In a prior post I showed a fabric design in progress. This week I got a fabric swatch proof, pictured below, which I approved and have made publicly available now. I like the bright colors of it.
In the most recent children’s book I illustrated, Pembral Forgets, I used a leaf motif thought the book. The story Steve Tubbs wrote was about fall leaves. good food and a mother’s love. So as I was doing a version of the leaf motif for fabric naturally my thoughts ran towards the possibilities of the leaf fabric as napkins and table runners – things for kitchens. Anyway, the fabric is on my Spoonflower shop now as well as on the Pembral Forgets portfolio page.
In my last post I talked of using things I enjoy as a guide for subject matter in my art.
Well, that also applies to the types of creative pursuits to which I choose to apply my artwork. For example I’ve been thinking for some time now about how much I enjoy sending and receiving greeting cards in the snail mail.
In the photo below you’re looking at my fireplace at home and the cards I’ve gotten by mail displayed there on the mantel. Some are handmade cards. Some are vintage cards. Some are postcards and folded cards found in stores. I like them all and love the connections with the people who sent them!
I have dabbled in card making most of my life. But only in the last few years have I been semi serious about it. This week, however, I had the thought “What if greeting cards are little illustrated story books?” and my dabbling is suddenly more focused.
Below are a few of my greeting cards which are now on my Zazzle shop here. Some of my cards have rabbit characters but there are other animals too.
I want to make more cards now, for many reasons. But I realized this week that there’s a big reason: my pleasant memories of whenever my adopted Mom, Dad and I met in a bookstore cafe for lunch.
In addition to looking at the books no visit was complete without a visit to the greeting card section of the store. Dad was a psychiatrist and he used to tell me that sometimes when he had a patient with depression he would prescribe weekly visits to stores that sold greeting cards. He would ask that the patient write down descriptions of the cards that amused them to share in future appointments with him. Bonus points (so to speak) if they bought a card and mailed it to someone.
So yes, I want to make more cards in addition to my other artwork – in the “Hi Mom and Dad. 👋” sense of things as well as for my “help others share their stories” sensibility with which I run my creative business.
(Btw: this reasoning is why I do my fabric designs too)
Anyway you’re the first to see the whole collection of cards I’ve done so far. Plus these below…
Needless to say I’ve been busy this week. Fortunately I made a big batch of my “Simple Sauce” and stored it in a jar in my fridge for quick easy to prepare meals. Naan bread makes such a nice pizza crust: just spread on a spoonful of sauce, chop and add desired toppings then bake in a 425 degree oven.
My “Simple Sauce” recipe is in my kitchen sketchbook Favorites So Far. The whole book can be previewed here and you’re welcome to capture my recipe below.
For one meal my spouse and I were in the mood for bell peppers, onions and olives on the Naan bread crust. Yummy!
Speaking of good things, books and rabbits: I’m starting a new children’s book. One question I get asked “which comes first the art or the words?” and in the case of this new book the art largely came first. Here’s an array of the illustrations I’ve done so far along with my legal pad on which I’m scribbling book text drafts by hand using my fountain pen. More about this project in future posts.
More too about a new painting currently in progress…
Hope your week is full of your favorites too. See you next Monday?
After finishing my Pembral Forgets project I was asked if I would make a fabric design from the leaf pattern I had created for the book Pembral Forgets which was written by Steve Tubbs and illustrated by me – (details here)
So this week I’ve been making a fabric pattern of leaves that I’m calling “Leaves From Pembral” and here’s my process…
First I cut out a 12 inch square area of the original hand stenciled paper I did for the Pembral Forgets book. Carefully I chose an area that wouldn’t have leaves touching the 4 edges of the paper. Then I used acrylic paints and created more stenciled leaves to fill in where there were gaps, trying to make the new design square balanced and interesting.
When the above was dry I “cut up my darling” – to borrow from advice given to writers about editing – and made all 4 outer edges now be on the inside of my 12 x 12 inch square paper. Basically I turn my design inside out.
Next I fill in the new gaps with more stenciled leaves.
