All 4 of these books are from my sketchbook keeping practice. All are about ways to take care of ourselves and others. The 2 book that are most obviously from my sketchbooks, and are also about finding comfort during difficult times, say “sketchbook” on the cover.
From the Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit I learned that when in a difficult situation (like a pandemic) that’s beyond your control a strategy for dealing with it is to recognize the reality and the feelings – “I don’t like it” – but refrain from getting stuck there. Acknowledge what’s going on but then go on to find something you can enjoy despite the situation. In my sketchbook “Another Sketchbook” I tried to practice this.
For example the above sketchbook page says “eventually things will get better, in the meantime here are some drawings.”
That pretty well sums it up my way of coping.
More of the coping skills I practiced in a sketchbook format – and in the kitchen – were cooking related. Having a book of reliably good favorite dishes has been a solace.
A pot of soup cooking on the stove, good hot beverages and fun books to read really do restore my psyche. I find it helpful to remember this and deliberately revel in it.
So this week I started my Home Hare Care series again. This series celebrates the comforts of home. I had begun this series back in March 2020 during the first official lockdown. Now that my home state of Washington has sensibly begun another lockdown… it’s Home Hare Care season again.
So instead of the slaying dragons mode of response to feelings and difficulties I’m actively choosing a kinder more gentle way of responding.
It’s an “I see you” recognition of the dragon and then using calming techniques to soothe one’s self and peacefully cohabitate with the dragon.
So I drew a dragon, gave it a book to read and made a fabric pattern on my Spoonflower shop. Nice dragon, calm dragon, comfy cozy dragon, rest on this fluffy soft pillow dragon…😁
Since hot beverages feature on my list of soothing comforts it seems sensible to create a series of mugs. I’m calling it my Odd Mugs collection on my Zazzle store. I pretended the sides of mugs were sketchbook pages and reproduced some pages from Another Sketchbook.
See you here next Monday? In the meantime please take care of yourself and keep reading, cooking, drawing and doing whatever you do that’s soothing.
This week I thought about the importance of trying things. So I’ve reread my poetry sketchbook for poems on that topic.
As I mentioned in my last post I’m working on a new children’s book for Storyberries.com titled Patch La Belle. As I work on this book I’m trying several new things but chiefly I’m trying to group many poems and illustrations together with a few themes as organizing factors. This is different from what I’ve done in the past where I did one poem with multiple illustrations as an entire book – as you can see on my portfolio page.
Anyway, here’s the pages I selected from my poetry sketchbook this week:
And below are the finished pages that I hand wrote and illustrated using ink and gouache. I use waterproof ink pens from jetpens.com on smooth hot press watercolor paper. I like the Holbein brand of gouache colors because they’re smooth and have strong pigments.
The watercolor paper I’m using is off-white and I hope that won’t be a problem when it comes to reproducing these pages. But I like the tender nostalgic feel of this paper and will endeavor to keep this soft tone in the final book. We’ll see how it goes. This is part of the risk of trying new things…
If I’ve posted the above video correctly you’ll be able to see part of my poetry book collection; books written by many other people, some famous, many not so familiar. My collection is in my dining room where I have breakfast and sketch. I find it soothing to read a short poem or story to start my day. I also have a collection of books containing short stories in the same room but this post is about poetry…so…
When it comes to writing my own poems I like to consult “The Book Of Forms” by Lewis Turco – pick a short poetry format, like limericks or couplets then think of a topic like “trying things” and play with related words and images. Some poems turn out okay, others don’t…the key thing, I think, is the willingness to write badly and trust that I’ll survive. So far that’s been true. And now after several years of regularly writing poems in my poetry sketchbook I’m able to reread it and find a few poems that are fun to illustrate and potential material for a new artist book.
Here’s a mantra I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall
So I plan to keep working on Patch La Belle this week too. Will I see you here next Monday? Hope so. And I hope you enjoy whatever creative projects you’re working on this week too.
I’ve 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.
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.
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!
The purpose of art, in my opinion, is to cheer people and help them through stuff. My creative challenge during a pandemic has been how to share art during stages of quarantine.
In my last post I described how I’m doing three fine art exhibits in two states, in August and September, during this pandemic. Normally art exhibits are large-gathering social events. The gathering part is canceled but the exhibits will go on. All of us are just being creative about it. One of my solutions to the how-to-share problem has been to create artist books that can be shipped directly to you from the printer. My goal with these exhibits has been to be practical and amusing… and I think artist books help me do that.
