As I alluded in my last post life and art are correlated. In the comments Sherri said it’s like a braid. That’s certainly true for me; life, creative projects and self-care weave together. It’s not a work slash life balance so much as it is what can I do that makes both life and creativity sustainable and as fun as possible? Art and life can teach each other what they need when I’m listening to what makes me glad to be alive at that moment. The thumbtacked quote below is one of my favorites.
Here’s another painting in my Odditerrarium series titled “Teacher”. Like the others is is 10 x 8 inches and created using ink, gouache and collage on board. It will join the rest of the series for my upcoming exhibit at Burnt Bridge Cellars via the Caplan Art Designs Gallery.
I’ve been framing artwork almost every day like I mentioned last post in an adjustable rhythm of spray varnish two and frame two. Slowly but steadily I’m getting all 20 framed.
The back looks like this when I finish the framing and write the title of the painting on the backing paper in ink. Then I slip it into a protective sleeve and then into a box with its fellows.
Two of the 20 finished paintings are smaller at 7 x 5 inches but all of the rest are 10 x 8 inches.
At the end of the week I got the the rest of the frames I need from the Aurora Gallery! The new frames are outside the box and the box is full of artwork that’s already been framed. So if I keep this work rhythm going I will have all of the framing finished a week early before delivery. I like giving myself some time to relax before delivery day.
Breakfast one day this past week was lemon scones made by my wife! They were yummy! And here’s my sketchbook page that day.
This week besides my spray two frame two work routine also had a leaking dishwasher in it. We’ve ordered a new one. Then another morning we were having breakfast (not the scones) when suddenly the water heater beeped frantically. We frowned at it. Rusty our dachshund barked at it. We looked at the instruction book and at the app for our heater. Nothing we tried helped. So we called our regular handyman and before our coffee got cold Kyle had our issue fixed! We’re sending him a big thank you by postcard… (postcard art by Clancy)
Since we’re hand washing dishes until the new dishwasher is installed I made my homemade simple sauce (recipe card here) and added chunky veggies – zucchini, onion, bell peppers – it was very good over pasta! Several meals were had with easy clean up – just the pot I boiled pasta in and the bowls and forks we ate with! The sauce was reheated in the pot it was original cooked in.
When things go wrong I refer to this thumbtacked note on my studio wall.
And that concept of seeing possibilities includes remembering especially during difficult or stressful times to see the beautiful things. Here’s some beauty I enjoyed seeing in my wife’s garden.
And also this thumbtacked thought was good to remember…
… and it was good to practice. Just for fun we got some Daniel Smith watercolors that have shiny aspects; interference, iridescent and duochrom to the colors – and both of us played with them on watercolor paper. Taking time to play is important especially in stressful times. The cat helps too.
Below is another days breakfast and sketchbook page. Since this week had stressful times with household appliances in addition to maintaining my work rhythm I mostly let go of my social media posting and responding. Letting go of the social media part of living a creative life helped too. I will pick it back up… and the break was/is nice. (Thank you in advance if you share this post on your social media.)
This next week besides the framing and will focus on website and promotion prep for the opening of Odditerrarium. It’ll also have some more rest and recreation in it before the opening of Odditerrarium on June 3!! Wahoo!!
I hope all of your household appliances work smoothly or are easily fixed this week! I also hope you make time to see the beauty around you and to play. See you next Monday.
The text for my newest childrens book project “The Professional Dog” is shaping up. I’m still collecting dog photos from friends but I’ve almost gotten them all. The project still feels vague but it’s more in focus than it was last week. I’m content to view it with my peripheral vision so to speak.
Dog photos came this week from a Gallery owner, a Reporter, a Park Ranger, a Sculptor, an Assistant and a Bus driver.
So one of the focal points this week was a masked-up very quick in person visit to the Caplan Art Designs gallery in Portland Oregon. The Gallery invited some of the Gallery artists to participate in a “Holiday Box Exhibit”. We were given wooden box cubes and asked to do something with the cube in our art style. The cubes are 8 inches square.
This box project is now a vague project on my work schedule. It’s much more nebulous at this point than The Professional Dog book! In a creative life learning to deal well with uncertainty and insecurity is as much an essential creative skill as the ability to draw!
Of course while I was at the Caplan Art Designs Gallery I enjoyed looking at my Odditorium exhibit and seeing the red dots indicating sales and the spaces indicating that my pieces have gone to their new homes! About a year ago my Odditorium project was itself a vague nebulous notion. I dealt with all of the uncertainty and now my Odditorium project is a very solid real thing!
The other focal point this week was my exhibit “The Old Stories” that opened in Oklahoma at Downtown Art and Frame. Each of these paintings are about stories: a folktale, a myth, or an ancient children’s rhyme or saying. For example the one with the dancing sheep is titled “Ewephoria” and it’s about the history of the rhyme “ring around the rosies, pockets full of posies…” (Black Death)
“The Old Stories” is an artexhibit of my larger artworks – anyway, all of these pieces refer to classic ideas from mythology or fables – The titles of my collage paintings give you clues…
Panda Dora’s Box – 24″ x 24″ Woolrich Family Yarn – 24″ x 24″ Long Dog Love – 11 3/4″ x 12 3/4″ Just In Time For Cookies. 10 1/4″ x 12″ Ewephoria 24″ x 36″ Cheetahs at Cards. 24″ x 36″
If you’re wondering- no I didn’t visit Oklahoma in person. I just talked with the Gallery owner there via phone. I have worked with Barney at Downtown Art and Frame since the late 1980’s and we can darn near read each other’s minds! Makes long distance projects like this so much easier! They ship art all over this globe the way you and I would switch a book from one hand to the other.
