Dragon, the creativity cat and baby blankets

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, business of art, children's book, creative thinking, fabric design, Gifts, illustrated recipe, life of the mind, mental health, pattern design, poetry, recipe illustration, sketchbook, surface design, Sustainable creativity, This Rabbit, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

In my last post I talked about how I manage art projects and time. I have an heretical approach and I was asked for more details. Here goes:

One of my longtime interests is in how humans think, learn and how to maintain good mental health. I read on the topics often. Here’s a few of my bookshelves full of books on these topics.

I’ve learned that humans tend to learn best by hearing stories or anecdotes or metaphors or allegories. Or by seeing examples or demonstrations. Rarely does a direction “do it like this” get followed. This includes self-directions related to art projects and time management. Even if the direction is followed often the purpose for “doing it like this” is rarely fully understood at the time. This includes self-directions.

Let me tell a story to illustrate what I mean: Once there was a mother, with a very tiny kitchen, who always cut her pot roasts in half before cooking them. She taught her daughter to cook pot roast by explaining and demonstrating. Her daughter grew up and had a daughter of her own. One day the grandmother was visiting. The daughter was in her very large kitchen demonstrating cooking a pot roast to her young daughter. She said proudly “In our family we always cut the roast in half first. Isn’t that right mom?” The grandmother replied “Oh, no! The only reason I cut my roast in half was that I didn’t have a pot or a stove big enough to hold a whole roast!”

Being aware of this attribute of human thought and attention I approach self-directions about my own art projects and time use rather sideways. More details below.

The other interesting thing I’ve learned about human thinking is that good mental health and happiness often happens while we’re busy doing something else. Often with, and for, other people. I think the same is true of creativity.

Similarly when humans feel good about, curious about or interested in something they’re more likely to do it. If we make activities we want to do fun and easier to do it increases the likelihood that they’ll be done.

So I give myself directions about my projects in terms of what I *want* to do rather than what I must do and I accept that I may not fully understand what I’m doing, or why, until after the project is completed. I’m also careful to keep lots of projects in various stages of production so that I’m “busy doing something else” and not as likely to get too focused (and too critical) about one project.

I’ve mentioned it before but my approach to creative projects and time management has it’s roots in a mental health book I illustrated “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit“. Below are a few of the pages  that relate to what I’m blogging about today.

For much of my creative life I have taken these concepts about human thinking/emotional health and applied them to my overall approach to creative projects and time management. It has helped me to consistently get projects done in a sustainable and enjoyable way. I say my approach is heretical because I have known art coaches and art teachers who advocate, for example, “strict discipline to do one thing till it’s done” as if we are machines and I strongly reject that notion. That’s too much like lunging and grabbing at a stray cat. That’s a sure fire way to spook the cat – or the ideas – away!

My approach to creativity is similar to the method for befriending a shy cat.  You see a cat hiding in the bushes and you can’t see enough of the cat to know what breed it is, whether it’s healthy or not or whether it’s wearing a collar. So you get some cat treats and with very slow movements place the treats strategically to coax the cat into visibility. You remove yourself, slowly, to a short distance where you do your best to act as if you’re *not* interested in the cat. With patience the cat will emerge at it’s own pace and you can see it. No lunging and grabbing is necessary on your part!

My morning work in my sketchbook is akin to the cat treats strategically placed. I wake up and I just play with words in my poetry sketchbook or with images in my mixed media sketchbook. I do *not* take these efforts seriously. This is just something fun to do while still half asleep waiting while the coffee percolates. Of course I hope something good will come from this work and often it does but that “good” is to be determined much later. At the time I’m drawing or writing in my sketchbook  I’m thinking of it as a fun gentle way to ease into the day.

I literally keep these sketchbooks handy in my breakfast nook along with a few pens and a small gouache watercolor set. The sketchbooks and the watercolor set are small 3 x 5 inches or so. Seldom have I spent more than 10 minutes on these efforts. You see, I’m busy doing something else besides creating – I’m making breakfast and eating it with my spouse. But I have this regular habit of luring ideas into my sketchbook.

Here’s a few recent sketchbook pages.

When my idea-cat begins to emerge from several weeks of my sketchbook morning work I’ll begin gently, tentatively, feeding and petting the idea. I do this by reading books somewhat related to my idea, by writing about my idea on a legal pad, brainstorming in a what-if-I manner.

Here’s a look at my legal pad list that eventually became my book This Rabbit and here’s my portfolio page about that project including links to blog posts detailing my work process for that project.

After doing enough sketchbook work and legal pad what-if work that I feel I’ve got something, some idea emerging into visibility, I’ll sometimes draw a series of thumbnail drawings on loose paper in color to try different color arrangements. Or perhaps I make a folded paper dummy of a book idea. Perhaps I’ll make larger drawings – redrawing images from my sketchbook onto art paper. I am still just playing around and seeing what could happen.

The intention is to test the idea in my sketchbooks to see if it might become  something more than a sketch in my sketchbook. A bit more time is spent, 20 or 30 mins in this phase of idea attracting. These writings and drawings are kept in a 3 ring binder by topic or perhaps with a tentative working title related to what my idea may become: an art exhibit series? A childrens book? A greeting card??? Things are left very open ended.

Still I am busy doing other things – specifically my main art project of the moment – the binder is just a way to keep all of my notions on a theme handy in one spot.  This is like giving that still shy cat a temporary foster home. This way we’ll keep track of kitty, give it some time to adjust, learn about kitty and see how it goes.

Here’s my shelf of 3 ring binders

Here’s some photos from the 3 ring binder for my currently in progress “How To Draw A Dragon” project. There are several folded paper book dummies, several rewrites of the poem and many drawings.

If a 3 ring binder project collection goes well and the idea begins to show promise – by ‘promise I mean ‘potential to be fun’ – then it may move to the “main project” status. The idea cat has been adopted…however we’re still in the probationary period. Anything could happen. This is where I currently am on my ” How To Draw A Dragon” project.

