My kitchen sketchbook methods

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What’s for dinner? I began keeping a kitchen sketchbook years ago so I could answer that question with a reliably pleasing meal. In a blog post recently I talked of how my kitchen sketchbook, a sketchbook solely devoted to the topic of food, is “feeding” my current fine art series to be exhibited later this year. After posting someone said they’d be interested in my process of ‘kitchen sketchbook keeping’ as they’d like to create such a keepsake for their family. So my process goes like this …

I see a recipe, in a library book, a cookbook I own or online ( I follow some food blogs and Instagram accounts: Food In Books, In Diane’s Kitchen, TikiChefKim ) and I decide to try the recipe. Here’s a cookbook I found in my local library. I looked through it identifying several recipes that look possible.

Often in reading the recipe I realize that it includes an item someone at my table is allergic to, or strongly likes/dislikes, or the recipe includes an ingredient I don’t have in my cabinets. Some adaptions, adjustments, are made. In this case, pictured below, I don’t have Borlotti beans so I substitute Cranberry beans (another Italian dry bean) which I do have. I write my adjustments on my scrap of paper.

And here’s a close up of my writing on the scrap of paper.

Things I’m looking for in a recipe are: easy to make, variable when served as leftovers and yummy for the people at my table. Sometimes it can be a day or two between reading a recipe and doing the actual cooking. Whenever I do start cooking I tweek my notes on my scrap of paper.

The first meal of my Cranberry Beans and Cabbage with Rosemary Breadcrumbs was served alongside sauteed Brussels Sprouts for a vegetarian dinner. It was an easy meal for me, the cook, to prepare: I didn’t have to spend lots of time in the kitchen fussing and could work in my art studio while the beans cooked. The meal, as served, tasted yummy to both me and my spouse. So I saved my scrap of paper with my recipe notes. (If the recipe had been too fussy, or not yummy, the paper scrap would be discarded)

The next day was a busy one so just before lunch I hurridly scooped some leftover Cranberry Beans, Cabbage and Breadcrumbs into individual portion size oven safe dishes, threw a few frozen Itallian meatballs onto the beans, covered each dish with aluminum foil, put them into the oven for 30 mins and returned to my art project. When the timer went off lunch was ready.

Lunch was quite quick, yummy and got high mark’s for its ease and versatility! So the scrap of paper with the recipe got slipped in to its potential spot in my kitchen sketchbook. The next day was similarly hectic so the third re-heat of leftover Cranberry Beans and Cabbage was similar except I put an Itallian sausage in place of the meatballs.

The result was so yummy that this recipe, as adapted, earned “keeper” status, meaning it goes into my kitchen sketchbook.

During the next available 10 minutes I did a short-burst and, all at once, wrote my adapted recipe in pencil in my kitchen sketchbook.

A few days later I spent 5 minutes or so using a Micron ink pen to write over the pencil, tweeking the lettering spacing as I inked.

On still another day during another spare 5 minutes I did more inking, tweeking wording and letter spacing as I went. In the pic below you can see how different the ink work is from the original pencil.

On still another day I snuck in a moment and I erased all of the pencil marks.

Then on successive days as I worked on other art projects whenever I had a bit of color that’d also fit with something on my recipe page I’d take a minute dab the color into my kitchen sketchbook, leave the sketchbook open to dry, then I’d wash out my brush and return to my main art project.

I used color and boldness of ink to indicate ingredients and order of instructions. So in the future I’ll be able to glance through my sketchbook and easily plan dinner!

My kitchen sketchbook is 3.5 x 5 inches when closed and a half inch thick. It’s pages are a lightweight watercolor paper that takes ink and gouache fairly well if I don’t get too vigorous with it.

For my upcoming art exhibits this year, as part of my, ahem, bibliography, I’ve made artistbook copies of my kitchen sketchbook titled “Favorites So Far”. You can get a copy in advance via this link. As published the book is 8 x 10 inches, a bit larger than the original sketchbook.

And now you know how my busy, we don’t want to starve, art studio solves the “what’s for dinner” question.

Sketching a light dinner

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Here’s a page from my kitchen sketchbook. It’s relevant to a fine art piece currently in progress; a reader having hot tea and a meal like this.

Page from “Favorites So Far”

I’ll post about the fine art when it’s finished. Stay tuned.

