four topic sketchbook keeping

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, ebook, kitchen art, psychogeography, sketchbook, sketchbook suppers, Sustainable creativity, travel art and writing, travelog, travelogue, visual thinking

Oh I’ve had an excellent question asked of me! Here’s the question: “Do you keep separate sketchbooks for different subjects/projects/media or do you use one sketchbook for all sorts of art experiments and ideas?”

My answer:  I used to keep one sketchbook but I found it hard to find the bit of research I needed because I’d have to flip through the whole book to find something.  Now I keep sketchbooks by topic.

Here is one of my “kitchen sketchbooks” – recipe inspired art – where I am inspired to draw by a recipe I’m cooking. This book is 5 x 4 inches in size, sewn binding and paper that can handle ink and water-media.  This way my favorite recipes are all in one spot – and when I have an ingredient I can flip through this one book to find a recipe that I know works and that my family likes.  This sketchbook, additionally, is my “testing ground” for ways to combine food, drink and art together – ways to interpret food/drink artistically.  This sketchbook is also a place where I’ll try new-to-me art media or methods. I’ve been trying gouache lately and I posted a few pages from this book the other day – Here’s what the outside of my current kitchen sketchbook looks like:


I have been working on a new series of fine art paintings with Cats as the main characters. So I have one sketchbook that collects my cat related painting practice and research. In it I’ve been studying cat shapes and experimenting with lines, colors. I’ve also experimented with combinations of collage, ink and water-media. This sketchbook is called “Various Cat Sketches” and is 8.5 x 11 in size, with a sewn binding. Here, below, is what the outside of it looks like. I’ll post more of it’s pages on this blog soon because it will contribute to an upcoming fine art exhibition


Another current sketchbook is my “Running Around Loose” book. This is the sketchbook that fits in my small go-sketching bag and is 3 x 5 inches, with a sewn binding, water-media ready paper in a landscape format. In this book I record my observations of the world around me; places I go, people I see, food or drink I have. It could easily be called a travel sketchbook  but I call it my “running around loose” book because that’s what I try to do as I run around town with this book – be loose and free with my lines, colors and thoughts. Here, below, what this book looks like. I’ll post more of it’s pages here too.  (I’ve posted my last sketchbook like this as an ebook titled “Glad To be Alive” available for download here)


And the 4th topical sketchbook is called “The Forked Tale: thoughts about creative life”.  This one is a hardback book 6 inches tall by 8 inches wide and over an inch thick. In it I’ve collected my thoughts, readings, quotes etc. about this business of being creative.  I’ve shown pages from this book to friends before who enjoyed it and found it helpful. But recently my friend Liesl was over for dinner and asked me a question about art-studio furniture. We kept talking about aspects of living a creative life and eventually I got out this book and shared it with her. She very strongly encouraged me to publish this book. So I will. After all she’d brought a very good wine to dinner. Here, below, what the outside of this sketchbook looks like.


Yes, this method of sketchbook keeping helps me to organize and find things but keeping topical sketchbooks is also helpful when I only have a short span of time to work. I can select a topic and can get right to it because I don’t have to wonder what topic to paint/work on. 

Thanks for the question! I’d not thought to do a blog post outlining this method of mine before!

coffee sketches become fine art

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, artistic inspirations, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, fine art, psychogeography, sketchbook, Sue Draws Dogs, travel art and writing

As you know I’ve been doing “coffee/tea cup research” lately. Here is a recent fine artwork I just finished titled “Café Paix”.  Paix is French for “peace”. I’m sure you’ll notice the cup.


Café Paix by Clancy – hand dyed paper, handmade paste paper and acrylic on cradled board

One day my sweetie and I were on a busy urban street and we ducked into a café for a late brunch. There I was enchanted by the variety of people in the café – as well as outside on the street – and I thought “How wonderful it is to live in a such cosmopolitan region!

In my head I used the word “cosmopolitan” in the sense of “at ease with many different cultures”.  That dovetailed with the café menu (in front of me) which featured coffee drinks and foods from many different areas of the world.  So I made notes in my pocket sketchbook.

Later when I was back at the studio I did this finished sketch – which was a preliminary study for “Café Paix”:


Pierre by Clancy (ink on handmade paper)

The sketch is currently at Caplan Art Designs and “Café Paix” will be there too for future exhibits after it has fully dried.


just looking and artist details

A Creative Life, animals in art, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, psychogeography, published art, Sue Draws Dogs, words and pictures

I’ve recently read a book about Balthus, a Polish – French artist painting in the late 20th century. He was convinced that the biographical details about a painter were not essential to the study of art. He objected to the wordiness of art books and said that a book about his artwork should be a book of pictures not a book of words about pictures.

When someone asked Balthus for biographical details he replied in a telegram:  “No biographical details. Begin: Balthus is a painter of whom nothing is known. Now let us look at the pictures. Regards. B.”

