Hedgehogs, foxes, reading and making meaning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emotions, exhibits, drawings and books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hot times, cold tea, teaching and learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art supplies, art exhibits and self-care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning almost anything and the magic dance

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, business of art, fine art, mental health, Odditerrarium, Sustainable creativity

Dancing smoothly nowadays as I near time to deliver all 20 of my Odditerrarium artworks for exhibit via Caplan Art Designs which opens in June at Burnt Bridge Cellars.

All 20 artworks are finished. In progress is the framing, the exhibit paperwork, the delivery and the social media about it all. An artist’s work is never done…it’s a lot like a cooks work that way.

But here’s one of my paintings titled “Learning Almost Anything”. Like the others in my Odditerrarium series it is 10 x 8 inches, created with ink, gouache and collage on board.

Here’s a closer view so you can see what this dog is thinking.

Doing fine art exhibits, like writing for publication, requires both being organized and resisting tempting parking spots. I have two phrases thumbtacked to my studio wall to help me remember.

When I began my Odditerrarium painting series in 2021 I did enough planning in my sketchbook that I knew the sizes I wanted to work in. I created 5 or so of the paintings to see if my series idea had legs. Then over a month ago I ordered frames from the Aurora Gallery. The frames are made by hand and that takes time.  The first box of frames is in my studio ready for action. A second box of frames is due soon.

Now that creation of the paintings is done I set up a system, a working routine, so that I don’t wear out my hand doing the varnishing or framing processes.

Elsewhere in my blog I’ve talked about working in short bursts as a way to make time, energy and the financial components of a creative life sustainable. This is true too of the varnish and frame stage.

More than a month ago I also ordered the cans of varnish I knew I’d need along with a few other art supplies from my local Artist and Craftsman. My dachshund supervisor made sure the order was correct when it came.

Now my daily routine includes a “spray two frame two” dance. It goes like this: just before lunch I take two paintings to my garage where I spray a coat of varnish. Then we have lunch. After lunch I spray another coat of varnish on those same two paintings. Here’s a photo of me in the respirator mask I use when I spray varnish.

Those just varnished paintings stay out in the garage the rest of the day. When I quit working for the day, around dinner time, I bring them into the studio and put them on the easel to finish drying. In the photo below you see two just-varnished paintings on my easel. To the right of the easel is a framing station. My painting supplies are still out because there are other projects in progress just to the left of this photo. There are other creative projects that get a short burst of work each day so that’s another reason why the just-varnished stay out in the garage till the day is done.

Here are two getting framed. Having the varnished art on the easel puts them within easy reach of my frame station. Doing the varnishing around lunchtime the previous day means that by the time they get put into frames 24 or so hours have passed and the varnish is completely dry.

Besides checking in the new art supplies my dachshund supervisor also oversees the framing. He’s very busy, perhaps more busy than usual lately, but like I do, he paces himself so that it’s sustainable.

Like the quote thumbtacked just above the light switch in the photo below says about dancing and magic happening, being organized doesn’t guarentee smoothly run projects. (Another mantra I use often: “Nothing has to go right today”) Organization gives my projects a sporting chance to be sustainable, it gives me the possibility of meeting deadlines with a smile. Besides I deeply despise chaos and rushing about so I prefer to pace myself (and dance) at a calm speed.

And I treasure time each day to read and learn almost anything.

I hope your week goes at your preferred pace. Take care of yourself. See you next Monday.

Fine art, books and similarities between art and writing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the cow went over the moon, a dragon and got books that were banned

A Creative Life, animals in art, art gallery, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, cat portrait, Cats in art, ebook, fine art, handmade books, handmade papers, humor in art, illustrated poem, miniature art, Narrative Art, pet portraits, poetry, printed books, publications - publishing, published art, whimsical art, wordless story, words and pictures

In my last post I shared my methods of making the original artist books “How The Cow Went Over The Moon” and “Tiny Notes”.  The handmade original one-of-a-kind books are the basis for a printed version, newly released, titled “How The Cow Went Over The Moon and Tiny Note To The Sun” (https://www.blurb.com/b/11033023-how-the-cow-went-over-the-moon-and-tiny-notes-to)

Almost exclusively I used to do unique books as art objects that were displayed in art gallery exhibits. My one-of-a-kind books were then sold and that was that. Well, in 2020 after the pandemic began the galleries closed to the public and I began publishing my artist books in an on-demand way. My book is printed at the time it is ordered and mailed to the buyer. I did this so I could still share my visual stories and they could still be fairly unique i.e. not printed in large quantities. And as my portfolio page attests that’s the way I’ve now done twelve different artist book projects. As the galleries have adapted to the pandemic since March 2020 allowing the public to handle one-of-a-kind books, wisely I think, hasn’t come back into vogue.

When making a printed version of my original artist books I try as best I can to maintain the look of the original work. I do very little – or ideally absolutely no – digital manipulation of my content. At most some text is typed. I even prefer to handwrite as much as possible. It’s important to me that people – especially kids – get to have a wide variety of homemade or handmade comforts whether it’s dinners, cookies, fine art or books.

