The ants the wetlands and the wild books

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, book design and layout, books, children's book, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, fine art, household surrealism, miniature art, Odditerrarium, poetry, sketchbook, Storyberries, visual thinking, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

In our neighborhood we joke that western Washington is built on a giant anthill. Each spring we all battle ants outside our houses before they can invade indoors. The first hint is a mound of dirt where there wasn’t one before. Like this one on the edge of our patio.

I lifted the bricks and put the ant bait directly on the fascinating ant farm-tunnel construction then covered the bait with the bricks again and swept away the dirt on the brick edges. Of course I had a good look at the way the ants collected and organized  the dirt before I did my acts of destruction.

When ants are found indoors I use a solution of vinegar and Dawn dishwashing soap to clean the area where ants were seen. The non-poison solution is in a spray bottle and it quite effectively kills and deters ants. Between the outdoor/indoor methods the ant activity is usually successfully managed.

After doing some ant battle outdoors I came inside, looked at my bookshelves and realized how many anthologies I have: collections of poetry, short stories, essays… In one set of bookshelves alone I counted over 25 anthologies. There are still more on other shelves. I have an anthology infestation and I’m keeping it!!

For the first time I saw that there’s an “ant” in the word anthology – so I grabbed a dictionary, a scrap of paper and made a list… and with that list I have begun a new children’s book for Storyberries. I’m using a collage of letterpress letters from Columbia Gorge Book Arts and drawing ants in ink. Both my handwritten list and the beginning of the new book are in the photo below.

In case you have trouble reading my handwriting here’s the list…

Anthology: [a gathering] collections, often varied authors, of a similar literary form or topic or time period (in my last post I listed a few anthologies about the Beat Generation)

Ant farms: [a gathering and a structure] a colony of ants constructing a dwelling

Holo: a word element meaning whole or entire

Alphabet: [a structure] a set of letters to be arranged in a customary order. A structure  of language

Hology: [a relationship] – a general relationship  between reality and it’s content

Besides musing about words my wife and I went for a walk in the Steigerwald Wildlife Refuge with our binoculars. I saw the purple blue grey colors of a great blue heron up close! I didn’t realize the extent of the purplish tints to the heron feathers.  We saw lots of other wildlife too – including smiling friendly humans!

During our walk I kept thinking of a work of fiction I had read long ago that had a musician character who sang “Oh I’ll cry when the wetlands are dry”. The wetlands were a character in the story too as I recalled.

I also vaguely recalled some phrases about birds and wetlands from Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry.  But these were fleeting snatches of phrases half-remembered like wild birds glimpsed in the pond reeds.

When we were home I rummaged in my books for where the “Oh, I’ll cry when the wetlands are dry” phrase originated. Turns out it came from “With A Tangled Skein” by Piers Anthony. I had an enjoyable hunt for wetlands in this title too…

The half-remembered phrases from Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver: “I am hardly an ornithologist nevertheless I live among the birds…” (from Leavings by Berry)  and “The labor of writing poems, of working with thought and emotion (or is it the wings?) of language, is strange to nature, for we are first of all creatures of motion.” (from Upstream by Mary Oliver)

I also saw and heard some of the Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry poems about wetlands on this Wisconsin Wetland site https://www.wisconsinwetlands.org/wetland-words/

But since I live in Washington state I went looking for some wetlands related poetry from local writers. Here’s what I found from Salish Magazine a publication located in Washington state https://salishmagazine.org/issue-9-art-poetry/

In the mornings I was still thinking about the herons and the ants so they’re in my sketchbook pages. And it’s been fun sharing my sketchbook pages via email on my new Substack https://sueclancy.substack.com/

Speaking of slurping… I made a yummy fettuccine recipe using spinach and green herbs from our garden: garlic chives, green onion and basil. Here’s the recipe:

https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/fettuccine-with-green-herbs

I also did a Reel this week about my Odditerrarium book and exhibit…  https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cejq5Lap2mI/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

This is the challenge for me – remembering  to promote the project I finished and is currently in public like Odditerrarium. Often I finish something and I’m on to the next project right away … like my “Ant Hology” book now in progress! So, more on that book next week.

I hope your week is pleasant. See you next Monday.

Using much eloquence while juggling numbers

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, book design and layout, books, business of art, children's book, handmade books, household surrealism, mental health, miniature art, Odditerrarium, publications - publishing, sketchbook, Storyberries, wordless story, writing and illustrating

A new painting in my Odditerrarium series for upcoming exhibits via Caplan Art Designs is titled “Using Much Eloquence”. Like the others in this series this one is 10 x 8 inches and made with ink, gouache and collage on board.

