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

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-

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

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.

21 thoughts on “Curiosity, cats, our minds and alphabets

  1. I love your suggestion for playing that game. I can definitely see how that would get the creative cogs whirring. I am going to squirrel that idea away for future use.

  2. “Ralphapet” is such a cool name for your new series! I play a version of your curiosity game in my head. It’s usually the “why” of an image that catches my eye. I love the page in your sketchbook about your education being something no one can ever take away. I so believe that! I would add that it’s the difference between training and education. Training becomes obsolete; education doesn’t.

    1. Thank you!! I’m delighted you like the Ralphapet name!!! I’m glad that you have a version of the curiosity game too!! It’s such a helpful and fun tool don’t you think? And I completely agree with you education is more broad, it’s more mindset building, compared with training which tends to be specific task oriented. I try to live by, and continually educate myself by, the multi-disciplinary- dare I even say – Montessori methods. Education is a lifelong process like breathing in my opinion.

      1. You’re welcome, Sue! Yes, I get good inspiration from the curiosity game and learn and learn and learn. Speaking of Montessori methods, the two best teaching experiences of my career were with two English majors’ integrative capstone. They wanted to be creative writers, so I gave a very basic framework of activities based on what they told me they wanted to learn–and my teaching focused on what they wanted and needed to learn that week, based on what they’d written. We did metanarratives and everything!

        1. How lucky those two English majors were that you were able to do that for them!!!! Bravo!!! And isn’t it delightful when we’re also able to give ourselves ways of learning that are based in our interests?!
          Oh there are times when I wish you and I could talk in person over coffee or tea – and this is one of those times. Still I am grateful for our friendship across the miles! So good it is to share a love of creativity and learning!
          “Metanarratives and everything” – oh my!!!!! 🤗

  3. Wonderful post! Like you, I think lifelong learning is fun whether it is done from an armchair or through travel or other methods. You have shown through this post how one idea can lead to another and yet another…awesome!

    1. Thank you so much!!! I’m so glad you enjoyed my post!! Yes!! Lifelong learning is fun!! Like many people I’ve not traveled since the beginning of the pandemic but where there’s a will… using books and websites together is a fun learning method.

  4. I played your image game choosing from a page of images on Google. Not quite as fun as a real book, but I don’t have access to a picture book at work. The nice thing about digital images is I could just save them quickly to my desktop and then put them in a folder together to look at as a group. I put a date on the folder and five ‘in common’ key words, and I put it in a larger folder called, ‘Image Game by Sue’ so I can do this from time to time and have a record of my changing interests and intrigues. I was quite surprised by what I chose. Thanks for the creative idea!
    I love the bookmarks and the printed letter proofs and your clever mural painter image with the orange one intrigue me to no end. What a fun inspiration to work from!

    1. Oh good!!!! I’m delighted my image game was fun and helpful to you too!!! I often play it the way you describe – having that searchable visual record is valuable I find! I didn’t mention this way of playing the game in my original blog post just to try to keep the directions simple so I’m thrilled to hear that you thought of this variation!!! Yippee!!!
      And the game constantly surprises me too with what catches my eye…
      I’m honored to hear you’ve made a folder “Image Game by Sue”!! I love it!!! Thank you so much for your comment it brightened my day!!

Thank you for reading and sharing encouragements!