Then when that was dry I photographed the finished design, trying to keep the soft creamy look of the original and keep the pattern square with my camera. This is easier said than done. After several attempts I was happy with this image below.
Next I uploaded my digital photos into my laptop and used the Spoonflower system to set up my pattern for a basic repeat…so my pattern will flow across any length of fabric without interruptions.
As I worked on the digital file I was thinking of leaves falling and then laying on a wet sidewalk.
What you see below is a screenshot of my finished pattern as I set it up to be repeated on a “fat quarter” an 18 x 21 inch area.
Now I’m waiting to get a proof sample from Spoonflower which I will approve – or not – before it gets added to my public shop on Spoonflower. https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/sueclancy After that I will tell the person who requested this fabric pattern that it’s there and will hope they’re pleased. In the meantime I hope this blog post will amuse…
I enjoyed playing with leaves in my sketchbook, too, this week – with my rabbits. Another bit of advice for writers is to develop a character and use them to explore ideas and situations instead of creating a new character each time one sits down to write. This technique is most obviously used by mystery novelists who create a character (or two) that repeat over a series of books.
I’ve borrowed this concept for writing and applied it to my fine art and artist books… I have certain motifs and characters – selected species really – which repeat in various ways throughout my projects within a span of time.
In my sketchbook page below I have leaves, books and rabbits. For almost a year now rabbits have been a constant character… (previously I have done series of Dogs and Cats … click on the word Dogs or Cats to see a collection within an artist book)
I posted the above photo on my social media pages and someone asked for an art print of my sketchbook page. So I created an art print of the sketchbook page on my Society 6 shop. The unframed print looks like this (below)
In the evenings I’ve been reading about meditation and, of course, reading a mystery novel. Thinking of little things; leaves, drops of water, ones breath are ways of calming oneself for meditation. Little things; scraps of paper, drops of blood, air quality are often clues in a mystery novel. So I keep thinking of little things…
I broke up a chocolate mint and put it in my hot chocolate. It was a tasty little touch – Yum!
I know it’s not a holiday but little pleasures really do make an ordinary day feel special.
Since I’ve been asked by several people: here’s info about the art media gouache, why it makes me grin and my working cycles with it.
Gouache is a water based paint. It’s more opaque than watercolor. Using gouache feels like spreading soft butter on toast. Applied gouache dries quickly but is easily made moist and workable again. It dries to a matte non sticky appearance which makes it suitable for use in bound sketchbooks, in folded artist books as well as for fine art to be framed. Gouache also reproduces well via various printing mechanisms on fabrics, in printed books and on many other surfaces.
In the studio, because I don’t have to worry about my gouache paints becoming unusable on my palette before I can use them (as is sometimes an issue with acrylics), gouache is suited to my busy life. I call this my gouache and grin cycle.
I prefer to work on multiple art projects at a time in “short bursts” on each project. Rather than count on a long span of uninterrupted time I dash in and work a bit on an art project, then go make lunch or do whatever stuff-of-life or other work matter that needs to be done. Then I cycle back to an art project…
To borrow a sports analogy I just try to advance the ball, my various art projects, a little bit each day rather than doing a project all at once. I try to amuse myself with whimsical art making, aka spreading color, for at least a few minutes every day no matter what else is happening in life. The qualities and attributes of gouache help me to do this, to keep my creative games in play – come heck or high water.
Here’s a series of photos showing my gouache working methods in my sketchbook. (This is also my work method for fine art and other projects.) In the first photo you see my 3 x 5 inch watercolor sketchbook held open with clips. Also pictured from the top left and rotating clockwise: paper towel, peppermint candy model, graphite pencil, 3 watercolor pencils, 2 waterproof ink pens, a water brush and my lidded paint palette with its wells of various dry gouache colors.
In the photo below I begin 3 demo peppermints: the top left mint is sketched in graphite pencil and waterproof ink pens. The bottom left mint is drawn in watercolor pencil only. The mint on the bottom right page was doodled in all of the above; graphite pencil, ink and watercolor pencil. [The quote was just on the sketchbook page I chose to use for this demo.]
