Chapter 3: Readings From The Heart

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I’ve been asked how I manage projects, like my “Readings From The Heart” exhibit, over a long duration. Half jokingly I replied “one bite at a time”. My joke is in reference to this saying I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall.

Seriously though when starting I create a general big picture, a kind of map for the entire project. Or, if you prefer, an outline. When I design a long project I do a hybrid blend of the two writing techniques: outlining and seat-of-pantsing. I apply these writing technique concepts to fine art making. I described in my last post what my big picture became for this exhibit that opens this week; the exhibit statement and the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. Here’s a few photos of the printed catalog. An ebook version is also available.

But when I began, more than 8 months ago, my big picture for this project was extremely vague. It was akin to a map of a forest without many details. It was akin to a book jacket blurb, with barely a teaser of what might be inside. It was akin to a writer’s outline with whole sections labeled ‘more research needed’.

My big picture map/ loose outline, was handwritten on a legal pad. Vague as it was it still served as a starting point. I keep a notebook/file box for each project so I can store all of my notes in one spot for easy updating and consultation as I work by the seat of my pants and a lots of “Very Small Goals” (VSG) for the project.

Then with the vague map in hand I identified some Very Small Goals (VSG) that would help me start and proceed on my project. These VSG’s can be as small as ‘buy a new art boards by Friday’. The VSG’s change as the process develops. The trick with VSG’s is to make them absurdly small, easily achievable and very specific – including what and when. It’s important to also find some way make each VSG fun.

I think of the creative life as an Eco-system rather than an Ego-system – what’s important is participating, showing up and finding ways to keep things fun. I can’t stress enough the importance of playing and keeping things fun. That makes creativity over a long project sustainable. Here’s another saying I have thumbtacked to my studio wall.

As I proceed to work I know many changes to my big picture/exhibit design will happen. I also know I don’t live in the big picture. I move organically back and forth from big, medium and small pictures of a project. It’s okay to be uncertain, to experiment and play. I just remember to update my big picture map as I have new thoughts. Slowly over time the picture map comes into focus. A project also changes as life happens.

In this case I began my Readings series well over 8 months ago. Then the pandemic happened and threw a monkey wrenchs in my plans. For example I had to suddenly adapt the way I was artistically inspired: to change from being inspired by things I experienced out in the world to a stay-at-home life, things that I read about or only happened in my imagination.

So to think through how to cope with the pandemic and quarantine I reread Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit, which I had created some time back, about mental health coping skills and wrote notes, drew pictures in my sketchbook in order to think.

I also worked daily in my sketchbook on the topic of how to adapt finding books to read, and the development of one’s mental life to a stay at home quarantine situation. Eventually this book was published as Another Sketchbook in order to share my entire process.

Being in quarantine meant cooking at home more so I consulted our Favorites So Far book. This is a sketchbook full of recipes that were enjoyable ways to feed body and mind. You could say that my work on these artist books/sketchbooks is the medium picture, the inset details within the bigger map, the more developed areas in the outline.

A look at the original sketchbook page which is included in Favorites So Far

All of this sketchbook work inspired my fine art, where I developed specific thoughts with ink and gouache on board. You can almost think of the fine art as the most visible leaves and fruits on the artist book “trees”. In the exhibit catalog I’ve tried to show the connections between the artist books and the fine art I created.

Sometimes, as the pandemic continued, the fine art on the topics of reading, cooking and thinking felt too serious. Needing some self comfort and to have some fun I began drawing portraits of dogs and cats. In order to organize these dog and cat drawings I decided to make them into a children’s book as a gift for some kids in our friends’ lives. Many of my adult friends enjoy my dog and cat portraits so I decided to share each pet portrait on my Instagram page as I finished it in hopes of cheering my friends as I created the kids book.

