Mom, Odditerrarium, A.M. Sketching and rulings IRL

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, fine art, Odditerrarium, publications - publishing, sketchbook, writing and illustrating

My adopted Mom has passed and is no longer in pain. I wrote in a prior post about her illness. For more than 20 years and before JL and I moved to Washington 12 years ago, Mom and I met for lunch at least once a month sometimes more. Lunch was either at a restaurant or at her house. After Dad and then JL retired they joined us for our lunches. During every lunch I ever had with Mom she had Pinot Grigio. Mom liked flowers and often had carefully curated displays of them in a vase somewhere in her house. She commented on them in the restaurants. Dad had what Mom called “flower blindness” he just didn’t notice the flowers. Lay a book somewhere and he saw it immediately – but new flower arrangements flew above his radar. So I did my best to notice and say something about Mom’s flowers. What I learned and the love I got from Mom would fill a galaxy and could start a new one.

Before getting the news about Mom I had begun working on this blog as follows below. Because my head isn’t here right now I’m leaving this blog unedited as it was in draft form typos, raw text, unended sentences, no links and all… I’ll be back again next week. If ever anyone taught good coping skills it was my Mom. Anyway here’s what I’d planned to share…

I delivered 3 new works to Burnt Bridge Cellars and Kim put them up after Amy from Caplan Art Designs took the sold ones down to be sent to their new homes.

BLAHBLAH about the visit

Close ups of the newest ones, titles etc

After the delivery I worked on the digital files of Ant Hology for Storyberries and sent those in. Photos and such will come later.

I also changed the name of my email newsletter from Clancy’s Coffee with the Green Dragon to “A.M. Sketching”. It’s less of a mouthful and more directly to the point. https://sueclancy.substack.com/

Below is one of the sketchbok pages I shared via A.M. Sketching- I really leaned this week on my alphabetical list of things I enjoy and am still working on the list. So more on this later.

The bulk of the week was busy and stressful so the only work I got done towards the newest childrensbook is some sketchbook drawings of bears bicycling.

I found the Supreme Court decisions stressful. If anyone thinks the ruling about Roe v Wade and the probable striking birthcontrol only affects young women – in 2018 my middle aged lady parts went haywire and an IUD basically saved my life. All of the artwork I’ve created since then is thanks to the availability of women’s healthcare. So after the ruling today I keep thinking about what might have happened to me if the current Supreme Court ruling had been in place and I had lived in a red state in 2018.
I might not have lived. I might not have been here to be photographed working in my artstudio on a hedgehog

The next morning I drew this in my sketchbook and we donated to several orgs including After Roe: Help protect choice everywhere — Donate via ActBlue
https://secure.actblue.com/donate/after-roe

I’ve been happily having coffee with my sweetie every morning for 26 plus years and I plan to continue no matter what. We’ve both fought for womensrights and for gay rights and we will keep doing that too.
Damnit I’m sad, upset and angry about the current Supreme Court rulings and the likelihood of the anti birth control and anti gay rulings to come. I go into action when upset … BTW I consider all forms of creativity practical actions. Maintaining our humanity is direct action. Hang on to your heart, your mind and love wins.

Below are our favorite morning mugs. I had a time in my creative life when I did ceramics.

Here’s a post I saw that resonated

Anyway, becaus we can’t really live in rage let us now go to our happy places … the bookshelves in our living room are one of my favorite places s. Sometimes I like to just look at the shelves and what’s on them.

Please hang on to your heart and be gentle with yourself and each other this week as we all gear up for a fight for basic human rights.

See you next Monday.

Odditerrarium, art, ants, anteaters and books

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, book design and layout, books, children's book, ebook, fine art, Odditerrarium, sketchbook, visual story, visual thinking, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

Ants are making progress… in my new artist book that is! In my last post I was working on “Ant Hology” using a collage of letters, ink and gouache. It’s another miniature 2 inch square book that opens to 20 inches long. Here’s the progress:

The letters I used came from Columbia Gorge Book Arts.

Now to do the graphic design hocus pocus and send a digital file containing all of these ants to Storyberries!

In my last post I shared a sketchbook page that had Anteaters in it … yes, there’s a new children’s book in progress. The text was written by Judy Sullens. Please notice that I used my ant research in this project too! Ha! Here’s the first illustration:

But this new book has been put aside temporarily so I can make new Odditerrarium paintings to replace some of the paintings that have sold at Burnt Bridge Cellars via Caplan Art Designs.

