Unveiling an art exhibit during a pandemic full of unknowns has gotten me thinking about uncertainty in general. In the recent past of human history, at least as I read it, “uncertainty” about the weather, if a restaurant was open or not was more normal – in general things tended to be more uncertain, unplanned and unscripted. We didn’t have phones and the ability to search for information at our fingertips, no digital assistants or handheld calendars to organize our days, we couldn’t “know” in advance when a package was arriving much less know about a person. Things unfolded over time and that was mostly okay.
Garbage time isn’t weighted by the expectation that a moment will be special and memorable and perfect.
Garbage time just is.”
And I think we need garbage time with ourselves too. Times when however we feel, whatever we do or don’t do is just fine. Especially during a pandemic.
My new coloring book poem “How To Draw A Dragon” covers a bit of the “garbage time” territory, the dragon in my book wants everything to be just so while the rabbit wants to be playfully creative. The rabbit just wants to be.
Below are some photos of the printed version of “How To Draw A Dragon”. In my last post I mentioned working on a portfolio page about this new book – so I’ve begun that here. Storyberries said that they will likely have this book on their website the first week in September – but there is some uncertainty. Pandemic you know.
Speaking of uncertainty and time: my Odditorium exhibit at Caplan Art Designs is being done a bit differently – pandemic again – and who knows how it will go. While the opening is officially the first Thursday in September it won’t be the big party of times before. Masks are required to visit the Gallery and there will be appointments arranged at other times, art will be shipped or delivered in a safe way and this virtual page used as a catalog. For my artist talk videos like this will serve – the videos and the virtual page will both be used by the Gallery rather than the physical presence of either the artist -me – or a large group of the public on one evening. So really rather than a single night opening party every day is the opening! At least that’s the thought. But who knows… and it’s okay that it’s uncertain.
What I did know for certain was that all of the paintings needed to be framed before delivery to the Gallery. So I’ve spent most of my time last few weeks doing that. Below are a few pieces newly placed in frames.
Random unplanned unscripted associations were how I got the ideas for each artwork in my Odditorium series so a little more uncertainty about the exhibit itself isn’t really a problem. Of course I hope for sales – I almost can’t help hoping that – but I don’t have big expectations. My main hope is that people will just enjoy my artwork, that it will brighten their outlook at least a little, give them a sense of comfort and care as we all cope with this pandemic. The funny thing is that this hope of mine, that my work will lift spirits, is something that I may never know whether it worked. And that’s okay. A songbird doesn’t know when it’s music is enjoyed either.
Here’s me all masked up to deliver the artwork. The gallery owner didn’t wear a mask because we had to talk business and I’m deaf and lip read.
After our conversation I left my art in the Gallery in boxes. Not very long later the owner sent me this photo of the paintings hung on the wall!
From now on I won’t be physically at the Gallery at any point. The main things I’ll be doing are the videos and the virtual page plus I will be supporting the exhibit by talking about the inspiration for the artworks and the Odditorium book on social media.
This is all *very* different. In the before times (pre covid) I would physically go to an opening party. Lots of people would come. I would give a talk. I would talk to people all evening long and go home exhausted (and happy) with a hoarse voice from having talked almost nonstop for 4 hours.
It’s not the same but this year I did 5 different videos on my YouTube channel of me talking about why I do what I do. Here’s a table of contents, so to speak, of the videos:
Besides wrapping burritos in foil and baking them as per the recipe above I had a craving for some roasted vegetables. So I made my bean, onion and cheese burritos and put them in some boat shaped ovenproof dishes. Then I covered the burritos with chopped zucchini, corn and bell peppers that I tossed in Penzey’s Northwoods Seasoning mix. A few slices of tomatoes and shredded cheese completed the dish. I covered the boats with aluminum foil and baked them in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Then I removed the foil and used the broil oven setting to toast the cheese. With hot pads on the table I served the boats directly from the oven. So yummy!!
My “garbage time” evening reading is: Ireland by Frank Delaney, The World Of Edward Gorey by Ross and Wilkin, Making Mischief by Gregory Maguire.
May we all have some good restorative “garbage time” this week. And some good food. See you next Monday.
Had an oops during ink work this week on my coloring book poem “How to Draw A Dragon” here’s how I fixed it. Despite the mistake all of the hand written text as well as all of the illustrations have now been completely inked!
Here’s how: first I drew the whole book in pencil which sounds straightforward but it actually means draw, redraw each page multiple times. I do a complete draft in pencil and go through it again and again redoing elements so the story flows a certain way, to make sure setting and characters are consistent and to create the foreshadowing. This is very like a writer’s process of drafting and editing a novel. I lost count of how many drafts I’ve gone through.
Before beginning this book I knew it would be a 32 page manuscript so I made sure I had at least 84 sheets of the same kind and size of drawing paper. (Now after finishing the inking I have perhaps 8 useable sheets of blank paper left – if that gives you an idea.)