Here’s a closer view so you can see what this dog is thinking.

Now that I’ve made sufficient progress on my Odditerrarium series – I have 15 of the paintings finished  – it’s time to write the art exhibit statement that will be used both for the Odditerrarium artist book and for the exhibit. I have written before in this blog (here) about writing art exhibit statements or “blurbs” as I call them. Exhibit statements are a short, around 150 words, first person description of what an exhibit is about. I think of it as like the description on the back of a book. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

I also think of a shorter sentence that can be used like a log-line is used in book publishing. For Odditerrarium I’ve written “I wonder what our dogs and cats think about the objects, people and places in their lives so in my Odditerrarium fine art series of portraits I imagine the contents of their thoughts as a terrarium hat.”

Whenever I begin a new series I keep a logbook where I make notes of my thoughts towards the series while I work. I write what I’m excited about, the questions I’m asking, what I learn etc and those notes are what I pull from to write an exhibit statement and logline. Making “notes” includes my sketchbook pages like this one.

Whenever I have finished more than 10 paintings from what I think is a series I’ll spread the finished artwork out where I can see it all, reread my logbook and see which bits fit with the finished artworks and which of the artworks do look like a coherent series. Of course I add these thoughts to my logbook.

My statement writing process is a whole lot like the project narrative writing for grant applications directions (link here) except I don’t apply for any grants with my project narratives aka exhibit statements. I used an informal version of my Odditerrarium statement during discussions with Caplan Art Designs about my proposed exhibit. Whenever I decide the formal written Odditerrarium statement is as good as I can make it I will send it to the gallery.

Putting together the artist book version of my Odditerrarium series will help me know when my statement is done.

Here’s my dachshund supervisor helping me process photos of the finished artwork for use in the book design for Odditerrarium.

My newest artist book “Juggling Numbers” is now out on Storyberries!! In this video I’m showing the original artist book “Juggling Numbers” a handmade artist book that plays in a visual way with the flow of numbers. I made a digital ebook version of this artist book for the experimental art category of Storyberries.com – see it here – a free ebook site for children. I chose the number range from 1 to 25 because a friends grandchildren could count to 20.

https://www.storyberries.com/counting-books-juggling-numbers-by-clancy-experimental-kids-art-books/

Below are a few still photos of the original book – video and links are also on my portfolio page here. The logline for Juggling Numbers is something like this ” … can you count forwards and backwards with a cat?”

I got news this week that my adopted Mom is not doing well health wise (hospice) and big sister, Mom and I visited by phone several times. Mom told me repeatedly to “keep making your art”. I know she’s quite serious about that. So I’ve begun drawing and painting orchids, Mom’s favorite flower. That’s all I know to do whenever I’m sad – channel feelings and love into art. Putting symbolic things in my art is my way of doing a version of Carol Burnett’s ear tug. Printed books whenever they appear in my artwork are for my adopted Dad – in case you wondered.

Grateful for my sketchbook as a way of both holding on and letting go.

A brunch I had with my wife this weekend was particularly lovely: homemade scrambled eggs, bacon, sourdough toast with homemade jam made by our friend Carol. Our coffee cups resting on handmade coasters by our friend Jeannie – and we felt surrounded by the love and support of friendship! And yes I put tobasco sauce on my eggs and tobasco jelly on my toast … is there anything I don’t put Tobasco on? Maybe ice cream. But I haven’t tried that yet so I don’t know for sure.

I hope your week is full of love and friendships. I hope you have plenty of tobasco sauce if you like it. I’ll keep making art because my Mom says so and I hope you’ll keep on keeping on too. See you next Monday.

A scoop of book creation repair and love

A Creative Life, art book review, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, dog portrait, ebook, handmade books, hopepunk, illustrated poem, life of the mind, mental health, printed books, Storyberries, Sustainable creativity

My newest artist book “A Scoop Of Letter Soup” was just released on Storyberries.com and you can see it for free here! Yippee!!!

https://www.storyberries.com/experimental-art-books-for-kids-a-scoop-of-letter-soup-free-alphabet-books/

A video look at the original book “A Scoop Of Letter Soup” is here on YouTube and I did manage to make an Instagram Reel of it too!! I wrote last post about learning about Reels so I’m still feeling “look I did it!” about my new skill!! 🤣 And I’ve made a portfolio page where my currently in progress series of short experimental art books will be collected as they appear as ebooks on Storyberries. At some future time I may gather them into a printed book but for now this portfolio page is where they’ll exist outside of Storyberries. I’m loving the pun of making books by hand that are distributed as ebooks!!

