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:

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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:

Dogs in bathrooms what art is for and Irish stew

A Creative Life, animals in art, artist book, books, comfort food, Dogs in Art, ebook, fine art, mental health, sketchbook suppers, words and pictures

When my new artist book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” came out (mid Feb 2017) I showed an advance copy to a dear friend who said “I hope this won’t offend you but this would be a perfect bathroom book!”

Of course I wasn’t offended! In fact I think bathrooms are the perfect place for good art and fun/funny books! I think this because of what I think art is for: art is for practicing good mental health skills. Art and books can be mood setters. In a bathroom a person can take a few deep breaths and re-center themselves, re-set their mental mood.

I’ve worked in the genres of “animals in art” and “dogs in art” because of my thoughts about what art is for… but enough about philosophy of art. It’s Saint Patrick’s day! Happy St. Pat’s!!

Here to celebrate and/or up-lift your mood is a page from my book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dogs-By-Sue-Clancy

pgspread472

Because it’s St. Pat’s – and because the studio of an artist with an Irish sur-name must have sustenance – here is one of my favorite “chop, toss in a pot and let it cook ’till you’re ready to eat it” recipes from my sketchbook:

DublinCoddle172

page from “Coffee, Table, Book” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/coffee-table-book

 

the art of practice and a story inside

A Creative Life, animals in art, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, ebook, fine art, words and pictures

“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first” – Dr. Bob Hoke.  That quote is one of many from my book Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit that I’ve found helpful in my life as a professional artist. [a link to that book is here: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit]

When I begin any commissioned portrait of someone’s special dog (or cat) I make a series of practice sketches of that breed before I attempt a likeness of the special dog. Yes, I’ve been doing these portraits for years but I still find it helpful to start with the basic characteristics of the breed. Then I can look at someone’s special dog and see what makes that dog unique.

I’m currently working on a commissioned portrait that has a schnauzer in it. Here are a couple of practice schnauzers (not pictured are about 5 other practice pieces).

Schultz72

Shultz by Clancy – ink on handmade paper

Gustav72

Gustav by Clancy – ink on handmade paper

All of this talk of “practice” has reminded me of a story Dr. Bob told that is not in the above mentioned book. That story went like this:

Once there was an Emperor who had a pet rooster. He decided he wanted a portrait of his beloved rooster to be painted by the best artist in his land. One of the artists was invited to the palace and was asked to make the portrait.  The artist agreed, saying that he would need 3 months in order to do it. Then he would return to the palace and paint the portrait in front of the Emperor.  The Emperor was pleased. The artist went back to his studio and worked hard every day for 3 months. Then he returned to the palace, as agreed, with his art materials.  The Emperor had his pet rooster brought before the artist. The artist watched the rooster for a while and began to paint. In about 3 minutes the painting was finished. The Emperor was thrilled with the portrait and asked for the artist’s fee.  The artist named what sounded like a large sum. “What?!” bellowed the Emperor “That only took you 3 minutes to create! Why do you want so much money? Are you trying to swindle me?” The artist requested that the Emperor travel to his studio by way of a reply. Reluctantly the Emperor did so. When they arrived and the artist flung open the doors of his studio the Emperor saw thousands of rooster drawings. The artist described his work history and extensive training and while the Emperor marveled at all of the rooster portraits the artist added “The portrait of your rooster has actually taken me a lifetime to paint.”  The Emperor happily paid the artist’s fee.

You can see more of my dog practice work in my newest book “Dogs by Sue Clancy”  https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dogs-By-Sue-Clancy

 

 

collecting coffee cups and recipes

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, fine art, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, travel art and writing

Spent a self indulgent morning drinking Irish coffee and reading newspapers, magazines and books – and discussing what I read with my sweetie. Life doesn’t get better that that! I also collected the dishes. Meaning that I went through my various sketchbooks and collected drawings I’d done of coffee cups. Drawings I’d done when we went to various coffee shops or happy hours and had coffee drinks. In my fine artwork I often depict my dogs or cats drinking coffee or tea – so I thought it’d be good to have a collection of “dishes” all in one place to pull from when it’s time to make fine art.

