This week we had a fully vaccinated family gathering planned. So these pages of my “How To Draw A Dragon” were the only ones nearly finished this week.
Also just before the family visit the Aurora Gallery wanted more of my books and signed green dragon bookplates so delivery arrangements were quickly made. (Details about these books on my portfolio page.)
And then family came! It was very good to see them all! At one point we had a mini family reunion of 10 people! Especially after hardly seeing them during 2020 it was a treat to get to visit in person! I was grateful we were all fully vaccinated. Still I worried about everyone’s health and safety. But everyone was careful of everyone else. (So proud of my caring loving family!) We spent almost the entire week outside on our patio and in our yard. When we were inside to sleep we had all of the windows open and fans running. I was grateful too for nice weather with the high temperatures in the low 80’s and low temperatures in the 60’s.
My morning sketchbook work more or less continued while I made and served breakfast. More on that later.
My brother-in-law Jim had a career in the military in electronics and was a Master Sargent in the Air Force before he retired. He noticed the first day of the visit that I was drawing and asked to see what I was doing. I showed him my drawing of a hedgehog sitting in a measuring spoon. I explained that I was combining the thought of how one weighs and considers books in a bookstore with the way one measures things in a kitchen. He grinned and said “That makes a lot of sense!”
After dinner the evening we had the most people at the reunion I drew sketches of our family members and shared them. The entire family seemed to enjoy seeing my drawings and I had fun loving everyone that way! After that evening during the rest of the week Jim and I regularly talked about my sketchbook work.
Over the next days I shared that my thoughts for these sketches pictured below were about drinks and my feelings about the drinks. That made sense to him too! It made me feel good that my art could be so easily understood by someone who self described as “knowing nothing about art”.
We also talked of colors and color mixing. We looked at the shirts other family members were wearing and talked of how colors are mixed with black or with white or other colors. I talked of what paint colors I’d use to mix the colors of various family members clothing. He talked of the importance of colors in electrical wiring or as identity marks on planes and military clothing.
I showed him the book about colors I’d shared here in my last post.
At some point I took a moment and called my local art supply store Artists and Craftsmen and ordered all the butterfly colors from this page below. Won’t it be fun to make butterfly colored worlds?
Within a day my order was delivered by mail!
I checked to make sure all of the colors I wanted were here. They were! Artist and Craftsman really did a great job filling my very specific color order!
During another spare moment I labled my new palette and each new paint tube with the color number listed in the book. During other spare moments I squeezed out paints into the palette well corresponding with the numbers and put the tube I’d just used into a small drawer on my supply shelf.
In another snatched moment of time I labled my drawer of the new paints the “butterfly drawer”.
Another moment included a quick sketch of a butterfly on sticky lable paper which I stuck on my new palette.
Such labels help me – in the midst of work – to be able to grab the proper palette and paints without having to stop to re-read or re-research my original source book.
I think Master Sargent Jim enjoyed seeing my organization skills. His wife enjoyed looking at the colors. We had lots of fun conversations and many of those were about art and creativity.
I will swear again that being creative is a normal facet of being alive and that labeling only certain activities “creative” is merely a cultural convention. What military man hasn’t creatively rigged something when necessary? What mother hasn’t done the same? Being creative simply means being a fully alive aware and thinking human.
Anyway, I also got to practice making brunch for 6 people! I learned how to bake bacon and sausage in the oven on parchment paper. When the meat was almost done I put English Muffins on another parchment covered sheet pan in the oven to toast them. Then all that was left was to make the scrambled eggs in my cast iron skillet. I managed to draw a little and have all of the food hot at the same time to serve breakfast buffet style! A good time was had by all I think! Wahoo!
I hope this week to do more on my Dragon book and to get to spread the new colors around on something using a brush or two! 😁
I hope your week is a creatively arranged buffet style selection of love, color and happiness! See you next Monday.
