Chapter 3: Readings From The Heart

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I’ve been asked how I manage projects, like my “Readings From The Heart” exhibit, over a long duration. Half jokingly I replied “one bite at a time”. My joke is in reference to this saying I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall.

Seriously though when starting I create a general big picture, a kind of map for the entire project. Or, if you prefer, an outline. When I design a long project I do a hybrid blend of the two writing techniques: outlining and seat-of-pantsing. I apply these writing technique concepts to fine art making. I described in my last post what my big picture became for this exhibit that opens this week; the exhibit statement and the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. Here’s a few photos of the printed catalog. An ebook version is also available.

But when I began, more than 8 months ago, my big picture for this project was extremely vague. It was akin to a map of a forest without many details. It was akin to a book jacket blurb, with barely a teaser of what might be inside. It was akin to a writer’s outline with whole sections labeled ‘more research needed’.

My big picture map/ loose outline, was handwritten on a legal pad. Vague as it was it still served as a starting point. I keep a notebook/file box for each project so I can store all of my notes in one spot for easy updating and consultation as I work by the seat of my pants and a lots of “Very Small Goals” (VSG) for the project.

Then with the vague map in hand I identified some Very Small Goals (VSG) that would help me start and proceed on my project. These VSG’s can be as small as ‘buy a new art boards by Friday’. The VSG’s change as the process develops. The trick with VSG’s is to make them absurdly small, easily achievable and very specific – including what and when. It’s important to also find some way make each VSG fun.

I think of the creative life as an Eco-system rather than an Ego-system – what’s important is participating, showing up and finding ways to keep things fun. I can’t stress enough the importance of playing and keeping things fun. That makes creativity over a long project sustainable. Here’s another saying I have thumbtacked to my studio wall.

As I proceed to work I know many changes to my big picture/exhibit design will happen. I also know I don’t live in the big picture. I move organically back and forth from big, medium and small pictures of a project. It’s okay to be uncertain, to experiment and play. I just remember to update my big picture map as I have new thoughts. Slowly over time the picture map comes into focus. A project also changes as life happens.

In this case I began my Readings series well over 8 months ago. Then the pandemic happened and threw a monkey wrenchs in my plans. For example I had to suddenly adapt the way I was artistically inspired: to change from being inspired by things I experienced out in the world to a stay-at-home life, things that I read about or only happened in my imagination.

So to think through how to cope with the pandemic and quarantine I reread Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit, which I had created some time back, about mental health coping skills and wrote notes, drew pictures in my sketchbook in order to think.

I also worked daily in my sketchbook on the topic of how to adapt finding books to read, and the development of one’s mental life to a stay at home quarantine situation. Eventually this book was published as Another Sketchbook in order to share my entire process.

Being in quarantine meant cooking at home more so I consulted our Favorites So Far book. This is a sketchbook full of recipes that were enjoyable ways to feed body and mind. You could say that my work on these artist books/sketchbooks is the medium picture, the inset details within the bigger map, the more developed areas in the outline.

A look at the original sketchbook page which is included in Favorites So Far

All of this sketchbook work inspired my fine art, where I developed specific thoughts with ink and gouache on board. You can almost think of the fine art as the most visible leaves and fruits on the artist book “trees”. In the exhibit catalog I’ve tried to show the connections between the artist books and the fine art I created.

Sometimes, as the pandemic continued, the fine art on the topics of reading, cooking and thinking felt too serious. Needing some self comfort and to have some fun I began drawing portraits of dogs and cats. In order to organize these dog and cat drawings I decided to make them into a children’s book as a gift for some kids in our friends’ lives. Many of my adult friends enjoy my dog and cat portraits so I decided to share each pet portrait on my Instagram page as I finished it in hopes of cheering my friends as I created the kids book.

The finished artwork became an artist book titled Alphapets and was picked up by Storyberries.com. A sequel Alphapets Too followed. Many stories begin with love and an alphabet – so this portrait project felt fun, relaxed and like a small picture, a detailed map insert or a sample bit of text to be fitted into an outline. (In fact, I spoofed some of the pet portraits within my larger fine art paintings.) Here are the pages in the big picture book Readings From The Heart that tell about the smaller picture of Alphapets and how it fits in.

The original artwork for both Alphapets and Alphapets Too is on exhibit at the Aurora Gallery during August and September. More details about those projects here with lots of pictures of the artwork.

When all of the artist books and all of the artworks were finished I reread my notes and used those to create the exhibit statement I spoke of in my last post. I also used these notes to create the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. That was the very last thing I did for the August and September exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars, the Aurora Gallery and Caplan Art Designs. Well, the last thing besides the framing and art delivery.

Below is a photo of all of my artist books that relate to my Readings From The Heart exhibit. Additionally I’ve created a webpage with all of this projects more than 20 fine art pieces and details about each of the 3 exhibits here.

