Cogitation, re-wilding ourselves and banned books

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, business of art, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, fine art, illustrated recipe, Kim Cooks Sue Draws, mental health, Odditerrarium, poetry, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

I think a lot about thinking. So do cats I think. Here’s another painting in my Odditerrarium series for upcoming exhibit at Caplan Art Designs in October. My painting is titled “Cognition”. Sometimes it seems like brains are fish bowls with thoughts swimming about.

Here’s the sketchbook page that began my Odditerrarium series.

Besides forming a theory of mind as related to other living beings – I find it’s helpful in my creative life to keep notes, in a sketchbook/notebook, on things that happen in my life, things that catch my eye, my feelings, thoughts and responses to the world. My sketchbook/notebook becomes part of a collection of objects, photos, books, places etc that resonate with me in some way and yet may also be relatable to someone else. I think creativity is a way to connect with both ourselves and each other. To the elements of my ongoing collection I add my imagination…

… like in my current project for Nil-Tech I free-associated or imaginatively mixed a feeling experience in my life (of enjoying a coffee) with a real life cup from my kitchen and a photo of a dog. Almost everyone has has the experience of sinking into the relaxation of a pleasant beverage – almost like a hot tub – so it’s a safe bet that my feeling is relatable. A cup and a dog are common reference points too. Anyway, here’s a photo below and link to one of my videos on Nil-tech: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CitjpxIoBoO/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

My point here is that my system of getting creative ideas is a lot like cultivating a garden: carefully planting perennials, evergreens, planning to rotate annuals etc regular cultivation for ongoing use in cooking or decor. This helps me sustain my creativity over the long term. Also for sustainable creativity I find it helpful to keep an uncultivated wild patch or two, some experimental ground areas where anything goes and uncertainty reigns, where I’m in the classic “beginner mindset”, or in the spirit of a kid flopped on their belly coloring to their heart’s content with no thought of their scribbles being “good”. All of this in my mind when I say I’m re-wilding myself.

The term “re-wilding” typically refers to ecological conservation, a way of letting the land be naturally whatever it is as a way of restoring the ecosystem.

I really think we can do this with our minds too, we can re-wild ourselves and our own mental landscape, from time to time by allowing ourselves a more expansive diverse habitat of the mind, to sidestep our own habits, group-think, expectations and presumptions. To deliberately try a new methods or materials just to be playful. (Play, at any age, is necessary for good mental health.) As creative people re-wilding is a neccessary part of a creative life. Generally speaking re-wilding is allowing ourselves to play off-leash now and then so we can reconnect and restore ourselves.

I re-wild myself most regularly by reading and reading as widely as possible. I read banned books and obscure books — here’s a booklist of wild (and banned) books I’ve collected  https://bookshop.org/lists/banned-and-other-wild-books

I wrote over on A. M. Sketching about re-wilding ourselves and included this page from my published sketchbook “Another Sketchbook” as a reason why cultivating a mental life is helpful. For us creative types our mental lives are what we create with so the quality of our mental lives is also a precious piece of equipment.

Below are some more pages from Another Sketchbook with my reading techniques.

Here below is a picture of our household lion guarding a part of our library.

Here’s what the cover of Another Sketchbook looks like.

My 3d block project mentioned in my last post is coming along.

Another fun project currently in progress is also using ordinary things as prompts. I’m doing illustrations for a cookbook by Chef Kim Mahan! More on that as I go.

The experimental “re-wilding” projects I’m working on are two different poetry book projects. Possibly for Storyberries experimental art books section! Here’s a peek at my two projects. Both are about the size of a credit card when closed but they open out to about 20 inches long. The patterned and colored papers you see will possibly be the book covers of one book. I’ll share more as I go along.

I hope your week is wild in the best ways. See you next Monday.

Hedgehogs, foxes, reading and making meaning

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art prints, art techniques, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, fine art, life of the mind, mental health, sketchbook, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

I wrote in my last post that there may be hedgehogs and foxes in my upcoming sketchbook pages because I’m reading “The Hedgehog and the Fox” Isaiah Berlin’s famous essay about Tolstoy and history based on the Greek aphorism “The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing”

In his book Isaiah Berlin writes (I’m paraphrasing) of how history is actually created by a whole bunch of people but when we talk about a time in history we tend to single out one person as a “hero” and the lone “causal agent” of an event. Berlin writes of how as a creative person Tolstoy was naturally a “many things” fox but as he got older Tolstoy wanted to be a hedgehog with “one big thing” that explains everything.

