More work this week towards an upcoming art exhibit I’m calling “Odditerrarium”. I’ll tell more about my creative process on this exhibit here and in subsequent posts. Odditerrarium will be an exhibit via Caplan Art Designs later this year.
This week I finished a dog portrait I’ve titled “Secret Knowledge”. It’s 10 x 8 inches and made with ink and gouache on board.
Here’s a closer look at this dog’s thoughts – according to the dog’s human this dog likes walks and is passionately interested in moles, chipmunks, mice and frogs.
Elsewhere in this blog (here) I’ve written about the similarities I see between the creative process of writing and the creative process of fine art. Like a writer might begin creating a novel by noting a story idea nugget in a notebook I began this Odditerrarium series with the nugget “what if we could see what our dogs and cats thoughts?” – just this nugget of a thesis and little else. But I began there and with exploration of that notion came the notions of thought bubbles and terrariums… and I began drafting in my sketchbook. Here’s some examples.
After a number of sketchbook drafts I began a few full size paintings – generally I do at least 5 paintings before I declare that I’m working on a series or give the series a working title. This is like a writer deciding to write a few chapters to see if their idea has merit – by creating an overview or even a rough draft of the whole work.
I think of my one person art exhibits as books you can walk around inside. And each painting is a “chapter” within the book. Each chapter/painting begins with it’s own notion, an outline or rough indication of what could be. Things at this point are usually vague. For “Secret Knowledge” thanks to my friend (the excellent author Liz Gauffreau) I had a photo of the dog I wanted to portray and the dogs thoughts also thanks to our conversation. Then I spent time thinking and making sketchbook notes. Then I drew on a board. As you can see I work on several paintings at the same time – this too is like a writer writing though the gaps in one chapter by writing on a different segment within the work.
When I have a rough drawing on board I begin what I call “chunking” trying to get a bit of color on every area in the artwork. The colors don’t have to be perfect – it’s a rough indicator subject to adjustment based on other colors. I don’t worry about details at this stage just rough shapes of color and contrast. Like how a writer writes a whole story imperfectly, all in a rush with “detail to come” notes sprinkled throughout the tale.
In the photo below I’m in the chunking process. I know I want a blue background for the portrait of the white dog but at this point I’m not sure of the precise shade of blue. The other colors within that portrait will help me determine that. Like when a writer decides a character’s course of action based on another character’s choices.
When the chunking is more or less done I begin bit by bit to fill in and flesh out areas. Here’s an example- I’m sure you can see the transition happening from chunky to smoother.
The photo at the beginning of this post is of the finished portrait which I titled “Secret Knowledge”… the blue I ultimately chose is of early morning or late evening sky: a time for walks and a time when small mammals might be more active… something of which this dog certainly has knowledge! 😉
For my art exhibit Odditerrarium I’m thinking about mental lives and encounters with the minds of other humans and other beings in this world. Here’s a few of my favorite sketchbook pages on this topic. To help me keep on task, so to speak, for my Odditerrarium series I will continue to read, write and sketch on this topic of self awareness and encounters with other minds.
In psychology this called a developing a theory of mind …and this link explains it well and I quote “Forging a strong theory of mind plays an important role in our social worlds as we work to understand how people think, to predict their behavior, to engage in social relationships, and to solve interpersonal conflicts… Forming a theory of mind is critical in our ability to understand ourselves and others. This ability to understand mental states allows people to introspect and consider their own thoughts and mental states. Such self-awareness is important in the formation of a strong sense of self. Our social functioning also hinges on having a theory of mind. By being able to think about what other people are thinking, we can better understand others and predict what they might do next.”
Anyway, when paintings on the easel need to dry a bit I’ve been playing with my poetry sketchbook.
Inside my poetry book is a notion of a new experimental art book for Storyberries. In the photo you see my notions in my book and on the right side I’m beginning to work on my notions in a tiny concertina format book.
A cat reaching is my main notion that’s getting played with in two different ways in this photo for two different books.
I’ll keep you posted on whatever happens with these newbies.
The Aurora Gallery contacted me wanting more of my cards and books so I took those to them this week!
It did my artist heart good to see my things displayed by the Gallery so well and to know that my work is appreciated! The Aurora Gallery ships my art, cards and books anywhere and my signed green dragon book plates are available on request.
This week in kitchen creativity I made spinach enchiladas inspired by “Mrs Rasmussen’s Book Of One Armed Cookery” by Mary Lasswell. I used both arms to cook with and didn’t have a beer. I’d probably get demerits for that from Mrs Rasmussen as I can imagine her saying “What?! No beer?!” but the chili onion gravy was divinely scrumptious over spinach enchiladas and beans and rice!
I say I was “inspired by” Mrs Rasmussen’s recipe because I ruthlessly adapted this recipe as I was only cooking for two people and as you can see below Mrs R was cooking for the entire tricounty area. Plus I don’t use lard…
To make my chili onion gravy I used my good gravy recipe but instead of sausage I used a small can of roasted chilies and some chopped white onion.
In one serving size oven safe boats I made one spinach enchilada for each of us and surrounded the enchilada with beans, rice then ladled the gravy over it all and topped it with cheese. Turned out so good!! I did have gravy leftover which I used for another meal.
My evening reading loosely related to the topic of encounters with and awareness of other minds is the last book in the trilogy “His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman and Pullman’s nonfiction book “Daemon Voices” about stories and storytelling.
