My childrens book “The Professional Dog” has moved into color! Over the last week I’ve inked more than 12 of the illustrations just so I could see where I was going. Now I’m doing the same testing with colors. I’m using my butterfly palette (a post about that here) – it’s a fun challenge to paint dogs using a palette based in a scientific study of the color variations of butterflies. I have been using a few extra colors – most notably dark brown- but my primary color scheme is butterflies!
Below is a look at three of my Professional Dog illustrations together so you can see how the colors look.
Then here’s a closer look at each of those illustrations: my book text for each portrait is below.
Progress has also been happening on my holiday box project for an upcoming exhibit at Caplan Art Designs. I now have the overall design plan somewhat in view. In the photos below I’m working in my sketchbook to see if my plan has legs so to speak.
I’ll do more sketchbook work over the coming days towards this holiday box project. The box project has a firm deadline attached to it so I’m playing with it every day.
This is true now too of The Professional Dog. There’s a deadline but it’s not as firm as the box project deadline. Even so I have two main projects to work on every day! How nice is that?!
I am still planning to add to my ongoing “For Pleasant Encouragement” art print project and to my “odd greeting cards” project but progress on both of these is primarily in my sketchbook now. My daily focus is on my two main projects but I’m making regular notes in my sketchbook of my ideas for future cards and art prints for when I have time to do them!
If you’re curious about where I’m filming these chats here’s a blog post from some time ago that has a fun photo of the spot in my studio. It is still true for me what I write in that post that art is love made visible and that this spot in my studio is where I practice loving.
This week for the main special get-creative-in-the-kitchen project I added sauteed zucchini but otherwise mostly followed this creamy gnocchi sauce recipe https://www.acouplecooks.com/easy-creamy-gnocchi-sauce/ It was tasty but a bit more heavy than we like to eat so I probably won’t make this again. Still, I’ve not cooked gnocchi very often so it was fun to try it.
Contrary to what it may seem like having two main art projects with deadlines actually frees up my brain time. In addition to playing in my sketchbook I can get some reading done! I’m within whiskers of finishing “A Swim In The Pond In The Rain” by George Saunders for the 2nd time. Gosh I’m glad I bought my own printed copy of this book … it’s such a good source of creative encouragement!
Here’s hoping you have many sources of encouragement this week and that your cat similarly saves a chair for you in your happy place.
The Professional Dog text for my in-progress childrens book is solid enough that this week I focused on the illustrations. I’ve done about 12 of them in ink and have established a pattern for the artwork that relates to the text. I’m working on bringing the illustrations up to the same semi solid level of preparation as the text.
As per my last post I’m still looking at this project somewhat sideways. It’s more in focus and it’s now moved into my “main project” work time slot but it is still becoming itself, so rather that looking at it head on and making declarative statements about it – it’s just a project I’m working on every day now. That attitude helps me keep it playful.
In my last post I spoke of picking up a box, a cube really, from the Caplan Art Designs gallery. The Gallery asked several of their artists to do something in their art style for what the Gallery is calling the “holiday box project”. Over this week I put 3 coats of gesso on my box. I also did some brainstorming in my sketchbook about what I might do with the cube.
Allowing time for gesso to dry between coats gave me time to think and try stuff with The Professional Dog project as I mentioned above and also experiment with other things…
… one of the things I thought about is this: It feels urgent to me to practice patience and to encourage decency as much as I can. The selfish meaness of a small group of people during this time in U.S. history is toxic. The majority of people are generous and kindhearted but I see the kind people, particularly my friends in the medical and teaching professions, being worn out by the few meanies. Sometimes even I feel worn out. So I have taken it as a creative challenge to do whatever I can to give the kind people a bit of care. Yes, my attempts to give care via art sometimes feels small, it feels like trying to refill a dry lake by the teacups full. But art is what I can do. And I do firmly believe this quote on my studio wall pictured below. Art is all we have. It’s certainly all I have.