Anyway, in the case of my new “How the cow…” book I typed the about the book and the dedication page text. But those pages and the covers are the only typed text. (I’ve learned the hard way that having these pages typed rather than handwritten helps the book be found via a search.)

I also scanned the handmade pattern I used for the cow book slipcase and the found sheet music I used for the tiny notes book cover. I scanned my handwritten text summary for the cow story. I did digitally “erase” the page number marks on my handwritten text because those numbers did not apply to the printed book. Other than erasing the pages numbers the handwritten page is the same in the printed book as it is in the original.

With those very few digital documents in my 28 page book layout I created end papers of a sort to flank or wrap each story within the printed book. The original artist books are themselves covered with these patterns.

https://www.blurb.com/b/11033023-how-the-cow-went-over-the-moon-and-tiny-notes-to

The scanned blue bubble pattern was the basis for the printed book cover.

As you can see the covers of both the original book and the printed version are similar.

The artwork in the cow story is just a bit smaller in the printed version than the original. But as you can see the colors are a very close match! Also the printed book is conventionally bound so I set up my layout like a comic book rather than in the folded concertina form of the original. I don’t yet know of any printer who prints and mails concertina style books. The two illustrations per page layout allowed me to fill the seven inch square printed pages. (In the photos below the original handmade book is at the top)

The “Tiny Notes” original artwork is reproduced at a much larger size in the printed book. The original book is 2.25 inches square. The printed book is 7 inches square. Again the colors printed are pretty close to what’s in the original!

So you can see the scales of the books in relation to a human. My spouse took these photos of me and the books…

The original concertina format cow book unfolds to four feet long. Almost as tall as me!

The original concertina tiny notes book is only 20 inches long unfolded.

You can see more of these book pages and details on my portfolio site. I’ve no idea if these original artist books will someday go to an art gallery even for display under glass.

For now I’m having fun making books intentionally for printing and mailing directly to people. It may sound odd to say this but this new way of sharing my books feels more personal and I feel like many more people are able to see and own my work this way.

And adding to my fun is that Storyberries.com will distribute, next week, free ebook versions of “How The Cow Went Over The Moon” and “Tiny Notes To The Sun“. More details in my next blog post.

This week my coloring book poem “How To Draw A Dragon” was read aloud on Kidz Stories And More !!! You can see it here
https://youtu.be/EUVeDjqiz30 When we were discussing the creation of this video Kidz Stories and I decided to make my book pages so they could be downloaded for free so kids could color along with the video! The download is available here and the directions are also in the video link. I’m seeing this as possibly another fun new way to share my artist books!

Kidz Stories And More https://youtu.be/EUVeDjqiz30

Speaking of interactive downloads: This weeks homemade yumminess was from the recipe by  @indianeskitchen called Budget Friendly Beef Stroganoff. Both my spouse and I liked it!! I didn’t have long flat pasta on hand so I used short pasta and…Yum!!
https://indianeskitchen.com/2022/01/23/budget-friendly-beef-stroganoff/

Also this week someone shared this photo saying how happy they are with a portrait I painted of their cat and how it has been framed by the Aurora Gallery!! That makes me happy!!!!!

“The King Of Hearts” by Clancy – 3.5 x 2.5 inches – ink, gouache and color pencil on board

My spouse mentioned the current news about book banning and that one of the titles banned is “A Light in the Attic” by Shel Silverstein. We have that book in our dining room poetry collection. It’s a favorite! Hearing that news led to both of us looking up what other books we have on our shelves that are banned. It was a fun scavenger hunt of sorts! 🤣 Turns out we have a large number of banned titles throughout our book collection. Two shelves in our dining room alone yield 4 books/authors who have been banned… even as recently as 2022.

Here’s one of the articles we read about banned books. Naturally we got online and ordered more banned books from our local independent bookstore. 😁 One of the banned books I tried to order was Maus by Art Spiegelman (here’s an article about that book) but all of my usual indy bookstores were sold out! But there were other banned books available which we happily bought.

I’ll leave some memes about book banning here just in case someone wants one.

I hope your week is similarly filled with subversive literary delights and some homemade comforts.

See you next Monday.

The Professional Dog and our Jolabokaflod festivities

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, Dogs in Art, fabric design, fine art, greeting cards, illustrated recipe, mental health, pet portraits, sketchbook, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

Here below are 3 dogs from The Professional Dog and details about our Jolabokaflod holiday!

The text from the book is below each dog portrait.

The Teacher’s dog is a thoughtful dog.
The Underwriter’s dog is an understanding dog.
The Volunteer’s dog is a vivacious dog.

In my last post I shared some of the books we’d ordered that came early for Jolabokaflod. Our house “rule” is that any adulting ceases and we open the book boxes when they come, pour the hot chocolate and give each book some attention even doing some sample reading. After that the books are put into the proper gift pile and, this is the hard part, left untouched until the evening of Jolabokaflod on Dec the 24th.

Here’s Judy opening one of the book boxes from Powell’s. She was pleased! I love her smile!!

Another book box came from Annie Bloom’s Books! And this is what was in it.

Still other book boxes came from Boadway Books. Our order came in two different boxes because one book is wonderfully big and bodacious!

