the art technique of attention

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I’ve been very busy getting ready for a one-person fine art exhibit at Caplan Art Designs that will open in September. (So my social media activity has slacked off lately.) Around the edges of creating new fine artwork, framing, paperwork and so forth I’ve been working towards a new print edition of “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”.

This story from the First Aid Kit has been a good reminder of an art technique I try to practice daily – even when I’m busy:

Attention

Even when I’m very busy I practice taking a moment within my day, wherever I am, in the here-and-now and pay attention to my 5 senses. I try to let go of any preconceived conceptions, to just expand my awareness. I also include, in this exercise, paying attention to my free-associations and my imagination during my 5-senses check-in moment. I’ll note my sensory experience and “watch”, like you’d watch television, the memories, thoughts and associations that cross my mind as a result of the sensory experience.  I’ll often make notes in my sketchbook.

What I “get” for my payment – when I pay attention – is the power to choose what to focus on when I’m at my art easel working.

This practice of paying attention to both sensory input and the content of my mind –  is a version of what Betty Edwards wrote about in her book “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” – in the section where she talks about chairs. How (and I’m paraphrasing) a drawing student first attempting to draw a chair will substitute their knowledge about chairs (4 legs, a square seat and back) and will draw a child-like symbol of a chair. One has to learn to see the shapes of the spaces around the chair as well as the shapes of the chair itself – what is actually seen (3 legs, a trapezoid shaped seat and back).

I find too often – especially when I’m busy – I’m substituting my “knowledge” about the world, my preconceptions, for what “is” in the world. So I find it helpful to practice seeing the shapes of spaces, so to speak, in my sensory experience of the world. And to see the shapes of spaces within my own mind.

Paying attention allows me to merge real-world phenomenon with my mental life and to choose to communicate, via art, in ways that are helpful, playful and fun.

Currently “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” only exists in e-book form. But as I said above, I’m working on that. This book has had such a profound impact on my own creative life that I want to have another print version around.

sea stories

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I live now within a 2 hour drive from the Pacific Ocean. I also live near a river that feeds directly into the sea. So it’s been fun to read and think about stories, both fiction and non-fiction, that have to do with water.  Books like: “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway, “2000 Leagues Under The Sea” by Jules Verne, “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville, tales about pirates, books about the Lewis And Clark expedition and of course the writings of Mark Twain.

And I often see people reading printed books in town and on beaches along the coast. Their facial expressions make me wish I could see what story they were reading. What if a book being read leaked out from the readers mind and into the world beside them?

These musings led to my gouache painting titled “Sea Stories”:

SeaStories300

“Sea Stories” by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – ink and gouache on board

feeding good wolves

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I’ve been reading a book titled “Become America” by Eric Liu. In it Liu writes “To be a citizen is to be an artist…. ” Liu included examples of people imaging things like “why is this not a park?” and “How could these old folks and these little kids be making something together?”.

That got me thinking of how citizenship is an act of imagination. Governments, businesses – and of course artists – imagine all kinds of activities for their fellow citizens to participate in. Such imaginative action creates the civic world over time.

It is crucial, then, the kinds of imagination used and the intentions behind it. It matters which wolf gets fed: our good wolves or our bad ones.  Or if you prefer angels: do we encourage the “better angels of our natures”?

It far too easy for the human mind to think “It’s always been this way” when we see civic spaces or events. It takes a healthy imagination and some effort to remember that we, collectively, created “this way” bit by bit and that we can maintain it or change it by equally small mundane bits too.

When it comes to my own imagination – and maintaining the health of it and my own civic engagement – I’m constantly asking myself “which wolf does this idea/thought/event feed?” and then looking for the small mundane steps needed to create a banquet, a meal or a snack for my good wolves and better angels.

One step I’ve identified recently, something small and within reach, that I can do to encourage and maintain my own healthy imagination – and good citizenship – is to create a new printed edition of Dr.Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit. And to make it more widely available.

Currently there is only the ebook version out.  The first printed edition was done on an Espresso Book Machine at my local Powell’s bookstore.  That machine no longer exists. Sigh. Theoretically copies of the first printed edition may still be found out in the wide world – by clicking here – but it’s a challenge.  I want to make the book easier to find.