Here’s my studio supervisor dachshund supervising the paintings in progress. They need to be finished by the time you read this post so my supervisor is helping to keep me focused. Says the dog “Hey, where are you going..?”

Here’s a look at the two paintings on my easel now that they’re finished except for the varnishing, framing and delivering. Due Tuesday!

Storyberries contacted me about their release date for the ebook version of my Odditerrarium. Here’s a Reel about Odditerrarium on Storyberries that I did to help explain the visual story puzzle aspect of my Odditerrarium project.

And – drumroll please – here’s the ebook version of Odditerrarium on Storyberries! https://www.storyberries.com/short-stories-for-kids-odditerrarium-by-sue-clancy-art-books-for-kids/

When I was a kid I loved looking at coffee table books with paintings in them. Now I’m enjoying making books for children that contain my fine art because the little kid I once was would have absolutely loved a book like Odditerrarium!

Anyway, this week has been very busy but even so I still played in my sketchbook most mornings (you can see what I sketched via my Substack sketchbook emails here) and each evening I read books. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

And here’s the evening shift supervisor cat who makes sure we have whipped cream on our hot chocolate, maintain a regular reading program and still get to bed at a decent hour. Says the cat “Hey, you with the thumbs, quit poking about on the phone and get back to lap making and book reading.”

I hope your week is pleasant. See you next Monday.

The ants the wetlands and the wild books

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, book design and layout, books, children's book, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, fine art, household surrealism, miniature art, Odditerrarium, poetry, sketchbook, Storyberries, visual thinking, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

In our neighborhood we joke that western Washington is built on a giant anthill. Each spring we all battle ants outside our houses before they can invade indoors. The first hint is a mound of dirt where there wasn’t one before. Like this one on the edge of our patio.

I lifted the bricks and put the ant bait directly on the fascinating ant farm-tunnel construction then covered the bait with the bricks again and swept away the dirt on the brick edges. Of course I had a good look at the way the ants collected and organized  the dirt before I did my acts of destruction.

When ants are found indoors I use a solution of vinegar and Dawn dishwashing soap to clean the area where ants were seen. The non-poison solution is in a spray bottle and it quite effectively kills and deters ants. Between the outdoor/indoor methods the ant activity is usually successfully managed.

After doing some ant battle outdoors I came inside, looked at my bookshelves and realized how many anthologies I have: collections of poetry, short stories, essays… In one set of bookshelves alone I counted over 25 anthologies. There are still more on other shelves. I have an anthology infestation and I’m keeping it!!

For the first time I saw that there’s an “ant” in the word anthology – so I grabbed a dictionary, a scrap of paper and made a list… and with that list I have begun a new children’s book for Storyberries. I’m using a collage of letterpress letters from Columbia Gorge Book Arts and drawing ants in ink. Both my handwritten list and the beginning of the new book are in the photo below.

In case you have trouble reading my handwriting here’s the list…

Anthology: [a gathering] collections, often varied authors, of a similar literary form or topic or time period (in my last post I listed a few anthologies about the Beat Generation)

Ant farms: [a gathering and a structure] a colony of ants constructing a dwelling

Holo: a word element meaning whole or entire

Alphabet: [a structure] a set of letters to be arranged in a customary order. A structure  of language

Hology: [a relationship] – a general relationship  between reality and it’s content

Besides musing about words my wife and I went for a walk in the Steigerwald Wildlife Refuge with our binoculars. I saw the purple blue grey colors of a great blue heron up close! I didn’t realize the extent of the purplish tints to the heron feathers.  We saw lots of other wildlife too – including smiling friendly humans!

During our walk I kept thinking of a work of fiction I had read long ago that had a musician character who sang “Oh I’ll cry when the wetlands are dry”. The wetlands were a character in the story too as I recalled.

I also vaguely recalled some phrases about birds and wetlands from Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry.  But these were fleeting snatches of phrases half-remembered like wild birds glimpsed in the pond reeds.