Hope your week is a good one! See you next Monday?
This week war began and for a second being an artist felt frivolous. But in difficult times we need art more than ever. We need things and people that feed our spirits and remind us of why we’re glad to be alive. We need hope. That’s how we fight for democracy and win.
When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began I listened to the news and searched my bookshelves for a title I had gotten in 2003 not long after 9/11 and when war began in Iraq. My thoughts then, like now, turned to the role of artists during times of war. “Artists in Times of War” by Howard Zinn was very relevant in 2003 and still is even though the current event details are different.
Spoiler: artists are carriers of democracy. To quote from page 108 they are “profoundly democratic”. Democratic is defined as upholding, however imperfectly, the ideas of rule of law, of equality before the law, equality in access to resources, equality of representation in government and the human right of self determination. The Arts are a living language of a people, a dramatization of what they feel, what they need, what their hopes are … The Arts help people become self aware. Self-awareness helps people make choices and become active participants in their own lives and communities. That’s what makes living artists so dangerous in the viewpoint of authoritarians.
And perhaps equally important is the fact that artists help us, no matter how high flying the political rhetoric, to remember that the kids will still need to be entertained and educated, that adults will still need kindness, that dinner will still be wanted. Art, poetry and writing of all kinds can help us remember that the statistics a politician quotes represent actual people.
Speaking of dinner: a dear friend came over to visit for an evening and to ask me to sign some copies of two of my book titles that she plans to give as gifts! It was so good to see her!
We had a free ranging conversation about life, books, movies and my friend indulged me as I showed her my art projects in progress and outloud we played with what “could be”. This is an extremely exciting and valuable sort of conversation! Bouncing ideas around in loose “what if…” and “what about…” ways helps me in my creative process! It was so unbelievably good to get my friends input! Sharing artwork in its fragile beginning stages is risky and I’m so lucky to have trustworthy creative-playing friendships.
I made a new batch of potato soup (recipe last post) and when it was ready the three of us ate soup out of large mugs while sitting informally in the living room where it was warm and comfy.
I delighted in having fabric cocktail napkins with my Professional Dog portraits on them and enjoyed our friends chuckles when she saw the napkins!
Whenever I feel unsettled about world events besides talking with my spouse and trusted friends I deliberately tune in to awe. Meaning that I purposefully do some small thing that delights me, sparks my curiosity or causes me to notice something and say “wow!”. A good article I read this week on the topic of awe and why it’s important is here. An aspect of tuning in to the feeling of awe is to cultivate time to play in unstructured ways, to make time to wander, to ponder.
On a recent wandering meandering car drive we saw snowfall and large trees. That’s a guaranteed “wow” from me – I love the large evergreens any time of the year.
The feelings of awe, the feelings curiosity and the feelings of an aha moment are part of why I object so strongly to book banning (see a recent post). The attempts to control the mental resources available to others is a form of abuse. Banning preempts the victims ability to be self-aware and to be able use, as democracy offers, however imperfectly, the right of self determination. The restrictions of a person’s access to books and other mental resources is as serious as someone restricting a person’s access to food, water or healthcare.
During times of unrest I think taking the time to ponder is crucial because an artist is so much more than a reaction to or a mirror of society. If an artist is going to take action rather than simply knee jerk react to current events it takes time to think things through.
Here’s a paraphrased quote that I wrote on a card and thumbtacked to my studio wall.
Progress is happening on a new experimental art book for Storyberries! It’s a wordless visual poem about letter soup with only 10 panels plus front and back covers. 12 images total. Ink, acrylic and gouache are my art methods on another 2 inch square concertina zig zag folded book. I focused as I mentioned last post on rhythm, repetition and surprise. It will be a challenge to talk about this poem on this blog and on my social media without giving the poem’s punchline away immediately before Storyberries has a chance to distribute it but I’ll do my best.
In the photo below I’ve laid in the extreme dark and light areas to establish the contrast as well as to focus on the visual rhythm. I’m thinking of how the ebooks on Storyberries flow up and down so I’m designing my content to flow with that book motion. Will it work? I don’t know. 🤷♀️ Yes, my new poem is for a category on Storyberries called “experimental” for a reason! 🤣
The sortof weird thing is that I’ve not completely finished promoting “How The Cow Went Over The Moon” yet. So there might be some promotion overlap. Oh well. People read more than one book at a time anyway right?
A few evenings this week I took a break from reading “The Annotated Arabian Nights” to read “Suds in Your Eye” by Mary Lasswell. This book was published in 1942 when World War II began. What I’ve enjoyed about this book, besides seeing an artistic response to the wartime events of the 1942 era, is that no single person is the “hero” or center of the story. The story centers around how a group of people work together as a community. The concept of working together is also what drives the story plot. And “good food, great friends and cold beer” could be the books motto. This is such a good book to cheer up by! I’d list this book as an early example of the hopepunk genre (mentioned last post). And the illustrations are darling!
Besides the visit from a great friend this week my wife and I talked by phone with my adopted mom and big sister! Mom said she’s proud of me and that I’m to “Keep making art”! Big sister agreed! So I wrote the exact quote of Mom’s on a card and thumbtacked it to my studio wall just above the light switch for the room. That way I will always remember!
I hope your week contains many connections with your support system so that you feel encouraged to do all the good you can in this world.
I painted an unauthorized portrait of a playful cat that I’ve met courtesy of a dear friend. This portrait is titled “Wholly Bent” and is 10 x 8 inches. This is me just playing and working towards future art exhibits.