After the images were more or less set in pencil I penciled in the poem text. The poem text is spaced rhythmically to rhyme, so to speak, with the illustrations. The words and the images dovetail tightly together. This requires more drafting to get the pacing right. Then after I had a complete manuscript in pencil I partially inked each of the illustrations and adjusted the word spacing of the poem on each page in pencil.
Before starting to ink the poem text I read through it looking for grammar and spelling. I asked my spouse to look critically with fresh eyes. Then I inked the text with an ink brush pen.
Even with all that drafting and all the editing and proofreading, even with a fresh set of eyes looking, there’s a mistake! Do you spot it below?
Yes, I misspelled “oops”! Of all the things to misspell!! 🤦♀️ Oh well! When I ink words like this I’m really focused on drawing the shapes of the letters and the spaces on the page rather than writing a word. So mistakes often happen. But 95% of being an artist is knowing how to fix mistakes! The remaining 5% is being willing to keep going!
So to fix my oops on the word “oops” I got another piece of the same paper and drew a couple of “O’s” while holding the new paper next to my mistake so I can draw it the proper size. Then I cut out the newly drawn letter as close as possible not leaving much white paper showing around the letter.
Then I paint opaque white gouache on the ink mistake as smoothly as possible.
I let that white gouache dry completely. If there’s any bump in the dry gouache I use a tiny bit of fine grit sandpaper to smooth it.
I lightly apply archival paper glue to the back of the cut out letter and affix it to the whited out mistake area. I use tweezers to place the glue-y letter.
Now it’s fixed! When I scan these pages for publication I will look closely at this area on the digital file to make sure it looks like a seamless repair. Other than possibly on that “oops” the digital scans of these pages will *not* be digitally manipulated. What you’ll see in the published book will be what I made by hand.
After all the inking is done and dry I erase all the pencil marks on the manuscript.
Foreshadowing happens on every page. There are even indications about time: at first the dragons coffee is very hot and steaming but on subsequent pages there’s less steam. These pages below are possibly the pages with the heaviest foreshadowing. Each of the “art examples” presage or refer to something in the rest of the book.
The foreshadowing is complex. Matching the characters and scenery from one page to another is complex. Matching the edges of the pages together is complex. Getting the rhythm of the poem to flow (rhyme?) with the images … it’s hard to even describe how convoluted and complex (that word again) this project is…
And then there’s that it’s a coloring book. All that I have to tell the story with is a single ink line. That line has got to be right. I can’t cover over it with other sketchy lines like I do when I draw in my sketchbook or cover a line with paint as I do when I draw lines as a foundation for a painting. The single lines I draw for this project must be clear or it ceases to be a coloring book.
This coloring book poem has been one of my most complex books and yet it is so deceptively simple to look at and read. It reminds me of one of the iceberg memes about success in that the visible part of a project is the smallest element of it and the huge part is unseen.
Anyway, also this week I worked towards the continuation of my Odditorium exhibit. The Caplan Art Designs Gallery will exhibit the Odditorium works from earlier this summer as well 7 new paintings in this series. One of the new paintings is below. It was inspired by a friends photo of her ranunculous flowers. From the flowers I thought of a rhinoceros and a dress…
Yes, my household surrealism continues…
As I wrote in my last post I hoped this week to try some of my new butterfly palette paints so I did try them in my sketchbook!!
It will be fun to try doing a painting with them next!
This week we got a few cards in the mail and added them to our mantel. I realize that I really love sending and getting cards in the mail. I’ve loved it even more so since the pandemic. Since unfortunately covid is surging again I’ve been thinking I want to make more cards.
About the time I’d had that thought I heard from Bernadette who had recently blogged on New Classic Recipes my recipe for Magic Beans along with the story of how I got the recipe. Bernadette wrote suggesting that I create some recipe cards. I thought this was a great idea and merged the recipe card notion with the idea of sending postcards. You can see all of the recipe postcards I’ve made so far here. I’m thinking these will be fun to send to friends and family.
As far as food this week goes I ate so much when family was here (last post) that this week has had small salads and bowls of cereal as the feature meals. So never mind about food I cooked this week because it didn’t happen. Oh well.
Nevertheless major progress happened on “How To Draw A Dragon” – a whole manuscript completely inked! Yippee! Next up…scanning the pages and book design! See you next Monday?
In my last post I talked about how I manage art projects and time. I have an heretical approach and I was asked for more details. Here goes:
One of my longtime interests is in how humans think, learn and how to maintain good mental health. I read on the topics often. Here’s a few of my bookshelves full of books on these topics.
I’ve learned that humans tend to learn best by hearing stories or anecdotes or metaphors or allegories. Or by seeing examples or demonstrations. Rarely does a direction “do it like this” get followed. This includes self-directions related to art projects and time management. Even if the direction is followed often the purpose for “doing it like this” is rarely fully understood at the time. This includes self-directions.
