The ants the wetlands and the wild books

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, book design and layout, books, children's book, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, fine art, household surrealism, miniature art, Odditerrarium, poetry, sketchbook, Storyberries, visual thinking, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

In our neighborhood we joke that western Washington is built on a giant anthill. Each spring we all battle ants outside our houses before they can invade indoors. The first hint is a mound of dirt where there wasn’t one before. Like this one on the edge of our patio.

I lifted the bricks and put the ant bait directly on the fascinating ant farm-tunnel construction then covered the bait with the bricks again and swept away the dirt on the brick edges. Of course I had a good look at the way the ants collected and organized  the dirt before I did my acts of destruction.

When ants are found indoors I use a solution of vinegar and Dawn dishwashing soap to clean the area where ants were seen. The non-poison solution is in a spray bottle and it quite effectively kills and deters ants. Between the outdoor/indoor methods the ant activity is usually successfully managed.

After doing some ant battle outdoors I came inside, looked at my bookshelves and realized how many anthologies I have: collections of poetry, short stories, essays… In one set of bookshelves alone I counted over 25 anthologies. There are still more on other shelves. I have an anthology infestation and I’m keeping it!!

For the first time I saw that there’s an “ant” in the word anthology – so I grabbed a dictionary, a scrap of paper and made a list… and with that list I have begun a new children’s book for Storyberries. I’m using a collage of letterpress letters from Columbia Gorge Book Arts and drawing ants in ink. Both my handwritten list and the beginning of the new book are in the photo below.

In case you have trouble reading my handwriting here’s the list…

Anthology: [a gathering] collections, often varied authors, of a similar literary form or topic or time period (in my last post I listed a few anthologies about the Beat Generation)

Ant farms: [a gathering and a structure] a colony of ants constructing a dwelling

Holo: a word element meaning whole or entire

Alphabet: [a structure] a set of letters to be arranged in a customary order. A structure  of language

Hology: [a relationship] – a general relationship  between reality and it’s content

Besides musing about words my wife and I went for a walk in the Steigerwald Wildlife Refuge with our binoculars. I saw the purple blue grey colors of a great blue heron up close! I didn’t realize the extent of the purplish tints to the heron feathers.  We saw lots of other wildlife too – including smiling friendly humans!

During our walk I kept thinking of a work of fiction I had read long ago that had a musician character who sang “Oh I’ll cry when the wetlands are dry”. The wetlands were a character in the story too as I recalled.

I also vaguely recalled some phrases about birds and wetlands from Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry.  But these were fleeting snatches of phrases half-remembered like wild birds glimpsed in the pond reeds.

When we were home I rummaged in my books for where the “Oh, I’ll cry when the wetlands are dry” phrase originated. Turns out it came from “With A Tangled Skein” by Piers Anthony. I had an enjoyable hunt for wetlands in this title too…

The half-remembered phrases from Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver: “I am hardly an ornithologist nevertheless I live among the birds…” (from Leavings by Berry)  and “The labor of writing poems, of working with thought and emotion (or is it the wings?) of language, is strange to nature, for we are first of all creatures of motion.” (from Upstream by Mary Oliver)

I also saw and heard some of the Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry poems about wetlands on this Wisconsin Wetland site https://www.wisconsinwetlands.org/wetland-words/

But since I live in Washington state I went looking for some wetlands related poetry from local writers. Here’s what I found from Salish Magazine a publication located in Washington state https://salishmagazine.org/issue-9-art-poetry/

In the mornings I was still thinking about the herons and the ants so they’re in my sketchbook pages. And it’s been fun sharing my sketchbook pages via email on my new Substack https://sueclancy.substack.com/

Speaking of slurping… I made a yummy fettuccine recipe using spinach and green herbs from our garden: garlic chives, green onion and basil. Here’s the recipe:

https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/fettuccine-with-green-herbs

I also did a Reel this week about my Odditerrarium book and exhibit…  https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cejq5Lap2mI/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

This is the challenge for me – remembering  to promote the project I finished and is currently in public like Odditerrarium. Often I finish something and I’m on to the next project right away … like my “Ant Hology” book now in progress! So, more on that book next week.