My reading got me to thinking about hedgehogs, foxes, Tolstoy’s demands of himself as a creative person and how that aphorism related to creativity. I said something about that and my friend Liz Gauffreau asked me how hedgehogs relate to the literary world:

Well, besides the fact that both foxes and hedgehogs are so very cute and fun to draw and write about here are a few of my somewhat random thoughts while reading the essay by Isaiah Berlin. Don’t worry I’ll intersperse my thoughts with sketchbook drawings of hedgehogs and foxes using all 3 of the new fountain pens I described in my last post. (BTW there are even more fox and hedgehog sketchbook pages in my recent email newsletter )

As I read Berlin’s essay I’m realizing that as  a creative person I use the fox-like kind of “knowing many things” in a free ranging playful open way while I’m in the midst of creating. I’m free-associating between many things while I’m on the hunt for how to best express my elusive thought. But once I’ve finished my creation and caught my thought then, if I’m not careful, I can curl up into a prickly ball hedgehog-like defensive about whether my creation “means” something, what it means, whether it was worth doing, which “one big things” label it belongs within…etc. Staying for any amount of time in such a prickly ball isn’t helpful.

This getting stuck in a hedgehog ball mode happened more often in my younger years but still occasionally I feel a despairing “what was the point of doing all that?” moment. By now I know not to “feed” such overly self-critical negative thoughts and to deliberately stretch out and switch my thinking to some other more pleasant topic. I know such moments will pass especially after a good meal, a good night’s sleep, time spent reading a novel or going for a walk with my spouse. It’s not always easy but that’s the way I deal with it. I avoid getting stuck by deliberately keeping fluid movements between the modes of fox and hedgehog. Anyway, in my mind, that’s one part of how hedgehogs and foxes figure in the creative/literary life.

Another part of how hedgehogs and foxes figure in to it: our creative life isn’t “one big thing”: we aren’t the sum total of one published book or one painting. We aren’t one label. A creative life is cumulative. Of course when people talk about artists or writers shorthand references – labels – are often made like “So And So is the insert genre label author of Famous Book”. But this is just a way of speaking, a verbal convention. It’s even a necessary one because we use helpful labels to find things, like books to read, and a name or a genre category label is a great starting place.

Yet during the lived reality of a creative life things aren’t so simplistic. Creativity is many-things fox like when we’re in the midst of our unnamed, unlabeled creative project. It can feel unfocused, messy, free ranging all over the territory at the beginning only slowly becoming focused over time as the thought “scent” is caught and the project develops towards completion. After completion then the one-big-thing hedgehog label can be applied. And while my diagram below simplifies the fox/hedgehog creative process please know that this process isn’t linear, its fluid, there will be foxhogs and hedgeoxes, there’ll be all sorts of fits and starts, beginnings and endings, rushing currents and still pools… before a project is finished.

This process of metamorphosis from fox to hedgehog is part of why it is such a challenge for writers and artists to think up loglines or book jacket blurbs or elevator speeches or art statements that sum up their creation in a few sentences (or a Tweet). To sum up their work of the last few years, work they sweated daily over, work they gnashed their teeth on – to distill what it was about using 150 words or less both encompasses and transcends the lived creative process itself. It’s hard to rise above the creative life meadows where the foxes and hedgehogs have played and, from a birds eye viewpoint, select a single meaning for the shorthand talking points. This difficulty is why it’s also a challenge to write query letters that briefly describe a manuscript submission. It’s hard to reduce a fox-y many splendors creation down to a hedgehog-y one big thing and to call the hedgehog an accurate, yet attractive, name.

By the way if you formulate the hedgehog one-big-thing, the logline or art statement, in advance and are rigid about it (i.e. curl up in a prickly hedgehog ball) the resulting project is seldom satisfying to either the foxes aka the creators themselves or to their audience.

And yet a hedgehog can be a great starting place – if you aren’t rigid about the hedgehog label and use it as a prompt! It’s highly likely that a creation that starts out as one defined hedgehog can shape-shift to a fox during the creative process and finish up needing an entirely different hedgehog-y label. So that’s another reason it’s a challenge at the end of a project to select the exact hedgehog that was metamorphosed from that fox. This is also part of the exhilarating fun of a creative life.

We enjoy the arts for the fox-y complexity of many things in them – we talk about that complexity we enjoyed viscerally using simple hedgehog-y verbage. The fox represents a direct experience and a nonverbal expression of life. The hedgehog represents a definition and ways of talking about that artistic representation of life. We need both the foxes and the hedgehogs. The challenge is to remain loose, open, letting the foxes and hedgehogs become themselves while also keeping a benevolent watch over them.

What a work of art or literature “means” in the big scheme of it’s hedgehog label, is identified (if ever) after the work has been  made and existed in the world a while. After the artist is finished then we use simple language to sum up what a creation meant. We give it a genre, a category, a label. That summing up or meaning finding is done and verified over the duration of time that the art exists – it gets reevaluated by the artist and by the audience constantly. The lables often get changed multiple times before they “settle” if they ever do. Almost all of Tolstoy’s work has gotten reevaluated numerous times since the era in which he was living and working.

From a creative person’s point of view I find it’s sanity-saving to not worry about the meaning of one work in the big scheme of things but to just get on with the next project. I don’t worry overmuch about the hedgehog labels I give my work for use when submitting or promoting it. As I wrote in my last post I’m regularly surprised by what labels publishers, distributors and art gallery owners place on my work. I just accept the label and these labels become tools I can use to talk with that distributor. For example I now can say to Storyberries “Here’s a new ABC123 Poetry book from me”.  But even with that new knowledge generally my attitude when I’m working in my studio is “I’ll make the stuff and you can sort it out” rather than getting stuck on any of the potential labels while I’m in the creative process. Anyway, here’s a note on this topic that I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall.