Let me tell a story to illustrate what I mean: Once there was a mother, with a very tiny kitchen, who always cut her pot roasts in half before cooking them. She taught her daughter to cook pot roast by explaining and demonstrating. Her daughter grew up and had a daughter of her own. One day the grandmother was visiting. The daughter was in her very large kitchen demonstrating cooking a pot roast to her young daughter. She said proudly “In our family we always cut the roast in half first. Isn’t that right mom?” The grandmother replied “Oh, no! The only reason I cut my roast in half was that I didn’t have a pot or a stove big enough to hold a whole roast!”
Being aware of this attribute of human thought and attention I approach self-directions about my own art projects and time use rather sideways. More details below.
The other interesting thing I’ve learned about human thinking is that good mental health and happiness often happens while we’re busy doing something else. Often with, and for, other people. I think the same is true of creativity.
Similarly when humans feel good about, curious about or interested in something they’re more likely to do it. If we make activities we want to do fun and easier to do it increases the likelihood that they’ll be done.
So I give myself directions about my projects in terms of what I *want* to do rather than what I must do and I accept that I may not fully understand what I’m doing, or why, until after the project is completed. I’m also careful to keep lots of projects in various stages of production so that I’m “busy doing something else” and not as likely to get too focused (and too critical) about one project.
I’ve mentioned it before but my approach to creative projects and time management has it’s roots in a mental health book I illustrated “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit“. Below are a few of the pages that relate to what I’m blogging about today.
For much of my creative life I have taken these concepts about human thinking/emotional health and applied them to my overall approach to creative projects and time management. It has helped me to consistently get projects done in a sustainable and enjoyable way. I say my approach is heretical because I have known art coaches and art teachers who advocate, for example, “strict discipline to do one thing till it’s done” as if we are machines and I strongly reject that notion. That’s too much like lunging and grabbing at a stray cat. That’s a sure fire way to spook the cat – or the ideas – away!
My approach to creativity is similar to the method for befriending a shy cat. You see a cat hiding in the bushes and you can’t see enough of the cat to know what breed it is, whether it’s healthy or not or whether it’s wearing a collar. So you get some cat treats and with very slow movements place the treats strategically to coax the cat into visibility. You remove yourself, slowly, to a short distance where you do your best to act as if you’re *not* interested in the cat. With patience the cat will emerge at it’s own pace and you can see it. No lunging and grabbing is necessary on your part!
My morning work in my sketchbook is akin to the cat treats strategically placed. I wake up and I just play with words in my poetry sketchbook or with images in my mixed media sketchbook. I do *not* take these efforts seriously. This is just something fun to do while still half asleep waiting while the coffee percolates. Of course I hope something good will come from this work and often it does but that “good” is to be determined much later. At the time I’m drawing or writing in my sketchbook I’m thinking of it as a fun gentle way to ease into the day.
I literally keep these sketchbooks handy in my breakfast nook along with a few pens and a small gouache watercolor set. The sketchbooks and the watercolor set are small 3 x 5 inches or so. Seldom have I spent more than 10 minutes on these efforts. You see, I’m busy doing something else besides creating – I’m making breakfast and eating it with my spouse. But I have this regular habit of luring ideas into my sketchbook.
Here’s a few recent sketchbook pages.
When my idea-cat begins to emerge from several weeks of my sketchbook morning work I’ll begin gently, tentatively, feeding and petting the idea. I do this by reading books somewhat related to my idea, by writing about my idea on a legal pad, brainstorming in a what-if-I manner.
After doing enough sketchbook work and legal pad what-if work that I feel I’ve got something, some idea emerging into visibility, I’ll sometimes draw a series of thumbnail drawings on loose paper in color to try different color arrangements. Or perhaps I make a folded paper dummy of a book idea. Perhaps I’ll make larger drawings – redrawing images from my sketchbook onto art paper. I am still just playing around and seeing what could happen.
The intention is to test the idea in my sketchbooks to see if it might become something more than a sketch in my sketchbook. A bit more time is spent, 20 or 30 mins in this phase of idea attracting. These writings and drawings are kept in a 3 ring binder by topic or perhaps with a tentative working title related to what my idea may become: an art exhibit series? A childrens book? A greeting card??? Things are left very open ended.
Still I am busy doing other things – specifically my main art project of the moment – the binder is just a way to keep all of my notions on a theme handy in one spot. This is like giving that still shy cat a temporary foster home. This way we’ll keep track of kitty, give it some time to adjust, learn about kitty and see how it goes.
Here’s my shelf of 3 ring binders
Here’s some photos from the 3 ring binder for my currently in progress “How To Draw A Dragon” project. There are several folded paper book dummies, several rewrites of the poem and many drawings.
If a 3 ring binder project collection goes well and the idea begins to show promise – by ‘promise I mean ‘potential to be fun’ – then it may move to the “main project” status. The idea cat has been adopted…however we’re still in the probationary period. Anything could happen. This is where I currently am on my ” How To Draw A Dragon” project.
Here’s a few of the “Dragon” pages I did this week.