Here’s a few of the “Dragon” pages I did this week.

A main project has the serious art supplies out for it. It has the studio space devoted to it. Time during a day will be set aside for it, but not an entire day, I mean an hour or two. Time is set aside in a task-oriented way not a from-when-to-when on the clock way. I have a master list of tasks to be done on a main project and each day I pick from 1 to 3 of those tasks and set them as a goal to accomplish that day. That’s the establishing a working rhythm that I spoke of last post.

The main project is taken a tiny bit more seriously as in I will erase and redraw whereas in my sketchbooks, legal pads or binders I’ll leave a drawing however it is. I will also write and rewrite with attention to spelling and grammar on a main project. As I go I’m feeling my way along. The uncertainty is normal. Perhaps my idea cat isn’t ready for such attention. Or perhaps it will thrive on it. We will take it slowly and see. My “How To Draw A Dragon” so far seems to be thriving meaning it is still growing and becoming and I’m having fun with it.

Below is a studio photo showing that “How To Draw A Dragon” is filling my easel and overflowing into nearby surfaces. My art supplies used for this project are left out and handy. I don’t open windows in my studio so no breeze disturbs my papers. If you were to visit my house today we would stay far away from my studio because I have things in a careful order for my projects sake. My cat and dog are trained to not disturb things in my studio. There’s a door to my studio and I use it to remain undisturbed. A main project filling the studio is a tender kitten. I handle gently. I have heard art coaches speak of clearing ones working area at the end of each workday — that’s another area where I heretically scream *nooooo!*

Even with the extra attention given to a main project I carefully keep it fun and playful. I will find ways to “feed” a project- to feed my unconscious mind – for example by reading books related to the topic I’m making art about. For my current How To Draw A Dragon project I’m reading about creativity – about creating poetry in particular- and the interplay between our left brains and right brains, between our inner adult selves and our inner child selves. The topical reading is kept up for a duration of a project as it helps with my focus and fun. I simply cannot stress this enough *keep a project fun* and the project will likely get finished.

Another helpful way I keep going on a main project is that I *dedicate* the project to someone – I give the project a purpose, a reason for being (something *not* related to money or fame). I give it something beyond myself. The person or people I dedicate my work to often never know. But I am busy making my main project *for* somebody. During this pandemic openly dedicating works, or embedding symbols a friend might recognize, has been a fun way to stay in touch.

Here’s the dedication page for my Dragon book. Dedications for my fine art most often just happens in my mind.

It may be that I work on something as a main project for a while and it stalls. The stall could happen at the 3 ring binder stage or earlier in the sketchbook stage. A project may fluidly move back and forth between these three stages over a lengthy time period. This is another part of my business of art/creative heresy – I think this fluidity is perfectly normal and fine! Uncertainty is okay! I see it as part of the creative process, part of the ways a creative mind (and a subconscious mind) naturally works. Human brains are not linear machines! This is another reason I work on multiple projects – one stalls and I shift attention to another until the stalled one wants attention again.

Very carefully as I’m in the process of making artwork I avoid any sweeping declarative statements, to myself or anyone else, like “this is dumb” or “this is awesome”. I use moderate language statements, if a statement is needed and I can’t avoid it, I’ll say something like “so far so good” or “it’s a fun challenge”. To make a hard sweeping definitive declaration like “this is horrible” is to force a still-in-progress project into a labled pigeon hole. What may not work as a painting might be a good greeting card. I don’t know yet! When a project is in process I may think I am making X only to discover when I’ve finished that I’ve made Y instead. I deliberately leave linguistic and mental room for such progress! (See my pot roast story above) Harsh declarations make it hard to extract a project from the dispair/elation and continue. It makes it harder to allow a work to change from a painting to a greeting card. I prefer to leave room for discovering and being surprised by what a project becomes. It’s more fun that way. I would no more force an art project to become something than I would force a stray cat to accept a grooming before feeding it and earning its trust.

Here’s more from Dr Bob about being careful about self talk.

https://store.bookbaby.com/bookshop/book/index.aspx?bookURL=Dr-Bobs-Emotional-Repair-Program-First-Aid-Kit1

The tendency all humans have to take things too seriously- even obsessively – is another reason why I deliberately have multiple projects at various stages. One main studio project -or possibly two main projects- at a time but several other projects are being developed in my sketchbooks, legal pads and binders. This helps me not be too “precious” about any one of them. I work on something a while then stop working *while it’s still fun* and do something else. I find it helpful to try to stop working before I am too fatigued, while I’m still interested or enjoying my work and then move on to something else.

So I am always busy “doing something else” which allows my idea-cats space to breathe without micro-attention. This method allows my subconscious mind to work on my projects. I can trust that my inner voice will say “oh, let’s work on this!” when the next part of my idea is ripe. I can trust that I will keep returning to a project until it is finished.

When a main studio project is finished there is usually another project in a binder that’s developed enough that it’s ready for attention at my easel. No force to finish or start a project is needed. No strictness. No machine-like “discipline”. Knowing and accepting the way human minds are naturally has worked well for me. I work with my brain not against it. I am just playing around with topics that interest me. Like most real life fur covered cats I can trust that my idea-cats will tell me when it’s dinner time.

Speaking of dinner. The outstanding dinner of the week was broccoli pasta. I was out of fettuccine so I used short noodles but the recipe in my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook is still yummy!

https://www.blurb.com/b/9759759-favorites-so-far

Earlier this year I was asked to make some gender neutral fabric designs and put them on my Spoonflower shop so someone could get fabric with my designs and sew some bibs and blankets for a new baby.

Here’s a photo of me working at that time on the fabric pattern.

Here’s the finished original art

This week I was given, by the person who had requested the fabric patterns, pictures of some of the finished baby things they’ve made and permission to post about them! It was lovely having something fun like this to post about as my Dragon project is still becoming and is in the gawky teenage stage and camera shy.