I, personally, want to have another printed copy of Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit. I want to put a copy in my bathroom. I want to read it when I brush my teeth. I want my good wolves to have more food to sink their teeth into. I want to maintain my healthy imagination – and to practice envisioning other good wolves with healthy imaginations also brushing their teeth…

Anyway, here’s one of my illustrations for the book:

TwoWolves

illustration by Sue Clancy for “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit

mixing the mundane and magical

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I’ve been reading “Whiskey Galore” by Compton Mackenzie. Once again I realize that I enjoy the mix of real-life and a whimsical imaginative look at real-life. Mackenzie used a real-life event as the inspiration for his whimsy and did the mix extremely well.

Already I’ve been doing some of this mixing in my work – but I want to do even more of that mundane/imagination mixing in my various art projects. Here’s what I did most recently: it’s 8 x 18 inches, ink and gouache on board – I’ve titled it “The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients”

TheSoupBookStartingWithIngredientsSM

“The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients” by Clancy

It mixes the real-life (mundane) action of consulting a cookbook recipe, perhaps for chicken soup, with a (magical) chicken rescue. “The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients” will be one of several new works for an upcoming one-person art exhibit in September at Caplan Art Designs in Portland Oregon. I’ll post the new artworks here as I get them done.

But back to the artwork itself: I enjoyed doing a panoramic visual story that continues what I began doing for my “Dear Readers” exhibit currently on display at Burnt Bridge Cellars. The new wider format let me put in more details, more “story-ness”.

“The Soup Book…..” was such fun to create that I plan to do more in this format! And of course do more general mixing of metaphors, more blurring the lines between the mundane and the magical in all of my work. We’ll see how it all goes of course.

Generally I’ve been thinking of how important it is, for living well (and good mental health), to be able to view mundane life with a “glass half full” attitude, to be able to see what is good/delightful, and to use curiosity and imagination (and good books) to stimulate ones own inner life. Which is why I aspire to do an even better artistic job of mixing the mundane and the magical.

BTW: “Whiskey Galore” has been made into a movie – and a very well done movie too! The book version has a bit more story to it – but the movie is wonderful and it’s not always that both the book and movie are equals in quality.

Now for a wee dram….. Slàinte mhath!

 

 

strawberry dessert anatomy

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Here’s a page from my sketchbook that relates to a recent blog post: https://sueclancy.com/dogs-strawberries-and-cookbooks/

DessertAnatomy300

epic pug sitting

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Recently I did a post titled Pug Epic Book In Art – (the post is about my painting in which a pug sits in a café reading a book) – since then I’ve also mused about a character who wrote the book the pug in the painting is reading. Here is an illustration of who I imagine is sitting to write the story “Epic Tales of the Pug King” – the book being read by the other pug in the painting:

Epic300

“Epic” by Clancy – ink and gouache on paper

And I’ve written the full text of the story that I hand lettered on the painted-book within my painting referred to in the prior post – the painting that when my wife saw it said she’d like to read the rest of the story of which only a part was depicted within the painting. So here’s the story:

Epic Tales Of The Pug, King  – by Clancy

The Pug King’s elegantly chipped ceramic bowl appeared before him resplendent with gravy, chunks of meat and yams. His Majesty tasted the gravy, then a meat chunk, the gravy again, then a yam, a meat chunk with the gravy and a piece of yam with gravy. He licked his lips, the bowl and his lips again. The Royal Feast was done; the dog sought some sport to aid all digestion and to his owner cried “Sir, Fool! Kneel now and play some ball!” The owner bowed and bent his knee. “Fetch!” he said and flung a mighty fling. The ball arched high into the air across the green expanse of Royal lawn. His Majesty ran flowing, majestically, swiftly, across the grass, conquering the ball and returning back to his owner. Three times, four times they did this at the King’s command. On the 12th time the owner knelt, patted the Monarch’s silken head, saying “Enough now, lets go inside and get ready for bed.” His Royal Majesty barked sharply. “Sir Fool, there’s a King’s personal business still to do…”

pug epic book in art

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Recently I was in a local coffee shop and a coffee cup was silhouetted beside a rainy window. Steam rising from the cup. Such a simple thing but I began thinking of how many stories begin with simple things and grow, cumulatively, until they become epics.

