business of art book review

A Creative Life, Authors, books, business of art, Sustainable creativity

Long ago, in what seems now like a galaxy far away, I organized a business of art seminar series called the Artist Survival Kit.  It was part of my work on the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s board. I also wrote a quarterly column on business of art topics for the magazine Art Focus Oklahoma. Part of my work included reading and reviewing published books about the business of being an artist.

Then I “retired” from doing all that and went on with my life as a fine artist and author/illustrator. Of course I continued to regularly read books on business topics.

Warp-speed ahead to the Pacific Northwest: when any two local artists get together we talk shop – creativity and business stuff – which includes discussions about books we’re reading. And the more-abundant bookshops and libraries here have impressive selections of business-of-art books sitting right there on a shelf!  (Imagine that!?!) Which brings me to this book I just finished titled “Real Artists Don’t Starve” by Jeff Goins. (and yes, that’s my coffee cup in the photo)

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My thoughts about “Real Artist’s Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins are below in random order:

It’s worth a read no matter where you are in your art career and worth keeping on your studio shelves for that moment when you need an “I can do this” boost.

I love the easy-to-read quality to the writing, how he clearly explains concepts about business in ways that don’t send your creative self whimpering into a corner.

I love it that he emphasizes thinking of yourself as an entrepreneur. Particularly on page 147 where he writes “Some artists tend to think making money is either a system you sell out to or something to be avoided altogether. But in reality, it’s neither. If you don’t make money, you won’t have any art to make. We must seek to better understand the business of being an artist. Ignoring this reality is the fastest route to stop creating all together. To be an artist is to be an entrepreneur. We must learn to embrace this tension and the beauty that comes from it.”

Yep – that sums up exactly what I tried to teach all those years ago in Oklahoma. But I think Jeff does a much better job of explaining things than I did – pictures being my preferred medium to words-in-a-row. Jeff Goins is much better at the words-in-a-row.  So I’m very glad he wrote this book and I’m glad to recommend it.  I’m also grateful that I now live in a place, in an artistic scene, where it was possible to  “happen on” to it.

As Jeff Goins writes on page 91 “As artists, we want to be where we feel understood. We want to live in places where our work and way of life are encouraged.”

After reading this book I certainly feel encouraged! Now I’m going to go create something.

(Oh, by the way, I sometimes post tid-bits about art related books on my Goodreads page…)

Bear salad and artistic kitchens

A Creative Life, Art Licensing, artistic inspirations, business of art, drawing as thinking, functional art, kitchen art, sketchbook suppers, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures

In my last post I mentioned a new project I’m working on – “Bear Salad”.  Well, in general my new project is a series of art-prints art-illustrations related to the kitchen.

The evolution-tree of this new project goes like this:

When I was in art school I learned from some of my older-wiser fellow art majors how vital being able to cook (and mix your own drinks) was to survival in business as an artist.

Since my college days my hobby has been cooking.  Specifically easy-to-fix meals that are often one-pot or two-bowl wonders.  As a busy professional artist I don’t have lots of time to do multi-dish crazy-complicated menus but I also want my food to be “artistic”. I want it to be colorful and look good on a plate – and taste yummy.  Why leave my artistic creative self in the studio? Why not bring my eye-for-color, texture and pattern into my kitchen – and add the art of flavor?

I love and collect cookbooks – especially the visually beautiful ones. Additionally I take cooking classes for fun and relaxation.  I have secretly harbored a desire to write, illustrate and design a cookbook. (You can see evidence of this in my ebook “Coffee, Table, Book” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/coffee-table-book)

Consequently food and drink has been a theme in my fine artwork for years. It’s been such a constant theme that I’ve gotten requests, as I did again recently, asking if I have “…art prints with dogs and food?”

It seems that people want my lighthearted colorful art for their kitchens but some people are afraid to put an expensive original artwork in a place where cooking-mess sometimes happens.  So I’d begun a series of art prints for kitchens.  You can see this here: https://society6.com/sueclancy/prints

As I’ve mentioned I take cooking classes… well most recently Chef Kim Mahan of http://www.class-cooking.com has kindly let me illustrate some of her recipes and kitchen tips! So you’ll be seeing more of these illustrations a little along as part of my new kitchen-art project.  I’ve turned Chef Kim’s recipe for “pear salad” into a kitchen print called “Bear Salad”. Here’s a link for the giclee art print – https://society6.com/product/bear-salad_print#s6-7068429p4a1v45

Here is my finished illustration of “Bear Salad” – and yes, I’m still playing with words and pictures – My goal is to create a series of lighthearted visually fun kitchen art pieces that just happen to be practical too.