The finished artwork became an artist book titled Alphapets and was picked up by Storyberries.com. A sequel Alphapets Too followed. Many stories begin with love and an alphabet – so this portrait project felt fun, relaxed and like a small picture, a detailed map insert or a sample bit of text to be fitted into an outline. (In fact, I spoofed some of the pet portraits within my larger fine art paintings.) Here are the pages in the big picture book Readings From The Heart that tell about the smaller picture of Alphapets and how it fits in.

The original artwork for both Alphapets and Alphapets Too is on exhibit at the Aurora Gallery during August and September. More details about those projects here with lots of pictures of the artwork.

When all of the artist books and all of the artworks were finished I reread my notes and used those to create the exhibit statement I spoke of in my last post. I also used these notes to create the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. That was the very last thing I did for the August and September exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars, the Aurora Gallery and Caplan Art Designs. Well, the last thing besides the framing and art delivery.

Below is a photo of all of my artist books that relate to my Readings From The Heart exhibit. Additionally I’ve created a webpage with all of this projects more than 20 fine art pieces and details about each of the 3 exhibits here.

All 6 artist books related to the Readings From The Heart fine art exhibit

During this time period I was interviewed for a Doodlewash feature about my work in which I describe my working methods, the materials I use, how my daily work routine goes, images of my artwork, etc – you can see that here: https://doodlewash.com/sue-clancy-artist-whimsical-visual-stories/

Here’s a picture of me working in a sketchbook

Clancy at work in a sketchbook

I hope this look at how I work on long projects has been amusing for you. The exhibits open this week. Many of my upcoming Instagram posts will likely be about that. And I will update the above mentioned portfolio pages too.

Then next Monday when I post here I hope to be beginning a new long-ish project; an illustrated poem for a children’s book titled Numpurrs. I found I quite enjoyed the serialized posts I did for Alphapets and Alphapets Too. So I look forward to doing that again!

Chapter 2: Readings From The Heart

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The purpose of art, in my opinion, is to cheer people and help them through stuff. My creative challenge during a pandemic has been how to share art during stages of quarantine.

In my last post I described how I’m doing three fine art exhibits in two states, in August and September, during this pandemic. Normally art exhibits are large-gathering social events. The gathering part is canceled but the exhibits will go on. All of us are just being creative about it. One of my solutions to the how-to-share problem has been to create artist books that can be shipped directly to you from the printer. My goal with these exhibits has been to be practical and amusing… and I think artist books help me do that.

One of the books I’ve made is an exhibit catalog, Readings From The Heart, that has the big picture, so to speak, of all of my exhibits. I also created the tiny picture, two alphabet books for children.

And in between there are three of my other artist books that also relate to my exhibit – and to coping with a pandemic:

Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit (mental health coping skills)

Another Sketchbook – more drawings from the heart (developing ones mental, creative life)

Favorites So Far– a kitchen sketchbook (enjoyably feeding body and mind)

The six artist books related to “Readings From The Heart” an art exhibit by Clancy

In total I’ve made 6 artist books to help cheer you that relate to my recent artwork. Poking about on my website www.sueclancy.com gives you access to everything – including some free ebooks I’ve playfully half hidden on my site.

In typical times when I exhibit art I write a short statement about it. The statement is used by the gallery for promoting the exhibit. In pre-pandemic times the statement would also be put on the gallery wall to serve as an explanation of my motivation for all of the art. People would walk up and read it. I would also be at the opening parties answering questions and talking with people. But since that’s not happening this year I put it all in my books – but in a much less formal way.

Even so here’s what I wrote for this exhibit spanning three galleries and two states: “Readings from the Heart
– It’s been a strange pandemic. Until recently I drew in my sketchbook from what I would see in the real world as I “ran around loose” in Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest. The pandemic altered that. As I stayed home, I began drawing people and animals more directly from my heart; from memory and imagination. This led to acknowledging that I deeply missed the local coffee shops, the winery, the pubs, the great the library, the bookstores, the museums, the gardens, the zoo… So, I began to experiment with how to adapt what it was that I enjoyed out in the world to this new “at home” life. This exhibit, and the artist books that accompany it, are my heart and mind’s adaption process.”

