Here is a video of me drawing a dog using the same art techniques (dip pen, brush and sumi ink) that I used to create all of the artwork in my new book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” as well as the original artwork currently exhibited at Caplan Art Designs. www.caplanartdesigns.com
Here are images of my newly finished scarf and bag designs intended for the amusement of teachers (and students and people who enjoy language and numbers) – and both designs were inspired by teachers. My most recent blog post on my website tells “how and why I made this” details. https://sueclancy.com/2017/02/06/art-messes-math-mistakes-and-teachers/
You can see my full pattern design collection here: https://www.shopvida.com/collections/sue-clancy
I’ve had the cold/flu/crud for the last week. I’m feeling better now and wanted to “do something creative”. Trouble is I still suddenly sneeze and cough so using sharp xacto knives, loaded ink brushes and glue laden papers is more hazardous and messy than usual. What to do?
Then I thought – I know several teachers who have this cold/flu/crud too. What could I make that might amuse teachers? Perhaps make them feel a wee bit better? After some further thought I grabbed my felt-tip pens and have been creating pattern designs that will end up on a scarf and or a tote bag.
Here’s a photo of my pattern design work in progress.
After I snapped the above photo I saw my math mistake. Do you see it?
I did! And fixed it. Hugs and thanks to math teachers everywhere!
Now I’ll do need to do the digital hocus pocus needed to submit my designs to the apparel company I work with in San Francisco California.
But I’ll try to get some rest first.
You can see my full studio pattern design collection via this link: http://www.shopvida.com/collections/sue-clancy
My response to difficult times, whether personal or in the wider culture, has been to make more art. This is a concept I’ve adapted from my past work on Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit – a book I did some time ago in which Dr. Bob says “The best response is living well” and also “Feelings are guides not gods”. These concepts have stood me in good stead and helped me to make more art.
Creative people tend to “feed good wolves” to use their imaginations and think of what is possible, needed, hopeful, helpful, necessary – this is kindness, this is ‘living well’, and it is most needed during difficult times. The issue is that sometimes during the difficult times when the creative persons activity is needed most they don’t ‘feel like’ creating. So the question becomes how to do it anyway.
I define “creators” broadly as any one who writes, sings, acts, draws, films – any technique or medium that uses a human mind and heart to (re)imagine the world. Creativity can be done by anyone – you don’t have to be a professional artist or have fancy equipment. That said in my list below I’ll refer to fine art making as that’s what I know best but please know that this list applies to any artistic endeavor at any skill level.
9 ways to make more art
- Find a regular time daily or weekly – whether 15 or 30 minutes at first – when you’re awake and alert and set it aside as a ‘creative appointment’ with your self and your art supplies. Set it in your schedule/to-do list. This way it’s an appointment not an activity subject to how you feel at a given time. (Obviously if you’re throwing up then please stay in bed so as to not get sick on the art supplies.)
- Stick to this appointed time for 2 weeks. Evaluate. If that time period seems to not work. Set a different one. Stick to that new time for 2 weeks. Do this 2 week trial period until you find a time/day that works for you. The same with the length of the appointment; start off with a short time like 10 minutes – keep testing until you have set a duration that feels playful. Be religious about doing this testing. Once you find the best time/day that works for you then successfully meet your creative appointment with your self for 45 consecutive days minimum. (after that it’ll become a habit)
- During your ‘creative appointment’ step away from the phone, social media and any other “in boxes”. Don’t answer the doorbell. Take the dog out for a potty break before you start your appointment. Tell your spouse, kids that you’ll be having 15 minutes (or 30) of uninterrupted creative time. (Remember to say please and thank you to them.)
- Have your art/creative supplies at the ready. This can be an entire room set aside for the purpose of creativity. It can be a corner of one room. It can be a box or tray of supplies kept in a drawer or cupboard to be pulled out during your appointment. It can even be as simple as a single sketchbook and a few pens kept in one spot. But whatever arrangement works – keep it well stocked! You don’t want to run out of your favorite ink pen in the middle of a ‘creative appointment’! Re-stock during non-appointment times. At the end of each ‘creative appointment’ re-sharpen your pencils or put your color pens back in their box etc. Make sure everything is ready for use at the next appointment time.
- Keep a set of creative prompts handy to get you started. (One of the ones I like “The Tricksters Hat” by Nick Bantock.) Look at art blogs, how-to books for prompts. As a ‘creative appointment’ exercise one thing I do is sit and list as fast, as I can, 10 or 20 topics that interest me or are on my mind at that moment. From such a list I often get ideas for artwork projects. I also enjoy using a set of “Story Cubes” (yes, the kids dice game) as creative prompts. Don’t be afraid of the genres – explore any of them related to your creative prompt/topic! Whatever kind of creative prompts appeal to you collect them outside of your ‘creative appointment’ time and have them accessible (like your supplies) when your appointment starts.