Every time we’re kind, loving and supportive of each other – even in small ways – we’re enabling ourselves to not only survive but thrive. When we share art and beauty we help each others spirits – moment by moment. These moments add up. We are truly stronger together. And helping each other helps us feel better too. Self-care is community care and vice versa.
As I waited for gesso to dry I rummaged in my files, and my sketchbook for art pieces I’ve done that might encourage people. So I’m beginning a “For pleasant encouragement” art prints series on my Society 6 shop. Perhaps this series may also become a book someday? Anyway here’s one from this series.
Also while gesso dried I added a few more recipe postcards and odd cards to my collections on my Zazzle shop. I have been enjoying mailing cards to friends and they’ve seemed to like getting them – so these cards fit with my overall project of encouraging people.
This week my book This Rabbit was featured on the Read Aloud by Kidz Stories And More YouTube channel! I am honored to be called a “favorite author”! Kidz Stories And More reads childrens books aloud very well and they welcome submissions from self published childrens book authors. They can be contacted via social media.
As I mentioned above during one of my “gotta let the gesso dry” times I set up my new video thingamajig and did my first Creativity Chat!
I haven’t figured out how to embed video in blog posts yet so to view it you’ll have to click here.
I’ve written short scripts for about 15 of these chats so far and my main point of doing these is to encourage people and discuss the intersection I see between creativity and good mental health. Some time ago I had planned to do another version of Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit and focus the new book on creativity. But other projects took precedence … so I’m excited about doing videos on this topic! I can squeeze a short chat on video into my busy life!
The yummy comfort food this week was homemade biscuits and gravy! See recipe postcards above or via these links: Judy’s Biscuits and Good Gravy. It was a fun collaborative brunch!
Some books I’m reading in the evenings: Death in D Minor by Alexia Gordon – a mystery novel with a ghost in it. (It is October after all.) I’m finishing A Swim In The Pond In The Rain by George Saunders. Both are very delightful to read and transport me to other worlds smoothly! Technically I’m rereading the Saunders – I read it first as an ebook and am rereading a print version now and making notes. Thank goodness, I say almost daily, for writers – how dismal our lives would be without good soul-satisfying books.
Temperatures here in the Pacific Northwest are now cool to cold as the sun goes down so my reading evenings often have hot chocolate or hot tea to go with a book. Last night as I returned to my chair I thought “this is one of my happy places” so I took a photo.
I hope you get to spend time this week in one of your happy places. See you next Monday.
So far so good! 4 of the artworks in my Odditorium exhibit at Caplan Art Designs sold! 3 sold before the official opening! The exhibit is virtual but the gallery still had an “opening night” – as I wrote in my last post it wasn’t the same kind of party as pre-pandemic ones – this opening was careful of everyone’s health. I stayed home for several reasons: I’m deaf and can’t lip read when people wear masks. Also I really don’t want to pass along or get this virus, plus the Gallery wanted to minimize the foot traffic and stay safe.
So the night of the official opening both the Gallery and I monitored websites and social media. They monitored from inside the Gallery. I monitored from my studio. Thankfully there weren’t any technical glitches. That was a big plus!
The biggest bonus of all is that deaf – me actually got to “hear” (read) what people said about my work! The responses to my videos were also surprisingly pleasant- I made those videos in what I call “living dangerously mode” meaning I did the videos knowing that I don’t hear well and could quite easily mess up the sound recording aspect. So I was willing to fail spectacularly at making videos….and I didn’t fail! People liked them! One person even said they liked hearing me talk and that video was a great vehicle for me and I should keep it up!! 😮 That’s certainly something to consider!! Possibly best of all is that I heard from quite a number of people that my artwork-and the videos- cheered them up!!
As a result I am excited and encouraged to keep on keeping on and I appreciate that more than I can express in words.
In fact I was so excited that I started right away to brainstorm ideas for fine art for the future exhibits that are already scheduled for 2022!
Below is a quick look at all of the Odditorium art. More details on my portfolio page.
I signed 6 copies of my Odditorium book. 2 of those went home with people who visited the Gallery Thursday. This exhibit will continue through September.