The third focal point this week was the Aurora Galleryhttps://auroragalleryonline.com – I made sure they had plenty of my greeting cards and my various artist books. I also got, via no-contact delivery, new white boards from them cut to my various sizes so that I have plenty to work with for my Professional Dog book project as well as for my greeting card designs.
Just look at all these lovely blank boards in the photo below! A vast expanse of open potential!! Wahoo!!!
This week the long awaited video thingamajig (see last post) came in the mail!! At first all I had time to do was get it out of the box and read the instructions. Then…
… later I had a very brief chance to practice with the new thingamajig so I did this flip through of a book https://youtu.be/tOf3q9ALNoA It was really nice to have both hands free to turn pages! My brain is a whirl with possibilities!
We’ll see what happens next week with this new gadget… I’m hoping I’ll have time to play with it.
I hadn’t made nachos in a while so I remedied that! Spouse and I had such a delightful off-grid sort of evening! Especially during busy times playing is important!
This recipe is from Favorites So Far – and definitely one of the recipes I plan to eventually put on a postcard!
No matter how busy your week is I hope you remember to play at least a little! See you next Monday!
All week I’ve been collecting photos of dogs from my friends and writing and rewriting the text for my newest childrens book project to be titled “The Professional Dog”.
I’ve been thinking of the 19th century parlor game called The Minister’s Cat and have been updating that game idea with a variety of professions and dogs. All of this is so I can play with my adult friends and together we can entertain some kids.
The way I’ve played The Minister’s Cat (in pre-pandemic times) is like this: a group of people in a circle start a clapping rhythm. One person starts with the letter A saying “The Minister’s Cat is an agile cat”. Then without skipping the beat the next person can either follow with another A word description like “The Minister’s Cat is an adventurous cat”. Or they can follow with a B word like “The Minister’s Cat is a brave cat”. And so forth the game goes through the alphabet in a clapping rhythm. If someone loses the rhythm or stumbles on an adjective then they’re out. In our adult games the penalty for being “out” was refilling everyone’s beverages.
Below are some scribbles of text on my legal pad. I’ve decided (I think) that there will be some letter repetitions just like there would be in an in-person game.
Below are some of the dog photos friends sent this week! There’s an Artist, a Dean, a Chef, a Guidance Counselor, a Lender and a Judge.
In my experience projects in this kind of messy stage of becoming are best left within my peripheral mental vision, so to speak, till they firm up.
As a result I did a good bit on my winter greeting cards project I spoke of in my last post. Below is another card notion – paper dolls on a postcard! I’m thinking it will be fun to mail this card to some kids I know.
I’m still waiting on the thingamajig that will hold my phone while I do videos. Insert a cartoon image of Charlie Brown waiting by the mailbox here. While I wait on the thingamajig to be shipped I’ve been making notes on stuff I want to share about creativity and living a creative life. Fun thoughts to think!
But what did come in the mail this week were the books I’d ordered from my local independent bookstore Vintage Books! I’ve read the top two books in an ebook format and wanted print copies they were so good! Besides both books speak to my interest in living a creative life.
Had an oops during ink work this week on my coloring book poem “How to Draw A Dragon” here’s how I fixed it. Despite the mistake all of the hand written text as well as all of the illustrations have now been completely inked!
Here’s how: first I drew the whole book in pencil which sounds straightforward but it actually means draw, redraw each page multiple times. I do a complete draft in pencil and go through it again and again redoing elements so the story flows a certain way, to make sure setting and characters are consistent and to create the foreshadowing. This is very like a writer’s process of drafting and editing a novel. I lost count of how many drafts I’ve gone through.
Before beginning this book I knew it would be a 32 page manuscript so I made sure I had at least 84 sheets of the same kind and size of drawing paper. (Now after finishing the inking I have perhaps 8 useable sheets of blank paper left – if that gives you an idea.)
After the images were more or less set in pencil I penciled in the poem text. The poem text is spaced rhythmically to rhyme, so to speak, with the illustrations. The words and the images dovetail tightly together. This requires more drafting to get the pacing right. Then after I had a complete manuscript in pencil I partially inked each of the illustrations and adjusted the word spacing of the poem on each page in pencil.
Before starting to ink the poem text I read through it looking for grammar and spelling. I asked my spouse to look critically with fresh eyes. Then I inked the text with an ink brush pen.
Even with all that drafting and all the editing and proofreading, even with a fresh set of eyes looking, there’s a mistake! Do you spot it below?
Yes, I misspelled “oops”! Of all the things to misspell!! 🤦♀️ Oh well! When I ink words like this I’m really focused on drawing the shapes of the letters and the spaces on the page rather than writing a word. So mistakes often happen. But 95% of being an artist is knowing how to fix mistakes! The remaining 5% is being willing to keep going!
So to fix my oops on the word “oops” I got another piece of the same paper and drew a couple of “O’s” while holding the new paper next to my mistake so I can draw it the proper size. Then I cut out the newly drawn letter as close as possible not leaving much white paper showing around the letter.
Then I paint opaque white gouache on the ink mistake as smoothly as possible.
I let that white gouache dry completely. If there’s any bump in the dry gouache I use a tiny bit of fine grit sandpaper to smooth it.
