The exercise of writing an art statement for my upcoming art exhibit “Figures Of Speech” has me reaching for essays by Wendell Berry and thinking of the ways poetry can evoke many thoughts and feelings in a few lines.
My upcoming art exhibit is titled Figures Of Speech and the title is itself a description of what my exhibit is about. I know exactly what inspired all of the individual artworks too but writing brief, succinct words about an entire visual art exhibit, a non-verbal artifact of my living and being over this last year, is quite a challenge. In trying to do it I’m reminded of the koan “what is the sound of one hand clapping”. 🤣 Anyway, I need to write something clear and accessible that puts all 22 of my paintings into a context for a public that probably hasn’t gone to art school and perhaps isn’t primarily there for the art. My exhibit will be held in a winery so my statement needs to be short enough to be read quickly while the wine is poured and friends are arriving. So thinking about an art statement like a brief poem – a haiku even – helps me to write it.
As I begin to write an art statement I pay attention to page 179 in Standing By Words … “One of the uses of poetry is to reveal and articulate and preserve the necessary connections between the domestic and the wild”. So I focus on the connection between what inspired me, what the exhibit topic is, why I did it…and my audience.
Here’s what I wrote:
Of course I didn’t write my statement in any poetry format I just used the idea of poetry as a way of keeping my statement simple and close to the direct connections between the things I want to share and who I’m sharing with. Hopefully someone reading my statement will become curious about my art. Or hopefully someone looking at my art will seek further insight and will find it in my statement.
Fortunately, because this is a home game so to speak, I don’t need to add much within the statement itself about who I am. I’ve been doing these exhibits at the winery annually for more than 10 years now. I’m a known suspect 🤣 so my name, my website and the Caplan Art Designs Gallery website suffice.
Over on my email newsletter as well as here on this blog I can tell a bit more about the artwork and my thinking because people are primarily reading instead of, as they are in the busy boisterous winery, focusing on meeting friends, drinking wine and eating dinner. I fully intend my art to be a pleasant backdrop for all of that! This is one of the things art is for!! If someone views my art at the winery and has more questions beyond what my art statement says – there will also be a tag with my website, my email newsletter and the Caplan Art Designs Gallery contact information. Plus each painting will have a wall lable with the painting title, media and price.
Here’s one of the first newsletters showing my sketchbook page, the finished artwork along with more descriptions of my thought process from me. I’m planning to share more of these kind of newsletters between now and when the exhibit opens June 2nd… so that there’s both something for the physical exhibit goers to find online if they want more info and a way to share my exhibit with friends wherever they are in the world. I’ve taken it as a personal challenge to create art exhibits for a specific physical location *and* as a multimedia exhibit that extends beyond that one place.
BTW: Here’s what one of my work tables looks like while I’m framing one of my artworks.
Hello, art studio supervisor dachshund interrupting here with an important message – I’ve been monitoring the progress Sue Clancy has made at filling these boxes with framed fine art for the upcoming art exhibit in June/July at the winery www.burntbridgecellars.com – and things are going so well that I’m gonna take the artist outside for a short walk now. Like right now okay? Thank you.
She’ll see you next Monday. Dachshund done and we gotta go!
My Odditerrarium fine art exhibit opens this Thursday Oct 6 from 6 to 8 pm at Caplan Art Designs! It’s been fun to think so much about what dogs and cats might think about! I hope others are amused too.
I’ve enjoyed titling paintings in ways that refer to aspects of mental life. Sometimes, like this painting below, I’ve been rather straightforward. This painting is titled “Intellect”.
Here’s a look at the exhibit in the process of going up on the wall at Caplan Art Designs. The gallery kindly sent me these photos. You can see more about my entire series here on my portfolio and I’m still very proud of the nonsense poem book related to my exhibit! Yes, copies of my book will be available at the Gallery and also available online here – with a full preview of the entire book too.
On another gallery wall there are 3 of my other paintings from other series.
Here’s a kid looking at one of my paintings before it got moved to a different place in the Gallery.
On my email newsletter recently I shared a few of the sketchbook pages where I’d thought, with a pen in hand, about thinking.
Over on NIL-TECH they wrote a really nice thing about my currently in progress drawing marathon…please click here to see it for yourself. It’s so nice! <blushing>
Progress has also been happening steadily on my 3d 8 inch cube that I mentioned in my last post.