P. S. – My experience of life as a professional artist has proven that my art school peers were correct; knowing how to cook and mix drinks has been a vital business-of-art survival tip!

 

 

 

designing a creative life 3 ways

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, mental health, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking

“Art cannot be separated from life. It is the expression of the greatest need of which life is capable. And we value art not because of the skilled product, but because of its revelation of a life’s experience.” – Robert Henri (American painter).  

I’ve been thinking of that quote today – and thinking of the people who have told me that they want to “be more creative” but aren’t sure how to start or what to draw. I’ve been thinking of how easy it is now for me to find subject matter. But it wasn’t always so.

As a young art student one of my first college assignments was to “do a 4 foot by 4-foot painting in acrylic of any subject matter but it cannot be abstract.”  Well that was a stumper. What to paint?  My professor went on to tell my class about how we needed to look around our own lives, our own experiences and find subject matter there.

That helped somewhat but still… what to make art about? My college life seemed boring and un-dramatic. How to identify subject matter I cared about?

I muddled through the school assignment and over the years got better at coming up with subject matter. It took even more time for me to figure out that a system of “short bursts of creativity” worked best for me but here’s what I’ve learned on my personal quest for the fountain of continually-interesting-to-me artistic subject matter:

A.   Keep a daily sketchbook, 5 to 10 minutes of work at a time, in which I draw or write about anything that occurs during a day that “catches my attention”. No censorship. No “trying to make art”. Just make notes, doodles. Play. Note the fun stuff, the things I’m grateful for and things that make me laugh or feel curious.

B.  After several weeks or months of sketchbook work I look back through my book and notice any reoccurring themes and I list them.

C.  I select one of the themes and set a series of creative appointments with myself to do a “real drawing” of that theme using good art materials. The creative appointments are 10 to 20 minutes of work/play at a time. I purposefully keep these sessions short! Repeat the creative appointments (aka short bursts of creativity) until the drawing is finished.

Then I select that same theme – or a similar one from my sketchbook – and do another “real drawing” – trying to do an even better job of communicating my thought or feeling. Again, no censorship, no “trying to make great art” – just trying to draw as neatly as possible, to convey as clearly as possible what “caught my attention”.

I keep working in my sketchbook every day even when I have a creative appointment with myself. Both of these 10 minute activities go on behind the scenes of my very busy professional artist life – and this “short bursts” concept could work within anyone’s “too busy” life and add more ongoing creativity. (Also, this concept builds on my “designing habits” concept from an earlier blog post: https://sueclancy.com/2017/03/29/designing-habits-6-ways/ )

Here’s a visual-thinking-drawing I did that describes this in a different way:

ShortBurstsCreativeTime72

For me it has turned out that creativity is a lot like happiness – it follows me wherever I go.  Below is a cartoon I drew about happiness that explains this concept in yet another way – it’s from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit

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page from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit

You can also see one of my published sketchbooks as an ebook here: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/coffee-table-book

designing habits 6 ways

A Creative Life, artistic inspirations, mental health, Sustainable creativity

“Stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive” – an old saying that Dr. Bob Hoke reminded me of often.  I’ve been thinking of that today – and thinking of how easy it is to form habits, how quickly these habits become the “air” we breath. This air becomes so normal that we soon think that things have “always been this way”.

As a professional artist my job depends on my “thought systems” – the quality of my ideas and how well I’m able to communicate them. I’ve modified Dr. Hoke’s saying above to “Stay close to anything that makes you want to be creative”.  My imagination is formed – fed – by my life experiences so I try to be careful what of my life experience becomes “normal”.  I do not, for example, keep mint candies in my house/studio as I know I have a hard time eating just one.  Similarly I purposefully create art studio habits that help me to happily achieve my goals:

