the art technique of attention

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, books, drawing as thinking, ebook, fine art, illustration, mental health, story, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, writing and illustrating

I’ve been very busy getting ready for a one-person fine art exhibit at Caplan Art Designs that will open in September. (So my social media activity has slacked off lately.) Around the edges of creating new fine artwork, framing, paperwork and so forth I’ve been working towards a new print edition of “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”.

This story from the First Aid Kit has been a good reminder of an art technique I try to practice daily – even when I’m busy:

Attention

Even when I’m very busy I practice taking a moment within my day, wherever I am, in the here-and-now and pay attention to my 5 senses. I try to let go of any preconceived conceptions, to just expand my awareness. I also include, in this exercise, paying attention to my free-associations and my imagination during my 5-senses check-in moment. I’ll note my sensory experience and “watch”, like you’d watch television, the memories, thoughts and associations that cross my mind as a result of the sensory experience.  I’ll often make notes in my sketchbook.

What I “get” for my payment – when I pay attention – is the power to choose what to focus on when I’m at my art easel working.

This practice of paying attention to both sensory input and the content of my mind –  is a version of what Betty Edwards wrote about in her book “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” – in the section where she talks about chairs. How (and I’m paraphrasing) a drawing student first attempting to draw a chair will substitute their knowledge about chairs (4 legs, a square seat and back) and will draw a child-like symbol of a chair. One has to learn to see the shapes of the spaces around the chair as well as the shapes of the chair itself – what is actually seen (3 legs, a trapezoid shaped seat and back).

I find too often – especially when I’m busy – I’m substituting my “knowledge” about the world, my preconceptions, for what “is” in the world. So I find it helpful to practice seeing the shapes of spaces, so to speak, in my sensory experience of the world. And to see the shapes of spaces within my own mind.

Paying attention allows me to merge real-world phenomenon with my mental life and to choose to communicate, via art, in ways that are helpful, playful and fun.

Currently “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” only exists in e-book form. But as I said above, I’m working on that. This book has had such a profound impact on my own creative life that I want to have another print version around.

sea stories

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I live now within a 2 hour drive from the Pacific Ocean. I also live near a river that feeds directly into the sea. So it’s been fun to read and think about stories, both fiction and non-fiction, that have to do with water.  Books like: “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway, “2000 Leagues Under The Sea” by Jules Verne, “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville, tales about pirates, books about the Lewis And Clark expedition and of course the writings of Mark Twain.

And I often see people reading printed books in town and on beaches along the coast. Their facial expressions make me wish I could see what story they were reading. What if a book being read leaked out from the readers mind and into the world beside them?

These musings led to my gouache painting titled “Sea Stories”:

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“Sea Stories” by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – ink and gouache on board

mixing the mundane and magical

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I’ve been reading “Whiskey Galore” by Compton Mackenzie. Once again I realize that I enjoy the mix of real-life and a whimsical imaginative look at real-life. Mackenzie used a real-life event as the inspiration for his whimsy and did the mix extremely well.

Already I’ve been doing some of this mixing in my work – but I want to do even more of that mundane/imagination mixing in my various art projects. Here’s what I did most recently: it’s 8 x 18 inches, ink and gouache on board – I’ve titled it “The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients”

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“The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients” by Clancy

It mixes the real-life (mundane) action of consulting a cookbook recipe, perhaps for chicken soup, with a (magical) chicken rescue. “The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients” will be one of several new works for an upcoming one-person art exhibit in September at Caplan Art Designs in Portland Oregon. I’ll post the new artworks here as I get them done.

But back to the artwork itself: I enjoyed doing a panoramic visual story that continues what I began doing for my “Dear Readers” exhibit currently on display at Burnt Bridge Cellars. The new wider format let me put in more details, more “story-ness”.

“The Soup Book…..” was such fun to create that I plan to do more in this format! And of course do more general mixing of metaphors, more blurring the lines between the mundane and the magical in all of my work. We’ll see how it all goes of course.

Generally I’ve been thinking of how important it is, for living well (and good mental health), to be able to view mundane life with a “glass half full” attitude, to be able to see what is good/delightful, and to use curiosity and imagination (and good books) to stimulate ones own inner life. Which is why I aspire to do an even better artistic job of mixing the mundane and the magical.

BTW: “Whiskey Galore” has been made into a movie – and a very well done movie too! The book version has a bit more story to it – but the movie is wonderful and it’s not always that both the book and movie are equals in quality.

Now for a wee dram….. Slàinte mhath!

