My wife and I went to see the movie Barbie at the Mcmenamins St. John’s Theater and Pub – a friend suggested seeing Barbie at this particular theater because it might be easier for me to hear. She was right! And this theater has a closed captioning device that sit in the cup holder and has a positional gooseneck!!! This made it possible for deaf me to comfortably enjoy the movie! And boy did we enjoy it!! Had to have a beer afterwards and discuss it! What fun! We discussed the many subtle jokes in the backgrounds, small allusions to elements of consumer culture, in the various scenes. It made me aware all over again of how important small things are in our daily physical and mental lives.
In the walkway leading towards the theater I loved all of the trees and the various colors of greenery…
….and the “enchanted forest” entryway into the theater and pub.
Stepping inside the neighborhood pub itself was magical. It had an old-world artsy, funky, steam-punky, weird odd whimsical vibe that I enjoyed.
We want through the pub to go inside the wooden domed theater. It was possible to order food and beverage to be delivered to our theater seats. In front of each of the rows of seats were long communal table ledges just wide enough to hold plates and glasses. We didn’t order anything as I felt I had enough to do to prepare to “hear” the movie. The wooden dome and the art all around the perimeter were amazing to look at while we waited for the movie to begin.
The screen was at one end of the round room that seated perhaps 50 people.
When we bought our tickets I requested use of the closed captioning device. Then I wedged one end of the device into the cupholder and positioned the captioning end so it’d be under my view of the screen but yet not impeding anyone else’s view. Here’s me positioning the device.
Then the movie started and I turned my phone off and didn’t turn it back on till we got home. After the movie was over we sat in the pub having food and beverages while talking about the movie. There were so many fun things to see in the pub itself that besides going back for another movie – the captioning device worked wonderfully for me – I want to bring my sketchbook and draw. The food and beers were very good too but there were so many things to notice in the pub and outside around the pub that I ached for my notebook and sketchbook!
Here’s a look at my notebook where I write stuff I notice every day…
I find it such an odd curious thing, about myself and about most humans, that 9 pleasant things can happen within a day but the 1 unpleasant thing will usually get all of the emotion and attention. And besides that often we wait until something grabs our attention (usually negatively) before we tune in. So I try to be contrarian and give more of my feelings and attention to the good things. Also I try to do my own purposful noticing instead of waiting for something external to move me … but I take the pressure off by only asking of myself that I notice 7 small (hopefully) nice things per day.
This is a book I have appreciated, and highly recommend, about noticing things.
Kirt Vonnegut also writes about trying to notice nice things that happen every day specifically to notice when you’re happy. This book is ostensibly for young people but I figure the young people I’ve been in my 5-years-past-half-century lifetime are still inside me so I reread this book fairly often.
So I hope you’re having many pleasant moments today and that you remember to notice as many of them as you can.
I continued work this week on my 3d box sculpture for upcoming exhibit at the Caplan Art Designs Gallery that I’d mentioned in my last post and finished it. Specifically, as I worked towards final touches, I looked at more cardboard and learned about the various symbols printed on boxes and what they mean.
Of all the possible cardboard box symbols- I chose the “this way up” symbol. In my art the “23” denotes the year I made it whereas in the real world on a cardboard box that type of number would indicate the edge crush test rating.
I did a bit more to the elephant character – but not too much.
After adding the box upright marks on the sides and adding highlights to the elephant… while all of the sides dried, I examined still more cardboard box bottoms for what kinds of marks are typically there.
When the sides of my sculpture were dry I turned my sculpture over and signed my name in a parody of cardboard box standards 😁🤣
Below are some of the official photos that I’ve taken for the Caplan Art Designs Gallery of my newly finished 3d sculpture that I’m titling… oh, I’ll bet you can guess… “Thinking Outside The Box”
Next I will varnish this sculpture but I won’t do photos of, or blog about, that process…🤣
Also this week Kathryn Vercillo asked me lots of questions about my artwork and how it relates to mental health. This interview relates directly to why I create the artwork I do. Very candidly I told all… I mean really told it all. 👇
This week I realized there are many cardboard box color variations. In my studio alone I count 10 different colors of brown box material. So the phrase “Thinking Outside The Box” has been on my mind and I’ve begun a new 8 inch wooden cube sculpture by painting it to look like a cardboard box. In the photo below my in progress sculpture is in the background and in the foreground is a box I’m using as a model for the flap-fold edges. (A different box was the model for the color…)
Here’s some of my thinking: I noticed that many commercial cardboard boxes have writing on them. In my city’s downtown there are murals on the sides of many of the buildings. Some of the murals have stylized text on them. The act of writing things down is a way to think…
So I began thinking “what about creating a character who is painting a mural with lettering on the outside of a cardboard box”?