  1. Keep favorite art supplies on hand, things I want to pick up and use.
  2. Leave some of the favorite art supplies or an in-progress project out on a work surface that I’ll see when I first walk into my studio. That way I get right to work.
  3. Keep a strict work schedule -be ruthless- decide what needs to be done/can be done within a day/work period and do it.  (And no, I’m not always perfect at this – it’s a goal) At the end of each work day I make a list of what needs to be done tomorrow. This list is broken into small achievable steps like “gesso boards” – that can be easily picked up/begun.
  4. Keep a list of quotes, photos (etc.) that stimulate my creativity/good habits – I post these encouraging items somewhere visible. It is best if it is something that makes me smile and want to do my best.
  5. Keep phones and other distracting items out of the studio for set periods of time. See number 3 above again. Rinse. Repeat.
  6. Keep a list of favorite people – think of them and make something each day with them in mind. Keep a list of favorite places, foods, music, movies, books – etc – and use them as a “guiding light” for creative efforts. (i.e. view them as a mentor, a source of encouragement, something that feeds my good wolf/your better angels, reminds me that it CAN be done.) Create habits of happiness – and happiness out of habits.

Flannery O’Connor once said “I’m a full-time believer in writing habits…You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away…Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place.”

For me it comes down to doing my best to be aware of what I pick up and spend time on – and choosing carefully. Below is a cartoon I drew that puts this concept in another way – it’s from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit

TheSnake

the art commission Innocent

A Creative Life, animals in art, art commissions, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, collage, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, fine art

A couple of clients have a Schnauzer and a Labrador retriever – they asked me (via the Caplan Art Designs gallery www.caplanartdesigns.com) to do a dual portrait while also reflecting the owners work/personal life! I have a series of questions I ask (about color preferences etc. details) – I also request photos of the dogs. I was lucky enough to actually meet these dogs in person. Earlier in this blog you got to see my “practice” sketches for the dog breeds in this commission.  After receiving the answers to my questions and photos of the dogs I created 2 pencil drawings to the scale of the proposed finished work.  I also created a number of hand dyed paper swatches to show the proposed color scheme.

Here’s a photo of me dying some paper blue.  I did several layers of this blue color on the paper in order to build up the “proper blue” that best matched the client’s preference.

DyingBlueSpray72

To keep this document brief I’ll not show photos of me creating the 20 base colors I created for the “swatch sampler” – so multiply the above photo 19 times at least.

Once the papers were dry – we met and the clients chose one of the two pencil sketches. Small adjustments were made in the color scheme and the drawings. And additional research was done. For example, I studied what vest collars are like, what wing-tip shoes look like, where cuff-links are on a cuff and gold pocket watches how they sit in a pocket and how the chain drapes.  I asked about and investigated what a “bar” in court looks like. I researched how the sleeve of a judges’ robe hangs.

I also “filled in” the other colors of hand dyed paper I’d need to produce the finished painting.  Where a section in a painting will read as “blue” there may be as many as 5 different shades of blue papers which are collaged/layered together.  Where a paper may read as “blond wood grain” there may be multiple layers of color applied to each paper that forms the various tones within the shape.  Yes, it’s complicated and takes a lot of pre-planning and research.

Once all of the papers are done and dry (there are now over 50 pieces of hand dyed paper) I begin cutting out shapes. Here I have cut out the overall shape of the Schnauzer’s head and paw out of a greyish-blue dyed paper. A light pencil marks the future placements of other pieces of darker grey paper and or lighter white-grey paper.

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At this point I’m cutting and gluing together all of the various shapes from the various “base” papers to form the overall characters and aspects of scenery.  With an Xacto knife I cut the needed shape positioning it using tweezers. Then I would adjust the position – often several times – before gluing it together. Then I would press the glued papers flat and let them dry.

As I constructed the Schnauzer character I got excited and focused – and I forgot to take photos of the steps of construction.  As I worked kept laughing, imagining the Schnauzer lawyer saying “My client is innocent, I tell you, innocent. My client, the Great Dane you see before you, could not have possibly reached down to such a low table to eat the 4 hams, 5 chickens and the pot roast which is alleged to have been on that table. It was beneath him to have…”

There is a lot of “back and forth” work to get the shapes and positions correct – to adjust the colors and layers. Here is a succession of photos to give you an idea of the test-adjust-test routine.

In the photos below you’ll see my original pencil drawing – which I’m using as a guide.

The Judge’s glasses are made of two pieces of paper: I cut the glasses frames out of a “gold” paper and glued them onto a white paper which acts as the “lenses”.  All elements within the artwork are cut hand dyed papers which interlock.

