This week in household surrealism I’ve been thinking of love. Love in the sense of the poetry, the food, the care for and cleaning of things, generally creating a gentle environment for ourselves and others. Perhaps an environment also filled with souvenirs of loving moments as I wrote in my last post.
My recent children’s book This Rabbit was about knowing what you like. Well, this week I’ve been thinking about how it can take practice as adults to remember to let ourselves love openly, wholeheartedly and to unabashedly enjoy things.
Among these thoughts is the fact that tulips are in bloom when I live in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s a photo from my spouse’s garden.
In the morning sometimes I read a bit of poetry while having my breakfast and coffee. The photo below is a poem by Mary Oliver, from “New and Selected Poems Vol 1”, I see this poem as talking about wholeheartedly living life. A life well lived is lived bit by bit in thousands and thousands of mundane moments. Many of those moments (even in pre-pandemic times) happen at home.
Letting oneself wholeheartedly enjoy and love little parts of daily life – why is that so hard? Perhaps as adults we get caught up in the “gotta do’s” as I call them. We sometimes almost chain-smoke, metaphorically, one gotta-do duty after another forgetting that love and pleasure is often part of the reason we do things. By contrast it feels good to pay attention to whatever interests you and revel in that focused moment. This wholehearted enjoyment is a way to be gentle and loving to yourself and the people you love. Anyway, I thought of that while I doodled in my sketchbook.
Then I worked several days in a row to flesh out my thought using acrylic paint on cradled board. Yes, this is another piece destined for upcoming art exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars and at Caplan Art Designs.
Below is the finished painting I titled “The Minutest Concerns”.
The label on the bottle of cleaning fluid the mouse is using in my painting is actually a bit of collage. I’ve been using a falling apart copy of Jan Austen’s book Pride and Prejudice as my collage source. (See my last posts here and here for details)
Basically, in the bigger universal sense, things are okay, you are okay, and it’s okay to relax and enjoy just being yourself and liking and loving the world around you.
For example this photo below is part of my world that I love; I love picking up one of the books and reading a bit, I love just looking at the books on the shelves and I even love dusting them. Of course I confess that often I get distracted and stop dusting to read 😁
I love having lots of books so much that it feels like heaven. So I did this drawing and made a print of it…just in case someone else feels the same way. (This is part of the gift making I talked of last post) Even if I’m the only person who feels like this making a drawing and a print was a fun way to fully enjoy and love the feeling.
I also love the challenge of cooking. It took me a while to figure it out but I can now reliably make meatballs to store in the freezer for use whenever the odd meatball is wanted with pasta or rice or roasted vegetables.
Here’s my recipe as written in my kitchen sketchbook. Yes, this is another souvenir of love! Books and sketchbooks are the best souvenirs!
My sketchbook page will still be there long after the meatballs have all been eaten! Plus I can share this sketchbook page with people and thereby share the love.
That’s part of what I love about poetry, books, gardens and art they each nourish one’s spirit and are shareable. They’re part of how we know we’re loved and part of how we love other people and how we remember to love ourselves and the world around us. They’re part of how we connect emotionally with each other.
A dear friend loaned me this book “The 3000 Mile Garden”. It’s a wonderful almost voyeristic view of two people sharing their love of food and gardens with each other. And we readers get to see their intimate exchange of letters! The book has hand drawn maps and photos too! It’s a fun evening read.
These are the sorts of thoughts that inspire me as I work on my new household surrealism fine art series that I’m titling “Odditorium”. In addition to the art itself I’m also working on an exhibit statement- which is kindof like the synopsis on book covers – a short paragraph or two to interest viewers and help them understand what I’ve created. Wish me luck at crafting the sentences?
Anyway, I hope this week that you’ll remember to allow yourself to love whatever is commonplace in your world. See you next Monday?
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.
Here’s a look at the digital files for the front and back covers:
Photography of the pages was a challenge because I wanted to keep the warm creamy tones of the paper on which I wrote and illustrated the poems. I wanted this book to have a nostalgic handmade feel. By and large I’m pleased with how it turned out.
For the ebook version of Patch La Belle on Storyberries.com I was able to have each page of the ebook be 100 percent my hand made pages. Because it’s not a printed book blank pages aren’t needed.
In the printed books I had to have blank pages in strategic places in order for the covers to attach properly. So I used the blank pages as a chance to visually foreshadow what was to come in the book. For example the little illustration on the blank page attached to the cover visually relates to the dedication page:
And the candy on the book info page (above left) visually relates to the page just before the about-the-author info.
