what is art for and 3 ways to find out

A Creative Life, animals in art, artistic inspirations, mental health, Sustainable creativity

Professional artist’s ask themselves “what is art for?” and answer it for themselves because that helps us know why we’re doing what they are doing. And knowing this helps you keep on course.

Here’s a sketchbook page from a time when I was examining this question:

ArtGenresPurpose

For me “art is for” good mental health practice – and to provoke a smile, a chuckle.  To quote from my book Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit “When a negative thought enters your mind just say (inwardly) ‘STOP’. It’s your brain, your mind and you have every right to think the thoughts you want…. Don’t let a negative thought ever finish its sentence…. How many ‘STOP’s are enough? As many as it takes. It is also helpful to keep a list of positive things that you enjoy thinking about or doing, like books/reading, walking… going to art exhibits… playing tennis… and after inwardly saying ‘STOP’ switch your focus to something positive and enjoyable.” (https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit)

So my goal as a professional artist became to create fine art, books and other objects that are positive and enjoyable for other people to see – switch focus to – and that are also  positive and enjoyable for me to create.  I decided that the genres of “animal painting” and “genre painting” best fit this goal.  For short I call this goal to “feed the good wolf”.

To make sure you know what I mean by that here’s a cartoon excerpt from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”

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

But how exactly did I get to a defined goal, a “purpose” for my art?

  1. I went to lots of art galleries and museums. I read a lot of books. I listened to other people talk about what they enjoyed. Anywhere and everywhere I went I made a quick note of what interested me or fed my “good wolf” in a book that I kept with me at all times.
  2. I looked for art supplies and other opportunities to “test the theory” of whether or not something really did feed my good wolf. For example at one time I thought creating sculpture would be “good wolf food” for me – but I discovered that it was too physically difficult and in the process of creating sculpture I ended up cursing a lot. So after some time spent trying metal sculpture I nixed that one from the “good wolf food” list.
  3. I played with the genres and arts categories while making a note of my responses emotionally, physically, mentally.  By “play” I mean I casually went to art exhibits,  looked at objects in a store or on-line that fit the genre/category, I tried the genres at home and all the while I noted my gut response – did it feed my ‘good wolf’? Did it make me smile and want to “share it” in some way with a person I love? What is it about that art/object that excites me? Then I list those qualities and pursue them in my own projects!  (As I mentioned above it turned out that the animals-in-art genre fit me well!)

Speaking of projects –  here’s a very new project for me that fits with my “feed good wolves” goal: I’ve begun designing for iPhone cases, Laptop skins, wall clocks, comforters and many other tech and household objects. (If you noticed that these items fit in the genres of  ‘animals in art”, ‘genre painting’ and ‘media arts’ you get a gold star sticker!)  The link to my newest project: https://society6.com/sueclancy – and here below are a few examples.

 

art book pet peeves

A Creative Life, animals in art, artist book, artistic inspirations, Dogs in Art, words and pictures

I love books about art including books about individual artists. But I wonder why they’re often the size of a coffee table and weigh as much as a Rottweiler. Why such dense prose in tiny fonts?  So when making my own art books I go for a light-weight book design and few words.

Take my recent book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” for example. It’s 8.5 x 11 inches when closed. And it weighs about 5 ounces. There are 245 words total. And that includes the ISBN info.

You can read my book while holding it in the air above the dog (or cat) currently sleeping on your lap.

Here’s a link with more info about the book: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dogs-By-Sue-Clancy

Here are some pictures of “Dogs by Sue Clancy”.

And I’m  sure my long time fans will also recognize that in my art book titled “Coffee Table Book” that I played with my whole heavy-coffee-table-size book peeve by deliberately making an art book for smart-phones. More about that here: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/coffee-table-book

Yours in being able to read a book about art without needing a hoist or crane.

new Clancy pattern designs

A Creative Life, Art Apparel, Art Licensing, artistic inspirations

Here are images of my newly finished scarf and bag designs intended for the amusement of teachers (and students and people who enjoy language and numbers) – and both designs were inspired by teachers.  My most recent blog post on my website tells “how and why I made this” details.  https://sueclancy.com/2017/02/06/art-messes-math-mistakes-and-teachers/ 