Below is one of my sketchbook pages related to this project. I chose an elephant character because I also thought of the “memory of an elephant” phrase. That led to thoughts of how both memory and imagination are integral parts of creativity and the ability to think outside the boxes.
I did contemplate a cat character and cat boxes … as you see below my cat made certain I thought of this.
He even pointed out, by rubbing his chin emphatically on the box edge, that his favorite box is lovely shade of brown…
My cat’s chosen box is indeed a very nice brown color – and I do love cats – however I’m going with the elephant character in my artwork for the reasons described above… sorry kitty.
“Humph” pouts the cat.
Anyhoo, in addition to the meanings of particular words and phrases as I’m working on my sculpture I’m thinking about thinking itself; being creative, being logical and utilizing critical thinking skills. Generally I think and read regularly about mental and emotional health for many reasons but chiefly because our brains and thought processes are our main tools for creativity.
Creativity itself can be a tool for good mental health. Yes, there’s a chicken/egg aspect here – but regardless of whichever comes first I want to use my own thinking processes as well as I can. So besides reading philosophy or about mental health whenever I’m reading fiction, biographies and history I’m looking for the thinking, the words and actions over time that led to the events described as well as the responses to those events.
Recently I became aware of a new book “The Artist’s Mind” by Kathryn Vercillo. Because this book is directly on the topic that is on my mind so gosh-darn often I asked the author if I could chat with her about her book and share our conversation publicly. She kindly said yes!
Kathryn Vercillo even sent me a reader’s copy in a mail art envelope that she made! It was a fun touch! As of writing this blog post I’ve read her book and we’ve begun talking! [To somewhat reciprocate her generosity as well as to let her know where I’m coming from I sent her a copy of the book I illustrated for a psychiatrist “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit“.]
About the author: Kathryn Vercillo is a full time writer with a master’s degree in psychological studies. She is the owner of Create Me Free, a small business that researches the link between art and mental health in order to educate, inspire and empower artists to achieve financial and creative success while maintaining well being. She is the author of eight books, including Crochet Saved My Life, which is about the health benefits of handcrafting. When not creating, she’s enjoying life in San Francisco with her loved ones and her rescue pups.
We’re talking together about the content of Kathryn’s new book The Artist’s Mind and the many ways artists throughout history dealt with issues in the real world – stressors like illness, poverty, war, racism, bigotry etc – and kept creating their work. Naturally we’re also discussing coping skills artists can use today!
I’m enjoying a front row seat for her virtual book tour – it’s an amazing community effort – and I’m honored to have a backstage pass, so to speak, by getting to do an interview!
I look forward to sharing our finished conversation next Monday Aug 7th!
This week 5 of my moles were considered “suspicious moles” and were arrested by the dermatologist. 3 were biopsied and held on charges. 2 of the suspects were released but are going to be held under surveillance. These are their “mug shots” below.* Thank goodness my wife went with me to the dermatologist as a witness and with her help the culprits were apprehended.
Then later in the week there was good news!! The 3 “suspicious moles” who had been arrested by the dermatologist were found, via evidence in the medical lab, to be innocent of all charges!! The other 2 are still under surveillance but are likely innocent also! My wife and I are happy dancing! [And yes, I will be wearing the hats and such now…the heck with fashion.]
Since the moles were declared innocent I of course released the news publicly… however their mug shots are still on coffee mugs everywhere...
We did a celebration collaboration homemade pizza dinner! My wife grew and harvested the tomatos and basil – I made the sauce and assembled our margarita pizza Yum!
In my last post I spoke of my artist color palettes being inspired by butterflies and bugs. .. here’s an example of a butterfly I saw in our garden this week.
With all the doctor boohaw this week I really appreciated my friends requests. I got to chat with my friends and it made for easier newsletter and blog posts this week because topics were generously given to me! Even more than I already did I view creativity as a gentle conversation between friends!
We really are in this life together- and thanks for being here with me!
I worked this week on an 8 inch box sculpture and finished it for the Caplan Art Designs Gallery. I’ve titled it “Independent As A Hog On Ice”. It will join its friends in my Figures Of Speech series for another exhibit later this year at the Gallery.
Here’s a few stages of progress…
The finishing touches were to make the skate lines more subtle and to make the overall box a lighter blue ice cube color.