Being creative is like cooking – you get one meal cooked and cleaned up then it’s time for another meal. It’s the slog – long live the slog! Hooray for the slog! Okay so the word slog can have a negative connotation… I also call it a a good working rhythm! There’s a wonderful article about slogs aka work, talent and audacity from The Painters Keys. [Spoiler: it’s not the talent so much as the willingness to see it through]
Here’s some of my more finished than unfinished Dragon pages. I still have to ink all of the poem text and fill in certain visual elements on many of the pages but the entire book has been penciled!! Feels like an accomplishment… which I celebrated (more on that later in this post)! Anyway here are some of the mostly inked pages!!
If you recognize some of the pages, well that’s because I go through the book penciling. Then I go through the book inking this bit then I go through the book inking that bit then I go through the book….
See what I wrote earlier about slogging. Writers most obviously slog – you hear about novelists working on a draft of a novel for years, decades even. You hear about it taking years to rewrite and edit a novel. The same is true of my visual artistic life too. But the public doesn’t often hear about the slogs of a visual artist. I’ve written in the past about the similarities I see between art and writing – what I write here today is of a piece with that idea. Anyway, I find that it helps to celebrate small milestones of creative projects.
I penciled the entire How To Draw A Dragon book!! Yippee! So I celebrated by having margaritas with my spouse on our backyard patio. I also did a small painting in color. I’ve been thinking of of color as I have been working on “How to Draw A Dragon” a black and white line drawn book for other people to color. Indulging in both an adult drink and some gouache paints was decadent!!
And while I was painting the light outside changed but I kept painting.
While this looks like a complete painting done during the duration of a drink – and it is – but it is also only one piece of my much larger Odditorium exhibit. You might say this is like novelist writing one decent short paragraph during the time it takes to drink a margarita. A paragraph is not a novel. One painting is not an exhibit.
On another day this week my spouse snapped a photo of me drawing in my morning sketchbook. Below the photo you can see what I was sketching.
The next morning I got one of my small art boards and re-sketched my thought. This is what I love about keeping a sketchbook – I can explore thoughts messily in my sketchbook then later pick the thought I really like and re-explore and repeat with variations. I can try it in different sizes, art mediums and colors. This way there’s no pressure to get it right the first time. And I get to play with a group of fun thoughts as long as I like. Some might call it “flitting about” but I call it normal creativity. (See also my last post) Can you see how similar the visual art creative process is to the writers process of rewriting? Below I basically “rewrite” my thought.
I’m thinking this artwork will be fun on a mug for a gardener to use. There I go again dedicating a gift for someone – whether they ever see it or not. I mentioned doing this gift making / dedications in my last post. This mug and a card with the same artwork are on my Zazzle shop now.
I’ve even thought about color when eating this week – inspired by a recipe in my kitchen sketchbook Favorites So Far.
Below is one of the books I’ve been reading in the evenings before bed titled Nature’s Palette. My spouse gave it to me for my birthday earlier! Do you notice that some botanical and zoological drawings look sortof coloring book-like? Well in part that’s because long ago books were illustrated using etchings which were often colored by hand before being bound into a book. And from my past experience as a biological illustrator often both black line drawings and color drawings are needed for the same plant – so color is filled in (so to speak) after one has an accurate line drawing. Is it really any surprise that I’ve been thinking of color and coloring books lately?
I hope your week is full of color and delights for your senses. 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.
June 25 through the 28th we had an intense heatwave here in the Pacific Northwest. It was hot enough to melt cables on the streetcar. It was hotter than the Mojave desert. My spouse and I stayed in the room of our house with the ceiling fan and the portable air conditioning unit. We drank water like it was a career. We ate salty snacks to help stay hydrated. We hugged ice packs to help cool our cores.
Most homes in the Pacific Northwest don’t have A/C because normal summer temperatures average in the mid 70’s to low 80’s. Very rarely are the temps higher than 90 degrees. A strategy of opening windows and doors in the cool of morning and at night then closing them just before the temperature gets to the 70’s is usually enough to keep a house comfortable all day.
Allegedly the recent heatwave was a once in a thousand year heat dome exacerbated by the climate crisis. Whatever you want to call it – it was very hot. And it took me most of a week to recover. 118 degrees outside and 93 degrees inside even with the air conditioning running full blast feels hotter than you can imagine. Hugging an ice pack like a teddy bear really helped.