The meaningfulness that is found after the creation is finished also has an element of danger. Sometimes because an artist is so tired upon completion they, in their fatigue, misjudge their own work and may mislabel it or even destroy it. Sometimes an artist gets stuck on a label and that impedes their progress. Sometimes the selected audience isn’t ready for a creative work and rejects it. Sometimes a work isn’t found to be meaningful until long after the artist and audience’s current era is gone and a new era begins. Sometimes a different audience within an artist’s lifetime finds the work more meaningful. Sometimes meanings and labels change over time too. Sometimes these new labels are helpful and sometimes they’re not.

So for all of those reasons I find it’s best to avoid gaslighting myself, i.e. making hard declarative statements about my work, either as I’m working on projects or whenever they’re finished. I just enjoy the process of making things. Other people can sort them into meanings and categories. That said, I do find the effort of succinctly summarizing my own creative works as a logline etc helpful as long as I don’t take it too seriously. Whatever you want to call it is fine with me as long as my personal foxes get to play and my hedgehogs stay cute.

Hedgehog in Shade – art print- by Clancy https://society6.com/product/hedgehog-in-shade7281858_print?sku=s6-24823546p4a1v45

Which brings me to book banning. I despise censorship because someone somewhere has decided in advance what a book or work of art “means” and they aren’t willing to let people decide that for themselves. They get rigid, in a hedgehog-y prickly defensive ball way, about everything fitting into their one big thing label whether that label is political or religious. They can’t, or won’t, deal with the foxes free ranging exploration. They’re allergic to questions  and uncertainty. They reject categorically the concept of changes over time. They’ll decide they just don’t like one particular fox or hedgehog and insist that the external world must conform to their preferences.

Creativity is all about questions and dealing well with uncertainty. To be creative is to actively participate in change and growth. Creativity is a response to the world. Anyway, here’s an article about many of the current censorship efforts that I keep a careful eye on.

In my current art exhibit at the Aurora Gallery on the upper left shelf in the photo below is an artist book I made which tells a truth about rabbits and metaphorically about people. It’s called “The Rabbit” and it is about book banning.

You can see my original artwork in person at the Aurora Gallery www.auroragalleryonline.com or still photos of the exhibit and the entire book “The Rabbit” online here. https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/for-you-by-sue-the-abcs-art-books-cards/

There’s also a video look through the illustrated poem artist book here https://youtu.be/6-T5zi-fLvM
on my YouTube channel. Below are a few still photos.

Speaking further of free expression I avidly watched the recent Stand with Salman Rushdie event. It did my author/artist heart good to see so many people so supportive of authors and the literary life!!
https://lithub.com/famous-writers-will-stand-with-salman-rushdie-on-the-steps-of-the-nypl-this-friday/

I also participated from home by posting this:
I #standwithsalman in favor of free expression. For the Aug 19 2022 @PENamerica event I’m reading from “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” by @SalmanRushdie – it’s one of my favorites – Here’s my reading on YouTube.

There now that I’ve finished this blog post I’ll deliberately avoid the one-big-thing type question of “did my efforts to write this blog post mean anything or matter in any way to the larger literary or creative culture?”. In such a question lies gaslighting madness.  So instead of going there I accept that I enjoyed writing out my views of the creative process within the context of hedgehogs, foxes and the essay by Isaiah Berlin. And I hope my friend Liz will enjoy reading my thoughts on how hedgehogs and foxes relate to the literary world. There, that’s enough mattering and meaning for me.

Aha, now after rereading what I’ve written (and correcting the autocorrect 🙄) I see that there’s a few category and tag labels that I can use when publishing this blog post! Good enough…

I hope your creative week is full of playful foxes and hedgehogs. See you next Monday.

Emotions, exhibits, drawings and books

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art prints, art supplies, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, business of art, creative thinking, fine art, Gifts, mental health, public art, reading, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, teaching, words and pictures

My exhibit “For You By Sue the ABC’s: Art, Books, Cards” opened at the Aurora Gallery. It was my first art event since my adopted Mom passed so it was hard in many ways. But I spent time talking with my spouse and being in touch with family and friends so that helped. I didn’t attend my art opening in person because I’m still being careful re Covid and, frankly, I didn’t want to cry in public. Even so I heard nice comments via social media from people who saw my exhibit during the opening and took the time to tell me they enjoyed it. It’s safe to say quite a wide spectrum of my emotions were covered.

Which made me glad that I’d spent time reading Marcus Aurelius recently. Over on A.M. Sketching I thought, as I sketched, about a quote from Marcus Aurelius – regarding not needing to always have opinions and the practice of letting opinions float by as they will. I find this is true of my emotions too – they come and go if I just let them alone. So, it helped this weekend to just let my emotions come and go without forming an opinion about how I felt. Not forming opinions about my emotions helped me to sustain both my creativity and my ability to do the business end, so to speak, of living a creative life during a personally difficult time.