Here’s a closer view of “Wholly Bent” it is 10 x 8 inches, ink, gouache and collage on board.
As you may remember I’ve been reading “The Annotated Arabian Nights” by Horta and Seale most evenings. I’ve been struck by how much the book talks about being true to yourself – accepting that you’re “bent” in your own ways- while also being an ethical contributing member of a community. So I’ve been pondering ethics in my sketchbook.
The above photo shows my spouse’s homemade blueberry lemon scones. Seriously yummy… but I digress.
These thoughts reminded me of an eon ago when I asked my adopted mom how to know when someone is “for real” i.e. ethical, honest, kind. Her response was “watch what someone says and does over time.” In my art journal I recorded a conversation we had on that same topic years after I’d asked the question originally.
In my last post I showed a hint of an art print project I’m working towards that I can’t talk much about yet… but a sneak peek is here (the grid of 6). Now I’ll wait to see what happens.
My last post also talked of book banning, a topic I’m following… well, on the attempts to ban books (and a thrilling subtext) there’s this article which reminded me of the skills I learned to use when dealing with people in Oklahoma who were in my face wanting to ban my artwork (see a prior post for details). This page below from Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit gives details about the skills.
Speaking of coping skills: some students in Missouri are suing the school board because of the book bans. (Article here.) Sometimes standing up for your right to read anything you want is neccessary. As said in the article “The lawsuit alleges that the district’s decision to remove books was based on the “dislike of the ideas or opinions contained in the books by policymakers, school officials, community members, or a combination of those.” Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that the district’s removal of books violated the students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights “by restricting their access to ideas and information for an improper purpose.”
I’m proud of and inspired by the students and their efforts to maintain a wide intellectual world. Restricting access to ideas and information can have serious negative consequences for both individuals and society. The larger our intellectual world the better we’re able to cope with whatever comes in life and then, having coped personally we’re then able to help our community cope – and the people in our community are better able to help us…
Also the more expansive our mental life is the more fun rabbit holes there are to explore that can also help one personally as well as one’s society.
Anyway, here’s a post from Austin Kleon that reflects my feelings about the importance of taking time to read widely and pursue the rabbit holes of your own making.
On a related topic I also read this article about how our attention span is not a product to be bought or sold. Our attention isn’t solely a vein of data to be extracted by a corporation. Our attention isn’t something to be controlled or abused at the will of someone else’s religious or political ideology. Our attention is a precious gift that deserves to be treated respectfully. And it’s up to us to protect, preserve and defend our attention as well as to carefully curate and cultivate it.
Having wide access to ideas and thoughts – lots of books – is how we learn over time what is worthy of our attention. Our attention span is ours to exercise and explore throughout life. What we get for our payment when we “pay” attention is the power to choose.
I find that having a wide range of books to read helps me stimulate and cultivate my own ability to pay attention where it nurtures my creativity the most. My sketchbook is where I practice noticing/tracking (accounting?) where I pay attention and how helpful it is or isn’t. It’s where I play with ideas and cook up my own “good wolf food”. It’s where I live and work with the questions. It’s where I “stick around and find out”. 🤣
As a creative person I want to be respectful of my readers/viewers time. So I enjoy creating “short” things: art, stories or poems that can be understood in a glance yet there’s more to be seen if a reader chooses to take the time to look. (My Monday blog is possibly the longest form I work in… 🤣)
Speaking of sketchbooks and reading: I feel a sense of urgency to create more books for children that are “artsy” and perhaps a little “different” from the usual kids books. So I’ve been reading about poetry in two books: “Writing incredibly short plays poems stories” by James H Norton and Francis Gretton and “The Intimate art of writing poetry” by Ottone M. Riccio. And I’ve been brainstorming in my poetry sketchbook (the orange book in the foreground) some visual poem ideas for my new “experimental art book” category on Storyberries.
Both books about poetry cover techniques to keep things short. I’m translating in my mind the advice in the books regarding writing words into what may also work when I’m making visual images. As you see in the above photo of my poetry sketchbook I’m thinking that the poetic concepts of rhythm, rhyme, repetition and surprise can work within images too. But we’ll see how it goes… more in upcoming posts.
Dinner recently was a favorite potato soup recipe from a favorite cookbook. Even in the solitary pandemic days I love reading about community being formed around shared soup.
When there’s a yellow sticky note on a page in one of the cookbooks in our collection … that’s a reliably good recipe! Add a star and the phrase “Judy likes” and you’ll know it’s a real good one. Then there’s the penciled in variations and now you know this recipe is a great one! It has consistently proven itself over time!
We had mugs of soup with a grilled cheddar cheese sandwich split between us. Yum!
For fun I’ve added James Thurber to my evening reading. He too talks about ethics and community while also being whimsical.
Thanks to a friend on Twitter I’ve just learned about a genre called “Hopepunk” – here’s one of the articles I read about hopepunk that defines the genre and has examples (book list!) of literary works within it. To quote from the article “…Hopepunk says that kindness and softness doesn’t equal weakness, and that in this world of brutal cynicism and nihilism, being kind is a political act. An act of rebellion… Hopepunk is a reaction to our times, an insistence that a hollow world built of hatred and financial ambition is NOT the norm. It is stories of resistance, stories that celebrate friendship and truth and the things that make us human.”