During the heat wave I did a lot of reading and by habit I continued my daily drawing in my sketchbook. But my new crocodile project (prior post) is spread out in my studio where it was far too hot to stay more than a few minutes. So the only progress on my crocodile was an email discussion with the folks at Storyberries about formats. Still some forward motion and I’m glad of that!
Anyway, here’s some random sketchbook pages created under the ceiling fan next to the A/C. And yes, besides water we did drink our morning coffee.
What do you eat for meals when it’s record-breaking hot? Milkshakes, salads and sandwiches. Here’s the relevant pages from our Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook. I was glad I had made a book of our favorite foods to pull from because it was too hot to think properly much less be creative in the kitchen.
The process of dealing with the heat was something of a learning curve. Did I mention that heat is not normal for the cool rainy Pacific Northwest?! Here in case it’s needed – which I hope it won’t be – is an article about being safe in extreme heat.
Then later, July 2nd, there were my art openings at Burnt Bridge Cellars and at the Aurora Gallery! Fortunately I felt enough better by then to do social media to share about them.
Here below is what the Aurora Gallery shared of part of the Gallery exhibit. My “Bear, Matt” original art and a few of the prints can be seen in the lower left corner.
My original “Bear, Matt” painting was done on a beermat coaster I’d gotten on a trip to Buoy Beer. (details in an earlier post) So the back of the original art shows the brewpub logo. You can see both sides below.
In case you missed it here’s a blog post about my “Bear, Matt” project. The photo below shows a few of the prints. You know it’s a print because the back is plain except for my studio logos.
It was a treat this week, a real bright spot, to hear from my favorite college art history professor! She wrote of her delight in having gotten a copy of my new childrens book On Looking At Odditorium and her pleasure at still having one of my paintings in her dining room! Wow!! How nice is that?!
Back when her children were young I had the thrill of having her children as two of my “favorite fans” – one of her girls had even specifically picked out artwork of mine to buy for their very own collection! Oh, that ranks high in my list of happy memories!
Now this week my professor added to my happiness by sending me this photo!! In the top left corner you can see one of my artworks circa 20 years ago give or take. I remember being so excited back then when my painting found a home with this professor!
Also this week I got to sign some of my green dragon bookplates for another dear friend’s two grandkids!! That was another high point!!
It was also an uplift, during the heatwave itself, to post here the conversation I’d had earlier before the heatwave began with Mrs Perry, the guest art teacher I featured, and then to follow the readers comments!!
I just love doing the work I do and I would do it even if there wasn’t anybody around to notice. But I really like creating my artwork as part of an ongoing conversation with friends. And it certainly helped my own spirits this week to hear from friends that my artwork brings them joy!
So note to self: go ahead and write that fan letter, send that card, type that text and tell someone something kind. You might make a really big difference in someone’s week and help them get through a rough spell.
Stay cool and hydrated this week and know that I appreciate it that you follow my blog. See you next Monday.
To my awareness there aren’t many books for children that talk about looking at an artist’s exhibit whether the fine art is in a book or on walls.
I think looking at a book of fine art is similar to looking at a wordless picture book. Looking at one artist’s series of paintings on a gallery wall is like a wordless book too. But looking at fine art, while there are similarities to wordless picture books, it is also different; a collection of fine art often refers to the feelings and lived experiences of the artist in addition to any visual story there may be within the artwork itself.
So I’ve been lucky enough to work with Storyberries to create a childrens book On Looking At Odditorium that I hope will help kids enjoy looking at artwork and be able to speculate about the artist’s thinking.
Towards that end I created cartoon drawings of myself so they could take a trip (or tour) through a book of my Odditorium fine art exhibit and explain what I was thinking and how I created each painting.
Here’s a closer look at all of the avatar drawings. In many of my childrens books on Storyberries.com there’s a photo of me wearing a sweater. For consistency sake I drew myself in a sweater pointing this way and that.
I want to encourage imaginations so in the book I try to both show and tell what using imagination is like.
For a childrens book I didn’t want to get too technical about art materials and methods but I did want to share something about them. I wanted to share especially when the materials and methods directly interacted with my imagination.
Below is a look at the book layout so you can see the little avatars on tour across a page spread.