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scarf design by Clancy – the original pattern is created by hand-drawing letters in ink. That pattern is custom printed on modal fabric https://www.shopvida.com/collections/sue-clancy

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bag design by Clancy – the original pattern is created by hand-drawing numbers in ink. That pattern is custom printed https://www.shopvida.com/collections/sue-clancy

You can see my full pattern design collection here: https://www.shopvida.com/collections/sue-clancy

art messes math mistakes and teachers

A Creative Life, Art Apparel, Art Licensing, artistic inspirations, pattern design

I’ve had the cold/flu/crud for the last week. I’m feeling better now and wanted to “do something creative”. Trouble is I still suddenly sneeze and cough so using sharp xacto knives, loaded ink brushes and glue laden papers is more hazardous and messy than usual. What to do?

Then I thought – I know several teachers who have this cold/flu/crud too. What could I make that might amuse teachers? Perhaps make them feel a wee bit better? After some further thought I grabbed my felt-tip pens and have been creating pattern designs that will end up on a scarf and or a tote bag.

Here’s a photo of my pattern design work in progress.

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After I snapped the above photo I saw my math mistake. Do you see it?

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I did! And fixed it. Hugs and thanks to math teachers everywhere!

Now I’ll do need to do the digital hocus pocus needed to submit my designs to the apparel company I work with in San Francisco California.

But I’ll try to get some rest first.

You can see my full studio pattern design collection via this link: http://www.shopvida.com/collections/sue-clancy

just looking and artist details

A Creative Life, animals in art, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, psychogeography, published art, Sue Draws Dogs, words and pictures

I’ve recently read a book about Balthus, a Polish – French artist painting in the late 20th century. He was convinced that the biographical details about a painter were not essential to the study of art. He objected to the wordiness of art books and said that a book about his artwork should be a book of pictures not a book of words about pictures.

When someone asked Balthus for biographical details he replied in a telegram:  “No biographical details. Begin: Balthus is a painter of whom nothing is known. Now let us look at the pictures. Regards. B.”

In many ways I share his viewpoint; let the pictures stand alone! Just look! Let each viewer’s own thoughts become the words attached to the art. This is part of why my most recent art book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” is largely wordless. Only 245 words and most of those words are in the very back of the book.

And yet I’m very aware that most people when looking at art also look for something that gives them a clue about what they are looking at – who created this? why? how?

I think some biographical details about the artist can also be helpful clues about the artwork. Art creation is a product of living one’s life and processing it via ones artwork – that includes an artist’s geographical location and era.  For example I came to the art genre of “animals/dogs in art” because of living for a time in Oklahoma where many people assume that climate change is a hoax. Many in Oklahoma have an anthropocentric view of the world, meaning that they see human culture is separate from, above and the whole point of the existence of nature. Humans are the most important being, nature is not important, nature is only for human use.

I did not and do not share that view. I see humans and nature as co-relational. Humans, animals and plants need each other. We are bringing forth the world together.

So I began, over 20 years ago now, to create anthropomorphic artworks depicting a merger of animals and human culture. All species and breeds are included.  Though I have periods when I focus on one species, like I’m doing now with my dogs, my work generally includes a range of life forms.  Even as I’ve worked within the “dogs in art” genre I’ve carefully tried to include a wide diversity of colors and sizes of dogs.  Metaphorically I’m illustrating that we are all in this life together.

Now that I live happily in the Pacific Northwest my artwork has taken on a joy that it didn’t have before. I am still doing my anthropomorphic art-style but my colors, shapes, lines, patterns have changed, my compositions have expanded, there’s more variety/diversity, more humor, there are even more dogs in my artwork and more pleasantness. Here in the culture of the Pacific Northwest there is a celebration of and careful care given to the co-existence of humans and nature. I’ve been learning even more about the relationship between humans and the natural world.  I think some of my thinking is reflected in my new book. In fact I’m not sure I would have created this book if I still lived in Oklahoma…

But enough with the words! Let us now look at a few of the artworks in “Dogs by Sue Clancy” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dogs-By-Sue-Clancy :

 

 

art to art

A Creative Life, artist book, books, Dogs in Art, published art

In my last blog post (link here) I talked a bit of my personal list of “9 ways to make more art” and after posting I realized that I could have added a 10th one: Take a past art project that was enjoyable and “add a thought” to it, re-do it in a new context.  This could be called “working to a theme” but I think of it like Jazz music – a call and response conversational play on a melody.