I lightly apply archival paper glue to the back of the cut out letter and affix it to the whited out mistake area. I use tweezers to place the glue-y letter.
Now it’s fixed! When I scan these pages for publication I will look closely at this area on the digital file to make sure it looks like a seamless repair. Other than possibly on that “oops” the digital scans of these pages will *not* be digitally manipulated. What you’ll see in the published book will be what I made by hand.
After all the inking is done and dry I erase all the pencil marks on the manuscript.
Foreshadowing happens on every page. There are even indications about time: at first the dragons coffee is very hot and steaming but on subsequent pages there’s less steam. These pages below are possibly the pages with the heaviest foreshadowing. Each of the “art examples” presage or refer to something in the rest of the book.
The foreshadowing is complex. Matching the characters and scenery from one page to another is complex. Matching the edges of the pages together is complex. Getting the rhythm of the poem to flow (rhyme?) with the images … it’s hard to even describe how convoluted and complex (that word again) this project is…
And then there’s that it’s a coloring book. All that I have to tell the story with is a single ink line. That line has got to be right. I can’t cover over it with other sketchy lines like I do when I draw in my sketchbook or cover a line with paint as I do when I draw lines as a foundation for a painting. The single lines I draw for this project must be clear or it ceases to be a coloring book.
This coloring book poem has been one of my most complex books and yet it is so deceptively simple to look at and read. It reminds me of one of the iceberg memes about success in that the visible part of a project is the smallest element of it and the huge part is unseen.
Anyway, also this week I worked towards the continuation of my Odditorium exhibit. The Caplan Art Designs Gallery will exhibit the Odditorium works from earlier this summer as well 7 new paintings in this series. One of the new paintings is below. It was inspired by a friends photo of her ranunculous flowers. From the flowers I thought of a rhinoceros and a dress…
Yes, my household surrealism continues…
As I wrote in my last post I hoped this week to try some of my new butterfly palette paints so I did try them in my sketchbook!!
It will be fun to try doing a painting with them next!
This week we got a few cards in the mail and added them to our mantel. I realize that I really love sending and getting cards in the mail. I’ve loved it even more so since the pandemic. Since unfortunately covid is surging again I’ve been thinking I want to make more cards.
About the time I’d had that thought I heard from Bernadette who had recently blogged on New Classic Recipes my recipe for Magic Beans along with the story of how I got the recipe. Bernadette wrote suggesting that I create some recipe cards. I thought this was a great idea and merged the recipe card notion with the idea of sending postcards. You can see all of the recipe postcards I’ve made so far here. I’m thinking these will be fun to send to friends and family.
As far as food this week goes I ate so much when family was here (last post) that this week has had small salads and bowls of cereal as the feature meals. So never mind about food I cooked this week because it didn’t happen. Oh well.
Nevertheless major progress happened on “How To Draw A Dragon” – a whole manuscript completely inked! Yippee! Next up…scanning the pages and book design! See you next Monday?
In my last post I talked about how I manage art projects and time. I have an heretical approach and I was asked for more details. Here goes:
One of my longtime interests is in how humans think, learn and how to maintain good mental health. I read on the topics often. Here’s a few of my bookshelves full of books on these topics.
I’ve learned that humans tend to learn best by hearing stories or anecdotes or metaphors or allegories. Or by seeing examples or demonstrations. Rarely does a direction “do it like this” get followed. This includes self-directions related to art projects and time management. Even if the direction is followed often the purpose for “doing it like this” is rarely fully understood at the time. This includes self-directions.
Let me tell a story to illustrate what I mean: Once there was a mother, with a very tiny kitchen, who always cut her pot roasts in half before cooking them. She taught her daughter to cook pot roast by explaining and demonstrating. Her daughter grew up and had a daughter of her own. One day the grandmother was visiting. The daughter was in her very large kitchen demonstrating cooking a pot roast to her young daughter. She said proudly “In our family we always cut the roast in half first. Isn’t that right mom?” The grandmother replied “Oh, no! The only reason I cut my roast in half was that I didn’t have a pot or a stove big enough to hold a whole roast!”
Being aware of this attribute of human thought and attention I approach self-directions about my own art projects and time use rather sideways. More details below.
The other interesting thing I’ve learned about human thinking is that good mental health and happiness often happens while we’re busy doing something else. Often with, and for, other people. I think the same is true of creativity.
Similarly when humans feel good about, curious about or interested in something they’re more likely to do it. If we make activities we want to do fun and easier to do it increases the likelihood that they’ll be done.
So I give myself directions about my projects in terms of what I *want* to do rather than what I must do and I accept that I may not fully understand what I’m doing, or why, until after the project is completed. I’m also careful to keep lots of projects in various stages of production so that I’m “busy doing something else” and not as likely to get too focused (and too critical) about one project.
I’ve mentioned it before but my approach to creative projects and time management has it’s roots in a mental health book I illustrated “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit“. Below are a few of the pages that relate to what I’m blogging about today.
For much of my creative life I have taken these concepts about human thinking/emotional health and applied them to my overall approach to creative projects and time management. It has helped me to consistently get projects done in a sustainable and enjoyable way. I say my approach is heretical because I have known art coaches and art teachers who advocate, for example, “strict discipline to do one thing till it’s done” as if we are machines and I strongly reject that notion. That’s too much like lunging and grabbing at a stray cat. That’s a sure fire way to spook the cat – or the ideas – away!