Here are some still photos of the book

In one of the little concertina book blanks I made and talked about in last weeks post I am starting a new illustrated poem book. This will be a slow project to be worked on around the edges of other projects. But here’s how it goes: In my poetry sketchbook, seen in the upper part of the photo below, I have some poems that seem worth working with. After selecting one of my sketchbook poem rough drafts I did a few thumbnail doodles on a scrap of paper to try different placements of my poem text and artwork. The thumbnail doodle that I like best can be seen on the lower right in these photos. To the left is the concertina book blank and my efforts at doing the hand lettering and drawing “for real” aka neatly and possibly worthy for public viewing.

One benefit of working in a concertina book is that I can easily slip a bit of wax paper under the page I’m working on in order to prevent bleed-through of my inks or gouache paints.

Here’s the finished page.

A post ot two ago I wrote about one of my favorite books by Mary Lasswell “Suds In Your Eye” as one of the hopepunk style books I cheer up by. Lasswell was writing in the 1940’s so finding print copies of her work has been a bit of a personal quest.

One of my coveted Lasswell titles “One On The House” came via mail this week! A side benefit of being someone who creates artist books is that I have most of the tools for minor book repair on hand. The copy I could find (and afford) of “One On The House” was listed in acceptable condition but with a cover-spine issue. As you can see below the cover is barely hanging on by threads.

But the outside of the cover-spine is fine!

So I took a strip of archival mulberry paper and trimmed it to fit.

Then I laid the trimmed mulberry strip on wax paper and covered one side of the mulberry strip with archival neutral ph glue. I took the photo below while the strip was still wet after being put in place so it is still shiny in appearance. I used the bone folder to press the just glued paper into the cover spine fold. When the glue dries the mulberry paper will almost disappear and blend in with the books original paper.

I slipped clean wax paper in the crevice of the patch so if any glue oozes as I close the cover it won’t harm the rest of the book. Then I put some paper weights on the cover and let the book dry overnight. There were two other weak sections of the book spine that got this same repair treatment which is why you see three pieces of wax paper in the book in the photo below.

I am a professional artist who knows a lot about creating books by hand but that’s not the same thing as being a book conservation or restoration expert. My repair attempts on books are not on rare or valuable books. My repair attempts are on books for my own use. My copy of “One On The House” cost me 6 dollars and I repaired it because I want to easily read it without without causing more damage to the book. If I hadn’t done the repairs I’d bet that after the first read through the book would have fallen completely apart. I also want to keep this book on my “bookshelf to cheer up by” – more on that in a sec – so I want the book to be as hale and hearty as possible. Anyway, a very good resource book for such minor repairs is “The Care and Feeding of Books Old and New” by Rosenberg and Marcowitz. And a good source for book making or repair supplies is https://www.talasonline.com/

This photo below is of my “books to cheer up by” section I mentioned earlier. As you can see the book I repaired has taken its place on the shelf next to The Annotated Arabian Nights.

We poured a bit of bourbon and said “cheers” to the newcomers on our cheer-up bookshelf! For my own mental health sake it feels good to have a shelf full of reliable sources of good cheer.

As you see in the above photo one of the books there is titled “Mrs. Rasmussen’s Book of One-Arm Cookery”. Mrs. Rasmussen is one of Mary Lasswell’s reoccurring fictional characters who is famous for being able to cook very good meals while holding her beer in one hand.

I made Mrs. Rasmussen’s super yummy chili recipe and rice while holding my bourbon. But I did set my glass down when I chopped the onion. Even so I think Mrs. Rasmussen would have cheered my efforts. It did taste good!

One of our local independent bookstores, Powell’s, did a fundraiser for Ukraine. Naturally my wife and I ordered books. More than one box of books was mailed to us but the stack of books in the photo below was what was delivered while the chili cooked and the bourbon flowed.

Here’s hoping you too have a collection of books, soup, fur-friends and people that you love that can help cheer you up. So cheers! Till next Monday.