All 6 artist books related to the Readings From The Heart fine art exhibit

During this time period I was interviewed for a Doodlewash feature about my work in which I describe my working methods, the materials I use, how my daily work routine goes, images of my artwork, etc – you can see that here: https://doodlewash.com/sue-clancy-artist-whimsical-visual-stories/

Here’s a picture of me working in a sketchbook

Clancy at work in a sketchbook

I hope this look at how I work on long projects has been amusing for you. The exhibits open this week. Many of my upcoming Instagram posts will likely be about that. And I will update the above mentioned portfolio pages too.

Then next Monday when I post here I hope to be beginning a new long-ish project; an illustrated poem for a children’s book titled Numpurrs. I found I quite enjoyed the serialized posts I did for Alphapets and Alphapets Too. So I look forward to doing that again!

pop-up pet portraits

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Dec 7th during my pop-up shop at Vintage Books https://www.vintage-books.net/ from noon to 4 I’ll be doing some “live drawing”; I’ll work in my sketchbook and if anyone wants a small portrait of their pet I’ll happily do one using a phone photo as inspiration.

PortraitPractice

These portraits I’ll do at the pop-up shop are what I call “quickie sketches” – less complex than the portraits I’m often commissioned to do via the Caplan Art Design Gallery or the Joseph Gierek Fine Art Gallery – more like what I do in my sketchbook and still a fun gift for the holiday.  Each portrait I do will take about 20 minutes more or less.  A command performance art piece! (What fun!!!)

Since I’ll be doing these portraits on-site at the Vintage Books bookstore I’m currently in the process of testing my portable art kit to make sure I’ll have everything I need.  A dear friend let me come to her house with my art kit and do a practice session – on her kitchen table – with a pic of her dog on her phone! (pictured in this post)

I’m using my ink pens, my Pentel Water-Brushes (to minimize the need for a water source) color pencils and my gouache colors on handmade paper. During the practice session I discovered I need to pack a few more items – like more paper towels, some wax paper… –  so I’ll practice some more between now and Dec. 7th!

A Readers World

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For your amusement here is a collection of a few artworks in “A Readers World”, my one-person fine art exhibit opening Thursday, Sept 5 at Caplan Art Designs. http://www.caplanartdesigns.com/

I’m playing with the interconnectedness of life; the ways imaginative stories flow out into the readers world. And vice versa of course. Art can stir life. And life can stir art.

As I created these artworks, I thought of how a story is actions mixer. For example, each of these pieces contain ingredients from my experiences, the “actions” I’ve seen as I’ve lived my life, put into the cocktail shaker of my imagination.

Enjoy!

And yes, if you recognize aspects of a person, a pet, a place or a thing and wonder if…. the answer is probably “yes”! (It’s sort of like the “Easter Eggs” that can be found in some films.)

Anyway, if you look at some of my recent blog posts you can see more details of the ingredients of life that I mixed together to make each particular visual story.

Thanks for reading and (ahem) “reading”!

feature article in The Columbian about my art

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Here’s a link to an article written by Scott Hewitt for The Columbian about my art exhibit “Dear Readers” that is currently at Burnt Bridge Cellars! And a picture of the front page of the newspaper with a bit of my artwork on it and pictures of the other 2 pages.  I was relieved to see that my artwork reproduced so well in print. Even though by now I know very well how to create images for reproduction I still breathe a sigh of relief when I see them looking good in glorious color print. Anyway, here’s the newspaper link all spelled out: https://www.columbian.com/news/2019/jul/18/vancouver-artists-ties-together-dogs-books-in-whimsical-ways/

DearReadersColumbianArticleP1A

Both gouache paints and acrylic paints reproduce well (even in newsprint!) but to my eye the gouache reproduces best of all. But then gouache was originally created for use in illuminating manuscripts back in the days, around the 16th century, when all “books” were hand written, hand illustrated and hand bound – one at a time.

Acrylic, a medium that originated in the late 1940’s, tends to be shinier and more difficult to photograph and thus get a good reproduction quality image.

Have I mentioned lately that I really like gouache??

Dear Readers on view and my art opening jitters remedy

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All of the 28 artworks for my Dear Readers exhibit have been delivered to Burnt Bridge Cellars now – and hung. Over on my Instagram page you can see a fun pic of the curator looking at a table full of my artwork deciding what art goes where.  Here, just above the wine taps the winery uses to fill wine growlers, is the perfect place where the curator chose to hang my painting “Party Pointers”:

PartyPointersOverTapsI’ll try to post other views of the exhibit – most likely on Instagram – but don’t hold your breath for many more posts from me about Dear Readers – because I’ll be getting started on my tried and true opening party jitters remedy: getting on with other art projects.