The adult version of my Odditorium exhibit coffee table book does not have the avatar or descriptions. Here’s what the cover of the adult book looks like.
And here’s the childrens book version titled “On Looking At Odditorium“. The cover design is very similar to the adult book on purpose – to emphasize that anyone of any age can look at art. The layout inside this book is different as is the kind of paper for the printed books. I wanted paper likely to withstand children’s hands.
Storyberries has a extra special ebook edition that went live within hours of this post. And I love the nesting specialness of this project: it’s a fine art exhibit called Odditorium at Burnt Bridge Cellars via Caplan Art Designs that has a companion exhibit book titled Odditorium. The Odditorium exhibit book then has a companion childrens book version titled On Looking At Odditorium. Then the special ebook on Storyberries – which you can see here for free – about looking at On Looking At Odditorium! Here’s what the Storyberries ebook version looks like at the top…
Did you get all the nesting nuances to this project? I’ve hopefully laid it all out clearly on my portfolio page about this project… but even if no one besides me sees the nesting qualities – thinking about it in this interlocking way served to help me construct it all – my main point is for people to have fun.
Needless to say it’s been a very busy week. There’s been food, some of it tasty and blog-worthy, but I was tired and just ate it without photos or noting recipes.
Also due to busy-ness not much was done on my new crocodile project mentioned last post. But I have kept up my sketchbook activities and reading books of an evening. Sketching and reading are like breathing.
So I’ll not promise anything specific for next Monday… but there will be something. Hopefully, something that encourages your own creative life or is at least entertaining for you.
Till next time – have a good week looking at stuff.
Last week I took 3 boxes containing all of my Odditorium fineart into Burnt Bridge Cellars where it will be through the end of July. Everything I’ve done over the last year is now in the capable hands of the winery and the Caplan Art Designs art gallery!
My spouse took this photo as I paused with one of the boxes on my way into the back patio door of the winery.
Due to our state’s Covid19 protocols reservations are needed for drinking and eating indoors or outdoors at the winery. Masked people are welcome to drop in to see the fine art and buy bottles or growlers of wines. When not seated masks are required.
While not exactly a full art opening the winery took reservations for a special Friday night dinner: marinated salmon or chicken sate by Class Cooking and of course one could sit and enjoy a variety of wines!! Masks can be removed when seated it’s just when walking about that they’re needed.
Friday night there was live music outside on the winery patio. And you could go inside to see my fineart and artistbooks then you could go outside to hear the music or vice versa.
These photos below are a look at my Odditorium artexhibit on the winery walls before people came (there are more photos here).
Below is a photo of the artist books that are in the basket in the photo above.
And my green dragon bookplates did come in time!! I had hoped in my last post to sign a few of the bookplates for the exhibit in case someone wanted one in one of my books.
Anyway, I was very aware all week that in the best of times and conditions I don’t hear well. Add the masks worn sensibly during a fading pandemic and lip reading isn’t an option either. So I made the decision to stay home even though I could have made a reservation at Burnt Bridge Cellars and spent at least some time at the winery during the first Friday my Odditorium art exhibit was available.
But I know myself and I know that if I saw someone looking at my art I’d want to pop up from my seat put my mask on and try to talk with them and try to hear what they’d say even knowing it wouldn’t be likely…. so I just chose to not put myself in that situation.
While it was a sensible decision I still had some upset feelings about it. So I worked on remembering this 👇
Bookstores and libraries have often been my places of consolation. So my spouse and I went and had our first in-person visit to a local independent bookstore Vintage Books ! We’ve both been buying online from Vintage Books for a year now…but the impulse buying when indiebookstore shopping in person can’t be beat!! https://www.vintage-books.net/
Here’s a selfie I snapped inside the store. At the time we went there were only two other customers and two store employees. We were all spread out throughout the store. It was silent (at least to my perception) except for one of the two store cats who sat up when I neared the shelf where she lay and said “meow”. Vintage Books has both new and used books so the store smelled like book heaven even though my mask. I loved the sights of the colorful book spines and book covers displayed on shelves from floor to ceiling. The staff write handwritten notes about books and I enjoy seeing the various handwriting styles in various places on the shelves. There were multiple spaces where books from different topics/genres had been collected together with staff comments like “if you like the topic in this book then you may like these too” – and that’s a sure way to get me to impulse buy! 🤣
Here’s a photo of my book haul.