I hope your week is pleasant. See you next Monday.

a familiar unfamilar language

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, Dogs in Art, fine art, illustrated shorts, illustration, magic realism, mundane and magical moments, reading in art, story, visual thinking, words and pictures

My friend and neighbor, who has two grandchildren under the age of 2, was showing me a vintage toy that was purchased for the kids; a red and blue ball with shaped holes in it, with the yellow-block shapes inside the ball. You pull open the ball, the yellow-shape blocks spill out and you can put the blocks back inside the ball by matching the block shape and the hole shape.

At the time I was working on an illustration and was stumped for the “language” that the space alien creature would be speaking. The “language” in my artwork would need to somehow imply the ways the content of a book can “fit” with or resonate with a reader.

My conversation with my neighbor helped – creative problem solved!!

TakeMeToYourReader

 

yarns heard around the world

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, Dogs in Art, fine art, magic realism, mundane and magical moments, reading in art, visual thinking

I realized recently that the “bedtime story” ritual, for both children and adults, is nearly universal across cultures. While there is scientific evidence (see links here and here) that reading printed books before bed can help you sleep and provide other benefits – for me it’s plain indulgence.  Naturally bedtime-reading is subject matter for one of my artworks that will be included in an upcoming exhibit in September at Caplan Art Designs:

YarnsHeardAroundTheWorldSM

Yarns Heard Around The World – by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – ink, gouache on board

For fun as I created this piece I combined my thoughts about bedtime reading with the concepts of teams and coaches…. counting sheep is a world-wide sport. Right? Lol!

party pointers and books in art

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, artistic inspirations, Books In Art, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, drinks in art, fine art, reading in art, visual thinking

I’ve been thinking about cookbooks and bartending books. And parties. It’s becoming the season here in the Pacific Northwest for drinks with friends outside on patios and decks.

On one of my walks I saw a beautiful Pointer dog. The dog dovetailed with my thoughts about bartending books which give “pointers” – pun intended – for drink mixing.

Here’s the painting those thoughts inspired – titled “Party Pointers”.

PartyPointers72

Party Pointers by Clancy – 16 x 20 inches – acrylic on board

As I’ve been doing with this “readers series”, my body of work for my upcoming one-person exhibit at Burnt Bridge Cellars, in the background of “Party Pointers” I’ve spoofed several of my own still life paintings. You can see a few of the original still lifes here and I’ll post some over on my Instagram page.

Hope you’ll also get to sit outside and have an adult beverage with a fun companion or two!

Cheers!

reading and mutts in art

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, artistic inspirations, Books In Art, creative thinking, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, fine art, food in art, reading in art, still life, visual story, visual thinking

On one of my walks near the Columbia River I had the pleasure of seeing, then meeting, a mutt. She was a beautiful white and buff longhaired dog, larger than a Labrador, stockier than a Greyhound and hairier than a Golden Retriever. I asked the owner what breed she was and the owner didn’t know. The dog and human had rescued each other. The dog was friendly, beautiful and let me make drawings of her in my sketchbook.

Fast forward to my currently in progress reading and books in art series – and the wonderful mutt I’d met made an appearance:

MeditationsForTheMetrosexualMutt72

“Meditations For The Metrosexual Mutt” by Clancy – 16 x 20 inches – acrylic on cradled board – image copyright 2019

Yes, in “Meditations For The Metrosexual Mutt” I’ve spoofed a famous painting by James Whistler along with two of my own still life paintings. If you look at the titles I’ve used for each of my paintings you’ll get a hint about my theme…

LifesABowlOfCherriesStemsPitsAndAll72

“Life’s a bowl of cherries, stems pits and all” – by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – acrylic and gouache on board

The still life, pictured below, is on the deep cradled edge of “Meditations for the Metrosexual Mutt”, where it will only be seen if you’re able to see my work in person.

Gala72

“Gala” by Clancy – acrylic and gouache on board

The selection of Whistler’s famous painting to spoof was deliberate as the art history around Whistler’s work is part of my meditation on life, beginnings, origin stories etc.

I imagined that the dog in my painting is reading a book titled “Meditations For The Metrosexual Mutt” – which is why I used that as the title for my work.