Where I tend to run out of time in a day is the social media promotion thing. And frankly there are times, especially when I’m busy, that I’d rather just do my art projects than talk about them. But talking about them is necessary and most of the time I enjoy doing it so… Anyway, I really appreciate it when people share what I post or when someone sends me photos of themselves with my fine art or artist books or share photos of what they sewed with my fabric designs! It helps and is such fun to see!

Anyway, here’s the photos of a burp cloth and a few blankets my friend created with my fabrics! They turned out so well!! The sewing is marvelous!

Hope this description of how I manage my art projects and deal with time was interesting and even helpful to you as you do your own creative projects! Have a creative week and I’ll see you next Monday.

Dragon in the details

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, book design and layout, books, business of art, creative thinking, Gifts, household surrealism, illustrated poem, Odditorium, On Looking At Odditorium, recipe illustration, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, whimsical art, words and pictures

A work rhythm has been fairly firmly established. I wrote about that in my last post. My days now have a regularity that goes like this:

Breakfast time contains sketchbook drawings with or without characters from my currently in progress childrens book “How To Draw A Dragon”

Perhaps after eating breakfast I spend a few minutes more reading a poem or working the crossword puzzle with my spouse (we take turns doing 5 or 6 clues) while we finish our coffee. (The poem in the photo below is by Robert Service)

Then I pour another cup of coffee and carry it to the studio. There I look at the work I did last and my project schedule/guide that I described in my last post. I sip my coffee and settle in to work.

By now I’ve done about 10 of the 32 pages but even those, as you can probably see in the photos below, aren’t really finished. Some elements like the text will be the last to be inked and only after all 32 pages have been mostly finished. Similarly I will edit and ink all of the elements of foreshadowing for my poem story after all 32 pages are mostly inked.

As I work I am thinking of the pages both as page spreads and as individual pages.

These pages below have been quickly photographed where they are on my easel for sharing my progress with you here. My set up for photos for book reproductions is another thing entirely- and I’m not at that point yet.

The sharp eyed will probably notice that some changes have been made to my story setting and to my poem text since my last post.

Basically I’m in the early stages of this book project and everything is in flux and there aren’t “for public” images for this project yet.

So instead of anything about this project when I put something on my social media I post about my current art exhibit Odditorium at Burnt Bridge Cellars and about the related items I’ve designed on my Zazzle shop. For example my “Odd mugs” collection.

And my books. I talk about one of the 9 books in my portfolio. Or I talk about one of my 10 books on Storyberries. Or I post a photo of my cat or dog. Or I post nothing at all. Especially as I settle into a project working rhythm I find I’m online less and less. That said I do enjoy finding your kind comments when I check in! And I thank you in advance for them.

Lunch, however, is rarely missed. This week the easiest meals were bean and grain bowls like this photo below and here’s the recipe scheme from my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook.

https://www.blurb.com/b/9759759-favorites-so-far

After lunch I head back to the studio for more work on my How To Draw A Dragon book. Generally speaking I get 2 pages finished per day. If I’m lucky I’ll get a start on a 3rd page. But my focus is on maintaining a work rhythm not in a quota of pages. If I have to totally redo a page and thus only get one page done in a day that’s fine! I just keep going! It’s a dance between discipline and the spaciousness of pleasurable play as talked about in this article.

I did take the time this week to go with my spouse to visit a new independent bookstore in our town Birdhouse Books! This was my book haul.

Short stories, poems and short essays give me an intellectual boost without requiring an investment of time like a long novel does. But sometimes a long novel is just the thing to accompany a long creative project. It just depends.

What’s not in question is the fact that time to sit and read each evening is essential to helping me maintain a steady working rhythm.

Hope your week has some good rhythms too! See you next Monday.

On Looking at Odditorium

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, book design and layout, books, children's book, creative thinking, ebook, household surrealism, Odditorium, On Looking At Odditorium, printed books, public art, published art, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

To my awareness there aren’t many books for children that talk about looking at an artist’s exhibit whether the fine art is in a book or on walls.

A child looking at a painting by Sue Clancy in the Caplan Art Designs gallery

I think looking at a book of fine art is similar to looking at a wordless picture book. Looking at one artist’s series of paintings on a gallery wall is like a wordless book too. But looking at fine art, while there are similarities to wordless picture books, it is also different; a collection of fine art often refers to the feelings and lived experiences of the artist in addition to any visual story there may be within the artwork itself.

So I’ve been lucky enough to work with Storyberries to create a childrens book On Looking At Odditorium that I hope will help kids enjoy looking at artwork and be able to speculate about the artist’s thinking.

Towards that end I created cartoon drawings of myself so they could take a trip (or tour) through a book of my Odditorium fine art exhibit and explain what I was thinking and how I created each painting.

Here’s a closer look at all of the avatar drawings. In many of my childrens books on Storyberries.com there’s a photo of me wearing a sweater. For consistency sake I drew myself in a sweater pointing this way and that.

Below are several sample pages from On Looking At Odditorium. You can see the avatar and a speech bubble on each page.

I want to encourage imaginations so in the book I try to both show and tell what using imagination is like.

For a childrens book I didn’t want to get too technical about art materials and methods but I did want to share something about them. I wanted to share especially when the materials and methods directly interacted with my imagination.

Below is a look at the book layout so you can see the little avatars on tour across a page spread.