A main project has the serious art supplies out for it. It has the studio space devoted to it. Time during a day will be set aside for it, but not an entire day, I mean an hour or two. Time is set aside in a task-oriented way not a from-when-to-when on the clock way. I have a master list of tasks to be done on a main project and each day I pick from 1 to 3 of those tasks and set them as a goal to accomplish that day. That’s the establishing a working rhythm that I spoke of last post.
The main project is taken a tiny bit more seriously as in I will erase and redraw whereas in my sketchbooks, legal pads or binders I’ll leave a drawing however it is. I will also write and rewrite with attention to spelling and grammar on a main project. As I go I’m feeling my way along. The uncertainty is normal. Perhaps my idea cat isn’t ready for such attention. Or perhaps it will thrive on it. We will take it slowly and see. My “How To Draw A Dragon” so far seems to be thriving meaning it is still growing and becoming and I’m having fun with it.
Below is a studio photo showing that “How To Draw A Dragon” is filling my easel and overflowing into nearby surfaces. My art supplies used for this project are left out and handy. I don’t open windows in my studio so no breeze disturbs my papers. If you were to visit my house today we would stay far away from my studio because I have things in a careful order for my projects sake. My cat and dog are trained to not disturb things in my studio. There’s a door to my studio and I use it to remain undisturbed. A main project filling the studio is a tender kitten. I handle gently. I have heard art coaches speak of clearing ones working area at the end of each workday — that’s another area where I heretically scream *nooooo!*
Even with the extra attention given to a main project I carefully keep it fun and playful. I will find ways to “feed” a project- to feed my unconscious mind – for example by reading books related to the topic I’m making art about. For my current How To Draw A Dragon project I’m reading about creativity – about creating poetry in particular- and the interplay between our left brains and right brains, between our inner adult selves and our inner child selves. The topical reading is kept up for a duration of a project as it helps with my focus and fun. I simply cannot stress this enough *keep a project fun* and the project will likely get finished.
Another helpful way I keep going on a main project is that I *dedicate* the project to someone – I give the project a purpose, a reason for being (something *not* related to money or fame). I give it something beyond myself. The person or people I dedicate my work to often never know. But I am busy making my main project *for* somebody. During this pandemic openly dedicating works, or embedding symbols a friend might recognize, has been a fun way to stay in touch.
Here’s the dedication page for my Dragon book. Dedications for my fine art most often just happens in my mind.
It may be that I work on something as a main project for a while and it stalls. The stall could happen at the 3 ring binder stage or earlier in the sketchbook stage. A project may fluidly move back and forth between these three stages over a lengthy time period. This is another part of my business of art/creative heresy – I think this fluidity is perfectly normal and fine! Uncertainty is okay! I see it as part of the creative process, part of the ways a creative mind (and a subconscious mind) naturally works. Human brains are not linear machines! This is another reason I work on multiple projects – one stalls and I shift attention to another until the stalled one wants attention again.
Very carefully as I’m in the process of making artwork I avoid any sweeping declarative statements, to myself or anyone else, like “this is dumb” or “this is awesome”. I use moderate language statements, if a statement is needed and I can’t avoid it, I’ll say something like “so far so good” or “it’s a fun challenge”. To make a hard sweeping definitive declaration like “this is horrible” is to force a still-in-progress project into a labled pigeon hole. What may not work as a painting might be a good greeting card. I don’t know yet! When a project is in process I may think I am making X only to discover when I’ve finished that I’ve made Y instead. I deliberately leave linguistic and mental room for such progress! (See my pot roast story above) Harsh declarations make it hard to extract a project from the dispair/elation and continue. It makes it harder to allow a work to change from a painting to a greeting card. I prefer to leave room for discovering and being surprised by what a project becomes. It’s more fun that way. I would no more force an art project to become something than I would force a stray cat to accept a grooming before feeding it and earning its trust.
Here’s more from Dr Bob about being careful about self talk.
The tendency all humans have to take things too seriously- even obsessively – is another reason why I deliberately have multiple projects at various stages. One main studio project -or possibly two main projects- at a time but several other projects are being developed in my sketchbooks, legal pads and binders. This helps me not be too “precious” about any one of them. I work on something a while then stop working *while it’s still fun* and do something else. I find it helpful to try to stop working before I am too fatigued, while I’m still interested or enjoying my work and then move on to something else.
So I am always busy “doing something else” which allows my idea-cats space to breathe without micro-attention. This method allows my subconscious mind to work on my projects. I can trust that my inner voice will say “oh, let’s work on this!” when the next part of my idea is ripe. I can trust that I will keep returning to a project until it is finished.
When a main studio project is finished there is usually another project in a binder that’s developed enough that it’s ready for attention at my easel. No force to finish or start a project is needed. No strictness. No machine-like “discipline”. Knowing and accepting the way human minds are naturally has worked well for me. I work with my brain not against it. I am just playing around with topics that interest me. Like most real life fur covered cats I can trust that my idea-cats will tell me when it’s dinner time.