And so it goes – back and forth – building up each element in both 3 dimensional space as well as 2 dimensional. For example, the watch in the Schnauzer’s pocket is a complete watch – with numbers on it – even if you don’t see all of it in the finished artwork. Behind the suit coat lapels is the entire vest… the tie actually fits under the white shirt collar. The flag is several different colors of paper pieced together and actually hanging from a pole (a cut piece of gold paper).  If you could tell the Schnauzer to move over you’d see the entire “bar” he is standing in front of and behind those is the entire “bench” on which the Labrador judge sits.

Once the “base papers” have been assembled into each element needed for the overall artwork I glue them onto the cradled board.

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I pre-planned for how the various shapes “wrap around” the 4 edges of the board. This way the judges bench actually looks/feels like a 3D bench. All we don’t see are the witness boxes. The flag extends to the side and top edges of the painting. The judge’s arm continues on one edge. As you can see in the photo the floor extends over the bottom edge.

When these base papers are glued on they are pressed flat – and left to dry several days under weight.

Then the excess paper hanging off the edges is trimmed away with my Xacto knife and the now blocked-in painting is put on my easel. There many more cut pieces of paper layered on at my easel – many of them are very tiny pieces of paper, the size of a fingernail or smaller, others are tissue paper thin allowing the underlayment to show through – these papers are cut with my Xacto knife carried to the easel then glued into place.  More building up of paper layers until each element within the artwork has more tonal ranges and dimension. For example, the Judges glasses got more highlights and shadows glued onto them – they went from being made out of 2 pieces of paper to being made out of 6.  The Schnauzer’s eyebrows and whiskers are layered on. And so it goes…

Once again – even though it took quite a bit of time – I got so focused and excited about what I was doing that I forgot to photograph the various steps I did between the above photo and the finished artwork pictured below. (The finished artwork is protected by varnish.)

So here is the finished piece (details of size and media below the photo).

InnocentITellYou72

 “Innocent, I tell you….”

By Clancy

Size 10 x 10 x 2 inches

Media: Hand dyed paper, handmade paste paper, book cloth and acrylic on cradled board

the art of planning

A Creative Life, animals in art, art commissions, art gallery, Dogs in Art, visual story

When I work on art commissions I cannot imagine telling a prospective client that “It’s gonna be great! Just Yuge! Believe me!” and then refuse to give any details regarding the project plans. I and each of my gallery owners describe in detail what the client can expect at every phase of the art project being asked of me and when they can expect it. Questions are answered as completely as possible as soon as possible.

The ability to unflinchingly describe plans for a project in easy-to-understand terms, to outline a proposal either verbally or in writing (or both), to answer questions, to give updates and to have “how-we-will-know-we-succeed” goal markers clearly marked is the very foundation of doing business. This is basic business plan/proposal 101 and expected of any person in business.

It is all the more important when the business is creative. Fine art (and all of it’s creative cousins) are notoriously subjective, mysterious and mystical – when viewed from the non-artists point of view. This means that clear communications about plans regarding artistic projects is crucial.  If the client can’t understand what you’ll be doing, and can’t explain it to their spouse or to their organization’s board – why would they commission you do do something artistic for their home, office or organization?

Since a certain U.S. president elect has been so vague regarding his plans for the country  I’ve begun to think that doing “basic business 101” and doing it well is an art and it may also be a revolutionary act.

So to aid, support and show solidarity with my fellow revolutionaries here are questions I ask myself that influence how I communicate my art project plan/proposals:

Why are you doing it/what do you hope to achieve? 

I like to help people preserve, via fine art, the story, the memory, of their life and relationship with their pet; dog or cat.  I often say that “I help people tell their stories visually”.  When talking with prospective clients I talk about this goal and a bit about how my art-making process works, how I use elements from the real-life of the client and dog. Since I work with a number of galleries many of the clients approach the idea of commissioning me to create something special for them already knowing this about my artwork process.

I (or the gallery) asks what the client hopes to get from my work, about the size of artwork the client wants and what fits in their budget.

What exactly will you be doing and approximately when?

During the first conversation we find out if the client wants one of my ink portraits, which has a more simple project plan/process, or if they want a color portrait.  Assuming  for the purposes of this blog that the client wants a color portrait then I (or my gallery owners) tell the client that I have a list of questions and a list of photos of their dog (for example) that I will need in order to create a full color portrait (like the color artwork you see here on my website).

