Some time back I read an article in my local newspaper about teaching kids to snack healthy and to learn to trust their body’s cues about food. Since then I’ve been thinking of similarities between healthy snacking habits and developing a healthy creative life.
- Teach yourself how to recognize aesthetic cues/desires – and practice responding to them – over time. I think of aesthetic cues as mental indulge-ments; things like stories, poems, movies, music, art etc. that make you feel glad to be alive. Just like a kid has to learn how to try new foods and then practice recognizing what foods they enjoy eating. As we go through life our aesthetic preferences change – just like our food preferences do. So it’s helpful to continue to try new aesthetic/art snacks periodically – and practice trusting your own cues.
- Allow yourself to listen to your own aesthetic cues/voice without input from other people. This takes practice and no matter how experienced a person is one has to remember to return to listening to one’s own voice – rather like how sometimes a kid (or an adult) has to be reminded to pay attention to their plate and eat. (When my wife and I go to happy hour with our friends I have to remind myself to eat…I tend to focus on the conversation…)
- Give yourself permission to just practice. Practice-an-art-materials can be as simple as keeping a book of stories or poems handy for reading and a small book to write in. Think of it as adult playing. Some helpful mantras: “Nothing has to go right today”, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.” and “It’s okay to make mistakes and messes – it’s part of how we learn.”
- Set specific times to practice. These can be very short bursts of time. They can be event/circumstance based rather than clock based. i.e. I’ll practice reading/writing poems while the coffee/tea brews, the water boils or the oven pre-heats.
- Create a small place/drawer where your practice-an-art materials are kept handy. Perhaps a shelf where books related to your art snack indulge-ments are stored. Look for and collect objects, events, places that feed your creative-soul-heart-mind. Stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive. Plan to indulge in these things in small ways – daily.
- Set a habit (I hate the word “rule”) for what time per month you’ll indulge yourself – for an aesthetic “meal”, something more than a short snack – with someone else’s artwork: i.e. go to local art-openings, poetry/story slams, indie film nights, music jam nights or a visit to an art museum.
Here’s what I indulged myself with this morning as an art snack while my breakfast bread toasted:
The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats is a new-favorite poem. It reminds me that we can – and do – create our own solace.
Here are a few pages from my tiny sketchbook for the Brooklyn Art Library titled “A. Mouse’s Book Of Scraps”. And since you follow me here’s my entire book, free download, as my thank-you-for-following-me gift: AMousesBookOfScrapsByClancy
I’m doing this gifting by permission of our books author Mr. A. Mouse of course. <wink> We, Mr. A. Mouse and I, hope you like it!
And yes, this 2.33 inch by 1.66 inch book is a humorous parody or spoof on the concept of collecting and publishing…
In a recent post I spoke of this book and of the Brooklyn Art Library’s Tiny Sketchbook Project in general well here’s a link https://www.brooklynartlibrary.com/
You can also see more of my downloadable artist books on this page. Your patronage and support means a lot! Thank you!
This year I’m participating in the tiny sketchbook project at the Brooklyn Art Library – my sketchbook will travel to London, Paris and other places in Europe along with other tiny sketchbooks in a portable library that fits in a suitcase. My book will be in the Brooklyn Art Library’s permanent collection.
I’ve titled my book “A Mouse’s Book Of Scraps”. It’s a scrapbook from the point of view of a mouse. A Pacific Northwest Jumping Mouse to be exact. It’s fun to think about what kinds of things a mouse would collect; cheese rinds, vegetable scraps and landscapes.
Here’s a picture of my book in progress. The mint is there to show scale. And yes – it’s hand bound…
In between Holiday fine art commissions I’ve been reading about the writers technique of flash fiction and flash non-fiction. And I’ve realized that this is what I’ve been doing all this time – illustrated flash. Or “illustrated shorts” as I call them. Like the short-short story writers do I take a nugget of a thought or feeling and describe it – but using visual art instead of words.
