four topic sketchbook keeping

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, ebook, kitchen art, psychogeography, sketchbook, sketchbook suppers, Sustainable creativity, travel art and writing, travelog, travelogue, visual thinking

Oh I’ve had an excellent question asked of me! Here’s the question: “Do you keep separate sketchbooks for different subjects/projects/media or do you use one sketchbook for all sorts of art experiments and ideas?”

My answer:  I used to keep one sketchbook but I found it hard to find the bit of research I needed because I’d have to flip through the whole book to find something.  Now I keep sketchbooks by topic.

Here is one of my “kitchen sketchbooks” – recipe inspired art – where I am inspired to draw by a recipe I’m cooking. This book is 5 x 4 inches in size, sewn binding and paper that can handle ink and water-media.  This way my favorite recipes are all in one spot – and when I have an ingredient I can flip through this one book to find a recipe that I know works and that my family likes.  This sketchbook, additionally, is my “testing ground” for ways to combine food, drink and art together – ways to interpret food/drink artistically.  This sketchbook is also a place where I’ll try new-to-me art media or methods. I’ve been trying gouache lately and I posted a few pages from this book the other day – Here’s what the outside of my current kitchen sketchbook looks like:


I have been working on a new series of fine art paintings with Cats as the main characters. So I have one sketchbook that collects my cat related painting practice and research. In it I’ve been studying cat shapes and experimenting with lines, colors. I’ve also experimented with combinations of collage, ink and water-media. This sketchbook is called “Various Cat Sketches” and is 8.5 x 11 in size, with a sewn binding. Here, below, is what the outside of it looks like. I’ll post more of it’s pages on this blog soon because it will contribute to an upcoming fine art exhibition


Another current sketchbook is my “Running Around Loose” book. This is the sketchbook that fits in my small go-sketching bag and is 3 x 5 inches, with a sewn binding, water-media ready paper in a landscape format. In this book I record my observations of the world around me; places I go, people I see, food or drink I have. It could easily be called a travel sketchbook  but I call it my “running around loose” book because that’s what I try to do as I run around town with this book – be loose and free with my lines, colors and thoughts. Here, below, what this book looks like. I’ll post more of it’s pages here too.  (I’ve posted my last sketchbook like this as an ebook titled “Glad To be Alive” available for download here)


And the 4th topical sketchbook is called “The Forked Tale: thoughts about creative life”.  This one is a hardback book 6 inches tall by 8 inches wide and over an inch thick. In it I’ve collected my thoughts, readings, quotes etc. about this business of being creative.  I’ve shown pages from this book to friends before who enjoyed it and found it helpful. But recently my friend Liesl was over for dinner and asked me a question about art-studio furniture. We kept talking about aspects of living a creative life and eventually I got out this book and shared it with her. She very strongly encouraged me to publish this book. So I will. After all she’d brought a very good wine to dinner. Here, below, what the outside of this sketchbook looks like.


Yes, this method of sketchbook keeping helps me to organize and find things but keeping topical sketchbooks is also helpful when I only have a short span of time to work. I can select a topic and can get right to it because I don’t have to wonder what topic to paint/work on. 

Thanks for the question! I’d not thought to do a blog post outlining this method of mine before!

on sketchbooks and sharing

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I tend to live my life with my sketchbook in hand. Consequently this means meeting up with friends and answering the “What have you been doing lately?” questions by handing them my physical sketchbook. More than one friend has looked at my book and said “Why don’t you publish these?”. And I’ve had very loose ambitions of publishing some of them…

But finally after hearing the request for the umpteenth time I’ve begun setting up a system so I can do that. Here’s the link I’m working on –

And here are some random pages from some of the ebooks currently in my “shop”. I will be publishing more of my sketchbooks and artist books as ebooks as time goes on…

memory music mountains and living rooms

A Creative Life, artistic inspirations, food for thought, music in art, sketchbook, travel art and writing, travelog, travelogue, words and pictures

Sweetie and I did a short road trip to Mount St. Helens in Washington. We hiked around, saw a lot of birds. Sweetie heard the birds singing and said they were quite a musical chorus.  At the visitor’s center people “danced” about getting photos in front of the mountain. I drew this in my sketchbook using ink and watercolor:


Sketchbook page by Sue Clancy

Then at the visitor’s center we went into the Mount. St. Helens gift shop. From past experience we’ve learned that their collection of books for sale on the topics of botany, zoology and biology is a gold mine. Several books come home with us each trip. This time was no exception. One of the titles that came home with us is “Natural History of the Pacific Northwest Mountains.” by Daniel Mathews.