The adult version of my Odditorium exhibit coffee table book does not have the avatar or descriptions. Here’s what the cover of the adult book looks like.

https://www.blurb.com/b/10698335-odditorium

And here’s the childrens book version titled “On Looking At Odditorium“. The cover design is very similar to the adult book on purpose – to emphasize that anyone of any age can look at art. The layout inside this book is different as is the kind of paper for the printed books. I wanted paper likely to withstand children’s hands.

https://www.blurb.com/b/10758158-on-looking-at-odditorium

Storyberries has a extra special ebook edition that went live within hours of this post. And I love the nesting specialness of this project: it’s a fine art exhibit called Odditorium at Burnt Bridge Cellars via Caplan Art Designs that has a companion exhibit book titled Odditorium. The Odditorium exhibit book then has a companion childrens book version titled On Looking At Odditorium. Then the special ebook on Storyberries – which you can see here for free – about looking at On Looking At Odditorium! Here’s what the Storyberries ebook version looks like at the top…

https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-odditorium-free-art-books-for-kids/

Did you get all the nesting nuances to this project? I’ve hopefully laid it all out clearly on my portfolio page about this project… but even if no one besides me sees the nesting qualities – thinking about it in this interlocking way served to help me construct it all – my main point is for people to have fun.

Needless to say it’s been a very busy week. There’s been food, some of it tasty and blog-worthy, but I was tired and just ate it without photos or noting recipes.

Also due to busy-ness not much was done on my new crocodile project mentioned last post. But I have kept up my sketchbook activities and reading books of an evening. Sketching and reading are like breathing.

So I’ll not promise anything specific for next Monday… but there will be something. Hopefully, something that encourages your own creative life or is at least entertaining for you.

Till next time – have a good week looking at stuff.

Odditorium exhibit, lots of books and a sandwich technique

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, fine art, illustrated gifts, life of the mind, mental health, Odditorium, printed books, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

Last week I took 3 boxes containing all of my Odditorium fineart into Burnt Bridge Cellars where it will be through the end of July. Everything I’ve done over the last year is now in the capable hands of the winery and the Caplan Art Designs art gallery!

My spouse took this photo as I paused with one of the boxes on my way into the back patio door of the winery.

Due to our state’s Covid19 protocols reservations are needed for drinking and eating indoors or outdoors at the winery. Masked people are welcome to drop in to see the fine art and buy bottles or growlers of wines. When not seated masks are required.

Reservations can be made here:
https://www.burntbridgecellars.com/

(I see that I have new followers to this blog – welcome! – to catch you up to date more photos and info about this project, the art and access to the artistbooks is here https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/odditorium/)

While not exactly a full art opening  the winery took reservations for a special Friday night dinner: marinated salmon or chicken sate by Class Cooking and of course one could sit and enjoy a variety of wines!! Masks can be removed when seated it’s just when walking about that they’re needed.

Friday night there was live music outside on the winery patio. And you could go inside to see my fineart and artistbooks then you could go outside to hear the music or vice versa.

These photos below are a look at my Odditorium artexhibit on the winery walls before people came (there are more photos here).

Below is a photo of the artist books that are in the basket in the photo above.

And my green dragon bookplates did come in time!! I had hoped in my last post to sign a few of the bookplates for the exhibit in case someone wanted one in one of my books.

Anyway, I was very aware all week that in the best of times and conditions I don’t hear well. Add the masks worn sensibly during a fading pandemic and lip reading isn’t an option either. So I made the decision to stay home even though I could have made a reservation at Burnt Bridge Cellars and spent at least some time at the winery during the first Friday my Odditorium art exhibit was  available.

But I know myself and I know that if I saw someone looking at my art I’d want to pop up from my seat put my mask on and try to talk with them and try to hear what they’d say even knowing it wouldn’t be likely…. so I just chose to not put myself in that situation.

While it was a sensible decision I still had some upset feelings about it. So I worked on remembering this 👇

Bookstores and libraries have often been my places of consolation. So my spouse and I went and had our first in-person visit to a local independent bookstore Vintage Books ! We’ve both been buying online from Vintage Books for a year now…but the impulse buying when indiebookstore shopping in person can’t be beat!!
https://www.vintage-books.net/

Here’s a selfie I snapped inside the store. At the time we went there were only two other customers and two store employees. We were all spread out throughout the store. It was silent (at least to my perception) except for one of the two store cats who sat up when I neared the shelf where she lay and said “meow”. Vintage Books has both new and used books so the store smelled like book heaven even though my mask. I loved the sights of the colorful book spines and book covers displayed on shelves from floor to ceiling. The staff write handwritten notes about books and I enjoy seeing the various handwriting styles in various places on the shelves. There were multiple spaces where books from different topics/genres had been collected together with staff comments like “if you like the topic in this book then you may like these too” – and that’s a sure way to get me to impulse buy! 🤣

Here’s a photo of my book haul.

Then after we got home I used my usual “how to pick a book” method. I’ve described it in Another Sketchbook and also included it on this coffee mug in my Zazzle shop.

https://www.zazzle.com/how_to_pick_a_fun_book_to_read_mug-168374730790857937
https://www.zazzle.com/how_to_pick_a_fun_book_to_read_mug-168374730790857937

It felt so good to have an extended length of time reading!!

Another soul satisfying restorative was finding that my order from Paperblanks came!!! (https://www.paperblanks.com/en/) Yippee!!! I buy blank books 5 or 6 at a time because it gives me the joyous feeling that I can write with impunity. I can draw with abandon. I can liberally spread the sunshine of my imagination. I can run around with my pen… I can…I can… I can…❤❤❤❤🖋🖋🖋☕☕❤❤❤❤

So this weekend I immersed myself in my books, I dipped into novels like a diver into a swimming pool. I also swam freely in my new orange poetry sketchbook book (mentioned last post). The orange book was the last unused book from my last order-of-5 books. Whenever I get to the last few books I order more immediately.