This last week I made an effort towards my new drawing tutorial gig via Nil-tech. I did a demo of drawing “Hedgehog in Shade“.

It’s a beginning… here’s a link if you’d like to see my very short tutorial effort.

Here’s a book I’m reading and enjoying. I find the main character’s way of cheerfully adapting to difficult circumstances very refreshing.

I’m going to read and rest some more. Thank you for reading and for your kind comments. See you next Monday.

Hot times, cold tea, teaching and learning

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, fine art, humor in art, life of the mind, teaching, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

I’ve been thinking about the process of teaching and learning lately as I plan upcoming drawing tutorials for Nil-tech. I don’t think I’m an authority on drawing. I’m just fascinated by the subject and have done drawings almost daily for a really long time. It seems that there’s interest in me showing more of how I draw. So as I wrote in my last post I’m planning how to do that in simple, no-fuss, ways. Nil-tech has an online library of drawing tutorials and that’s where I’ll be adding my tutorials. I’ll also share them on my social media. If someone buys an art supply kit from my link I’ll get a small, but appreciated, royalty. We’ll see how this project goes … please wish me luck.

More than a decade ago I used to teach art in person in Oklahoma. For a number of years I even designed hands-on art exhibits for children and created teaching curriculums for a staff of teachers to teach from. Fun times except for experiencing the right-wing political opposition in Oklahoma to teachers teaching art (or even teaching reading and writing) and the general objections to the “intellectual eliteism” supposedly evident at any and all art exhibits and literary events. Suffice it to say that I can empathize all too well with teachers (plus librarians, booksellers, writers and artists) who are currently on the recieving end of right-wing anti-intellectual ire.

Yes, I have a bit of PTSD from my time in Oklahoma. There were some nice people there who were supportive of education and the arts in general – people I’m glad to know, people I’m still in touch with – but hooey the PTSD is real. And meanness selfjustified by anti-intellectualism still sucks.

Anyway, imagine my delight when, mere months after we had moved (12 years ago) to the West Coast, during my first in person art opening in Oregon, I was respectfully asked about my usage of metaphors in my work! After replying to the question I hurried to find my wife and, grinning from ear to ear, exclaimed excitedly “They used the M word!!!”

So, I keep reminding myself that as I contemplate a new art teaching opportunity that I’m not, emphatically not, in Oklahoma any more!

That’s why last Friday on A. M. Sketching I included a monument to teaching and learning.

On a lighter note: here’s a touching tribute to a UK music and dance teacher. https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/lifestyle-buzz/bride-thinks-its-time-for-wedding-vows-when-groom-says-to-look-at-guests-on-the-balcony/ar-AA106rYX

My art exhibit “For You by Sue the ABC’S: Art, Books and Cards” has been delivered to the Aurora Gallery! The exhibit officially opens August 5th. I’ve been updating the portfolio page about the exhibit and, for the fun in it, included all pages of my book “Coffee Please”. Coffee Please is an amalgamation from the sketchbooks I’d kept during our pre-pandemic travels. I looked in my sketchbook for all the times I recorded requesting coffee; what was said and the type of cup I was given. You can see part of this artist book at the bottom of the photo below and you can see the entire book page by page, in my portfolio here.

Apropos of nothing here’s some of the flowers from our garden.

And here are some books I’m reading because both of these humorists maintained their humor during difficult times. Robert Benchley (b. 1889 – d.1945) lived through WW1, the Spanish Flu and the Great Depression. P. G. Wodehouse (b. 1881 – d.1975) lived through the same events as Benchley plus WW2 – he was even held prisoner by the Germans – and lived through many other world events in his long life. Both continued to write – and be gently humorous – all of their lives.

Resilience and creativity seem to correlate. I find it comforting and encouraging to learn how other artists made it through hard times and maintained their creativity and sense of humor.

It’s been hot this week so the studio supervisor and I have made sun tea by the gallon…

… the sun brewed tea is added to a large lump of ice in glasses. The chilling tea glass is kept on a coaster covered with a bit of paper towel so that drips of condensation don’t fall onto books. Mustn’t drip on the books. Nope, mustn’t…

As Kurt Vonnegut (another artist who turned hard times into fodder for creativity) often said “and so it goes”.

Hope your favorite beverages are just the way you like them this week. See you next Monday.