One of the books I’ve made is an exhibit catalog, Readings From The Heart, that has the big picture, so to speak, of all of my exhibits. I also created the tiny picture, two alphabet books for children.
And in between there are three of my other artist books that also relate to my exhibit – and to coping with a pandemic:
In total I’ve made 6 artist books to help cheer you that relate to my recent artwork. Poking about on my website www.sueclancy.com gives you access to everything – including some free ebooks I’ve playfully half hidden on my site.
In typical times when I exhibit art I write a short statement about it. The statement is used by the gallery for promoting the exhibit. In pre-pandemic times the statement would also be put on the gallery wall to serve as an explanation of my motivation for all of the art. People would walk up and read it. I would also be at the opening parties answering questions and talking with people. But since that’s not happening this year I put it all in my books – but in a much less formal way.
Even so here’s what I wrote for this exhibit spanning three galleries and two states: “Readings from the Heart – It’s been a strange pandemic. Until recently I drew in my sketchbook from what I would see in the real world as I “ran around loose” in Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest. The pandemic altered that. As I stayed home, I began drawing people and animals more directly from my heart; from memory and imagination. This led to acknowledging that I deeply missed the local coffee shops, the winery, the pubs, the great the library, the bookstores, the museums, the gardens, the zoo… So, I began to experiment with how to adapt what it was that I enjoyed out in the world to this new “at home” life. This exhibit, and the artist books that accompany it, are my heart and mind’s adaption process.”
Because I have more space in my various artist books I went into more intimate details of what I was thinking and feeling – including cooking recipes and self-therapy techniques. I used a more conversational tone in my books as if you and I were chatting at an opening.
The galleries – Aurora Gallery – Burnt Bridge Cellars – Caplan Art Designs – will have photos and possibly video from my exhibits on their various social media and websites. Of course I’ve been sharing online too. Speaking of – here below is more of my artwork that relates to the topics within my artist books mentioned above.
As you can tell food, drinks and books are themes. I find it a useful mental health coping skill to be able to focus on small pleasures, to be able to experience subtle enjoyments.
You can see much more of the artwork from my exhibits on my portfolio page. I hope it all makes you smile at least a little.
Here’s a pic of me working in gouache and ink on the largest painting.
I’ve been working on a large painting and posted a pic of me at work on my Instagram page. A friend asked me to explain my symbolism when I finished it …so here goes:
First the painting. It’s titled “The Way Of All Fresh (Food)“. The size is 36 by 24 inches and I used ink, gouache and color pencil to make it.
As evidenced by recent posts of my sketchbook pages I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the life of the mind. I’ve also been reading classic fiction on the topic: “Stoner” by John Williams, “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin and “The Way Of All Flesh” by Samuel Butler.
When creating fine art I like to use symbolism that originates in literature and mythology as a way to orient myself in order to create a visual story.
In this case Butler’s novel had me thinking, as I read, of the ways mental development, new learning – like love – can sneak up on us, and yet it’s something that we process daily. The challenges and necessity of purposefully participating in one’s own mental life dominated my thoughts – especially after I finished reading Butler. I thought of how the maintenance of one’s mind is similar to the maintenance of one’s physical body.
With that as a bare bones thesis I sought, and selected from literary history, symbols with which to construct my visual story:
Lizards represent inner life, taking time to reflect. (I also remembered a quote from the children’s book author Madeleine L’Engle “Love is a funny thing, shaped like a lizard, that runs up and down and tickles your gizzard.”)
Celery, in Ancient Greek writings, represents victory and a warding off of evil spirits. Parts of the celery plants were woven into garlands, crowns, and given to the winner of sporting events. They were also woven into funeral wreaths.
Parsley stands for useful knowledge, joy and feasting. (Practical stuff of life.)
Apples have a long literary history signaling love, knowledge, self-awareness, attainable joys….all elements of life that have been, in some stories, forbidden or used to trick (think Snow White and the 7 dwarves). So I see an element of good critical thinking skill development in an apple but I digress.
Bulldog represents tenacity, courage, willingness to do the right thing.
Cat represents curiosity.