Several meals this week were quick sandwiches: cream cheese, various vegetables chopped up and some spring greens on lavash bread rolled up. A rolled sandwich only requires one hand to hold it which leaves the other hand free to hold a book! The Atoria Lavash are some of the best I’ve tasted and they ship directly from the bakery! Anyway here’s a link to the sandwich rolling technique https://www.atoriasfamilybakery.com/wrap-like-a-pro/

While my Odditorium exhibit will run through the end of July in subsequent posts I’m going to turn this blog towards new projects. I’ve already started new fine art that continues this Odditorium theme. The new art will be destined for exhibit in September. There’s also the children’s book version of my Odditorium exhibit book still to be released. So periodically on this blog I will probably return to this theme. But I’ve also got a different project in progress that I also want to share with you…

More about that next Monday. I hope your week is a good one!

An Odditorium of stories, poems and mugs of soup

A Creative Life, art exhibit, artist book, author illustrator, books, fine art, household surrealism, humor in art, magic realism, mundane and magical moments, Narrative Art, Odditorium, poetry, printed books, sketchbook, whimsical art, words and pictures

Early this week I’m delivering all of the Odditorium fine art and books to Burnt Bridge Cellars! This weekend I made sure the art is ready to go and signed some of the artist books.

These artist books are stories within the Odditorium series fine art visual stories. First there’s the Odditorium exhibit catalog which tells the story of the exhibit itself and has images of all the fine art.

Then each additional artist book that I wrote and illustrated, whether for children or adults, contains an odd look at a household or mundane experience. Numpurrs is about a shared meal. Patch La Belle is a collection of whimsical poems about drawers, chairs, cake and much more. This Rabbit is about liking activities at home. Another Sketchbook is about enjoying books and ones own mind. Favorites So Far is a collection of my favorite recipes. Pembral Forgets, written by Steve Tubbs and illustrated by me is about fall leaves and good food.

I didn’t sign all of the books and I hope the green dragon bookplates, that I spoke of in a prior post, come from the printer soon. I plan to sign a few of those for Burnt Bridge Cellars to have on hand just in case someone wants a book signed that wasn’t already signed.

Here are boxes of fine art ready for delivery. One of the side benefits of working in a series on the same size art boards is the ease of packing for transportation.

It didn’t take long to double check that all of my exhibit ducks are in a row because I was basically ready a week ago. So I’ve begun to work on other projects and a starting point is to read about stories and imagination.

Here’s a wonderful essay I read this week on these topics by Salman Rushdie (another favorite author) https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/24/opinion/sunday/salman-rushdie-world-literature.html

And here’s another article on stories and how stories can help us think well. https://lithub.com/on-the-evolutionary-uses-of-storytelling

Poetry, in this article, is just what the doctor ordered…I enjoyed reading about the connection between poetry and good mental health! https://www.today.com/today/amp/tdna219376

Speaking of poetry: I’ve started a new poetry sketchbook. I like the mini books from paperblanks.com with the unlined thicker paper as I can both draw and write on it. I don’t paint in this book as the paper isn’t suitable for watercolor or gouache. This is deliberate as the attributes of the paper in my poetry sketchbook helps me focus on the words and the illustration idea itself instead of getting focused on color too soon. I have a bound watercolor sketchbook for when it’s time for color considerations and serious ink work. This means I may start something in my poetry sketchbook and then try the same sketch in color in my watercolor sketchbook. The 3 photos below show the new (orange) poetry sketchbook, then one of the poems I wrote in the new poetry book. The 3rd photo shows my watercolor sketchbook and a color effort with my poetry idea. At this point I’m just playing.

Related to my household surrealism thoughts I wonder…Can poetry or short stories also be a mug or notecard? What if the mug is big enough to hold soup?

https://www.zazzle.com/daffodil_gifts_mug-168964634508229714

What if the card is itself a pun shared between people…?

https://www.zazzle.com/just_a_note_note_card-256813794765519171

I want to make things that help people connect with other people. This is part of why I enjoy having fine art exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars – via Caplan Art Designs – people connect over my art, the wine and food. It does feel strange – and anticlimactic – from my point of view to have an exhibit at the winery and not have a big blowout multiple hours long opening party due to the sensible covid restrictions. (The winery is at 50% capacity and reservations are necessary for eating and drinking at the winery. They welcome masked people dropping in to buy bottles of wine and see the art.)

But last year during the worst of the pandemic shutdown I was delightfully amazed at the many kind responses – virtual comments on social media – about my art, my books and my efforts at a virtual exhibit! (This years virtual exhibit is here) And because in the past exhibits I’d had trouble hearing in the winery when it was packed with people – during shutdown 2020 I actually enjoyed my online interactions with people because I could actually read what they said!!

Anyway, I have hopes that somehow it will all work this year too – and that people will go to the winery and enjoy the wine, the food and my art and books!

Speaking of food… Here’s a yummy soup I made this week. I like having soup in large mugs – makes it easier to get the last bite. The potato soup recipe I used is from one of my favorite cookbooks. I love thinking about things that build community: books, music, art and….soup!! This book is fun to read because it’s also a series of stories about food and friends in different communities.

A person doesn’t live by soup and bread alone we also need our personal green dragons, aka our imaginations, carefully nourished so we can deal with the emotional wolves inside us and be able to participate in life. What do you feed wolves? Stories, poems, music and fine art!

An illustration I did for Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit

Here’s another sketchbook page somewhat related to this topic.

May your dragon and good wolf be well fed this week. See you next Monday?

An odditorium of books, walks, green dragons and cookies

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Literature and art are forms of self care and of care work. I’ve thought of this as I have worked in my household surrealism projects. Home is where most of us practice self care and care for others. We all need regular care and comfort, including the care and comforts to be found all of the Arts, so it feels crucial to have fine art, literature and music in ones home.

With that in mind this week I did a short video about why I make art. Spoiler alert: I want to make the visual art equivalent of freshly baked cookies and a kind note. Video here: https://youtu.be/GYiby2CfySc

And as part of those thoughts I’ve changed my avatar for most of my social media to this green dragon reading a book. For me green dragons represent creativity/imagination and books represent love and caring.