Too often, early on in my art career, I had the “what if I throw a party and nobody comes” jitters during the week between art delivery and the opening party. That wasn’t helpful. Quickly I learned that starting on new artwork well before the official opening  for an exhibition is the best exhibit-opening-jitters and general exhibit-up-and-running-I-feel-naked-now remedy. My blog posts, from here on, are likely to reflect new projects I’m working on.  For additional views and information about my Dear Readers exhibit – which will run from June through the end of July – please watch the various Burnt Bridge Cellars social media pages.

Now that the Dear Readers exhibit is hung all that needs to be done, from my point of view, is to do laundry, dress reasonably and show up at the opening party June 7th. More details about the opening party, including the chef’s menu here.  So I’m focusing now on sharpening pencils, taking inventory of the art supplies, looking at my sketchbooks and starting new things.

Thank you again for all of your support and encouragement as I have worked on my Dear Readers exhibit!

 

opening story stuff

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I find that with each art exhibit I learn more about my own work. Last night, during the opening party for “Story Stuff” at Caplan Art Designs, I had multiple questions about my art techniques – in addition to conversations about the content within my artwork. As a result I realized that I’m an ancient art technique nerd. Many of my works in this exhibit utilize art techniques originating in the 19th century and earlier. I didn’t consciously set out to use so many old techniques – handmade paper, paper dying, and gouache to name a few – they just suited my content as I created it. Several different people commented that they thought my use of old techniques made my work “ethereal”.

Wow! New thoughts to think – and thank you to all of my fans for that! Thank you for all the stimulating conversations!

Quite a crowd ebbed and flowed throughout the evening. Here’s a photo from one of the moments. I’m wearing a red shirt.

What a fun evening!  Now, back to the studio to make more art!

angles we have on things: a conversation with clancy published in the salmon creek journal 2018 issue

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Because I’ve been asked to I’m including in this blog post the entire interview with me for the Salmon Creek Journal 2018 issue titled “Angles We Have On Things: A Conversation with Sue Clancy” by Amanda Flynn. I asked permission to post this and it was generously granted. (The people at the Salmon Creek Journal – SCJ – magazine love you!)

Salmon Creek Journal, a literary journal, is a publication of the Washington State University Vancouver and is generally available around campus and a few other places in the Pacific Northwest. (Yes, it’s very like a limited artist book production!) When I mentioned online that this interview coming out I was contacted by fans of my work who live in far-from-the-PNW places, Ireland, England, New Zealand and Australia, asking me to make it accessible to them. So here goes.

Here’s what the printed 9.5 tall x 8.5 wide x .5 inch thick magazine looks like with my coffee cup beside it:

SCJcoverCoffee72

The interview is primarily about “Heroes’ Journey”, a public art piece I did for WSUV at the end of 2017 – and also a conversation about living the creative life.  My artwork is reproduced handsomely in the magazine but since I can I’ll include the digital file of “Heroes’ Journey” here:

HeroesJourney72

And below is a series of photos of pages 94 through 101 that make up the interview.  I’ve photographed the pages rather than re-type the text of the interview because I think the visual layout and the flow of images and text are an intrinsic part of the interview. I’m thinking the photos are large enough that you’ll be able to zoom in and be able to read but in case you prefer to have a pdf file (at a higher resolution) you can freely download that here – SalmonCreekJournalInterview

Pg94n95r72Pgs96n97r72Pg98n99r72Pg100n101r72Amanda Flynn did an excellent job with the interview questions – they were fun questions for me to think about and answer, she was fun and easy to work with – and I’m proud to have been a small part of this magazine issue. I thank her and the current SCJ editor Alex Duffield for permission to post this (and I thank them both, and the SCJ staff, for loving my fans with me!).

Of course the magazine has a lot more to offer than just the stuff about me and my work. I’ve enjoyed a number of the poems, essays and photographs by artists like Cory Blystone, Jehoon Jung, Richard Boneski III and Joseph Colombo and many others. Like an artist book this Salmon Creek Journal issue is more than just a collection of random entries, it builds to whole concept, the form and content are symbiotic, with the magazine becoming an art object in its own right.

I’m hoping that eventually the staff at SCJ will create a digital version of the entire 2018 edition so that you’ll have access to more of the work. They did a digital version of the 2017 issue on their website here – so I have reason to hope. [Update: They have now done the digital version!! You can see it here: http://www.salmoncreekjournal.com/salmon-creek-journal-2018/ ]

Thank you again to Amanda Flynn, Alex Duffield, the SCJ staff and everyone at WSUV for this delightful opportunity! And thank you, my dear fans, for your interest in my work and your desire to see this interview! I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

(Oh, and for additional amusement, here’s the post I did the day back in February that the interview actually happened – https://sueclancy.com/interview-about-my-public-art-at-wsu-vancouver/)

 

 

 

 

 

 

community creatures curated

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

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

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

self portrait as a wicked book

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Several of my artist books are in a permanent collection at Bainbridge Island Museum of Art and will be in a new exhibit, in March 2018, titled “Artist’s Books – Chapter 13 – Lyricism And Laughter”!

