art-exhibit in a gallery can be. Having both kinds of play available – the team kind or the individual kind – are important to me.

And speaking of teams; it’s almost time for me to go meet up with friends for a book-store browse and then to go to happy hour! Adult team play! Yippeeee!!

designing a creative life 3 ways

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, mental health, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking

“Art cannot be separated from life. It is the expression of the greatest need of which life is capable. And we value art not because of the skilled product, but because of its revelation of a life’s experience.” – Robert Henri (American painter).  

I’ve been thinking of that quote today – and thinking of the people who have told me that they want to “be more creative” but aren’t sure how to start or what to draw. I’ve been thinking of how easy it is now for me to find subject matter. But it wasn’t always so.

As a young art student one of my first college assignments was to “do a 4 foot by 4-foot painting in acrylic of any subject matter but it cannot be abstract.”  Well that was a stumper. What to paint?  My professor went on to tell my class about how we needed to look around our own lives, our own experiences and find subject matter there.

That helped somewhat but still… what to make art about? My college life seemed boring and un-dramatic. How to identify subject matter I cared about?

I muddled through the school assignment and over the years got better at coming up with subject matter. It took even more time for me to figure out that a system of “short bursts of creativity” worked best for me but here’s what I’ve learned on my personal quest for the fountain of continually-interesting-to-me artistic subject matter:

A.   Keep a daily sketchbook, 5 to 10 minutes of work at a time, in which I draw or write about anything that occurs during a day that “catches my attention”. No censorship. No “trying to make art”. Just make notes, doodles. Play. Note the fun stuff, the things I’m grateful for and things that make me laugh or feel curious.

B.  After several weeks or months of sketchbook work I look back through my book and notice any reoccurring themes and I list them.

C.  I select one of the themes and set a series of creative appointments with myself to do a “real drawing” of that theme using good art materials. The creative appointments are 10 to 20 minutes of work/play at a time. I purposefully keep these sessions short! Repeat the creative appointments (aka short bursts of creativity) until the drawing is finished.

Then I select that same theme – or a similar one from my sketchbook – and do another “real drawing” – trying to do an even better job of communicating my thought or feeling. Again, no censorship, no “trying to make great art” – just trying to draw as neatly as possible, to convey as clearly as possible what “caught my attention”.

I keep working in my sketchbook every day even when I have a creative appointment with myself. Both of these 10 minute activities go on behind the scenes of my very busy professional artist life – and this “short bursts” concept could work within anyone’s “too busy” life and add more ongoing creativity. (Also, this concept builds on my “designing habits” concept from an earlier blog post: https://sueclancy.com/2017/03/29/designing-habits-6-ways/ )

Here’s a visual-thinking-drawing I did that describes this in a different way:

ShortBurstsCreativeTime72

For me it has turned out that creativity is a lot like happiness – it follows me wherever I go.  Below is a cartoon I drew about happiness that explains this concept in yet another way – it’s from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit

AHappyTail72

page from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit

You can also see one of my published sketchbooks as an ebook here: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/coffee-table-book

cephalopods and the art of small things

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, mental health, small things, Sustainable creativity, visual story, visual thinking

Yesterday I read an article titled “Cephalopods Adapt By Editing Their Genes” and that reminded me of the value in periodically examining our own assumptions, our own stories, our own worldview and being willing to rearrange our own mental furniture.

Perhaps adapting or editing the stories you tell yourself is the human equivalent of editing genetic code as a cephalopod?

Reexamining stories, assumptions and the kinds of questions you ask are also keys to creative thinking.

I’ve noticed that the kinds of questions a person asks makes a difference in creative thinking. For example asking “How can I include at least one fresh vegetable in this meal?” elicits a more exciting creative response than the question “How can I eat more healthfully?”

Likewise asking the small question “What art medium/technique would be most fun to use to depict my favorite food?” provokes a more joyous creative response than the question “What fine art can I make on a universal theme?”

Most days I wake up thinking “what small thought can I think about or re-think about today?”

So today’s small things I’m thinking about are pictured here:

DSC_0010

By list:

“Cephalopods adapt by editing their genes” http://www.columbian.com/news/2017/apr/13/cephalopods-adapt-by-editing-their-genes/

“The Drunken Botanist” by Amy Stewart

“Creative, Inc.” by Meg Mateo Ilasco & Joy Cho

A postcard of “Chaco Culture” a National Historical Park in New Mexico

My coffee cup and a glass marble.

And to put the concept in this blog post yet another way: Here is a page from my book “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit

TheGemstone72