Speaking of dinner. The outstanding dinner of the week was broccoli pasta. I was out of fettuccine so I used short noodles but the recipe in my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook is still yummy!
Earlier this year I was asked to make some gender neutral fabric designs and put them on my Spoonflower shop so someone could get fabric with my designs and sew some bibs and blankets for a new baby.
Here’s a photo of me working at that time on the fabric pattern.
Here’s the finished original art
This week I was given, by the person who had requested the fabric patterns, pictures of some of the finished baby things they’ve made and permission to post about them! It was lovely having something fun like this to post about as my Dragon project is still becoming and is in the gawky teenage stage and camera shy.
Where I tend to run out of time in a day is the social media promotion thing. And frankly there are times, especially when I’m busy, that I’d rather just do my art projects than talk about them. But talking about them is necessary and most of the time I enjoy doing it so… Anyway, I really appreciate it when people share what I post or when someone sends me photos of themselves with my fine art or artist books or share photos of what they sewed with my fabric designs! It helps and is such fun to see!
Anyway, here’s the photos of a burp cloth and a few blankets my friend created with my fabrics! They turned out so well!! The sewing is marvelous!
Hope this description of how I manage my art projects and deal with time was interesting and even helpful to you as you do your own creative projects! Have a creative week and I’ll see you next Monday.
My crocodile became a dragon as I’ve been working on a new childrens book. I’ve been alternating work in both my poetry sketchbook, the orange book on the left, and my black visual sketchbook on the right.
Below is a look at my handwritten poem text in my poetry sketchbook.
I also have a 3 ring binder in which I have collected sketches and drafts of the poem text. Initially I was calling my poem “How to paint a crocodile”. My idea was to do a coloring activity book featuring a human child and a realistic crocodile. But the humanness didn’t feel right to me. And the crocodile felt too, well, reptilian.
So in my black sketchbook I tried a few more cartoon-like crocodile drawings. I’ve done many sketches and am only showing a few here in order to keep this post brief. Also not pictured are my sketches of various animals along my way to a decision to make the human child character into a rabbit.
The crocodile kept feeling too sinister in my sketches. So I dropped, temporarily, the coloring book concept and just painted who might be the main adult-like logical no-nonsense left-brain character to play opposite my rabbit right-brain creative playful child-like rabbit. The “adult” character it turns out is a dragon.
So I went with the dragon! In subsequent sketches I resumed my coloring book notion. The working title for my coloring book poem now is “How to draw a dragon”. I’m using the word ‘draw’ in the sense of ‘attract’ in addition to the usual sense of drawing with a pencil. Below are a few sketchbook drawings of the dragon in which I aim for busy adult postures – grumpy perhaps but not sinister.
Besides rewriting my poem in my poetry sketchbook I have also rewritten my poem on scraps of paper which are kept in my binder. There are -tons – more rewrites and sketches than I’ve shared in this post. Here I’m sharing just enough, I hope, to give you a sense of my working process. When I felt my poem was settled, more or less, I wrote it on a stiff paper so it could stand on my easel as I work. You can see it below.
When I spoke in a my last post of “having my crocodile project all over my studio” the photo below perhaps gives you a sense of what I mean. In this photo the papers on my easel look blank but there are pencil drawings on them. There’s also a blizzard of drawings in ink on tracing paper.
Multiple drawings on tracing paper enable me to draw a character similarly but holding or doing different things as the character goes through my story. Below you can propably see what I mean.
Yes, I know there are computer programs that would enable me to copy and paste character elements from one page to another. I have used such programs in the past. But I find it more satisfying to do original hand made drawings for every element within a book. I fancy myself as like a chef who prides herself on using local ingredients and cutting them up fresh when a dish is requested. A chef’s hand made dish is better, I think, than a frozen box meal reheated. But I digress.
Below is a “scene” or a stage set upon which my characters will act. I’ve made a master template in ink on tracing paper which I will use for reference – and for story foreshadowing – throughout my poem book.
Below is a look at some of the rabbit character sketches on tracing paper.
Below is a look at a few of my dragon character sketches. I feel I’ve finally found a balance between a grumpy adult appearance while not being too sinister.
Here’s a closer look at the Rabbit character.
As I build these pages I will do my story foreshadowing using many visual elements. So even after I get the entire book drawn the visual foreshadowing will still need to be carefully edited. But first I’ll get the entire book roughed in. Lots of work to do.
To help get me to my studio work more quickly in the mornings most of the evenings I’ve been making overnight oats. Into lidded mason jars I put some raw uncooked old fashioned oat meal, some milk to cover the oats, maple syrup, fruit like raspberries or blueberries (or both) and yogurt. Then I add a bit more milk as needed, put the lids on and put the jars in my refrigerator. In the mornings I don’t have to think of what’s for breakfast or spend time cooking. I can get right to my sketchbook work!
Also this week I delivered the artist books that the Aurora Gallery had requested along with some signed bookplates! You can see more about each of these books on my portfolio page.