On page 429 I read (about birds caching food) “Phenomenal ability to remember precise locations evolved separately in the chickadees and the jays that cache food for winter, and in many migrating species. Some of these species have nonmigratory or noncaching relatives whose powers of recall don’t amount to diddley squat.  Another kind of memory that must be worth holding on to is a male warbler’s memory of conspecific males’ songs.  As long as each singer remembers his neighbor’s song from the year before, and stays on his own territory, both are spared a fight. They remember songs from year to year as they return from Central America to reclaim their old haunts.”

That got me to thinking about the traveling troubadours of ancient times.  And from that thought I migrated (pun intended) to thinking of how, here in the Pacific Northwest, there is a “new” tradition of traveling musicians who give what is called “living room concerts” in private homes.  The home-owner hosts the musicians, putting them up for a night or two, and invites a number of family and friends to come to a concert. A certain amount of money is collected per attendee and most of that money goes to the musician.  The musician also sells their CD’s and what not during the evening.

I’m quite addicted to this ‘living room concert’ tradition. I find that even though I’m deaf I can “hear” the music better in a small intimate setting. There are also several local small independent theatres – and there’s fairly good hearing there too. My point being that the music I’ve heard since we’ve lived here in the Pacific Northwest has inspired a lot of my recent artwork. And I suspect this trend will continue.

The concept of a birds ability to remember where they put their food also made me think about the seasonal offerings at the local Pacific Northwest restaurants.  When I say “seasonal offering” I mean it. There’s a short time when a certain fruit or veg is available at the local farms so the pubs and restaurants will offer special dishes that use that fruit/veg and then when it’s gone. It’s gone.

We’ve lived here long enough now that I’m beginning to remember, for example, what pubs will offer the “fresh asparagus ‘fries’ ” during peak asparagus season. I’m also remembering which farmers market stands sell the freshest berries and apples. I love the seasonal randomness it’s like a perpetual surprise party but the ability to remember what is ripe during what season is helpful to know.

Needless to say I’ve been artistically inspired by the food. And that’ll prolly (as they say here) continue too.

There’s something about memory and food and music…. something that I just itch to make fine art about. So stay tuned. (pun intended again)

alive and sketching

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, ebook, psychogeography, sketchbook, travel art and writing, travelog, travelogue

I have an ancient Sufi saying posted on my studio wall “Stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive”.  So when I go sketching I’m looking for things in the world that catch my eye, gives me an artistic thought or two – and yes, makes me glad to be alive.

Which dovetails nicely with the Thanksgiving season. I’m glad to be alive and to be able to be an artist – and thankful for living in the Pacific Northwest surrounded by so much natural beauty and so many artistically inspiring places, people, dogs, cats and things… food and drink too…

So I’m flirting with thoughts of publishing my sketchbook as an ebook/artist book. Here are two of the potential pages about a place I hiked called “Hamilton Mountain”.

What do you think?  To publish or not to publish. That is the question to take up after the holiday.


Sue Clancy’s sketch on Hamilton Mountain (pen, ink and watercolor)


Sue Clancy’s sketch of things found on Hamilton Mountain


seeing art in autumn leaves

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I’ve 2 different one-woman art exhibits already scheduled for 2017 – and already there’s discussion of another exhibit for 2018. So I’ve been taking walks to gather inspiration.  Which means lots of sketchbook work, doodling and experimenting with pattern designs. Here’s a sketch I did along the River-walk in Vancouver…


Sue Clancy’s sketchbook page; ink and watercolor done on location as she walked.

