Professional Dogs, puzzles, holiday box and figure ground relationships

A Creative Life, art book review, art gallery, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, children's book, creative thinking, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, fine art, Gifts, illustration, life of the mind, mental health, mundane and magical moments, pet portraits, small things, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

I got my Covid19 booster shot and thought of the relationship between individuals and community. That brought jigsaw puzzles to mind. Quite a number of people were getting vaccinated the same time I was and it got me to thinking of how each one of us fit into the local community in some interlocking way.

After getting the poke I had to stay for 30 minutes to make sure I wasn’t going to have a reaction. Since I was thinking about puzzles I got online and shared some jigsaw puzzles I’ve designed that are on my Zazzle shop.

Then, after sharing the puzzles, I kept thinking about the mechanism of human perceptions. When working on a jigsaw one shifts back and forth between looking at the colors and patterns on the puzzle pieces to looking at the shapes of the pieces themselves. Somewhat similarly we – well, most of us – shift back and forth between seeing ourselves as an individual person and seeing ourselves as part of a much larger community.

That got me thinking about optical illusions and the ways design, specifically the design of narratives, the design of governments, can dovetail with our perception mechanisms and our behavior choices in a which comes first the chicken or the egg sense.

I sat in the medical center waiting area trying to remember – without using Google – the name of the guy who did the pioneering work on the perception of figure-ground relationships. I tried to remember the name of the optical illusion that illustrated this figure-ground discovery and the name of what the switch of perception in a figure-ground relationship is called.

I didn’t remember the guy’s name but I did remember the book I had at home that would tell me! So when I got home I looked it up: Edgar Rubin is the guy, a Danish psychologist working in 1915, and Gestalt Switch is the name of the perception change he studied. The book I looked this up in once I got home is called Universal Principles of Design by Lidwell, Holden and Butler.

I felt fine when I got home. My arm was hardly sore. I did feel a bit tired and decided on a day of indulgence. That means spending most of the day reading! My spouse documented the occasion – see below. The next day I was tired and had a slight headache. While I did do some work I mostly read books the next day too.

I’m reading “The Book” by Alan Watts slowly as there is a lot in it to think about. I read, fairly quickly, two wonderful fiction works that pair well with lap blankets, a warm dachshund and hot tea: The Nature Of Fragile Things and A Psalm For The Wild Built. Both of these titles feel like a hug from a dear friend.

Despite both my spouse and I getting our booster shots and being busy rearranging furniture and stuff for workmen to make house repairs I did manage to get some illustrations done for my in progress childrens book project “The Professional Dog”. Here are three together.

Below are closer views of each of these illustrations along with the text line I plan to use in the book.

The Fireman’s dog is a friendly dog.
The Framer’s dog is a famous dog.
The Gallery Owner’s dog is a gallant dog.

I did not have time to do one of my Creativity Chats this week. Also, since one of the home repairs is happening in the kitchen – there are no creative approaches to food that could be discussed or depicted here with glee. (I’m so looking forward to having my kitchen back!)

As I wrote in my last post my 8 inch cube shaped holiday box project for an upcoming exhibit at the Caplan Art Designs gallery is finished except for the final coats of varnish and we’re still waiting for Gallery permission to post publicly about it. Below is my art studio supervisor dachshund waiting very patiently. Mostly.

In addition to jigsaw puzzles and the figure-ground relationship shift of mind I’ve been thinking of how I use that mental shift method with words and images to stimulate my creativity.

For example when I began my holiday box project I listed, in longhand on my legal pad, over 20 items that are square or cube shaped. After making that list I worked in my sketchbook playing with images related to these words. (I’ve posted some of these in a past blog post) Below is a photo of part of my handwritten list – and I trust it doesn’t give too much away. ūüėĀ

I’ve also been thinking of figure-ground type shifting we do in other ways: inner life/social life, old/young, self/family, indoors/outdoors, leisure/work, mind/body, survive/thrive… I could go on listing these kinds of interrelated mental shifts but this is enough.

Anyway, of that list of shifts physical and mental health are important to me for both living-well reasons and to my creativity. Also important to me is the topic of doing a really good job of growing old (there’s a wonderful essay by Bertrand Russell here).

