Ants are making progress… in my new artist book that is! In my last post I was working on “Ant Hology” using a collage of letters, ink and gouache. It’s another miniature 2 inch square book that opens to 20 inches long. Here’s the progress:
Now to do the graphic design hocus pocus and send a digital file containing all of these ants to Storyberries!
In my last post I shared a sketchbook page that had Anteaters in it … yes, there’s a new children’s book in progress. The text was written by Judy Sullens. Please notice that I used my ant research in this project too! Ha! Here’s the first illustration:
Here’s my studio supervisor dachshund supervising the paintings in progress. They need to be finished by the time you read this post so my supervisor is helping to keep me focused. Says the dog “Hey, where are you going..?”
Here’s a look at the two paintings on my easel now that they’re finished except for the varnishing, framing and delivering. Due Tuesday!
Storyberries contacted me about their release date for the ebook version of my Odditerrarium. Here’s a Reel about Odditerrarium on Storyberries that I did to help explain the visual story puzzle aspect of my Odditerrarium project.
When I was a kid I loved looking at coffee table books with paintings in them. Now I’m enjoying making books for children that contain my fine art because the little kid I once was would have absolutely loved a book like Odditerrarium!
Anyway, this week has been very busy but even so I still played in my sketchbook most mornings (you can see what I sketched via my Substack sketchbook emails here) and each evening I read books. Here’s what I’ve been reading:
And here’s the evening shift supervisor cat who makes sure we have whipped cream on our hot chocolate, maintain a regular reading program and still get to bed at a decent hour. Says the cat “Hey, you with the thumbs, quit poking about on the phone and get back to lap making and book reading.”
I hope your week is pleasant. See you next Monday.
In our neighborhood we joke that western Washington is built on a giant anthill. Each spring we all battle ants outside our houses before they can invade indoors. The first hint is a mound of dirt where there wasn’t one before. Like this one on the edge of our patio.
I lifted the bricks and put the ant bait directly on the fascinating ant farm-tunnel construction then covered the bait with the bricks again and swept away the dirt on the brick edges. Of course I had a good look at the way the ants collected and organized the dirt before I did my acts of destruction.
When ants are found indoors I use a solution of vinegar and Dawn dishwashing soap to clean the area where ants were seen. The non-poison solution is in a spray bottle and it quite effectively kills and deters ants. Between the outdoor/indoor methods the ant activity is usually successfully managed.
After doing some ant battle outdoors I came inside, looked at my bookshelves and realized how many anthologies I have: collections of poetry, short stories, essays… In one set of bookshelves alone I counted over 25 anthologies. There are still more on other shelves. I have an anthology infestation and I’m keeping it!!
For the first time I saw that there’s an “ant” in the word anthology – so I grabbed a dictionary, a scrap of paper and made a list… and with that list I have begun a new children’s book for Storyberries. I’m using a collage of letterpress letters from Columbia Gorge Book Arts and drawing ants in ink. Both my handwritten list and the beginning of the new book are in the photo below.
In case you have trouble reading my handwriting here’s the list…
Anthology: [a gathering] collections, often varied authors, of a similar literary form or topic or time period (in my last post I listed a few anthologies about the Beat Generation)
Ant farms: [a gathering and a structure] a colony of ants constructing a dwelling
Holo: a word element meaning whole or entire
Alphabet: [a structure] a set of letters to be arranged in a customary order. A structure of language
Hology: [a relationship] – a general relationship between reality and it’s content
Besides musing about words my wife and I went for a walk in the Steigerwald Wildlife Refuge with our binoculars. I saw the purple blue grey colors of a great blue heron up close! I didn’t realize the extent of the purplish tints to the heron feathers. We saw lots of other wildlife too – including smiling friendly humans!
During our walk I kept thinking of a work of fiction I had read long ago that had a musician character who sang “Oh I’ll cry when the wetlands are dry”. The wetlands were a character in the story too as I recalled.
I also vaguely recalled some phrases about birds and wetlands from Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry. But these were fleeting snatches of phrases half-remembered like wild birds glimpsed in the pond reeds.
When we were home I rummaged in my books for where the “Oh, I’ll cry when the wetlands are dry” phrase originated. Turns out it came from “With A Tangled Skein” by Piers Anthony. I had an enjoyable hunt for wetlands in this title too…
The half-remembered phrases from Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver: “I am hardly an ornithologist nevertheless I live among the birds…” (from Leavings by Berry) and “The labor of writing poems, of working with thought and emotion (or is it the wings?) of language, is strange to nature, for we are first of all creatures of motion.” (from Upstream by Mary Oliver)
But since I live in Washington state I went looking for some wetlands related poetry from local writers. Here’s what I found from Salish Magazine a publication located in Washington state https://salishmagazine.org/issue-9-art-poetry/
In the mornings I was still thinking about the herons and the ants so they’re in my sketchbook pages. And it’s been fun sharing my sketchbook pages via email on my new Substack https://sueclancy.substack.com/
Speaking of slurping… I made a yummy fettuccine recipe using spinach and green herbs from our garden: garlic chives, green onion and basil. Here’s the recipe:
This is the challenge for me – remembering to promote the project I finished and is currently in public like Odditerrarium. Often I finish something and I’m on to the next project right away … like my “Ant Hology” book now in progress! So, more on that book next week.
I hope your week is pleasant. See you next Monday.
