There was a line inside and almost every seat filled!! We had beer, nachos and sweet potato fries. We talked with people in line. We talked with people at the tables next to us. We petted dogs. We laughed! And we all had a grand time! Love is definitely winning!! The Go-fund-me page shows they’ve gotten more than 3000 dollars ABOVE their goal! Yea! Love wins again!!!
The current outpourings of love in response to hate reminds me of the late 1980’s gay rights activism in Oklahoma where I participated. We did what we called “Love Ins”. Wherever hate had happened or was happening many of us, LGBTQ and allies, would fill the floor space with our bodies. We would sit and spread out on the floor playing cards, coloring in color books, building things with toy blocks and we would sing or read poetry outloud. Sometimes a drag queen would read a story aloud. We had printed signs addressing the specific issue at hand. (The basic human right to access healthcare, the right to equal employment, the right to fairness in housing, the right to marry the person we love… to name only a few issues.) We also had general signs saying things like “We’re here, we’re queer get used to it”. But we did NOT verbally shout back at the people shouting hateful things at us. We played our games on the floor and ignored the haters. People had to step over and around us. Whenever a hater purposefully kicked one of us – the person who had been kicked said to another person on the floor “Ouch! Did you see that?” to which many of the floor sitters would loudly respond “I saw that! Are you okay? We love you!” and various other phrases in support of the person who’d been hurt. The perp, the kicker, was deliberately, overtly, ignored because we were focused on creating the loving world we wanted to inhabit. Often the shouting and kicking from the anti-gay side stopped in the absence of reciprocal violent exchanges – or if not completely stopping the violence failed to escalate – it seemed hard, for most, to keep yelling and kicking at people who were just playing cards and loving everyone even if some of the card players were wearing sequins.
And the LGBTQ community did, slowly, gain basic human rights – including the right to marry – even in Oklahoma. Love totally wins!
While thinking about all of this I created a sketchbook page and shared it on my email newsletter… it’s another description of why I do the kind of artwork I do.
Yes, it was so good to see love winning again more recently at the local brewery! Life, love and good things are for ALL of us! That’s what the ideals of equality and democracy are reaching for, however imperfectly, and it’s a worthy goal. It’s a goal for all of us by all of us!
What if our innovations, our future advancements, rely on how well we’re able to care for and about ourselves, people and plants? What if life, the future and everything is really all about love and how well we can do that loving of ourselves, each other and the natural world? (Rebecca Solnit writes a wonderful essay here about the real potential of this!)
BTW: The window for getting prints or books mailed from my Society 6 or Blurb shops and having them arrive in time for the holidays is narrowing. Same too with my Zazzle shop. This next week I’ll be finishing up portraits for pickup at the various Galleries and I’ll be talking on social media about my books and cards being there for last minute gifts too.
It may be hard to tell from my recent posts, the gifting season and all that entails, but I think of art making as much more than a product to buy – it’s also a mental health service to oneself, to ones family or friends and to the community. I’m looking forward to creating some things during these holidays that will fit this whimsical lighthearted just for fun category.
The advent calendar of art supplies is still being unboxed on my social media. Soon I’ll begin using these supplies in a project…which I’ll show too.
Here’s a summary of what’s been unboxed so far…
Speaking of art supplies and projects: in past years my holiday pet portraits project has been 60/40 dogs/cats or vice versa. Some years it’s been 50/50. So far this year I haven’t done a single cat portrait. All dogs. I’ve lost count but I think I’ve done about 14 dog portraits and it’s still mid December. When the art print and artist book delivery windows narrow sometimes the get-it-in-person at the Gallery aspect increases. Sometimes not.
Anyhoo, I drew a cat in my sketchbook just to keep in cat-drawing practice.
I’ve also been enjoying doing sketchbook pages that include windows, landscapes, coffee cups and books… besides the animals…just to switch things up and relax. Subsequently that means new things are brewing over on my email newsletter. Please subscribe if you haven’t already because Jolabokaflod is coming and I can give my subscribers gifts there more easily than I can here… I won’t say more lest I spoil the surprise.