I have more to learn but I’m feeling like I’ve found another genre that possibly fits me and my work well! Discovering the “hopepunk” genre feels exciting like my discovery of the “miniature art” and “gift book” genres! With my creativity I do want to share whimsy and hope while also being thoughtful and real.
Yes, I’m finding it good to know more about the ways I’m wholly bent and to be able to find books and people bent in ways I enjoy.
Thank you for honoring me with some of your attention. I hope you have a playful week of more or less your own design, a week bent in all the ways you find fun. See you next Monday?
Book banning is a hot topic with me because I’ve been on the receiving end of bans. Those occurrences happened in Oklahoma over 10 years ago when I lived there. To name just one example, in 2008 I was to have a one person art exhibit at the Oklahoma State Capital. More than a few of my paintings were banned from the Capital exhibit. I called my Tulsa Oklahoma gallery, Joseph Gierek Fine Art, to tell about being banned. The Gallery owner, Joe, said “Stay right there, I’ll come and pick them up!” Tulsa is about a 200 mile drive away from the Oklahoma Capital but Joe was there with his van in a trice. Then the Joseph Gierek Fine Art gallery did a special exhibit behind yellow caution tape in Tulsa and we called my one person exhibit “View At Your Own Risk” with a statement telling a bit about my work being banned. Oh my, was the Gierek Gallery brave! So that very weird experience of being banned turned out very well for me and for Joe!
After my spouse and I had newly relocated to Washington state I had an interview with the Caplan Art Designs Gallery. Having just moved I brought along to Caplan’s the finished artworks I had on hand which was some of my then recently banned-in-Oklahoma artwork. The Caplan Gallery immediately signed me up as a gallery artist and sold 4 of my paintings before the ink on my contract was dry! In Oklahoma my work had often been considered “subversive” or even “offensive” (there were a number of bans of and objections regarding my artwork) but in the Pacific Northwest my work – the very same artwork! – is considered “charming” and even “delightful” and “whimsical”. What a pleasant shift of perspective!
This painting below is one of my paintings that had been banned in Oklahoma but quite welcome in the Pacific Northwest. Allegedly this painting was banned in Oklahoma because of the semi nudity. 🙄 This photo is of the same banned art newly located in the Pacific Northwest where instead of offending adults it amused adults and children!! (Yes, I have found my happy place!!)
More to the point of my blog post today – in 2010 the public library where we then lived in Oklahoma was going to display a few LGBTQ friendly books under glass deep inside in the library. It seemed like almost the entire town turned out to protest in a 4 hours long city council event. The majority of the speakers were vehemently homophobic. After the event one young gay person committed suicide. It was that vitriolic. After the event we contacted a realtor in Washington state and asked her to please find us a home and that we would even consider a hole in the ground with a tarp on it. We needed out! Long story short we, with the help of a wonderful realtor, found and bought our Washington house sight-unseen over the internet and within 6 months of that Oklahoma council meeting we had moved! One of the best things we ever did!! Being gay in Washington is no big deal at all! Also no big deal: being an artist, a book reader or being deaf.
I don’t for one minute think that every book has to resemble and reflect the superficial attributes of a reader in order to be a book worth reading. As an adult I enjoy reading work about, and by, people unlike me but I can see how it would help young people to be able once and a while to see, in a book, a superficial likeness of themselves. It helps to feel less alone, even safe, wanted and welcome somewhere – even if that place is in a book.
I went though my entire childhood – as an avid, dare I say obsessive, reader – never once reading about a gay deaf artistically inclined tomboy girl living primarily with her grandmother and enduring “visits to hell” with her abusive biological uber-religious parents.
The only deaf person I ever read about in a book was Helen Keller and that didn’t feel relatable to me.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was the first time I read of violence and family dysfunction happening to someone besides me and that was SO relatable – even though all of the characters were boys. That book helped me feel less alone then and I can still quote verbatim from that book today.
Judy Blume’s “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret” helped me address my confusion about cruelty/weirdness about bodies that was done in the name of religion.
I didn’t encounter a gay character in any book until I went to college in 1986 and read “Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit” by Jeanette Winterson which had been written in 1985. And that book felt like a welcome healing salve to my 18 year old psyche.
I could go on naming books – many of them now banned – that really helped me get through things as a young person. But I’m sure you’re getting the idea of why wide availability of books (and art) matters so much to me.
So naturally my spouse and I in response to the spate of book banning in 2022 went looking for lists of banned books so we could buy copies of those books. If you too want to use banned book lists as book buying recommendations 😁 Below are the lists we found.
A juicy oh-so-delectible list of banned books for grownups at Powell’s one of my local Pacific Northwest independent bookstores. (I think most of my high school and college required reading is on this list!🤯)
I mentioned last post about Maus by Art Spiegelman being banned … well here is a great article about why that book is important and why it is shocking that, to quote from the article, “people could be more upset by mild profanity than they are by genocide.”
And another article speculating about why book banning and even book burning has become “a thing” in late 2021 and early 2022.
There’s also an article about a Texas lawmaker who wants to ban and burn 850 book titles statewide… but enough of that.
When things begin to feel overwhelming I find it helpful to look for one specific thing I can do something about. This is in the vein of “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”
Here’s an article we found about one specific library in Mississippi whose funding is being withheld by the mayor because he disapproves of some LGBTQ books. My wife and I chose this library and donated money. Then we spent time tweeting and sharing the info in hopes of getting more donations for them.