You can see more art from my readers series at the Caplan Art Designs gallery. www.caplanartdesigns.com

Happy holiday sketchbook

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Here’s a page from my kitchen sketchbook with my Irish Coffee recipe. Cheers!! And Happy Holidays!!

Btw: This recipe and many others are in my newest published artist book titled “Favorites So Far- a kitchen sketchbook” https://www.blurb.ca/b/9759759-favorites-so-far

Bookish holiday traditions

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Having recently finished, framed and delivered the last of my fine art commissions that are intended as holiday gifts (so no spoiler pics exist of my recent artwork) my thoughts turn towards my own holiday.

I’ve made no secret, on this blog, of the fact that I like books. So even tho I am not living in Iceland, and have never visited, I adore their tradition of Jolabokaflod and my spouse and I observe our variation of it! Here’s how it goes: Within the weeks before Dec 24 we visit locally owned independent bookstores and buy books. Dec 24th we cook, share food, drinks and books! Dec 25th is spent reading and reheating leftovers. This is our current holiday book stack:

Stack of books for our family Jolabokaflod

Books are also created by me – hand drawn, illustrated, indie published etc. – and given as gifts. Because you follow me here’s a link, with free previews, to the book my spouse and I jointly made for our Jolabokaflod gifting this year. I’ll post more about this kitchen sketchbook in the future but for now the link will be my early holiday present to you!! Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Say no more.

stocking local love

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My local bookstore Vintage Books https://www.vintage-books.com/ is the first bookstore to carry my newest book “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” – and in advance of the Nov 1st release day too!!  When I was at the bookstore talking with the manager she asked me if I did my art on “stocking stuffer items” and if I would consider doing a pop-up shop for the holiday season – in late November or early December.

Well, I’m a firm believer in the philosophy “take tarts when tarts are passed” so I said “Yes!” and have been busy doing product designs since then!  Nice to dust off my old graphic design/product design skills (what I got a college degree in!).  Here’s a pic of my new book and a few of the stocking stuffer gift items I’ve gotten so far…

DrBobAndGiftsSM

As you can see in the photo I’ve put one of my artworks onto a 252 piece jigsaw puzzle – the finished puzzle size is 11 x 14 but the box containing the puzzle is small enough to fit into a large Holiday stocking. Another painting I’ve put onto the backs of playing cards and … oh, there are many more items still in production.

I’ve been thinking non-stop about what fans of my artwork and my fellow book readers might enjoy finding as gifts in their holiday stocking; bookmarks, drink coasters, art prints, playing cards, calendars… Is there anything I’m forgetting??

Please let me know and I’ll keep busy working on items that may help spread a little love and joy to my fellow literary fans.

And I’ll update you with my progress here first… btw I’m using Zazzle to produce most (but not all) of my designs and have also created a “store” there.

ode to fountain pens

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On a recent trip to the library I saw a book titled “How To Draw And Write In Fountain Pen: A Modern Guide” by Ayano Usamura. (book link) The book reminded me that I’ve not talked about this essential studio tool in a while.

I’ve used a fountain pen almost daily since I was in art school at university. An illustration class required a fountain pen, a Pelikan Classic M200 , as one of it’s “textbooks” for the semester. We were taught the care and use of the pen – the pen care section of the book by Usamura mirrors what I was taught exactly.  Part of the class requirement was to draw with the pen daily. The professor would periodically surprise-inspect our pens for proper care/maintenance and would look at our sketchbooks as part of our grade. Woe unto the student who forgot their pen.

Fast forward to now and I’m still drawing with my fountain pen daily. It’s my go-to tool for my on-going art studio philosophy: “Work in short bursts of time. Often.”  When I’ve only a minute or two for creativity work I can easily, quickly, do an ink drawing without having to do any more “studio-set-up” than to open my sketchbook and pull the cap off my pen.  Here’s todays fountain pen drawing:

Hibernation

Nowadays I prefer the Levenger True Writer. It’s the best fountain pen I’ve had yet. Writes and draws smooth lines with no pressure, less mess and less constant care needed than some other pens. I use the Noodlers brand fountain pen ink – the anti-feather black kind (also called “X-feather”). And of course these days I have a whole new appreciation for the environmental friendliness of a fountain pen; less used-up-pen-plastic-parts going into the land-fill.