In many ways I share his viewpoint; let the pictures stand alone! Just look! Let each viewer’s own thoughts become the words attached to the art. This is part of why my most recent art book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” is largely wordless. Only 245 words and most of those words are in the very back of the book.

And yet I’m very aware that most people when looking at art also look for something that gives them a clue about what they are looking at – who created this? why? how?

I think some biographical details about the artist can also be helpful clues about the artwork. Art creation is a product of living one’s life and processing it via ones artwork – that includes an artist’s geographical location and era.  For example I came to the art genre of “animals/dogs in art” because of living for a time in Oklahoma where many people assume that climate change is a hoax. Many in Oklahoma have an anthropocentric view of the world, meaning that they see human culture is separate from, above and the whole point of the existence of nature. Humans are the most important being, nature is not important, nature is only for human use.

I did not and do not share that view. I see humans and nature as co-relational. Humans, animals and plants need each other. We are bringing forth the world together.

So I began, over 20 years ago now, to create anthropomorphic artworks depicting a merger of animals and human culture. All species and breeds are included.  Though I have periods when I focus on one species, like I’m doing now with my dogs, my work generally includes a range of life forms.  Even as I’ve worked within the “dogs in art” genre I’ve carefully tried to include a wide diversity of colors and sizes of dogs.  Metaphorically I’m illustrating that we are all in this life together.

Now that I live happily in the Pacific Northwest my artwork has taken on a joy that it didn’t have before. I am still doing my anthropomorphic art-style but my colors, shapes, lines, patterns have changed, my compositions have expanded, there’s more variety/diversity, more humor, there are even more dogs in my artwork and more pleasantness. Here in the culture of the Pacific Northwest there is a celebration of and careful care given to the co-existence of humans and nature. I’ve been learning even more about the relationship between humans and the natural world.  I think some of my thinking is reflected in my new book. In fact I’m not sure I would have created this book if I still lived in Oklahoma…

But enough with the words! Let us now look at a few of the artworks in “Dogs by Sue Clancy” :



looking during lunch

A Creative Life, art commissions, artist book, ebook, psychogeography, sketchbook, travel art and writing

Doing some sketching on location for 2 different projects; one is a fine art commission project that has water and a sailboat in it (and a dog!). The other is a possible new artist book (maybe ebook?) that I spoke of in this “alive and sketching” post. Anyway… here are today’s sketchbook pages …


“Warehouse 23” sketchbook page by Sue Clancy


“sailboat on water” sketchbook page by Sue Clancy

alive and sketching

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, ebook, psychogeography, sketchbook, travel art and writing, travelog, travelogue

I have an ancient Sufi saying posted on my studio wall “Stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive”.  So when I go sketching I’m looking for things in the world that catch my eye, gives me an artistic thought or two – and yes, makes me glad to be alive.

Which dovetails nicely with the Thanksgiving season. I’m glad to be alive and to be able to be an artist – and thankful for living in the Pacific Northwest surrounded by so much natural beauty and so many artistically inspiring places, people, dogs, cats and things… food and drink too…

So I’m flirting with thoughts of publishing my sketchbook as an ebook/artist book. Here are two of the potential pages about a place I hiked called “Hamilton Mountain”.

What do you think?  To publish or not to publish. That is the question to take up after the holiday.


Sue Clancy’s sketch on Hamilton Mountain (pen, ink and watercolor)


Sue Clancy’s sketch of things found on Hamilton Mountain


animals in my art

A Creative Life, animals in art, art commissions, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, Authors, psychogeography, visual story

Last evening I was looking up something in a book called “Drawing Masterclass” and I read this (again): “Animals as subject matter for the visual arts have a longer history than any other subject. The first images drawn by the human race depicted the animals that were hunted for survival [cave paintings]…. There is no period in art when animals have not played a major role.”

In my fine art animals become characters; my creative process is much like the way a novelist creates a character, a compilation of authorial thoughts and observations  – a “collage” of them you might say – merged into one person/character within their story. I create anthropomorphic animal characters because I see humans as part of the natural world and the natural world as part of humanity.  I’m inspired by both nature and culture.

So when I do animal portraits, people are there too.  When I do a portrait of a particular dog, for example, a particular person (someone, or several someone’s I saw in real life) is also reflected.  It becomes a visual story of that animal and that person. I define “story” as a plot where there is some surprise. The surprise in one of my visual stories might be the realization of how a human can be like a dachshund.

For example in my artwork titled “Happy Hour” (see image below) inside I sometimes feel happy and excited like my dachshund Rusty looks when he is bouncing around wagging his tail and dancing for his supper. (Places and objects enter in to my visual story creation too but that’s another discussion.)