During the same time of the Odditorium exhibit opening my coloring book poem How To Draw A Dragon went live on Storyberries! There is both an ebook and an audiobook version that is a slightly different from the print version of my book. The Storyberries ebook has the text typed rather than handwritten. This was done for ease of searching as I’d talked about in a previous post. One page was also wonderfully colored in using digital methods by someone at Storyberries!
I learned from the folks at Storyberries that it is possible to digitally color an ebook. If you use the notes function on your iBook and an Apple pencil you can color. Also if you use an app called Procreate you can take an ebook and color it. I am not speaking from firsthand experience here I’m just reporting what Storyberries tells me is possible with my How To Draw A Dragon ebooks.
I’ve done digital art – spent years doing digital art as part of my graphic arts career in the distant past – but I used other kinds of software. I’ve done a bit of digital art on my smartphone with a different app but frankly, I prefer getting my hands dirty with real life inks and paints.
I’ve also made a way you could download a pdf file and print the pages you want to color using your own printer and real life color pencils. For that click here.
Since this was another busy week it was easier to reheat magic beans and put them in a tortilla with veggies and cheese. Given the recent disturbing news out of Texas I was inspired to try Penzey’s Justice spice mix on my bean burritos. I like Justice.
My weekend was spent resting. But of course I drew in my sketchbook and wrote. There’s a new children’s book taking shape in my mind. I’ll tell you more next Monday. Till then keep sprinkling Justice on the beans.
Unveiling an art exhibit during a pandemic full of unknowns has gotten me thinking about uncertainty in general. In the recent past of human history, at least as I read it, “uncertainty” about the weather, if a restaurant was open or not was more normal – in general things tended to be more uncertain, unplanned and unscripted. We didn’t have phones and the ability to search for information at our fingertips, no digital assistants or handheld calendars to organize our days, we couldn’t “know” in advance when a package was arriving much less know about a person. Things unfolded over time and that was mostly okay.
Garbage time isn’t weighted by the expectation that a moment will be special and memorable and perfect.
Garbage time just is.”
And I think we need garbage time with ourselves too. Times when however we feel, whatever we do or don’t do is just fine. Especially during a pandemic.
My new coloring book poem “How To Draw A Dragon” covers a bit of the “garbage time” territory, the dragon in my book wants everything to be just so while the rabbit wants to be playfully creative. The rabbit just wants to be.
Below are some photos of the printed version of “How To Draw A Dragon”. In my last post I mentioned working on a portfolio page about this new book – so I’ve begun that here. Storyberries said that they will likely have this book on their website the first week in September – but there is some uncertainty. Pandemic you know.
Speaking of uncertainty and time: my Odditorium exhibit at Caplan Art Designs is being done a bit differently – pandemic again – and who knows how it will go. While the opening is officially the first Thursday in September it won’t be the big party of times before. Masks are required to visit the Gallery and there will be appointments arranged at other times, art will be shipped or delivered in a safe way and this virtual page used as a catalog. For my artist talk videos like this will serve – the videos and the virtual page will both be used by the Gallery rather than the physical presence of either the artist -me – or a large group of the public on one evening. So really rather than a single night opening party every day is the opening! At least that’s the thought. But who knows… and it’s okay that it’s uncertain.
What I did know for certain was that all of the paintings needed to be framed before delivery to the Gallery. So I’ve spent most of my time last few weeks doing that. Below are a few pieces newly placed in frames.
Random unplanned unscripted associations were how I got the ideas for each artwork in my Odditorium series so a little more uncertainty about the exhibit itself isn’t really a problem. Of course I hope for sales – I almost can’t help hoping that – but I don’t have big expectations. My main hope is that people will just enjoy my artwork, that it will brighten their outlook at least a little, give them a sense of comfort and care as we all cope with this pandemic. The funny thing is that this hope of mine, that my work will lift spirits, is something that I may never know whether it worked. And that’s okay. A songbird doesn’t know when it’s music is enjoyed either.