For example: I’ve sometimes looked at bowls of peppermint candies and thought of how fun it’d be to fling the mints up in the air and let it “rain” mints for a second. I’ve never done it – probably wouldn’t ever do it – but it’s fun to imagine. So I’ve been working on a fabric pattern design with that in mind.
I’ve done more of a red emphasis on the mints even though it’s not realistic to the mint examples in the photo because I had some mints recently that had more red on them. They aren’t in the photo because I ate them. All of them. And I’m not sorry I did either!
Anyway, after finishing the peppermint candy pattern artwork I scanned the artwork, took the digital file and set it up to become tea towels or napkins. Here’s a picture of the tea towel.
By illustrating fabric, in flash-fiction style, I’m able to get across my fleeting “tossed mints” feeling/thought but in a way that’s succinct (like a short-short story) and it’s also of practical use.
It suits my sense of humor to combine both the fleeting and the practical…
Happy Holiday’s in advance! Now I’ll go back to being one of Santa’s elves…
Thumb Use – By Clancy –
Sissy had extra-large thumbs.
So she cleared the table of crumbs
saying “What else can you do,
in the absence of stew,
but make excellent use of your thumbs?”
gouache illustration by Clancy
At a friends house recently we were served a spinach and pomegranate salad. It was yummy and something like this recipe here. As I ate I realized I’d never looked properly at a pomegranate. I also realized I didn’t know cut one open. So later, back at my studio, I found an instruction video here – then I got some pomegranates and began looking and painting. This is what I did:
“Oh Seeds!” – by Clancy – 5 x 7 inches – gouache and acrylic on board, framed.
“Shared Seeds” – by Clancy – 7 x 5 inches – gouache and acrylic on board, framed.
After the paintings were done (and the pomegranates added to my salad) I submitted the artwork for consideration to the gallery. They were accepted so I framed them and delivered them along with 10 other small pieces for a “Small Works Holiday Group Exhibit” at Caplan Art Designs the months of November and December. www.caplanartdesigns.com
All in all not a bad way to learn how to make a salad!
Typically I paint food and drinks from my memory and imagination. Sort of. I take my sketchbook along and draw from life what I’m eating or drinking. But when I get paints out in my studio to do a “real” fine art piece I’m winging it from my sketchbook-aided memories of the food flavors and presentation. Recently I’ve done something different.
I’ve been working from “live” models in my studio. Here are my models as they came from the store:
Clancy’s art studio “models”.
You see, I’ve been thinking of that moment during a nice dinner out, when the waiter brings you some after dinner mints, and you sit with your friends munching them and gentling into the rest of the evening. But I can eat mints pretty quickly. (Mint is one of my favorite flavors) And in such a situation I’m usually focused on the conversation. So have I ever really looked at a mint? I mean really looked?
I bought some mint candies as art models for the serious artistic meditation thereof. And while I did look at (and eat) them I still ended up somewhat “winging it” when creating these paintings:
“Into The Andes” by Clancy – 5 x 7 inches – acrylic and gouache on board
“I Really Mint It” by Clancy – 7 x 5 inches – acrylic and gouache on board
“Pillow Talk” by Clancy – 7 x 5 inches – acrylic and gouache on board
I think as paintings they worked out okay. While I tried some different colors (the purple, the teal and the orange) I feel I conveyed the minty goodness of the candies. I also think I managed to imply a story in each of them, at least an implication of people eating the mints.
At any rate I have really looked a mint now. Really looked.
Olives are one of the many ways adults know they are loved. Grapes too. But I’ve been thinking about olives. Olives to eat. Olives in Dirty Martini’s. And how if you say “olive hue” it sounds a lot like “I love you”.
Olives have to be picked from the olive trees carefully – then preserved and processed – lots of work is done just so we can enjoy them. In all of their salty, brine-y, yummy glory. There. I feel loved. Don’t you?
Anyway here’s artwork I did recently while these thoughts ran around my brain (brine?) jar:
In Search Of The Holy Grail – by Clancy – 7 x 5 inches – acrylic and gouache on board
Allegedly you can grow olives here in the Pacific Northwest. There is at least one local bar that serves drinks with “Local Oregon Olives”. (Note to self: Explore this more.)