Art supplies, art exhibits and self-care

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art supplies, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, gift books, Gifts, greeting cards, life of the mind, mental health, miniature art, public art, reading, sketchbook, visual thinking, words and pictures

In a prior post I wrote about sharing the correlation I see between art and mental health. Writing and drawing your thoughts and feelings can help you check in with yourself. It’s a way of caring about and listening to your innermost self. Beyond any therapeutic benefits a habit of writing and drawing is also intelligence at play. Play is essential to mental health and not valued nearly enough… but I digress. Reading books and viewing the art others have made serves both of the therapy and play purposes too. Telling and showing more of my own work, my own intelligence at play, in my sketchbook is one way I can think of to share this correlation I see. That’s part of why I’ve begun A.M. Sketching anyway. (Btw this week there was a featured bug…😆)

Longtime readers of this blog know how I like easily portable sets of art supplies. Well, this preference has dovetailed with my above mentioned thoughts about mental health and having a regular sketching, writing and reading habit. Towards this notion I’ve found a company that makes sets of good quality art supplies and maintains an online series of tutorials about drawing. I am now in the process of affiliation so that whenever I share some art techniques (and add to the online drawing tutorial library) someone can easily access the supplies if they want to. http://shop.nil-tech.com/?ref=DmLN4hDZ

Here’s video of me looking at one of the just delivered sets. https://youtube.com/shorts/oat8Wr2q64g?feature=share

I remember teaching art, in pre-pandemic days, and sourcing the art supplies was always an issue. Even for adult classes the list of supplies to buy often overwhelmed students. So it’s nice to make it easier for someone to get the supplies they need to start a sketching habit by having everything available in one portable zippered case.

By the way when I say “a sketching habit” I include both words and images. Writing and drawing are both powerful tools for thinking and living well.

I wrote in my last post about my upcoming art exhibit at the Aurora Gallery. Here’s another video look at some of my artist books that will be in that upcoming exhibit. https://youtu.be/_VqH-Jw9wbg The featured book “Stories we could live inside…or not” relates to the mental health theme… here are some still photos but please see the video.

Besides fine art and artist books there are also limited edition greeting cards… the art, books and cards all relate to each other… anyway here’s a photo of the box of 90 pieces of art. Many of the artworks are the size of an open hand or smaller. It was nice to just carry one 11 x 11 x 14 inch sized box into the Gallery! I’m telling you I’m totally sold on the miniature art genre!

You can see a bit of what’s in the box on my portfolio page here. Needless to say I’m tired. I’m also reading a very good book. So I’ll get back to reading it now.

I hope you have a good book to read too and that your week is as pleasant as possible. See you next Monday.

Ant Hology, the anthology, the sketchbook three and the exhibit ABC

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, children's book, creative thinking, ebook, mental health, publications - publishing, sketchbook, Storyberries, whimsical art, words and pictures

I’ve made a new handmade alphabet book for Storyberries – called “Ant Hology” – it is now a free ebook childrens book on www.storyberries.com

https://www.storyberries.com/anthology-experimental-art-books-counting-alphabet-books-for-kids/

This video link looks at the original handmade artist book which is only 2 inches square. Ant Hology on YouTube https://youtube.com/shorts/qt57rCZPhrs?feature=share

“Ant Hology” is also included in a newly printed anthology (pun fully intended) containing reproductions of 3 of Clancy’s handmade books titled “Juggling Numbers and Letters”
https://www.blurb.com/b/11198251-juggling-numbers-and-letters

Here’s a look at printed book alongside the 3 original artist books so you can see the scale difference. The printed book is 7 inches square

Speaking of threes – on A.M. Sketching this week I wrote about the three sources of inspiration for my sketchbook work: my life, my self generated photo references and my imagination. Details on A.M. Sketching but here is the gist.

As you know this use of the “3 sources” is true of my fine art and artist books too. For example Ant Hology was inspired, as I wrote in this post, by an ant mound along the edge of our patio.

In August I’m having an exhibit at the Aurora Gallery. I’ve titled it: “For you by Sue the ABC’s: Art, Books. Cards”. All of this exhibit too was inspired by my life, my self-generated references and my imagination.

Here’s the artist statement I wrote for the exhibit:

“I see creativity as a very practical thing. Art adorns our walls. Books bemuse us. Cards connect us. For this exhibit I include all three of these essential elements of life because it’s been stressful lately and I am me. So I made these things for you.”

The above photo and this video link below shows a small selection of over 30 related art gift objects created by me that are available. https://youtu.be/iPL6g_2cICw

I plan to do more photos and videos of the various art objects and put them on my portfolio page – you can see what I’ve done so far here.

This week will be very busy but each morning I will sketch and each evening I will read books a while and generate more self-generated reference material so it can percolate on the back burner of my mind while I do necessary stuff for my upcoming exhibit.

I hope your week has at least 3 nice things in it. See you next Monday.

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 Storyberries.com)

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- https://society6.com/product/ralphabet-cat_print?sku=s6-23742735p4a1v45

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

https://www.zazzle.com/ralphabet_cat_cup-168792812275506970

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.

Troublesome wit, books, poetry and essential ordinariness

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, fine art, hopepunk, household surrealism, life of the mind, mental health, Odditerrarium, pet portraits, poetry, sketchbook, words and pictures

Work happily proceeds on my new Odditerrarium series. I’ve a work schedule and I’m sticking to it. As I worked on this pug painting titled “Troublesome Wit” I thought of John Lewis and his phrase ‘good trouble’. I thought of how humans work together in order to have the wit and fortitude to deal with life. I imagined a pug dog watching a human take measures and make efforts.