My approach to creativity is similar to the method for befriending a shy cat. You see a cat hiding in the bushes and you can’t see enough of the cat to know what breed it is, whether it’s healthy or not or whether it’s wearing a collar. So you get some cat treats and with very slow movements place the treats strategically to coax the cat into visibility. You remove yourself, slowly, to a short distance where you do your best to act as if you’re *not* interested in the cat. With patience the cat will emerge at it’s own pace and you can see it. No lunging and grabbing is necessary on your part!
My morning work in my sketchbook is akin to the cat treats strategically placed. I wake up and I just play with words in my poetry sketchbook or with images in my mixed media sketchbook. I do *not* take these efforts seriously. This is just something fun to do while still half asleep waiting while the coffee percolates. Of course I hope something good will come from this work and often it does but that “good” is to be determined much later. At the time I’m drawing or writing in my sketchbook I’m thinking of it as a fun gentle way to ease into the day.
I literally keep these sketchbooks handy in my breakfast nook along with a few pens and a small gouache watercolor set. The sketchbooks and the watercolor set are small 3 x 5 inches or so. Seldom have I spent more than 10 minutes on these efforts. You see, I’m busy doing something else besides creating – I’m making breakfast and eating it with my spouse. But I have this regular habit of luring ideas into my sketchbook.
Here’s a few recent sketchbook pages.
When my idea-cat begins to emerge from several weeks of my sketchbook morning work I’ll begin gently, tentatively, feeding and petting the idea. I do this by reading books somewhat related to my idea, by writing about my idea on a legal pad, brainstorming in a what-if-I manner.
After doing enough sketchbook work and legal pad what-if work that I feel I’ve got something, some idea emerging into visibility, I’ll sometimes draw a series of thumbnail drawings on loose paper in color to try different color arrangements. Or perhaps I make a folded paper dummy of a book idea. Perhaps I’ll make larger drawings – redrawing images from my sketchbook onto art paper. I am still just playing around and seeing what could happen.
The intention is to test the idea in my sketchbooks to see if it might become something more than a sketch in my sketchbook. A bit more time is spent, 20 or 30 mins in this phase of idea attracting. These writings and drawings are kept in a 3 ring binder by topic or perhaps with a tentative working title related to what my idea may become: an art exhibit series? A childrens book? A greeting card??? Things are left very open ended.
Still I am busy doing other things – specifically my main art project of the moment – the binder is just a way to keep all of my notions on a theme handy in one spot. This is like giving that still shy cat a temporary foster home. This way we’ll keep track of kitty, give it some time to adjust, learn about kitty and see how it goes.
Here’s my shelf of 3 ring binders
Here’s some photos from the 3 ring binder for my currently in progress “How To Draw A Dragon” project. There are several folded paper book dummies, several rewrites of the poem and many drawings.
If a 3 ring binder project collection goes well and the idea begins to show promise – by ‘promise I mean ‘potential to be fun’ – then it may move to the “main project” status. The idea cat has been adopted…however we’re still in the probationary period. Anything could happen. This is where I currently am on my ” How To Draw A Dragon” project.
Here’s a few of the “Dragon” pages I did this week.
A main project has the serious art supplies out for it. It has the studio space devoted to it. Time during a day will be set aside for it, but not an entire day, I mean an hour or two. Time is set aside in a task-oriented way not a from-when-to-when on the clock way. I have a master list of tasks to be done on a main project and each day I pick from 1 to 3 of those tasks and set them as a goal to accomplish that day. That’s the establishing a working rhythm that I spoke of last post.
The main project is taken a tiny bit more seriously as in I will erase and redraw whereas in my sketchbooks, legal pads or binders I’ll leave a drawing however it is. I will also write and rewrite with attention to spelling and grammar on a main project. As I go I’m feeling my way along. The uncertainty is normal. Perhaps my idea cat isn’t ready for such attention. Or perhaps it will thrive on it. We will take it slowly and see. My “How To Draw A Dragon” so far seems to be thriving meaning it is still growing and becoming and I’m having fun with it.
Below is a studio photo showing that “How To Draw A Dragon” is filling my easel and overflowing into nearby surfaces. My art supplies used for this project are left out and handy. I don’t open windows in my studio so no breeze disturbs my papers. If you were to visit my house today we would stay far away from my studio because I have things in a careful order for my projects sake. My cat and dog are trained to not disturb things in my studio. There’s a door to my studio and I use it to remain undisturbed. A main project filling the studio is a tender kitten. I handle gently. I have heard art coaches speak of clearing ones working area at the end of each workday — that’s another area where I heretically scream *nooooo!*
Even with the extra attention given to a main project I carefully keep it fun and playful. I will find ways to “feed” a project- to feed my unconscious mind – for example by reading books related to the topic I’m making art about. For my current How To Draw A Dragon project I’m reading about creativity – about creating poetry in particular- and the interplay between our left brains and right brains, between our inner adult selves and our inner child selves. The topical reading is kept up for a duration of a project as it helps with my focus and fun. I simply cannot stress this enough *keep a project fun* and the project will likely get finished.
Another helpful way I keep going on a main project is that I *dedicate* the project to someone – I give the project a purpose, a reason for being (something *not* related to money or fame). I give it something beyond myself. The person or people I dedicate my work to often never know. But I am busy making my main project *for* somebody. During this pandemic openly dedicating works, or embedding symbols a friend might recognize, has been a fun way to stay in touch.
Here’s the dedication page for my Dragon book. Dedications for my fine art most often just happens in my mind.