Here’s a portion of the letter we got after donating which has the libraries snail mail address if that is preferred.
Two days later we saw that they had achieved their funding goal with still more time to spare!!! We’re hoping even more donations will happen!
Since I took the above screenshot the Ridgeland Library has adjusted their goal upwards… and is reaching the new goal too!! Yippee!!! Click this link to see up-to-the-minute progress. I’ve been monitoring and boy is it fun to see the library succeed!!!
Anyway, for me public libraries are intimately interconnected with basic human rights. Images and words make up the human mind much like air and water make up the human body – we need trusted sources for all of these. Humans are social beings intertwined mentality and physically with the community around them. Here’s a poem that illustrates this idea that I have written off by hand and thumbtacked to my studio wall where I see it often.
And that’s why I make artist books. It’s my “why” for most of my creative efforts really. It’s part of why I feel it’s important to be a participant in a community of artists, writers and readers. It’s why having an egalitarian community – at least on the gallery walls and the library shelves matters so much to me.
Books and art are communal in nature and utilizing them often is part of being fully human within a community.
I thought about my Vancouver USA downtown and how I love it that the 5 story library and the independent theatre are some of the tallest most iconic buildings. I also thought about the scrubjay blue birds that are native here.
Then I wondered just how did Mother Goose’s cow travel over the moon… and how do birds remember their songs?
Storyberries has even created a new book category for my work called “experimental art”!! Oh I’m gleefully looking forward to making more books for them to distribute!!!
So it can very truthfully be said that my new artistbook is a direct result of community !! Thank you all!! And I love you all too!! ❤🙌
I’ll repeat myself here because I am so excited and grateful to the Storyberries community for this new “experimental art books” category! Thanks for giving me such a valuable space to just be me! I’m so looking forward to sharing the fun of playing with imagination and creativity this way!
Speaking of imagination and being creative: there’s a wonderful article on creativity written by Luzemy Romero and Fleur Rodgers on Storyberries – and I have an illustration in it! But what’s fun is that these creativity tips the authors write about are things I do… Every. Single. Day! Especially the reading part!!! And if you go by chronological age I’m a grownup… so… the authors ideas apply to all ages. Anyway there are some really great creativity tips here https://www.storyberries.com/creativity-kids-how-to-help-your-child-to-be-creative-storyberries-parenting-portal/
Here’s my illustration within the article by Gamboa and Rodgers and a bit of the article text. We need a wide variety of stories in order to practice flexibility in our thinking and creativity. A variety of material, some of it liked, some disliked, gives our minds something to respond to within our own creativity.
Also on the intersection of creativity and libraries there’s a fun article right here about an 8 year old who wrote and illustrated a handmade book and slipped it into the public library collection in Boise Idaho!
This week our copies of Maus by Art Spiegelman came by mail from one of our local bookstores Daedalus Books!
I had posted on my Instagram page that I was looking online at our local indiebookstores to see if anyone had Maus and didn’t see it – as they indicated sold put or it wasn’t listed. Well @daedalusbookspdx commented on my post that they didn’t have all of their books online but that they *did* have copies of Maus!!! So I called them immediately and bought the copies of Maus!
In the past when we’ve visited Daedalus Books in person I’ve relished their “books about books” section… While I had the store on the phone I named a price range and asked the store to pick a book for me from that section and include it with our Maus copies… I also asked that they *not* tell me what title they selected! I love a good book surprise!
Here in the photos below is my surprise book! It’s perfect!!! It’s a book about giftbooks – which is what I create!!! (See my portfolio page) I’m beyond happy with my surprise book! I immediately wrote a postcard to tell Daedalus thank you!!! Wow! What a treat!!! I am so glad Daedalus had copies of Maus too!!
The last photo has contact info for Daedalus…and as I’ve learned you can just call them up, ask politely and they’ll hand you a smile in the form of a book !! Wow!!!
Come to think of it becoming a semi-vegetarian while in college in fried-meat-and-fried-potatoes Oklahoma was another, ahem, “interesting” experience. I’m not, and have never been, a strict vegetarian (I don’t want to be strict about anything) I just do like vegetables and well vegetarian meals frequently happen. But I remember accidentally shocking people in Oklahoma with vegetarian fare now and then. 🤷♀️
Back to the present yumminess… the mushroom chili was served in big mugs with crackers and a side of books to read. I’m lucky to have married a fellow avid book reader!
Here’s another favorite quote about books that I’ve handwritten and thumbtacked to my studio wall.
I hope your week is full of subversive literary, artistic and culinary delights and that you’re able to radically and wholeheartedly enjoy them!
This week had a cow in it (more on that in this post) and a dog portrait. I selected one of my sketchbook drawings as an idea for what to paint using the new brush technique I learned from the book, Miniature Art by Joan Cornish Willies that I talked about in my last post. Here’s the sketchbook page.
This ink, gouache and watercolor painting below is 8 x 10 inches in size, well within the “miniature art” definitions. The brush method recommended in the book “Miniature Art” by Joan Cornish Willies is to lay a round pointer brush on its side in the paint and rolling it to absorb the paint while maintaining the point on the brush. Dipping, pressing or stabbing the brush point in the paint, however gently, makes the brush point spread out and thus makes doing fine detail within a painting more difficult.