Because I have more space in my various artist books I went into more intimate details of what I was thinking and feeling – including cooking recipes and self-therapy techniques. I used a more conversational tone in my books as if you and I were chatting at an opening.

Favorites So Far – a kitchen sketchbook
One of the original sketchbook pages from Favorites So Far
A page from Favorites So Far
Another page from Favorites So Far

The galleries – Aurora GalleryBurnt Bridge CellarsCaplan Art Designs – will have photos and possibly video from my exhibits on their various social media and websites. Of course I’ve been sharing online too. Speaking of – here below is more of my artwork that relates to the topics within my artist books mentioned above.

Coffee To Go by Clancy
Sacred Dance of The Stewpot by Clancy
Pie In The Sky by Clancy
Midnight In The Garden Of Goode And Weeval by Clancy
The Way Of All Fresh by Clancy

As you can tell food, drinks and books are themes. I find it a useful mental health coping skill to be able to focus on small pleasures, to be able to experience subtle enjoyments.

You can see much more of the artwork from my exhibits on my portfolio page. I hope it all makes you smile at least a little.

Here’s a pic of me working in gouache and ink on the largest painting.

Sue Clancy at work on “The Way Of All Fresh”

Chapter 1: Readings From The Heart

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, author illustrator, books, Books In Art, drawing as thinking, fine art, mental health, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

My fine art exhibit schedule was thrown a loop this year. Three exhibits now happen in August and September. This is due to the global pandemic and the too slow response to the virus in the U. S. to which we’re all adapting. Changing exhibit schedules has been a challenge but one of the more easily dealt with.

Since March I’ve been processing, via my sketchbook and my fine art how to adapt to this new “at home” life and stay mentally healthy and creative. All of my artistic efforts have been about adaptation and maintenance of physical and mental health.

It amazes me to realize how much of my pre-pandemic mental stimulation relied on my travels away from my studio, relied on what I could see, hear, taste and experience “out there”, in the coffee shops, the restaurants, the museums and the gardens. Even when it was time to pick a new novel to read I’d rely on a trip to a physical library or bookstore to inspire what book to read next.

Yes, I was the kind of kid who got told “quit touching everything” when my grandmother and I’d go to stores. So how to change my habit of wanting to “be there”?

It was critical to begin my stay home adaptation process – because I couldn’t change the pandemic situation I had to change my attitude about it. For help I reread an artist book I created years ago titled Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit.

Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit – collected and illustrated by Clancy

I also drew every day in my sketcbook on the topic of books. Stories are how human brains process whatever happens in life so I felt I needed to get a firmer grip on my access to and my thinking about books and the life of the mind. You can see my process develop in my sketchbook because I’ve reproduced my sketchbook under this title: Another Sketchbook – more drawings from the heart

Another Sketchbook: more drawings from the heart – by Clancy

The self quarantine aspect of the coronavirus concerned me on a personal level but also on a communal one. Humans are social beings. I wanted to maintain my own mental health and possibly help others maintain theirs as the health of the community would help all of the individuals within it.

To clarify my thoughts about self comforting and to try to cheer people up – myself included – I made book themed fine art. Here are a few of the pieces:

Hare Heritage by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – ink and gouache on board
Sheldon’s Way – by Clancy – 7 x 5 inches – ink and gouache on board
A History Of The Sock Monkey – by Clancy – 7 x 5 inches – ink and gouache on board
Slaughterhouse Chives – by Clancy – 24 x 18 inches – ink and gouache on board

These artworks, and others, will be physically exhibited at Burnt Bridge Cellars and Caplan Art Designs in August and September. The pandemic being what it is there are limited open hours, appointments necessary and other special arrangements for the safety and health of everyone. For example: at the winery, Burnt Bridge Cellars, it’s possible to pickup a bottle of wine and my books curbside.

Primarily I’m making my artist books available to be shipped directly from the printer. Or to be downloaded digitally.

Like I say, it’s been a strange pandemic – many creative adaptations have been required.

