the art of the mundane

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, fine art, still life, visual thinking, words and pictures

I’ve been reading a lot of novels by Donna Leon lately. Her Commissario Brunetti series. My wife and I had watched many of the movie versions, I got hooked and sought out the novels. As a result I’ve realized how often the detective mystery is solved by something mundane, trivial and even disposable. The clue that resolves the crime may be found in the wilted flowers in the office, the food take-out container, the receipt in a wallet – or something else really mundane.  In Leon’s work the city, the food, the objects are characters in their own right. They certainly add to my perception of her protagonist Guido Brunetti and his cases.

These thoughts led me to thinking about how historians and archeologists both spelunk in the log-books, the diaries and the trash heaps of history to find the clues about life in the past.

And then there’s the concepts of wabi-sabi and hygge…

Amongst all these thoughts I had my cat’s exhibit open at Burnt Bridge Cellars. One of the benefits of doing one-person shows is that I get to see a years worth of my own work all at one time. As I looked around I realized that I’ve focused on creating my characters; the eyes, the fur, their animal-body-shape in people clothing and not as much on the stuff, the objects, they hold.

So I want to see if I can tell a visual story with “just stuff”. A still life basically. But I still hope to tell or imply a visual story. By doing this I’ll be practicing depicting the details of drinks, food and physical objects better so they can become “characters” in their own right. Kind of like what Leon does in her novels. Then eventually I hope to put my object-characters together with my animals…

Anyway, here’s me working on one:

DSC_0022.jpg

 

 

the stories behind the cats

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, artistic inspirations, cat portrait, Cats in art, fine art, visual thinking, words and pictures

This coming Friday, June 1st at Burnt Bridge Cellars my cat portrait exhibit “Purrsuits of Pleasure” opens. Because I don’t think artistic inspiration needs to be mysterious I include the story behind each art piece. The text illustrates, so to speak, my visual images.

Here are some of the artworks in the exhibit:

And here are some of the stories that illustrate them as they’ll be posted on the walls in the exhibit (of course readers of my blog have seen more details than what’s included below… but then you’re special):

Purrfecting Happy Hour by Clancy

I’m part of a feral happy-hour group; between 7 and 14 of us get together once a month somewhere local for happy hour. Often the trays of drinks that arrive at our table look like a collection of fine jewels.

Purrameters of Pie by Clancy

In several local cafés, bistros and pizzerias I’ve discovered that I can get either a savory or sweet pie of almost any size: small hand-pies, “personal” pies, pie slices, medium and large pies and “family size” pies. The trouble is deciding which size to get.

Strad O’Various by Clancy

Going to music events during the winter is a delightful way to combat any “rainy-day blues”. This last winter I particularly enjoyed seeing the crowd, and some musicians, bustling in for a concert in their colorful coats and scarves.

Cat A List by Clancy

Wine tastings – and being friends with Mark at Burnt Bridge Cellars – have opened my eyes to the subtle differences between wines from one year to the next, how type of grape, the weather, water and soil affect the flavors. Small things can be a catalyst.

Alpha Betty by Clancy

The local libraries and bookstores are, for me, a large treasure-toy box. Which got me thinking of how we select books according to our interests. The libraries and bookstores also have books available in a wide variety of languages – and its fun to see them too. This got me to thinking about the alphabet. Each language has its own – and when we say “the alphabet” we immediately think of our native tongue whatever it is. Likewise, when we think of “good books” we think in terms of our own interests and preferences. But when we’re aware of bi-lingual people and the multiplicity of this world – perhaps we are better able to remember that our languages and personal preferences are just frames of reference. And that frames are adjustable.   So what frame of reference would a cat have? A mouse obsessed one of course!

Purrfect Entertainment by Clancy

My friend Kevin and I were talking about local music, feral cats and handmade musical instruments. Specifically, we talked about the “found object” instruments we were both aware of in the Southeastern parts of the U.S. – guitars made out of cigar boxes or banjos from cookie tins. Our conversation drove me to the library to research “handmade music instruments in the Pacific Northwest”.  I discovered a long tradition of using local wood scraps to hand-craft musical instruments. The native woodgrain was often a prominent decoration. These instruments were works of art not at all like the “found object” instruments of the SE.  I also discovered that here in the PNW playing music in public, on porches, patios, anywhere outdoors was, and still is, the norm during “nice” weather. There has also been a strong connection between music, food and community no matter what the weather. But I could only get so much into one painting.