Here are a few photos of one of my books in the exhibit. It’s titled “Self Portrait As A Wicked Book”. I made it with handmade paper, hand-marbled paper, ink… and two original limerick poems.

The poems, on each side, are:

There was a young lady in Linen

who really loved laughter and sinnin’

She made wicked books that if given a look

you’d see that they’re often quite winnin’

——————

The lady in Linen was known,

for the books she is said to have sewn.

But when very hard pressed she began to protest

“Oh come now it’s quite over blown!”

 

When I exhibit my artist books I’m asked to write statements about them

Here, below, is what I wrote about “Self-portrait…”

Artist statement about the work:  By personifying herself as an open book – (or more precisely, as the linen thread binding the books within this book) –  with original limericks and pop-up book elements the artist pokes fun at self-styled “moral” groups who personify inanimate objects; books, movies and other art objects by describing them as “immoral”, “wicked” or “sinful”.  By writing “clean” limericks the artist is poking fun at the idea that a poetic form like a limerick could be defined as a “naughty” art.  An object or art form is just that, an object or technique – what people do with it may have a good, bad or neutral effect. But even the effect depends on the viewer’s perspective.  Thus “Self Portrait as a Wicked Book” is enclosed in a hand-marbled envelope – implying that the contents could be hidden from view, that the viewer has a choice to view it or not. The book is intended to be displayed accordion style so that the viewer can see it from different angles of their own choosing.  The textual reference within the limerick to “overblown” refers to the ways self-styled “moral” groups would ascribe moral qualities to the entire personhood of an author as a result of one written object the author had created.  The content also refers – both textually and by using colorful marbling and pop-ups – to the ways that censorship (or a “wicked” designation) actually increases interest in the object banned.

Artist’s back story for this book: A religious segment of the Oklahoma population has a penchant for banning books and a history of doing so.  To name two dramatic examples;  In 1997 the book “The Tin Drum” by Gunter Grass  and the movie by the same name was banned by Oklahoma City in such a way that the banning received national attention; Oklahoma City police went to the houses of adults, over the age of 21, who had rented the movie and seized it.  In 2005, the year I made “Self Portrait As A Wicked Book”, the Oklahoma House of Representatives banned all books – for children and adults – that had references to gay characters or gay people.  Around that time period I remember noticing that (in Oklahoma) the commercial bookstores “gay book sections” got smaller and were hidden the back corner of the store.  Books that questioned religion, or discussed censorship in anything but a positive light were also few and far between.  There was a general perception – as evidenced by what was offered on library or bookstore shelves and what wasn’t, what books were reviewed in the Oklahoma media and what ones weren’t – that there were “good” books and there were bad, sinful, “wicked” ones – and this one group of self-styled “moral” people would tell you which books were which and few people in Oklahoma dared (or even thought) to question that group.

community creatures running loose at the Anstine Gallery

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The art was delivered to the Anstine Gallery this morning. The snow I’d worried about in my last post wasn’t a problem! (Whew!) The Anstine Gallery is located in a government building in Vancouver so I’m doing what I often do – trying to make people in serious places laugh.

Adults in general, I find, tend to be focused on day-to-day problems and people in certain professions; in the medical field, in law and in city or county government, in addition to having the regular allotment of adult-hood type responsibilities have entire work-days filled with problem-solving.

So with this exhibit – titled “Community Creatures” I wanted to share humorous artwork that was based on what is, in my opinion, working well in Vancouver.

A community is made up of its social vitality. The physical structures of the place; sidewalks, multi-use buildings, zoning laws, environmental policies, parks, public art and so forth all impact – in a behind the scenes way – the social vitality of a place. I see the city/county as doing well because of what I observe when I “run around loose”.

Where we most often see, or are most easily aware of, social vitality is in the small businesses, I mean the honest-to-goodness personally owned business – where the owner actually works there.  So that’s where I started – I’ve recorded my experiences in my sketchbook of running around loose in Vancouver, then I created characters (the ‘creatures’) and a fine-art-visual-story that transformed my real-life sketches into a metaphoric or literary depiction of an element of life in Vancouver.

Here are a series of sketches paired with the artworks. I’m sure you’ll be able to see what relates to what.

Naturally there is crossover between the different sketchbook pages and each finished art piece. The above is just a sample. You can download my entire “Running Around Loose – Vancouver WA” sketchbook in ebook form here:  https://sueclancy.com/product/running-around-loose-vancouver-wa-edition-1-by-sue-clancy/