- You do not have to complete anything during your appointment. You can continue to work on the same project from one appointment to the next. You do not have to make a “masterpiece”. You can make a mess! If after a few minutes you’re not having fun feel free to start something else creative! All you have to do is something of a creative nature for the entire 15 minutes (or whatever duration of time feels fun and natural to you) of your appointment time. As Dr. Bob said “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first”
- When trying a new medium or a new subject in earnest set aside a block of time longer than your typical creative appointment so as to really get into the spirit of your new medium or subject. After that you can continue work on your project in short bursts during a regular ‘creative appointment’.
- Gather data from the world. Visit art galleries, museums, other artist studios, listen to another artist talk about their work or read a book about an artist or art medium – and take notes, write your responses, your thoughts about what you see. Note what you like and why you like it. Ask yourself questions. Or if you’re interested in a certain topic – investigate that (for example; I’m interested in dogs so sometimes I go to dog parks). Find and pursue whatever your interests are that make you glad to be alive. Surround yourself with things that remind you of them. This type of ‘data collection’ can count as a ‘creative appointment’ activity.
- Keep a list of what you’ve created – no matter how small or silly you feel your creation was write it down in a log book. Keeping a log book of your creative activity (whatever you did during each ‘creative appointment’) is a weirdly effective incentive to keep creating!
I’ve posted this page from Dr. Bob’s Emotional First Aid Kit before – but it’s my favorite page and is a “prompt” that I put in the front of each one of my new sketchbooks.
I wrote a short synopsis of what my book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” is about and I showed the synopsis, an early copy of the book – containing my dog portraits like what is currently at the Caplan Art Designs gallery – to friends in real-life. These friends can be counted on to have-my-back regarding my artistic efforts and I know they’ll ask good questions! Their questions often help me refine my artistic efforts. Valuable friends!
Here’s the synopsis I showed them:
“Featuring all kinds of dog breeds artist Sue Clancy whimsically combines man’s best friend and many of life’s pleasant experiences by drawing them using a dip pen, a brush and Sumi ink.”
One of the first questions was “What is a ‘dip pen’?”.
A dip pen has a metal – often steel – nib which is inserted in a holder. You can see three nibs to the left in the photo. Also on the left is a long brown nib holder with another nib inserted in the holder. The term ‘dip pen’ is slang for ‘metal-point drawing pen’ and I think the term ‘dip pen’ is more descriptive of what kind of pen it is.
That led to the next question which was “How often do you dip it?”
It depends on how large the nib is as to how much ink it holds at a time. The very small finest nibs (like what is pictured in my brown holder), that I use to draw doggy whiskers, eyebrows and such, would probably be dipped into my ink-well (the green bottle in the picture) 2 or 3 times when drawing fine detail work on a dog. I mean very fine details like the soft muzzle fuzz, eye-lashes and whiskers – and areas needing lots of short to medium strokes to convey fur. A larger pen nib like the one in the picture nearest the pen holder may not be dipped quite that often – and it can do a longer line at a time. I’d use a larger nib, for example, when drawing the detail of a coffee cup and saucer.
An oriental brush – the kind of brush pictured to the right of the pen nib holder – may be dipped into the ink once or twice to draw an entire dog with lines of varying thickness. It’s dipped again into a water and ink dilution when I need to make a tonal shade. The brush is used the most and does most of the work on each portrait – the dip pen is just for details too small to draw with my brushes.
The third question was “What is Sumi ink?”
This question is a bit harder for me to answer because the first reply that springs to my mind is “awesome wonderful good elixir-of-life stuff!!!!” and that answer doesn’t really tell anyone anything other than the fact that I really like the ink!
Sumi ink is more commonly known as a Chinese calligraphy ink. But both Chinese and Japanese artists use Sumi ink to do all kinds of things from text based documents to large works of visual art. Invented well over over 2000 years ago the ink is often made – and is even today made – from vegetable soot, carbon soot, lamp black, camphor and sometimes a glue-binding agent.
For my artwork I use both the liquid-in-a-bottle style of Sumi ink as well as the stick form. The stick form of the ink is pictured in the middle towards the bottom of the photo on top of the red box I keep the ink stick in. I’ve been using this same stick of ink weekly, if not daily, for perhaps 10 to 12 years – and only about half an inch of the stick has been used up.
The black square next to my ink stick is an ink-stone. I put a bit of water and “grind” the ink stick until I’ve a pool of black liquid ink. The surface of the stone has a grit or tooth to it so I say “grind” but it’s not like grating cheese nor even like rubbing a bar of soap on a stain – it’s more meditatively moving the stick in small circles in the water using a very light touch while I think about what I want to draw. Then when the pool is black enough I get to work using the newly formed ink!
The ceramic dishes in the photo are where I put water and varying amounts of ink so that I can have a gradation of tones within my drawings. The liquid kind of Sumi ink is in the green bottle in the photo. Both forms of this ink at their blackest – least diluted with water – feel and look like a small pool of honey.
While Sumi ink and the brushes I use may be of the kind associated with Zen Buddhism and Asian art in general – I’ve done my own thing with the Sumi ink medium; my dog portraits are my own invention. Due to my subject matter I’ve needed crisp details like whiskers so I use the dip pen in addition to the brush-and-ink techniques.