Last Wednesday when I delivered 20 paintings from my Odditerrarium series to Burnt Bridge Cellars 4 had already sold and before Friday 2 more sold via Caplan Art Designs! Many nice comments have been said about the exhibit too! Thank you all!
Here’s a photo of some of my art spread out on a table ready to be hung for display. A package of books is ready too.
Burnt Bridge Cellars is a large space and my 10 x 8 inch works filled it pretty well. There are more photos of the installation on my portfolio page here – below are a few pics to give you a sense.
There’s another area in the winery with more of my artwork and a basket holding copies of my book “Odditerrarium: a fine art album and nonsense poem”. (Copies are also available via mail here.)
Later this month the Caplan Art Designs Gallery will pickup the sold artwork and ship/deliver the artwork sold from this exhibit to the new owners. Between now and then I’ll make more art in this vein, beginning “Odditerrarium Too”, which will be exhibited in October at the Caplan Gallery!
I wrote in my last post about the Beat Generation and that I was expecting a book about the women of that era. The book came! It’s titled “Women of the Beat Generation” by Brenda Knight. The writings of Helen Adam and Diane di Prima are particularly fascinating; Adam’s use of rhythm and rhyme and di Prima’s ideas about the value of imagination. Diane di Prima’s “Rant” is wonderful and here’s a link so you can read it too. I am inspired by how the women of the 1960s and 1970s worked together, began their publishing their own and each other’s work, how they encouraged and supported each other, including the men, and generally persevered despite many obstacles. Working and sharing together is really potent stuff.
This cooperative encouraging spirit was in my mind when some of my friends told me that they want to be sure to get all of my posts – especially the ones with my sketchbook pages – and social media feels too random to them. So I’ve decided to send my sketchbook pages directly to people who want them via weekly emails using Substack. It will be nice to have a place focused on my sketchbooks. I’m thinking I’ll send these emails on Fridays. If you’d like to get my sketchbook pages via email please subscribe here https://sueclancy.substack.com/
This blog focuses on what’s behind the scenes in my creative life and I share my sketchbook here now and then to (hopefully) show how it fits into my work on the current project. The emails via Substack will be some of my sketchbook pages, a real-time looking over my shoulder, so to speak, at my developing ideas as they happen without a firm context. Perhaps weeks or months later you might see a sketchbook page, published earlier in Substack, pop up in this blog because it illustrates how I got to a place in the current project that I’m sharing about. For example if I had been on Substack months ago while working on my Odditerrarium project an email subscriber would have seen an email somewhat like this – even now this was a great way to share some of the sketchbook pages related to my current Odditerrarium series.
Anyway the Substack emails will be devoted to my sketchbook pages – which people seem to also enjoy and want a reliable source for! Isn’t that fun?
All of this sharing; this blog, my social media and now Substack is me attempting to follow this advice thumbtacked to my studio wall…
… and echo, at least a smidge, the cooperative spirit of the women I’m reading about in “Women Of The Beat Generation”.
Anyway, we’ll see how it goes with “Clancy’s Coffee with a Green Dragon” – perhaps it will also be a way to eventually do serials of my books? I hope you’ll consider joining me over there too – https://sueclancy.substack.com/
I hope your week is filled with lots of low-level ecstasy and an abundance of imagination. See you here next Monday.
Unlike ball obsessed dogs I get tired and need a break even from my most favorite activity in the world: making art. In my last post I talked of finishing most of the prep for my upcoming Odditerrarium exhibit a week or so early in order to give myself time to rest and recharge before the exhibit opens at Burnt Bridge Cellars via Caplan Art Designs.
Here’s one of my portraits for the exhibit titled “Unwearied Fancie”. It, like the others, is 10 x 8 inches created with ink, gouache and collage on board.
And here’s a closer look at what this dog is obsessed by er um I mean thinking about.
This week the massacre in Uvalde Texas happened. I’m so very tired of unnecessary deaths. I’m bone weary of gun violence. Generally I keep my comments about current events off of this blog but I’m very upset about all of the unnecessary deaths due to one word said by one political party in the U.S. One morning I grabbed a scrap of paper and wrote…
So more than just my hand and arm felt a need for rest this week…
Anyway, all of the frames have been filled with artwork now. Here’s some photos of just-framed works still on my work bench.
My dachshund has a bed near my work area. (See the photo below). As I finished framing the last painting I imagined…
“Is that number 20?” Asked my dachshund art studio supervisor.
“Yes! All 20 of the Odditerrarium series paintings are framed now!” I replied.
“Let’s order new artsupplies and then let’s go wander the yard, eat something, read books and rest.” says the dachshund.
“Great idea!” I said reaching for the phone to order new supplies.
I already have sketchbook notes (due to my almost daily sketchbook routine) and plans for other creative projects that I haven’t talked about on this blog – or anywhere on social media – because they’re in flux. But I know generally from these plans what art supplies I need to buy.
All of the Odditerrarium artwork is now packed in boxes ready to be delivered at the appropriate time. So it’s “all done except for the shouting” as I sometimes refer to the exhibit promotions. Tired ole me is very grateful to have help spreading the word about the exhibit from Burnt Bridge Cellars and the Caplan Art Designs gallery. I’m also beyond grateful to the fans of my work who share about it online. Your encouragement and support helps me a lot! Thank you!