Then after we got home I used my usual “how to pick a book” method. I’ve described it in Another Sketchbook and also included it on this coffee mug in my Zazzle shop.
It felt so good to have an extended length of time reading!!
Another soul satisfying restorative was finding that my order from Paperblanks came!!! (https://www.paperblanks.com/en/) Yippee!!! I buy blank books 5 or 6 at a time because it gives me the joyous feeling that I can write with impunity. I can draw with abandon. I can liberally spread the sunshine of my imagination. I can run around with my pen… I can…I can… I can…❤❤❤❤🖋🖋🖋☕☕❤❤❤❤
So this weekend I immersed myself in my books, I dipped into novels like a diver into a swimming pool. I also swam freely in my new orange poetry sketchbook book (mentioned last post). The orange book was the last unused book from my last order-of-5 books. Whenever I get to the last few books I order more immediately.
Several meals this week were quick sandwiches: cream cheese, various vegetables chopped up and some spring greens on lavash bread rolled up. A rolled sandwich only requires one hand to hold it which leaves the other hand free to hold a book! The Atoria Lavash are some of the best I’ve tasted and they ship directly from the bakery! Anyway here’s a link to the sandwich rolling technique https://www.atoriasfamilybakery.com/wrap-like-a-pro/
While my Odditorium exhibit will run through the end of July in subsequent posts I’m going to turn this blog towards new projects. I’ve already started new fine art that continues this Odditorium theme. The new art will be destined for exhibit in September. There’s also the children’s book version of my Odditorium exhibit book still to be released. So periodically on this blog I will probably return to this theme. But I’ve also got a different project in progress that I also want to share with you…
More about that next Monday. I hope your week is a good one!
Early this week I’m delivering all of the Odditorium fine art and books to Burnt Bridge Cellars! This weekend I made sure the art is ready to go and signed some of the artist books.
These artist books are stories within the Odditorium series fine art visual stories. First there’s the Odditorium exhibit catalog which tells the story of the exhibit itself and has images of all the fine art.
Then each additional artist book that I wrote and illustrated, whether for children or adults, contains an odd look at a household or mundane experience. Numpurrs is about a shared meal. Patch La Belle is a collection of whimsical poems about drawers, chairs, cake and much more. This Rabbit is about liking activities at home. Another Sketchbook is about enjoying books and ones own mind. Favorites So Far is a collection of my favorite recipes. Pembral Forgets, written by Steve Tubbs and illustrated by me is about fall leaves and good food.
I didn’t sign all of the books and I hope the green dragon bookplates, that I spoke of in a prior post, come from the printer soon. I plan to sign a few of those for Burnt Bridge Cellars to have on hand just in case someone wants a book signed that wasn’t already signed.
Here are boxes of fine art ready for delivery. One of the side benefits of working in a series on the same size art boards is the ease of packing for transportation.
It didn’t take long to double check that all of my exhibit ducks are in a row because I was basically ready a week ago. So I’ve begun to work on other projects and a starting point is to read about stories and imagination.
Speaking of poetry: I’ve started a new poetry sketchbook. I like the mini books from paperblanks.com with the unlined thicker paper as I can both draw and write on it. I don’t paint in this book as the paper isn’t suitable for watercolor or gouache. This is deliberate as the attributes of the paper in my poetry sketchbook helps me focus on the words and the illustration idea itself instead of getting focused on color too soon. I have a bound watercolor sketchbook for when it’s time for color considerations and serious ink work. This means I may start something in my poetry sketchbook and then try the same sketch in color in my watercolor sketchbook. The 3 photos below show the new (orange) poetry sketchbook, then one of the poems I wrote in the new poetry book. The 3rd photo shows my watercolor sketchbook and a color effort with my poetry idea. At this point I’m just playing.
Related to my household surrealism thoughts I wonder…Can poetry or short stories also be a mug or notecard? What if the mug is big enough to hold soup?
What if the card is itself a pun shared between people…?