For example recently I took some concepts from my book “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”, spun them around my cerebral tumbler and created a new one-of-a-kind artist book.  My new book is titled “Stories We Could Live Inside – Or Not (A house is a framework for physical life. Language is a framework for mental life.)”

Here is a photo of it in-progress. You can see a print copy of my “Dr. Bob…First Aid Kit” book beside my new work-in-progress.

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My work in progress – taking a few concepts from my book “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” and playing with them again. https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit

Here’s some of what I was thinking as I worked on this new book:

During the original “First Aid Book” book work I was in regular contact with Dr. Bob Hoke – and in our many conversations he’d talked about how his role as a psychiatrist was to get inside his patients small-world mental boxes, the life-limitations they had accepted without consciously realizing it, and slowly expand the sides of the box, make a door or window in the box – something so that the patient could choose to find a way out. He spoke of how stories are mental structures, much the way houses are physical ones. However stories are something we live inside often without thinking that they are “stories” – optional social constructions – because habitual language forms the framework of our daily habits of mind, our attitudes and ways of responding to the world. A house is a framework for physical life. Language is a framework for mental life. The kinds of houses we live in can affect the quality of our life. Similarly the stories we tell ourselves and each other can affect the quality of our life – for either good or ill – if we accept and believe them.

I thought of all of this during several of my regular morning ‘creative appointments’ with myself before the day gets started. I wrote out my thoughts on scraps of paper and in my sketchbooks. You can see some of those scraps in the picture above.  I made book dummies. I sketched ways to organize my thoughts into book form. I decided to use dogs are as character-actors in “Stories We Could Live Inside Or Not” because for me dogs represent a joyful exuberance at being alive. I sketched dogs.  And I decided on a paper-house shape…

It took me probably a month or more of “creative appointments” where I’d work a bit on this “Stories we could…” idea; getting it, developing it, refining it, experimenting with the various artwork parts of it.  The rest of my work days were devoted to 6 or so hours worth of work on my other creative projects… and the other stuff of life.  When my “Stories we could…” ideas had “gelled” to a certain point and I felt I needed more time to work on the project I scheduled a few concentrated times, more time than my typical “creative appointment” time allotment had been, to work on it. A few sessions like that and I finished the book! Another scheduled time session and I submitted it for consideration by the 23 Sandy Gallery. www.23sandy.com 

Here is a video of the final book “Stories we could live inside… or not”

going to the dogs

A Creative Life, animals in art, artistic inspirations, books, dog portrait, Sue Draws Dogs

I’ve been asked “how do you get your ideas for your dog drawings?” I begin by thinking of something pleasant. This “something pleasant” has often been noted previously in one of my sketchbooks. The pleasantness can be a drink I enjoyed, a bowl of soup, a game, a book… anything I remember as being particularly “pleasant”. You can see some of my sketchbook pages on my “sketchbooks” page on my website https://sueclancy.com/sketchbooks/

Once the “something pleasant” topic has been found I need a character to help me describe that topic.

Lately I’ve been finding dogs a good representative actors. Breed characteristics can add content to my story… for example when I was remembering the pleasantness of hearing a street musician play I chose a Basset Hound to be the musician character. I thought that fit because that breed can be a vocal sort but in a good-sounding way. At least ones I’ve met in person have been.  You can see the dog drawing I’m talking about by looking for “Pickles” on my dog portraits webpage. https://sueclancy.com/dog-portraits/

Sometimes I see a dog on one of my walks and make sketches on location. Then back at the studio, I want to draw that dog breed better so I think of “something pleasant” that may fit with that dog and try drawing again but this time using my ink methods on good quality paper.

When I’m too busy to go out where the dogs are likely to be seen during a walk (i.e. it’s too snowy/rainy) I’ll flip through a photography book about dogs looking for a breed to characterize in a way that helps me describe non-verbally my “something pleasant”.

By now I’ve drawn enough dogs from real-life sources (can you say “dog park”?) that i can work decently from a photograph – using the photo primarily as a memory aid for specifics about a dog breed.