My plan is to work steadily on my Dragon, a bit of work almost every day, until it’s finished. Some days only a short burst of work will happen but other days I’ll have more time to spend.
So along with my tracing paper templates I’ve made a strategy, a loose agenda/schedule, of items to be done on this project which I’ll use as a guide to enable me to pick up wherever I left off even if I only have 10 minutes of time to work. I’ll use the same guide if I have hours of time. Such a project schedule is a guideline – a suggested working rhythm – it is not a god to be worshipped or slavishly obeyed. My guide is a way for me to keep this project in small manageable chunks. Keeping it small helps me to maintain momentum and to keep it fun. (There’s even a business article here about the kind of strategy I’m talking about.)
I have already spent months working on this poem and have only just this week outlined, and otherwise prepared, 32 pages to draw, ink and hand letter over the coming weeks. In other words I am just now ready to begin in earnest. Forming a good steady working rhythm now is crucial. So is focusing on the fun.
Some sort of strategy – I like to call it “planning the mundane” – some consideration for keeping long haul projects like this manageable, not overwhelming, is important. But it’s the fun that is the lynchpin of what keeps a creative project sustainable. So I consider having fun the most serious aspect of living a creative life.
Hope your creative week is sustainably fun too! See you next Monday.
“Warning” by Jenny Joseph is one of my favorite poems. I particularly like these lines “…and hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes…”. But I hadn’t read that poem or thought of it in a while (you can see the entire poem here).
Earlier this month I received the prospectus for a “reclaimed canvas” art exhibit upcoming at the Aurora Gallery. (This is the project I hinted at in my last post.) The Reclaimed Canvas is an art exhibit asking the gallery artists to paint on something not normally used as a canvas or surface for painting. So I began this new project by rummaging around my studio for a not-typical thing to paint on. Look what I found – boxes of pens, pencils and beermats!
Suddenly I remembered the poem “Warning” by Jenny Joseph…. and had a good chuckle at myself. Of course I reread the poem and laughed some more.
Before we visited, and later moved to, the Pacific Northwest I didn’t think I liked beer. But here in the Pacific Northwest there are locally owned microbreweries and the beer is worth taste testing – and both the brewpubs and the beers often reflect the region in which they’re located. So having a beer in one of the microbrew pubs includes a bit of regional history and personal stories. Often there’s beautiful scenery too. Oh, and did I mention that the beer tastes surprisingly good?
As I looked through my collection of beermats in my pencil box I thought of poetry and word play in general. I also remembered our various visits to the brewpubs whose beermats I had in hand. I evaluated the qualities of the beermats themselves as a possible canvas for a painting.
Here’s the beermat I chose for my new painting project – the first photo shows the front of the beermat and then the next photo shows the back of it.
Bouy Beer is in Astoria Oregon and the brewpub sits right on the water. When entering the pub you can walk over a large glass floor. Through the glass floor you can often see the sea lions lounging on the pier beneath. We’ve enjoyed sitting in the pub on the waters edge, watching ships and marine wildlife. Sitting there, with a beer, I’m aware of the intimate connection this one spot has with the entire world: international ships come and go as do migrating whales, geese and sea lions. I love the way it is both a unique place with it’s own regional quirks and yet it openly, joyfully, participates in a wider world. It’s a wonderful reminder that one can be fully ones particular self while also being fully within, and open to, a diverse world. The food menu at Buoy Beer is also an enchanting fusion of world cuisines… but I dangerously digress. I have so many good memories of this particular pub and look forward to each visit. Oh, and they brew really good beers!
Anyway, for an animal character to use in my painting on the Buoy Beer beermat I thought about having a sea lion drinking beer, a great blue heron drinking beer, a whale drinking…. eventually, after a number of sketchbook drawings, I settled on the character of a bear. My main reasons for choosing a bear is that I could do a wordplay title for the finished art … but also the shape of bear, physically, could evoke the feeling and the relaxing-into-hybernation pose that I associate with the flavor of one of my favorite beers when it’s seasonally available at Bouy Beer.
Here’s a sketch I did when exploring my thoughts.
And below is the painting I did on one of the 4 inch round coasters I had collected during one of our trips to Bouy Beer (which I kept in a pencil box with the rest of my beermat collection – 🤣). I painted on the coaster with gouache and have titled it …wait for it… “Bear, Matt”
The back of my “Bear, Matt” painting has the title and other data written by hand.
I did seal the beermat with a clear primer before I began painting on it and when my painting was finished and dry I varnished the artwork. Plus the art will likely be framed at the Aurora Gallery. So what was once an ephemeral throw-away object now will potentially last quite a bit longer.
I think of this new project as fitting in with my recent household surrealism thinking: a mundane object was thought about in a new way.
With this thought, given my sense of humor, I simply couldn’t resist turning my original painting “Bear, Matt” back into ephemeral beermats. So on my Zazzle shop I made round paper coasters – beermats – that are copies or art prints of my original “Bear, Matt” artwork! The back of these printed coasters is blank. That’s one way you can tell the copy from the original. You can get these here.