When I can I’ve directly signed the artist books I’ve written and illustrated. Often I’ve also doodled something right on the page. Like this…

But there are many times when that isn’t possible so I’ve signed and doodled on a piece of label paper and mailed that to the book owner for the book owner to affix in the book. That’s seemed to work. Finally I had the notion to make a bookplate specifically for this purpose. Hence the green dragon. Will update about the bookplate when I get them from the printer…

Anyway, here’s a look at some of the Odditorium artwork in the frames. I get the frames made at a local frame shop Aurora Gallery (www.auroragalleryonline.com) but I put the art in the frames myself. I think of how my paintings might hang on someone’s wall and lift spirits.

Here below are some of the odd greeting cards I’ve made with some of my Odditorium art. I love the pun of creating household surrealism artwork and then using that to make household items like greeting cards, mugs and coasters. The collection of Odd Cards is here and you can find some of the other items in my Zazzle shop.

These cards are long and skinny and come with an envelope. A message can be written on the back. I imagine someone smiling when getting one of these cards in the mail.

Since I told about the green dragon avatar and upcoming bookplate here’s a look at the two other logos I use on my cards, books and mugs.

Here’s another Odditorium painting “Favorite Walk” in its frame. The idea for this painting was a combination of outdoor walks my spouse and I enjoy along with red shoes a fellow artist family member has depicted in her artwork. So the red shoes are a “hello” to a family member….and they’re just fun!

Here’s us on a recent windy rainy walk in one of our favorite spots. I imagine you can see a relationship between my painting “Favorite Walk” and the landscape in the photos below.

This week at Burnt Bridge Cellars we bought wine and asked about the pandemic protocol for my upcoming art opening. The gist is that they’ll be at 50% capacity and taking reservations. www.burntbridgecellars.com

So I am glad people will get to see my art in person and will be able to buy some of my artist book titles while enjoying some very good wine! Even given this good news I am continuing my virtual art exhibit efforts with the printed picture book Odditorium and the new (still in progress) portfolio page. And I’m glad my art will also be accessible via Caplan Art Designs. I tell ya it takes a village…

Here are some of the artist books (many of them signed) that will be available during my Odditorium exhibit. All of my books are also accessible digitally here and here. I imagine people looking at my books and enjoying sharing them with others even if they don’t see my original art in person.

Of course I don’t know for certain how my fine art or anything else will be received. Rarely do I actually see my artwork hanging in someone’s home or office. I can only create and imagine and that’s enough motivation for me. I do treasure the comments and photos people have shared with me of their joy and delight in my work!

I like the thought that via my art I may be contributing to people’s happiness. Human minds need books, art, music anything that healthily feeds the imagination. Minds need good nutrition just like bodies do. Mental health also includes the comforts of homemade cookies.

In my studio I keep this quote where I’ll see it often. “One must care about a world one will never see.” Bertrand Russell

Speaking of love and caring: here’s a super yummy homemade cookie recipe of my spouse’s creation!

May you have many pleasant moments of comfort this week with cookies and storytime of your own! See you next Monday?

Leaves books and rabbits

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After finishing my Pembral Forgets project I was asked if I would make a fabric design from the leaf pattern I had created for the book Pembral Forgets which was written by Steve Tubbs and illustrated by me – (details here)

So this week I’ve been making a fabric pattern of leaves that I’m calling “Leaves From Pembral” and here’s my process…

First I cut out a 12 inch square area of the original hand stenciled paper I did for the Pembral Forgets book. Carefully I chose an area that wouldn’t have leaves touching the 4 edges of the paper. Then I used acrylic paints and created more stenciled leaves to fill in where there were gaps, trying to make the new design square balanced and interesting.

When the above was dry I “cut up my darling” – to borrow from advice given to writers about editing – and made all 4 outer edges now be on the inside of my 12 x 12 inch square paper. Basically I turn my design inside out.

Next I fill in the new gaps with more stenciled leaves.

Then when that was dry I photographed the finished design, trying to keep the soft creamy look of the original and keep the pattern square with my camera. This is easier said than done. After several attempts I was happy with this image below.

Next I uploaded my digital photos into my laptop and used the Spoonflower system to set up my pattern for a basic repeat…so my pattern will flow across any length of fabric without interruptions.

As I worked on the digital file I was thinking of leaves falling and then laying on a wet sidewalk.

What you see below is a screenshot of my finished pattern as I set it up to be repeated on a “fat quarter” an 18 x 21 inch area.

Now I’m waiting to get a proof sample from Spoonflower which I will approve – or not – before it gets added to my public shop on Spoonflower. https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/sueclancy After that I will tell the person who requested this fabric pattern that it’s there and will hope they’re pleased. In the meantime I hope this blog post will amuse…

I enjoyed playing with leaves in my sketchbook, too, this week – with my rabbits. Another bit of advice for writers is to develop a character and use them to explore ideas and situations instead of creating a new character each time one sits down to write. This technique is most obviously used by mystery novelists who create a character (or two) that repeat over a series of books.

I’ve borrowed this concept for writing and applied it to my fine art and artist books… I have certain motifs and characters – selected species really – which repeat in various ways throughout my projects within a span of time.

In my sketchbook page below I have leaves, books and rabbits. For almost a year now rabbits have been a constant character… (previously I have done series of Dogs and Cats … click on the word Dogs or Cats to see a collection within an artist book)

I posted the above photo on my social media pages and someone asked for an art print of my sketchbook page. So I created an art print of the sketchbook page on my Society 6 shop. The unframed print looks like this (below)

In the evenings I’ve been reading about meditation and, of course, reading a mystery novel. Thinking of little things; leaves, drops of water, ones breath are ways of calming oneself for meditation. Little things; scraps of paper, drops of blood, air quality are often clues in a mystery novel. So I keep thinking of little things…

I broke up a chocolate mint and put it in my hot chocolate. It was a tasty little touch – Yum!