I want to make things that help people connect with other people. This is part of why I enjoy having fine art exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars – via Caplan Art Designs – people connect over my art, the wine and food. It does feel strange – and anticlimactic – from my point of view to have an exhibit at the winery and not have a big blowout multiple hours long opening party due to the sensible covid restrictions. (The winery is at 50% capacity and reservations are necessary for eating and drinking at the winery. They welcome masked people dropping in to buy bottles of wine and see the art.)
But last year during the worst of the pandemic shutdown I was delightfully amazed at the many kind responses – virtual comments on social media – about my art, my books and my efforts at a virtual exhibit! (This years virtual exhibit is here) And because in the past exhibits I’d had trouble hearing in the winery when it was packed with people – during shutdown 2020 I actually enjoyed my online interactions with people because I could actually read what they said!!
Anyway, I have hopes that somehow it will all work this year too – and that people will go to the winery and enjoy the wine, the food and my art and books!
Speaking of food… Here’s a yummy soup I made this week. I like having soup in large mugs – makes it easier to get the last bite. The potato soup recipe I used is from one of my favorite cookbooks. I love thinking about things that build community: books, music, art and….soup!! This book is fun to read because it’s also a series of stories about food and friends in different communities.
A person doesn’t live by soup and bread alone we also need our personal green dragons, aka our imaginations, carefully nourished so we can deal with the emotional wolves inside us and be able to participate in life. What do you feed wolves? Stories, poems, music and fine art!
Here’s another sketchbook page somewhat related to this topic.
May your dragon and good wolf be well fed this week. See you next Monday?
Frankly, I’m tired. But it’s the I’ve-played-hard good kind of tired. So more pictures and less text in this post and you get a special peek … I’ve been thinking about Kurt Vonnegut’s book If this isn’t nice what is? Here’s an article I enjoyed about this Vonnegut book. Here’s a photo of the book in my library with other Vonnegut titles.
Below is one of the poems I read during breakfast this week in a book called Animal Poems. It’s one of the titles in the Pocket Poetry series by Everyman’s Library. (I love this series! Especially with breakfast!) The poem in the photo is by Wiliam Cowper. I love the last line “The comfort of a reasonable joy.” So I’ve also been thinking how important it is to have regular reasonable enjoyments. I take the phrase “reasonable enjoyments” to mean the simple kind that don’t require lots of money, a travel agent or dressy clothes. Anyway, here’s the poem.
In my last post I talked about the pace of creative life. I’ve still been thinking about the skill of crafting daily rhythms and here’s a link to an inspiring article I read on the topic: https://www.wired.com/story/calendar-tips-post-pandemic-reentry-organization/ Maintaining a daily rhythm has enabled me – to get very tired 🤣 – but also to have nearly everything completely finished two weeks early prior to delivery of all the art and books for my Odditorium exhibit. Being early gives me flexibility to have time to rest as well as to deal with any unexpected issues.
Below are some of my sketchbook pages … and some kitchen gadgets I looked at and thought about as I worked on one of the last paintings for this exhibit.
Here’s a photo my spouse took of me working out how flamingos might carry things.
Below is the finished painting on my easel drying. Below that is a close up of the dry painting. I titled it “Is Not This Nice?” The title fits with my thoughts recently and echos the collage text I found in my falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was fun to find text written by Austen that was similar to what Vonnegut said.
If the background of my painting reminds you of the ocean….we went there recently and seeing the sea lingered in my mind. The Pacific Ocean isn’t far from our house. I find it soothing to visit.
The other way I’ve been earning my tired is that I’ve been working on the exhibit catalog aka a picture book of my Odditorium exhibit. In addition to that I’ve been working on a kid friendly version of my exhibit catalog. Children need fine art in their lives too in my opinion. When I was a kid I would have loved to see a book talking about looking at fine art. That’s why I took the extra steps to make a children’s book version too. I have sent the kid friendly version to Storyberries.com and they have an exciting plan for the book design! Below is a screenshot of a post they did on Instagram about it!
Here’s a special early peek into the Odditorium – at my exhibit book!!! And a link so you can see the whole book!!! Even in the midst of being tired I’m excited!!