The paperwork for the Odditerrarium exhibit has been done and already sent in to the gallery. I’ve also finished the webpage about the exhibit which includes images of all of the art and access to the printed artist book. As I get photos of the exhibit on the winery walls I’ll add them and other related things to my portfolio page. All of these things are my efforts to make sharing about my exhibit easier plus the portfolio page and the book make it possible for people to participate in my exhibit without coming in person to the winery.
My ultimate point is that you, my dear blog reader, besides seeing behind the scenes in my studio as I have worked towards this exhibit are also the first to see all of the Odditerrarium artwork together and have early access to the book!
I hope you like it! Here’s a few photos of the book…
Here’s the visit to the yard my supervisor dachshund and I talked about earlier. The Japanese Iris’s are blooming now and I really love the odd shapes of them! The other flowers in my wife’s garden are pretty too.
In my last post I told about our dishwasher troubles… this week a new one was installed! To celebrate having a dishwasher again I made one of our favorites and served the Coddle in the big mugs that are hard to handwash. Our new dishwasher did a great job!
Here are pictures of my art studio supervisors resting.
My reading stack this week: I finished Christopher Moore’s “Island of the Sequined Love Nun” and P. M. Carlson’s “Murder Misread”. Both of those transported me to a better frame of mind.
Being upset about current events also has me reaching back in history for a somewhat similar past era and the artistic responses to the issues of that time and how, these many years later, that turned out…
Now I’m reading Alan Watt’s “Zen and the Beat Way” alongside some of the Beat writers work in Ann Charters’s “The Portable Beat Reader”. (Here’s a good link about the history of the Beat generation aka hippies.) It occurs to me that many discussions of the 1960’s and 1970’s have focused on pooh-poohing the long hair, the beadwork, the lack of shoe wearing, the organic vegetable growing/eating habits instead of grappling with the ideas contained in the written works of that era. Many of that generation’s artist’s were responding artistically, critically, via literature, poetry, music, etc, to the Mccarthyism, the Vietnam war, the various conventional cultural cruelties of that time period. The conservatives, or squares as they were called in the 60’s, said “no” a lot back then too.
In reading about all of it I wonder is peace, love and understanding really so radical, so threatening that we must distract from those ideas by ridiculing the clothing and eating habits of those advocating kindness?
On the topic of 1960 era food: here’s a review of a book by Jonathan Kaufman titled “Hippie Food”. And here’s another article about the healthy food (brown rice, beans, organic whole foods etc) efforts that began back then. I’m now aware of very real kitchen table progress that has been made because of the ideas originating in the countercultural 1960’s, things we benefit from today such as more food safety, better quality, more wide spread availability of fresh vegetables and more diversity of vegetables and grains.
I have ordered another book, that hasn’t come yet, about the women writers, poets and artists of the Beat era. I’m impressed, by what I’m reading in the titles by Watts and the Charters, with how much work the women of that era did to expand the life possibilities for women living, working, cooking and being creative – things we benefit from today. (See also this tangentially related article) I look forward to reading more. It may be a cliche but we do indeed stand on the shoulders of giants. And I’m finding comfort and hope from what turned out to be the many Beat generation countercultural successes despite the frustration they felt in the 1960’s and 70’s.
My adopted Mom’s favorite flower is the orchid. Both Dad and Mom enjoyed cats – even though sometimes the cats knocked over plants or books. So I thought those thoughts while creating a portrait of a friends cat. I’ve titled the finished painting “Wonders”. It joins the rest of my Odditerrarium series and is also 10 x 8 inches and made with ink and gouache.
Below are some sketchbook pages from this week. In difficult times I find that helps having a sketchbook routine.
When I first met my adopted Mom and Dad I asked “how do I know you’re for real?”. Mom’s response was “Watch what I say and do over time”. So during almost every visit with them I brought my sketchbook along and took notes. Sometimes these notes got illustrated during the visit. Often the notes were rewritten and illustrated more neatly shortly after the visit. As time has marched I have used these sketchbooks as source material for making my books and other creative projects. For example when I put together “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” I referenced my sketchbooks and consulted Dad and he shared his original lecture notes.
Here’s a recent video of me reading a story from this book here – it’s still a favorite story all these years later!
My friend Sherri Kennedy has a great post here related to this topic of imaginations and “feeding” attitudes.
I also see a correlation to what Michael Graeme says in his blog here “Try to go deeper, into the sublime, and feel it.” We can choose what we focus on, we can fully experience our feelings (taking breaks as needed) and fully embrace whatever feeds our good wolves and let that in turn feed our creative souls.
Speaking of feeding things: I remember as a barely in my 20s young person visiting my adopted Mom and Dad. We would get to talking with books and papers strewn about, including my sketchbook and drawing tools, time would fly by and suddenly Mom would put a large plate amongst the books. On this plate would be an assortment of foods, many of which I hadn’t seen before: specialty cheeses, meats, crackers, fruits, vegetables and nuts. The first time that happened Mom explained “charcuterie plates” to me. From that time on during visits when such plates appeared she’d tell me “this is Gruyere cheese” or whatever the new-to-me cheese was, each visit was an ongoing education in life, literature and food. Needless to say all of our visits revolutionized my previous “processed cheese food slices” existence for the better!
Naturally I included Mom’s charcuterie instructions when I got around to reproducing my kitchen sketchbook, along with I hope a sense of the combination of drinks, foods and conversation about books.