Here’s a look at the whole painting I’ve finished and titled “A Tale-carrier”
The new brush technique did help me get more fine details. Particularly around the dog’s eyes, nose and on the books. Here’s a closer look…
I’m loving the way creating finer details enables me to combine the human senses of touch and sight in this new miniature work! And I enjoyed making a miniature that knows it’s a miniature! Lol! It’s amazing what a gift awareness can be! Here’s an even closer look…
I do feel a bit of “well, duh”… of course laying a brush on its side and rotating the brush in the paint would help retain the brush point even while loading it with pigment! Ah well! Just goes to show that you really can teach an artist with 25 plus years of experience a new trick or two! Lol!
This week someone asked if I would pretty please make a mug with my “green leprechaun man” on it…
Also this week another printed book on the topic of miniature art came in the mail from one of my local bookstores. The Big Book Of Tiny Art by Karen Libecap is just plain fun to look at and read. It does have a good review of pencil techniques as well as use of color. The main attraction for me is the “watch-it-develop” sequences of photos that document ways to achieve tiny details. Oh, and the gallery of examples of finished miniature artworks is a treat. This book is encouraging and pleasing in tone – which will make it nice to have on my shelves. No Earth shattering art technique BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) moments in this book like there was in reading Miniature Art by Joan Cornish Willies. But the friendly can-do spirit and lack of snooty-ness in the Tiny Art book by Libecap, I think, means more people- myself included- are more likely to keep trying this art form. Plus I just love it that these tiny art techniques are so applicable to what I do in my sketchbooks.
So now when I draw in my sketchbook I’m trying for more details – like the feathers on this bird.
As you know in the evenings I’ve been reading a print copy of The Annotated Arabian Nights. On my ebook reader, which I read while exercising, is “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. So in addition to the story-within-stories format of the Nights and the lovely idea (last post) about the genre of “mirrors for princes” that I encountered in the annotations of the Arabian Nights I’m getting a regular therapeutic dose of Adam’s gentle absurdity.
Thus I’ve been pondering just how it is that Mother Goose’s cow went over the moon. And our human habit of having sacred cows… beliefs that take us into the stratosphere away from reality. Consequently there’s a new wordless book in progress on my easel.
Here’s a closer look at the sequence of pages
As I write this blog post I have put these pages under smooth boards with weights on them so they’ll be flat. I’ll be making a physical artist book from these pages and then both a printed book and an ebook version. More about this in upcoming posts.
A dear friend and fellow artist Donna Young https://www.donnayoung.com/ and I used to fairly regularly visit each other’s studios in pre-pandemic times. Recently Donna posted a photo of her studio and asked me to post a photo of mine. Here it is below!
I’m sure you’ll recognize one of the dog paintings on my easel. The other dog you’ll probably see next Monday. And I’m sure you’ll notice my new magnifying glass (last post) in use!
If you were standing in my studio, where I took this photo, to your left would be a stack of boards and weights holding down my “How The Cow Went Over The Moon” pages. More about that next Monday too.
Thanks for reading this post. I hope your week is kind to you and I’ll look forward to sharing more with you on Monday!
And because I thought it was a fun visual pun I put my traveling hedgehog on a travel mug. No one but me requested this mug. 🤣 I certainly don’t have any travel plans but a cup that’ll keep my coffee hot even when I get distracted in my studio might be nice. At any rate designing the mug was fun so I did it.
Here are some sketchbook pages that have happened lately.
It’s a big book so I prop it on a throw pillow when reading. The book has many enchanting illustrations by the artist Edmund Dulac who painted in the style of Persian miniature paintings.
Consequently I’ve suddenly become aware that my entire fine arts college education focused on paintings larger than 24 inches. Much of my artistic output till now has been on physically larger scale too. Oh sure, I’ve done smaller illustrated hand bound books but fine art paintings, in my mind, were always big. Well, during the pandemic I have done paintings in much smaller sizes and have quite enjoyed sending 25 paintings to a Gallery in one box the size of a thick hardback novel. But in my mind this was a temporary adjustment due to the pandemic.
Now, however, I’m reading in the Annotated Arabian Nights about “the tradition of miniature painting” and have begun reading further about that approach to fine art. Wow!! A whole part of art history that’s new to me!! I’m thinking I’ll learn more about this history and the miniature art techniques and work smaller on purpose now – pandemic notwithstanding.
So you can see the cover of this wildly wonderful book…👇 I love the shiny gold on the cover and the print quality of the artwork inside…
January 1st 2022 I was looking through my sketchbooks and decided the page below is the mantra for now.
Come to think of it all of my sketchbooks are 3.5 x 5.5 inches small… so why am I surprised about miniature art being a “real thing”?! Plus the 40 original artworks for my book The Professional Dog are all 3.5 x 2.5 inches in size!
I guess I’ve been a miniaturist for a while now and didn’t realize it! 🤣
Lots to share: The Professional Dog is out in print and as an ebook on Storyberries! In a bit I’m sharing my creative process for my holiday box project. But first, because people tell me they’re enjoying it, I am continuing to feature 3 dogs from The Professional Dog per week so here’s this weeks…
The text in the book, which is also the title of the original artwork, is below each of this weeks featured dogs.
I wanted to share somehow that my original artwork for The Professional Dog is smaller than the finished book. So I did a video look at all of the original artwork for The Professional Dog. Each original dog portrait is 2.5 x 3.5 inches and was made by hand using ink and gouache on board. The finished print book is 6 x 9 inches and as faithfully as possible reproduces the colors and details in the original artwork. I did this because the reproductions do enlarge the details in the artwork. Below is a photo showing a bit of what I’m saying … perhaps you can see both the small original art and the book reproductions?