Short poems in the Reel world, letter soup and odd dogs

A Creative Life, art book review, Art Word Combinations, artist book, author illustrator, book design and layout, dog portrait, gift books, handmade books, hopepunk, life of the mind, miniature art, poetry, publications - publishing, Storyberries, words and pictures

Imagination and poetry were on my mind this week. I’ve been thinking of our mental ecosystems and the landscape of our minds. So this week I did a portrait of a Shih Tzu this week for upcoming exhibits via Caplan Art Designs which I’ve titled “In Imagination”.

“In Imagination” by Clancy- 10 x 8 inches- ink, gouache and collage on board

Here’s a closer view of what’s on the dog’s mind.

As I mentioned in my last post there was still some promotional work with Storyberries to be done about How The Cow Went Over The Moon and Tiny Notes To The Sun. I did a video on YouTube talking about making the books and I shared the video with Storyberries for their promo use. Here’s the link https://youtu.be/MJ_MACUUVJE

Storyberries said “Great! Can you do it as an Instagram Reel?” And I replied “A Reel? I’ll have to Google whatever that is…” So I Googled and found this article as well as others. I also talked more with Storyberries about Reels because they’ve been doing Reels longer than I have.

Turns out that doing a Reel was fairly easy to figure out. I still have more to learn but I did turn the above YouTube video into a Reel on Instagram

Then to practice further I put my Tiny Notes visual poem by itself as a Reel on Instagram. I think you can see it here – https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cap5Pn2gKAE/?utm_medium=copy_link

Additionally for promoting “How The Cow…” I submitted it to Apple Books as an ebook and was accepted! This brings the total number of books by me on Apple to 15! I’m proud of that! If you scroll down this page you can see more of my books.

https://books.apple.com/us/book/how-the-cow-went-over-the-moon-and-tiny-notes-to-the-sun/id1612027035

Also in the promotion of How the Cow… Bonnie showcased my work on her blog https://bonniereadsandwrites.wordpress.com/2022/03/06/self-published-spotlight-how-the-cow-went-over-the-moon-and-tiny-notes-to-the-sun-by-sue-clancy/ I just love how the online creative community supports and encourages each other! I appreciate all the help I get when it comes to letting people know my work exists. (If you’re a writer please check out Bonnie’s blog.)

As you know from my last post I’ve been thinking of poetry as a rhythmic visual sequence. So I played with a short sequence of drawings and published it as poem on a coffee mug. To me the sentiment in my poem fit the trying-to-get-started morning need for caffine. I also used these drawings as test content for making another Instagram Reel. Im trying to practice this because suddenly I’m seeing the very short videos as another way to share my visual content… and I can imagine doing more collaboration with Storyberries this way too!

https://www.zazzle.com/so_noted_mug-168379402814896112

Speaking of very short poems: a whole lot of progress happened on my newest experimental art poem…

I finished painting the content and the cover art. Then I cut out the cover art and glued it onto the outside of the 2 inch square concertina book.

Here’s an early peek at the finished original artist book. As I mentioned in my last post I don’t want to show too much of the punchline before Storyberries has a chance to distribute it. They’ve tentatively scheduled it for release Mar 12 so slowly over this next week I’ll post more in public on social media. But for my dear blog followers here’s an advance look at the original artwork.

Here I am, with canine supervisory assistance, setting up the digital files for sending to Storyberries.

And here’s what’s on my laptop screen.

My thinking is about the mechanism of ebook flow on Storyberries and fitting a visual poem rhythm to that. The ebooks on Storyberries flow up and down so my question is can I do poetic rhythms, repetitions and surprises in a way that takes advantage of that? Can a viewers eye “read” an implied connection between the up/down pages? It’s fun to experiment and play with what a poem and a book can be!

Here’s a peek at the ebook version. I’m thinking the viewers will make the transition between the pages just fine… what do you think?

While “A Scoop Of Letter Soup” seems really simple there was a lot of thinking and planning behind it, possibly more planning than I’ve done for my more complicated works. I think of “A Scoop…” as a little treat rather like how a baker puts a lot of time and effort into making something yummy that’s eaten in a moment.

This week I also cut, folded, trimmed and glued handmade paper into what I call “book blanks” concertina books that are ready for my content. I have some more plans for future artist books and this is part of getting ready for book content production.

Sometimes I have bought blank concertina books from an art supply store but generally I find it more satisfying to make my own. I can choose my own paper for the book and make it a size and length needed for the projects I have in mind.

Below is a photo of my evening reading list. Three of the four books pictured talk about the playful, generous nature of poetry and books in general and ways language itself can be a form of loving and caring. I’m enjoying thinking of how poetry and stories can be useful mental landscape construction tools for creating pleasant mind-scapes.