The main reason I create my artwork is because it makes me smile. I post publicly because it may give a friend a smile. And my friend Liz Gaffreau recently posted this which in turn made me smile. That’s why we’re here, I think, to love people and to be loved. That may sound somewhat purposeless – but this purposeless loving is the very attitude that leads to being creative, to playing well with oneself and with others.

This blog and my Creativity Chats on my YouTube channel are more of my small efforts to playfully encourage creativity in both myself and others – it’s one of my ways to participate in a creative community. I want the poets, the novelists, the painters, the quilters, the creatives of all kinds to be as well – physically and mentally – as possible. I want this because it is by play, by stories and beauty, that we all will get through difficult times. Mere physical survival is not enough. If I can encourage a poet or novelist to keep writing then perhaps their words will also help someone else keep going. Other writers work certainly helps me keep going. Each effort of creativity is a butterfly effect of sorts.

So, yes, my work feels urgent to me. It’s the shape and color of my jigsaw piece.

Please take good care of yourself this week. See you next Monday.

ode to fountain pens

A Creative Life, art book review, art techniques, artistic inspirations, books, Books In Art, business of art, drawing as thinking, fine art, illustrated shorts, magic realism, reading in art, Sustainable creativity, writing and illustrating

On a recent trip to the library I saw a book titled “How To Draw And Write In Fountain Pen: A Modern Guide” by Ayano Usamura. (book link) The book reminded me that I’ve not talked about this essential studio tool in a while.

I’ve used a fountain pen almost daily since I was in art school at university. An illustration class required a fountain pen, a Pelikan Classic M200 , as one of it’s “textbooks” for the semester. We were taught the care and use of the pen – the pen care section of the book by Usamura mirrors what I was taught exactly.¬† Part of the class requirement was to draw with the pen daily. The professor would periodically surprise-inspect our pens for proper care/maintenance and would look at our sketchbooks as part of our grade. Woe unto the student who forgot their pen.

Fast forward to now and I’m still drawing with my fountain pen daily. It’s my go-to tool for my on-going art studio philosophy: “Work in short bursts of time. Often.”¬† When I’ve only a minute or two for creativity work I can easily, quickly, do an ink drawing without having to do any more “studio-set-up” than to open my sketchbook and pull the cap off my pen.¬† Here’s todays fountain pen drawing:

Hibernation

Nowadays I prefer the Levenger True Writer. It’s the best fountain pen I’ve had yet. Writes and draws smooth lines with no pressure, less mess and less constant care needed than some other pens. I use the Noodlers brand fountain pen ink – the anti-feather black kind (also called “X-feather”). And of course these days I have a whole new appreciation for the environmental friendliness of a fountain pen; less used-up-pen-plastic-parts going into the land-fill.

Anyway, the book “How to Draw and Write in Fountain Pen” happily reminded me of what I’d been taught way back in the day at university. I brought the book home from the library to read and re-remember all the fountain pen tips and tricks. And, if the book was accurate to my fountain pen experience (it was!), I could mention it to you here on my blog – and photograph the book with my Levenger fountain pen for a post on my Instagram page.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go lovingly re-fill the ink in my fountain pen.

P.S. If you were wondering – I did use a fountain pen to do the graphic-novel style drawings in my recently published book “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit“.

Update: After I had written the above post about fountain pens I went to dinner in Portland Oregon. From dinner we all walked to Oblation Papers and Press – where I happily discovered that they have a wide selection of fountain pens!! And staff who know the various pen brands! Here’s a link to their drool-worthy website https://www.oblationpapers.com/

color books and drinks

A Creative Life, artistic inspirations, Sustainable creativity

In the quest of keeping artistically inspired I like to haunt bookstores and libraries. Then I make time to sit and read the books – often with a beverage at hand. Recently in a local independent bookstore called Ampersand, http://www.ampersandgallerypdx.com/ – I found several inspiring tomes. Specifically a book in Japanese that I can’t read.