You could say that Thanksgiving was a nicely quiet event considering it was just my spouse and I and a giant veggie lasagna. But it really felt like we’d hosted a come-and-go party all day as we were in contact with friends and family via text, social media and the voice phone! It was such a fun day and we both went to bed tired-happy feeling like we’d been talking and partying nonstop! We joked that we could get used to partying like this – there was a lot less to clean up afterwards! Lol!
After the holiday I delivered all of the original art for The Professional Dog to the Aurora Gallery. This project was a big one that encompassed multiple months of intense work and it all – all 40 dog portraits – fit into a 5 x 7 x 4 inch box! (Another benefit of making the original art small in size)
Here’s the box of original artwork sitting atop the signed books wrapped in paper for protection during transfer to the Aurora Gallery.
Even though everything is done now including the portfolio page for The Professional Dog I will still be posting the dog portraits in sequence over the next weeks. People have told me that they’re enjoying them.
The Thanksgiving event held by the Caplan Art Designs Gallery also began the day after Thanksgiving. Below is another attempt to include a video in this blog. This video was made by the Gallery and is shared by permission. In case I’ve not gotten the video embedded in this post like I think I do – the video camera pans around a nice large room filled with art by the Caplan Art Designs Gallery artists. You see some of my larger works right at the start. Many of my works are small and not captured in the video. My last post included images of my artworks in this event. Over the weekend the Gallery posted more videos on the Gallery’s Instagram and Facebook pages that showed more of the event! There were many sales of my artwork and of the other Gallery artists work!
And now for the full details about the holiday box project! Back in very early September the Caplan Art Gallery gave certain artists an 8 inch cube to paint in our style. These boxes are to be in a special holiday exhibit opening the first Thursday in December.
Immediately when I got my box and over the next 4 days, I began the process of putting 3 coats of gesso on it even though I didn’t know what I would create.
While the gesso dried over that first week I brainstormed in both my sketchbook and on my legal pad. First I listed over 20 things that I could think of that are square or cube shaped. Then in my sketchbook I played visually with the various items listed to see what might be fun, how I might approach it. During this time my spouse and I had a dear friend come over to our outdoor patio to visit and have dinner. I told her what I was brainstorming and she liked the idea of dice.
At that time I was still in the middle of creating the dog portraits for The Professional Dog so it felt natural to think of dog shelters and dice, the chances for pet adoption, the many names for dogs … so in my brainstorming with my friend and my spouse we thought “what are the odds you’d find 21 dogs named Chance”?
My sketchbook became focused on dice-dot portraits of dogs.
I also rummaged about the house and found some game dice I could use as a model.
Using a ruler I calculated the size of the dots in relation to the size of the cube and I made measurement marks on the gesso using a watercolor pencil. The watercolor pencil marks will blend in and dissolve when I paint over the marks with acrylic paints.
Since the cube is a sculpture and will likely be handled by humans or sat upon by cats I decided from the start to work in acrylic as that’s a permanent waterproof media. I also planned to (and did) varnish it so the dice could be protected and easily cleaned.
I painted a different dog portrait on each dot on my dice using black and white acrylics mixed to form a range of greys. And yes, some of the dog breed research and practice I was already doing for The Professional Dog was applied to this project too.
After painting each dice-dot with a dog using black and white acrylics I painted the body of the dice with white acrylic. Every bit of the gesso got covered! Below you can see the entire dice in 3d plus each dice face separately so you can enlarge it and see the portraits.
I hope you had a yummy and fun Thanksgiving too. I look forward to catching up with some of my fellow bloggers and hearing about your creative projects but some of my days this week might resemble this…
… even if it does I hope you have a delightful week! See you next Monday.
I got my Covid19 booster shot and thought of the relationship between individuals and community. That brought jigsaw puzzles to mind. Quite a number of people were getting vaccinated the same time I was and it got me to thinking of how each one of us fit into the local community in some interlocking way.
After getting the poke I had to stay for 30 minutes to make sure I wasn’t going to have a reaction. Since I was thinking about puzzles I got online and shared some jigsaw puzzles I’ve designed that are on my Zazzle shop.
Then, after sharing the puzzles, I kept thinking about the mechanism of human perceptions. When working on a jigsaw one shifts back and forth between looking at the colors and patterns on the puzzle pieces to looking at the shapes of the pieces themselves. Somewhat similarly we – well, most of us – shift back and forth between seeing ourselves as an individual person and seeing ourselves as part of a much larger community.
That got me thinking about optical illusions and the ways design, specifically the design of narratives, the design of governments, can dovetail with our perception mechanisms and our behavior choices in a which comes first the chicken or the egg sense.
I sat in the medical center waiting area trying to remember – without using Google – the name of the guy who did the pioneering work on the perception of figure-ground relationships. I tried to remember the name of the optical illusion that illustrated this figure-ground discovery and the name of what the switch of perception in a figure-ground relationship is called.
I felt fine when I got home. My arm was hardly sore. I did feel a bit tired and decided on a day of indulgence. That means spending most of the day reading! My spouse documented the occasion – see below. The next day I was tired and had a slight headache. While I did do some work I mostly read books the next day too.