After finishing “Bear, Matt” and delivering the original to the Aurora Galley a few days ago – I visited, in masked-up person, another favorite local independent bookstore called Daedalus Books. This bookstore is especially alluring for me with my interests in literature, fine art, poetry, books about books, artist books, literary studies, culture, history and philosophy. You can see how tempting it was… in the photo below is my book haul!
Another new project in progress contains a crocodile. In the photo below you can see my orange poetry sketchbook and my crocodile poem written by hand. Also in the photo is a binder that holds my drawing attempts, book dummies and poem drafts. Yes, I’m working on a new children’s book. I plan to update this blog over the coming weeks with my progress…
My spouse’s garden has lots of garlic scapes and some radish greens so the memorable meal this week was the pasta with radish greens and garlic scapes recipe below!
Hope your week is full of fun memories and your own collections of beermats, pencils and pens!
Early this week I’m delivering all of the Odditorium fine art and books to Burnt Bridge Cellars! This weekend I made sure the art is ready to go and signed some of the artist books.
These artist books are stories within the Odditorium series fine art visual stories. First there’s the Odditorium exhibit catalog which tells the story of the exhibit itself and has images of all the fine art.
Then each additional artist book that I wrote and illustrated, whether for children or adults, contains an odd look at a household or mundane experience. Numpurrs is about a shared meal. Patch La Belle is a collection of whimsical poems about drawers, chairs, cake and much more. This Rabbit is about liking activities at home. Another Sketchbook is about enjoying books and ones own mind. Favorites So Far is a collection of my favorite recipes. Pembral Forgets, written by Steve Tubbs and illustrated by me is about fall leaves and good food.
I didn’t sign all of the books and I hope the green dragon bookplates, that I spoke of in a prior post, come from the printer soon. I plan to sign a few of those for Burnt Bridge Cellars to have on hand just in case someone wants a book signed that wasn’t already signed.
Here are boxes of fine art ready for delivery. One of the side benefits of working in a series on the same size art boards is the ease of packing for transportation.
It didn’t take long to double check that all of my exhibit ducks are in a row because I was basically ready a week ago. So I’ve begun to work on other projects and a starting point is to read about stories and imagination.
Speaking of poetry: I’ve started a new poetry sketchbook. I like the mini books from paperblanks.com with the unlined thicker paper as I can both draw and write on it. I don’t paint in this book as the paper isn’t suitable for watercolor or gouache. This is deliberate as the attributes of the paper in my poetry sketchbook helps me focus on the words and the illustration idea itself instead of getting focused on color too soon. I have a bound watercolor sketchbook for when it’s time for color considerations and serious ink work. This means I may start something in my poetry sketchbook and then try the same sketch in color in my watercolor sketchbook. The 3 photos below show the new (orange) poetry sketchbook, then one of the poems I wrote in the new poetry book. The 3rd photo shows my watercolor sketchbook and a color effort with my poetry idea. At this point I’m just playing.
Related to my household surrealism thoughts I wonder…Can poetry or short stories also be a mug or notecard? What if the mug is big enough to hold soup?
What if the card is itself a pun shared between people…?
I want to make things that help people connect with other people. This is part of why I enjoy having fine art exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars – via Caplan Art Designs – people connect over my art, the wine and food. It does feel strange – and anticlimactic – from my point of view to have an exhibit at the winery and not have a big blowout multiple hours long opening party due to the sensible covid restrictions. (The winery is at 50% capacity and reservations are necessary for eating and drinking at the winery. They welcome masked people dropping in to buy bottles of wine and see the art.)
But last year during the worst of the pandemic shutdown I was delightfully amazed at the many kind responses – virtual comments on social media – about my art, my books and my efforts at a virtual exhibit! (This years virtual exhibit is here) And because in the past exhibits I’d had trouble hearing in the winery when it was packed with people – during shutdown 2020 I actually enjoyed my online interactions with people because I could actually read what they said!!
Anyway, I have hopes that somehow it will all work this year too – and that people will go to the winery and enjoy the wine, the food and my art and books!
Speaking of food… Here’s a yummy soup I made this week. I like having soup in large mugs – makes it easier to get the last bite. The potato soup recipe I used is from one of my favorite cookbooks. I love thinking about things that build community: books, music, art and….soup!! This book is fun to read because it’s also a series of stories about food and friends in different communities.
A person doesn’t live by soup and bread alone we also need our personal green dragons, aka our imaginations, carefully nourished so we can deal with the emotional wolves inside us and be able to participate in life. What do you feed wolves? Stories, poems, music and fine art!
Here’s another sketchbook page somewhat related to this topic.
May your dragon and good wolf be well fed this week. See you next Monday?
Frankly, I’m tired. But it’s the I’ve-played-hard good kind of tired. So more pictures and less text in this post and you get a special peek … I’ve been thinking about Kurt Vonnegut’s book If this isn’t nice what is? Here’s an article I enjoyed about this Vonnegut book. Here’s a photo of the book in my library with other Vonnegut titles.