If you’re not familiar with Jolabokaflod here’s a link. And here’s our way of celebrating written out in my sketchbook.
Happy art and book buying season!! Thank you all for the gift you give me of letting me share my art and life with you!
BTW Here’s a wonderful book list I found of 99 children’s books!
Recently a friend asked if I had made a book about my hearing experiences. Yes! In 2003 I made a one-of-a-kind book titled “Book Of Days And Ears”. It measures 3 inches tall 6 inches wide and is one inch thick. When fully opened it is a smidge more than 12 inches wide. The leather covers and the pages are hand sewn together with a Coptic stitch. This book binding style allows for page expansion, letting me sew additional elements into the binding and do thick collage applications on the pages themselves while still enabling the book to close.
Book of Days and Ears begins July 31 2003 and ends Oct 10 2003. It is a diary or journal style book with the date stamped on each entry. The entire book took place when we lived in Oklahoma and the main content, the overall “plot”, of the book is dealing with my hearing aid issues over the span of 3 months, trying to contact the hearing aid company and fussing with the mean dragon lady who worked there. The other staff were nice (nicer than others I’d encountered in Oklahoma) but during visits I had to get past dragon lady first. Here are just some of those pages.
Part of how I dealt with the hearing issue saga was through various art projects which I recorded in my book: paper marbleling sessions of which I sewed samples into the binding, letterpress and block printing project samples were glued onto the pages, art exhibits were documented by collaging parts of the event announcement on a page or actually sewing the event flyer into the binding. Here are a few of the art project related pages.
Of course in and amongst the pages shared above there are visits with friends, the death of a mentor/friend (the book artist and author Shereen LaPlantz), visits to bookstores and restaurants. And board games like backgammon which are ways to interconnect with people that don’t rely solely on the spoken/heard word. Here are a very few examples of this kind of page entry.
Here’s a video flip through of Book of Days and Ears https://youtu.be/2It3Vjl_Eao and me talking about it. You can see some book pages not pictured above. Did I mention that I talk about the book in the video? No, I couldn’t hear myself talking. I showed the video to my wife for sound checking prior to putting it on YouTube. Brave and cheeky of me eh? 😆😁
Fast forward away from 2003 Oklahoma to present day 2022 in Washington state and as I wrote last post… my current hearing aids stopped working and I visited a local hearing aid center, Vancouver Hearing Aid Center. Things are vastly better now: there is a button and a window in the hearing testing area, there are zero dragon ladies to deal with (Wow! An absence of mean dragons!!!), my supportive spouse is allowed to be with me and clear time tables, contact information etc details are given in written form! It’s almost as if they recognize that their clients might not hear well! Imagine that?! Anyway, I am still profoundly deaf just as I was in 2003 and as I was at age 8 see the hearing test chart below.
Unlike ball obsessed dogs I get tired and need a break even from my most favorite activity in the world: making art. In my last post I talked of finishing most of the prep for my upcoming Odditerrarium exhibit a week or so early in order to give myself time to rest and recharge before the exhibit opens at Burnt Bridge Cellars via Caplan Art Designs.
Here’s one of my portraits for the exhibit titled “Unwearied Fancie”. It, like the others, is 10 x 8 inches created with ink, gouache and collage on board.
And here’s a closer look at what this dog is obsessed by er um I mean thinking about.
This week the massacre in Uvalde Texas happened. I’m so very tired of unnecessary deaths. I’m bone weary of gun violence. Generally I keep my comments about current events off of this blog but I’m very upset about all of the unnecessary deaths due to one word said by one political party in the U.S. One morning I grabbed a scrap of paper and wrote…
So more than just my hand and arm felt a need for rest this week…
Anyway, all of the frames have been filled with artwork now. Here’s some photos of just-framed works still on my work bench.
My dachshund has a bed near my work area. (See the photo below). As I finished framing the last painting I imagined…
“Is that number 20?” Asked my dachshund art studio supervisor.
“Yes! All 20 of the Odditerrarium series paintings are framed now!” I replied.