It may be that I work on something as a main project for a while and it stalls. The stall could happen at the 3 ring binder stage or earlier in the sketchbook stage. A project may fluidly move back and forth between these three stages over a lengthy time period. This is another part of my business of art/creative heresy – I think this fluidity is perfectly normal and fine! Uncertainty is okay! I see it as part of the creative process, part of the ways a creative mind (and a subconscious mind) naturally works. Human brains are not linear machines! This is another reason I work on multiple projects – one stalls and I shift attention to another until the stalled one wants attention again.
Very carefully as I’m in the process of making artwork I avoid any sweeping declarative statements, to myself or anyone else, like “this is dumb” or “this is awesome”. I use moderate language statements, if a statement is needed and I can’t avoid it, I’ll say something like “so far so good” or “it’s a fun challenge”. To make a hard sweeping definitive declaration like “this is horrible” is to force a still-in-progress project into a labled pigeon hole. What may not work as a painting might be a good greeting card. I don’t know yet! When a project is in process I may think I am making X only to discover when I’ve finished that I’ve made Y instead. I deliberately leave linguistic and mental room for such progress! (See my pot roast story above) Harsh declarations make it hard to extract a project from the dispair/elation and continue. It makes it harder to allow a work to change from a painting to a greeting card. I prefer to leave room for discovering and being surprised by what a project becomes. It’s more fun that way. I would no more force an art project to become something than I would force a stray cat to accept a grooming before feeding it and earning its trust.
Here’s more from Dr Bob about being careful about self talk.
The tendency all humans have to take things too seriously- even obsessively – is another reason why I deliberately have multiple projects at various stages. One main studio project -or possibly two main projects- at a time but several other projects are being developed in my sketchbooks, legal pads and binders. This helps me not be too “precious” about any one of them. I work on something a while then stop working *while it’s still fun* and do something else. I find it helpful to try to stop working before I am too fatigued, while I’m still interested or enjoying my work and then move on to something else.
So I am always busy “doing something else” which allows my idea-cats space to breathe without micro-attention. This method allows my subconscious mind to work on my projects. I can trust that my inner voice will say “oh, let’s work on this!” when the next part of my idea is ripe. I can trust that I will keep returning to a project until it is finished.
When a main studio project is finished there is usually another project in a binder that’s developed enough that it’s ready for attention at my easel. No force to finish or start a project is needed. No strictness. No machine-like “discipline”. Knowing and accepting the way human minds are naturally has worked well for me. I work with my brain not against it. I am just playing around with topics that interest me. Like most real life fur covered cats I can trust that my idea-cats will tell me when it’s dinner time.
Speaking of dinner. The outstanding dinner of the week was broccoli pasta. I was out of fettuccine so I used short noodles but the recipe in my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook is still yummy!
Earlier this year I was asked to make some gender neutral fabric designs and put them on my Spoonflower shop so someone could get fabric with my designs and sew some bibs and blankets for a new baby.
Here’s a photo of me working at that time on the fabric pattern.
Here’s the finished original art
This week I was given, by the person who had requested the fabric patterns, pictures of some of the finished baby things they’ve made and permission to post about them! It was lovely having something fun like this to post about as my Dragon project is still becoming and is in the gawky teenage stage and camera shy.
Where I tend to run out of time in a day is the social media promotion thing. And frankly there are times, especially when I’m busy, that I’d rather just do my art projects than talk about them. But talking about them is necessary and most of the time I enjoy doing it so… Anyway, I really appreciate it when people share what I post or when someone sends me photos of themselves with my fine art or artist books or share photos of what they sewed with my fabric designs! It helps and is such fun to see!
Anyway, here’s the photos of a burp cloth and a few blankets my friend created with my fabrics! They turned out so well!! The sewing is marvelous!
Hope this description of how I manage my art projects and deal with time was interesting and even helpful to you as you do your own creative projects! Have a creative week and I’ll see you next Monday.
A work rhythm has been fairly firmly established. I wrote about that in my last post. My days now have a regularity that goes like this:
Breakfast time contains sketchbook drawings with or without characters from my currently in progress childrens book “How To Draw A Dragon”
Perhaps after eating breakfast I spend a few minutes more reading a poem or working the crossword puzzle with my spouse (we take turns doing 5 or 6 clues) while we finish our coffee. (The poem in the photo below is by Robert Service)
Then I pour another cup of coffee and carry it to the studio. There I look at the work I did last and my project schedule/guide that I described in my last post. I sip my coffee and settle in to work.
By now I’ve done about 10 of the 32 pages but even those, as you can probably see in the photos below, aren’t really finished. Some elements like the text will be the last to be inked and only after all 32 pages have been mostly finished. Similarly I will edit and ink all of the elements of foreshadowing for my poem story after all 32 pages are mostly inked.
As I work I am thinking of the pages both as page spreads and as individual pages.
These pages below have been quickly photographed where they are on my easel for sharing my progress with you here. My set up for photos for book reproductions is another thing entirely- and I’m not at that point yet.
The sharp eyed will probably notice that some changes have been made to my story setting and to my poem text since my last post.
Basically I’m in the early stages of this book project and everything is in flux and there aren’t “for public” images for this project yet.
And my books. I talk about one of the 9 books in my portfolio. Or I talk about one of my 10 books on Storyberries. Or I post a photo of my cat or dog. Or I post nothing at all. Especially as I settle into a project working rhythm I find I’m online less and less. That said I do enjoy finding your kind comments when I check in! And I thank you in advance for them.