I do, in the philosophical sense, enjoy a kinship between some of the Zen Buddhist ideas related to this Sumi-ink art form (chiefly: relax! breathe! let-go!) and my own desire to artistically explore joy, beauty, whimsy, visual story-telling and concepts related to good-mental health.
As I’d talked and tried to answer the questions each of my friends took turns looking through the early copy of “Dogs by Sue Clancy”. When I stopped talking one of them said “It looks like a real book!”
“Oh! What a great comment!! Can I quote you on that?” I asked.
“Yes.” was the reply.
You can see some of my Sumi ink dog portraits on my dog portraits page on my blog: https://sueclancy.com/dog-portraits/
There will be more in upcoming blog posts about “Dogs by Sue Clancy”
Here’s a picture of me drawing a dog. If you want to see a close-up of the dog I’m drawing look for “Larry” on my dog portraits website page https://sueclancy.com/dog-portraits/. Yes, as you see in the photo, I use brush and Sumi ink to do my dog drawings.
The ink is quite permanent so it makes me really think before I make a mark. That’s one of the reasons I use this medium. Its a way for me to practice not being “too precious”, or anxious, about creating. Take a deep breath, relax, focus and let it flow. I figure if I really mess up all I’ve done is waste a bit of ink and paper. It’s not brain surgery. Nobody is going to die.
But yet there’s still a dare-devil-daring-do-risk-taking of it that I relish. I’ve committed to an idea. In ink. It can’t be erased or easily undone. It means I stood flat-footed said something and meant it.
For some reason doing a drawing in permanent ink feels more like I’m “really doing something” than when I’m manipulating pixels on a screen.
“Really doing something” is what I figure is meant by the phrases “living life with no regrets” or “living purposefully”.
So sometimes when I walk out of my studio to wash out my brush and Judy, my wife, asks me how I’m doing – I reply, with a big satisfactory smile on my face, “Living dangerously!”
Photo of Sue Clancy creating a dog portrait using a Sumi brush and ink. Photo by Judy Sullens
Earlier today I did a blog post called “Friday Fun In Progress” about a short narrative poem I was in the process of writing and illustrating. Then I took a lunch break. Thanks for waiting so patiently…. and without further ado here’s what I came up with:
The Fudge Judge – By Sue Clancy
A strict, stiff, sober Judge
was asked to jury some fudge.
With unusual glee
he shouted “For me?”
then ran off with the very best fudge.
I’m working on my short narrative practice again; aka writing a quickie poem/story plus creating an illustration for it. I’m thinking of fudge, fudge competitions, and the process of asking people to judge something so subjective as what something tastes like… and what could happen.
Anyway, here’s what my desk looks like right now… more progress to come later, after lunch. All this thinking about fudge and I’ve realized that I’m hungry. Back in a bit…
I’ve 2 different one-woman art exhibits already scheduled for 2017 – and already there’s discussion of another exhibit for 2018. So I’ve been taking walks to gather inspiration. Which means lots of sketchbook work, doodling and experimenting with pattern designs. Here’s a sketch I did along the River-walk in Vancouver…
Also in my sketchbook I did some ink and watercolor drawings of some of the fallen leaves during that same walk. You can see that sketch along with a pattern-design tile I was working on in this photo here:
And here are photos of a pocket square, a scarf and a tote bag I created using my “Autumn Leaves” pattern design as part of my art apparel collection: http://shopvida.com/collections/sue-clancy
Now I’m thinking and re-thinking this overall-leaf motif and how it may relate to my paper-making techniques. I’m also plotting how to use this design – or variations on it – in future fine artworks.
Between now and the actual paper creation there will be more walks and more sketches of leaves (and probably other things). I saw some beautiful ginkgo tree’s downtown the other day…
Yes, this is a long-term project. But, don’t worry, there will be breaks for lunch.
In my last blog post, titled ‘down to the wire‘, I listed 10 tips for prepping art for gallery display – and someone asked me to post some photos of the finished backs of my artwork. So here are those requested photos:
To make my labels I type up a Word file with all of the data then print it out on full sheet label paper that I get from an office supply store. I’ve heard from my various gallery owners that they appreciate the legibility.
Here is a close-up photo of the D-ring held on with a screw – and the coated wire on the D-ring. Extra wire is left on so that the gallery or the client can adjust it if necessary.
Here’s another photo of the back of a different artwork – this one is a larger, heavier work so I put the felt “feet” on the bottom to help protect the wall. Also whenever there is a ‘makers mark’ on the back of my cradled board (in this case this board was made by Ampersand) I place my label so I won’t cover up the board makers mark. If some art conservator someday had to do a repair on my artwork that information could be helpful.
I’m sure you’ll note that the back of this piece also has the coated wire, the D-rings with screws and the printed label. I strive for consistency as much as possible in both the kind of artwork I do on the front and the kind of work I do on the backs.
And did I mention that the wire is coated? Yep! Coated hanging wire is as essential in the art studio as water is in a kitchen!