Progress too this week on the illustrations I’m doing for a cookbook by Chef Kim Mahan. I propped a spoon on a small bowl so I could draw it properly.
If you saw the above Reel then you’ll recognize the progress I’ve made in the photos below.
If you’re wondering how I’m managing so many projects at one time: I have 3 work stations in my studio. Each project has it’s own area with an art supply taboret between them with my color palettes and brushes sorted for each project. This way the projects and the supplies I’m using for each one are always ready. I’ll take turns working in short bursts almost daily on each project until they’re finished.
My sketchbooks and the art supplies I use for them are much more portable and roam with me from the coffee pot to the breakfast table or outside to our patio.
And here’s hoping the rest of this week goes smoothly for us all. See you next Monday.
I wrote in my last post that there may be hedgehogs and foxes in my upcoming sketchbook pages because I’m reading “The Hedgehog and the Fox” Isaiah Berlin’s famous essay about Tolstoy and history based on the Greek aphorism “The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing”
In his book Isaiah Berlin writes (I’m paraphrasing) of how history is actually created by a whole bunch of people but when we talk about a time in history we tend to single out one person as a “hero” and the lone “causal agent” of an event. Berlin writes of how as a creative person Tolstoy was naturally a “many things” fox but as he got older Tolstoy wanted to be a hedgehog with “one big thing” that explains everything.
My reading got me to thinking about hedgehogs, foxes, Tolstoy’s demands of himself as a creative person and how that aphorism related to creativity. I said something about that and my friend Liz Gauffreau asked me how hedgehogs relate to the literary world:
Well, besides the fact that both foxes and hedgehogs are so very cute and fun to draw and write about here are a few of my somewhat random thoughts while reading the essay by Isaiah Berlin. Don’t worry I’ll intersperse my thoughts with sketchbook drawings of hedgehogs and foxes using all 3 of the new fountain pens I described in my last post. (BTW there are even more fox and hedgehog sketchbook pages in my recent email newsletter )
As I read Berlin’s essay I’m realizing that as a creative person I use the fox-like kind of “knowing many things” in a free ranging playful open way while I’m in the midst of creating. I’m free-associating between many things while I’m on the hunt for how to best express my elusive thought. But once I’ve finished my creation and caught my thought then, if I’m not careful, I can curl up into a prickly ball hedgehog-like defensive about whether my creation “means” something, what it means, whether it was worth doing, which “one big things” label it belongs within…etc. Staying for any amount of time in such a prickly ball isn’t helpful.
This getting stuck in a hedgehog ball mode happened more often in my younger years but still occasionally I feel a despairing “what was the point of doing all that?” moment. By now I know not to “feed” such overly self-critical negative thoughts and to deliberately stretch out and switch my thinking to some other more pleasant topic. I know such moments will pass especially after a good meal, a good night’s sleep, time spent reading a novel or going for a walk with my spouse. It’s not always easy but that’s the way I deal with it. I avoid getting stuck by deliberately keeping fluid movements between the modes of fox and hedgehog. Anyway, in my mind, that’s one part of how hedgehogs and foxes figure in the creative/literary life.
Another part of how hedgehogs and foxes figure in to it: our creative life isn’t “one big thing”: we aren’t the sum total of one published book or one painting. We aren’t one label. A creative life is cumulative. Of course when people talk about artists or writers shorthand references – labels – are often made like “So And So is the insert genre label author of Famous Book”. But this is just a way of speaking, a verbal convention. It’s even a necessary one because we use helpful labels to find things, like books to read, and a name or a genre category label is a great starting place.
Yet during the lived reality of a creative life things aren’t so simplistic. Creativity is many-things fox like when we’re in the midst of our unnamed, unlabeled creative project. It can feel unfocused, messy, free ranging all over the territory at the beginning only slowly becoming focused over time as the thought “scent” is caught and the project develops towards completion. After completion then the one-big-thing hedgehog label can be applied. And while my diagram below simplifies the fox/hedgehog creative process please know that this process isn’t linear, its fluid, there will be foxhogs and hedgeoxes, there’ll be all sorts of fits and starts, beginnings and endings, rushing currents and still pools… before a project is finished.