And Good Omens by Terry Pratchett is just plain fun to read.

I hope your mind is your preferred landscape and that it is especially beautiful this week. See you next Monday.

Our current times, tuning in to awe and books

A Creative Life, animals in art, artist book, author illustrator, books, children's book, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, ebook, food for thought, hopepunk, illustrated poem, mental health, miniature art, mundane and magical moments, Numpurrs, poetry, printed books, sketchbook, Storyberries, Sustainable creativity, The Professional Dog, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

This week war began and for a second being an artist felt frivolous. But in difficult times we need art more than ever. We need things and people that feed our spirits and remind us of why we’re glad to be alive. We need hope. That’s how we fight for democracy  and win.

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began I listened to the news and searched my bookshelves for a title I had gotten in 2003 not long after 9/11 and when war began in Iraq. My thoughts then, like now, turned to the role of artists during times of war. “Artists in Times of War” by Howard Zinn was very relevant in 2003 and still is even though the current event details are different.

Spoiler: artists are carriers of democracy. To quote from page 108 they are “profoundly democratic”. Democratic is defined as upholding, however imperfectly, the ideas of rule of law, of equality before the law, equality in access to resources, equality of representation in government and the human right of self determination. The Arts are a living language of a people, a dramatization of what they feel, what they need, what their hopes are … The Arts help people become self aware. Self-awareness helps people make choices and become active participants in their own lives and communities. That’s what makes living artists so dangerous in the viewpoint of authoritarians.

And perhaps equally important is the fact that artists help us, no matter how high flying the political rhetoric, to remember that the kids will still need to be entertained and educated, that adults will still need kindness, that dinner will still be wanted. Art, poetry and writing of all kinds can help us remember that the statistics a politician quotes represent actual people.

Speaking of dinner: a dear friend came over to visit for an evening and to ask me to sign some copies of two of my book titles that she plans to give as gifts! It was so good to see her!

After serving wine I signed copies of The Professional Dog and Numpurrs. I also did little drawings in each book!

We had a free ranging conversation about life, books, movies and my friend indulged me as I showed her my art projects in progress and outloud we played with what “could be”. This is an extremely exciting and valuable sort of conversation! Bouncing ideas around in loose “what if…” and “what about…” ways helps me in my creative process! It was so unbelievably good to get my friends input! Sharing artwork in its fragile beginning stages is risky and I’m so lucky to have trustworthy creative-playing friendships.

I made a new batch of potato soup (recipe last post) and when it was ready the three of us ate soup out of large mugs while sitting informally in the living room where it was warm and comfy.

I delighted in having fabric cocktail napkins with my Professional Dog portraits on them and enjoyed our friends chuckles when she saw the napkins!

The Professional Dog cocktail napkins- https://www.spoonflower.com/en/home-decor/dining/cocktail-napkins/12418133-professional-dog-by-sueclancy

Whenever I feel unsettled about world events besides talking with my spouse and trusted friends I deliberately tune in to awe. Meaning that I purposefully do some small thing that delights me, sparks my curiosity or causes me to notice something and say “wow!”. A good article I read this week on the topic of awe and why it’s important is here. An aspect of tuning in to the feeling of awe is to cultivate time to play in unstructured ways, to make time to wander, to ponder.

On a recent wandering meandering car drive we saw snowfall and large trees. That’s a guaranteed “wow” from me – I love the large evergreens any time of the year.

The feelings of awe, the feelings curiosity and the feelings of an aha moment are part of why I object so strongly to book banning (see a recent post). The attempts to control the mental resources available to others is a form of abuse. Banning preempts the victims ability to be self-aware and to be able use, as democracy offers, however imperfectly, the right of self determination. The restrictions of a person’s access to books and other mental resources is as serious as someone restricting a person’s access to food, water or healthcare.

Books Are All We Know … art print by Clancy –  https://society6.com/product/books-are-all-we-know-of-heaven4207368_print?sku=s6-18617343p4a1v45

During times of unrest I think taking the time to ponder is crucial because an artist is so much more than a reaction to or a mirror of society. If an artist is going to take action rather than simply knee jerk react to current events it takes time to think things through.

Here’s a paraphrased quote that I wrote on a card and thumbtacked to my studio wall.

Progress is happening on a new experimental art book for Storyberries! It’s a wordless visual poem about letter soup with only 10 panels plus front and back covers. 12 images total. Ink, acrylic and gouache are my art methods on another 2 inch square concertina zig zag folded book. I focused as I mentioned last post on rhythm, repetition and surprise. It will be a challenge to talk about this poem on this blog and on my social media without giving the poem’s punchline away immediately before Storyberries has a chance to distribute it but I’ll do my best.