Lunch, however, is rarely missed. This week the easiest meals were bean and grain bowls like this photo below and here’s the recipe scheme from my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook.
After lunch I head back to the studio for more work on my How To Draw A Dragon book. Generally speaking I get 2 pages finished per day. If I’m lucky I’ll get a start on a 3rd page. But my focus is on maintaining a work rhythm not in a quota of pages. If I have to totally redo a page and thus only get one page done in a day that’s fine! I just keep going! It’s a dance between discipline and the spaciousness of pleasurable play as talked about in this article.
I did take the time this week to go with my spouse to visit a new independent bookstore in our town Birdhouse Books! This was my book haul.
Short stories, poems and short essays give me an intellectual boost without requiring an investment of time like a long novel does. But sometimes a long novel is just the thing to accompany a long creative project. It just depends.
What’s not in question is the fact that time to sit and read each evening is essential to helping me maintain a steady working rhythm.
Hope your week has some good rhythms too! See you next Monday.
Literature and art are forms of self care and of care work. I’ve thought of this as I have worked in my household surrealism projects. Home is where most of us practice self care and care for others. We all need regular care and comfort, including the care and comforts to be found all of the Arts, so it feels crucial to have fine art, literature and music in ones home.
With that in mind this week I did a short video about why I make art. Spoiler alert: I want to make the visual art equivalent of freshly baked cookies and a kind note. Video here: https://youtu.be/GYiby2CfySc
And as part of those thoughts I’ve changed my avatar for most of my social media to this green dragon reading a book. For me green dragons represent creativity/imagination and books represent love and caring.
When I can I’ve directly signed the artist books I’ve written and illustrated. Often I’ve also doodled something right on the page. Like this…
But there are many times when that isn’t possible so I’ve signed and doodled on a piece of label paper and mailed that to the book owner for the book owner to affix in the book. That’s seemed to work. Finally I had the notion to make a bookplate specifically for this purpose. Hence the green dragon. Will update about the bookplate when I get them from the printer…
Anyway, here’s a look at some of the Odditorium artwork in the frames. I get the frames made at a local frame shop Aurora Gallery (www.auroragalleryonline.com) but I put the art in the frames myself. I think of how my paintings might hang on someone’s wall and lift spirits.
Here below are some of the odd greeting cards I’ve made with some of my Odditorium art. I love the pun of creating household surrealism artwork and then using that to make household items like greeting cards, mugs and coasters. The collection of Odd Cards is here and you can find some of the other items in my Zazzle shop.
These cards are long and skinny and come with an envelope. A message can be written on the back. I imagine someone smiling when getting one of these cards in the mail.
Since I told about the green dragon avatar and upcoming bookplate here’s a look at the two other logos I use on my cards, books and mugs.
Here’s another Odditorium painting “Favorite Walk” in its frame. The idea for this painting was a combination of outdoor walks my spouse and I enjoy along with red shoes a fellow artist family member has depicted in her artwork. So the red shoes are a “hello” to a family member….and they’re just fun!
Here’s us on a recent windy rainy walk in one of our favorite spots. I imagine you can see a relationship between my painting “Favorite Walk” and the landscape in the photos below.
So I am glad people will get to see my art in person and will be able to buy some of my artist book titles while enjoying some very good wine! Even given this good news I am continuing my virtual art exhibit efforts with the printed picture book Odditorium and the new (still in progress) portfolio page. And I’m glad my art will also be accessible via Caplan Art Designs. I tell ya it takes a village…
Here are some of the artist books (many of them signed) that will be available during my Odditorium exhibit. All of my books are also accessible digitally here and here. I imagine people looking at my books and enjoying sharing them with others even if they don’t see my original art in person.
Of course I don’t know for certain how my fine art or anything else will be received. Rarely do I actually see my artwork hanging in someone’s home or office. I can only create and imagine and that’s enough motivation for me. I do treasure the comments and photos people have shared with me of their joy and delight in my work!
I like the thought that via my art I may be contributing to people’s happiness. Human minds need books, art, music anything that healthily feeds the imagination. Minds need good nutrition just like bodies do. Mental health also includes the comforts of homemade cookies.
In my studio I keep this quote where I’ll see it often. “One must care about a world one will never see.” Bertrand Russell
Speaking of love and caring: here’s a super yummy homemade cookie recipe of my spouse’s creation!
May you have many pleasant moments of comfort this week with cookies and storytime of your own! See you next Monday?
These thoughts swirled in mind as I watched the crows in my yard. I don’t know where the wingtip shoes came from… but here they are in my sketchbook.
From my morning reading I added the quote from Plutarch. And I thought of how all too often we see only what we expect to see. It takes practice to work on our inner selves, to moderate our expectations and let things just be however they are. Then I put away my book and puttered in my studio cleaning things up, sorting pen nibs back into their places and cleaning the nib holders.
With these thoughts still swirling I started a new painting loosely based on my sketchbook page above. After a few days of work my spouse snapped this photo.
And then my spouse took this photo to show that sometimes I “hide” things on the edges of the paintings I do on cradled board.
Some time later I took a photo of the finished painting. I’ve titled it “Enjoyment”. I keep thinking of how we can choose to dip our pens in our pleasures and write them on our souls rather than rehearse the things that upset us. That choice can change one’s attitude and the kind of day one has.