My gallery agents often explain to clients that I create (as special commissions) portraits of pets as their pet owners; an imaginative merging of pet and person.  And that’s true.

Here, so you can see what I’m talking about, are some of my animal portraits currently available at either Caplan Art Designs and at Joseph Gierek Fine Art  – please contact each gallery for more details.

chic chicory pattern design

A Creative Life, Art Apparel, Art Licensing, art techniques, artistic inspirations, psychogeography, travel art and writing

Recently, end of September or early October my wife and I went on one of our wander-walks – I had my sketchbook in hand. On Officer’s Row in Vancouver WA I walked through a field full of blue-purple flowers… here are some of the sketches I did that day.


Sue Clancy’s sketchbook page of the overall view of the field on Officers Row.


Sue Clancy’s sketchbook page – details of flowers seen on Officers Row

The field was full of flowers; a patch here was full of blue ones, a patch there was white, another one there was magenta….it reminded me of curling up under/on a color-block quilt having a hot chocolate and reading a good book with a comforting lap cat/dog.

Then my work and life in general went on at a very busy pace and all the while in the back of my mind I was remembering that cozy quilt-like pattern of flowers seen on our walk…and thinking of how best to re-create that comfy feeling within pattern design and how that could be used in my fine art, or as a scarf or…???

Probably after the last chicory flower had faded from the real-life field I finally found time to create a pattern. In my studio I played around, designing several patterns using the chicory flower as a motif. As I worked I thought of several of our friends who garden, who like to go for walks/hikes and the upcoming winter season so I decided to make my pattern design into a scarf. I’m thinking it might be cozy to be able wear “end of summer” flowers during winter.

I used some paper I’d previously dyed and cut out the flower shape with an Xacto knife and glued it together. Then I cut up that just-created flower and re-glued it together in such a way that my finished design will digitally replicate as an overall pattern on fabric.  The last step is to do a bit of detail here and there on the flower petals with my color pencils. Here are photos of two of my multi-step process of pattern design creation:

Here’s what the finished scarf design looks like -and it is available via this link :


Scarf pattern design “Chic Chicory” by Sue Clancy

The pattern seems a bit lighter on the fabric – but that is because it is on a white/sheer type of fabric and the fabric type affects the “look” of the design. I do my best to keep in mind that this will happen when I’m creating my pattern design.

My Chic Chicory pattern turned out nicely … what do you think?



artichoke music sketches

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, psychogeography, sketchbook, travel art and writing

I sketch in order to find out what I want to say. I make fine art, artist books etc. in order to say it clearly. This means I sketch a lot. What I’m looking for when I go walking about with my sketchbook in hand is whatever “catches my eye”.  Often when I do sketchbook work I don’t know at that time what I’ll use it for. I’m just stocking my mental pantry. Other times I go out in the world looking for a particular thing to make sketches of for a project I’m working on.  Whichever it is, later, during a studio work-day I’ll flip back through a filled sketchbook for ideas or resource-images – much like a cook uses a collection of recipes.

Anyway, recently I was on a street in Portland Oregon and I was delighting in all of the dogs with their people. I drew this, first with pencil and then with an ink pen:


Sue Clancy’s sketchbook street scene; people with dogs

As I walked further I passed a store called Artichoke Music which had gorgeous musical instruments that I could see from the window.  I went inside and asked if I could stay a while and sketch. “Why would we say ‘no’ to that? That’d be awesome!” said the guys working at Artichoke Music. So I sketched this (in pencil, then in ink pen):


Sue Clancy’s sketches from Artichoke Music in Portland Oregon

Then I showed the guys at the counter what I’d sketched. “Oh that’s such fun!” they said and then they pointed out another delightful area in the store – so I drew this:


More of Sue’s sketches in Artichoke Music

I promised them that I’d post my sketches to their Facebook and Twitter pages – so I’m doing that now. Thanks again Artichoke Music for letting me hang out and draw!!! You guys are awesome!!!

Followers of this blog, and my artwork in general, will probably not be surprised to hear that I’m now thinking a lot about dogs, and musical instruments…





seeing art in autumn leaves

A Creative Life, Art Apparel, art exhibit, art gallery, artistic inspirations, fine art, pattern design, psychogeography, sketchbook, travel art and writing, travelog, travelogue

I’ve 2 different one-woman art exhibits already scheduled for 2017 – and already there’s discussion of another exhibit for 2018. So I’ve been taking walks to gather inspiration.  Which means lots of sketchbook work, doodling and experimenting with pattern designs. Here’s a sketch I did along the River-walk in Vancouver…


Sue Clancy’s sketchbook page; ink and watercolor done on location as she walked.

Also in my sketchbook I did some ink and watercolor drawings of some of the fallen leaves during that same walk. You can see that sketch along with a pattern-design tile I was working on in this photo here:


Sue Clancy’s sketchbook page and a pattern design “tile” she was creating using cut handmade paper.