Also in my sketchbook I did some ink and watercolor drawings of some of the fallen leaves during that same walk. You can see that sketch along with a pattern-design tile I was working on in this photo here:


Sue Clancy’s sketchbook page and a pattern design “tile” she was creating using cut handmade paper.

And here are photos of a pocket square, a scarf and a tote bag I created using my “Autumn Leaves” pattern design as part of my art apparel collection:

Now I’m thinking and re-thinking this overall-leaf motif and how it may relate to my paper-making techniques. I’m also plotting how to use this design – or variations on it – in future fine artworks.

Between now and the actual paper creation there will be more walks and more sketches of leaves (and probably other things).  I saw some beautiful ginkgo tree’s downtown the other day…

Yes, this is a long-term project.  But, don’t worry, there will be breaks for lunch.


the art of Oregon coast sketching

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In addition to getting ready for a new one woman art exhibit scheduled for October 2016 via Caplan Art Designs I’ve been working on a new Oregon Coast article. The August 2016 issue of Oregon Coast Magazine currently has an article of mine – and it was such fun to do that I’ve started immediately on a new article!

Which means that when “fine art stuff” and “pattern design stuff” needed to dry recently my wife and I took off for a day along the Oregon Coast.  On the coast I used my on-location sketching kit pictured below and sketched what I saw and experienced as it happened.


Sue Clancy’s portable sketching-on-the-go gear

In my kit: mechanical pencil, eraser, ink pens, paper, a small watercolor set and a clip to keep my pages from blowing in the wind. It all fits in a small bag and can be held in my hand or balanced on my knee at my sketching location.  When something catches my eye during my travels I do quick sketches with my pencil. Then I ink in what lines I want to keep. After that I’ll do some watercolor washes. Generally speaking it takes me about 20 minutes to do a page start to finish – I often work on more than one page at a time. On this sketching trip I did 15 pages total – as well as wrote notes, in longhand, in my sketchbook.

Then once I’m back at the studio sometimes I make an adjustment or two to the pages, and neaten them up (aka, erase pencil lines). My on-the-go kit doesn’t have a lot of greens and blues. So at my studio, for example, I’ll add a few more blue or green colors, if necessary, from my larger studio watercolor set.  Here below is a photo of a few of my new Oregon Coast article pages being touched up.  I do this immediately upon getting home from a trip while everything I experienced is still fresh in my mind.


Sue Clancy’s latest Oregon Coast sketchbook pages being touched up with the larger watercolor set at Sue’s studio.

Next comes the paperwork for my submission to the Oregon Coast magazine editors: photographing my sketchbook pages, creating the digital files, sorting out which pages work best as illustrations, sorting the pages so they tell the best story, writing a cover letter… etc.

And yes, I am likely to create a new artist book from these sketches! I’m also likely to make some new pattern designs based on what I saw on this trip. Which means there will also be some new fine art….

Basically I’m going to be a very busy camper! What fun!

If you’re curious about the current article I have in the August 2016 issue of Oregon Coast Magazine here is a link to a blog post about that:

from pattern design comes

A Creative Life, animals in art, Art Apparel, art gallery, Art Licensing, art techniques, fine art, pattern design, travelog, travelogue

A road trip to the Oregon Coast took my wife and I through the Oregon wine country. Hills flow up and down along the road giving me a view of vineyards from different angles – including a near “birds eye” view from above. The view inspired a pattern design and I made lots of notes in my sketchbook.

Back at my studio I use a number of techniques to make my patterns on paper: marbling, paste paper, stenciling… and more.. then when the paper is dry I make fine art with it, or an artist book, or art apparel or all of the above if the paper is large enough. Anyway, here’s a picture my wife took of me creating that “vineyard inspired” pattern on paper using my stencil-past-paper combo technique:


Sue Clancy creating a pattern on paper using a stencil-paste paper technique on hand dyed paper

When I think of a pattern design concept the pattern itself “tells a small story” – so I like to apply that “story” in several different ways. But how I use the “story pattern” depends on the larger story I want to tell. For example: one of my favorite things to do is sit with a glass of wine and read a book while wearing my pajamas – so I used parts of this vineyard inspired patterned paper when I created one of my fine art pieces that is about books/education. The art piece is titled “The Read Hat” and is specifically about how we tenaciously (like little dogs gather toys) collect information into our heads but I’m sure you’ll note the vineyard patterned “pajama’s” the dog is wearing. “The Read Hat” is currently at the Caplan Art Designs gallery in Portland Oregon.