Another example: due to the coronavirus there won’t be the typical art openings where lots of people come and visit with me about my work. So as an adaptation I have created an exhibit catalog, both printed and ebook versions, titled “Readings From The Heart” in an effort to share the big picture of my thinking behind my artwork in a safe and hopefully fun way….with images of the art of course. The catalog also explains how the other artist books relate to the fine art. Below is a look at the catalog cover:

Readings From The Heart: a fine art exhibit catalog – by Clancy

Since the prelude to any story is knowing the alphabet, as I worked on the fine art I also created two children’s books titled “Alphapets” and “Alphapets Too“. The original artwork for those books will be exhibited by the Aurora Gallery. Some of the Alphapets paintings appear in the background of the larger paintings. (I do love the painting within a painting playfulness)

Because all of my recent artwork is on the same theme – just slightly different perspectives – I’ve titled the three gallery exhibits that span two states “Readings From The Heart” and subtitled each Washington Chapter, Oregon Chapter and Alphapets.

I’m hoping my efforts will amuse you. All of it has helped me deal with this pandemic – and to smile. As Gerhard Richter says “Art is the highest form of hope.”

These exhibits open in early August and run through September. If you’re interested in any of the artworks – or in the wine – please contact each gallery. There will be images and virtual tours on social media if you follow each gallery online:

Caplan Art Designs (ebook versions of the exhibit catalog will be available as will access to my other books)

Burnt Bridge Cellars (it will be possible to curbside pick up bottles of wine and my artist books)

Aurora Gallery (copies of my artist books for children will also be available)

All of the six artist books related to my exhibits can be found online here. I will post again next Monday with another “chapter” of Readings From The Heart and exhibiting art during a pandemic.

Here’s a photo of me working on a painting.

Sue Clancy at work

feature article in The Columbian about my art

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Here’s a link to an article written by Scott Hewitt for The Columbian about my art exhibit “Dear Readers” that is currently at Burnt Bridge Cellars! And a picture of the front page of the newspaper with a bit of my artwork on it and pictures of the other 2 pages.  I was relieved to see that my artwork reproduced so well in print. Even though by now I know very well how to create images for reproduction I still breathe a sigh of relief when I see them looking good in glorious color print. Anyway, here’s the newspaper link all spelled out: https://www.columbian.com/news/2019/jul/18/vancouver-artists-ties-together-dogs-books-in-whimsical-ways/

DearReadersColumbianArticleP1A

Both gouache paints and acrylic paints reproduce well (even in newsprint!) but to my eye the gouache reproduces best of all. But then gouache was originally created for use in illuminating manuscripts back in the days, around the 16th century, when all “books” were hand written, hand illustrated and hand bound – one at a time.

Acrylic, a medium that originated in the late 1940’s, tends to be shinier and more difficult to photograph and thus get a good reproduction quality image.

Have I mentioned lately that I really like gouache??

mixing the mundane and magical

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I’ve been reading “Whiskey Galore” by Compton Mackenzie. Once again I realize that I enjoy the mix of real-life and a whimsical imaginative look at real-life. Mackenzie used a real-life event as the inspiration for his whimsy and did the mix extremely well.

Already I’ve been doing some of this mixing in my work – but I want to do even more of that mundane/imagination mixing in my various art projects. Here’s what I did most recently: it’s 8 x 18 inches, ink and gouache on board – I’ve titled it “The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients”

TheSoupBookStartingWithIngredientsSM

“The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients” by Clancy

It mixes the real-life (mundane) action of consulting a cookbook recipe, perhaps for chicken soup, with a (magical) chicken rescue. “The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients” will be one of several new works for an upcoming one-person art exhibit in September at Caplan Art Designs in Portland Oregon. I’ll post the new artworks here as I get them done.

But back to the artwork itself: I enjoyed doing a panoramic visual story that continues what I began doing for my “Dear Readers” exhibit currently on display at Burnt Bridge Cellars. The new wider format let me put in more details, more “story-ness”.