Here’s one of my favorite photos of a younger me with Mom and Dad.
Here’s a photo showing how things often looked just before Mom would put a charcuterie plate down.
When I was looking through my photos for this blog I saw this one of Dad looking at one of my wee books.
I miss Dad and I miss Mom being healthy (last post)… I am beyond glad that they (and my 5 siblings) adopted me! I will always carry them on in my life and creativity. This, I think, is part of the idea of “working from life” perhaps even more than the act of looking at a real life object and drawing it.
And I find comfort in loving the colors outside my window and the light and shadows. May have to try painting the grey-blue, greens, browns with that salmon color…
And I get comforts in doing the work of my creative projects. Here’s my art studio dachshund supervisor helping me with the book design and layout for my Odditerrarium exhibit book.
In my last post I was working on my exhibit statement. I edited it this week…chiefly I remembered that I needed to say something in the statement about the art media I work with! Amazing how I could forget something so basic! Ha! Thank goodness for creating books and the editing processes!! Here’s the finished exhibit statement that I’ve sent to the Caplan Art Designs gallery.
A dear friend sent a surprise knowing that I love getting books by mail! Such fun to share a favorite author in common with a friend!
Mom’s self-care directions throughout my life often included advice to “remember to eat mindfully”. Indulgence in her opinion was welcome, necessary and to be done in moderate mindfulness. This week I made macaroni and cheese using onion, garlic with Gruyere and cheddar cheeses. The recipe is here.
I’m reading an autobiography “The Summer of a Dormouse” by John Mortimer. I love his fiction and his way of writing in general. This autobiography is adding to my good-wolves in that I can read about Mortimer going though difficult times in his personal life while simultaneously creating his pleasant fictional works. I’m reminded that it is possible – normal even – to be able to acknowledge difficulties and still create pleasant things.
I hope you’ll be able to feed your good wolves this week and create pleasant things too. See you next Monday.
I’ve been thinking this week about the role of curiosity in a creative life. So here’s a fun curiosity/creativity game I play with myself. To play you’ll need: any printed book with lots of visual images in it, 5 sticky post-it notes from a post-it note pad, a separate piece of paper and a pen or pencil.
To begin the game open the book to random pages, page through very rapidly – ONLY PAUSE WHENEVER AN IMAGE CATCHES YOUR EYE – put a sticky post-it note on that page. Then keep going, quickly, through the book until all 5 of your post-it notes have been placed. DO NOT READ ANY TEXT IN THE BOOK. This part of the game will only take one minute or two. You’re just reacting and post-it note flagging that “something caught my eye” in an image.
After all 5 of your post-it notes are placed look at each of your chosen 5 images, look only at the image itself NOT at any accompanying text. Add a letter (or number) to the post-it note on each image, write a corresponding letter on your sheet of paper. Then write very specifically what caught your eye in the image. This is usually a brief description of some ordinary visual element in the image like “ladies funny hats” or “dogs droopy ears”. It could be the colors or the odd shapes that are described. There are no wrong answers. This is just YOU being curious about your own native interests and creative voice.
After writing about all 5 of your noticed images get curious about them as a group. Is there a theme or a commonality between any of the 5 images? For example the ladies funny hats and the dogs ears could be grouped as “head gear”. Again, there are no wrong answers. Be as absurd and freely-associative as you like. This is just you playing and being curious about any themes that may be subconsciously on your mind today.
When that part of the game is done read any text about the 5 images you chose. Does the information in the text add to your interest, to your curiosity? Feel free to investigate further…
And that’s the game! I’ve found in playing this game often that my themes repeat, certain elements consistently catch my eye, and knowing what those are helps me work deliberately and playfully in my studio. I play this game often because my interests and what catches my eye changes.
The Odditerrarium series painting that I finished this week is titled “Curious”. Like the rest of my series (for upcoming exhibits via Caplan Art Designs) this one is 10 x 8 inches and made with ink and gouache on board.
Here’s a closer look.
Part of curiosity, imagination and the life of the mind is allowing oneself to mentally reach, to play, to accept the risks and thrills of uncertainty. As a metaphor for these thoughts, as you may know from past posts, I’ve been thinking of the ways cats reach up. Here’s two in-progress artist books that have cats reaching in them. (Probably these books will eventually go to Storyberries.com)
Recently I stumbled across an Instagram post by Columbia Gorge Book Arts and got curious. (Lettering and alphabets consistently catch my eye.) I followed their Instagram account and looked at their website. I found out they live in the same town I do! So I contacted them online.
Letterpress and Linotype work is in my own past work history so I enjoyed the trip down memory lane while viewing their photos of equipment but more importantly I loved discovering that Ben, at Columbia Gorge Book Arts, hand-carves from bamboo the individual letters used in letterpress hand presses! The letterforms are beautifully created and Ben has quite a variety of typefaces! Seeing Ben’s printed proof sheets inspired my thoughts towards future kids books and children’s room decor. So when I contacted Ben I asked if I could buy a few printed proof sheets of his various alphabets. He sent me some!!!
When you’re a child learning one’s alphabet letters also means learning to recognize a letter even if that letter is differently shaped or colored. Towards that thought (and to indulge creatively in a theme that I love) I’m starting a new project, The Ralphapet Projects, in which, over time, I’ll make art prints, cards, cups and eventually a story book using some of the beautiful lettering I get from Columbia Gorge Book Arts.