Also I have friends who like scarves – and wine – so, while thinking the fun thought that someone could “wear” a vineyard – like the dog in my fine art piece – I did a scarf design with the same green dot pattern (titled “Vineyard Aerial View) that is now available via VIDA

Here is a picture of both projects:


The left image shows a fine art piece by Sue Clancy titled “The Read Hat” which uses the pattern design inspired by an aerial view of a vineyard. The image on the right is of a scarf designed with the same green-dot pattern design titled “Vineyard Aerial View”.

sketching the Oregon Coast

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In the current August 2016 issue of Oregon Coast Magazine I have an article titled “Sketching The Coast”! Right there, in print, on page 42 it says “illustrations by Sue Clancy” (Wow!) !! On the title page of the magazine next to a big 42 it reads “An illustrator records her travel experiences to Newport in whimsical cartoons”. How fun is that for a teaser?!  But just think, my messy sketchbook, in print, in a slick glossy magazine, Oregon Coast Magazine, a gadzillion copies of which are actually available on newsstands right this minute! Blows my mind to contemplate that. Here’s a link to their website: – so you can order a copy mailed to you if you live someplace like Ohio, Pennsylvania or Timbuktu – but you’ll only see my article up close if you get an actual physical printed copy! Yep, you guessed it, I’m loving the whole “my art in print” thing!


Sue Clancy’s illustrated article in the August 2016 issue of Oregon Coast Magazine

road trip inspired apparel

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Recently I took a wonderful road trip to Boise Idaho to visit family there. Drove through the Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon side… saw waterfalls on the way to Idaho, saw the sunlight on the Boise foothills, then on the way home – again through the Columbia River Gorge – there was a spectacular sunset, sun shining on the rocky cliffs above the water.  Needless to say I jotted pattern notes in my sketchbook. (I stopped at a rest stop to do that – don’t worry I did not draw and drive!) When I got back to the studio I created my patterns on handmade paper and then, after the papers were dry, photographed and uploaded the patterns to my signature collection at VIDA.  I’m imagining how fun it will be in the middle of winter to wear a waterfall, a summer sunset or the sunlit Boise foothills!

A pattern design I did based on a waterfall I saw on a road trip.

A pattern design I did based on a waterfall I saw on a road trip.

A pattern design I did based on a summer sunset I saw on a road trip.

A pattern design I did based on a summer sunset I saw on a road trip.

A pattern design I did based on seeing the sunlit Boise foothills on a road trip.

A pattern design I did based on seeing the sunlit Boise foothills on a road trip.


coffee delivered

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I took my artist book “Coffee Please” to the 23 Sandy Gallery today. Had an enlightening visit with the gallery owner Laura Russell talking about the role of the artist’s book in the world… Of course I’m aware of the role of the artist book in my personal life – but to talk about the artist book as it fits into a larger picture was inspiring!  I also got to see other book-artist’s artist book work. Wow!  All of this reminded me that I needed to define “artist book” as I see it here on this blog:  It is a work of fine art that has the form and feel of a traditional book.  It is fine art often in a sequential form that tells or demonstrates a narrative or concept. Sometimes an artist book can feel almost “sculptural”, showing ideas in dimensions over page-leaf spans of time.

Do you remember Pop-Up books from when you were a kid? Yeah, artist books are fun like that but are conceptually created for grown ups.

Here’s a link to pictures of my book “Coffee Please” which is about coffee and travel:

Information about the upcoming exhibit at the 23 Sandy Gallery is here:

And yes, Virginia, there will be an exhibit catalog available!