Here’s me all masked up to deliver the artwork. The gallery owner didn’t wear a mask because we had to talk business and I’m deaf and lip read.
After our conversation I left my art in the Gallery in boxes. Not very long later the owner sent me this photo of the paintings hung on the wall!
From now on I won’t be physically at the Gallery at any point. The main things I’ll be doing are the videos and the virtual page plus I will be supporting the exhibit by talking about the inspiration for the artworks and the Odditorium book on social media.
This is all *very* different. In the before times (pre covid) I would physically go to an opening party. Lots of people would come. I would give a talk. I would talk to people all evening long and go home exhausted (and happy) with a hoarse voice from having talked almost nonstop for 4 hours.
It’s not the same but this year I did 5 different videos on my YouTube channel of me talking about why I do what I do. Here’s a table of contents, so to speak, of the videos:
Besides wrapping burritos in foil and baking them as per the recipe above I had a craving for some roasted vegetables. So I made my bean, onion and cheese burritos and put them in some boat shaped ovenproof dishes. Then I covered the burritos with chopped zucchini, corn and bell peppers that I tossed in Penzey’s Northwoods Seasoning mix. A few slices of tomatoes and shredded cheese completed the dish. I covered the boats with aluminum foil and baked them in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Then I removed the foil and used the broil oven setting to toast the cheese. With hot pads on the table I served the boats directly from the oven. So yummy!!
My “garbage time” evening reading is: Ireland by Frank Delaney, The World Of Edward Gorey by Ross and Wilkin, Making Mischief by Gregory Maguire.
May we all have some good restorative “garbage time” this week. And some good food. See you next Monday.
If you got a post titled “Dragon postal whimsy” I accidentally hit a button. Here’s the real post about “How To Draw A Dragon“! After a week spent creating cover art and scanning 36 pages there’s now a coloring book poem that exists in the world!
This is the book description:
“How do you draw a grumpy dragon? This coloring book story poem written and illustrated by the artist sue clancy shows you how.
This whimsical poem is also about how creativity works, how our creative child selves and our analytical adult selves can work together.”
Below is a look at the original manuscript.
I used the computer to put the text on the front and back covers. I thought long and hard about handwriting it all but I learned when I did Patch La Belle that handwritten text on a cover isn’t “searchable” and could be harder for people to find. That searchable issue isn’t a big concern for me coming from the art world as I do where one-of-a-kind things are the norm. But after thinking a while I opted to type the cover text for “How To Draw A Dragon” even though I hand drew and hand colored everything else.
So here’s the cover becoming…
And here’s what the cover became.
I’m especially pleased that my book layout “thinking in page spreads” turned out so well! They line up in the middle when bound! In the first photo below you see my original art. Below that you see the printed book.
Since we’re still in a pandemic I have added a free printable pdf file for this book to my “shop” page where I have several of my free downloadable artist books. It’s on my to-do list to make a portfolio page for How To Draw A Dragon and have everything in one spot.
Storyberries will, eventually, also do a free ebook version of How To Draw A Dragon and have a link to the free printable pdf too. But that’s still in progress. I will update my still-to-be -made portfolio page and this blog when it’s been set up at Storyberries.
Since we are still in a pandemic the Gallery is doing all the prudent safety measures and I’m doing my part as best I can. Besides doing the virtual page about Odditorium I have done a series of videos on my YouTube channel about this exhibit as well as about why I do this work. I’ve made 5 videos in all but here’s the one about this exhibit. The Gallery will post my videos and share them with clients digitally thereby minimizing everyone’s exposure. I’m glad and grateful to work with a gallery that cares about the health of both their artists and their clients.
On still another topic: A friend recently enjoyed getting a card from me and called it “postal whimsy”. I like that phrase and asked for and was give permission to use it! So I’ve updated my Zazzle collection of odd greeting cards both with the “postal whimsy” phrase and some new card designs. I am getting serious about sending postal whimsy and helping cheer people. Below is one of my favorite cards…
This week was so busy that while I did make sure to eat meals of fruits, vegetables and whole grains – more often than not – I didn’t do any sketches or photos of the food. I just stuffed my quiche-hole and got to work.