Here’s a close up photo of the area of “Enjoyment” that contains the collage elements. I carefully chose text from the falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that I’ve mentioned in recent posts. So much of Austen’s work is a social comedy of people’s expectations and emotions. That’s why I choose this book for my collage source material besides the fact that it was already falling apart and was handy. (I have a collection of collage material to choose from and could have chosen some other theme.)
After I posted “Enjoyment” on social media a friend who had studied poetry and Victorian literature in college commented that crows represent transformation. And the symbolism of crows was definitely on my mind. What a good word the word transformation is and I appreciate my friend for reminding me of it. When we are able to remember to enjoy the smallest of pleasures – and to be curious – we are in a position to transform moments of stress into something manageable.
Getting curious and writing and drawing (however well or poorly) are all tools of the emotional transformation process.
It wasn’t until later after conversation with my friend that I realized that in my new crow painting I echoed a theme (transformation) I have played with before. Such as when I took a tale by Aesop and made a wordless story “The Crow And The Water Jug” (you can also see the whole book via this link at Storyberries.com )
As I mentioned last post I’ve been working on writing a short summary for my entire fine art exhibit that I’m calling Odditorium. Writing in my sketchbook as I work on art projects helps me focus my fine art onto a clear theme. I write my thoughts down as I work on fine art and vice versa so there’s a *lot* of both writing and art to winnow when it’s time to write an exhibit summary statement. Besides helping me sort my own thoughts the short summary text is something that Burnt Bridge Cellars and Caplan Art Designs will use when talking about my exhibit with the public. Anyway, after more rewrites than most humans can count without a calculator here’s what I came up with:
Odditorium: I’ve been practicing household surrealism; painting visual stories inspired by looking in an uncommon way at common objects and plants. A useful mental health technique for dealing well with feelings is to deliberately look at the feeling in a new way. This is what I’m practicing when I do household surrealism. I take ordinary things found about the house and depict them in odd, different from the usual, ways so that instead of feeling mundane they evoke feelings of magic, wonder and laughter. Perhaps the flowers, the wine opener, the coffee mug are really souvenirs of pleasant moments in life?
I use gouache, ink, color pencil acrylic and collage to make my images. The collage text is from a falling apart copy of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen that I had in the house. Austen wrote about emotions and dealing with them so I enjoy the visual pun of including bits of her text in this series. I use animal characters because an animal behaving like a human highlights our humanity.
That’s the end of my statement which counts to about 200 words. I may tweak at it a bit more. But there it is.
No grand food experiments to crow (sorry!) about this week but I did repeat a reliably good sandwich recipe.
So I hope you have a very good week. See you next Monday?
This week was filled with photographing my illustrations for a new children’s book tentatively titled “This Rabbit” (as I wrote last week). Then I uploaded the photos checking the digital images against the original artwork for accuracy of color. Sometimes I had to retake a photo.
Once all of the illustrations were digitally correct, more or less, I uploaded them into the software I use to make the printed books. My art studio supervisor cat, as you can see, helped with the process.
What I’m aiming for as I process the photos: I want to make an album of my fine artwork that just happens to be for kids. Kids need fine art too, in my opinion. So I’m striving for digitally capturing as much of the range of color and detail in the original artwork as possible. No camera or screen matches the capability of the human eye but I do the best with what I’ve got. I’m also trying to keep the soft feel of the original artwork on the off-white handmade papers.
My root idea with this new book “This Rabbit” is cultivating the skill of enjoying the many things there are to like and do. So that is always in the back of my mind as I work.
Here are the two poem lines I wrote to go with the two illustrations below:
This rabbit likes pretty pearls
This rabbit likes doing curls
After the photos of all 32 illustrations were digitized to suit me, it takes me a lot of time to do the digitizing to suit because I am the original Ms. Picky, but when I had the images as I wanted them then I worked on the books graphic layout and design. As I proceed with the layout/design part of this project I may need to take new photos of some of the artwork depending on how they look as I place them side by side in the book design … we will see how things go.
This new book is part of a series of children’s books I’m creating. So it will have a have similar cover design (and other format elements) to fit with the book series. However, for “This Rabbit” I decided to make the illustration images on each page larger, filling two thirds of the page or perhaps a bit more, filling almost to the three edges of each page.
I chose this layout because I’ve included small details within many of the artworks that might be missed if the images were smaller. My poem text is one single line within a small white space on the bottom of each page.
I will serialize some of “This Rabbit” on my Instagram page and give you more details of my working process (and my creative life) here on this blog each week.
Anyway, now you know what a busy week I’ve had. Needless to say lunches were quick-fix affairs. Like this broccoli pasta dish.
Here’s the recipe – a loose guide or philosophy really rather than a recipe. When I made the dish this week I used short pasta and added spinach. But the rest of the recipe was followed. It’s a recipe from my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook.
Despite being busy I still carved out time to read most evenings. In my last post I was still reading “The Mexican Tree Duck” by James Crumley. I finished that book and loved it! I’ll miss the main character Sughrue. Sughrue was a decent guy, a good friend to other characters in the story, someone who cared. I liked that! Crumley’s character and his writing style will be a hard act to follow.
As I cast about for which book to read next I realize that I want another protagonist with a strong decency streak. Not moralistic, self righteous, preachy or anything like that. I want a character who is just plain caring and kind. Even if they have flaws, faults and difficulties I want there to be a core of goodness, a sense of concern for their community, at the heart of the main character.
I’m ready for the good people to win a few … damnit!