Speaking of drinks – one of my favorites is the “Dirty Martini”. With extra olives of course. Here’s a drawing I did of my currently favored recipe:
In September at Caplan Art Designs www.caplanartdesigns.com I’m doing a one-person fine art exhibit titled “Story Stuff”. And you can thank the literary genre of the “cozy mystery” for it.
You see I enjoy detective novels and movies. I particularly enjoy cozy mystery novels because I like the inherent premise in them that a regular person living an ordinary mundane sort of life can use reason and logic to resolve problems.
After reading and watching a gazillion mystery stories – I realized how often some small object; a receipt, a coffee bag, or a whiskey tumbler is the clue that solves the mystery. That thought inspired me to try telling visual stories with “just stuff”. So for this exhibit I’ve selected things from my daily life and arranged them in my imagination, along with color, light and texture, in such a way that the viewer can deduce a story; they can “read” my visual description of how things are and which things matter. The viewer becomes the story detective/character-actor.
In some of my works I’ve also invented a character-actor – a cat or a dog – who plays a more obvious part in the story. Anthropomorphic animals are a way to make it plain that the artwork is a visual story. These particular animal characters are created and chosen because their breed characteristics add elements to the tale. The viewer is still the detective – there’s just more actors on stage.
I’m merging fine art techniques, and fine art genres of “Still Life” and “Animals in Art”, with literary and mystery genre concepts. I also love food, drinks and books – they are the elements of everyday Pacific Northwest life which for me is the stuff of stories.
Here’s (ahem) a short story collection from my upcoming exhibit:
“Mint Math” by Clancy – 5 x 7 inches – acrylic and gouache on board
“Purrameters of Pie” By Clancy 36 x 24 x 2 inches Hand dyed paper and acrylic on cradled board
“A Novel Morning” – by Clancy – 24 x 18 – acrylic and gouache on board
“Alpha Betty” – by Clancy 24 x 20 x 2 inches Hand dyed and hand stenciled paper and acrylic on cradled board
“Coffee City” – by Clancy – 5 x 7 inches – acrylic and gouache on board
“Pierre” – by Clancy – 7 x 5 inches – ink on handmade paper
“Strawberry Daiquiris” – by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – acrylic and gouache on board
“Strad O’Varius” by Clancy – 30 x 24 inches – hand dyed paper, acrylic and color pencil on cradled board.
“Good Morning” – by Clancy – 11 x 17 inches – acrylic and gouache on board
“Paws for Coffee” – by Clancy – 16 x12 x 2 inchesHand dyed paper, found paper and acrylic on cradled board
As a long-time coffee lover I’ve been recently learning about tea. More than half of the world drinks tea and/or has some kind of tea ceremony. As far as I can tell the philosophy of tea is basically a way of valuing mundane life – in a somewhat carefully curated way. The ordinary as a source of stimulation, of stirring inspiration.
In making this piece I’ve deliberately used multiple perspectives – visual oddities – to emphasize the many ways there are to approach, value and appreciate a personal moment of pleasure in daily life.
Perhaps not surprisingly I’ve titled it “A Stirring Occasion”.
A Stirring Occasion by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – acrylic and gouache on board
I confess that I’ve recently been reading a number of titles from the British Library Crime Classics. (here’s a link https://poisonedpenpress.com/series/british-library-crime-classics/) They’ve a number of books sorted by “impossible crimes” “locked room mysteries” and other detective mystery themes.
And I also thought about the concepts “bone china”,”dogs with bones”,”seize the day” and “stirring/stimulating/interesting”…
So as I worked on my artwork I designed yet another “impossible object” because I wanted to depict that feeling of dynamism within mundane pleasures.
As you know I’ve done “impossible objects” before when it suits the artistic concept – most recently my cat portrait titled “Alpha Betty” (past blog posts about that here and here and the finished art here) which has an “impossible book” reflecting the multiplicity of language.
Anyway – If you’ve been following me on Instagram you’ll see some of my recent tea adventures…