“The Soup Book…..” was such fun to create that I plan to do more in this format! And of course do more general mixing of metaphors, more blurring the lines between the mundane and the magical in all of my work. We’ll see how it all goes of course.

Generally I’ve been thinking of how important it is, for living well (and good mental health), to be able to view mundane life with a “glass half full” attitude, to be able to see what is good/delightful, and to use curiosity and imagination (and good books) to stimulate ones own inner life. Which is why I aspire to do an even better artistic job of mixing the mundane and the magical.

BTW: “Whiskey Galore” has been made into a movie – and a very well done movie too! The book version has a bit more story to it – but the movie is wonderful and it’s not always that both the book and movie are equals in quality.

Now for a wee dram….. Slàinte mhath!

 

 

Dear Readers on view and my art opening jitters remedy

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All of the 28 artworks for my Dear Readers exhibit have been delivered to Burnt Bridge Cellars now – and hung. Over on my Instagram page you can see a fun pic of the curator looking at a table full of my artwork deciding what art goes where.  Here, just above the wine taps the winery uses to fill wine growlers, is the perfect place where the curator chose to hang my painting “Party Pointers”:

PartyPointersOverTapsI’ll try to post other views of the exhibit – most likely on Instagram – but don’t hold your breath for many more posts from me about Dear Readers – because I’ll be getting started on my tried and true opening party jitters remedy: getting on with other art projects.

Too often, early on in my art career, I had the “what if I throw a party and nobody comes” jitters during the week between art delivery and the opening party. That wasn’t helpful. Quickly I learned that starting on new artwork well before the official opening  for an exhibition is the best exhibit-opening-jitters and general exhibit-up-and-running-I-feel-naked-now remedy. My blog posts, from here on, are likely to reflect new projects I’m working on.  For additional views and information about my Dear Readers exhibit – which will run from June through the end of July – please watch the various Burnt Bridge Cellars social media pages.

Now that the Dear Readers exhibit is hung all that needs to be done, from my point of view, is to do laundry, dress reasonably and show up at the opening party June 7th. More details about the opening party, including the chef’s menu here.  So I’m focusing now on sharpening pencils, taking inventory of the art supplies, looking at my sketchbooks and starting new things.

Thank you again for all of your support and encouragement as I have worked on my Dear Readers exhibit!

 

Dear Readers exhibit prep

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I’ve been busy getting the framing, wiring and labeling done for all of the artwork destined for my “Dear Readers” exhibit that opens June 7th, the first Friday, at Burnt Bridge Cellars. There are 28 new artworks by me for this one-person exhibit – titled “Dear Readers” – this photo only shows a fraction of the artworks, wrapped up, packed in boxes ready to be delivered. Lots more to do!

DearReadersExhibitPacking

I got my frames from a local independent frame shop called Aurora Gallery. Most of the rest of my art supplies came from a local (Portland Or) art supply called Artists And Craftsman.

The exhibit content, of course, came from my mind and personal life. More about that here and in my recent blog posts.

What did I eat and drink while doing all of this work? Well I’ve posted about that over on my Instagram page.

And yes, I carefully save and reuse packing material like you wouldn’t believe.

Or maybe you would.

 

party pointers and books in art

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I’ve been thinking about cookbooks and bartending books. And parties. It’s becoming the season here in the Pacific Northwest for drinks with friends outside on patios and decks.

On one of my walks I saw a beautiful Pointer dog. The dog dovetailed with my thoughts about bartending books which give “pointers” – pun intended – for drink mixing.

Here’s the painting those thoughts inspired – titled “Party Pointers”.

PartyPointers72

Party Pointers by Clancy – 16 x 20 inches – acrylic on board

As I’ve been doing with this “readers series”, my body of work for my upcoming one-person exhibit at Burnt Bridge Cellars, in the background of “Party Pointers” I’ve spoofed several of my own still life paintings. You can see a few of the original still lifes here and I’ll post some over on my Instagram page.