Anyway, the book “How to Draw and Write in Fountain Pen” happily reminded me of what I’d been taught way back in the day at university. I brought the book home from the library to read and re-remember all the fountain pen tips and tricks. And, if the book was accurate to my fountain pen experience (it was!), I could mention it to you here on my blog – and photograph the book with my Levenger fountain pen for a post on my Instagram page.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go lovingly re-fill the ink in my fountain pen.

P.S. If you were wondering – I did use a fountain pen to do the graphic-novel style drawings in my recently published book “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit“.

Update: After I had written the above post about fountain pens I went to dinner in Portland Oregon. From dinner we all walked to Oblation Papers and Press – where I happily discovered that they have a wide selection of fountain pens!! And staff who know the various pen brands! Here’s a link to their drool-worthy website https://www.oblationpapers.com/

Dr. Bob’s First Aid Kit is here!

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They came in a big box. My early copies of the new print version of “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”!  The official release of this book is November 1st – but you can click here for early access. I’ll be able to look at a print copy tonight while I brush my teeth – and that’s what I’d hoped for back when I started this project!  But first – more happy dancing around the living room!

the eggplant technique of creativity

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“Feelings are guides not gods” is a phrase from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”, the new print version I’m currently working on. The concept is illustrated by this story:

EggplantSM

Here’s some text from the book related to the artwork: “Do you think that feelings keep you from doing things? More good news – they don’t! We’ve all done many things we didn’t feel like doing – such as going to school or work when we didn’t feel like it – which proves that: Feelings don’t keep us from doing things. Moreover, when you do that thing you feel scared to do, you are nourishing your courage…… Remember, you are responsible for your feelings not responsible to them.” (see the Eggplant story above)

Cultivating and maintaining a high level of Emotional Intelligence is essential to well-being (and creativity). Good mental health is about more than just the absence of mental illness – it is the presence of good coping skills, being able to self-regulate, to see feelings as a guide whether the feelings are your own or someone else’s. (Btw: there’s a good article about teaching Emotional Intelligence here.)

I’ve found Dr. Bob’s concept of “feelings are guides not gods” applies to creativity, and the creative life, as well. Whether or not I feel a particular way doesn’t have to affect whether or not I make my artwork. My feelings are not a “god” to be obeyed. If it’s time to work in the studio, however short or long the time-to-work I’ve allotted is, off I go to my creative work no matter how happy, sad or inspired I feel at the moment.

Where I use my feelings as a “guide” is when I’m out in the world on the lookout for possible art-topics. I keep my inner eye open for things that capture my curiosity and my imagination. Then I keep a list of those things and my feelings related to them in my sketchbooks for future art-making. My use of this “feelings as guide” technique has helped me create many helpful guidebooks, so to speak, for my own creative life.  I find it a sustainable creative practice.

All that aside I’d like to add that eggplant can, once in a while, be a very good vegetable – especially as eggplant parmesan.

the so-what art making technique

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Recently I’ve been super busy with fine-art exhibits and other illustration projects. But now I’m back to regular work on a new print version of “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”.  During my work on the pages about Dr. Bob’s S.W.I.F.T. finger therapy I remembered how valuable this concept is when I’m in the middle of an art project.

While a project is not a person all creative projects also have an ugly-duckling stage. A point in which they’re more “mess” than “masterpiece”. A point in which things are happening with the colors and shapes that may not be what I intended or hoped for.

I’ve found the S.W.I.F.T therapy helps me remember to calm down about the mess. If a creative person gets too angst-y about the in-progress project it stops the flow of creativity. Possibly leading to a creative block. Remembering to think of “So What If….” finger therapy helps me relax and to do nothing radical to the in-progress project during my don’t-like-it moment. It enables me to let go, and approach the project later with an open, playful, mind. Perhaps after lunch, perhaps the next day.

SWIFTtherapyremedySM2

Page from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” collected and illustrated by Clancy

If you’ve just joined my blog (and thank you for that!) here’s the last post about this project. The last post covers another mental-health technique that relates, in my mind anyway, to living the sustainable creative life.

I began learning these mental-health techniques and applying them to my creative life back in the 1990’s. I’m still creating new artwork daily. Still loving it. Something works.

Hope this book and these posts will help you too. All the best…

 

the art technique of attention

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

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

Attention

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

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

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

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

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

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