When we were home I rummaged in my books for where the “Oh, I’ll cry when the wetlands are dry” phrase originated. Turns out it came from “With A Tangled Skein” by Piers Anthony. I had an enjoyable hunt for wetlands in this title too…

The half-remembered phrases from Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver: “I am hardly an ornithologist nevertheless I live among the birds…” (from Leavings by Berry)  and “The labor of writing poems, of working with thought and emotion (or is it the wings?) of language, is strange to nature, for we are first of all creatures of motion.” (from Upstream by Mary Oliver)

I also saw and heard some of the Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry poems about wetlands on this Wisconsin Wetland site https://www.wisconsinwetlands.org/wetland-words/

But since I live in Washington state I went looking for some wetlands related poetry from local writers. Here’s what I found from Salish Magazine a publication located in Washington state https://salishmagazine.org/issue-9-art-poetry/

In the mornings I was still thinking about the herons and the ants so they’re in my sketchbook pages. And it’s been fun sharing my sketchbook pages via email on my new Substack https://sueclancy.substack.com/

Speaking of slurping… I made a yummy fettuccine recipe using spinach and green herbs from our garden: garlic chives, green onion and basil. Here’s the recipe:

https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/fettuccine-with-green-herbs

I also did a Reel this week about my Odditerrarium book and exhibit…  https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cejq5Lap2mI/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

This is the challenge for me – remembering  to promote the project I finished and is currently in public like Odditerrarium. Often I finish something and I’m on to the next project right away … like my “Ant Hology” book now in progress! So, more on that book next week.

I hope your week is pleasant. See you next Monday.

Unwearied fancie, the flowers, the books and the stew

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, comfort food, creative thinking, fine art, gift books, hopepunk, household surrealism, mental health, Odditerrarium, published art, recipe illustration, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, writing and illustrating

Unlike ball obsessed dogs I get tired and need a break even from my most favorite activity in the world: making art. In my last post I talked of finishing most of the prep for my upcoming Odditerrarium exhibit a week or so early in order to give myself time to rest and recharge before the exhibit opens at Burnt Bridge Cellars via Caplan Art Designs.

Here’s one of my portraits for the exhibit titled “Unwearied Fancie”. It, like the others, is 10 x 8 inches created with ink, gouache and collage on board.

And here’s a closer look at what this dog is obsessed by er um I mean thinking about.

This week the massacre in Uvalde Texas happened. I’m so very tired of unnecessary deaths. I’m bone weary of gun violence. Generally I keep my comments about current events off of this blog but I’m very upset about all of the unnecessary deaths due to one word said by one political party in the U.S. One morning I grabbed a scrap of paper and wrote…

So more than just my hand and arm felt a need for rest this week…

Anyway, all of the frames have been filled with artwork now. Here’s some photos of just-framed works still on my work bench.

My dachshund has a bed near my work area. (See the photo below). As I finished framing the last painting I imagined…

“Is that number 20?” Asked my dachshund art studio supervisor.

“Yes! All 20 of the Odditerrarium series paintings are framed now!” I replied.

“Let’s order new artsupplies and then let’s go wander the yard, eat something, read books and rest.” says the dachshund.

“Great idea!” I said reaching for the phone to order new supplies.

I already have sketchbook notes (due to my almost daily sketchbook routine) and plans for other creative projects that I haven’t talked about on this blog – or anywhere on social media – because they’re in flux. But I know generally from these plans what art supplies I need to buy.

All of the Odditerrarium artwork is now packed in boxes ready to be delivered at the appropriate time. So it’s “all done except for the shouting” as I sometimes refer to the exhibit promotions. Tired ole me is very grateful to have help spreading the word about the exhibit from Burnt Bridge Cellars and the Caplan Art Designs gallery. I’m also beyond grateful to the fans of my work who share about it online. Your encouragement and support helps me a lot! Thank you!

The paperwork for the Odditerrarium exhibit has been done and already sent in to the gallery. I’ve also finished the webpage about the exhibit which includes images of all of the art and access to the printed artist book. As I get photos of the exhibit on the winery walls I’ll add them and other related things to my portfolio page. All of these things are my efforts to make sharing about my exhibit easier plus the portfolio page and the book make it possible for people to participate in my exhibit without coming in person to the winery.

My ultimate point is that you, my dear blog reader, besides seeing behind the scenes in my studio as I have worked towards this exhibit are also the first to see all of the Odditerrarium artwork together and have early access to the book!

I hope you like it! Here’s a few photos of the book…

Here’s the visit to the yard my supervisor dachshund and I talked about earlier. The Japanese Iris’s are blooming now and I really love the odd shapes of them! The other flowers in my wife’s garden are pretty too.