And here are photos of a pocket square, a scarf and a tote bag I created using my “Autumn Leaves” pattern design as part of my art apparel collection:

Now I’m thinking and re-thinking this overall-leaf motif and how it may relate to my paper-making techniques. I’m also plotting how to use this design – or variations on it – in future fine artworks.

Between now and the actual paper creation there will be more walks and more sketches of leaves (and probably other things).  I saw some beautiful ginkgo tree’s downtown the other day…

Yes, this is a long-term project.  But, don’t worry, there will be breaks for lunch.


Sue’s art speech text

A Creative Life, animals in art, Art Apparel, art commissions, art exhibit, art gallery, collage, fine art, psychogeography, visual story, words and pictures

On Oct 1st I gave a short talk during my fine art opening at the Daily In The Pearl arranged by Caplan Art Designs.  Since I’d recently written a blog post titled “on writing and giving speeches” I thought it only fair to share with you the text of my speech along with photos. This is a rough approximation of what I said as I can’t re-create the ad-libs and audience participation – it was a fun lively evening! Anyway here goes:

Speech given Oct 1st 2016 by Sue Clancy

Thank you for coming!

I create mixed media handmade paper collage.  I start off with white handmade paper and I give that paper color and pattern using a variety of art techniques; I dye the paper, I stencil it, I print on it, I marble it and use a variety of other methods. This is the “mixed media” aspect of my work.

Here are a few scraps of papers I’ve done so you can handle them, along with a postcard containing photos of me in action.


Paper samples Sue Clancy handed out during her speech; the paper on the far left is an example of the white paper she starts out with – the other 3 are examples of color/pattern she’s given the white paper


Postcard Sue made, and handed out during her speech, that shows photos of her giving paper color and pattern.

Once the papers are dry I take an X-acto knife and cut shapes out of them. Then I take the cut-paper-shapes and glue them together to make my art images. There are layers of paper glued on top of other papers. Yes, tweezers are involved.

In “The Read Hat” I cut the chihuahua’s head, 4 paws and tail out of a medium brown paper – then other smaller shapes of darker/lighter brown papers were cut to make his face. The clothes the dog wears was cut out of a green dotted paper, the books out of yellow papers – and so forth – until the image was finished.

That’s my construction method.


“The Read Hat” By Sue Clancy 14 x 11 x 2 inches Hand dyed paper, handmade paper, hand stenciled paper, found paper and acrylic on cradled board

My ideas and the pattern designs within them come from my life. Take “The Read Hat” as an example again; 5 different life experiences went into this concept.

  • I saw some wet, weathered flyers stapled on some telephone poles during a walk on Hawthorne Street in Portland Or. the pattern of letters overlaying each other transparently made me think about the clarity and legibility of information. (This inspired the background of this artwork.)
  • I met a Chihuahua who has the habit of collecting most things found at floor level onto his dog bed. Yet he still showed a preference for some things over others.  So I began thinking about how I have to select which information in the world to spend time trying to understand since it is impossible to “collect all” the available information.(This inspired my choice of a Chihuahua character)
  • On a trip to the Oregon Coast I drove through Oregon wine country. The hills rise and fall so in several places I had an almost aerial view of the Oregon vineyards. (That inspired the green dotted pattern the Chihuahua is wearing.)
  • The “aerial view” of an Oregon vineyard reminded me of my favorite self-indulgence; I like to put on my pj’s early of an evening, have a glass of wine and read a book for an hour or so before bed. (This is why the character is wearing pj’s and not some other sort of outfit)
  • When I indulge myself this way I often take off my hearing-aids so as to completely relax and focus on what I’m reading. My deafness made me think of how important language is as a framework for understanding the world. Language is a container, a hat, that holds knowledge.

This is generally how I work: pattern designs become symbols in a visual story. When I do special commissions I use this visual story method too – only instead of my life experiences inspiring the pattern designs and story symbols it’s your life experiences that do that.

The titles I give my artworks, the “blurbs” and statements I write about them – or about my  exhibits – are clues to my personal thoughts.  But my use of pattern design symbolically and my use of the Animals in Art genre (it’s a classic genre of fine art like ‘still life’ or ‘landscape painting’) takes my work beyond the personal and into the mythological story or fable.

So this summer when a San Francisco company contacted me about licensing my designs for use as scarves, bags and other apparel I saw a chance to extend my ‘pattern designs as symbols’ concept into the real world. You can see my full apparel collection here:

Using the same pattern design in multiple symbolic ways – in different fine artworks, in art apparel and in artist books – is my way of thinking about aspects of nature, culture and other things in contemporary life. Thank you!

Here’s a photo of me giving the above speech.


Sue Clancy giving a short speech about her artwork