Here’s the first one. I selected one of the Columbia Gorge alphabet proofs and mounted it on one of my boards using archival glue. Then when the glue was dry I drew, in ink, a cat muralist reaching up to “paint” a letter.
Here’s the finished “Ralphapet Cat” that I did using gouache on a 7 x 5 inch board.
So you can see the array of my recent cat reaching thoughts.
I took photos of the Ralphapet Cat artwork with my big camera (a better camera than a phone camera) and then my studio supervisor cat, Hawkeye, helped me do the graphic design hocus pocus in order to make art prints.
Work happily proceeds on my new Odditerrarium series. I’ve a work schedule and I’m sticking to it. As I worked on this pug painting titled “Troublesome Wit” I thought of John Lewis and his phrase ‘good trouble’. I thought of how humans work together in order to have the wit and fortitude to deal with life. I imagined a pug dog watching a human take measures and make efforts.
“Troublesome Wit” was created with ink and gouache on a 10 x 8 inch board. Here’s a closer look.
One of the online groups I lurk on and sometimes participate in is on the topics of handmade books and artist books. The question “what got you started making books” was asked of the group. This is how I responded: I began at age 8 when I got hearing aids for the first time. I looked in the school library for a book about how books were made. Following pictures in that library book I folded paper in half and stapled it roughly in the middle. Then as the weeks progressed I drew my hearing aids and drew all the things I encountered that made noise. Two grownups in my life were always yelling “be quiet!” at me so I kept the book so I could figure out what made noise, how much noise it made and what was quiet. My pencil and crayon llustrations showed the “volume” of any noisemakers as well as what they were. I titled my book “The Be Quietness Book”. So I’ve been making books by hand or at least writing/drawing in blank books since age 8 until present time and I don’t imagine ever stopping! I’m still trying to figure things out with my books!
Here’s a corner of my studio as it is today that has many of my filled-to-overflowing books and some new blank books awaiting their turn. Some of the blank books I made from scratch, some I bought.
One of my poems was published this week for poetry month by Birdhouse Bookstore. My poem was put on bookmarks! As you know I enjoy non-traditional unorthodox publishing and publishing my poem on a bookmarker is perfect!! 😁 In the second photo you’re looking at the poetry books on the shelf in my breakfast nook. Several of these titles came from this localbookstore https://birdhousebooks.store/
I’ve still been practicing, whenever I have time, at doing Reels on Instagram. I did one in which I read aloud one of my poems in Patch La Belle. I’m having fun with this way of sharing my stuff.
Did I manage (finally) to embed a video in this blog post? Or do we need to see that Reel via this YouTube link here https://youtu.be/f0W-7642inU ?
Anyway, technology aside here’s a sketchbook page with toast and coffee.
I’ve been thinking this week of how it matters who keeps the stories, the poems and who tells them. I’ve been an armchair folklorist since my college days and I’ve maintained my interest in old stories throughout the years. Here’s my current evening reading stack.
I find it fascinating to see how stories and the cultural and personal attributes we bring to them can affect knowledge formation for good or ill, up to and including what gets designated as “important”. Then that knowledge, however imperfect, is what gets passed through to others who acquire and form their knowledge based on what we share. Whatever is new to us today will become “the way things are” for the next generation. All we can do is try to share generously whatever might help someone else build new constructive knowledge.
We learn from other people how to live. Sometimes in the effort of trying to share what we know we teach ourselves something new.
However there’s no shortage of people, in any era, who will hold up a thumb and forefinger an inch apart and try to convince you that the space indicated is literally the whole world, that their definitions of that world, their narrative, is the only “true” one, that only their description of what is important matters. They want you to believe only them and will likely somehow benefit if they do convince you accept their story framework and take it literally without questions.
Knowing a wide range of stories and metaphors can help us not fall prey to such literalism and narrowness of mind. Which is why multiple versions the same stories are essential. We need reminders that there are many points of view. We need a diversity of stories. A monoculture isn’t healthy for plants or any other living beings.
Anyway, my way of responding to censorship and the attempts to control the available information and to manipulate perceptions is to deliberately buy and read banned books, to read widely and talk about, learn and share history, culture, poems and stories. To carry knowledge forward, to wrestle and play with it within my own life and work. To do my thinking on paper in art and stories, to always be trying to learn more and to share generously.
Book formats are only one of the ways we as individuals and as cultures keep our stories – it is the act of collecting stories together, whatever the technology used – that helps us figure things out. To lose that collected, collective, personal or cultural memory can be both a current and ongoing tragedy because the loss of knowledge affects future knowledge formation.
Recently I read of a massive archival effort to keep and preserve archives of Ukrainian stories and poems which are in danger of getting lost forever due to the war. See the article here.
You’ll not be surprised to hear that now I want to find ways to support that project and buy at least one printed copy of a book of, or at least a book containing some, Ukrainian folk tales.
And speaking of important, relevant and keep-able stories here’s a link about the Wendigo monster . I’ve been thinking of this Algonquin tale a lot lately because I’m so tired of greedy extremist monsters. I see this story as a reminder to appreciate ordinary life and to play well with others. It seems so relevant to current times and possibly a guide for figuring out ways of going on and doing better.