Now having finished “Independent As A Hog On Ice” I have the challenge of photographing it for the Caplan Art Designs Gallery. Below is one of my attempts at getting a good photo. The color isn’t correct. I talked with the Gallery about it and they suggested using a white background …
… and that suggestion worked much better! This photo below is true to the color of my artwork!
Being willing to try, fail, accept instruction and fix mistakes is an essential skill. I even wrote on my email newsletter recently on the art of mucking about -making mistakes in sketchbook fountain pen drawings and fixing them – or as a friend says “there aren’t mistakes in art only novel ways to fix them” well here are a few of my novel ways… https://sueclancy.substack.com/p/the-art-of-mucking-about
And yet in this social media age there are people – and trolls or bots -who are quick to tell you everything you’ve ever done is a mistake, that you should change your life and creativity to suit them, that you should let them do whatever benefits them at your expense. Such commentary isn’t helpful or constructive “criticism”. Often it’s not even “criticism” in the art school definition of “an analysis of the merits or faults of an artistic work”. Criticism in that art school sense arises by mutual consent, by mutual trust and respect, between the artist/creator and the person being asked for input. Often in social media the trolls make their unkind comments unasked, and I don’t know them. Similarly the overweening flattery some trolls dole out prior to asking me to give them carte blanc to [fill in the blank with something that would only benefit the troll]. I block and delete such comments without responding to them. I focus on the kind helpful real-life people instead. And I ask for art school style criticism only from people I know and trust in real life.
But it isn’t always easy to be a creative person on social media. It’s a necessary evil nowadays for the self employed artist and yet social media is only a single cog in the creative process – but this one cog causes a regular need to do timeline mental health preservation, negative troll jujitsu and efforts to simultaneously maintain one’s spirit and creativity in the face of abuse.
Very recently another new social media has been rolled out, there’s pressure to “join” it now too… 🤦♀️ … so I thumbtacked a new handwritten card to my studio wall. It’s the one in the photo below that says “was your dream as a kid to provide free content for a billionaires social media company?” I’m willing to use social media but I’m not willing to be used – or abused – by it. Thus my thumbtacked reminder.
It helps me remember that I’m focusing more nowadays on my email newsletter and this blog – both of which are not so heavily based in an algorithm. I have more control over my newsletter and this blog and can interact more reliably with real people. I still use Instagram and Facebook just much less than I did before.
I added the new thumbtacked card about social media under the card I’d made some years ago when I was giving so many lectures and teaching workshops so often that I didn’t have time for creating my own artwork. It’s the card saying “was your dream as a kid to talk about art/writing or to do it?”. It helps me maintain more harmony between the doing of art and the talking about it.
Here’s me beginning a “use every fountain pen” exercise just for the no need to talk about it because of the self-explanitory fun of it. I’ll probably share the finished drawing on my email newsletter because I’m like that.
Speaking of using all of my pens… Here’s another thumbtacked note to myself “use the art supplies yourself -and now- or they’ll get sold for 10 cents at a garage sale after your funeral i.e. don’t hoard or be precious about art supplies no matter how nice they are! Just use them!”
Now and then I look around my studio and think “what have I not used lately?”
I have a big fat 40 inch tall roll of Kozuke paper that I haven’t used in a few years. Back then I used acrylic paints to dye this paper, make patterns on it and then I cut up the colored papers to make my large scale collage paintings. After the pandemic began I started working in a smaller size and primarily painting instead of doing collage. So that thickest roll of paper you see below in this photo has languished.
So I cut off a strip of the paper and tested my various fountain pens, inks and watercolors and gouache paints on it. On my test strip I misspelled the name of the paper which should be “Kozuke” but I’ll know what I mean whenever I refer to this test strip. All of my art materials tested well! Now I’m thinking of using this paper to make artist books!
Along with revisiting my art supplies inventory I like to occasionally reexamine my color palettes. For a number of years now I’ve used a more muted, subtle palette based in the natural world- specifically the colors of butterflies and bugs like beetles. So I purposefully took time this week to notice what colors in the real world caught my eye pleasantly and felt soothing to my mind. Then I looked for those same or very similar colors in several of my color reference books. I found the bulk of those colors in this book pictured below … and the colors I liked in the real world are in the butterfly and bug section again!
Here’s test swatches of my butterfly bug palette that I create my imaginary worlds with – like “Independent As A Hog On Ice”. I’ll bet you can find the colors I used in my Hog sculpture in the swatches below.
We create the world together… we can pick the colors and the co-creators of the world that we want to inhabit.
Thank you for sharing the world with me. See you next Monday.