Despite both my spouse and I getting our booster shots and being busy rearranging furniture and stuff for workmen to make house repairs I did manage to get some illustrations done for my in progress childrens book project “The Professional Dog”. Here are three together.
Below are closer views of each of these illustrations along with the text line I plan to use in the book.
I did not have time to do one of my Creativity Chats this week. Also, since one of the home repairs is happening in the kitchen – there are no creative approaches to food that could be discussed or depicted here with glee. (I’m so looking forward to having my kitchen back!)
As I wrote in my last post my 8 inch cube shaped holiday box project for an upcoming exhibit at the Caplan Art Designs gallery is finished except for the final coats of varnish and we’re still waiting for Gallery permission to post publicly about it. Below is my art studio supervisor dachshund waiting very patiently. Mostly.
In addition to jigsaw puzzles and the figure-ground relationship shift of mind I’ve been thinking of how I use that mental shift method with words and images to stimulate my creativity.
For example when I began my holiday box project I listed, in longhand on my legal pad, over 20 items that are square or cube shaped. After making that list I worked in my sketchbook playing with images related to these words. (I’ve posted some of these in a past blog post) Below is a photo of part of my handwritten list – and I trust it doesn’t give too much away. 😁
I’ve also been thinking of figure-ground type shifting we do in other ways: inner life/social life, old/young, self/family, indoors/outdoors, leisure/work, mind/body, survive/thrive… I could go on listing these kinds of interrelated mental shifts but this is enough.
Anyway, of that list of shifts physical and mental health are important to me for both living-well reasons and to my creativity. Also important to me is the topic of doing a really good job of growing old (there’s a wonderful essay by Bertrand Russell here).
The main reason I create my artwork is because it makes me smile. I post publicly because it may give a friend a smile. And my friend Liz Gaffreau recently posted this which in turn made me smile. That’s why we’re here, I think, to love people and to be loved. That may sound somewhat purposeless – but this purposeless loving is the very attitude that leads to being creative, to playing well with oneself and with others.
This blog and my Creativity Chats on my YouTube channel are more of my small efforts to playfully encourage creativity in both myself and others – it’s one of my ways to participate in a creative community. I want the poets, the novelists, the painters, the quilters, the creatives of all kinds to be as well – physically and mentally – as possible. I want this because it is by play, by stories and beauty, that we all will get through difficult times. Mere physical survival is not enough. If I can encourage a poet or novelist to keep writing then perhaps their words will also help someone else keep going. Other writers work certainly helps me keep going. Each effort of creativity is a butterfly effect of sorts.
So, yes, my work feels urgent to me. It’s the shape and color of my jigsaw piece.
Please take good care of yourself this week. See you next Monday.
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.
I’m starting a new childrens poem project “The Professional Dog”. It’s an excuse to do a series of portraits of dogs owned by friends who have professions that fit neatly in an alphabetic format… accountant, botanist, chef…. (Yes, another abecedarian book!!)
Several friends – with dogs – have different professions that could fit for the same alphabetic letter. I know a botanist, a brewer and a baker. I know a chef, a councilor and a critic. Part of my work on this project is winnowing this list.
My book idea began in my small poetry sketchbook, the orange one in the picture, and is now in the messy draft stage on my legal pad.
I’m in the process of contacting friends and asking them to email or text photos of their dogs – and asking questions about their profession. These responses will help me narrow things down.
Here’s a few of the dog photos I’ve gotten from an Accountant, an Underwriter, an Inventory Manager, a Poet, a Nurse and an Entrepreneur.
In addition to this new book project I’ve been thinking more about greeting cards. Last year during the holidays it felt weird getting or sending cards that touched on pre-pandemic style large gatherings. I found I preferred getting and sending the cards that had winter scenery or literary poems or food/drink recipes. I did enjoy the family photo cards and “seeing” everyone that way.
So as I think of the upcoming holiday season I’m starting work on painting a short series of winter, food and book themed artworks intended for cards on my Zazzle shop. Here’s a sketch in my sketchbook with one of my winter theme notions.
Here’s a look at the finished art. I used my new butterfly palette that I’ve talked about in a prior post. These colors are literally based in scientific studies of butterflies and other bugs. It was fun to paint winter scenery using the butterfly colors! The color palette you see in this photo is what I call my “butterfly box”.
Below is a closer look at my finished artwork. After I get a few more for-cards artwork pieces finished then I’ll upload all of the images and design the cards. I’ve titled this piece below “Crowshoes”
This week my spouse made homemade sugar cookies. Seriously comforting and yummy cookies! Cookies and a coloring book are two of the good things in this life, I think, so I posed this photo for use in telling on social media about my recent coloring book “How To Draw A Dragon“
Many of the baked goodies my spouse makes – like the sugar cookies in the photo above – are from recipes in “How To Bake Everything” by Mark Bittman. As an eater of baked goods I can vouch for this book!
As per my last post I am thinking seriously about doing more videos and have even ordered a thingamajig to hold my phone steady while I talk. It’s a fun – and a bit scary – to entertain the idea of talking on video generally about being creative and include things from my own creative life. I’m thinking I might call these short videos “Creativity chats” with a subtitle of the topic of that particular chat. 🤔 We’ll see. I heartily thank you for your kind encouragement to do more videos!
While I wait for the video apparatus to be shipped to me I’ll work towards “The Professional Dog” and will tell you more about what inspired this idea in future posts.
I hope your week is full of dog (or cat) cuddles, cookies and many other comforting things! See you next Monday.