As I type this it is snowing in my backyard! In April! Our Camilla bush has blooms!
I hope your week is full of wit, art, stories and poems that help you figure things out. And hot beverages if it’s snowing where you are too. See you next Monday.
My newest artist book “A Scoop Of Letter Soup” was just released on Storyberries.com and you can see it for free here! Yippee!!!
A video look at the original book “A Scoop Of Letter Soup” is here on YouTube and I did manage to make an Instagram Reel of it too!! I wrote last post about learning about Reels so I’m still feeling “look I did it!” about my new skill!! 🤣 And I’ve made a portfolio page where my currently in progress series of short experimental art books will be collected as they appear as ebooks on Storyberries. At some future time I may gather them into a printed book but for now this portfolio page is where they’ll exist outside of Storyberries. I’m loving the pun of making books by hand that are distributed as ebooks!!
Here are some still photos of the book
In one of the little concertina book blanks I made and talked about in last weeks post I am starting a new illustrated poem book. This will be a slow project to be worked on around the edges of other projects. But here’s how it goes: In my poetry sketchbook, seen in the upper part of the photo below, I have some poems that seem worth working with. After selecting one of my sketchbook poem rough drafts I did a few thumbnail doodles on a scrap of paper to try different placements of my poem text and artwork. The thumbnail doodle that I like best can be seen on the lower right in these photos. To the left is the concertina book blank and my efforts at doing the hand lettering and drawing “for real” aka neatly and possibly worthy for public viewing.
One benefit of working in a concertina book is that I can easily slip a bit of wax paper under the page I’m working on in order to prevent bleed-through of my inks or gouache paints.
Here’s the finished page.
A post ot two ago I wrote about one of my favorite books by Mary Lasswell “Suds In Your Eye” as one of the hopepunk style books I cheer up by. Lasswell was writing in the 1940’s so finding print copies of her work has been a bit of a personal quest.
One of my coveted Lasswell titles “One On The House” came via mail this week! A side benefit of being someone who creates artist books is that I have most of the tools for minor book repair on hand. The copy I could find (and afford) of “One On The House” was listed in acceptable condition but with a cover-spine issue. As you can see below the cover is barely hanging on by threads.
But the outside of the cover-spine is fine!
So I took a strip of archival mulberry paper and trimmed it to fit.
Then I laid the trimmed mulberry strip on wax paper and covered one side of the mulberry strip with archival neutral ph glue. I took the photo below while the strip was still wet after being put in place so it is still shiny in appearance. I used the bone folder to press the just glued paper into the cover spine fold. When the glue dries the mulberry paper will almost disappear and blend in with the books original paper.
I slipped clean wax paper in the crevice of the patch so if any glue oozes as I close the cover it won’t harm the rest of the book. Then I put some paper weights on the cover and let the book dry overnight. There were two other weak sections of the book spine that got this same repair treatment which is why you see three pieces of wax paper in the book in the photo below.
I am a professional artist who knows a lot about creating books by hand but that’s not the same thing as being a book conservation or restoration expert. My repair attempts on books are not on rare or valuable books. My repair attempts are on books for my own use. My copy of “One On The House” cost me 6 dollars and I repaired it because I want to easily read it without without causing more damage to the book. If I hadn’t done the repairs I’d bet that after the first read through the book would have fallen completely apart. I also want to keep this book on my “bookshelf to cheer up by” – more on that in a sec – so I want the book to be as hale and hearty as possible. Anyway, a very good resource book for such minor repairs is “The Care and Feeding of Books Old and New” by Rosenberg and Marcowitz. And a good source for book making or repair supplies is https://www.talasonline.com/
This photo below is of my “books to cheer up by” section I mentioned earlier. As you can see the book I repaired has taken its place on the shelf next to The Annotated Arabian Nights.
We poured a bit of bourbon and said “cheers” to the newcomers on our cheer-up bookshelf! For my own mental health sake it feels good to have a shelf full of reliable sources of good cheer.
As you see in the above photo one of the books there is titled “Mrs. Rasmussen’s Book of One-Arm Cookery”. Mrs. Rasmussen is one of Mary Lasswell’s reoccurring fictional characters who is famous for being able to cook very good meals while holding her beer in one hand.
I made Mrs. Rasmussen’s super yummy chili recipe and rice while holding my bourbon. But I did set my glass down when I chopped the onion. Even so I think Mrs. Rasmussen would have cheered my efforts. It did taste good!
One of our local independent bookstores, Powell’s, did a fundraiser for Ukraine. Naturally my wife and I ordered books. More than one box of books was mailed to us but the stack of books in the photo below was what was delivered while the chili cooked and the bourbon flowed.
Here’s hoping you too have a collection of books, soup, fur-friends and people that you love that can help cheer you up. So cheers! Till next Monday.
This week war began and for a second being an artist felt frivolous. But in difficult times we need art more than ever. We need things and people that feed our spirits and remind us of why we’re glad to be alive. We need hope. That’s how we fight for democracy and win.
When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began I listened to the news and searched my bookshelves for a title I had gotten in 2003 not long after 9/11 and when war began in Iraq. My thoughts then, like now, turned to the role of artists during times of war. “Artists in Times of War” by Howard Zinn was very relevant in 2003 and still is even though the current event details are different.