In the photo below I’ve laid in the extreme dark and light areas to establish the contrast as well as to focus on the visual rhythm. I’m thinking of how the ebooks on Storyberries flow up and down so I’m designing my content to flow with that book motion. Will it work? I don’t know. 🤷‍♀️ Yes, my new poem is for a category on Storyberries called “experimental” for a reason! 🤣

The sortof weird thing is that I’ve not completely finished promoting “How The Cow Went Over The Moon” yet. So there might be some promotion overlap. Oh well. People read more than one book at a time anyway right?

A few evenings this week I took a break from reading “The Annotated Arabian Nights” to read “Suds in Your Eye” by Mary Lasswell. This book was published in 1942 when World War II began. What I’ve enjoyed about this book, besides seeing an artistic response to the wartime events of the 1942 era, is that no single person is the “hero” or center of the story. The story centers around how a group of people work together as a community. The concept of working together is also what drives the story plot. And “good food, great friends and cold beer” could be the books motto. This is such a good book to cheer up by! I’d list this book as an early example of the hopepunk genre (mentioned last post). And the illustrations are darling!

Besides the visit from a great friend this week my wife and I talked by phone with my adopted mom and big sister! Mom said she’s proud of me and that I’m to “Keep making art”! Big sister agreed! So I wrote the exact quote of Mom’s on a card and thumbtacked it to my studio wall just above the light switch for the room. That way I will always remember!

I hope your week contains many connections with your support system so that you feel encouraged to do all the good you can in this world.

See you next Monday?

On using banned book lists as a buyer’s guide and other subversive activities

A Creative Life, animals in art, art gallery, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, children's book, creative thinking, ebook, fine art, gift books, greeting cards, handmade books, humor in art, illustrated poem, life of the mind, mental health, miniature art, Narrative Art, poetry, publications - publishing, published art, Storyberries, visual thinking, whimsical art, wordless story, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

Book banning is a hot topic with me because I’ve been on the receiving end of bans. Those occurrences happened in Oklahoma over 10 years ago when I lived there. To name just one example, in 2008 I was to have a one person art exhibit at the Oklahoma State Capital. More than a few of my paintings were banned from the Capital exhibit. I called my Tulsa Oklahoma gallery, Joseph Gierek Fine Art, to tell about being banned. The Gallery owner, Joe, said “Stay right there, I’ll come and pick them up!” Tulsa is about a 200 mile drive away from the Oklahoma Capital but Joe was there with his van in a trice. Then the Joseph Gierek Fine Art gallery did a special exhibit behind yellow caution tape in Tulsa and we called my one person exhibit “View At Your Own Risk” with a statement telling a bit about my work being banned. Oh my, was the Gierek Gallery brave! So that very weird experience of being banned turned out very well for me and for Joe!

After my spouse and I had newly relocated to Washington state I had an interview with the Caplan Art Designs Gallery. Having just moved I brought along to Caplan’s the finished artworks I had on hand which was some of my then recently banned-in-Oklahoma artwork. The Caplan Gallery immediately signed me up as a gallery artist and sold 4 of my paintings before the ink on my contract was dry! In Oklahoma my work had often been considered “subversive” or even “offensive” (there were a number of bans of and objections regarding my artwork) but in the Pacific Northwest my work – the very same artwork! – is considered “charming” and even “delightful” and “whimsical”. What a pleasant shift of perspective!

This painting below is one of my paintings that had been banned in Oklahoma but quite welcome in the Pacific Northwest. Allegedly this painting was banned in Oklahoma because of the semi nudity. 🙄 This photo is of the same banned art newly located in the Pacific Northwest where instead of offending adults it amused adults and children!! (Yes, I have found my happy place!!)

Child looking at artwork by Sue Clancy hanging at the Caplan Art Designs Gallery in Portland Oregon

More to the point of my blog post today – in 2010 the public library where we then lived in Oklahoma was going to display a few LGBTQ friendly books under glass deep inside in the library. It seemed like almost the entire town turned out to protest in a 4 hours long city council event. The majority of the speakers were vehemently homophobic. After the event one young gay person committed suicide. It was that vitriolic. After the event we contacted a realtor in Washington state and asked her to please find us a home and that we would even consider a hole in the ground with a tarp on it. We needed out! Long story short we, with the help of a wonderful realtor, found and bought our Washington house sight-unseen over the internet and within 6 months of that Oklahoma council meeting we had moved! One of the best things we ever did!! Being gay in Washington is no big deal at all! Also no big deal: being an artist, a book reader or being deaf.