There’s also a visual relationship between the characters on the cover of Patch La Belle and two of the poems inside the book. The paintings of books on the list of “other books by Clancy” also echoes one of the poems.
Yes, I tried to rhyme in my artwork as well as in the words of the poems!
I strongly believe that children (all people really) need exposure to all kinds of images including complex images just as they need exposure to all kinds of food including complex foods.
Homemade cookies are often more robust and complex in flavor, more, more full of love, than a box of store-bought cookies.
I like to think of my artwork, my books, as the visual equivalent of a sheet pan full of homemade cookies.
Thanks for following my progress on this project!
If you’re just joining this party – welcome! – there are details about Patch La Belle and links to past posts about Patch located here.
(There’s a surprise inside this blog suitable for all ages) This week has been a flurry of finishing pages, and the cover art for Patch La Belle. I’ve also been doing the graphic design hocus pocus for both the printed books version and an ebook version for Storyberries.com
As per my last post I’m still thinking about the topics of enjoying and trying things:
There’s the trying that is an effort to make something – like a cake or a book.
Then there’s the trying things so as to learn what you prefer – like a type of food or a hat.
Trying things also gives us abstract information about how much food is too much and what time bedtime is.
It’s an important lifelong skill to cultivate the willingness to try things.
And here’s a photo of me working on the cover art and finishing a few pages.
I slipped all the artwork into archival sleeves so the pages could be sorted without risk of damages. Prior to being sprayed with a fixative and varnish the gouache colors could be easily smeared.
I asked my first editor, my wife Judy, what page order she thought was best – and I sticky-note flagged her page order and it was such a good order that I followed it! And if you’re looking at the picture above thinking “that looks like a lot more pages than have been shown on this blog” – you’re correct, I’ve impishly saved some for when the book is formally released.
My desire to hand make all of the words and images for this book has also resulted in a relaxed way of working – everything exists in the real world and can be laid out on a table.
In the past when I’ve done a hybrid of computer typewritten words and hand made illustrations the page sorting and design was more abstracted. But this time everything was made by hand. The “graphic design hocus pocus” that I refer to above is simply the photography of the finished art and laying out the photos in a software package for uploading to Blurb.com the place that will print and ship the books on demand. A different software package is used to make the digital file for the ebook on Storyberries.com [Btw: the art page photos above are just quick pics for sharing here on social media. I have another camera for photos of art to be reproduced]
Here’s the cover artwork as photographed for reproduction. I think I managed to keep the warm tone of the off-white paper I used to make the original artwork. (Yippee!)
Anyway, showing Patch La Belle to the folks at Storyberries.com generated some excitement there! They said “it’s going to be really engaging and the families will spend a long time reading it and looking over the pictures… it’s so beautiful!”
As I worked this week on a new children’s book (see my last post) titled Patch La Belle I’ve thought more about the importance of enjoying and trying things regularly.
Too often we expect our enjoyments to be big life changing experiences when in reality a good life is a cumulative of many small pleasant moments. To have a good life one has to be able recognize a pleasant moment when it happens (even in the midst of a pandemic). This ability to recognize something enjoyable, while also absorbing it, is a skill to be learned and practiced all of one’s life.
Anyway, I spent time this week rereading my poetry sketchbooks, thinking, writing notes and sticky-flagging pages. Here’s a picture of two of my poetry sketchbooks. They’re small books, about 5 x 3.5 inches and I wrote in them with a fountain pen
As a way of working creatively I find it helpful to collect a bunch of thoughts into sketchbooks for sorting into something, a published book or an art exhibit, later. (I do a version of this sketchbook method with my fine art exhibits too.)
When I work in a sketchbook it feels random, the thought I’m recording feels unconnected to any future book or exhibit notion. The book or art exhibit ideas come later from rereading the sketchbooks and refining elements from my sketchbook. Essentially every sketchbook is a series of very rough drafts along with notes on what inspired me.
Here’s a page from my poetry sketchbook. Please note the margin notes, my thoughts in connection with my poem effort.
That poem with its marginalia sat for a long time. Months later I tried this effort, pictured below, to shape it a bit… still without a firm plan for what published book or exhibit it might become.
That finished art sat in my files for a while, gathering dust, unconnected to any project.
Then more recently when I was talking with the folks at Storyberries – www.storyberries.com – about formats for doing my words and picture combinations for them I remembered my illustrated giraffe poem and shared it with Storyberries. The above format of my poem it turned out wouldn’t work for my future Storyberries projects. So I shoved it back in my files.