Abyssinian cat portrait with alphabet

A Creative Life, animals in art, art techniques, artistic inspirations, cat portrait, Cats in art, fine art, handmade papers, pattern design

Having been inspired by all the multi-lingual book readers I see in the Pacific Northwest – combined with the alphabet-as-frame-of-reference thoughts I’d shared in my last blog post, and my on-going collection of cat-related thoughts – I’ve been working on a portrait of an Abyssinian cat. The cat will be reading a  mystery called “M is for Mice”. (What else would a mouse obsessed cat read?) I’ll probably title my painting “Alpha Betty” when I’m done.  Below you can see my progress along side my to-scale drawing. I’ve still more work to do. Especially on the mouth area on the cat – and of course on the book.  This work is 20 inches tall by 24 inches wide.

AlphaBettyProgressWSketch72

You can see more of my cat-related thoughts in my ebook “Various Cat Sketches” here: https://sueclancy.com/shop/

 

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….

DSC_0027

 

cats on a ledge

A Creative Life, animals in art, cat portrait, Cats in art, creative thinking, drawing as thinking

In my town and region I find a lot of cafes, pubs and bistros that have – for the lack of a better term – ledges as tables.  These are swaths of 8 to 12 inch deep “tables”, just big enough to put a coffee cup with a saucer and perhaps a paperback book.  Or they’re just large enough for a drink and a small plate of food.

Many of these ledges run along a wall and the edge of a room. Some ledges run down the center of a room and still others run along a window.  The ledges vary in length according to the space – I’ve seen as many as 18 people sitting along one ledge – but the ledge is rarely deeper than 12 inches.

It’s especially interesting to walk on a busy street and pass by a window and there, inside the eatery, facing the sidewalk, a number of people sit reading, eating, drinking and talking to each other.  I also find it fun to be one of the eatery patrons perched at the window and merely inches from the front of me and my 8 inches of ledge is the whole world passing by!

So I was thinking of such ledges today when I was drawing Burmilla cats.  Burmilla’s have impossibly big eyes. All the better for watching the world go by from your cat-perch at your favorite ledge!

burmillacatsledge

reading books making art eating popcorn

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, Authors, books, creative thinking, food for thought, Sustainable creativity, The Sketchbook Project, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures

Below are some books I’m currently reading that are “feeding” many of my upcoming art projects. That’s art exhibits, illustration projects and yes even my sketchbook work for The Sketchbook Project I blogged about last post.  Even though it may seem that I produce a random variety of things – there’s a uniformity to my randomness and it begins with what I read. I see all of the things I make as telling a visual/tactile story about being human, enjoying life and living well.  And to help me develop my visual story I read…

BooksReading72

In case you can’t see all the titles in the picture they are:

“Wonderland; How play made the world” by Steven Johnson

“Books for Living” by Will Schwalbe

“The Creative Spark; How imagination made humans exceptional” by Agustin Fuentes

“The Foundations of Mindfulness” by Eric Harrison

“Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel

All of these books relate to themes I’ve been working with artistically for some time now:

How being willing to try new foods, to eat diverse foods, has helped us develop biologically as physical human beings. And how it helps us still.

Playing music, playing games, “playing” with our food – each kind of play in it’s own way has helped humans as a species develop and maintain physical and mental structures as individuals – and also social structures as communities. This is still true today. When we do not take time to play we hurt ourselves and each other.

Reading books (and writing them) has helped us – as a species – to pass on information so that each generation doesn’t have to completely reinvent the world from scratch.  This ability to collect information, and learn from it, informs our abilities to play – to playfully combine/recombine things – helping us to develop and maintain our mental skills.

Which leads me to mindfulness. Mindfulness for me is the human ability to pay attention, to focus attention and also to have a state of open/non-judgmental acceptance – curiosity even. This is essential to developing, having and keeping our human ability to imagine and be creative.  Mindfulness is part of being able to play and learn…and being able to play and learn is a way of being mindful. And for me, keeping a sketchbook, making art, is at it’s heart an exercise in playful mindfulness – but more about that in another post.

The novel by Esquivel is included in my current reading list because woman does not live by non-fiction alone.