Like Pug dogs. So small yet so large in personality especially as they mature.

Here’s a painting I did that was inspired by these thoughts. I’ve titled it “Epic Tales of The Pug King”.

EpicTalesOfThePugKing72

Epic Tales Of The Pug King – by Clancy – 16 x 20 – acrylic and gouache on board.

I wrote the story that’s ‘printed’ in the book depicted in the painting and hand-lettered it, with brush and acrylic, into place on the page-within-the-painting.

My wife came into my studio, saw my work-in-progress and said “What’s the rest of that story?”, saying that she wanted to turn the Pugs page for him and continue reading. Then she challenged me to write the rest of the story.

Right this minute I’m enjoying the visual pun – that the Pug’s epic story-poem, ahem, is really, really, short.  Plus the setting and my character, the Pug dog, are not particularly grand as the word “epic” would imply.

And that’s in keeping with my feeling that the most important elements of this world are actually the mundane ones, the humble ones. Daily life and the qualities of it can have more impact on a person than the grandest once-in-a-lifetime vacation might.

I love this quote from Annie Dillard “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.”

 

oh sheet a deadline dragon

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Dealing well with deadlines is a topic often discussed among my fellow artists and writers. So I wondered “could I make a poem about deadlines, make it funny, illustrate it and create a book format that would accent the concept?” Fun challenge.

And here for a free download is what I came up with: Deadline Dragon Dance by Clancy. It’s a pdf file and will print using 2 sheets of 8.5 x 11 paper. One sheet is my 8 page book. The other sheet is the instructions on folding the book. Have fun! And yes, feel free to color the dragon before you fold it into the book.

Below is what The Deadline Dragon Dance looks like when you print it out, the “cover” is on the right at the top by the dragons nose, page one is on the left at the top behind the dragons head and the content proceeds counterclockwise from there. It’ll make more sense as a book once it is printed and folded. If you wonder, yes, I’ve somewhat bastardized the graphic design concept of layout for physical commercial printing.

Anyway, here is what The Deadline Dragon Dance looks like as a flat sheet-book:

DeadlineDragonDance72

And here is the instruction sheet on how to fold the above “book”:

HowToFoldADragon72.jpg

The pdf file for free download again: DeadlineDragonDancebyClancy

Yep I had a lot of fun taking a stodgy concept like deadlines and combining it with humorous poetry, illustration and book arts! I used brush and ink as well as my fountain pen on Bristol paper.

What do you think? How do you deal with deadlines, both the ones you set for yourself and those set for you by others?

a mouse scrapbook and gift

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Here are a few pages from my tiny sketchbook for the Brooklyn Art Library titled “A. Mouse’s Book Of Scraps”.  And since you follow me here’s my entire book, free download, as my thank-you-for-following-me gift: AMousesBookOfScrapsByClancy

I’m doing this gifting by permission of our books author Mr. A. Mouse of course. <wink> We, Mr. A. Mouse and I,  hope you like it!

And yes, this 2.33 inch by 1.66 inch book is a humorous parody or spoof on the concept of collecting and publishing…

In a recent post I spoke of this book and of the Brooklyn Art Library’s Tiny Sketchbook Project in general well here’s a link https://www.brooklynartlibrary.com/

You can also see more of my downloadable artist books on this page. Your patronage and support means a lot! Thank you!

a scrapbook by a mouse

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This year I’m participating in the tiny sketchbook project at the Brooklyn Art Library – my sketchbook will travel to London, Paris and other places in Europe along with other tiny sketchbooks in a portable library that fits in a suitcase. My book will be in the Brooklyn Art Library’s permanent collection.

I’ve titled my book “A Mouse’s Book Of Scraps”.  It’s a scrapbook from the point of view of a mouse. A Pacific Northwest Jumping Mouse to be exact.  It’s fun to think about what kinds of things a mouse would collect; cheese rinds, vegetable scraps and landscapes.

Here’s a picture of my book in progress. The mint is there to show scale. And yes – it’s hand bound…

SewingTinyBook72

https://www.brooklynartlibrary.com/tinysketchbook