I know it’s not a holiday but little pleasures really do make an ordinary day feel special.

Speaking of feeling special; my artwork was featured on Louise Primeau’s website https://louiseprimeau.com/featured-artist-sue-clancy-from-vancouver-wa/ Thank you for your kindness Louise!

Hope we all have many small pleasures to enjoy this week. See you here next Monday?

Hare be books dragons and comforts

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In my last post I wrote about my children’s books. Here are 4 of my books for those over age 18:

Dogs by Sue Clancy

Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit

Another Sketchbook

Favorites So Far

All 4 of these books are from my sketchbook keeping practice. All are about ways to take care of ourselves and others. The 2 book that are most obviously from my sketchbooks, and are also about finding comfort during difficult times, say “sketchbook” on the cover.

From the Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit I learned that when in a difficult situation (like a pandemic) that’s beyond your control a strategy for dealing with it is to recognize the reality and the feelings – “I don’t like it” – but refrain from getting stuck there. Acknowledge what’s going on but then go on to find something you can enjoy despite the situation. In my sketchbook “Another Sketchbook” I tried to practice this.

For example the above sketchbook page says “eventually things will get better, in the meantime here are some drawings.”

That pretty well sums it up my way of coping.

More of the coping skills I practiced in a sketchbook format – and in the kitchen – were cooking related. Having a book of reliably good favorite dishes has been a solace.

A pot of soup cooking on the stove, good hot beverages and fun books to read really do restore my psyche. I find it helpful to remember this and deliberately revel in it.

So this week I started my Home Hare Care series again. This series celebrates the comforts of home. I had begun this series back in March 2020 during the first official lockdown. Now that my home state of Washington has sensibly begun another lockdown… it’s Home Hare Care season again.

So instead of the slaying dragons mode of response to feelings and difficulties I’m actively choosing a kinder more gentle way of responding.

It’s an “I see you” recognition of the dragon and then using calming techniques to soothe one’s self and peacefully cohabitate with the dragon.

The concept is really an Inuit one – a variation on it anyway. There’s an article here that describes the concept well titled “How Inuit Parents Teach Kids To Control Their Anger

So I drew a dragon, gave it a book to read and made a fabric pattern on my Spoonflower shop. Nice dragon, calm dragon, comfy cozy dragon, rest on this fluffy soft pillow dragon…😁

Since hot beverages feature on my list of soothing comforts it seems sensible to create a series of mugs. I’m calling it my Odd Mugs collection on my Zazzle store. I pretended the sides of mugs were sketchbook pages and reproduced some pages from Another Sketchbook.

See you here next Monday? In the meantime please take care of yourself and keep reading, cooking, drawing and doing whatever you do that’s soothing.

Chapter 3: Readings From The Heart

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I’ve been asked how I manage projects, like my “Readings From The Heart” exhibit, over a long duration. Half jokingly I replied “one bite at a time”. My joke is in reference to this saying I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall.

Seriously though when starting I create a general big picture, a kind of map for the entire project. Or, if you prefer, an outline. When I design a long project I do a hybrid blend of the two writing techniques: outlining and seat-of-pantsing. I apply these writing technique concepts to fine art making. I described in my last post what my big picture became for this exhibit that opens this week; the exhibit statement and the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. Here’s a few photos of the printed catalog. An ebook version is also available.

But when I began, more than 8 months ago, my big picture for this project was extremely vague. It was akin to a map of a forest without many details. It was akin to a book jacket blurb, with barely a teaser of what might be inside. It was akin to a writer’s outline with whole sections labeled ‘more research needed’.

My big picture map/ loose outline, was handwritten on a legal pad. Vague as it was it still served as a starting point. I keep a notebook/file box for each project so I can store all of my notes in one spot for easy updating and consultation as I work by the seat of my pants and a lots of “Very Small Goals” (VSG) for the project.

Then with the vague map in hand I identified some Very Small Goals (VSG) that would help me start and proceed on my project. These VSG’s can be as small as ‘buy a new art boards by Friday’. The VSG’s change as the process develops. The trick with VSG’s is to make them absurdly small, easily achievable and very specific – including what and when. It’s important to also find some way make each VSG fun.

I think of the creative life as an Eco-system rather than an Ego-system – what’s important is participating, showing up and finding ways to keep things fun. I can’t stress enough the importance of playing and keeping things fun. That makes creativity over a long project sustainable. Here’s another saying I have thumbtacked to my studio wall.

As I proceed to work I know many changes to my big picture/exhibit design will happen. I also know I don’t live in the big picture. I move organically back and forth from big, medium and small pictures of a project. It’s okay to be uncertain, to experiment and play. I just remember to update my big picture map as I have new thoughts. Slowly over time the picture map comes into focus. A project also changes as life happens.

In this case I began my Readings series well over 8 months ago. Then the pandemic happened and threw a monkey wrenchs in my plans. For example I had to suddenly adapt the way I was artistically inspired: to change from being inspired by things I experienced out in the world to a stay-at-home life, things that I read about or only happened in my imagination.

So to think through how to cope with the pandemic and quarantine I reread Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit, which I had created some time back, about mental health coping skills and wrote notes, drew pictures in my sketchbook in order to think.

I also worked daily in my sketchbook on the topic of how to adapt finding books to read, and the development of one’s mental life to a stay at home quarantine situation. Eventually this book was published as Another Sketchbook in order to share my entire process.

Being in quarantine meant cooking at home more so I consulted our Favorites So Far book. This is a sketchbook full of recipes that were enjoyable ways to feed body and mind. You could say that my work on these artist books/sketchbooks is the medium picture, the inset details within the bigger map, the more developed areas in the outline.

A look at the original sketchbook page which is included in Favorites So Far

All of this sketchbook work inspired my fine art, where I developed specific thoughts with ink and gouache on board. You can almost think of the fine art as the most visible leaves and fruits on the artist book “trees”. In the exhibit catalog I’ve tried to show the connections between the artist books and the fine art I created.