“Troublesome Wit” was created with ink and gouache on a 10 x 8 inch board. Here’s a closer look.

You can see more about my in progress Odditerrarium series and the upcoming exhibit via Caplan Art Designs in my last post.

One of the online groups I lurk on and sometimes participate in is on the topics of handmade books and artist books. The question “what got you started making books” was asked of the group. This is how I responded: I began at age 8 when I got hearing aids for the first time. I looked in the school library for a book about how books were made. Following pictures in that library book I folded paper in half and stapled it roughly in the middle. Then as the weeks progressed I drew my hearing aids and drew all the things I encountered that made noise. Two grownups in my life were always yelling “be quiet!” at me so I kept the book so I could figure out what made noise, how much noise it made and what was quiet. My pencil and crayon llustrations showed the “volume” of any noisemakers as well as what they were. I titled my book “The Be Quietness Book”. So I’ve been making books by hand or at least writing/drawing in blank books since age 8 until present time and I don’t imagine ever stopping! I’m still trying to figure things out with my books!

Here’s a corner of my studio as it is today that has many of my filled-to-overflowing books and some new blank books awaiting their turn. Some of the blank books I made from scratch, some I bought.

One of my poems was published this week for poetry month by Birdhouse Bookstore. My poem was put on bookmarks! As you know I enjoy non-traditional unorthodox publishing and publishing my poem on a bookmarker is perfect!! 😁
In the second photo you’re looking at the poetry books on the shelf in my breakfast nook. Several of these titles came from this localbookstore
https://birdhousebooks.store/

I’ve still been practicing, whenever I have time, at doing Reels on Instagram. I did one in which I read aloud one of my poems in Patch La Belle. I’m having fun with this way of sharing my stuff.

Did I manage (finally) to embed a video in this blog post? Or do we need to see that Reel via this YouTube link here https://youtu.be/f0W-7642inU ?

Anyway, technology aside here’s a sketchbook page with toast and coffee.

I’ve been thinking this week of how it matters who keeps the stories, the poems and who tells them. I’ve been an armchair folklorist since my college days and I’ve maintained my interest in old stories throughout the years. Here’s my current evening reading stack.

I find it fascinating to see how stories and the cultural and personal attributes we bring to them can affect knowledge formation for good or ill, up to and including what gets designated as “important”. Then that knowledge, however imperfect, is what gets passed through to others who acquire and form their knowledge based on what we share. Whatever is new to us today will become “the way things are” for the next generation. All we can do is try to share generously whatever might help someone else build new constructive knowledge.

We learn from other people how to live. Sometimes in the effort of trying to share what we know we teach ourselves something new.

However there’s no shortage of people, in any era, who will hold up a thumb and forefinger an inch apart and try to convince you that the space indicated is literally the whole world, that their definitions of that world, their narrative, is the only “true” one, that only their description of what is important matters. They want you to believe only them and will likely somehow benefit if they do convince you accept their story framework and take it literally without questions.

Knowing a wide range of stories and metaphors can help us not fall prey to such literalism and narrowness of mind. Which is why multiple versions the same stories are essential. We need reminders that there are many points of view. We need a diversity of stories. A monoculture isn’t healthy for plants or any other living beings.

Anyway, my way of responding to censorship and the attempts to control the available information and to manipulate perceptions is to deliberately buy and read banned books, to read widely and talk about, learn and share history, culture, poems and stories. To carry knowledge forward, to wrestle and play with it within my own life and work. To do my thinking on paper in art and stories, to always be trying to learn more and to share generously.

Book formats are only one of the ways we as individuals and as cultures keep our stories – it is the act of collecting stories together, whatever the technology used – that helps us figure things out. To lose that collected, collective, personal or cultural memory can be both a current and ongoing tragedy because the loss of knowledge affects future knowledge formation.

Recently I read of a massive archival effort to keep and preserve archives of Ukrainian stories and poems which are in danger of getting lost forever due to the war. See the article here.

You’ll not be surprised to hear that now I want to find ways to support that project and buy at least one printed copy of a book of, or at least a book containing some, Ukrainian folk tales.

And speaking of important, relevant and keep-able stories here’s a link about the Wendigo monster . I’ve been thinking of this Algonquin tale a lot lately because I’m so tired of greedy extremist monsters. I see this story as a reminder to appreciate ordinary life and to play well with others. It seems so relevant to current times and possibly a guide for figuring out ways of going on and doing better.

As I type this it is snowing in my backyard! In April! Our Camilla bush has blooms!

I hope your week is full of wit, art, stories and poems that help you figure things out. And hot beverages if it’s snowing where you are too. See you next Monday.