This process of metamorphosis from fox to hedgehog is part of why it is such a challenge for writers and artists to think up loglines or book jacket blurbs or elevator speeches or art statements that sum up their creation in a few sentences (or a Tweet). To sum up their work of the last few years, work they sweated daily over, work they gnashed their teeth on – to distill what it was about using 150 words or less both encompasses and transcends the lived creative process itself. It’s hard to rise above the creative life meadows where the foxes and hedgehogs have played and, from a birds eye viewpoint, select a single meaning for the shorthand talking points. This difficulty is why it’s also a challenge to write query letters that briefly describe a manuscript submission. It’s hard to reduce a fox-y many splendors creation down to a hedgehog-y one big thing and to call the hedgehog an accurate, yet attractive, name.
By the way if you formulate the hedgehog one-big-thing, the logline or art statement, in advance and are rigid about it (i.e. curl up in a prickly hedgehog ball) the resulting project is seldom satisfying to either the foxes aka the creators themselves or to their audience.
And yet a hedgehog can be a great starting place – if you aren’t rigid about the hedgehog label and use it as a prompt! It’s highly likely that a creation that starts out as one defined hedgehog can shape-shift to a fox during the creative process and finish up needing an entirely different hedgehog-y label. So that’s another reason it’s a challenge at the end of a project to select the exact hedgehog that was metamorphosed from that fox. This is also part of the exhilarating fun of a creative life.
We enjoy the arts for the fox-y complexity of many things in them – we talk about that complexity we enjoyed viscerally using simple hedgehog-y verbage. The fox represents a direct experience and a nonverbal expression of life. The hedgehog represents a definition and ways of talking about that artistic representation of life. We need both the foxes and the hedgehogs. The challenge is to remain loose, open, letting the foxes and hedgehogs become themselves while also keeping a benevolent watch over them.
What a work of art or literature “means” in the big scheme of it’s hedgehog label, is identified (if ever) after the work has been made and existed in the world a while. After the artist is finished then we use simple language to sum up what a creation meant. We give it a genre, a category, a label. That summing up or meaning finding is done and verified over the duration of time that the art exists – it gets reevaluated by the artist and by the audience constantly. The lables often get changed multiple times before they “settle” if they ever do. Almost all of Tolstoy’s work has gotten reevaluated numerous times since the era in which he was living and working.
From a creative person’s point of view I find it’s sanity-saving to not worry about the meaning of one work in the big scheme of things but to just get on with the next project. I don’t worry overmuch about the hedgehog labels I give my work for use when submitting or promoting it. As I wrote in my last post I’m regularly surprised by what labels publishers, distributors and art gallery owners place on my work. I just accept the label and these labels become tools I can use to talk with that distributor. For example I now can say to Storyberries “Here’s a new ABC123 Poetry book from me”. But even with that new knowledge generally my attitude when I’m working in my studio is “I’ll make the stuff and you can sort it out” rather than getting stuck on any of the potential labels while I’m in the creative process. Anyway, here’s a note on this topic that I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall.
The meaningfulness that is found after the creation is finished also has an element of danger. Sometimes because an artist is so tired upon completion they, in their fatigue, misjudge their own work and may mislabel it or even destroy it. Sometimes an artist gets stuck on a label and that impedes their progress. Sometimes the selected audience isn’t ready for a creative work and rejects it. Sometimes a work isn’t found to be meaningful until long after the artist and audience’s current era is gone and a new era begins. Sometimes a different audience within an artist’s lifetime finds the work more meaningful. Sometimes meanings and labels change over time too. Sometimes these new labels are helpful and sometimes they’re not.
So for all of those reasons I find it’s best to avoid gaslighting myself, i.e. making hard declarative statements about my work, either as I’m working on projects or whenever they’re finished. I just enjoy the process of making things. Other people can sort them into meanings and categories. That said, I do find the effort of succinctly summarizing my own creative works as a logline etc helpful as long as I don’t take it too seriously. Whatever you want to call it is fine with me as long as my personal foxes get to play and my hedgehogs stay cute.
Which brings me to book banning. I despise censorship because someone somewhere has decided in advance what a book or work of art “means” and they aren’t willing to let people decide that for themselves. They get rigid, in a hedgehog-y prickly defensive ball way, about everything fitting into their one big thing label whether that label is political or religious. They can’t, or won’t, deal with the foxes free ranging exploration. They’re allergic to questions and uncertainty. They reject categorically the concept of changes over time. They’ll decide they just don’t like one particular fox or hedgehog and insist that the external world must conform to their preferences.