Sometimes, as the pandemic continued, the fine art on the topics of reading, cooking and thinking felt too serious. Needing some self comfort and to have some fun I began drawing portraits of dogs and cats. In order to organize these dog and cat drawings I decided to make them into a children’s book as a gift for some kids in our friends’ lives. Many of my adult friends enjoy my dog and cat portraits so I decided to share each pet portrait on my Instagram page as I finished it in hopes of cheering my friends as I created the kids book.

The finished artwork became an artist book titled Alphapets and was picked up by Storyberries.com. A sequel Alphapets Too followed. Many stories begin with love and an alphabet – so this portrait project felt fun, relaxed and like a small picture, a detailed map insert or a sample bit of text to be fitted into an outline. (In fact, I spoofed some of the pet portraits within my larger fine art paintings.) Here are the pages in the big picture book Readings From The Heart that tell about the smaller picture of Alphapets and how it fits in.

The original artwork for both Alphapets and Alphapets Too is on exhibit at the Aurora Gallery during August and September. More details about those projects here with lots of pictures of the artwork.

When all of the artist books and all of the artworks were finished I reread my notes and used those to create the exhibit statement I spoke of in my last post. I also used these notes to create the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. That was the very last thing I did for the August and September exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars, the Aurora Gallery and Caplan Art Designs. Well, the last thing besides the framing and art delivery.

Below is a photo of all of my artist books that relate to my Readings From The Heart exhibit. Additionally I’ve created a webpage with all of this projects more than 20 fine art pieces and details about each of the 3 exhibits here.

All 6 artist books related to the Readings From The Heart fine art exhibit

During this time period I was interviewed for a Doodlewash feature about my work in which I describe my working methods, the materials I use, how my daily work routine goes, images of my artwork, etc – you can see that here: https://doodlewash.com/sue-clancy-artist-whimsical-visual-stories/

Here’s a picture of me working in a sketchbook

Clancy at work in a sketchbook

I hope this look at how I work on long projects has been amusing for you. The exhibits open this week. Many of my upcoming Instagram posts will likely be about that. And I will update the above mentioned portfolio pages too.

Then next Monday when I post here I hope to be beginning a new long-ish project; an illustrated poem for a children’s book titled Numpurrs. I found I quite enjoyed the serialized posts I did for Alphapets and Alphapets Too. So I look forward to doing that again!

Chapter 2: Readings From The Heart

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The purpose of art, in my opinion, is to cheer people and help them through stuff. My creative challenge during a pandemic has been how to share art during stages of quarantine.

In my last post I described how I’m doing three fine art exhibits in two states, in August and September, during this pandemic. Normally art exhibits are large-gathering social events. The gathering part is canceled but the exhibits will go on. All of us are just being creative about it. One of my solutions to the how-to-share problem has been to create artist books that can be shipped directly to you from the printer. My goal with these exhibits has been to be practical and amusing… and I think artist books help me do that.

One of the books I’ve made is an exhibit catalog, Readings From The Heart, that has the big picture, so to speak, of all of my exhibits. I also created the tiny picture, two alphabet books for children.

And in between there are three of my other artist books that also relate to my exhibit – and to coping with a pandemic:

Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit (mental health coping skills)

Another Sketchbook – more drawings from the heart (developing ones mental, creative life)

Favorites So Far– a kitchen sketchbook (enjoyably feeding body and mind)

The six artist books related to “Readings From The Heart” an art exhibit by Clancy

In total I’ve made 6 artist books to help cheer you that relate to my recent artwork. Poking about on my website www.sueclancy.com gives you access to everything – including some free ebooks I’ve playfully half hidden on my site.

In typical times when I exhibit art I write a short statement about it. The statement is used by the gallery for promoting the exhibit. In pre-pandemic times the statement would also be put on the gallery wall to serve as an explanation of my motivation for all of the art. People would walk up and read it. I would also be at the opening parties answering questions and talking with people. But since that’s not happening this year I put it all in my books – but in a much less formal way.

Even so here’s what I wrote for this exhibit spanning three galleries and two states: “Readings from the Heart
– It’s been a strange pandemic. Until recently I drew in my sketchbook from what I would see in the real world as I “ran around loose” in Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest. The pandemic altered that. As I stayed home, I began drawing people and animals more directly from my heart; from memory and imagination. This led to acknowledging that I deeply missed the local coffee shops, the winery, the pubs, the great the library, the bookstores, the museums, the gardens, the zoo… So, I began to experiment with how to adapt what it was that I enjoyed out in the world to this new “at home” life. This exhibit, and the artist books that accompany it, are my heart and mind’s adaption process.”

Because I have more space in my various artist books I went into more intimate details of what I was thinking and feeling – including cooking recipes and self-therapy techniques. I used a more conversational tone in my books as if you and I were chatting at an opening.

Favorites So Far – a kitchen sketchbook
One of the original sketchbook pages from Favorites So Far
A page from Favorites So Far
Another page from Favorites So Far

The galleries – Aurora GalleryBurnt Bridge CellarsCaplan Art Designs – will have photos and possibly video from my exhibits on their various social media and websites. Of course I’ve been sharing online too. Speaking of – here below is more of my artwork that relates to the topics within my artist books mentioned above.

Coffee To Go by Clancy
Sacred Dance of The Stewpot by Clancy
Pie In The Sky by Clancy
Midnight In The Garden Of Goode And Weeval by Clancy
The Way Of All Fresh by Clancy

As you can tell food, drinks and books are themes. I find it a useful mental health coping skill to be able to focus on small pleasures, to be able to experience subtle enjoyments.

You can see much more of the artwork from my exhibits on my portfolio page. I hope it all makes you smile at least a little.

Here’s a pic of me working in gouache and ink on the largest painting.

Sue Clancy at work on “The Way Of All Fresh”