Crows, cookies and thinking in the Odditorium

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, fine art, household surrealism, magic realism, mental health, Odditorium, Sustainable creativity, travel art and writing, whimsical art, words and pictures

One of the gifts of travel is the awareness that things don’t have to be what you’re used to in order to be enjoyable.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 I’ve been looking at household things with the eye of a traveler. I’m practicing being okay with things as they are, seeing them in new ways and enjoying them – like how I would enjoy things on a trip. Along the way it occurred to me that domestic arrangements are one place in life where things can be more or less to our preferences. Home is a place of fairly reliable comforts. There’s a gift of comfort in that.

The sketchbook I began this, ahem, journey in has been published as Another Sketchbook.  I decided at first to view household things as if they were public monuments, things we might travel to see. Then I decided that was too distant…the people too small and far away. Then I decided I didn’t want to draw people after all because animals feel more comforting. Anyway, here are a few pages from Another Sketchbook…I’m hoping you can see how I got to my present Odditorium art series via this trail.

Here below is the book cover and a link where you can look through the entire book.

Of course after publishing Another Sketchbook I’ve kept on keeping a sketchbook. I post these new pages now and then on my social media. Here’s a few pages from my new sketchbook that are relevant to the painting you’ll see in this post.

While musing about the crows I often see in my yard I thought of how the kitchen gadgets I have are so useful. And I love herbs and spices – especially those from Penzeys. So I took a photo of the kitchen tools and spices I was about to use at that moment.

Then as the days progressed I began a new acrylic painting full of my thoughts about my ongoing efforts to dance and appeal, so to speak, to the various gods of good-food cooking. My spouse snapped this photo of me working.

As I worked I tried a new-to-me color scheme that includes magenta, an orange-red, a light pink, grass green, a grey-blue and a creamy yellow. The crows aren’t really black there’s a lot of dark purple and deep blues to their feathers. The color nuance shows more when you see the painting with a human eye. I have another camera that shows more of the color range that I use when taking pictures of the art for publication. Anyway, I’ve titled this new painting Domestic Comforts

Domestic Comforts by Clancy- 8 x 18 inches- acrylic and collage on board

Another thing I keep thinking about is the different speed of time at home. When traveling in the past I have tended to be very rushed and scheduled. But at home and in my art studio, which is in my house, I tend to be scheduled but usually much less rushed. In fact for quite some time – even before the pandemic – I have intentionally tried to maintain the habit of a steady but relaxed pace in my studio and home. Sustainability of energy is my focus. No, I don’t do this perfectly it’s an ongoing goal. During the pandemic this goal has strengthened as I’ve realized this habit also maintains a critical space for long-form thinking.

Long form thinking is a term usually applied to reading and literacy. It’s a discussion of cultivating the ability to pay attention. There’s an article by James Patterson here and another related article here on the long form thinking as it relates to literacy.

This reminds me of what Dr Bob said in Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit about attention “what do we get when we pay attention? The power to choose.”

I think of the term long form thinking as applying more generally to creative efforts that stretch over a longer span of time. The actual work may be done in fits and starts or in short bursts of actual hands on time but a thought is held in mind, come what may, over an extended time period. Long-form thinking, in my opinion, allows for a sustained leisurely attitude towards time for art, for reading and writing.  Creativity requires time to meander and travel in ones mind – even while cooking dinner or mowing the lawn one plays with the thought topics currently being considered.

Long-form thinking purposefully includes time for making homemade cookies or any other bits of meandering fun. This week I tried a cinnamon sugar cookie recipe. I cut this recipe in half, dumped all the ingredients in my Cuisinart (kitchen gadget!) blended the dough and otherwise followed the recipe directions.

The cookies turned out very yummy!! As hinted above taking the time to read books is an essential part of my creative process – with or without hot from the oven cookies and hot chocolate. Here’s one of the books I’m reading…

My art is a part of my life and vice versa. Creativity is a continuous thing I’m committed to doing within and amongst all of the various domestic concerns and that’s-life stuff.

In fact I view the public aspect of my creative life of making artist books and art exhibits as like the game of musical chairs. I do steady continuous studio work then about a month before the fine art exhibit goes up the music stops. As in the hands on action of creating paintings temporarily stops, and I start framing, photographing, publishing everything I finished up to that point.

