a familiar unfamilar language

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My friend and neighbor, who has two grandchildren under the age of 2, was showing me a vintage toy that was purchased for the kids; a red and blue ball with shaped holes in it, with the yellow-block shapes inside the ball. You pull open the ball, the yellow-shape blocks spill out and you can put the blocks back inside the ball by matching the block shape and the hole shape.

At the time I was working on an illustration and was stumped for the “language” that the space alien creature would be speaking. The “language” in my artwork would need to somehow imply the ways the content of a book can “fit” with or resonate with a reader.

My conversation with my neighbor helped – creative problem solved!!

TakeMeToYourReader

 

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…

 

yarns heard around the world

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I realized recently that the “bedtime story” ritual, for both children and adults, is nearly universal across cultures. While there is scientific evidence (see links here and here) that reading printed books before bed can help you sleep and provide other benefits – for me it’s plain indulgence.  Naturally bedtime-reading is subject matter for one of my artworks that will be included in an upcoming exhibit in September at Caplan Art Designs:

YarnsHeardAroundTheWorldSM

Yarns Heard Around The World – by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – ink, gouache on board

For fun as I created this piece I combined my thoughts about bedtime reading with the concepts of teams and coaches…. counting sheep is a world-wide sport. Right? Lol!

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.

absurd things on rainy days

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For this new painting I’ve combined several thoughts together: rainy day activities, the contrast between rainy Pacific Northwest and the Southwestern (USA) desert region (Arizona), and the Bonneville Dam’s fish ladder. I’ve found the fish ladder fascinating – here’s a video of it – and have done some fun sketching at the Bonneville Dam  trying to capture the patterns I see.

I enjoy the patterns the fish form as they flow by.  I also enjoy the patterns of the needles/leaves on cactus and succulents which seem visually similar, in my eyes, to the “flow” of the fish as seen from various angles.

Yes, I spend a lot of time thinking about visual fractals in general and specifically fractals in nature

Plus the absurdity of comparing fish with cactus tickled my funny bone. At any rate those were some of my thoughts as I created this gouache painting I’ve titled “100 Things To Do On A Rainy Day”.

100ThingsToDoOnRainyDay300

“100 Things To Do On A Rainy Day” by Clancy – 11 x 14 inches – ink and gouache on board

the feeling of milkshakes

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One of my favorite desserts uses fresh fruit from our garden and or the local farmers market. Naturally I meditated on what I feel like when I’m eating one of these milkshakes and described it with my recipe illustration. (clue: a parade…)

I used ink and gouache on handmade paper to create the original art-plus-recipe. The handmade paper is very absorbent so the gouache looks more like “watercolor” than it does when I work on board.

The recipe is called “sloppy” because I don’t bother to blend the ingredients before serving the milkshake. I like the big chunks of fruit. Anyway, If you make the recipe I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!

SloppyMilkshakes

Sloppy milkshakes by Sue Clancy (original art and recipe) – 6 x 18 inches – ink and gouache on handmade paper

pie places and mapping the mundanely magical

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In my early 20’s I worked as a graphic designer for the Center For Economic Management Research where I took business statistics and turned them into maps and all sorts of illustrations. It was fun to learn that there are magical people behind those dry lists of mundane numbers!

Well fast forward to today – and I still like maps. I think of map-making as sorting mundane information via my imagination. For example; I’ve recently taken my running around sketchbook pages that depict places where good pie can be found and have turned the accumulated info into a map titled “Pie Places in Vancouver WA”. You can find this map and my other maps here and here.

And yes, you can really go and get a yummy slice of pie from any of these real-life places:

PiePlacesVanWa

Pie Places in Vancouver WA – https://www.theydrawandtravel.com/artists/sue-clancy

 

 

Dear Readers art exhibit statement

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My new exhibit this year is titled “Dear Readers” and is book/reading themed. As I’ve worked this last year towards this new one-person fine art exhibit at Burnt Bridge Cellars, that will open June 7 in Vancouver WA, I’ve written lots of hand-written notes in my sketchbooks, on random slips of paper, on post-it notes in the margins of newspaper articles.  I wrote down as many thoughts as possible – including quotes from books I’ve read – and kept them together in a binder.  When it came time to write my exhibit statement I could reread all of my notes and pull from them.

Here’s a pic of my binder and one of my sketchbooks. And my pen.

DataForExhibitStatement

Below is the finished “Dear Readers” art exhibit statement – text I wrote that pulled from the data pool in my binder and sketchbooks. This statement will be put on the wall somewhere within my exhibit:

Dear Readers

By Sue Clancy

I’ve been thinking about the interconnectedness of everything in life. These thoughts led me to the concept of nested ideas; how one thing leads to another, one food or drink pleasure can lead to another new pleasure in a similar way that one enjoyed book can lead to another new book.

I’ve also thought of how much the written word in general has enhanced our pleasure in and understanding of the sensual world by enabling connections to be made between elements and people across time and space.

So, in this exhibit I’m using the printed-and-bound book as a symbol for “the written word” in its myriad of formats. And I’ve deliberately, whimsically, played with the one-thing-leads-to-another-everything’s-connected concept by including spoofs of my own artwork, my still life paintings, within my other paintings that have dog characters in them. The titles of the still life paintings, the titles of the dog character paintings, the titles of the humans with pet’s paintings all correlate.

Each artwork in my exhibit is related in some way to at least one other artwork in this exhibit.    I leave it for you to puzzle out which is connected to which – and in what way.

And yes, you can read my exhibit like you would a mostly wordless comic.

Enjoy!

party pointers and books in art

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I’ve been thinking about cookbooks and bartending books. And parties. It’s becoming the season here in the Pacific Northwest for drinks with friends outside on patios and decks.

On one of my walks I saw a beautiful Pointer dog. The dog dovetailed with my thoughts about bartending books which give “pointers” – pun intended – for drink mixing.

Here’s the painting those thoughts inspired – titled “Party Pointers”.

PartyPointers72

Party Pointers by Clancy – 16 x 20 inches – acrylic on board

As I’ve been doing with this “readers series”, my body of work for my upcoming one-person exhibit at Burnt Bridge Cellars, in the background of “Party Pointers” I’ve spoofed several of my own still life paintings. You can see a few of the original still lifes here and I’ll post some over on my Instagram page.

Hope you’ll also get to sit outside and have an adult beverage with a fun companion or two!

Cheers!