Despite all of the busy-ness I still did drawings in my sketchbook in the mornings and my evening reading of books before bed. Makes for nice creative bookends, pun intended, to a day.
However busy your week is I hope it is bounded by pleasant things. See you next Monday? Or before then if I hit a wrong button again…
Had an oops during ink work this week on my coloring book poem “How to Draw A Dragon” here’s how I fixed it. Despite the mistake all of the hand written text as well as all of the illustrations have now been completely inked!
Here’s how: first I drew the whole book in pencil which sounds straightforward but it actually means draw, redraw each page multiple times. I do a complete draft in pencil and go through it again and again redoing elements so the story flows a certain way, to make sure setting and characters are consistent and to create the foreshadowing. This is very like a writer’s process of drafting and editing a novel. I lost count of how many drafts I’ve gone through.
Before beginning this book I knew it would be a 32 page manuscript so I made sure I had at least 84 sheets of the same kind and size of drawing paper. (Now after finishing the inking I have perhaps 8 useable sheets of blank paper left – if that gives you an idea.)
After the images were more or less set in pencil I penciled in the poem text. The poem text is spaced rhythmically to rhyme, so to speak, with the illustrations. The words and the images dovetail tightly together. This requires more drafting to get the pacing right. Then after I had a complete manuscript in pencil I partially inked each of the illustrations and adjusted the word spacing of the poem on each page in pencil.
Before starting to ink the poem text I read through it looking for grammar and spelling. I asked my spouse to look critically with fresh eyes. Then I inked the text with an ink brush pen.
Even with all that drafting and all the editing and proofreading, even with a fresh set of eyes looking, there’s a mistake! Do you spot it below?
Yes, I misspelled “oops”! Of all the things to misspell!! 🤦♀️ Oh well! When I ink words like this I’m really focused on drawing the shapes of the letters and the spaces on the page rather than writing a word. So mistakes often happen. But 95% of being an artist is knowing how to fix mistakes! The remaining 5% is being willing to keep going!
So to fix my oops on the word “oops” I got another piece of the same paper and drew a couple of “O’s” while holding the new paper next to my mistake so I can draw it the proper size. Then I cut out the newly drawn letter as close as possible not leaving much white paper showing around the letter.
Then I paint opaque white gouache on the ink mistake as smoothly as possible.
I let that white gouache dry completely. If there’s any bump in the dry gouache I use a tiny bit of fine grit sandpaper to smooth it.
I lightly apply archival paper glue to the back of the cut out letter and affix it to the whited out mistake area. I use tweezers to place the glue-y letter.
Now it’s fixed! When I scan these pages for publication I will look closely at this area on the digital file to make sure it looks like a seamless repair. Other than possibly on that “oops” the digital scans of these pages will *not* be digitally manipulated. What you’ll see in the published book will be what I made by hand.
After all the inking is done and dry I erase all the pencil marks on the manuscript.
Foreshadowing happens on every page. There are even indications about time: at first the dragons coffee is very hot and steaming but on subsequent pages there’s less steam. These pages below are possibly the pages with the heaviest foreshadowing. Each of the “art examples” presage or refer to something in the rest of the book.
The foreshadowing is complex. Matching the characters and scenery from one page to another is complex. Matching the edges of the pages together is complex. Getting the rhythm of the poem to flow (rhyme?) with the images … it’s hard to even describe how convoluted and complex (that word again) this project is…
And then there’s that it’s a coloring book. All that I have to tell the story with is a single ink line. That line has got to be right. I can’t cover over it with other sketchy lines like I do when I draw in my sketchbook or cover a line with paint as I do when I draw lines as a foundation for a painting. The single lines I draw for this project must be clear or it ceases to be a coloring book.
This coloring book poem has been one of my most complex books and yet it is so deceptively simple to look at and read. It reminds me of one of the iceberg memes about success in that the visible part of a project is the smallest element of it and the huge part is unseen.