Back to the present: This week since I was upset about all of the recent book banning I focused on making and sending cards to fellow book readers. You can see more about the cards on my Zazzle shop https://www.zazzle.com/collections/odd_greeting_cards_art_by_clancy-119338499337369594

I don’t for one minute think that every book has to resemble and reflect the superficial attributes of a reader in order to be a book worth reading. As an adult I enjoy reading work about, and by, people unlike me but I can see how it would help young people to be able once and a while to see, in a book, a superficial likeness of themselves. It helps to feel less alone, even safe, wanted and welcome somewhere – even if that place is in a book.

I went though my entire childhood – as an avid, dare I say obsessive, reader – never once reading about a gay deaf artistically inclined tomboy girl living primarily with her grandmother and enduring “visits to hell” with her abusive biological uber-religious parents.

The only deaf person I ever read about in a book was Helen Keller and that didn’t feel relatable to me.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was the first time I read of violence and family dysfunction happening to someone besides me and that was SO relatable – even though all of the characters were boys. That book helped me feel less alone then and I can still quote verbatim from that book today.

Judy Blume’s “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret” helped me address my confusion about cruelty/weirdness about bodies that was done in the name of religion.

I didn’t encounter a gay character in any book until I went to college in 1986 and read “Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit” by Jeanette Winterson which had been written in 1985. And that book felt like a welcome healing salve to my 18 year old psyche.

I could go on naming books – many of them now banned – that really helped me get through things as a young person. But I’m sure you’re getting the idea of why wide availability of books (and art) matters so much to me.

So naturally my spouse and I in response to the spate of book banning in 2022 went looking for lists of banned books so we could buy copies of those books. If you too want to use banned book lists as book buying recommendations 😁 Below are the lists we found.

Here are 50 books Texas banned from school libraries
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/texas-library-books-banned-schools-rcna12986

A casual list of “interesting” banned books.

A more official list of banned books from the American Library Association that has several years worth of banned books listed.

A list of childrens books that have been banned

A juicy oh-so-delectible list of banned books for grownups at Powell’s one of my local Pacific Northwest independent bookstores. (I think most of my high school and college required reading is on this list!🤯)

I mentioned last post about Maus by Art Spiegelman being banned … well here is a great article about why that book is important and why it is shocking that, to quote from the article, “people could be more upset by mild profanity than they are by genocide.”

An article about book banning in Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee https://www.salon.com/2022/01/26/book-banning-heats-up-in-red-states/

And another article speculating about why book banning and even book burning has become “a thing” in late 2021 and early 2022.

There’s also an article about a Texas lawmaker who wants to ban and burn 850 book titles statewide… but enough of that.

Enough!

When things begin to feel overwhelming I find it helpful to look for one specific thing I can do something about. This is in the vein of “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”

Here’s an article we found about one specific library in Mississippi whose funding is being withheld by the mayor because he disapproves of some LGBTQ books. My wife and I chose this library and donated money. Then we spent time tweeting and sharing the info in hopes of getting more donations for them.

https://www.fundlibraries.org/ridgelandbookbanning

Here’s a portion of the letter we got after donating which has the libraries snail mail address if that is preferred.

Here’s a clickable online donation link https://www.fundlibraries.org/ridgelandbookbanning

Two days later we saw that they had achieved their funding goal with still more time to spare!!! We’re hoping even more donations will happen!

Since I took the above screenshot the Ridgeland Library has adjusted their goal upwards… and is reaching the new goal too!! Yippee!!! Click this link to see up-to-the-minute progress. I’ve been monitoring and boy is it fun to see the library succeed!!!

Anyway, for me public libraries are intimately interconnected with basic human rights. Images and words make up the human mind much like air and water make up the human body – we need trusted sources for all of these. Humans are social beings intertwined mentality and physically with the community around them. Here’s a poem that illustrates this idea that I have written off by hand and thumbtacked to my studio wall where I see it often.

And that’s why I make artist books. It’s my “why” for most of my creative efforts really. It’s part of why I feel it’s important to be a participant in a community of artists, writers and readers. It’s why having an egalitarian community – at least on the gallery walls and the library shelves matters so much to me.

Books and art are communal in nature and utilizing them often is part of being fully human within a community.