So you can see what they look like here in the photo below are two tubes of gouache paints. I like the Holbein Artist Designers Gouache brand best but the Winsor and Newton brand is good too. (There’s a monster called “acryla gouache” also available on the market which I avoid like a character would avoid a flesh eating zombie in a horror film.)
I begin painting by laying down the local color – the general color an item is supposed to be. At this point I don’t worry about shadows or highlights or details. I just get the color shapes down – in this case for the peppermint candies.
I did not squeeze out new paint from my tubes when I began. I got my water brush wet and put a few drops of water on the dried red gouache already on my palette so I can use the newly moistened color. I add a small amount of moisture to a portion of the dried chunk of red gouache until that portion feels like soft butter, then I paint the candy stripes.
Here’s a closer look.
Now I get the general color and shape down for the wrapper in the same method. I put a drop or two of water on my blue gouache color, get my brush damp, dab at the blue paint a second or two to get a portion of it moistened and softened – then I paint.
Now I create the cast shadows using a watery mixture of the red and blue gouache colors. To make the watery mixture on the lid of my palette I dipped my brush on the now moist blue color, dab on an area of the lid, then dab the brush clean on the paper towel, then dipping into the now moist red and adding it to the tiny blue puddle, mixing till it’s a purple color I want for the shadow. Then I add a tiny bit of plain water to the newly mixed purple till it’s a small fingernail size puddle of watery purple – this enables me to do the cast shadows in a faint shadowy way.
Now I do squeeze out a tiny amount of the white gouache from the tube and use it, fresh from the tube, to make the highlights on the candy and wrappers. Note in the photo below how the white gouache can completely obscure the darkest ink lines. This is part of what I love about gouache – any mistake can be covered with the opaque paints. If an edge in a painting needs to be softened or a color edge blended all I need is a wet brush.
Then in a few minutes, perhaps the length of time it takes for a decent sip or two of coffee, when the paint is dry I go back over the paint with ink lines or watercolor pencil lines to snap the details into sharper focus.
Now that I’ve finished painting I leave my sketchbook and my palette open and let them dry completely. I even leave the shadow color mixture on my palette lid to dry. All I will need to do to reuse the mixed color in the future is to get my brush wet and dip in.
Peppermints are one of my guaranteed-to-make-me-grin art subjects that don’t require a lot of time or planning. I’ve learned over years of painting peppermints that different candy makers have their own peppermint candy look. And I don’t mean the wrapper.
Here’s a fabric pattern I did of peppermints for my Spoonflower shop. I used the gouache techniques I describe above to create this pattern. But do you notice how these mints are different from the ones I did in the demo above? Different candy maker… yummy too!
To illustrate what I mean about working in short bursts despite life situations. A hot water pipe burst on our hot water heater recently. (Talk about heck and high water! 🤦♀️) After we got the immediate crisis dealt with I did little quick bouts of drawing as a self calming technique. Also while waiting for plumbers etc restoration crews I doodled and painted in my sketchbook. Gouache makes it easy for me do short bursts of spreading color which makes me smile. And having had a brief grin makes dealing with life much better.
Anyway, there’s a new artist book I’ve done for children called “B Mouse Reads A Book”. In it you can see my original ink and gouache artwork, and how the art media is on folded paper in this video on my YouTube channel. Because this book was meant to be handled in a gallery I used a spray fix varnish to make sure the gouache wouldn’t smear or run.
But since the pandemic hit there’s no going to art galleries to handle or view artist books in person. So I was lucky enough to have “B Mouse Reads A Book” published as an ebook here on Storyberries.com! They also included the book B Mouse is reading too…it’s another artist book I created as part of the B Mouse Reads A Book story…there’s a link at the bottom of the B Mouse book that you can click to see the companion book.
I’m sure you can recognize in the image above the ways I did my combinations of ink and gouache. The video shows how flexible gouache can be when applied on paper bound or folded as pages. The ebook shows how well the nuances of the colors show even as a digital image.
If you look at my portfolio pages you can see my ink and gouache work as both fine art framed in an art gallery setting as well as reproduced in printed books.