Human brains have the ability to be imaginative and creative. This ability is used, for example, when you imagine that a flat tire could happen and then, after checking the spare tire for soundness, you creatively pack the car so that if you do have a flat you don’t need to remove all of your luggage to get to the spare. Imagination and creativity are used in any “if this then that” kind of thinking. Of course not every person uses their ability to imagine or be creative and some use it constructively and others destructively. More on that in a sec.
When I say all humans are creative I mean that human brains experience the real world and then we process it, we make it make sense to us as best we know how, via our use of language and our cognitive system. That’s just part of being human. It’s what human brains do as automatically as breathing. Humans make symbolic sense of what we experience in the real world via figments of our imagination. How well we’re able to use symbols in response to the external world correlates to the qualities of our inner life. But this concept is not rigid. Sometimes poop just happens in life and there’s no symbolic sense to be made of it we just have to cope.
Even so, frequently exercising your imagination is like exercising any other part of your body, it helps keep it in working condition so it has a better chance to be helpful when it’s needed. Fine tuning your cognitive system coping skills is like practicing an exercise with a trainer to make sure things are working well and skill is improving. This falls under the category of cultivating your inner life or the life of the mind.
Writing, drawing, cooking, gardening, singing, dancing, wood furniture making, rug weaving are all learnable skills. Culturally we call these “creative arts” and tend to speak of people who do those skills well (because they practice a heck of a lot) “creative” or “talented”. But even if someone doesn’t cultivate specific skills like any of those they still have an inner life, they’re still imaginative and creative simply because they have a human brain and need to process, make sense of whatever happens or might happen using both their physical body and their symbol making mind. For example even someone who doesn’t consider themselves a writer can get a mental health benefit from processing their daily life events by writing in a journal by hand.
Also inspirational was a conversation I had with one of my college aged great nephews. We were talking about a video in which an older artist advises younger artists (and I’m paraphrasing) to ignore the people who just want to tear down whatever you’ve created by doing a version of the ‘no true Scotsman’ argument fallacy saying that your art “isn’t real art because it (fill in the blank)”. They are attempting to set themselves up as the one and only arbiter of what is/isn’t “real art” instead of you, the artist, deciding for yourself. You don’t have to accept anyone else’s definition of what art is. You can stay with your own feelings about your own art. My nephew said the video reminded him of a phrase he heard somewhere “obsession with hyper realism kills art”. That in turn reminded me of one of my adopted Dad’s favorite sayings “knowledge without imagination can be deadly.”
It’s nearly Father’s day so I’m going overboard on the Dad quotes – thank you for bearing with me.
Anyhoo, to be rigidly fixed on an idea (an imaginary notion), to think you “know” and to refuse to adjust or imagine that you might be wrong or that your ideas might not apply in a new situation or to fail to imagine that there could be anything bigger than what you think you know, well, that can be extremely harmful to yourself and everyone else around you. Misapplied cognition and rigid “knowledge” without some constructive imagination is woefully lacking in creativity, humility and humanity. It’s rather machine like really.
Which brings me to why I’m writing about this topic today. We care about our inner life because imagination and creativity are human attributes and we’re all we’ve got. Outsourcing human attributes, like letting someone else do your thinking for you, or letting someone (or something else) write your school essay for you doesn’t usually work out happily.
We’re here, we’re human, get used to being human, be the most fully human and the best human you can be!
Computers tend to have fixed ideas about many things like language, as anyone who has interacted with auto-correct or predictive text has experienced, and this often interrupts or even inhibits the flow of the human writer’s words. Have you ever tried to, on purpose, write a silly nonsense word using a computer? Yes, there’s a reason there are so many cartoons of a human frustrated with a computer!
As with the above mentioned mean art-troll “critics” you don’t have to accept or be bound by a computer’s preferences either! A human is an emotional being from the era of Homer (either Homer the Greek or Homer Simpson) while the computer is more rigidly pedantic and more literal and much less caring than the Vulcan Spock in Star Trek ever was.
It is okay to be human!
Human brains when they’re working well (no organic diseases) are constantly – and I do mean all the time – using imagination to make sense of the world. We experience with our 5 senses the external world then we have internal conversations with ourselves about “what it means”. Sometimes these internal conversations are helpful and sometimes they aren’t. (We can learn to direct that!) Then our inner conversation, whatever it is, runs through our cognitive processes: our organic body, how we feel, whether we slept well, if we’re hungry, our habitual ways of responding to the world or to certain words, our past experiences, things we’ve learned etc. In a nutshell we apply to the event that happened in the external real world multiple layers of our feelings-based inner life, and then we react for better or worse. This is just what human brains do often in lightning fast ways without us realizing we’re doing it.
Now we’re living with Star Trek level, more or less, technology while using the emotional brains of the Homeric era. If we’re smart we are still learning and practicing how to deal well with our personal Homeric brains because life continually happens whatever the available technology. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is a constant need for all humans at all ages and SEL is a vital ongoing aspect of our interior lives.
Troubles happen, to quote my Dad, when we forget that “feelings are guides not gods to be obeyed”. If you’ve ever gone to school or work when you didn’t feel like it you know what that quote means. But first we had to learn, somehow, that we could acknowledge the feelings and still do the hard stuff that we didn’t feel like doing. We developed coping strategies to help ourselves do that hard stuff… even if it’s an “ice cream afterwards” kind of deal. Even so sometimes due to events in life our emotions loom as large as a god… and in such times our cultivated inner life can be a solace.
My point is that even with the advanced computers in our daily lives the physical human brains we have in our skulls constantly go back and forth, by degrees, from the pole of what happens in the external world and the pole of our imaginations. The trick, according to my Dad, is to remember that our imagination and inner life, i.e. language and our cognitive coping skills, are adjustabletools for dealing with stuff that happens in the real world. If your tools aren’t helping you cope with the real world then the tools may need adjusting or maybe repair.
The importance of language and our inner life is, I think, reflected in the fact that in most human groups it’s considered rude to finish people’s sentences for them, to put words in their mouth, to interrupt or talk over someone. Many groups use some variation of passing around a talking stick or some physical device by which we know who is to speak and for what duration of time. These devices signal who is speaking even if the speaker has paused quietly for a time to think.
Similarly, because language accuracy matters to the creating of shared meanings between people, it is considered rude to assume you know for certain (without double checking) what someone meant when they said that. Or to definitively declare – in the fashion of colonialism – that you and only you know what is/isn’t good and that your personal standards *should* be adopted by everyone everywhere instantly.
To quote my Dad again “Put the words should and shouldn’t on a 50 pound brick and carry it with you at all times”.
Cultivating your inner life, being careful, gentle, flexible and aware of your own connections between matter (the world) and your mind (imagination) can help your own mental health and aid with the stressors of being alive. Including giving you the mental strength to stand by your own thoughts about things.
Additionally it can be useful to be generally aware of real-life people or, nowadays the technologies, that may try to insert themselves, constructively or destructively, between the external world and your own inner life. Such awareness can inspire a focus on whoever or whatever that might help you make better (not worse) connections between the world and your imagination.
This awareness of matter/mind external world/inner world technique can even be a useful tool for the practicing writer or visual artist as I map out here.
True, within the matter/mind continuum there’s no shortage of people who will tell you what to think, what to feel, who will finish your sentences for you, who will try to colonize your inner life, who will claim to “know what you need” and otherwise try to affect your personal relationship between the world and your own imagination.
Sometimes such people do harmful things – the abuser who is gaslighting and manipulating a victim.
Sometimes such people do helpful things – the teacher who is enlightening and encouraging a student.
Mostly the people we typically encounter are somewhere between these two harmful/helpful extremes.
Each of us have to figure out for ourselves ways to decide who or what is helpful, relevant or trustworthy.
Yes, your family, friends, a guru, a book, a politician, a cult leader may all queue up to give you the “correct” answers for this too. And you might or might not like the results. And you’ll still have to figure out some ways – apply imagination and creativity here – to decide what the results are, whether or not you like them, how you’ll respond and what you’ll do next. At the end of the day it’s up to you, it’s your choice of what kind of inner world you want to create and how it can help you deal with the external world.
And yet we are social beings. We need each other and we do learn from each other, all of our lives, various things about living. There’s a lot of trial and error involved. To quote dear Dad again…👇
For most things other people tell you about the world asking yourself the question “which wolf does it feed” is a useful guide. Also useful is the question “who benefits if I believe this?”. It can help to simply write regularly, daily, weekly, what happened, what so-and-so said, how that makes you feel, what it reminds you of, what you need or want or hope. It can help to watch both what someone says and what they do over time and evaluate for consistency and effects. (The CRAAP test is useful too)
Since processing the connections between the external world and our imaginations is reliant on our physical brains/bodies it also behooves us to eat well, to get enough sleep, to walk/exercise and to give ourselves the downtime needed to process our thoughts and feelings. It simply takes time to do something with our bodies that is expressive of our emotions.
To quote Dad again “Having feelings/thoughts? Write about it, draw about it, talk about it, make music or poetry about it…and by doing that with feelings you can name it, claim it and tame it.” There’s really no substitute for doing this yourself with your own hands and voice. Making these physical expressions of imagination and creativity is not about being perfect any more than playing tennis has to always be about becoming a professional tennis player. It is possible to practice an art form just for the fun, playful, inner life exercise in it.
Knowing how you feel, what you think and being able to talk clearly about it is an important skill to cultivate. This is true for everyone and especially true for anyone trying to do anything creative.
Creativity comes from a regular habit of observing the world and listening to yourself to your own thoughts and feelings. Creativity comes from trusting your own voice. Creativity comes from cultivating your attention, deepening the depths of your thoughts and playing with the possibilities there. Creativity, even humanity itself, relies upon individuals having an active inner life.
Basically this week I’ve been thinking a lot about how it’s helpful for mental health’s sake, to somehow make time everyday- at least 5 minutes- to check in with your five senses, to explore your own thoughts and have therapeutic conversations with yourself. Pens and paper are so useful for such inner conversations. My friend Neera also discusses this in her email newsletter and kindly mentioned me and my morning sketchbook efforts!
Speaking of my sketchbook efforts: This week on my sketchbook newsletter I finished sharing my entire book “C” and will begin sharing sketchbooks D and E soon.
I’m enjoying publishing my sketchbooks sequentially, warts and all, in a Substack email format – A.M. Sketching. I see it as a creative art project. I can share digitally whatever I’ve created in real life in a reader supported way – via both paid subscribers and free subscribers. The Substack format enables me to share my creations directly in an ebook or other downloadable format on a regular basis with people who have said (by subscribing) that they want to see my stuff. This way of publishing feels more sustainable both environmentally and creatively. Substack also feels like a more sane, humane platform for authors and artists and readers …fewer trolls… so far.
Anyhoo, the creative arc for creating a one of a kind artist book, printed book editions, fabric design productions and fine art prints can take multiple weeks or months of time. (And can be expensive to produce.) To create a one person fine art exhibit – 20 or more paintings in a themed group – can take a year. You see evidence of these long creative arcs here in this blog. So it’s nice to have my email newsletter that goes a bit faster and the dollars and support I get there gives me the encouragement I need to sustain my longer arcs. The support I get here on WordPress is valuable too – and I heartily thank you for it – yet I’ve never figured out, successfully, how to share downloadables here on WordPress. So I do my actual books and downloads on Substack where it’s easy. On the other hand WordPress doesn’t have word count limits as Substack does so here on my blog I can write in more depth about my creative life and why I created something. But then again WordPress can be buggy, cumbersome, with gremlins… Some pros and cons to both publishing platforms. The main thing I’m discovering is that it’s less expensive for me to share my actual work via an email newsletter on Substack and as a result of both its ease of use and less expense I’m able to share more of my art – and that itself feeds my soul!
And on my Substack newsletter I shared a Rabbit… more about that in a second…
To be healthy mentally we all need to regularly see beauty, we need gentle humor, we need to see patterns in our world and even to attempt to make them with our own hands.
Humans need rhythms as I’ve mentioned in recent blog posts. We simply, physically, need times when we can wander slowly, aimlessly and hear ourselves feel and think. Throughout our lives in order to have satisfied minds we need to repeatedly test what we think we know and what we think we like. Reading novels, writing and doodling are easy ways to give ourselves time to mentally wander and play.
And yes sometimes finding the time to mentally wander feels impossible in these days of 24-7 information onslaught, when our days seem so full of activities that it’s difficult to find moments of quiet respite … While thinking about that I drew in my sketchbook a pig with wings, hovering in the quiet air doodling…
That sketch led to my finished painting titled “When Pigs Fly”. It’s a tall skinny size, 18 inches tall by 8 inches wide. Eventually (the long arc of creativity again) it will be in fine art exhibits via Caplan Art Designs later this year.
Even though it’s hard sometimes to wrangle time for them the repeatable motions like walking and reading and doodling are reliably accessible, more accessible than a vacation cabin in the woods. And besides vacations we need regular mundane ways we can enable ourselves to hear ourselves think. This physical brain fact about the value of quiet and repeated motions as a self-care technique is related to why adult coloring books are a “thing” – coloring is another rhythmic activity that gives us space to calm and connect to ourselves.
Toward that notion this week I hand drew a coloring page and set up my artwork so that it can be downloaded and printed via my email newsletter. Alongside the coloring page I told a personal story… here’s where the Rabbit mentioned earlier comes in…
Teaser: As a deaf kid I had “Easter Bassets” from my mishearing of the word basket. My coloring book drawing in my newsletter was inspired by my Easter basset memory… you can download my drawing page to do coloring yourself or to read my personal story. Here’s the link: https://sueclancy.substack.com/p/leggs-easter-bassets-and-rabbits
Yes, I grew up and learned about the “k” language sounds … but I still like to think of the Basset Hound as the delivery system for treats this time of year … the rabbits may have done the egg decorating but the eggs got to you via the hounds !!
Now you know!
Here’s what the coloring page looks like. Again the actual download is here.
Also in the same Substack newsletter is a link for a book I wrote and illustrated for Storyberries titled “This Rabbit” – its about rabbits liking things – and as I mentioned knowing what you like is a skill to cultivate all of your life. (Watch out! More rabbits!)
I hope you can see how I’m experimenting with using both the Substack and WordPress platforms- more to the point I hope you’re enjoying what you see from me in both places!
Speaking of enjoying things – here is a photo of books I particularly enjoyed this week: one is a list of things the author Barbara Kipfer likes. I enjoy trying some of her preferences that are new to me. I also enjoy the reminders of things I’ve enjoyed in the past. The book on Zentangles is a wonderfully relaxing doodle prompts book.
A pleasant digression: A fun thing happened when we were at the Powell’s bookstore on Hawthorne street in Portland this week. In the poetry section where I was browsing was another adult, also browsing. With that adult was a kid sitting on the floor at their adult’s feet. The kid, maybe 10 or 11 years old, was looking, with a furrowed brow, at 8 books from a series, looking from one book to another in fairly rapid succession. After a bit of that activity the adult leaned down, picked up one of the books, looked at the price tag then at the array of 8 books and said “Let’s get them all.” The kid’s jaw dropped. “Really?” “Yes!” Said the adult. “Ooooh!!” breathed the kid scooping up the 8 books and hugging them. Big grin from the adult hero of the day.
Below are the used books we hugged home ourselves. Bread and poetry in our future! Both bread making and short poetry involve patterns and rhythms…
Here’s a novel I’m currently reading. It’s just relaxing and fun.
The text below was on a bookmark found in one of the used books we bought …it made me laugh.
I hope your week is has as many pleasing patterns and rhythms as possible.
See you next Monday.
P.S. if you’re curious about the books mentioned in this post you can find them here on Bookshop.org which benefits small independent bookstores.
I recently read “Hare Brain Tortoise Mind” by Guy Claxton and was reminded of how rhythmic things like weeding a garden or doodling can be calming to the human mind. This physical neurological response to “uniformly random rhythms” is also part of the human reaction to rhythms in songs, poetry or prose – we respond neurologically to refrains and repeated patterns, with variations, in all of the arts.
I include cooking here – it too is one of the fine art forms that has comforting rhythms both for the person stirring the stew and for the person eating. I think of how soothing it is for a small child to be held and rocked – what if all of the human fine arts are basically rhythms that can hold “rock” and soothe our physical brains?
So I’ve been thinking more about rhythmic patterns in my own creative efforts. I’ve begun doing doodlebugs… and other projects that involve “uniformly random rhythms” of patterns. I’m also making some changes to my morning sketchbook sessions that involve making more patterns.
As you know things that encourage good mental health skills are important to me and if I can foster my own mental health via rhythmic pattern creativity – and by sharing my work perhaps help others too – that seems a worthy artistic goal.
Here’s a doodlebug I did in my sketchbook and a fabric pattern I made from it.
Recently someone sent me some photos of one of my wallpaper designs that they applied to their kitchen island. They were pleased and said it was “just the whimsy we were looking for”! I’m glad they were pleased!! I’ve learned in the process that grids are fun ways to make visual rhythms!
Here’s a painting I finished this week that I’ve titled “This Little Piggy”. It was inspired by the nursery rhyme: (please note the rhythms) “This little piggy went to market. This little piggy stayed home. This little piggy had roast beef. This little piggy had none. This little pig cried wee, wee, wee all the way home.” As you can see in my painting below I also repeated visual rhythms, like the rhyme, and did a few playful alterations.
In the video below is a look inside my studio at “This Little Piggy” – I created using ink, gouache and color pencils many of the supplies you’ll see briefly in the video. It will join my other paintings for exhibits later this year via Amy Biederman Caplan at the Caplan Art Designs Gallery. www.caplanartdesigns.com
In my email newsletter this week I shared my “This Little Piggy” painting and I’ve been sharing my sketchbook pages. I’ve finished sketchbooks C and D and am working on E currently. The doodlebug image above is in book “D”.