It is exciting as I frame and publish the artwork to both see and feel my Odditorium series coming together. The work that I began last year will be exhibited this year in June and July at Burnt Bridge Cellars and when my work is on their walls that will add to my ongoing Odditorium thoughts. Then there’s another exhibit at the Caplan Art Designs Gallery in September. After delivering art to Burnt Bridge Cellars later this month the music (active painting) starts again – specifically the thoughts I have when seeing my works hung together will inspire more work in the series. Then I will begin making the new art in this Odditorium series with an eye towards the next exhibit. Some of the art at Burnt Bridge Cellars along with the freshly made new art will go to Caplan Art Designs when the music stops again at the end of August. This is the way my exhibits grow and travel.

So yes I like long-form thinking. I like projects that stretch over a years time. This allows me to explore a topic from several angles as well as to change my approach as I’ve described in this post. It’s risky as I don’t know at the beginning where my thoughts will go. Plus I do all of the hands on work in short bursts of time each day so I “live in” small slices of my thoughts. My sketchbook is the way I both develop the exhibit idea and keep track of my thoughts – but still the uncertainty is there. I’ve just learned to ride with it.

My long-form working process is like reading a long novel –  when you have a few minutes you read a paragraph or a page or two a day. When you begin reading you’ve no idea where the book is going. But if you keep reading a bit per day pretty soon you’ve read the whole book and you know the book conclusion.  Same goes with creating an art exhibit.

There’s an excellent article here about the counterculture of commitment. It describes well what I’m talking about. I see this concept of long-form thinking (aka commitment) as similar to the idea of slow food/ home cooked food but about the subject of creativity. Inherent in this notion is the acceptance that things can develop slowly over time and that slowness allows for uncertainty and changes of mind.

I have a quote by Christopher Morley thumbtacked to my art studio wall. The quote applies, in my view anyway, to ones sense of time and space too.

It’s okay maybe even good to be a little odd. It’s not a goal to have domestic life or travel or art projects or life in general be perfect. The goal is to have the coping skills to deal well with imperfections when they happen. To be able to do the domestic dances and appeal well enough to the gods (metaphorically) of home cooking. Or to the gods of plumbing or whatever the household issues may be. To be relaxed and calm enough that one’s able to see the solutions, comforts and enjoyments near to hand. This is my approach to art projects too. Slow but steady, to have the coping skills to fix artistic mistakes, to adjust, to try something new.

Since this month began – besides framing the artwork a bit per day – I’ve been creating an exhibit catalog, a coffee table picture book of my exhibit. Last year during the worst of the pandemic it seemed to please fans of my artwork that they were able to get a printed book or an ebook of my entire art exhibit. So that’s why I’m doing a book this year too.

Additionally I’m doing a few greeting cards and coffee mugs with my art from this series. Both the cards and mugs are in keeping with the root idea of my Odditorium series – taking an uncommon view of ordinary household things and surreally creating souvenirs of pleasant moments. Here below is an example of a note card with the artwork  I wrote about in my last post.

Crow with Pen note card –

Yes, the temptation to stress, to worry, to rush is there, especially as the day nears to deliver all of the artwork. But I remember those pre-pandemic travels when I rushed mightily because the day the trip ended was coming nearer and I didn’t want to miss anything … what I remember now of those trips isn’t the scenery or the food but the stress and rush. So I try to remain calm now and go slowly as I continue towards the exhibit. And I rest knowing my thinking-work will continue …

Thanks for reading! I hope you have many enjoyable domestic comforts  this week – and if you try the cookies I hope you like them. See you next Monday?

18 thoughts on “Crows, cookies and thinking in the Odditorium

  1. Wonderful! I’d never thought of what I do as Long Form Thinking, but I’ve done it all my life. Ideas and Creative impulses ruminate within me, and all of the experiences and stimuli that come my way glom on to the ideas or impulses they relate to until that bundle is brought forward in mind with many words and/or images to harvest onto the page or in sculptural works – and ultimately in shaping my life. Greatly comforting to me, as one of my background frets is that I need to get more work out to publishing stage more quickly. But this view lets me appreciate the time taken for each endeavor. The works are definitely richer for the thoroughness of my approach – I can see that. But somehow giving an explanation for the process helps me release some anxiety about the wait.
    I agree that the little people are a bit distant. They are charming sketches, but not nearly so vibrant and ‘comforting’ as the works you’ve decided to include in the Odditiorium exhibits.
    I enjoyed the virtual cookies and hot chocolate. Now it’s time to see about some lunch…

    1. I had suspected that you are a fellow Long Form Thinker and I am delighted that you found comfort in my post! In a world of rushing rabbits it is perfectly acceptable to be a thoughtful tortoise. Oh I am so glad you wrote your comment! It warms my heart! Thank you!! Enjoy your lunch!! ❤

