cozy mystery story stuff

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, artistic inspirations, Cats in art, Dogs in Art, fine art, music in art, small things, still life, story, visual story

In September at Caplan Art Designs www.caplanartdesigns.com I’m doing a one-person fine art exhibit titled “Story Stuff”. And you can thank the literary genre of the “cozy mystery” for it.

You see I enjoy detective novels and movies. I particularly enjoy cozy mystery novels because I like the inherent premise in them that a regular person living an ordinary mundane sort of life can use reason and logic to resolve problems.

After reading and watching a gazillion mystery stories – I realized how often some small object; a receipt, a coffee bag, or a whiskey tumbler is the clue that solves the mystery. That thought inspired me to try telling visual stories with “just stuff”. So for this exhibit I’ve selected things from my daily life and arranged them in my imagination, along with color, light and texture, in such a way that the viewer can deduce a story; they can “read” my visual description of how things are and which things matter. The viewer becomes the story detective/character-actor.

In some of my works I’ve also invented a character-actor – a cat or a dog – who plays a more obvious part in the story. Anthropomorphic animals are a way to make it plain that the artwork is a visual story. These particular animal characters are created and chosen because their breed characteristics add elements to the tale. The viewer is still the detective – there’s just more actors on stage.

I’m merging fine art techniques, and fine art genres of “Still Life” and “Animals in Art”, with literary and mystery genre concepts. I also love food, drinks and books – they are the elements of everyday Pacific Northwest life which for me is the stuff of stories.

Here’s (ahem) a short story collection from my upcoming exhibit:

more cats book progress

A Creative Life, animals in art, artist book, cat portrait, Cats in art, fine art, published art

I’d written recently here about my progress towards making a 22 page full color book of my cat themed artwork. Well, I’ve gotten my “proof copy” in the snail-mail, showed it to Hawkeye my studio supervisor cat – and my wife, a cat-lover – and all of us approved of the print quality! Even Rusty, my studio supervisor dachshund, admitted that the cat art looked good.

I’ve photo’d a few pages so you can see for yourself:

What do you think?

Right now you can get a copy – either softcover (like in the picture) or hardcover – here: http://www.blurb.com/b/8837851-cats or via Amazon.   Later this year I’m to do a library event and I may have a few copies at that time to sell directly.  We’ll see…

But no matter how this particular cheese gets sliced I heartily thank you for your support of my projects.

cats book progress

A Creative Life, animals in art, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, Cats in art, Dogs in Art, Narrative Art, published art, travel art and writing, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing

I do better now, writing words-in-a-row, than I did once upon a time. Reading text has never been a problem for me – but speaking, and writing. Whew! Lets just say good speech therapists, theatre-acting coaches and writing class instructors are worth their weights in all the precious things in the world combined. As a kid practicing speaking by reading aloud from a comic book or a picture book felt less intimidating than reading aloud from a text-only book.

Even today I enjoy visiting art museums and galleries and looking at the artwork first, reading the labels last. I enjoy looking at coffee-table books with big glorious pictures – forming my own thoughts first – reading the words later.

Nowadays I read plenty of books cover to cover that have text only, no pictures at all. I even give demo’s and talk in front of 200 or more people without as much as a blink. (Wish my 10 year old self, who threw up at the thought of giving an oral book report, could see me now!)

So it has become a philosophical point to ponder with me – when is text important? When is an image important? When to have the words? When to have the pictures? How much of either?

For example I love it that signs for the restrooms are often pictograms. You can “read” them no matter what your language – or your linguistic skill level. Much of our international travel culture utilizes visual maps and non-verbal way-finding signs for things like hospitals, airports and government buildings – using pictograms rather than single language dependent text.

As I’ve worked on a new artist book containing my cat themed fine art I’ve thought a lot about whether or not to have text along with the images. If text – how much? Text located where in the book?

When I did my book “Dogs” I had the text at the end – and didn’t include much of it there either. The majority of the book is images.

On the one hand I spend quite a lot of time coming up with the titles for each of my artworks and it seems almost a shame to not list the titles. But I’ve often noticed – at museums and galleries – that people read the label-wall-text and sometimes forget to look at the pictures.

So sometimes I deliberately create text for use in my fine art gallery exhibits… just to be contrary. I’ve even created whole artist books with text and sketches to accompany my fine art exhibits. But sometimes I omit text completely and rely on my art images alone, the curious can ask the person running the gallery for more info. In this way I purposefully encourage people to verbally-talk with each other. Which way I go – words and/or pictures – often depends on the exhibit.

Like I say for me the words and pictures question is an ongoing, almost daily, one.

People seem to enjoy my Dogs book as it is – largely without text. And I’ve noticed that I’ve sold that book fairly well in non-English speaking countries. People of all ages seem to like it. So….

“Cats by Sue Clancy” will be largely wordless too.  Here’s what the cover will look like:

cover_2

The front cover of the artist book “Cats by Sue Clancy” – http://www.blurb.com/b/8837851-cats

The book is square, 7×7 in, 18×18 cm and 22 pages – full color.  Here’s an early-reader link to the book http://www.blurb.com/b/8837851-cats  In fact “Cats” has even fewer words than “Dogs” does – but more pictures in full color.

I’m sure I’ll continue to have this words and pictures discussion with myself in every book and every art exhibit I create.  But I’m curious about your thoughts: do you look at words first? Or pictures first? What are your thoughts about wordless books?

more bourbon please less bull

A Creative Life, artistic inspirations, books, mental health, still life

I’ve been thinking lately about the various ways that language is used and how that usage relates to being human.

For example: it helps human relationships if people are sincere, honest and as clear in their verbal communications as possible.  Deliberate efforts to use language so as to mislead others to one’s own advantage is the opposite of helpful human relating.

Being a language-using human means to try to make mental connections between ideas/concepts and that includes trying to connect with other humans. Human existence and experience are about making connections and evaluating the qualities of those on-going connections, selecting the helpful and meaningful ones, expanding the number of “good relationships”.  We create the world together.

Bullshitting is an effort to avoid making meaningful connections.  To bullshit is to manipulate language so as to avoid relating directly with people in fact-based, rational, practical ways.

To share a drink (whether alcoholic beverages or not), to share food and to share books is an expression of a strong desire to meaningfully connect with someone. Sharing drinks, food, books, sports and many other collaborative/cooperative activities are ways we develop relationships and nurture on-going connections.

I’ve recently re-read “Bullshit” by Harry G. Frankfurt, mused on it’s contents so much (see the above verbiage) that I’ve included the book in a painting.  And yes I really did use lots of sticky-notes in my copy of Frankfurt’s book, my effort to make connections between the concepts I found there.

Now that we’ve discussed “Bullshit” –  what beverages do you like to drink?

NeedMoreBourbon72

“Need More Bourbon” by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – acrylic and gouache on board.

 

 

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.