That reminds me to tell of another practical matter: if you apply gouache too thickly it can pop or flake off. Especially in a folded or bound paper book. And when scanning or photographing gouache artwork for reproduction a too-thick gouache application can cast shadows unrelated to the artwork subject. So I apply gouache as if I were basting bread with semi melted or melted butter.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and found it helpful for when you try gouache yourself.
See you here next Monday. And in case you’d like to know even more about gouache – here below are a few links to more information about painting with gouache:
It’s election time in the U.S. This year is particularly full of hopes and fears. So I’m focusing on comforts as a topic for my art projects. I’m thinking of the importance of the ability to provide self care, self comfort and to comfort others. To feel ones feelings and to continue on without getting stuck in the feelings.
Here’s a book I illustrated some time ago that I’ve continually found helpful in life – and in my creative life.
In the Dr Bob book there’s discussion of a self-care technique that I find most relevant to my creative life: keeping a list of things that I enjoy thinking about and, when worrying, to deliberately switch my thoughts to one of the things I enjoy thinking about. I’ve found that it’s helpful if at least one of the enjoyed thought topics on my list has gear. Gear; stuff I can buy, look at, use or touch in the real world.
Anyway here’s some items from my personal list of things I enjoy thinking about (in no particular order): fine art, art techniques, art supplies, reading, books, writing techniques, pens, papers, cooking, cooking techniques, food of all kinds, plants, wild animals, house pets, coffee, tea, mugs, cups, coffee urns, tea pots, jigsaw puzzles, playing cards, fabrics, fabric designs, lap blankets….
There are many more items on my list but you get the idea and I got tired of typing.
This strange year, 2020, with its pandemic and, in the U.S., weird political scene, I’ve thought a lot about those topics. As a result I’ve been branching out creatively.
Creating original fine art and one-of-a-kind handmade books for galleries, libraries, public organizations and clients homes and offices has long been my main focus. Well, the pandemic has caused me to adapt my thinking and find ways to put my artwork and books out in the world in ways that people could get them via mail order (or downloads) while at home rather than having to leave home and go to a particular place to see my work.
I still happily work with all of my art galleries and they have adapted to the pandemic as well, delivering and shipping art to clients, doing virtual tours etc. My new work simply augments what work I’ve already been doing with them. For instance people have sought, from my galleries, the original artwork for my books.
Primarily, creating print on demand books and objects has been a way for me to practice my own self care.
Anyway, the result has been the creation of real-life books, fabrics and objects that have been comforting to me as I’ve made them. I’ve been told by other people that they have been comforted by my work too. I have even heard that my work has been given as gifts and the comforts have been spread! I can’t describe adequately how happy that’s made me!
So I’ve been increasingly focused on creating original fine art which leads to creating my artist books on Blurb and also to creating theme related objects on my Zazzle and Spoonflower shops. Then on my portfolio page on my website I’m grouping them together.
For example on my Numpurrs portfolio page you can see images of the original fine art (and the art gallery handling it), my artist book for children titled Numpurrs. Besides info about the printed book there’s a related poster, calendar, jigsaw puzzle and mug. Here below is the Numpurrs mug – wouldn’t it be fun to have Alphabet soup out of this mug?
I’ve also created a new page on my website called “illustrated shorts“. The page has short examples of my thinking of fabric, note cards and coffee mugs as gallery wall spaces, so to speak.
For example here are a few of my illustrated short thoughts about love:
It’s fun, and comforting, for me to think about self care and to create art, books and objects that could be accessible for other people to use for their own self care or to be given to others. So I’m likely to continue such thoughts during the coming weeks as we all prepare for “non-normal” holidays.
Check in again next Monday? In the meantime, please take care of yourself.
This week 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.
It’s barely been a week and Numpurrs on Storyberries.com has been read over 3000 times! Here’s one kind comment:
“Thank you, this is exactly what teachers are looking for, online opportunities during virtual teaching makes teachers lives so much easier. That was perfect timing! And a beautifully illustrated and written book! The weird thing is, I just did a cat drawing lesson for 1st grade. Now we can read the book and learn how to draw a cat!”
So this week quickly filled with additional efforts to help teachers and parents: I also made a poster, a calendar and then a 676 piece jigsaw puzzle too.