The book is in Japanese but has occasional bits in English. For example the books English subtitle says “A Dictionary of Color Combinations” by Sanzo Wada (b 1883 d. 1967) and this book was published in 1933. (its the book to the left in the photo) It was well worth my time to look at deeply and dreamily for several hours. I think it’s helped my color-game in my recent fine art pieces – at any rate I’m having fun with new color schemes and that’s what counts! Now to practice them in my sketchbooks and more fine art….

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business of art book review

A Creative Life, Authors, books, business of art, Sustainable creativity

Long ago, in what seems now like a galaxy far away, I organized a business of art seminar series called the Artist Survival Kit.¬† It was part of my work on the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s board. I also wrote a quarterly column on business of art topics for the magazine Art Focus Oklahoma. Part of my work included reading and reviewing published¬†books about the business of being an artist.

Then I “retired” from doing all¬†that and went on with my life as¬†a fine artist¬†and author/illustrator. Of course I continued to regularly read books on business topics.

Warp-speed ahead to the Pacific Northwest:¬†when any two local¬†artists get together we talk shop – creativity and business stuff – which¬†includes discussions about books we’re reading. And the more-abundant bookshops and libraries here have impressive selections of business-of-art books sitting right there on a shelf!¬† (Imagine that!?!) Which brings me to this book I just finished titled “Real Artists Don’t Starve” by Jeff Goins. (and yes, that’s my coffee cup in the photo)

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My thoughts about¬†“Real Artist’s Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins¬†are below in random order:

It’s worth a read no matter where you are in your art career and worth keeping on your studio shelves for that moment when you need an “I can do this” boost.

I love the easy-to-read quality to the writing,¬†how he¬†clearly explains concepts about business¬†in ways that don’t send your creative self whimpering into a corner.

I love it that he emphasizes thinking of yourself as an entrepreneur. Particularly on page 147 where he writes “Some artists tend to think making money is either a system you sell out to or something to be avoided altogether. But in reality, it’s neither. If you don’t make money, you won’t have any art to make. We must seek to better understand the business of being an artist. Ignoring this reality is the fastest route to stop creating all together. To be an artist is to be an entrepreneur. We must learn to embrace this tension and the beauty that comes from it.”

Yep – that sums up¬†exactly what I tried to teach all those years ago in Oklahoma. But I think Jeff does a much better job of explaining things than I did – pictures being my preferred medium to words-in-a-row. Jeff Goins¬†is much better at the words-in-a-row.¬†¬†So I’m very glad he wrote this book and I’m glad to recommend it.¬† I’m also grateful that I now live in a place, in an artistic scene,¬†where¬†it¬†was possible to ¬†“happen on” to it.

As Jeff Goins writes on page 91 “As artists, we want to be where we feel understood. We want to live in places where our work and way of life are encouraged.”

After reading this book I certainly feel encouraged! Now I’m going to go create¬†something.

(Oh, by the way, I sometimes post tid-bits about art related¬†books on my Goodreads page…)

Emotional Repair Kit Reviewed!

A Creative Life, books, ebook, illustration, published art, visual story, words and pictures

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Got a great review of Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit on Amazon.com!¬† Here’s part of what was said by a retired Marriage and Family therapist: “What a little powerhouse this is… so wonderfully illustrated by Sue Clancy and the stories are tiny treasures. It is truly a first aid kit for the mind.”

Wow! Made this artist’s day!

A paperback print version of ‚ÄúDr. Bob‚Äôs First Aid Kit‚ÄĚ (with a different cover) is here www.ondemandbooks.com¬† or search “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” by Sue Clancy

art books; reviews and previews

A Creative Life, books, ebook, shelfies, words and pictures, writing

ArtOfColorDesignbyMGraves

Since I often get asked for suggestions of “good books about art” I’ve decided to start reviewing books about various aspects of art on Goodreads.com now and again.¬† The photo is of one of my favorite “go to” books that I recently reviewed.

I may review cookbooks too as I think knowing how to cook is an essential survival skill to have as an artist.

And while I was setting that up I also made some downloadable “previews” of my 2 currently available ebooks available too:¬† https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7594198.Sue_Clancy

Of course you can also see info about my two eBooks on my website www.sueclancy.com on the “books” page.