We were both delighted with all of our books and with supporting our local independent bookstores! Here below is a description of what we did next… (and if you’re wondering what Jolabokaflod is there’s a fun article here https://www.theuncorkedlibrarian.com/iceland-jolabokaflod-tradition/ )

We did our book gift piles on the couch this year. We chose that place because more than a few of the books will be enjoyed by both of us and our comfy chairs are just across from the couch.

So you can see the stacks better here’s another photo below. There’s one book, the Louise Penny title mentioned last post, that didn’t make it into the group photo because it had snuck out onto the kitchen table… oops. 😁

Adding to my pleasure of Jolabokaflod was hearing from the Aurora Gallery that people were enjoying my artist books there! It felt good like I was “giving back” to my local book-art-world from which I receive so much delight.

Because Jolabokaflod, in addition to being about books, is also about chocolate – here’s our hot chocolate recipe, again. 😁📚☕😁📚☕

At some point Judy found this article which added to our fun. https://www.washingtonpost.com/food/2021/02/05/boozy-hot-chocolate-recipe/

I continued with my sketchbook playing practice and posted these pages on my social media.

Like last year instead of social gatherings we focused on sending cards, sharing on social media and doing whatever we could creatively think of as ways to be in touch with people while staying safe during a pandemic.

Most of our friends and family did the same. We loved getting cards from people, several different people dropped gifts off on our porch and many people sent me photos of the fine art I made that they’d gotten for Christmas! Some sent photos of their children with my artist books that they’d gotten for the holiday! And someone sent a precious photo of their new grandbaby wrapped in a blanket made with one of my fabric designs! All of that, plus comments on my social media and this blog has made this holiday feel special! My heart has grown 3 sizes!! Thank you all!!

I hope your holiday was good too and that the new year is gentle to us all. See you next Monday.

The Professional Dog and Jolabokaflod

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, author illustrator, books, children's book, fine art, greeting cards, household surrealism, magic realism, mental health, printed books, sketchbook, whimsical art, words and pictures

Here are this weeks featured Professional Dogs … waiting excitedly for Jolabokaflod! Or…

… maybe not. 🤣 Anyway, below are closer views of each dog portrait and below each is the text line in the book.

The Reporter’s dog is a responsible dog.
The Sculptor’s dog is a sensible dog.
The Stitcher’s dog is a smart dog.

As mentioned in a prior post the Aurora Gallery quickly sold out of my book The Professional Dog and asked me to bring more asap. So I did. When I delivered the books I saw the nice display the Gallery has done for The Professional Dog.

They even put this notice on the bin that had held printed copies of my book…

…so they were happy to see me come in with these freshly signed copies.

Here’s a closer look at the display. Someone at the Aurora Gallery does hand lettering extremely well!

Here’s the other display rack at the Gallery with my books and cards. I like it that this rack looks so ordinary as I think it may help people consider getting my books as gifts without feeling too “precious” about it. As regular readers of this blog already know I create my books as I do an art object rather than as a book publisher in the traditional sense.

Leaning into the Jolabokaflod season I particularly enjoy having copies of my sketchbook available at the Aurora Gallery and here. I’m enjoying the multilayered pun of having created a book full of sketches of books and readers that also talks about finding books! You can preview my entire sketchbook here too.

But I include these sketchbook pages in this post because they’re good descriptions of how we handle our holiday jolly book flood (Jolabokaflod)

As mentioned last post, and hinted above, we started our Jolabokaflod festivities by ordering books online from a number of our local independent bookstores. Our book orders will come to our doorstep in waves, or small tsunami floods.

The first wave to reach us was from Vintage Books!

What we got for each other: “The Boy, the mole, the fox and the horse” by Charlie Mackesy, “A Surprise For Christmas” a collection of short mystery stories from British Library Crimes Classics as well as novels by Kate Carlisle, Sarah Dreher and John Mortimer.

A few days later from the bookstore Another Read Through we got the books pictured below. When we ordered we selected one of their book bundles. A book bundle, according to the bookstore, is a surprise set of books the store selects for you based on your stated preferences. Since both my spouse and I enjoy a good surprise we ordered a small book bundle, told our preferences … and the store sent us titles by Louise Penny and a Christopher Moore! We are both very pleased with our book surprise! Also very pleasant, perhaps even best of all, was the handwritten note from the store owner!

We got all of our holiday cards into the mail. And our mantel is filling with holiday cards sent to us! That’s one of the fun aspects of this time of year, the sending and receiving of cards.

So you can see it better here’s a closer look at the card image I made by hand using ink and gouache and then photographed for reproductions using moo.com

Months ago when I created the artwork my spouse took a photo of me working on it because it might amuse people to see it. Here ’tis 👇

Here’s the sketchbook page drawing had done before beginning the ink and gouache painting of this image idea. I’m sure you can see what parts of the drawing I kept and what I changed when I did the painting version. Most notably I changed the angles of the sled, the ski’s and the pile of books.

Since we’re nearly upon the holiday I’m going to post more sketchbook pages on my social media and on this blog next Monday…

…and as my sketchbook page above says I hope your holiday is full of love in ways that make you glad to be alive.