Here’s what the poster looks like. It’s big, 23 inches square, big enough to be seen in the backgrounds of online classes.
My copies of the printed book version of Numpurrs also arrived at my studio this week! So I photographed the book and created a portfolio webpage to hold all of my work on Numpurrs in one spot – to help the teachers find things easier – here’s that page https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/numpurrs/
Below are just a few of the photos of the printed book…you can see more on that portfolio page I just mentioned
I’m pleased with how the book turned out! Of course I can nitpick and find things I could have tweaked – that’s always the case with any creation. I think of art making as similar to cooking, you do your best to create a good meal then you say “good enough, let’s eat” and you go on to the next thing. Perhaps you make a note for yourself on that recipe as to what you’d do differently in the future – but you enjoy the meal as it is and you go on.
Speaking of going on: for years now I’ve been regularly jotting short poems in a small 3 x 5 inch book with my fountain pen. Now, as per discussions with the people at Storyberries, I’m working on illustrating some of the poems for a new book. As I wrote my last post I’d thought I’d do more on this new project this week than ended up happening – so more on these illustrated poems in coming posts.
Here’s a look at my little poetry sketchbook with some of the potential to-be-illustrated poems flagged with sticky notes.
I write with a fountain pen because they’re refillable. Fewer plastic bits of discarded pens to end up in the landfill this way. Besides a fountain pen – if you have a good quality one – can be super smooth to write with.
For those who say a nice pen and hand bound book would be “too precious to use” I reply “your thoughts are precious too”. Buy quality supplies and use them with joy. It’s just stuff on Earth here to be enjoyed. (And if you just can’t bear it then buy whatever supplies you will actually use and get your thoughts written down. But remember that you really deserve the best.)
Below is the dragon poem you can see my handwritten draft of in the photo of my book above and the handwritten poem and illustration I got done this week with ink and gouache on nice paper.
More of that kind of thing here next Monday – I hope. Thanks for reading. Have a good week.
For my evening-just-before-bed holiday reading I’m re-reading “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen. Last night I read this:
“Mr. Hurst looked at her with astonishment. “Do you prefer reading to cards?” said he; “that is rather singular.” “Miss Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, “despises cards. She is a great reader and has no pleasure in anything else.” “I deserve neither such praise nor such censure,” cried Elizabeth; “I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things.”
I enjoy reading books and I, too, have pleasure in many things. Sitting and playing a card game with my spouse is one of them. Playing cards with friends and family… so many good memories stem from times around the table, after a meal, with decks of cards, drinks and conversation!
So even though my main theme for my Dec. 7th pop-up event at Vintage Books is readers – stocking stuffer gift items on which I’ve put images from my current Readers fine art series – I had to create some playing cards! Besides a deck of cards will fit into a holiday stocking nicely.
My local bookstore Vintage Books https://www.vintage-books.com/ is the first bookstore to carry my newest book “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” – and in advance of the Nov 1st release day too!! When I was at the bookstore talking with the manager she asked me if I did my art on “stocking stuffer items” and if I would consider doing a pop-up shop for the holiday season – in late November or early December.
Well, I’m a firm believer in the philosophy “take tarts when tarts are passed” so I said “Yes!” and have been busy doing product designs since then! Nice to dust off my old graphic design/product design skills (what I got a college degree in!). Here’s a pic of my new book and a few of the stocking stuffer gift items I’ve gotten so far…
As you can see in the photo I’ve put one of my artworks onto a 252 piece jigsaw puzzle – the finished puzzle size is 11 x 14 but the box containing the puzzle is small enough to fit into a large Holiday stocking. Another painting I’ve put onto the backs of playing cards and … oh, there are many more items still in production.
I’ve been thinking non-stop about what fans of my artwork and my fellow book readers might enjoy finding as gifts in their holiday stocking; bookmarks, drink coasters, art prints, playing cards, calendars… Is there anything I’m forgetting??
Please let me know and I’ll keep busy working on items that may help spread a little love and joy to my fellow literary fans.
And I’ll update you with my progress here first… btw I’m using Zazzle to produce most (but not all) of my designs and have also created a “store” there.