Recently I was in a local coffee shop and a coffee cup was silhouetted beside a rainy window. Steam rising from the cup. Such a simple thing but I began thinking of how many stories begin with simple things and grow, cumulatively, until they become epics.
Like Pug dogs. So small yet so large in personality especially as they mature.
Here’s a painting I did that was inspired by these thoughts. I’ve titled it “Epic Tales of The Pug King”.
Epic Tales Of The Pug King – by Clancy – 16 x 20 – acrylic and gouache on board.
I wrote the story that’s ‘printed’ in the book depicted in the painting and hand-lettered it, with brush and acrylic, into place on the page-within-the-painting.
My wife came into my studio, saw my work-in-progress and said “What’s the rest of that story?”, saying that she wanted to turn the Pugs page for him and continue reading. Then she challenged me to write the rest of the story.
Right this minute I’m enjoying the visual pun – that the Pug’s epic story-poem, ahem, is really, really, short. Plus the setting and my character, the Pug dog, are not particularly grand as the word “epic” would imply.
And that’s in keeping with my feeling that the most important elements of this world are actually the mundane ones, the humble ones. Daily life and the qualities of it can have more impact on a person than the grandest once-in-a-lifetime vacation might.
I love this quote from Annie Dillard “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.”
I’ve been thinking about how reading books is similar to playing dominos or sharing a meal with friends. In all of these activities we practice cooperating with others and peaceably bringing forth the world together.
Here’s a limerick poem I wrote and illustrated that playfully reflects my thoughts:
original poem and illustration titled “There Once Was A Tom Cat…” by Clancy
This poem and illustration somewhat relates to my nested-ideas concept that I’m working with for my upcoming fine art exhibit. And this poem (along with others) could become an artist book to accompany my exhibit but I’m still playing around and not sure where all of this is going. This is one of the things I like about being an artist; getting to practice being flexible, playing and letting things unfold as they will.
Kind of like reading a novel, playing a game or sharing a meal with friends allows us to practice “letting things unfold…”.
On a technical note: To create the above poem and illustration I used pen and ink and gouache on a greyish off white handmade paper. It looks sharp in real life, and the paper is a dream to work on, but the scan accented the grey color of the paper more than the naked eye perceives in person. The scan looks good enough, I’m not unhappy … however, note to self; use white paper for things that will be scanned and leave this lovely greyish handmade paper for fine art stuff that will be photographed and not scanned.
I’m still learning!
On one of my walks near the Columbia River I had the pleasure of seeing, then meeting, a mutt. She was a beautiful white and buff longhaired dog, larger than a Labrador, stockier than a Greyhound and hairier than a Golden Retriever. I asked the owner what breed she was and the owner didn’t know. The dog and human had rescued each other. The dog was friendly, beautiful and let me make drawings of her in my sketchbook.
Fast forward to my currently in progress reading and books in art series – and the wonderful mutt I’d met made an appearance:
“Meditations For The Metrosexual Mutt” by Clancy – 16 x 20 inches – acrylic on cradled board – image copyright 2019
Yes, in “Meditations For The Metrosexual Mutt” I’ve spoofed a famous painting by James Whistler along with two of my own still life paintings. If you look at the titles I’ve used for each of my paintings you’ll get a hint about my theme…
“Life’s a bowl of cherries, stems pits and all” – by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – acrylic and gouache on board
The still life, pictured below, is on the deep cradled edge of “Meditations for the Metrosexual Mutt”, where it will only be seen if you’re able to see my work in person.
“Gala” by Clancy – acrylic and gouache on board
The selection of Whistler’s famous painting to spoof was deliberate as the art history around Whistler’s work is part of my meditation on life, beginnings, origin stories etc.
I imagined that the dog in my painting is reading a book titled “Meditations For The Metrosexual Mutt” – which is why I used that as the title for my work.
As you can tell I’m still thinking about “nesting ideas” and stories within stories…
Here’s a new painting in my “reading and books in art” series. I confess that I love printed dictionaries, thesaurus’s and puzzle/game related books. In my art studio resource shelves I have 8 dictionaries, 3 thesaurus’s and 5 puzzle/game related books. Art idea gold-mines in my opinion. Naturally a Boston Terrier would consult one of these books…
“The Arf Thesaurus” by Clancy – 16 x 20 inches – acrylic and gouache on board —- image copyright 2019
The puzzle in the painting is actually work-able – at least somewhat – if you could get the Boston Terrier to move his arm. It was fun to imagine a puzzle related to sounds (words?) a dog makes.