Here’s one page of my coffee cup collection. There are many more pages filled with cups … but one page will give you the idea.

coffeecupsa72

page from Sue Clancy’s sketchbook

Here below is a “raw” sketchbook page from which I collected one of the coffee cup shapes that was  collected into one of my other “all cups together” sketchbook pages – but the above cups came from “raw” sketchbook pages too.  I say “raw” pages because these small sketchbooks fit in my pocket and are drawn on the fly as life happens. I’ll refine them or re-draw them later.

mnttaborbakery

page from Sue Clancy’s “raw” pocket sketchbook

Living here in the Pacific Northwest I’ve been fascinated with the variety of coffee drinks available as well as the kinds of cups the drinks are served in. Did you know that there are some 44 different coffee drink types? I didn’t until I started noticing. I’ve not tried them all yet but I have learned to ask my barista questions. Learned a lot that way! And of course while I’m drawing in my sketchbook I write down the recipes as told to me – and then, if I try to make it at home I’ll note in my sketchbook my favorite mix. I think of it as part of my on-going “know thyself” self-education program. The recipes make their way into my fine art too – just less obviously. Here’s my favorite recipe for Irish Coffee.

IrishCoffee

recipe for Irish Coffee made as Sue Clancy likes it

art book pet peeves

A Creative Life, animals in art, artist book, artistic inspirations, Dogs in Art, words and pictures

I love books about art including books about individual artists. But I wonder why they’re often the size of a coffee table and weigh as much as a Rottweiler. Why such dense prose in tiny fonts?  So when making my own art books I go for a light-weight book design and few words.

Take my recent book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” for example. It’s 8.5 x 11 inches when closed. And it weighs about 5 ounces. There are 245 words total. And that includes the ISBN info.

You can read my book while holding it in the air above the dog (or cat) currently sleeping on your lap.

Here’s a link with more info about the book: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dogs-By-Sue-Clancy

Here are some pictures of “Dogs by Sue Clancy”.

And I’m  sure my long time fans will also recognize that in my art book titled “Coffee Table Book” that I played with my whole heavy-coffee-table-size book peeve by deliberately making an art book for smart-phones. More about that here: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/coffee-table-book

Yours in being able to read a book about art without needing a hoist or crane.

art to art

A Creative Life, artist book, books, Dogs in Art, published art

In my last blog post (link here) I talked a bit of my personal list of “9 ways to make more art” and after posting I realized that I could have added a 10th one: Take a past art project that was enjoyable and “add a thought” to it, re-do it in a new context.  This could be called “working to a theme” but I think of it like Jazz music – a call and response conversational play on a melody.

For example recently I took some concepts from my book “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”, spun them around my cerebral tumbler and created a new one-of-a-kind artist book.  My new book is titled “Stories We Could Live Inside – Or Not (A house is a framework for physical life. Language is a framework for mental life.)”

Here is a photo of it in-progress. You can see a print copy of my “Dr. Bob…First Aid Kit” book beside my new work-in-progress.

workonstoriesinside72

My work in progress – taking a few concepts from my book “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” and playing with them again. https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit

Here’s some of what I was thinking as I worked on this new book:

During the original “First Aid Book” book work I was in regular contact with Dr. Bob Hoke – and in our many conversations he’d talked about how his role as a psychiatrist was to get inside his patients small-world mental boxes, the life-limitations they had accepted without consciously realizing it, and slowly expand the sides of the box, make a door or window in the box – something so that the patient could choose to find a way out. He spoke of how stories are mental structures, much the way houses are physical ones. However stories are something we live inside often without thinking that they are “stories” – optional social constructions – because habitual language forms the framework of our daily habits of mind, our attitudes and ways of responding to the world. A house is a framework for physical life. Language is a framework for mental life. The kinds of houses we live in can affect the quality of our life. Similarly the stories we tell ourselves and each other can affect the quality of our life – for either good or ill – if we accept and believe them.

I thought of all of this during several of my regular morning ‘creative appointments’ with myself before the day gets started. I wrote out my thoughts on scraps of paper and in my sketchbooks. You can see some of those scraps in the picture above.  I made book dummies. I sketched ways to organize my thoughts into book form. I decided to use dogs are as character-actors in “Stories We Could Live Inside Or Not” because for me dogs represent a joyful exuberance at being alive. I sketched dogs.  And I decided on a paper-house shape…

It took me probably a month or more of “creative appointments” where I’d work a bit on this “Stories we could…” idea; getting it, developing it, refining it, experimenting with the various artwork parts of it.  The rest of my work days were devoted to 6 or so hours worth of work on my other creative projects… and the other stuff of life.  When my “Stories we could…” ideas had “gelled” to a certain point and I felt I needed more time to work on the project I scheduled a few concentrated times, more time than my typical “creative appointment” time allotment had been, to work on it. A few sessions like that and I finished the book! Another scheduled time session and I submitted it for consideration by the 23 Sandy Gallery. www.23sandy.com 

Here is a video of the final book “Stories we could live inside… or not”