I worry about human adults. I worry that people forget to play. This worry has included me.
So I’ve been trying to do something about that. Dog portraits are my effort to remember to play. I’ve been purposefully spending time enjoying something and making notes and in the process I created an art exhibit’s worth of artworks. Yes, 32 of my dog portraits are currently scheduled for an exhibit at Caplan Art Designs www.caplanartdesigns.com in the new year, Jan 2017! So here’s hoping that other people see my artwork – and the whimsy there and play a little too!
As a separate project I’ve also been working on a printed artist book of my dog portraits. The concept behind both the art exhibit and the potential book is the same: collecting pleasant thoughts and describing those thoughts using imaginary dog characters (based on a real-life dog breed) in order to highlight the pleasant feelings. This idea has its roots in healthy mental health habits and the practice of happiness; creating gratitude lists, purposefully turning ones thoughts toward pleasant things, playing with ones imagination, and a meditative practice of enjoying time, memory, attention and whimsy.
Dogs were selected as characters because for me dogs of all breeds represent a joyful exuberant delight at being alive.
I’m thinking that the book – which I’ll call “Dogs by Sue Clancy” – will be another artist book by me, an artistic expression of its own. More than an exhibit catalog or a collection of reproductions of a body of artistic works the book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” is being organized around an artistic idea – the one I mentioned above: collecting pleasant thoughts and describing those thoughts using imaginary dog characters (based on a real-life dog breed) in order to highlight the pleasant feelings. The book will not be at the art exhibit – it’ll be its own separate thing…
Now, why does it matter that we think of pleasant things and seek to provoke pleasant feelings? Why is it so important to me that I’ve spent all this time to make both an art exhibit and a potential book filled with “pleasantness”?
Well it’s gosh-darn easy to provoke feelings of anger and fear. Some religious leaders and politicians do it often because it’s a reliable (if dirty-tricky) way to get peoples attention and exert control. Unhappy, frightened and angry people are more easily controlled. Even some grade-school kids use such tactics, because they’re easy to do and successfully get and control peoples attention.
You can even accidentally do it to yourself, get yourself down-spiraling; angry and fearful about almost anything. Particularly around a sleepless 3 am. Especially when you’ve been busy and stressed and not enjoying much in life. (In my book Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit –https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit – this is discussed in detail, particularly strategies how to deal with unpleasant emotions.)
So I’ve been speculating that very act of enjoying things – small things – and sharing enjoyments with other people – may itself be a moderating factor, a good-mental-health exercise, and a small way to combat the dirty-trickery of the fear-mongers.
After all one of the ways of responding to, and coming out of, a negative-downward-spiral is to keep a list of things you enjoy doing or thinking about and deliberately turning your thoughts away from anger and fear and towards something you enjoy and appreciate. Could it also be helpful-to-good-mental-health to have an entire art exhibit, and maybe a book, full of “pleasant things”?
As a professional artist I’ve thought why not deliberately – and as an artistic project – provoke laughter? Smiles? Warm-fuzzy’s? Playfulness? For both myself and hopefully others? It would be an artistic challenge. How do you get someone to smile – or even laugh – while looking at a piece of paper covered with lines, shading and patterns?
I’m convinced that happiness is a skill that must be practiced like tennis, like cooking, like drawing. I’ve been spending a lot of time practicing my own happiness – and enjoying it (pun intended) – I’m hoping that sharing my practice in both an art exhibit and in a book – will be fun for other people too.
Here’s a new dog portrait.
Digger by Clancy – ink on handmade paper