If you look in the upper corner of this painting you’ll see that I’ve spoofed another painting that I did earlier.
“Good Morning” – by Clancy – 11 x 17 inches – acrylic and gouache on board – image copyright 2019
As I’ve worked toward this exhibit theme of reading and books in art I’ve become aware again of my love of words so I’ve also been experimenting with abecedarian poems, nonsense poems and made up words. This is in conjunction with thinking about constructing some artist books related to my upcoming reading and books themed art exhibit.
Still noodling about this concept of nesting-ideas-within-nested-ideas I’d mentioned in my last post. We’ll see where it goes.
And yes, I love it when I take the time to sit and work a crossword puzzle. I’m not up to The New York Times puzzle level yet. Someday perhaps. I’ve known two people who could do the Sunday NYT puzzle in ink. They impressed me enough with their level of education/smarts that I started on the bunny-slope level of crosswords. They inspired me reading more widely too. I like to think I’ve gotten a little better at puzzling since then.
Do you like crossword puzzles?
I’ve begun a new series of fine art pieces intended for exhibits later this year. (Yes, I’ve a deadline dragon) And I’ve been thinking of how when I walk into a library or bookstore I feel like I’m entering a galaxy. Words and ideas that are interrelated with other words and ideas, like an array of planets and stars, or like nesting dolls or stuffed vegetables.
Also in my thoughts; the way I can experience something first hand but when I read about that same experience in a book I have a delightful momentary shock of recognition and I better understand my experience.
So I’m exploring these thoughts, as best I can, within my new series.
Here’s one of my new pieces:
“Good Smells: A Memoir of A Lifelong Pursuit” by Clancy – image copyright Sue Clancy 2019
You’ll notice, I’m sure, the “nesting” ideas of the coffee and mints. There’s a real still life, also by me, which is spoofed within the above painting that I will also include in my upcoming exhibit. I love the idea that a viewer could find the real-life painting that is referred to within another painting – sort of a “find the image” puzzle exhibit.
Here’s a picture of the still life referred to in the painting above:
“After Dinner” by Clancy – copyright Sue Clancy 2019
I’m also thinking it’ll be fun to also include at least one artist book version of an imaginary book depicted in one of my paintings – so the viewer could look at the painting and then leaf through a copy of the book depicted in the painting. But we’ll have to see how that works out.
Posting progress as I go… thanks for staying tuned.
In between Holiday fine art commissions I’ve been reading about the writers technique of flash fiction and flash non-fiction. And I’ve realized that this is what I’ve been doing all this time – illustrated flash. Or “illustrated shorts” as I call them. Like the short-short story writers do I take a nugget of a thought or feeling and describe it – but using visual art instead of words.
For example: I’ve sometimes looked at bowls of peppermint candies and thought of how fun it’d be to fling the mints up in the air and let it “rain” mints for a second. I’ve never done it – probably wouldn’t ever do it – but it’s fun to imagine. So I’ve been working on a fabric pattern design with that in mind.
I’ve done more of a red emphasis on the mints even though it’s not realistic to the mint examples in the photo because I had some mints recently that had more red on them. They aren’t in the photo because I ate them. All of them. And I’m not sorry I did either!
Anyway, after finishing the peppermint candy pattern artwork I scanned the artwork, took the digital file and set it up to become tea towels or napkins. Here’s a picture of the tea towel.
By illustrating fabric, in flash-fiction style, I’m able to get across my fleeting “tossed mints” feeling/thought but in a way that’s succinct (like a short-short story) and it’s also of practical use.
It suits my sense of humor to combine both the fleeting and the practical…
Happy Holiday’s in advance! Now I’ll go back to being one of Santa’s elves…
I’ve finished the recipe illustration I’ve been working on for Chef Sebastian Carosi. I shared it with the chef and he said “I absofuckinglutely love this!”. So I take that as a good sign he’s happy with my illustration:
I was curious about whether the printing/production method I typically use would allow me to post a recipe that included cannabis. So to test that I uploaded the digital file. You can see it here: https://society6.com/product/roasted-butternut-squash-soup-with-lifted-honeyed-yogurt-with-hemp-seed-oil_framed-print?sku=s6-10148641p21a12v52a13v54#
I did use the “mature content” designation on the Society 6 site – but it looks like it will work!