Now please pass the popcorn. Thank you.

memory music mountains and living rooms

A Creative Life, artistic inspirations, food for thought, music in art, sketchbook, travel art and writing, travelog, travelogue, words and pictures

Sweetie and I did a short road trip to Mount St. Helens in Washington. We hiked around, saw a lot of birds. Sweetie heard the birds singing and said they were quite a musical chorus.  At the visitor’s center people “danced” about getting photos in front of the mountain. I drew this in my sketchbook using ink and watercolor:

MtStHelens72

Sketchbook page by Sue Clancy

Then at the visitor’s center we went into the Mount. St. Helens gift shop. From past experience we’ve learned that their collection of books for sale on the topics of botany, zoology and biology is a gold mine. Several books come home with us each trip. This time was no exception. One of the titles that came home with us is “Natural History of the Pacific Northwest Mountains.” by Daniel Mathews.

On page 429 I read (about birds caching food) “Phenomenal ability to remember precise locations evolved separately in the chickadees and the jays that cache food for winter, and in many migrating species. Some of these species have nonmigratory or noncaching relatives whose powers of recall don’t amount to diddley squat.  Another kind of memory that must be worth holding on to is a male warbler’s memory of conspecific males’ songs.  As long as each singer remembers his neighbor’s song from the year before, and stays on his own territory, both are spared a fight. They remember songs from year to year as they return from Central America to reclaim their old haunts.”

That got me to thinking about the traveling troubadours of ancient times.  And from that thought I migrated (pun intended) to thinking of how, here in the Pacific Northwest, there is a “new” tradition of traveling musicians who give what is called “living room concerts” in private homes.  The home-owner hosts the musicians, putting them up for a night or two, and invites a number of family and friends to come to a concert. A certain amount of money is collected per attendee and most of that money goes to the musician.  The musician also sells their CD’s and what not during the evening.

I’m quite addicted to this ‘living room concert’ tradition. I find that even though I’m deaf I can “hear” the music better in a small intimate setting. There are also several local small independent theatres – and there’s fairly good hearing there too. My point being that the music I’ve heard since we’ve lived here in the Pacific Northwest has inspired a lot of my recent artwork. And I suspect this trend will continue.

The concept of a birds ability to remember where they put their food also made me think about the seasonal offerings at the local Pacific Northwest restaurants.  When I say “seasonal offering” I mean it. There’s a short time when a certain fruit or veg is available at the local farms so the pubs and restaurants will offer special dishes that use that fruit/veg and then when it’s gone. It’s gone.

We’ve lived here long enough now that I’m beginning to remember, for example, what pubs will offer the “fresh asparagus ‘fries’ ” during peak asparagus season. I’m also remembering which farmers market stands sell the freshest berries and apples. I love the seasonal randomness it’s like a perpetual surprise party but the ability to remember what is ripe during what season is helpful to know.

Needless to say I’ve been artistically inspired by the food. And that’ll prolly (as they say here) continue too.

There’s something about memory and food and music…. something that I just itch to make fine art about. So stay tuned. (pun intended again)

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”

TwoWolves72

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.

 

celebrating local authors

A Creative Life, animals in art, artistic inspirations, publications - publishing

Yesterday my sweetie and I were having a quiet morning reading our local Sunday newspaper – The Columbian – and having coffee with breakfast. Suddenly Sweetie made a pleased and surprised noise “Look!” she said passing the Life newspaper section. And there it was my book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” listed in the “local author” list!

LocalAuthorDogs72

Here’s a direct link to my book https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dogs-By-Sue-Clancy it can also be found on Amazon and wherever books are sold

Of course our Sunday morning wasn’t so quiet after that – with me happy-dancing about the dining room, the dog barking, the cat running for cover…  It was a good feeling. My desire to make more books has been cemented! There’s nothing more happy-making than having community support for my artistic efforts and to see active support for the creative efforts of other artist/authors too!  Seeing such support encourages my creativity!!!  Thanks everyone!!!!

https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dogs-By-Sue-Clancy

dogs in art but what about cats

A Creative Life, animals in art, art commissions, Cats in art, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, published art

My book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” has now been available since Feb 17 2017 – and I’ve been getting a lot of very nice feedback! Including people asking me to do a portrait of their special dog! What fun! You can get info about my book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” on Amazon or via this link: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dogs-By-Sue-Clancy

In addition to questions about dogs I’ve been asked is “Are you going to do a book of cats?”  The short answer is yes! It may be a year or more before I actually get it done because I’m very busy right now working on a number of dog portrait commissions and upcoming art exhibits that are already scheduled through 2018 – but I’m working towards a series of cat portraits already.  Here are a couple of recent ones: