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.

https://www.blurb.com/b/10134263-another-sketchbook-by-clancy

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 – https://www.zazzle.com/crow_with_pen_note_card-256278283808038581

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?

the point of it all

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, business of art, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, ebook, mental health, Sustainable creativity

As per my last post I’ve been starting new projects in my studio. I’m also having some down time to rest and recharge. While starting new projects I’m keeping in mind my studio statement.  Here it is on a 2 by 3 inch paper thumbtacked to my art studio wall.

ClancyStudioStatement

I jokingly say that my mission in life is to wear pencils down to nubs. And I do think that’s true on one level at least – I practice drawing and writing daily and lots of pencils get used. So that must be the point right?!

PencilPoints

Yes, daily practice is indeed the point! (And yes, I like the Blackwing pencils a whole lot!)

But, seriously, these statements are true in my experience: “What you repeat sticks. What you don’t repeat goes away.” – “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.” and “Nothing has to go right today” – all of these concepts come from an artist book I did. (More about that here).

It has been crucial for me to purposefully design my daily artistic habits (repetitions!). And to focus on maintaining the habit-ness of creativity rather than being out-come based about my creative output. (it’s okay if today’s artwork is not perfect!)

It’s also important to take breaks. Both the design of daily creative habits and the breaks from them are part of making my creative life sustainable. The point is to have fun being creative and to keep it fun!

Over on my Instagram page I’ll post a pic of at least one of the things I’m doing to rest and recharge…

on sustaining creativity

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, graphic narrative, illustrated shorts, psychogeography, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, travelog, travelogue, visual story, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

Especially when I’m super busy working on a one-person art exhibit I rely even more on my sustainable creativity technique of “running around loose”.  I define “running around loose” as going about my nearby surroundings like a child or a dog in a park; poking about and exploring as if there are no time constraints in the world.  My cell phone gets turned off and shoved deep into the bottom of my bag. It is there only for emergency use on the scale of needing to call 911.  I don’t use the GPS function on my phone either. “Running loose” involves getting lost, losing track of time and generally living by-guess-by-golly (no preconceived plan) for an afternoon into the evening.

I’ll bring my sketchbook and write, draw and paint but I do it with no agenda, no particular project in mind. The idea is to play like a child or a puppy. To observe my surroundings with curious, free-associative, eyes.

This is particularly helpful as a refresher when I’m coming down to the wire on an art exhibit.  I’m to deliver all of the artwork for my upcoming one-person exhibit at the end of May – and before that there’s all the paperwork.  So I’ve got to be fresh and remember why I’ve done all this artwork – and even get excited about it again.

I’ve been working toward this exhibit for about one year. I’m a bit tired by the time the exhibit nears. But it wouldn’t do to have a “well whatever” attitude here at the finish line.  Thus my mega-recharge session.

Here’s what I did in my sketchbooks when I “ran around loose” recharging my batteries for a whole day in Vancouver Washington and Woodland WA :

OldAppleTree300

I was particularly struck by the various colors of purple that I saw on the grapes I ate for a snack – and the many different colors of purple in the tulip gardens and lilac gardens in Woodland WA. Here are some sketchbook pages:

After running loose for a day I felt pleasantly tired but like I’d had a mini-staycation. Great recharge session!!

Links for where I “ran loose”:

https://www.cityofvancouver.us/parksrec/page/old-apple-tree-park

http://www.lilacgardens.com/

https://www.hollandbulbfarms.com

 

recipe illustration progress plus studio secrets

A Creative Life, art techniques, illustrated recipe, illustration, kitchen art, recipe illustration, words and pictures

As you know from a recent post (here) I’ve been working on a new recipe illustration project for Chef Sebastian Carosi.  I’ve spent the most time designing a character who is doing the recipe “action”.  It was a challenge to create a cannabis leaf character with “hands” holding things. But I did it!  A photo of my progress is below…

When I’d illustrated Chef Kim Mahan’s recipes and we did a cookbook signing event together the question I was most often asked was “How do you keep your hand steady to handwrite all the recipe text?”  The answer is shown in the photograph below that also shows my progress on the current recipe project for Chef Carosi.

Can you see what it is?

SueWorkingChefCarosiSoup

Yes. A mahl stick. That’s my big studio secret. It steadies my hand both for painting and writing.

However I do something with my mahl stick that I’ve not seen anywhere else. I added a piece of foam pipe insulation that floats freely on the stick – so my wrist slides easily back and forth along the stick as the stick is held steadily in a position. When I’m writing text I need to be able to move my wrist a little along but stay on the same line. When painting sometimes I need to make a long stroke. Either way the foam moves smoothly with me down the length of the stick held in one place.

My mahl stick is hand made. You can buy a mahl stick but I find it easy enough to DIY.

To make mine I cut a small 2 inch portion of foam pipe insulation, taped it to the end of a 36 inch dowel rod, then wrapped that end, completely covering the taped 2 inch foam bit, with a scrap of canvas tying it to the rod so that no canvas fabric ends trail/drag.

The remainder of the foam pipe insulation, about 12 inches in length, was slipped onto the dowel rod.  In the photo below you can see the wrapped end of my mahl stick and see how loosely the foam pipe insulation wrist rest is on the rod. The other end (36 inches away!) has a hole drilled in it and a cord looped through it. It hangs on one of my art easel knobs when not in active use.

MahlStickEnd72.jpg

Okay. So the only time my mahl stick is not in active use is when I’m eating, reading or sleeping! Lol!