Spoiler: artists are carriers of democracy. To quote from page 108 they are “profoundly democratic”. Democratic is defined as upholding, however imperfectly, the ideas of rule of law, of equality before the law, equality in access to resources, equality of representation in government and the human right of self determination. The Arts are a living language of a people, a dramatization of what they feel, what they need, what their hopes are … The Arts help people become self aware. Self-awareness helps people make choices and become active participants in their own lives and communities. That’s what makes living artists so dangerous in the viewpoint of authoritarians.
And perhaps equally important is the fact that artists help us, no matter how high flying the political rhetoric, to remember that the kids will still need to be entertained and educated, that adults will still need kindness, that dinner will still be wanted. Art, poetry and writing of all kinds can help us remember that the statistics a politician quotes represent actual people.
Speaking of dinner: a dear friend came over to visit for an evening and to ask me to sign some copies of two of my book titles that she plans to give as gifts! It was so good to see her!
We had a free ranging conversation about life, books, movies and my friend indulged me as I showed her my art projects in progress and outloud we played with what “could be”. This is an extremely exciting and valuable sort of conversation! Bouncing ideas around in loose “what if…” and “what about…” ways helps me in my creative process! It was so unbelievably good to get my friends input! Sharing artwork in its fragile beginning stages is risky and I’m so lucky to have trustworthy creative-playing friendships.
I made a new batch of potato soup (recipe last post) and when it was ready the three of us ate soup out of large mugs while sitting informally in the living room where it was warm and comfy.
I delighted in having fabric cocktail napkins with my Professional Dog portraits on them and enjoyed our friends chuckles when she saw the napkins!
Whenever I feel unsettled about world events besides talking with my spouse and trusted friends I deliberately tune in to awe. Meaning that I purposefully do some small thing that delights me, sparks my curiosity or causes me to notice something and say “wow!”. A good article I read this week on the topic of awe and why it’s important is here. An aspect of tuning in to the feeling of awe is to cultivate time to play in unstructured ways, to make time to wander, to ponder.
On a recent wandering meandering car drive we saw snowfall and large trees. That’s a guaranteed “wow” from me – I love the large evergreens any time of the year.
The feelings of awe, the feelings curiosity and the feelings of an aha moment are part of why I object so strongly to book banning (see a recent post). The attempts to control the mental resources available to others is a form of abuse. Banning preempts the victims ability to be self-aware and to be able use, as democracy offers, however imperfectly, the right of self determination. The restrictions of a person’s access to books and other mental resources is as serious as someone restricting a person’s access to food, water or healthcare.
During times of unrest I think taking the time to ponder is crucial because an artist is so much more than a reaction to or a mirror of society. If an artist is going to take action rather than simply knee jerk react to current events it takes time to think things through.
Here’s a paraphrased quote that I wrote on a card and thumbtacked to my studio wall.
Progress is happening on a new experimental art book for Storyberries! It’s a wordless visual poem about letter soup with only 10 panels plus front and back covers. 12 images total. Ink, acrylic and gouache are my art methods on another 2 inch square concertina zig zag folded book. I focused as I mentioned last post on rhythm, repetition and surprise. It will be a challenge to talk about this poem on this blog and on my social media without giving the poem’s punchline away immediately before Storyberries has a chance to distribute it but I’ll do my best.
In the photo below I’ve laid in the extreme dark and light areas to establish the contrast as well as to focus on the visual rhythm. I’m thinking of how the ebooks on Storyberries flow up and down so I’m designing my content to flow with that book motion. Will it work? I don’t know. 🤷♀️ Yes, my new poem is for a category on Storyberries called “experimental” for a reason! 🤣
The sortof weird thing is that I’ve not completely finished promoting “How The Cow Went Over The Moon” yet. So there might be some promotion overlap. Oh well. People read more than one book at a time anyway right?
A few evenings this week I took a break from reading “The Annotated Arabian Nights” to read “Suds in Your Eye” by Mary Lasswell. This book was published in 1942 when World War II began. What I’ve enjoyed about this book, besides seeing an artistic response to the wartime events of the 1942 era, is that no single person is the “hero” or center of the story. The story centers around how a group of people work together as a community. The concept of working together is also what drives the story plot. And “good food, great friends and cold beer” could be the books motto. This is such a good book to cheer up by! I’d list this book as an early example of the hopepunk genre (mentioned last post). And the illustrations are darling!
Besides the visit from a great friend this week my wife and I talked by phone with my adopted mom and big sister! Mom said she’s proud of me and that I’m to “Keep making art”! Big sister agreed! So I wrote the exact quote of Mom’s on a card and thumbtacked it to my studio wall just above the light switch for the room. That way I will always remember!
I hope your week contains many connections with your support system so that you feel encouraged to do all the good you can in this world.
I painted an unauthorized portrait of a playful cat that I’ve met courtesy of a dear friend. This portrait is titled “Wholly Bent” and is 10 x 8 inches. This is me just playing and working towards future art exhibits.
Here’s a closer view of “Wholly Bent” it is 10 x 8 inches, ink, gouache and collage on board.
As you may remember I’ve been reading “The Annotated Arabian Nights” by Horta and Seale most evenings. I’ve been struck by how much the book talks about being true to yourself – accepting that you’re “bent” in your own ways- while also being an ethical contributing member of a community. So I’ve been pondering ethics in my sketchbook.
The above photo shows my spouse’s homemade blueberry lemon scones. Seriously yummy… but I digress.