In addition to playing with symbols I’ve also hidden what’s known in the movie and gaming industries as “easter eggs“. Some of the eggs I hid are:
The cat portrait in this painting is a spoof of my own artwork, i.e. there exists an artwork by me that’s similar to this painting within the painting. (There’s also a jigsaw puzzle I designed with this cat artwork.)
I’ve waved “hello” to many of my friends – the kitchen furniture waves to my interior decorator, visionary friend, Carolyn. The cutting board high-fives Kevin, a friend who’s a talented woodworker. The lizards are a shared giggle with my friend Kim. The socks are a howdy to Frank and Elaine. The purple shirt is there because of Beverly, Kris H and Erica M. The book and the heart-art are for my spouse – as always.
Since the lizards represent time to reflect I’ve included a clock near the heart and brain artwork with a special time on it. Most days by 10:40 a.m. I have spent time writing and drawing in my sketchbook. One of my methods to cultivate my own inner life. (And yes, I post these sketchbook pages on Instagram and make artist books from them. You can see some of the books here.)
Oh, almost forgot, there’s a yummy celery, apple and parsley salad recipe that goes with this painting too.
There now. I’ve told most, but not all, of the punchlines. Enjoy!
Living in the Pacific Northwest I see readers at the gym, at bus stops, in parks, sitting outside on benches, in the cafes, wineries, pubs and bistros – just about everywhere I look a book is in someone’s hand. Needless to say the library is a popular place as is the beloved locally owned bookstore, Vintage Books.
Below are a few of my sketches of people I’ve seen out and about. Along with quotes and musings.
Because I’ve been depicting people reading so much in my fine art it’s probably no surprise that in my sketchbook I’ve been drawing people reading. Anyway, here’s a few more drawings from my sketchbook:
Lately, however, I’ve thought that there’s perhaps a value in showing my sketchbook pages, putting a human face, so to speak, on creative doings and beings. I’m even thinking I might gather some of these into a book. What do you think? Do you like seeing my sketches too?
My last post featured my sketchbook pages and those sketches added to my reading in Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut were combined in my mind becoming this fine art piece I’ve titled “Slaughterhouse Chives”
If you saw my last post you may recognize the man’s gesture from my “loosey” sketchbook studies.
I combined the man’s gesture with my soup thoughts, a recipe I cooked this week (and posted on my Instagram page) from my kitchen sketchbook. Then I read around in both Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut.
The Vonnegut title, with its focus on time (and other things) fit best with the thoughts I’d noted in my sketchbooks. (And my thoughts about current absurd American politics.) Reading the Vonnegut book helped me pull together all of my thoughts. Then I did a preliminary drawing, tweaked the drawing over a few days, transfered it to a board and painted.
Here’s some closeup details of sections within my painting:
There now. As Kurt Vonnegut says so often “And So It Goes”.
This is the fine art piece I said I was working on in my last post. It’s titled “Midnight In The Garden Of Goode And Weeval”. If you look closely at the art you can see a plate of veg and cheese.
One recent evening I made a spread of assorted veggies and cheeses for a light dinner. As I assembled the plate I fondly remembered the light and yummy plates of fresh veg, fruits and cheeses that my adopted Mom would make – even late at night – during our visits. That memory merged with memories of travels to New Orleans, visits to a Portland gardening store where I marveled at the colorful planters and the novel, which I’ve read, by John Berendt titled “Midnight In The Garden Of Good and Evil”.
So as I worked with my inks and gouache paints I tried to create a riot of color to reflect these thoughts. My paintings title, a pun on Berendt’s book, also mirrors my kaleidoscopic impressions – all of which were inspired by a plate of veg and cheese.
If you’re curious about my recipe for “light and yummy…plate of veg and cheese” look here.
I’m working towards 3 one-person fine art exhibits this year and I’m using writing techniques to design them. Gathering sources, aka a bibliography, is a starting spot for nonfiction works. So I’m borrowing that concept only I’m creating the books I’ll use as, ahem, source citations.
For example, in my last post I depicted a woman reading and having breakfast. Here is the source for the breakfast within the art… the source is my kitchen sketchbook:
During my exhibits I’ll want to show my sources (like a writer would) so I’ve published a new artist book based on my kitchen sketchbook titled Favorites So Far. The recipes come from both me and my spouse, a kind of memoir sketchbook cookbook… and part of the basis for my fine art. Anyway, here’s a picture of the cover:
That you could make your own meals from this book is a happy bonus…it’s primarily yummy source material!