Once those questions have been answered and the photos have been provided I’ll take about a month to create 2 designs for their approval.  A calendar date for our sketch-approval meeting is often set during this conversation. With the gallery as a mutual point of contact the client answers my questions and provides the photos of their pet.  After all of the answers/photos are received (usually within the first week) I set about creating 2 sketches to scale of the proposed finished work along with a set of “color swatches” to give them a tactile idea of my proposed color scheme.

Then, a month later, we meet (me, client and gallery owner) and I show my sketches and talk about the proposal.  Sometimes it’s happened that I deliver the sketches to the gallery and the gallery owner conducts the meeting (without me) to get approval from the client for one of the sketched proposals.  No matter who makes the presentation/proposal, I take care to label my sketches clearly, with color swatches taped into place so that everything is fairly self-explanatory. I allow the client to take a photo of the approved sketch at this time if they desire.

When doing public art commissions I’ve even included copies of the sketches or (as per request) color mock-ups that the client could then take and present to their organizations board.

When a sketch is approved I provide a date when the finished work will be delivered to the gallery.  I set this date far in advance of when I actually think it will be done – because sometimes there is weather that slows down drying time – so I would rather deliver something earlier than a client is expecting it than have to explain why it is late. And I tell the client I’m setting the delivery date out farther than I think it will be finished – and why I’m setting it that way.

Then I get to work.

The gallery is available if the client has any questions or wishes to have updates.  As I work photos of my project’s progress are taken. Those are provided to the gallery who shares them with the client.  At the end of a project I often use those “progress photos” and write a “how I made this” document that summarizes the entire project.

As you can imagine clear communication of plans and procedures  makes the process much smoother for everyone. Clients aren’t left wondering what I’m going to do to them instead of for them.

Here’s a photo of a commission I did some time ago now. The client was very happy with it! It’s titled “Preying for Peas”.  That title seems relevant just now.

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You can download a pdf “project summary” about the “Preying for Peas” project here:  https://sueclancy.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/aboutpreyingforpeas.pdf

pet portfolios

A Creative Life, fine art, illustration

I’ve updated the “links list” at the bottom of my website www.sueclancy.com. Most notably I’ve put a link to Chris Oatley’s website which has helpful advice for artists/illustrators…this page about artist/illustrator portfolios is particularly helpful http://chrisoatley.com/category/portfolios/

And, now that the topic “portfolios” has been covered here is a pet:

Hair Apparent

Hair Apparent

 

 

writing art exhibit statements or “blurbs”

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, fine art, words and pictures

As I’ve mentioned before in other posts there is a lot of writing that goes on in a professional fine artist’s career.  Exhibit statements (or “blurbs” as I call them) are written for each gallery show an artist has.  These blurbs are often less than 100 words.

When I write such statements I try to: be descriptive, interesting, and clear/concise.  It’s a tall order to fill, one that uses all of my writer’s skills and stimulates me to learn more about writing in general – because I know I’ll need to write another blurb for the next show.

This very important exhibit statement gets used by the gallery (in this case Caplan Art Designs) in flyers, on press releases, in online promotions – just to name a few uses – to help promote the exhibit.  Like most writers I submit my best draft and an editor, aka the gallery agent, edits my best draft as needed.

Here is the final blurb for my upcoming exhibit titled “Paws to Enjoy”:

Life happens and Sue’s response is to pause and think about it by cutting up one-of-a-kind hand dyed papers, smearing glue on them and putting the cut paper pieces together again. She thinks about dogs, cats, and rabbits and soup, coffee, and whiskey. Then she sums up my thoughts and transforms them into literary images. This exhibit is a collection of enjoyable thoughts.

—–

This is the “signature” image the Caplan Art Designs gallery chose to represent my exhibit in their promotions:

HareFare72

For more info about my upcoming exhibit see:

www.caplanartdesigns.com

http://dailyinthepearl.com/events.html

advice for creatives from Neil Gaiman

A Creative Life

Since I’m a creative type – I keep a look-out for “good advice” on living the creative life well. Always have. Never know when it might be needed. I keep such advice in my sketchbooks (some gets posted on my blog at www.sueclancy.com ). Today I came across this link from Neil Gaiman (one of my favorite fellow creative types) which contains – wait for it – some very good advice: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2006/10/important-and-pass-it-on.html