      Oh, and an additional thought: the end result of the Long Form Thinking process can be someting very short: a poem, a short essay or
      a flash fiction story, or a painting seen within a glance. It’s not about the length of time it takes to read or see the result of a creative effort…it’s the quality of that result and the process it takes to create it. It’s not even about the length of time it takes to create something…Long Form Thinking is a way of working towards the best result one can make without being too obsessive. For example a baker gets up before dawn and works many hours to make a pastry that gets eaten in minutes…even with the bakers efforts sometimes the dough doesn’t cooperate. Long Form Thinking is about the process and care taken by the creator to try to make something of quality – not so much about the end result.

      1. Yes, I see your additional thought’s wisdom. Especially with my visual artwork I often took a long time to brew the emotional energy that brought forth the image, even for very small projects. But that developed inspiration was key to shaping the final piece. Had it been rushed it would not have been the same at all, and I believe greatly diminished – if I had even created it at all.
        All of my creative work comes from a deep stirring of sorts. Hard to explain. But I know something’s in there and it takes time to know it will come out when I sit to express it. When it’s time, I feel it come to a head in some way. I never just decide what to create at a given time, I start to create and the swelled blossom is the one that blooms. I hope that makes sense. Not a word-oriented process, so hard to describe. Thanks again for the response and further thoughts. So inspirational and affirming!

        1. Yes! I know very well what you try to speak of! It is quite challenging to articulate verbally what is essentially nonverbal. I tell you I had a heck-of-a time with this blog post. How to describe a creative pace? You can’t measure it or kick it’s tires…it’s all mental intentions and attitude. I worried a bit that with my post I was pinning the butterfly wings to a card. So I am very glad you found it inspirational and affirming! I want to comfort and encourage my fellow creatives who are continuing to be creative during times of stress (like a pandemic).

  2. I appreciate “fear is a misuse of imagination” in your sketchbook. Words to take to heart. I love “Domestic Comforts,” with the blue-black feathers against the orange-red background. And the crows have Crocs on their little crow feet! Best of all is how expressive their faces are. My final comment is that I’m quite taken with the word “odditorium.” I need to find a way to work it into casual conversation.

    1. Lol!!!! I love each of your comments!! I’m glad you like the word “odditorium” please feel free to use it!!! Re working it into conversation…
      Setting: somewhere hearing a persistent noise.
      One person says to the other “My how quiet it is in the Odditorium just now”

      Setting: person discovering a mess in a previously clean room
      Person says “I see the Odditorium is now open for the performance”

      Setting: people sitting gossiping about people and things unfamiliar to you
      You say aloud: “Did they pass the libretto out at the front of this Odditorium? I must have missed it… (instead of libretto it could be a choral book…)😉

      Thanks for making me laugh thinking up these casual conversations. Lol!!🤣

      1. Ha ha! Thank you for these scenarios, Sue. They’re hilarious, particuarly that last one! As a matter of fact, I will be heading to the Zoom Odditorium at 2:00 this afternoon for an all-college appreciation day. So far, no libretto has been forthcoming.

        1. Lol!!!! All my best wishes for your upcoming improvisational performance in the Zoom Odditorium!! The applause and bouquets of roses are ready for you!! Affectionately yours…

  3. I like that Christopher Morley quotation a lot. Thank you for introducing it to me. I think I need to strive to be more of a Long Form Thinker. It is, in fact, what I do in practice but more because those stretched timelines for creative projects are imposed on me by the ridiculousness of my schedule than through it being an active choice to let things ruminate and letting all of the ingredients that inspire me marinate for a bit. I need to engage with Long Form Thinking as a process for creativity that I embrace rather than resent.

    1. I’m glad you liked the Morley quote! I agree with you – you already are a Long Form Thinker! And a skillful one as evidenced in your blog posts!! It makes all the difference for me when I just embrace the ways my time can get chopped up and figure out ways to make it an asset i.e. the Long Form Thinking theory I described in my post. It’s much like the way you described your own shift of thought framing from “darn I only have 10 minutes free” to “hey! Looks like I have 10 minutes free!” Of course you phrased it much better.

    1. Thank you so much!! The palette was a new one to me. At first the background was more magenta… as I worked it shifted. But I was pleasantly surprised! 🤗 And I’m glad to get to interact with you both on Instagram and here!!

Thank you for reading and sharing encouragements!