One of my reasonable enjoyments this week was my spouse’s homemade biscuits for breakfast. The recipe is in my kitchen sketchbook Favorites So Far and you can see more of it here.
More next Monday about the Odditorium exhibit book and the other fun stuff…after I have a bit of rest. Hope you have a good week full of relaxation and reasonable enjoyments.
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 in household surrealism I’ve been thinking of love. Love in the sense of the poetry, the food, the care for and cleaning of things, generally creating a gentle environment for ourselves and others. Perhaps an environment also filled with souvenirs of loving moments as I wrote in my last post.
My recent children’s book This Rabbit was about knowing what you like. Well, this week I’ve been thinking about how it can take practice as adults to remember to let ourselves love openly, wholeheartedly and to unabashedly enjoy things.
Among these thoughts is the fact that tulips are in bloom when I live in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s a photo from my spouse’s garden.
In the morning sometimes I read a bit of poetry while having my breakfast and coffee. The photo below is a poem by Mary Oliver, from “New and Selected Poems Vol 1”, I see this poem as talking about wholeheartedly living life. A life well lived is lived bit by bit in thousands and thousands of mundane moments. Many of those moments (even in pre-pandemic times) happen at home.
Letting oneself wholeheartedly enjoy and love little parts of daily life – why is that so hard? Perhaps as adults we get caught up in the “gotta do’s” as I call them. We sometimes almost chain-smoke, metaphorically, one gotta-do duty after another forgetting that love and pleasure is often part of the reason we do things. By contrast it feels good to pay attention to whatever interests you and revel in that focused moment. This wholehearted enjoyment is a way to be gentle and loving to yourself and the people you love. Anyway, I thought of that while I doodled in my sketchbook.
Then I worked several days in a row to flesh out my thought using acrylic paint on cradled board. Yes, this is another piece destined for upcoming art exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars and at Caplan Art Designs.
Below is the finished painting I titled “The Minutest Concerns”.
The label on the bottle of cleaning fluid the mouse is using in my painting is actually a bit of collage. I’ve been using a falling apart copy of Jan Austen’s book Pride and Prejudice as my collage source. (See my last posts here and here for details)
Basically, in the bigger universal sense, things are okay, you are okay, and it’s okay to relax and enjoy just being yourself and liking and loving the world around you.
For example this photo below is part of my world that I love; I love picking up one of the books and reading a bit, I love just looking at the books on the shelves and I even love dusting them. Of course I confess that often I get distracted and stop dusting to read 😁
I love having lots of books so much that it feels like heaven. So I did this drawing and made a print of it…just in case someone else feels the same way. (This is part of the gift making I talked of last post) Even if I’m the only person who feels like this making a drawing and a print was a fun way to fully enjoy and love the feeling.
I also love the challenge of cooking. It took me a while to figure it out but I can now reliably make meatballs to store in the freezer for use whenever the odd meatball is wanted with pasta or rice or roasted vegetables.
Here’s my recipe as written in my kitchen sketchbook. Yes, this is another souvenir of love! Books and sketchbooks are the best souvenirs!
My sketchbook page will still be there long after the meatballs have all been eaten! Plus I can share this sketchbook page with people and thereby share the love.
That’s part of what I love about poetry, books, gardens and art they each nourish one’s spirit and are shareable. They’re part of how we know we’re loved and part of how we love other people and how we remember to love ourselves and the world around us. They’re part of how we connect emotionally with each other.
A dear friend loaned me this book “The 3000 Mile Garden”. It’s a wonderful almost voyeristic view of two people sharing their love of food and gardens with each other. And we readers get to see their intimate exchange of letters! The book has hand drawn maps and photos too! It’s a fun evening read.
These are the sorts of thoughts that inspire me as I work on my new household surrealism fine art series that I’m titling “Odditorium”. In addition to the art itself I’m also working on an exhibit statement- which is kindof like the synopsis on book covers – a short paragraph or two to interest viewers and help them understand what I’ve created. Wish me luck at crafting the sentences?
Anyway, I hope this week that you’ll remember to allow yourself to love whatever is commonplace in your world. See you next Monday?