Public art private art and pretending

A Creative Life, art commissions, art prints, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, Authors, creative thinking, fine art, illustration, mental health, miniature art, Odditerrarium, poetry, public art, sketchbook, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

I’ve been thinking lately of how important the ability to imagine is. What if “let’s pretend…” is one of the most useful skills to cultivate all of one’s life? Besides being lots of fun to do using your imagination is an essential mental health skill. I quote from this article “So when you choose to develop your imagination and your ability to focus and direct your imagination, you gain the ability to guide and shift and direct your emotions as well. And when you have the ability to direct your imagination and modulate your emotions, then you also have the ability to influence the neurochemicals in your brain and in your body, too. Like all things mental, this ability is learned, and, like all things learned, this ability is made proficient through repetition. You do not learn to read overnight. You learn to read through repetition. Repetition makes proficiency.”

A new painting in my Odditerrarium series portraits (see last post) is titled “Pretending”. It’s 10 x 8 inches and made with gouache and ink on board. It is for an exhibit via Caplan Art Designs later this year.

A close up view…

I’ve also made progress on a new book for Storyberries that I had begun in my last post – the cat reaching thought I was telling you about got some color.

In thinking of how important imagination is I’ve also been thinking of the scope of it: imagination is first a personal skill, then it becomes something shared with friends, then it is something shared with the wider public – even intergenerationally – and that cycles back to us personally. And it does this cycle as long as we’re alive. Art and imagination are an ongoing conversation we have over time with ourselves, our friends and our community… and most importantly with life itself.

So I’m proud to see in this article that one of my art projects, the paintings in the photo behind Amy Russell, the executive director of the Curtis Children’s Justice Center is still on the walls there! That’s one of my public art projects that I’m most proud of doing. Keeping kids safe and developing good mental health coping skills are causes I care deeply about – and I think art can help with that. Long ago when I was a small child living in Oklahoma I was on the recieving end of child abuse in my biological family and had my own memorable encounters with police officers, social workers etc. The art on the walls in all of the buildings and the drawings on boxes of animal crackers helped me almost as much as the kind people who tried to help. Fast forward to today – the idea of having one place for a child to go for assistance is phenomenal and I’m glad and grateful for the existence of the Curtis Children’s Justice Center and I’m grateful for the kind people who help the children who need their services. I am deeply honored to have my artwork on their walls.
https://www.columbian.com/news/2022/mar/26/childrens-justice-center-child-abuse-up-since-covid/

https://www.columbian.com/news/2022/mar/26/childrens-justice-center-child-abuse-up-since-covid/

An art collector friend sent me these photos (below) of a art commission I had done for them over 10 years ago – it has been reframed and is in this gorgeous private place!!

I did this collage of handmade paper to tell a very personal and delightful story of a lovely family!

The pet portraits are some I have done of this same family’s pets over the years – they got reframed too and don’t they look nice?!

I just adore getting to love people throughout the years with my artwork!!

My artist heart is happy and full ❤ !! Thanks so much to my friend for sharing this with me!!!

Three kids are the apples of this art collectors eyes and I did these paintings to represent the specialness of each kid… the kids are all grown up now and still cherished!
Since I’d posted the art collections (above) of my fine art earlier on my social media that are still loved all these years later… this art lover and I wanted to share these beloved apples!! So much love worthy of sharing!!! ❤❤❤

A friend gave us these flowers this week…

….I painted them in my sketchbook and posted my page on my social media…

…. another friend saw my sketchbook page online and asked me to make an art print of it. So I got out my big camera and did that! As you can see the colors and details show up even better now! You can see more about the print here.

Lily Flowers- art print by Clancy- https://society6.com/product/lily-flowers6766553_print?sku=s6-23622061p4a1v45

My wife saw a unique mushroom in our yard and showed it to me. I looked carefully and photographed it and began a drawing in my sketchbook – then the next morning I finished it.

Then we got to visit some very special friends and a special cat and dog! Here I am being honored by the cat.

Here’s my wife being honored by the dog.

On the wall behind our friends is a collection of my artworks. Sharp eyes may recognize the cat and dog from our laps in some of the portraits on the wall.

One of our friends is the author and historian Pat Jollota – you can see some of her books here – she’s an amazing storyteller. If someday I can tell stories half as well as she does I’ll be proud.

I brought to our gathering some illustrations I’ve made and an idea for a holiday gift book. Together all of us imagined what my illustrated characters might be saying to each other. It was a fun party game that will become an actual book that I hope other people will have fun imagining with too.

My adopted Dad’s favorite quote is by Anatole France and I put it in my sketchbook along with a drawing this week. It was in keeping with my thoughts about “let’s pretend…”.

I hope your week is full of the kinds of imaginings and let’s pretend games that fill you with pleasure and happiness. See you next Monday.

Fine art, books and similarities between art and writing

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, dog portrait, fine art, household surrealism, life of the mind, mental health, miniature art, Odditerrarium, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

More work this week towards an upcoming art exhibit I’m calling “Odditerrarium”. I’ll tell more about my creative process on this exhibit here and in subsequent posts. Odditerrarium will be an exhibit via Caplan Art Designs later this year.

This week I finished a dog portrait I’ve titled “Secret Knowledge”. It’s 10 x 8 inches and made with ink and gouache on board.

Here’s a closer look at this dog’s thoughts – according to the dog’s human this dog likes walks and is passionately interested in moles, chipmunks, mice and frogs.