In my last post I told about our dishwasher troubles… this week a new one was installed! To celebrate having a dishwasher again I made one of our favorites and served the Coddle in the big mugs that are hard to handwash. Our new dishwasher did a great job!

Here are pictures of my art studio supervisors resting.

My reading stack this week: I finished Christopher Moore’s “Island of the Sequined Love Nun” and P. M. Carlson’s “Murder Misread”. Both of those transported me to a better frame of mind.

Being upset about current events also has me reaching back in history for a somewhat similar past era and the artistic responses to the issues of that time and how, these many years later, that turned out…

Now I’m reading Alan Watt’s “Zen and the Beat Way” alongside some of the Beat writers work in Ann Charters’s “The Portable Beat Reader”. (Here’s a good link about the history of the Beat generation aka hippies.) It occurs to me that many discussions of the 1960’s and 1970’s have focused on pooh-poohing the long hair, the beadwork, the lack of shoe wearing, the organic vegetable growing/eating habits instead of grappling with the ideas contained in the written works of that era. Many of that generation’s artist’s were responding artistically, critically, via literature, poetry, music, etc, to the Mccarthyism, the Vietnam war, the various conventional cultural cruelties of that time period. The conservatives, or squares as they were called in the 60’s, said “no” a lot back then too.

In reading about all of it I wonder is peace, love and understanding really so radical, so threatening that we must distract from those ideas by ridiculing the clothing and eating habits of those advocating kindness?

On the topic of 1960 era food: here’s a review of a book by Jonathan Kaufman titled “Hippie Food”. And here’s another article about the healthy food (brown rice, beans, organic whole foods etc) efforts that began back then. I’m now aware of very real kitchen table progress that has been made because of the ideas originating in the countercultural 1960’s, things we benefit from today such as more food safety, better quality, more wide spread availability of fresh vegetables and more diversity of vegetables and grains.

I have ordered another book, that hasn’t come yet, about the women writers, poets and artists of the Beat era. I’m impressed, by what I’m reading in the titles by Watts and the Charters, with how much work the women of that era did to expand the life possibilities for women living, working, cooking and being creative – things we benefit from today. (See also this tangentially related article) I look forward to reading more. It may be a cliche but we do indeed stand on the shoulders of giants. And I’m finding comfort and hope from what turned out to be the many Beat generation countercultural successes despite the frustration they felt in the 1960’s and 70’s.

As you can probably tell I spent more of my time just reading this week. I took a break from social media too. Here’s an article I read with ways to be aware of current events and still take care of your mental health. Here’s my sketchbook page where I gave myself permission…

I hope your week is as full of peace, love and understanding as you can make it. Please take carrot …

See you next Monday

Using much eloquence while juggling numbers

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, book design and layout, books, business of art, children's book, handmade books, household surrealism, mental health, miniature art, Odditerrarium, publications - publishing, sketchbook, Storyberries, wordless story, writing and illustrating

A new painting in my Odditerrarium series for upcoming exhibits via Caplan Art Designs is titled “Using Much Eloquence”. Like the others in this series this one is 10 x 8 inches and made with ink, gouache and collage on board.

Here’s a closer view so you can see what this dog is thinking.

Now that I’ve made sufficient progress on my Odditerrarium series – I have 15 of the paintings finished  – it’s time to write the art exhibit statement that will be used both for the Odditerrarium artist book and for the exhibit. I have written before in this blog (here) about writing art exhibit statements or “blurbs” as I call them. Exhibit statements are a short, around 150 words, first person description of what an exhibit is about. I think of it as like the description on the back of a book. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

I also think of a shorter sentence that can be used like a log-line is used in book publishing. For Odditerrarium I’ve written “I wonder what our dogs and cats think about the objects, people and places in their lives so in my Odditerrarium fine art series of portraits I imagine the contents of their thoughts as a terrarium hat.”

Whenever I begin a new series I keep a logbook where I make notes of my thoughts towards the series while I work. I write what I’m excited about, the questions I’m asking, what I learn etc and those notes are what I pull from to write an exhibit statement and logline. Making “notes” includes my sketchbook pages like this one.

Whenever I have finished more than 10 paintings from what I think is a series I’ll spread the finished artwork out where I can see it all, reread my logbook and see which bits fit with the finished artworks and which of the artworks do look like a coherent series. Of course I add these thoughts to my logbook.