Here’s some recent dog-related photography books I’ve used as resource material.

dogbooks72

A few resource books for Sue Clancy’s dog drawings.

Perhaps you’re wondering why I think of “something pleasant” when drawing dogs. After all there’s so much that is wrong with the world, so much to be upset about…war, poverty, injustice, fake news….

To answer quickly: focusing on pleasant things feeds the good wolves. A small drawing is not the best place to outline a social problem and propose any policy solution.

A small drawing is a place for solace, love and comfort.

You can see more about this “feed the good wolves” philosophy of mine in my book “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” on the artist book webpage https://sueclancy.com/artist-books/

animals in my art

A Creative Life, animals in art, art commissions, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, Authors, psychogeography, visual story

Last evening I was looking up something in a book called “Drawing Masterclass” and I read this (again): “Animals as subject matter for the visual arts have a longer history than any other subject. The first images drawn by the human race depicted the animals that were hunted for survival [cave paintings]…. There is no period in art when animals have not played a major role.”

In my fine art animals become characters; my creative process is much like the way a novelist creates a character, a compilation of authorial thoughts and observations  – a “collage” of them you might say – merged into one person/character within their story. I create anthropomorphic animal characters because I see humans as part of the natural world and the natural world as part of humanity.  I’m inspired by both nature and culture.

So when I do animal portraits, people are there too.  When I do a portrait of a particular dog, for example, a particular person (someone, or several someone’s I saw in real life) is also reflected.  It becomes a visual story of that animal and that person. I define “story” as a plot where there is some surprise. The surprise in one of my visual stories might be the realization of how a human can be like a dachshund.

For example in my artwork titled “Happy Hour” (see image below) inside I sometimes feel happy and excited like my dachshund Rusty looks when he is bouncing around wagging his tail and dancing for his supper. (Places and objects enter in to my visual story creation too but that’s another discussion.)

My gallery agents often explain to clients that I create (as special commissions) portraits of pets as their pet owners; an imaginative merging of pet and person.  And that’s true.

Here, so you can see what I’m talking about, are some of my animal portraits currently available at either Caplan Art Designs www.caplanartdesigns.com and at Joseph Gierek Fine Art www.gierek.com  – please contact each gallery for more details.

fun art at Joe’s

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, artistic inspirations, fine art

Here are two of my fine artworks that were recently shipped to Joseph Gierek Fine Art http://www.gierek.com/sueclancy – these pieces and more will be in an upcoming exhibit opening Dec 1!!  Joe, the owner of Joseph Gierek Fine Art encouraged me to do more of my “free associative” paintings – and boy did I have fun!  Several of these new ones are inspired by music. Others were inspired by helium balloons or my questions about how the stars got in the sky… you can click the above link to see my other artworks currently at Joe’s.  Have fun!  (And yes, art shipped to the gallery – can be shipped anywhere – just contact the gallery ….)

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“Cool Licks” By Sue Clancy 6 x 6 x 2 inches hand dyed paper, handmade paste paper, found paper and acrylic on cradled board

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“Pour Me A Song” By Sue Clancy 6 x 6 x 2 inches hand dyed paper, handmade paste paper, found paper and acrylic on cradled board

 

keeping it creative

A Creative Life, artistic inspirations, sketchbook

One question I get asked; “how do you stay inspired creatively” especially when you spend 8 or more hours a day working on art projects? My short answer is “make time to artistically play, everyday”.

I try to draw every day something that “catches my eye” – something that at the time I’m drawing it has no relation to any art project I’m currently working on, it’s not being done for money or for any purpose. It’s just for fun – and that qualifies it as “play”. These are quickie drawings that take no more than a few minutes, accuracy, neatness are not concerns. Having fun, being observant and responsive to the world around me are the main things.

Sometimes what catches my eye is my lunch. Or some product seen in a store –  like the eye shades intended as a sleep aid that actually looked like small bra’s. Sometimes it’s something someone said that gets “illustrated”. Here’s a sketchbook page example of these 3 kinds of “play-times”:

 

ZeusCafeTheEyebra

page from “Coffee, Table, Book” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/coffee-table-book