So from my book shelves I pulled this book selection for consideration: The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers, Rumpole A La Carte by John Mortimer and Death of A Bore by M. C. Beaton.
A few more cups of coffee and I’ll decide which book to read more of later after my working day is done.
See you next Monday with more of my progress on “This Rabbit”? (And yes…so far my working title has stuck.)
As I mentioned in my last post I’ve been sorting and winnowing my illustrations and poetry for a new children’s book.
By writing the poem lines on index cards and having the illustrations on paper I can physically spread them out and sort them. This is very much the editing and rewriting process that the books on writing talk about. I’m doing draft after draft after draft just like they recommend – my drafting is just in tangible form.
For example I put numbers on yellow post it notes which affix on the archival sleeves holding the artwork. That post it note number corresponds to the poem line written on an index card. My legal pad contains a handwritten record of sequences I’ve tried aka manuscript drafts.
The artwork and the index cards are laid out on a queen size bed in the number sequence I’d most recently tried. I read the poem out loud. Then I walk away after shutting the bedroom door so my cat won’t pounce on the artwork. Later, after lunch for example, I’ll go reread and view the artwork, perhaps make a change in the order of the art/poem by moving the art, the index card and the yellow post it notes. Then I’ll read the new order aloud. I’ll note the new numeric number order (draft!) on my legal pad. Then I’ll go do something else. Perhaps just before dinner I’ll repeat the above process before putting everything away for the evening. This short-burst working method allows space for my unconscious mind to work on my project.
As a result some of the illustrations didn’t stay in the queue. Some poem lines went into the bin. Some art and poem lines stayed but took their time to find their place. Eventually after more than a week of these daily sort/resort episodes gradually more of my sequences resonate with me.
As I sort the pictures and words I’m keeping my eye and ear open for what resonates. By resonate I mean that I keep returning the art and poem lines to a particular place or order that makes me smile, makes my heart sing. This resonance is found slowly, page spread by page spread. I just keep on sorting until all of the pages and the entire book sequence feels that heart-sing way, a feeling I call “taking root”.
After that “taking root” has happened then I read the poem aloud and show the artwork to my spouse. Further adjustments are made according to her suggestions. Then I live with any new sequence another day or so to double check how rooted it feels.
I think of this entire creative process as a lot like growing a garden from seed; you plant seeds, you water, you wait, you position the pot on a window sill to catch the sun, you water, wait…at times it feels like nothing is happening…then eventually you have a seedling big enough to safely transfer to another container.
I’m about to the point with this new book of transferring it to another container – meaning that I’m ready to photograph the artwork and begin the book layout design, the computer hocus pocus of it.
The probable title for my new book is “This Rabbit”. But we’ll see if that holds as I shift the book, idea-seed soil and all, to it’s new digital pot.
Speaking of seeds and gardens: here’s a new fabric pattern design with bunnies and blooms. I’m now waiting to see a proof fabric swatch before I approve it to be in my Spoonflower shop.
Last week there was winter weather in the Pacific Northwest and friends and family lost power which caused concerns. But they were brief concerns, quickly resolved, and everyone is fine. Whew.
Then the Texas snow, ice and severe cold storm happened and was not quickly resolved (still isn’t as of this writing). We used to live in Oklahoma and we still have friends in Oklahoma and friends and family living in Texas…so we worried. And made phone calls etc.
And as we worried about friends everywhere I made a greeting card design that couldn’t really be sent, due to the storms, to the people we worried about. But I made the card anyway – the act of making it helped.
Worries distracted me some from my work on “This Rabbit” but not too much. My short-burst method of working accommodates such stuff-of-life.
Besides making the greeting card I puttered in my studio cleaning things. I came across some nice rice paper I’d forgotten I had so I stopped cleaning and made a small accordion book with the paper. It measures 6 inches tall by 2 inches wide when folded shut.
One of the many people we worried about is named Beverly. Last year during the pandemic on my birthday Beverly called to wish me a happy day and as a present she talked me through her grilled cheese sandwich method. I’d taken notes on a scrap of paper during our call last year and saved the paper folded and slipped into the pocket of my kitchen sketchbook. This week, in solidarity with Beverly, I made the yummy sandwiches and transferred the notes into my sketchbook.
And here’s the sandwich. My half of the sandwich anyway…the sourdough bread slices we have are large so spouse and I split one sandwich.
At various points during any day I find that coffee and books are comforting. So are homemade oatmeal cookies. Here are cookies resting on cloth napkins made from my fabric pattern with a coffee and books motif. It’s the small comforts that add up. Especially when worried about friends…
As of this writing it seems that most of our Oklahoma and Texas friends and family are more or less fine physically. Whew. Now we wait to hear how the horrific price gouging in Texas will affect them…
Once again I am struck by the difference in response to disasters between regions of the United States. In the Pacific Northwest the utilities are regulated and public. It is generally presumed that people are what matters. In the midwest and south there’s less regulation and more privitization. It is generally presumed that private companies’ profits are very, very important.
I’ve been thinking all week of how the kind of government one has can affect one’s daily life for good or ill. So we worry about friends and family in unregulated privatized Texas. (There’s a well written article here in The New York Times about all this.)
Anyway, hopefully we’ll all have a quieter week. I’ll keep working on my projects much like a seed works at growing no matter what else happens – being creative helps me cope with stuff. It also helps to share my work with you. Thank you so much for looking at my pictures, reading my words and for your kind comments. Catch up with you next Monday.