My statement writing process is a whole lot like the project narrative writing for grant applications directions (link here) except I don’t apply for any grants with my project narratives aka exhibit statements. I used an informal version of my Odditerrarium statement during discussions with Caplan Art Designs about my proposed exhibit. Whenever I decide the formal written Odditerrarium statement is as good as I can make it I will send it to the gallery.

Putting together the artist book version of my Odditerrarium series will help me know when my statement is done.

Here’s my dachshund supervisor helping me process photos of the finished artwork for use in the book design for Odditerrarium.

My newest artist book “Juggling Numbers” is now out on Storyberries!! In this video I’m showing the original artist book “Juggling Numbers” a handmade artist book that plays in a visual way with the flow of numbers. I made a digital ebook version of this artist book for the experimental art category of Storyberries.com – see it here – a free ebook site for children. I chose the number range from 1 to 25 because a friends grandchildren could count to 20.

https://www.storyberries.com/counting-books-juggling-numbers-by-clancy-experimental-kids-art-books/

Below are a few still photos of the original book – video and links are also on my portfolio page here. The logline for Juggling Numbers is something like this ” … can you count forwards and backwards with a cat?”

I got news this week that my adopted Mom is not doing well health wise (hospice) and big sister, Mom and I visited by phone several times. Mom told me repeatedly to “keep making your art”. I know she’s quite serious about that. So I’ve begun drawing and painting orchids, Mom’s favorite flower. That’s all I know to do whenever I’m sad – channel feelings and love into art. Putting symbolic things in my art is my way of doing a version of Carol Burnett’s ear tug. Printed books whenever they appear in my artwork are for my adopted Dad – in case you wondered.

Grateful for my sketchbook as a way of both holding on and letting go.

A brunch I had with my wife this weekend was particularly lovely: homemade scrambled eggs, bacon, sourdough toast with homemade jam made by our friend Carol. Our coffee cups resting on handmade coasters by our friend Jeannie – and we felt surrounded by the love and support of friendship! And yes I put tobasco sauce on my eggs and tobasco jelly on my toast … is there anything I don’t put Tobasco on? Maybe ice cream. But I haven’t tried that yet so I don’t know for sure.

I hope your week is full of love and friendships. I hope you have plenty of tobasco sauce if you like it. I’ll keep making art because my Mom says so and I hope you’ll keep on keeping on too. See you next Monday.

Curiosity, cats, our minds and alphabets

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, cat portrait, creative thinking, fine art, life of the mind, mental health, miniature art, Odditerrarium, poetry, publications - publishing, sketchbook, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

I’ve been thinking this week about the role of curiosity in a creative life. So here’s a fun curiosity/creativity game I play with myself. To play you’ll need: any printed book with lots of visual images in it, 5 sticky post-it notes from a post-it note pad, a separate piece of paper and a pen or pencil.

To begin the game open the book to random pages, page through very rapidly – ONLY PAUSE WHENEVER AN IMAGE CATCHES YOUR EYE – put a sticky post-it note on that page. Then keep going, quickly, through the book until all 5 of your post-it notes have been placed. DO NOT READ ANY TEXT IN THE BOOK. This part of the game will only take one minute or two. You’re just reacting and post-it note flagging that “something caught my eye” in an image.

After all 5 of your post-it notes are placed look at each of your chosen 5 images, look only at the image itself NOT at any accompanying text. Add a letter (or number) to the post-it note on each image, write a corresponding letter on your sheet of paper. Then write very specifically what caught your eye in the image. This is usually a brief description of some ordinary visual element in the image like “ladies funny hats” or “dogs droopy ears”. It could be the colors or the odd shapes that are described. There are no wrong answers. This is just YOU being curious about your own native interests and creative voice.

After writing about all 5 of your noticed images get curious about them as a group. Is there a theme or a commonality between any of the 5 images? For example the ladies funny hats and the dogs ears could be grouped as “head gear”.  Again, there are no wrong answers. Be as absurd and freely-associative as you like. This is just you playing and being curious about any themes that may be subconsciously on your mind today.

When that part of the game is done read any text about the 5 images you chose. Does the information in the text add to your interest, to your curiosity? Feel free to investigate further…

And that’s the game! I’ve found in playing this game often that my themes repeat, certain elements consistently catch my eye, and knowing what those are helps me work deliberately and playfully in my studio. I play this game often because my interests and what catches my eye changes.