These thoughts reminded me of an eon ago when I asked my adopted mom how to know when someone is “for real” i.e. ethical, honest, kind. Her response was “watch what someone says and does over time.” In my art journal I recorded a conversation we had on that same topic years after I’d asked the question originally.
In my last post I showed a hint of an art print project I’m working towards that I can’t talk much about yet… but a sneak peek is here (the grid of 6). Now I’ll wait to see what happens.
My last post also talked of book banning, a topic I’m following… well, on the attempts to ban books (and a thrilling subtext) there’s this article which reminded me of the skills I learned to use when dealing with people in Oklahoma who were in my face wanting to ban my artwork (see a prior post for details). This page below from Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit gives details about the skills.
Speaking of coping skills: some students in Missouri are suing the school board because of the book bans. (Article here.) Sometimes standing up for your right to read anything you want is neccessary. As said in the article “The lawsuit alleges that the district’s decision to remove books was based on the “dislike of the ideas or opinions contained in the books by policymakers, school officials, community members, or a combination of those.” Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that the district’s removal of books violated the students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights “by restricting their access to ideas and information for an improper purpose.”
I’m proud of and inspired by the students and their efforts to maintain a wide intellectual world. Restricting access to ideas and information can have serious negative consequences for both individuals and society. The larger our intellectual world the better we’re able to cope with whatever comes in life and then, having coped personally we’re then able to help our community cope – and the people in our community are better able to help us…
Also the more expansive our mental life is the more fun rabbit holes there are to explore that can also help one personally as well as one’s society.
Anyway, here’s a post from Austin Kleon that reflects my feelings about the importance of taking time to read widely and pursue the rabbit holes of your own making.
On a related topic I also read this article about how our attention span is not a product to be bought or sold. Our attention isn’t solely a vein of data to be extracted by a corporation. Our attention isn’t something to be controlled or abused at the will of someone else’s religious or political ideology. Our attention is a precious gift that deserves to be treated respectfully. And it’s up to us to protect, preserve and defend our attention as well as to carefully curate and cultivate it.
Having wide access to ideas and thoughts – lots of books – is how we learn over time what is worthy of our attention. Our attention span is ours to exercise and explore throughout life. What we get for our payment when we “pay” attention is the power to choose.
I find that having a wide range of books to read helps me stimulate and cultivate my own ability to pay attention where it nurtures my creativity the most. My sketchbook is where I practice noticing/tracking (accounting?) where I pay attention and how helpful it is or isn’t. It’s where I play with ideas and cook up my own “good wolf food”. It’s where I live and work with the questions. It’s where I “stick around and find out”. 🤣
As a creative person I want to be respectful of my readers/viewers time. So I enjoy creating “short” things: art, stories or poems that can be understood in a glance yet there’s more to be seen if a reader chooses to take the time to look. (My Monday blog is possibly the longest form I work in… 🤣)
Speaking of sketchbooks and reading: I feel a sense of urgency to create more books for children that are “artsy” and perhaps a little “different” from the usual kids books. So I’ve been reading about poetry in two books: “Writing incredibly short plays poems stories” by James H Norton and Francis Gretton and “The Intimate art of writing poetry” by Ottone M. Riccio. And I’ve been brainstorming in my poetry sketchbook (the orange book in the foreground) some visual poem ideas for my new “experimental art book” category on Storyberries.
Both books about poetry cover techniques to keep things short. I’m translating in my mind the advice in the books regarding writing words into what may also work when I’m making visual images. As you see in the above photo of my poetry sketchbook I’m thinking that the poetic concepts of rhythm, rhyme, repetition and surprise can work within images too. But we’ll see how it goes… more in upcoming posts.
Dinner recently was a favorite potato soup recipe from a favorite cookbook. Even in the solitary pandemic days I love reading about community being formed around shared soup.
When there’s a yellow sticky note on a page in one of the cookbooks in our collection … that’s a reliably good recipe! Add a star and the phrase “Judy likes” and you’ll know it’s a real good one. Then there’s the penciled in variations and now you know this recipe is a great one! It has consistently proven itself over time!
We had mugs of soup with a grilled cheddar cheese sandwich split between us. Yum!
For fun I’ve added James Thurber to my evening reading. He too talks about ethics and community while also being whimsical.
Thanks to a friend on Twitter I’ve just learned about a genre called “Hopepunk” – here’s one of the articles I read about hopepunk that defines the genre and has examples (book list!) of literary works within it. To quote from the article “…Hopepunk says that kindness and softness doesn’t equal weakness, and that in this world of brutal cynicism and nihilism, being kind is a political act. An act of rebellion… Hopepunk is a reaction to our times, an insistence that a hollow world built of hatred and financial ambition is NOT the norm. It is stories of resistance, stories that celebrate friendship and truth and the things that make us human.”
I have more to learn but I’m feeling like I’ve found another genre that possibly fits me and my work well! Discovering the “hopepunk” genre feels exciting like my discovery of the “miniature art” and “gift book” genres! With my creativity I do want to share whimsy and hope while also being thoughtful and real.
Yes, I’m finding it good to know more about the ways I’m wholly bent and to be able to find books and people bent in ways I enjoy.
Thank you for honoring me with some of your attention. I hope you have a playful week of more or less your own design, a week bent in all the ways you find fun. See you next Monday?