As you can tell I’m still thinking about “nesting ideas” and stories within stories…

 

 

reading and books in art

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, artist book, artistic inspirations, Books In Art, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, fine art, food in art, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures

I’ve begun a new series of fine art pieces intended for exhibits later this year. (Yes, I’ve a deadline dragon) And I’ve been thinking of how when I walk into a library or bookstore I feel like I’m entering a galaxy.  Words and ideas that are interrelated with other words and ideas, like an array of planets and stars, or like nesting dolls or stuffed vegetables.

Also in my thoughts; the way I can experience something first hand but when I read about that same experience in a book I have a delightful momentary shock of recognition and I better understand my experience.

So I’m exploring these thoughts, as best I can, within my new series.

Here’s one of my new pieces:

GoodSmellsAMemoirOfALifelongPursuit72

“Good Smells: A Memoir of A Lifelong Pursuit” by Clancy – image copyright Sue Clancy 2019

You’ll notice, I’m sure, the “nesting” ideas of the coffee and mints. There’s a real still life, also by me, which is spoofed within the above painting that I will also include in my upcoming exhibit. I love the idea that a viewer could find the real-life painting that is referred to within another painting – sort of a “find the image” puzzle exhibit.

Here’s a picture of the still life referred to in the painting above:

AfterDinner72

“After Dinner” by Clancy – copyright Sue Clancy 2019

I’m also thinking it’ll be fun to also include at least one artist book version of an imaginary book depicted in one of my paintings – so the viewer could look at the painting and then leaf through a copy of the book depicted in the painting. But we’ll have to see how that works out.

Posting progress as I go… thanks for staying tuned.

 

on seeing story stuff

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artistic inspirations, fine art, still life, visual story

Beauty and wisdom are all around us if we’re attuned to look for them. Like a mystery story detective looking for clues we train our eyes to “see” what is there. This is partially a function of he way our brains work. We see what we expect to see. How broad or narrow that expectation is affects what we will see. It’s all too easy to “see” only to-do lists and drudgery in daily life.  It’s too easy to “see” beauty only in dramatic once-in-a-lifetime vacation places. Yet our view can be broadened so we can see beauty in the fruit at the local market – and find wisdom on our coffee cup.

I see my job as an artist as a practice of seeing beauty in ordinary places and things; of telling the stories of the beauty and the wisdom I find. To help others to see the beauty too.

Beauty and wisdom can be too easily ignored, lost and forgotten – and when that happens life can seem dull and drudgery filled.  This is why we need to constantly train our eyes and minds to look around our mundane lives and see the beauty, the wisdom. It takes repeated practice. It takes detective work.

Dr. Bob Hoke (the psychiatrist I illustrated a book for) had a phrase for this phenomenon of the mind “When the student is ready the teacher will appear. And sometimes the teacher has been there all along waiting patiently for the student to become ready, to notice and remember to notice again the next day.”

Here are some beautiful ordinary things I remembered to see – and what I thought about them:

LifesABowlOfCherriesStemsPitsAndAll72

“Life’s a bowl of cherries, stems pits and all” – by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – acrylic and gouache on board

Life’s A Bowl Of Cherries, Stems, Pits and All – At the farmer’s market during Rainier Cherry season I saw a father teaching his very young son how to pull a stem off, chew the cherry, extract the pit and put the stim and pit into a cup. it reminded me of how we have to be taught how to deal with the adversities in life, how to cope with the pits, how to focus on and remember to enjoy the good things.

CoffeeCity72

“Coffee City” – by Clancy – 5 x 7 inches – acrylic and gouache on board

Coffee City – I’ve been thinking of how much our lives are reflected in the objects we own, save, give away or dispose of – and the many mundane moments out of which a life is made. Perhaps choosing carefully what we focus on, choosing what encourages our “better angels”, choosing what becomes mundane is what makes for a good life.  These thoughts began when I was having coffee in one of my downtown coffee shops, staring at the highly polished surface of the ceramic coffee cup which reflected the surrounding city-scape. It was an ordinary moment that elevated my spirit. So I made this painting in order to remember.

You can see more art examples from this exhibit in my recent posts here and here.