This book is my current evening and weekend reading. It has a library in it that is dedicated to poetry… be still my heart!
And because I like to share particularly good things: here’s a link to a good recipe for LENTIL CHILI along with my additional notes and variations: Add a can of roasted chilies and use chicken or veg broth or water (whatever available/handy). Add cumin, dark cocoa, Mexican oregano, chili powder, salt, pepper – cook 30 or more mins on simmer, stir often and add more broth or water if needed. Variation: add a chopped carrot, frozen corn and or chopped bell pepper
And look at the rhythmic visual pattern of the beans in my cookpot too!!
I hope your week forms a pleasant daily rhythm for you.
Needless to say I’ve been carefully balancing my time between work on the commission for Caplan Art Designs and time for rest and playing towards the art exhibits scheduled for this year. The commission has a firm deadline and I’m steadily on schedule. In order to stay on schedule I’ve let go of much of my social media. If I haven’t responded to you this is why. Anyway, around the commission priority comes work towards a new painting series.
As I mentioned last week extra paint from the commission gets used on another painting in progress. This way I don’t get distracted from the commission and am still making progress towards future exhibits. Last week I was working on this painting and this week I finished it.
As I mentioned on my recent email newsletter I’ve been reading and thinking about time. Specifically time and creativity. Human brains simply need time in order to put ideas together. Here’s some of what I’ve been reading. (Details about the books are available here https://bookshop.org/shop/clancy)
Yes, despite being busy I’m still carefully making time to read every day. It’s how I maintain my creative focus, enthusiasm and fun. Same with my sketchbook work which I share via my email newsletter.
A book – whether a library book or a personal notebook/sketchbook – occupies time in uniquely personal ways. The reader moves through time and space as they page through a book at their own pace and magically whole worlds, memories and ideas are built letter by letter, word by word, page by page in the readers mind!
As I say on another page of my website the definition of an “artist book” is “… a book conceived as an art object. It reveals a story over time and space using a combination of content and art techniques in a way that directly involves the viewers participation. “
Books and artwork both use time – time itself – as a creative technique!!! These thoughts about time and the book format also lead me to thinking more about handwriting, hand created art, handmade books and the value of the handmade in this Artificial Intelligence, rush rush, hurry hurry, often prefabricated and canned world. Can both handmade paintings, handmade books and handwriting be analogous to homemade cooking? What does it mean to be real? To be authentic? To be human? To be a time bound being that exists in space?
There is no one grand answer to any of these questions (that would be too hedgehog-y – in reference to the book “The Hedgehog and the Fox” by Isaiah Berlin) but all of this is in my mind as I work. You’ll see some evidence of my musings on these topics in the upcoming illustrated short story about an alien in outer space on my email newsletter…🤣… but I digress.
I hope you too are being mindful of your time this week. It’s a precious resource. Thank you for sharing time with me. See you next Monday.
I’m very busy working on a top secret painting commission for Caplan Art Designs. So instead of talking about that – look! Poetry! Pasta! Pretty cups! Books!
Poetry: Two books of Andrea Gibson‘s poetry came by mail from one of my local bookstores! Gibson is my latest favorite poet.
Here’s one of Gibson’s poems on page 32 of You Better Be Lightning.
Pasta: My wife got a mixer with the pasta attachments for Christmas! So we’ve been making pasta together! She makes the pasta from scratch while I make the sauce.
Here she’s making large elbow noodles.
I made a butter and parsley sauce for our first pasta attempt so we could primarily taste the homemade noodles. Yum!! Homemade noodles really are worth the effort for the flavor!!
Pretty cups: Recently we’ve been to a few special events with dear friends. There were pretty cups at each occasion. Having recently made a calendar of coffee cups perhaps I was primed to notice them. Even so the cups, and my awareness of them, added a soupecon of extra special to the time with friends.
Here’s a related-to-cup-thoughts page from my sketchbook.
Books: I finished reading this book about books and oh my! What a marvelous invention writing things down and storing them in a book format has been for us humans! And how easy it is to stand on the shoulders of giants simply by reading.
I enjoyed this video about why we should read more. This article about how reading is itself a creative act. And this article about how creativity is actually a practice of resiliency.
So here’s a photo of one of the books I’m reading now in addition to Andrea Gibson’s poetry, a book of short stories and a book of essays.
Hope your week contains good books in it. I’ll see you next Monday or thereabouts.