Later on when rereading my poetry sketchbooks for the umpteenth time I came across the original poem yet again. As I reread my sketchbook I’m noting themes; multiple thoughts on a topic. The raw poem and my thoughts that inspired the giraffe poem fit with my reoccurring theme of trying things. Seeing this theme and thinking more on the topic is helping me to organize my current project Patch La Belle. So this week I reworked both the text and illustration for this particular poem.
That format fits much better with Storyberries guidelines and with my desire [more on that here] to do an entirely handwritten book. Now the poem has a place, it has become – at least for now – part of my newest children’s book effort. It will stay there till all of my pages for this project are finished and I reread them and decide what ultimately fits together best.
This project still feels “in flux” and uncertain but I just keep working, trusting that as I bring my vague notions into the real world as touchable objects I can see better what to do with them. My project idea firms up as I work. The trick is to roll with the feelings of uncertainty until that point.
And here are some more new Patch La Belle pages that have been done and redone in similar fashion to what I’ve just described. To save time I’m skipping ahead, omitting the sketchbook draft pages, and showing the finished work here.
I’m sure you’re seeing my working method now. My way of getting a thought outside of my head into a sketchbook, however messily, however vaguely, and then working with it multiple times in multiple ways just to see what it can become.
It’s my way of trying out ideas, of practicing enjoying something, of taking a notion and playfully exploring it. It’s also a way to have a small pleasant moment of fun regularly.
Thanks for reading. See you here next Monday?
P.S. if you’re just joining this party – welcome! – and you can see my other children’s book projects on my portfolio page here.
This week I thought about the importance of trying things. So I’ve reread my poetry sketchbook for poems on that topic.
As I mentioned in my last post I’m working on a new children’s book for Storyberries.com titled Patch La Belle. As I work on this book I’m trying several new things but chiefly I’m trying to group many poems and illustrations together with a few themes as organizing factors. This is different from what I’ve done in the past where I did one poem with multiple illustrations as an entire book – as you can see on my portfolio page.
Anyway, here’s the pages I selected from my poetry sketchbook this week:
And below are the finished pages that I hand wrote and illustrated using ink and gouache. I use waterproof ink pens from jetpens.com on smooth hot press watercolor paper. I like the Holbein brand of gouache colors because they’re smooth and have strong pigments.
The watercolor paper I’m using is off-white and I hope that won’t be a problem when it comes to reproducing these pages. But I like the tender nostalgic feel of this paper and will endeavor to keep this soft tone in the final book. We’ll see how it goes. This is part of the risk of trying new things…
If I’ve posted the above video correctly you’ll be able to see part of my poetry book collection; books written by many other people, some famous, many not so familiar. My collection is in my dining room where I have breakfast and sketch. I find it soothing to read a short poem or story to start my day. I also have a collection of books containing short stories in the same room but this post is about poetry…so…
When it comes to writing my own poems I like to consult “The Book Of Forms” by Lewis Turco – pick a short poetry format, like limericks or couplets then think of a topic like “trying things” and play with related words and images. Some poems turn out okay, others don’t…the key thing, I think, is the willingness to write badly and trust that I’ll survive. So far that’s been true. And now after several years of regularly writing poems in my poetry sketchbook I’m able to reread it and find a few poems that are fun to illustrate and potential material for a new artist book.
Here’s a mantra I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall
So I plan to keep working on Patch La Belle this week too. Will I see you here next Monday? Hope so. And I hope you enjoy whatever creative projects you’re working on this week too.
I’ve started a new illustrated poetry children’s book for Storyberries.com This time I’m writing and illustrating a bunch of poems. Up till now each book, Alphapets, Alphapets Too and Numpurrs were a single poem long. Lots of illustrations tied together with one poetic story.
So this new project feels dangerously different and daring. I find it helpful in a creative life to scare yourself now and then.
In my last post I showed my 3.5 x 5 x 1 inch poetry sketchbook, that I’ve worked in over the last several years, and told of reading through and sticky note flagging potential poems to be illustrated. Here it is bristling with sticky notes.
Here’s a close look at 3 of my poetry sketchbook pages that I chose to illustrate this week.
And here’s the weeks finished pages:
I’ve decided to hand write and hand draw everything in this book. Since Storyberries.com is a website of ebooks for kids my thinking is that it’d be fun, whimsical, amusing – harmlessly mischievous even – to fill a digital medium, the ebook, with hand-made marks.
As a working title – and probably the final title – I’m using “Patch La Belle: playful paintings and poetry”. The definition of the word “patch” and the definition of the French “la belle” play into my thoughts as this project feels like a patchwork of many lovely things. A stitching together of meditations on a theme of pleasant day dreams.
Anyway, more here next Monday and thanks for reading!