The Odditerrarium series painting that I finished this week is titled “Curious”. Like the rest of my series (for upcoming exhibits via Caplan Art Designs) this one is 10 x 8 inches and made with ink and gouache on board.

Here’s a closer look.

Part of curiosity, imagination and the life of the mind is allowing oneself to mentally reach, to play, to accept the risks and thrills of uncertainty. As a metaphor for these thoughts, as you may know from past posts, I’ve been thinking of the ways cats reach up. Here’s two in-progress artist books that have cats reaching in them. (Probably these books will eventually go to Storyberries.com)

Recently I stumbled across an Instagram post by Columbia Gorge Book Arts and got curious. (Lettering and alphabets consistently catch my eye.) I followed their Instagram account and looked at their website. I found out they live in the same town I do! So I contacted them online.

Letterpress and Linotype work is in my own past work history so I enjoyed the trip down memory lane while viewing their photos of equipment but more importantly I loved discovering that Ben, at Columbia Gorge Book Arts, hand-carves from bamboo the individual letters used in letterpress hand presses! The letterforms are beautifully created and Ben has quite a variety of typefaces! Seeing Ben’s printed proof sheets inspired my thoughts towards future kids books and children’s room decor. So when I contacted Ben I asked if I could buy a few printed proof sheets of his various alphabets. He sent me some!!!

When you’re a child learning one’s alphabet letters also means learning to recognize a letter even if that letter is differently shaped or colored. Towards that thought (and to indulge creatively in a theme that I love) I’m starting a new project, The Ralphapet Projects, in which, over time, I’ll make art prints, cards, cups and eventually a story book using some of the beautiful lettering I get from Columbia Gorge Book Arts.

Here’s the first one. I selected one of the Columbia Gorge alphabet proofs and mounted it on one of my boards using archival glue. Then when the glue was dry I drew, in ink, a cat muralist reaching up to “paint” a letter.

Here’s the finished “Ralphapet Cat” that I did using gouache on a 7 x 5 inch board.

So you can see the array of my recent cat reaching thoughts.

I took photos of the Ralphapet Cat artwork with my big camera (a better camera than a phone camera) and then my studio supervisor cat, Hawkeye, helped me do the graphic design hocus pocus in order to make art prints.

Here’s the finished art print.

Ralphapet Cat – by Clancy- https://society6.com/product/ralphabet-cat_print?sku=s6-23742735p4a1v45

And then because it was fun I also made a cup with my Ralphapet artwork.

https://www.zazzle.com/ralphabet_cat_cup-168792812275506970

This weekend one of my poems was included in the pocket poem series given away by Birdhouse Bookstore at the farmers market!

Here are some more of my thoughts this week about minds…and some sketches in my sketchbook.

I hope your mind is a pleasant place to be this week. See you next Monday.

Public art private art and pretending

A Creative Life, art commissions, art prints, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, Authors, creative thinking, fine art, illustration, mental health, miniature art, Odditerrarium, poetry, public art, sketchbook, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

I’ve been thinking lately of how important the ability to imagine is. What if “let’s pretend…” is one of the most useful skills to cultivate all of one’s life? Besides being lots of fun to do using your imagination is an essential mental health skill. I quote from this article “So when you choose to develop your imagination and your ability to focus and direct your imagination, you gain the ability to guide and shift and direct your emotions as well. And when you have the ability to direct your imagination and modulate your emotions, then you also have the ability to influence the neurochemicals in your brain and in your body, too. Like all things mental, this ability is learned, and, like all things learned, this ability is made proficient through repetition. You do not learn to read overnight. You learn to read through repetition. Repetition makes proficiency.”

A new painting in my Odditerrarium series portraits (see last post) is titled “Pretending”. It’s 10 x 8 inches and made with gouache and ink on board. It is for an exhibit via Caplan Art Designs later this year.

A close up view…

I’ve also made progress on a new book for Storyberries that I had begun in my last post – the cat reaching thought I was telling you about got some color.

In thinking of how important imagination is I’ve also been thinking of the scope of it: imagination is first a personal skill, then it becomes something shared with friends, then it is something shared with the wider public – even intergenerationally – and that cycles back to us personally. And it does this cycle as long as we’re alive. Art and imagination are an ongoing conversation we have over time with ourselves, our friends and our community… and most importantly with life itself.