 

 

experiment with words and art

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Yesterday was a busy day full of play both in the kitchen and on a hike. Somehow in the mix I thought of a new-to-me way to combine my handwritten words and artwork on a page.  Late last night I tried it in my sketchbook. Here’s what I did using ink and gouache:

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epic pug sitting

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Recently I did a post titled Pug Epic Book In Art – (the post is about my painting in which a pug sits in a café reading a book) – since then I’ve also mused about a character who wrote the book the pug in the painting is reading. Here is an illustration of who I imagine is sitting to write the story “Epic Tales of the Pug King” – the book being read by the other pug in the painting:

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“Epic” by Clancy – ink and gouache on paper

And I’ve written the full text of the story that I hand lettered on the painted-book within my painting referred to in the prior post – the painting that when my wife saw it said she’d like to read the rest of the story of which only a part was depicted within the painting. So here’s the story:

Epic Tales Of The Pug, King  – by Clancy

The Pug King’s elegantly chipped ceramic bowl appeared before him resplendent with gravy, chunks of meat and yams. His Majesty tasted the gravy, then a meat chunk, the gravy again, then a yam, a meat chunk with the gravy and a piece of yam with gravy. He licked his lips, the bowl and his lips again. The Royal Feast was done; the dog sought some sport to aid all digestion and to his owner cried “Sir, Fool! Kneel now and play some ball!” The owner bowed and bent his knee. “Fetch!” he said and flung a mighty fling. The ball arched high into the air across the green expanse of Royal lawn. His Majesty ran flowing, majestically, swiftly, across the grass, conquering the ball and returning back to his owner. Three times, four times they did this at the King’s command. On the 12th time the owner knelt, patted the Monarch’s silken head, saying “Enough now, lets go inside and get ready for bed.” His Royal Majesty barked sharply. “Sir Fool, there’s a King’s personal business still to do…”

a mouse scrapbook and gift

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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!

a scrapbook by a mouse

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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…

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https://www.brooklynartlibrary.com/tinysketchbook

still a character

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Here are a few of the artworks I’ve recently sent to Joseph Gierek Fine Art (www.gierek.com) for the upcoming Holiday Art Show.  I’m sure you’ll notice my “still life” object practice work now combined with characters. Yes, I’m trying to make every element count toward the visual story. You know, like a writer tries to make every word count.

I really mint it

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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:

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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:

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.

writing about art

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, fine art, sketchbook, still life, story, visual story, words and pictures, writing

There was a time when I felt that writing words-in-a-row about visual art was rather like using lemon juice to describe honey. But somewhere along the way I realized that being a professional artist out in the “real world” meant I didn’t have to write as if I were in an academic university. That was a relief.  And I realized that writing about visual art was like combining multi-media or like a playwright creating a musical theatre piece about a historical event.

It’s genre bending/blending.

So I began practicing writing about my own visual art in an everyday conversational way.  When I’m coming up with my artistic ideas I write by hand what I’m thinking and feeling as I’m drawing in my sketchbooks. Later on I use that hand written data to write more formal “blurbs”, or story-clues, about what inspired each of my artworks. I say “more formal” because the blurbs are type-written, the spelling has been checked and the original hand written data has been neatened/edited/condensed.  These “blurbs” are often printed and posted near my artwork in exhibits. In my writings I largely leave off the technical points of artistic technique because the majority of the time I’m talking to the general public. (Of course if I’m asked about art techniques I’ll gladly share details!)

In Sept I’m doing a one-person exhibit titled “Story Stuff” at Caplan Art Designs (I wrote more about that in a post titled Cozy Mystery Story Stuff). Here are a few of the artworks and the “blurbs” (story-clues?) I’ve written that will be alongside the art at my exhibit:

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Near Forest Park – by Clancy – 22 x 30 inches – acrylic and gouache on handmade paper

Near Forest Park – I enjoy hiking in a large forest in the middle of an urban city (Portland Or). I love it that I can pop out of the dense forest, get a coffee – or boot laces – and then resume my hike.

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“A Novel Morning” – by Clancy – 24 x 18 – acrylic and gouache on board

A Novel Morning – One of my favorite things to do is to go to Powell’s bookstore, find a new-to-me novel and then get something in the café. The “text” in this painting is re-combined and paraphrased from “Death at La Fenice” by Donna Leon.

GoodMorning72

“Good Morning” – by Clancy – 11 x 17 inches – acrylic and gouache on board

Good Morning – What constitutes a “good morning”? One of my answers is plenty of coffee and enough leisure time to work the daily newspaper’s crossword puzzle.

During my exhibits I’ll often see people reading the blurbs and then looking more closely at my artwork – and sometimes they’ll approach me and talk about the topic within one of my paintings. It seems that my “multi-media” pictures-plus-words exercise is helpful for starting conversations at least.

What are your thoughts about combining writing and visual art?