More info about my upcoming art opening is available on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/events/2217205128523609/

True confessions: since the opening party is tomorrow night I am having a bit of the “will anyone come?” jitters. No matter that I’ve been having one person exhibits for many years, many times a year, or that all events have for the most part been well attended – even knowing all of that as opening night nears I get a little nervous. (“Will anyone else see….?”)  The exhibits matter to me. They’re risky on many levels. That’s part of the exhilarating fun of living the artistic life.

So, yes, I can see the beauty in my nervousness.

Mostly.

 

birthday book

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It’s my birthday so you get a present! Because you’re a regular reader of my posts, here is a free downloadable e-book copy of my “Running Around Loose” sketchbook. It’s a pdf file, click RunningLooseVanEd1byClancy to download the book for free (it’s a birthday gift!). I’ll include a few sample pages in this post so you’ll have some clues as to what you’ll get when you open the file. Enjoy! And thanks again for looking at my stuff!

Now please pass the strawberries and whipped cream.

RiverwalkJavaHouse

HouseConcert

McMenamins

SavonaCoffeeRiverwalk

pages from “Running Around Loose in Vancouver WA” by Clancy

Oh yes – you can find more of my artist books here: https://sueclancy.com/shop/  and here: https://sueclancy.com/artist-books/

the stories behind the cats

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, artistic inspirations, cat portrait, Cats in art, fine art, visual thinking, words and pictures

This coming Friday, June 1st at Burnt Bridge Cellars my cat portrait exhibit “Purrsuits of Pleasure” opens. Because I don’t think artistic inspiration needs to be mysterious I include the story behind each art piece. The text illustrates, so to speak, my visual images.

Here are some of the artworks in the exhibit:

And here are some of the stories that illustrate them as they’ll be posted on the walls in the exhibit (of course readers of my blog have seen more details than what’s included below… but then you’re special):

Purrfecting Happy Hour by Clancy

I’m part of a feral happy-hour group; between 7 and 14 of us get together once a month somewhere local for happy hour. Often the trays of drinks that arrive at our table look like a collection of fine jewels.

Purrameters of Pie by Clancy

In several local cafés, bistros and pizzerias I’ve discovered that I can get either a savory or sweet pie of almost any size: small hand-pies, “personal” pies, pie slices, medium and large pies and “family size” pies. The trouble is deciding which size to get.

Strad O’Various by Clancy

Going to music events during the winter is a delightful way to combat any “rainy-day blues”. This last winter I particularly enjoyed seeing the crowd, and some musicians, bustling in for a concert in their colorful coats and scarves.

Cat A List by Clancy

Wine tastings – and being friends with Mark at Burnt Bridge Cellars – have opened my eyes to the subtle differences between wines from one year to the next, how type of grape, the weather, water and soil affect the flavors. Small things can be a catalyst.

Alpha Betty by Clancy

The local libraries and bookstores are, for me, a large treasure-toy box. Which got me thinking of how we select books according to our interests. The libraries and bookstores also have books available in a wide variety of languages – and its fun to see them too. This got me to thinking about the alphabet. Each language has its own – and when we say “the alphabet” we immediately think of our native tongue whatever it is. Likewise, when we think of “good books” we think in terms of our own interests and preferences. But when we’re aware of bi-lingual people and the multiplicity of this world – perhaps we are better able to remember that our languages and personal preferences are just frames of reference. And that frames are adjustable.   So what frame of reference would a cat have? A mouse obsessed one of course!

Purrfect Entertainment by Clancy

My friend Kevin and I were talking about local music, feral cats and handmade musical instruments. Specifically, we talked about the “found object” instruments we were both aware of in the Southeastern parts of the U.S. – guitars made out of cigar boxes or banjos from cookie tins. Our conversation drove me to the library to research “handmade music instruments in the Pacific Northwest”.  I discovered a long tradition of using local wood scraps to hand-craft musical instruments. The native woodgrain was often a prominent decoration. These instruments were works of art not at all like the “found object” instruments of the SE.  I also discovered that here in the PNW playing music in public, on porches, patios, anywhere outdoors was, and still is, the norm during “nice” weather. There has also been a strong connection between music, food and community no matter what the weather. But I could only get so much into one painting.