Anyway, also this week I worked towards the continuation of my Odditorium exhibit. The Caplan Art Designs Gallery will exhibit the Odditorium works from earlier this summer as well 7 new paintings in this series. One of the new paintings is below. It was inspired by a friends photo of her ranunculous flowers. From the flowers I thought of a rhinoceros and a dress…
Yes, my household surrealism continues…
As I wrote in my last post I hoped this week to try some of my new butterfly palette paints so I did try them in my sketchbook!!
It will be fun to try doing a painting with them next!
This week we got a few cards in the mail and added them to our mantel. I realize that I really love sending and getting cards in the mail. I’ve loved it even more so since the pandemic. Since unfortunately covid is surging again I’ve been thinking I want to make more cards.
About the time I’d had that thought I heard from Bernadette who had recently blogged on New Classic Recipes my recipe for Magic Beans along with the story of how I got the recipe. Bernadette wrote suggesting that I create some recipe cards. I thought this was a great idea and merged the recipe card notion with the idea of sending postcards. You can see all of the recipe postcards I’ve made so far here. I’m thinking these will be fun to send to friends and family.
As far as food this week goes I ate so much when family was here (last post) that this week has had small salads and bowls of cereal as the feature meals. So never mind about food I cooked this week because it didn’t happen. Oh well.
Nevertheless major progress happened on “How To Draw A Dragon” – a whole manuscript completely inked! Yippee! Next up…scanning the pages and book design! See you next Monday?
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.
A work rhythm has been fairly firmly established. I wrote about that in my last post. My days now have a regularity that goes like this:
Breakfast time contains sketchbook drawings with or without characters from my currently in progress childrens book “How To Draw A Dragon”
Perhaps after eating breakfast I spend a few minutes more reading a poem or working the crossword puzzle with my spouse (we take turns doing 5 or 6 clues) while we finish our coffee. (The poem in the photo below is by Robert Service)
Then I pour another cup of coffee and carry it to the studio. There I look at the work I did last and my project schedule/guide that I described in my last post. I sip my coffee and settle in to work.
By now I’ve done about 10 of the 32 pages but even those, as you can probably see in the photos below, aren’t really finished. Some elements like the text will be the last to be inked and only after all 32 pages have been mostly finished. Similarly I will edit and ink all of the elements of foreshadowing for my poem story after all 32 pages are mostly inked.
As I work I am thinking of the pages both as page spreads and as individual pages.
These pages below have been quickly photographed where they are on my easel for sharing my progress with you here. My set up for photos for book reproductions is another thing entirely- and I’m not at that point yet.
The sharp eyed will probably notice that some changes have been made to my story setting and to my poem text since my last post.
Basically I’m in the early stages of this book project and everything is in flux and there aren’t “for public” images for this project yet.
And my books. I talk about one of the 9 books in my portfolio. Or I talk about one of my 10 books on Storyberries. Or I post a photo of my cat or dog. Or I post nothing at all. Especially as I settle into a project working rhythm I find I’m online less and less. That said I do enjoy finding your kind comments when I check in! And I thank you in advance for them.
Lunch, however, is rarely missed. This week the easiest meals were bean and grain bowls like this photo below and here’s the recipe scheme from my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook.
After lunch I head back to the studio for more work on my How To Draw A Dragon book. Generally speaking I get 2 pages finished per day. If I’m lucky I’ll get a start on a 3rd page. But my focus is on maintaining a work rhythm not in a quota of pages. If I have to totally redo a page and thus only get one page done in a day that’s fine! I just keep going! It’s a dance between discipline and the spaciousness of pleasurable play as talked about in this article.
I did take the time this week to go with my spouse to visit a new independent bookstore in our town Birdhouse Books! This was my book haul.
Short stories, poems and short essays give me an intellectual boost without requiring an investment of time like a long novel does. But sometimes a long novel is just the thing to accompany a long creative project. It just depends.
What’s not in question is the fact that time to sit and read each evening is essential to helping me maintain a steady working rhythm.
Hope your week has some good rhythms too! See you next Monday.