“Let’s order new artsupplies and then let’s go wander the yard, eat something, read books and rest.” says the dachshund.
“Great idea!” I said reaching for the phone to order new supplies.
I already have sketchbook notes (due to my almost daily sketchbook routine) and plans for other creative projects that I haven’t talked about on this blog – or anywhere on social media – because they’re in flux. But I know generally from these plans what art supplies I need to buy.
All of the Odditerrarium artwork is now packed in boxes ready to be delivered at the appropriate time. So it’s “all done except for the shouting” as I sometimes refer to the exhibit promotions. Tired ole me is very grateful to have help spreading the word about the exhibit from Burnt Bridge Cellars and the Caplan Art Designs gallery. I’m also beyond grateful to the fans of my work who share about it online. Your encouragement and support helps me a lot! Thank you!
The paperwork for the Odditerrarium exhibit has been done and already sent in to the gallery. I’ve also finished the webpage about the exhibit which includes images of all of the art and access to the printed artist book. As I get photos of the exhibit on the winery walls I’ll add them and other related things to my portfolio page. All of these things are my efforts to make sharing about my exhibit easier plus the portfolio page and the book make it possible for people to participate in my exhibit without coming in person to the winery.
My ultimate point is that you, my dear blog reader, besides seeing behind the scenes in my studio as I have worked towards this exhibit are also the first to see all of the Odditerrarium artwork together and have early access to the book!
I hope you like it! Here’s a few photos of the book…
Here’s the visit to the yard my supervisor dachshund and I talked about earlier. The Japanese Iris’s are blooming now and I really love the odd shapes of them! The other flowers in my wife’s garden are pretty too.
In my last post I told about our dishwasher troubles… this week a new one was installed! To celebrate having a dishwasher again I made one of our favorites and served the Coddle in the big mugs that are hard to handwash. Our new dishwasher did a great job!
Here are pictures of my art studio supervisors resting.
My reading stack this week: I finished Christopher Moore’s “Island of the Sequined Love Nun” and P. M. Carlson’s “Murder Misread”. Both of those transported me to a better frame of mind.
Being upset about current events also has me reaching back in history for a somewhat similar past era and the artistic responses to the issues of that time and how, these many years later, that turned out…
Now I’m reading Alan Watt’s “Zen and the Beat Way” alongside some of the Beat writers work in Ann Charters’s “The Portable Beat Reader”. (Here’s a good link about the history of the Beat generation aka hippies.) It occurs to me that many discussions of the 1960’s and 1970’s have focused on pooh-poohing the long hair, the beadwork, the lack of shoe wearing, the organic vegetable growing/eating habits instead of grappling with the ideas contained in the written works of that era. Many of that generation’s artist’s were responding artistically, critically, via literature, poetry, music, etc, to the Mccarthyism, the Vietnam war, the various conventional cultural cruelties of that time period. The conservatives, or squares as they were called in the 60’s, said “no” a lot back then too.
In reading about all of it I wonder is peace, love and understanding really so radical, so threatening that we must distract from those ideas by ridiculing the clothing and eating habits of those advocating kindness?
On the topic of 1960 era food: here’s a review of a book by Jonathan Kaufman titled “Hippie Food”. And here’s another article about the healthy food (brown rice, beans, organic whole foods etc) efforts that began back then. I’m now aware of very real kitchen table progress that has been made because of the ideas originating in the countercultural 1960’s, things we benefit from today such as more food safety, better quality, more wide spread availability of fresh vegetables and more diversity of vegetables and grains.
I have ordered another book, that hasn’t come yet, about the women writers, poets and artists of the Beat era. I’m impressed, by what I’m reading in the titles by Watts and the Charters, with how much work the women of that era did to expand the life possibilities for women living, working, cooking and being creative – things we benefit from today. (See also this tangentially related article) I look forward to reading more. It may be a cliche but we do indeed stand on the shoulders of giants. And I’m finding comfort and hope from what turned out to be the many Beat generation countercultural successes despite the frustration they felt in the 1960’s and 70’s.
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.