As an example of the interconnectedness of art and community: my newest childrens book “How The Cow Went Over The Moon and Tiny Notes For The Sun” began its life as rolled up paper that had been given to me by my friend Laurel, some sheet music given to me by my friend Patti Jo, some grey bookbinders board from Twinrocker and their archival glue www.twinrocker.com

I thought about my Vancouver USA downtown and how I love it that the 5 story library and the independent theatre are some of the tallest most iconic buildings. I also thought about the scrubjay blue birds that are native here.

Then I wondered just how did Mother Goose’s cow travel over the moon… and how do birds remember their songs?

The two handmade books were created first and then because I wanted my friends to be able to have copies if they want them I did booklayout and bookdesign to make printedbooks – those are available on demand here
https://www.blurb.com/b/11033023-how-the-cow-went-over-the-moon-and-tiny-notes-to

Now Storyberries is distributing ebook versions of my book as two ebooks on their site!! You can see the bird here and the cow here on http://www.storyberries.com

Storyberries has even created a new book category for my work called “experimental art”!! Oh I’m gleefully looking forward to making more books for them to distribute!!!

So it can very truthfully be said that my new artistbook is a direct result of community !! Thank you all!! And I love you all too!! ❤🙌

I’ll repeat myself here because I am so excited and grateful to the Storyberries community for this new “experimental art books” category! Thanks for giving me such a valuable space to just be me! I’m so looking forward to sharing the fun of playing with imagination and creativity this way!

Speaking of imagination and being creative: there’s a wonderful article on creativity written by Luzemy Romero and Fleur Rodgers on Storyberries – and I have an illustration in it! But what’s fun is that these creativity tips the authors write about are things I do… Every. Single. Day!
Especially the reading part!!!
And if you go by chronological age I’m a grownup… so… the authors ideas apply to all ages. Anyway there are some really great creativity tips here
https://www.storyberries.com/creativity-kids-how-to-help-your-child-to-be-creative-storyberries-parenting-portal/

Here’s my illustration within the article by Gamboa and Rodgers and a bit of the article text. We need a wide variety of stories in order to practice flexibility in our thinking and creativity. A variety of material, some of it liked, some disliked, gives our minds something to respond to within our own creativity.

Also on the intersection of creativity and libraries there’s a fun article right here about an 8 year old who wrote and illustrated a handmade book and slipped it into the public library collection in Boise Idaho!

This week our copies of Maus by Art Spiegelman came by mail from one of our local bookstores Daedalus Books!

I had posted on my Instagram page that I was looking online at our local indiebookstores to see if anyone had Maus and didn’t see it – as they indicated sold put or it wasn’t listed. Well @daedalusbookspdx commented on my post that they didn’t have all of their books online but that they *did* have copies of Maus!!! So I called them immediately and bought the copies of Maus!

In the past when we’ve visited Daedalus Books in person I’ve relished their “books about books” section… While I had the store on the phone I named a price range and asked the store to pick a book for me from that section and include it with our Maus copies… I also asked that they *not* tell me what title they selected! I love a good book surprise!

Here in the photos below is my surprise book! It’s perfect!!! It’s a book about giftbooks – which is what I create!!! (See my portfolio page) I’m beyond happy with my surprise book! I immediately wrote a postcard to tell Daedalus thank you!!! Wow! What a treat!!! I am so glad Daedalus had copies of Maus too!!

The last photo has contact info for Daedalus…and as I’ve learned you can just call them up, ask politely and they’ll hand you a smile in the form of a book !! Wow!!!

So I made a big pot of vegetarian chili and we settled in to read! Here’s the recipe I used https://bluejeanchef.com/recipes/black-bean-mushroom-chili/

Come to think of it becoming a semi-vegetarian while in college in fried-meat-and-fried-potatoes Oklahoma was another, ahem, “interesting” experience. I’m not, and have never been, a strict vegetarian (I don’t want to be strict about anything) I just do like vegetables and well vegetarian meals frequently happen. But I remember accidentally shocking people in Oklahoma with vegetarian fare now and then. 🤷‍♀️

Back to the present yumminess… the mushroom chili was served in big mugs with crackers and a side of books to read. I’m lucky to have married a fellow avid book reader!

Here’s another favorite quote about books that I’ve handwritten and thumbtacked to my studio wall.

I hope your week is full of subversive literary, artistic and culinary delights and that you’re able to radically and wholeheartedly enjoy them!

See you next Monday.