Elsewhere in this blog (here) I’ve written about the similarities I see between the creative process of writing and the creative process of fine art. Like a writer might begin creating a novel by noting a story idea nugget in a notebook I began this Odditerrarium series with the nugget “what if we could see what our dogs and cats thoughts?” – just this nugget of a thesis and little else. But I began there and with exploration of that notion came the notions of thought bubbles and terrariums… and I began drafting in my sketchbook. Here’s some examples.

After a number of sketchbook drafts I began a few full size paintings – generally I do at least 5 paintings before I declare that I’m working on a series or give the series a working title. This is like a writer deciding to write a few chapters to see if their idea has merit – by creating an overview or even a rough draft of the whole work.

I think of my one person art exhibits as books you can walk around inside. And each painting is a “chapter” within the book. Each chapter/painting begins with it’s own notion, an outline or rough indication of what could be. Things at this point are usually vague. For “Secret Knowledge” thanks to my friend (the excellent author Liz Gauffreau) I had a photo of the dog I wanted to portray and the dogs thoughts also thanks to our conversation. Then I spent time thinking and making sketchbook notes. Then I drew on a board. As you can see I work on several paintings at the same time – this too is like a writer writing though the gaps in one chapter by writing on a different segment within the work.

When I have a rough drawing on board I begin what I call “chunking” trying to get a bit of color on every area in the artwork. The colors don’t have to be perfect – it’s a rough indicator subject to adjustment based on other colors. I don’t worry about details at this stage just rough shapes of color and contrast. Like how a writer writes a whole story imperfectly, all in a rush with “detail to come” notes sprinkled throughout the tale.

In the photo below I’m in the chunking process. I know I want a blue background for the portrait of the white dog but at this point I’m not sure of the precise shade of blue. The other colors within that portrait will help me determine that. Like when a writer decides a character’s course of action based on another character’s choices.

When the chunking is more or less done I begin bit by bit to fill in and flesh out areas. Here’s an example- I’m sure you can see the transition happening from chunky to smoother.

The photo at the beginning of this post is of the finished portrait which I titled “Secret Knowledge”… the blue I ultimately chose is of early morning or late evening sky: a time for walks and a time when small mammals might be more active… something of which this dog certainly has knowledge! 😉

For my art exhibit Odditerrarium I’m thinking about mental lives and encounters with the minds of other humans and other beings in this world. Here’s a few of my favorite sketchbook pages on this topic. To help me keep on task, so to speak, for my Odditerrarium series I will continue to read, write and sketch on this topic of self awareness and encounters with other minds.

In psychology this called a developing a theory of mind …and this link explains it well and I quote “Forging a strong theory of mind plays an important role in our social worlds as we work to understand how people think, to predict their behavior, to engage in social relationships, and to solve interpersonal conflicts… Forming a theory of mind is critical in our ability to understand ourselves and others. This ability to understand mental states allows people to introspect and consider their own thoughts and mental states. Such self-awareness is important in the formation of a strong sense of self. Our social functioning also hinges on having a theory of mind. By being able to think about what other people are thinking, we can better understand others and predict what they might do next.”

Anyway, when paintings on the easel need to dry a bit I’ve been playing with my poetry sketchbook.

Inside my poetry book is a notion of a new experimental art book for Storyberries. In the photo you see my notions in my book and on the right side I’m beginning to work on my notions in a tiny concertina format book.

A cat reaching is my main notion that’s getting played with in two different ways in this photo for two different books.

I’ll keep you posted on whatever happens with these newbies.

The Aurora Gallery contacted me wanting more of my cards and books so I took those to them this week!

It did my artist heart good to see my things displayed by the Gallery so well and to know that my work is appreciated! The Aurora Gallery ships my art, cards and books anywhere and my signed green dragon book plates are available on request.

This week in kitchen creativity I made spinach enchiladas inspired by “Mrs Rasmussen’s Book Of One Armed Cookery” by Mary Lasswell. I used both arms to cook with and didn’t have a beer. I’d probably get demerits for that from Mrs Rasmussen as I can imagine her saying “What?! No beer?!” but the chili onion gravy was divinely scrumptious over spinach enchiladas and beans and rice!

I say I was “inspired by” Mrs Rasmussen’s recipe because I ruthlessly adapted this recipe as I was only cooking for two people and as you can see below Mrs R was cooking for the entire tricounty area. Plus I don’t use lard…

To make my chili onion gravy I used my good gravy recipe but instead of sausage I used a small can of roasted chilies and some chopped white onion.

In one serving size oven safe boats I made one spinach enchilada for each of us and surrounded the enchilada with beans, rice then ladled the gravy over it all and topped it with cheese. Turned out so good!! I did have gravy leftover which I used for another meal.

My evening reading loosely related to the topic of encounters with and awareness of other minds is the last book in the trilogy “His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman and Pullman’s nonfiction book “Daemon Voices” about stories and storytelling.

Hope your week is a good one! See you next Monday?