And now you know.

studio sketchbooks and dogs

A Creative Life, animals in art, artist book, books, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, sketchbook

I’ve posted in this blog about my “running around loose sketchbooks” – sketchbooks that I carry with me and record my observations of daily life.  My studio sketchbooks are a different breed.  In these I’m using my imagination – like what is in “Dogs by Sue Clancy” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dogs-By-Sue-Clancy  I make it a regular habit to play with my imagination like this.

I’ll be signing copies of this published version of my studio sketchbook Friday night during my art exhibit opening at Burnt Bridge Cellars.  My exhibit is called “Dogs In The Winery” and the fine artwork exhibited is like what’s in the book… only more so.

See also https://sueclancy.com/2017/07/01/my-running-around-loose-sketching-kit/

 

 

designing a creative life 3 ways

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, mental health, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking

“Art cannot be separated from life. It is the expression of the greatest need of which life is capable. And we value art not because of the skilled product, but because of its revelation of a life’s experience.” – Robert Henri (American painter).  

I’ve been thinking of that quote today – and thinking of the people who have told me that they want to “be more creative” but aren’t sure how to start or what to draw. I’ve been thinking of how easy it is now for me to find subject matter. But it wasn’t always so.

As a young art student one of my first college assignments was to “do a 4 foot by 4-foot painting in acrylic of any subject matter but it cannot be abstract.”  Well that was a stumper. What to paint?  My professor went on to tell my class about how we needed to look around our own lives, our own experiences and find subject matter there.

That helped somewhat but still… what to make art about? My college life seemed boring and un-dramatic. How to identify subject matter I cared about?

I muddled through the school assignment and over the years got better at coming up with subject matter. It took even more time for me to figure out that a system of “short bursts of creativity” worked best for me but here’s what I’ve learned on my personal quest for the fountain of continually-interesting-to-me artistic subject matter:

A.   Keep a daily sketchbook, 5 to 10 minutes of work at a time, in which I draw or write about anything that occurs during a day that “catches my attention”. No censorship. No “trying to make art”. Just make notes, doodles. Play. Note the fun stuff, the things I’m grateful for and things that make me laugh or feel curious.

B.  After several weeks or months of sketchbook work I look back through my book and notice any reoccurring themes and I list them.

C.  I select one of the themes and set a series of creative appointments with myself to do a “real drawing” of that theme using good art materials. The creative appointments are 10 to 20 minutes of work/play at a time. I purposefully keep these sessions short! Repeat the creative appointments (aka short bursts of creativity) until the drawing is finished.

Then I select that same theme – or a similar one from my sketchbook – and do another “real drawing” – trying to do an even better job of communicating my thought or feeling. Again, no censorship, no “trying to make great art” – just trying to draw as neatly as possible, to convey as clearly as possible what “caught my attention”.

I keep working in my sketchbook every day even when I have a creative appointment with myself. Both of these 10 minute activities go on behind the scenes of my very busy professional artist life – and this “short bursts” concept could work within anyone’s “too busy” life and add more ongoing creativity. (Also, this concept builds on my “designing habits” concept from an earlier blog post: https://sueclancy.com/2017/03/29/designing-habits-6-ways/ )

Here’s a visual-thinking-drawing I did that describes this in a different way:

ShortBurstsCreativeTime72

For me it has turned out that creativity is a lot like happiness – it follows me wherever I go.  Below is a cartoon I drew about happiness that explains this concept in yet another way – it’s from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit

AHappyTail72

page from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit

You can also see one of my published sketchbooks as an ebook here: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/coffee-table-book

designing habits 6 ways

A Creative Life, artistic inspirations, mental health, Sustainable creativity

“Stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive” – an old saying that Dr. Bob Hoke reminded me of often.  I’ve been thinking of that today – and thinking of how easy it is to form habits, how quickly these habits become the “air” we breath. This air becomes so normal that we soon think that things have “always been this way”.

As a professional artist my job depends on my “thought systems” – the quality of my ideas and how well I’m able to communicate them. I’ve modified Dr. Hoke’s saying above to “Stay close to anything that makes you want to be creative”.  My imagination is formed – fed – by my life experiences so I try to be careful what of my life experience becomes “normal”.  I do not, for example, keep mint candies in my house/studio as I know I have a hard time eating just one.  Similarly I purposefully create art studio habits that help me to happily achieve my goals:

  1. Keep favorite art supplies on hand, things I want to pick up and use.
  2. Leave some of the favorite art supplies or an in-progress project out on a work surface that I’ll see when I first walk into my studio. That way I get right to work.
  3. Keep a strict work schedule -be ruthless- decide what needs to be done/can be done within a day/work period and do it.  (And no, I’m not always perfect at this – it’s a goal) At the end of each work day I make a list of what needs to be done tomorrow. This list is broken into small achievable steps like “gesso boards” – that can be easily picked up/begun.
  4. Keep a list of quotes, photos (etc.) that stimulate my creativity/good habits – I post these encouraging items somewhere visible. It is best if it is something that makes me smile and want to do my best.
  5. Keep phones and other distracting items out of the studio for set periods of time. See number 3 above again. Rinse. Repeat.
  6. Keep a list of favorite people – think of them and make something each day with them in mind. Keep a list of favorite places, foods, music, movies, books – etc – and use them as a “guiding light” for creative efforts. (i.e. view them as a mentor, a source of encouragement, something that feeds my good wolf/your better angels, reminds me that it CAN be done.) Create habits of happiness – and happiness out of habits.

Flannery O’Connor once said “I’m a full-time believer in writing habits…You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away…Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place.”

For me it comes down to doing my best to be aware of what I pick up and spend time on – and choosing carefully. Below is a cartoon I drew that puts this concept in another way – it’s from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit

TheSnake