So I’m proud to see in this article that one of my art projects, the paintings in the photo behind Amy Russell, the executive director of the Curtis Children’s Justice Center is still on the walls there! That’s one of my public art projects that I’m most proud of doing. Keeping kids safe and developing good mental health coping skills are causes I care deeply about – and I think art can help with that. Long ago when I was a small child living in Oklahoma I was on the recieving end of child abuse in my biological family and had my own memorable encounters with police officers, social workers etc. The art on the walls in all of the buildings and the drawings on boxes of animal crackers helped me almost as much as the kind people who tried to help. Fast forward to today – the idea of having one place for a child to go for assistance is phenomenal and I’m glad and grateful for the existence of the Curtis Children’s Justice Center and I’m grateful for the kind people who help the children who need their services. I am deeply honored to have my artwork on their walls.
https://www.columbian.com/news/2022/mar/26/childrens-justice-center-child-abuse-up-since-covid/

https://www.columbian.com/news/2022/mar/26/childrens-justice-center-child-abuse-up-since-covid/

An art collector friend sent me these photos (below) of a art commission I had done for them over 10 years ago – it has been reframed and is in this gorgeous private place!!

I did this collage of handmade paper to tell a very personal and delightful story of a lovely family!

The pet portraits are some I have done of this same family’s pets over the years – they got reframed too and don’t they look nice?!

I just adore getting to love people throughout the years with my artwork!!

My artist heart is happy and full ❤ !! Thanks so much to my friend for sharing this with me!!!

Three kids are the apples of this art collectors eyes and I did these paintings to represent the specialness of each kid… the kids are all grown up now and still cherished!
Since I’d posted the art collections (above) of my fine art earlier on my social media that are still loved all these years later… this art lover and I wanted to share these beloved apples!! So much love worthy of sharing!!! ❤❤❤

A friend gave us these flowers this week…

….I painted them in my sketchbook and posted my page on my social media…

…. another friend saw my sketchbook page online and asked me to make an art print of it. So I got out my big camera and did that! As you can see the colors and details show up even better now! You can see more about the print here.

Lily Flowers- art print by Clancy- https://society6.com/product/lily-flowers6766553_print?sku=s6-23622061p4a1v45

My wife saw a unique mushroom in our yard and showed it to me. I looked carefully and photographed it and began a drawing in my sketchbook – then the next morning I finished it.

Then we got to visit some very special friends and a special cat and dog! Here I am being honored by the cat.

Here’s my wife being honored by the dog.

On the wall behind our friends is a collection of my artworks. Sharp eyes may recognize the cat and dog from our laps in some of the portraits on the wall.

One of our friends is the author and historian Pat Jollota – you can see some of her books here – she’s an amazing storyteller. If someday I can tell stories half as well as she does I’ll be proud.

I brought to our gathering some illustrations I’ve made and an idea for a holiday gift book. Together all of us imagined what my illustrated characters might be saying to each other. It was a fun party game that will become an actual book that I hope other people will have fun imagining with too.

My adopted Dad’s favorite quote is by Anatole France and I put it in my sketchbook along with a drawing this week. It was in keeping with my thoughts about “let’s pretend…”.

I hope your week is full of the kinds of imaginings and let’s pretend games that fill you with pleasure and happiness. See you next Monday.

Fine art, books and similarities between art and writing

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, dog portrait, fine art, household surrealism, life of the mind, mental health, miniature art, Odditerrarium, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

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?

Our current times, tuning in to awe and books

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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!

After serving wine I signed copies of The Professional Dog and Numpurrs. I also did little drawings in each book!

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!

The Professional Dog cocktail napkins- https://www.spoonflower.com/en/home-decor/dining/cocktail-napkins/12418133-professional-dog-by-sueclancy

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.

Books Are All We Know … art print by Clancy –  https://society6.com/product/books-are-all-we-know-of-heaven4207368_print?sku=s6-18617343p4a1v45

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.

See you next Monday?

On playing with books, art and being wholly bent

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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.

Those notes from my art journal eventually became an ebook and then a printed book titled “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit“. Many of the concepts in the book speak of ways of being true to yourself and being an ethical participant in a community aka feeding the good wolf.

https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dr-Bobs-Emotional-Repair-Program-First-Aid-Kit1

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?