Hope you’ll also get to sit outside and have an adult beverage with a fun companion or two!

Cheers!

dogs strawberries and cookbooks

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My wife’s garden has at least 100 strawberry plants in it. They currently are in bloom. My favorite dessert is strawberries and shortcake. I only have this dessert in the summer on account of trying to be sensible. Nonetheless I’ve been anticipating “strawberry season” and making new artwork about it.

DogberrysStrawberryTreats72

Dogberry’s Strawberry Treats – by Clancy – 20 x 16 inches – acrylic on board

I chose a Bassett Hound as my character because of the breeds easy-going relaxed nature. It’s the way I think of the Pacific Northwest summer.

As I’ve been doing for this series of artworks I’ve spoofed two of my own still life paintings in the background of the above painting titled “Dogberry’s Strawberry Treats”. Below are the two still life’s I’ve spoofed:

JunesTreasure72

June’s Treasure – by Clancy – 7 x 5 inches – acrylic and gouache on board

ItMustBeJune72

It Must Be June – by Clancy – 5 x 7 inches – acrylic and gouache on board

Since we have so many strawberry plants – and get lots of produce from them – besides sharing strawberries with neighbors and friends and making strawberry shortcake desserts I’m often looking at cookbooks for ideas of what else to do with an abundance of strawberries.

My one-person art exhibit, which opens the first Friday in June at Burnt Bridge Cellars, is book and reading themed. So naturally, for the exhibit, I had to have a painting with cookbook and a Bassett Hound cook consulting a book while working with strawberries.

And yes, in the exhibit I’ll have all three of the above artworks displayed. I’m hoping that sharp-eyed attendees of my exhibit will connect-the-dots so to speak and see the correlation between the paintings, sort of an in-person story-puzzle effect; the ability to walk about (glass of wine in hand) finding the related art pieces and identifying the story-theme for each.

But whether or not people catch any of the correlations between my paintings I’m hoping the exhibit will be as fun for visitors to see as it’s been for me to create.

libation label list line

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Around the edges of doing a cat portrait commission and Chef Carosi’s illustrated recipe I’ve done some wine label artwork to be used by Burnt Bridge Cellars for their 2018 Holiday Wine. To meet the winery’s request for art that was “festive but not religious” I used 5 writing techniques along these lines to generate visual art ideas:

  1. Freewriting: I wrote and doodled in my sketchbook concepts that called to my mind a social festive season not attached to religion. This also meant writing down the religiously associated concepts so as to avoid them!
  2. Listing: I wrote a list of items one would buy when planning a casual social event. I doodled some of the items too. I also looked up some event-planning websites and went to a local party store and browsed – adding to my list.
  3. Clustering: I selected a verb/adverb from my free-write or a verb related to an item from my list and wrote further associations that came to mind when thinking of that word.
  4. Thesaurus/Dictionary/Encyclopedia/Google: I looked up words like “party”, “festival”. I looked up historical references to past well-known holiday parties.  I read poetry that mentioned parties or was associated with the Holidays. (Twas the Night...)  I thought of, and researched, holiday fashions such as the “ugly sweater”.
  5. Consider the Audience/Project Purpose: After I had done the above 4 techniques, in a wild free-wheeling way, I looked at what I had written/doodled from the point of view of the Burnt Bridge Cellars winery and what they wanted to accomplish with the label art during the Holiday season.

Then I created several images based on the above brainstorming sessions:

Then I sent the above artwork in for the winery owners consideration.

Here below is the artwork they chose and how it looked on the bottles:

MyWineLabel72

The winery was pleased with my work – and has said that their customers were too! (Whew!)

The Holiday Wine inside the bottles is very good (I’ve tasted it!) and I feel like I got to participate in a collective effort to add enjoyment to people’s Holiday Season! What fun!

P.S. I originally got the idea to use writing techniques when generating visual art ideas from reading a book by Umberto Eco titled “Confessions of a Young Novelist“.