Around the edges of doing a cat portrait commission and Chef Carosi’s illustrated recipe I’ve done some wine label artwork to be used by Burnt Bridge Cellars for their 2018 Holiday Wine. To meet the winery’s request for art that was “festive but not religious” I used 5 writing techniques along these lines to generate visual art ideas:
- Freewriting: I wrote and doodled in my sketchbook concepts that called to my mind a social festive season not attached to religion. This also meant writing down the religiously associated concepts so as to avoid them!
- Listing: I wrote a list of items one would buy when planning a casual social event. I doodled some of the items too. I also looked up some event-planning websites and went to a local party store and browsed – adding to my list.
- Clustering: I selected a verb/adverb from my free-write or a verb related to an item from my list and wrote further associations that came to mind when thinking of that word.
- Thesaurus/Dictionary/Encyclopedia/Google: I looked up words like “party”, “festival”. I looked up historical references to past well-known holiday parties. I read poetry that mentioned parties or was associated with the Holidays. (Twas the Night...) I thought of, and researched, holiday fashions such as the “ugly sweater”.
- Consider the Audience/Project Purpose: After I had done the above 4 techniques, in a wild free-wheeling way, I looked at what I had written/doodled from the point of view of the Burnt Bridge Cellars winery and what they wanted to accomplish with the label art during the Holiday season.
Then I created several images based on the above brainstorming sessions:
Cat A List by Clancy
“Celebrate!” by Clancy
Then I sent the above artwork in for the winery owners consideration.
Here below is the artwork they chose and how it looked on the bottles:
The winery was pleased with my work – and has said that their customers were too! (Whew!)
The Holiday Wine inside the bottles is very good (I’ve tasted it!) and I feel like I got to participate in a collective effort to add enjoyment to people’s Holiday Season! What fun!
P.S. I originally got the idea to use writing techniques when generating visual art ideas from reading a book by Umberto Eco titled “Confessions of a Young Novelist“.
At a friends house recently we were served a spinach and pomegranate salad. It was yummy and something like this recipe here. As I ate I realized I’d never looked properly at a pomegranate. I also realized I didn’t know cut one open. So later, back at my studio, I found an instruction video here – then I got some pomegranates and began looking and painting. This is what I did:
“Oh Seeds!” – by Clancy – 5 x 7 inches – gouache and acrylic on board, framed.
“Shared Seeds” – by Clancy – 7 x 5 inches – gouache and acrylic on board, framed.
After the paintings were done (and the pomegranates added to my salad) I submitted the artwork for consideration to the gallery. They were accepted so I framed them and delivered them along with 10 other small pieces for a “Small Works Holiday Group Exhibit” at Caplan Art Designs the months of November and December. www.caplanartdesigns.com
All in all not a bad way to learn how to make a salad!
As a long-time coffee lover I’ve been recently learning about tea. More than half of the world drinks tea and/or has some kind of tea ceremony. As far as I can tell the philosophy of tea is basically a way of valuing mundane life – in a somewhat carefully curated way. The ordinary as a source of stimulation, of stirring inspiration.
In making this piece I’ve deliberately used multiple perspectives – visual oddities – to emphasize the many ways there are to approach, value and appreciate a personal moment of pleasure in daily life.
Perhaps not surprisingly I’ve titled it “A Stirring Occasion”.
A Stirring Occasion by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – acrylic and gouache on board
I confess that I’ve recently been reading a number of titles from the British Library Crime Classics. (here’s a link https://poisonedpenpress.com/series/british-library-crime-classics/) They’ve a number of books sorted by “impossible crimes” “locked room mysteries” and other detective mystery themes.
And I also thought about the concepts “bone china”,”dogs with bones”,”seize the day” and “stirring/stimulating/interesting”…
So as I worked on my artwork I designed yet another “impossible object” because I wanted to depict that feeling of dynamism within mundane pleasures.
As you know I’ve done “impossible objects” before when it suits the artistic concept – most recently my cat portrait titled “Alpha Betty” (past blog posts about that here and here and the finished art here) which has an “impossible book” reflecting the multiplicity of language.
Anyway – If you’ve been following me on Instagram you’ll see some of my recent tea adventures…