Below is one of the poems I read during breakfast this week in a book called Animal Poems. It’s one of the titles in the Pocket Poetry series by Everyman’s Library. (I love this series! Especially with breakfast!) The poem in the photo is by Wiliam Cowper. I love the last line “The comfort of a reasonable joy.” So I’ve also been thinking how important it is to have regular reasonable enjoyments. I take the phrase “reasonable enjoyments” to mean the simple kind that don’t require lots of money, a travel agent or dressy clothes. Anyway, here’s the poem.
In my last post I talked about the pace of creative life. I’ve still been thinking about the skill of crafting daily rhythms and here’s a link to an inspiring article I read on the topic: https://www.wired.com/story/calendar-tips-post-pandemic-reentry-organization/ Maintaining a daily rhythm has enabled me – to get very tired 🤣 – but also to have nearly everything completely finished two weeks early prior to delivery of all the art and books for my Odditorium exhibit. Being early gives me flexibility to have time to rest as well as to deal with any unexpected issues.
Below are some of my sketchbook pages … and some kitchen gadgets I looked at and thought about as I worked on one of the last paintings for this exhibit.
Here’s a photo my spouse took of me working out how flamingos might carry things.
Below is the finished painting on my easel drying. Below that is a close up of the dry painting. I titled it “Is Not This Nice?” The title fits with my thoughts recently and echos the collage text I found in my falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was fun to find text written by Austen that was similar to what Vonnegut said.
If the background of my painting reminds you of the ocean….we went there recently and seeing the sea lingered in my mind. The Pacific Ocean isn’t far from our house. I find it soothing to visit.
The other way I’ve been earning my tired is that I’ve been working on the exhibit catalog aka a picture book of my Odditorium exhibit. In addition to that I’ve been working on a kid friendly version of my exhibit catalog. Children need fine art in their lives too in my opinion. When I was a kid I would have loved to see a book talking about looking at fine art. That’s why I took the extra steps to make a children’s book version too. I have sent the kid friendly version to Storyberries.com and they have an exciting plan for the book design! Below is a screenshot of a post they did on Instagram about it!
Here’s a special early peek into the Odditorium – at my exhibit book!!! And a link so you can see the whole book!!! Even in the midst of being tired I’m excited!!
One of my reasonable enjoyments this week was my spouse’s homemade biscuits for breakfast. The recipe is in my kitchen sketchbook Favorites So Far and you can see more of it here.
More next Monday about the Odditorium exhibit book and the other fun stuff…after I have a bit of rest. Hope you have a good week full of relaxation and reasonable enjoyments.
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?
My newest artist book for children “This Rabbit” is rolling out! It’s a whimsical look at self-awareness with lots of different rabbits liking a variety of things. As I mentioned in my last post “This Rabbit” shares a cover design similarity with some of my other artist books that also have a bunch of different characters exploring a life concept. In the photo below you can see the covers for my series of books.
Here’s a closer look at the hardcover version of “This Rabbit“
And here’s a look at the page design. I made the artwork large so that it mostly fills each page with a small space at the bottom for the poem lines.
Book signing during a pandemic is a challenge. I’m solving that in a few ways and one of those is by placing a few signed books at the Aurora Gallery. Some of the original artwork for many of my books is there too. In the photo below is an assortment of books signed and destined for the Aurora Gallery. https://auroragalleryonline.com/
And while I waited this week for my copies of “This Rabbit” to arrive from the printer I worked in my sketchbook and over short bursts of time towards a new painting using all of my recent rabbit research. This painting is one of several that will be in new art exhibits later this year.
While working this week I was thinking about human development. In addition to learning what you like as one lives you also learn and practice attention to your feelings. With that in mind I’ve been thinking of what Dr Bob says in the book I illustrated some time ago…”feelings are guides not gods to be obeyed“. For example we’ve all done things like cleaning up yucky messes even when we didn’t feel like doing it at the time – but once it was done we were glad it had been done. So we’re capable of using our executive brain to decide when to listen to our feelings and when to go ahead and do something despite our feelings.
In the picture above is my breakfast: overnight oats (made in a small wide mouth mason jar) along with coffee. And here’s a recipe article link about this quick-easy meal. I like quick-easy breakfasts so I can spend more time in the morning drinking coffee, reading and sketching.
In the photo below I’m working (after breakfast) on a new painting. There’s a collage bit in it from the falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that I’d talked about in another post.
Here below is what the new painting became: “Attention To The Feelings” – 12 x 9 – acrylic and collage on board.
One of my favorite authors who write about sketching and creative efforts is Danny Gregory. Here’s what he wrote about dealing with feelings in his book “Art Before Breakfast” :
This is inner-voice phenomen is true for any creative effort. Including trying a new recipe for breakfast.
So please be gentle with yourself and the other people in your life this week. We’re all just muddling though trying to remember what we like, trying to pay attention to our feelings – but not too much attention – and trying to regularly eat a good meal.