Creativity is all about questions and dealing well with uncertainty. To be creative is to actively participate in change and growth. Creativity is a response to the world. Anyway, here’s an article about many of the current censorship efforts that I keep a careful eye on.
In my current art exhibit at the Aurora Gallery on the upper left shelf in the photo below is an artist book I made which tells a truth about rabbits and metaphorically about people. It’s called “The Rabbit” and it is about book banning.
I also participated from home by posting this: I #standwithsalman in favor of free expression. For the Aug 19 2022 @PENamerica event I’m reading from “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” by @SalmanRushdie – it’s one of my favorites – Here’s my reading on YouTube.
There now that I’ve finished this blog post I’ll deliberately avoid the one-big-thing type question of “did my efforts to write this blog post mean anything or matter in any way to the larger literary or creative culture?”. In such a question lies gaslighting madness. So instead of going there I accept that I enjoyed writing out my views of the creative process within the context of hedgehogs, foxes and the essay by Isaiah Berlin. And I hope my friend Liz will enjoy reading my thoughts on how hedgehogs and foxes relate to the literary world. There, that’s enough mattering and meaning for me.
Aha, now after rereading what I’ve written (and correcting the autocorrect 🙄) I see that there’s a few category and tag labels that I can use when publishing this blog post! Good enough…
I hope your creative week is full of playful foxes and hedgehogs. See you next Monday.
My exhibit “For You By Sue the ABC’s: Art, Books, Cards” opened at the Aurora Gallery. It was my first art event since my adopted Mom passed so it was hard in many ways. But I spent time talking with my spouse and being in touch with family and friends so that helped. I didn’t attend my art opening in person because I’m still being careful re Covid and, frankly, I didn’t want to cry in public. Even so I heard nice comments via social media from people who saw my exhibit during the opening and took the time to tell me they enjoyed it. It’s safe to say quite a wide spectrum of my emotions were covered.
Which made me glad that I’d spent time reading Marcus Aurelius recently. Over on A.M. Sketching I thought, as I sketched, about a quote from Marcus Aurelius – regarding not needing to always have opinions and the practice of letting opinions float by as they will. I find this is true of my emotions too – they come and go if I just let them alone. So, it helped this weekend to just let my emotions come and go without forming an opinion about how I felt. Not forming opinions about my emotions helped me to sustain both my creativity and my ability to do the business end, so to speak, of living a creative life during a personally difficult time.
This last week I made an effort towards my new drawing tutorial gig via Nil-tech. I did a demo of drawing “Hedgehog in Shade“.
It’s a beginning… here’s a link if you’d like to see my very short tutorial effort.
Here’s a book I’m reading and enjoying. I find the main character’s way of cheerfully adapting to difficult circumstances very refreshing.
I’m going to read and rest some more. Thank you for reading and for your kind comments. See you next Monday.
This week we had a fully vaccinated family gathering planned. So these pages of my “How To Draw A Dragon” were the only ones nearly finished this week.
Also just before the family visit the Aurora Gallery wanted more of my books and signed green dragon bookplates so delivery arrangements were quickly made. (Details about these books on my portfolio page.)
And then family came! It was very good to see them all! At one point we had a mini family reunion of 10 people! Especially after hardly seeing them during 2020 it was a treat to get to visit in person! I was grateful we were all fully vaccinated. Still I worried about everyone’s health and safety. But everyone was careful of everyone else. (So proud of my caring loving family!) We spent almost the entire week outside on our patio and in our yard. When we were inside to sleep we had all of the windows open and fans running. I was grateful too for nice weather with the high temperatures in the low 80’s and low temperatures in the 60’s.
My morning sketchbook work more or less continued while I made and served breakfast. More on that later.
My brother-in-law Jim had a career in the military in electronics and was a Master Sargent in the Air Force before he retired. He noticed the first day of the visit that I was drawing and asked to see what I was doing. I showed him my drawing of a hedgehog sitting in a measuring spoon. I explained that I was combining the thought of how one weighs and considers books in a bookstore with the way one measures things in a kitchen. He grinned and said “That makes a lot of sense!”
After dinner the evening we had the most people at the reunion I drew sketches of our family members and shared them. The entire family seemed to enjoy seeing my drawings and I had fun loving everyone that way! After that evening during the rest of the week Jim and I regularly talked about my sketchbook work.
Over the next days I shared that my thoughts for these sketches pictured below were about drinks and my feelings about the drinks. That made sense to him too! It made me feel good that my art could be so easily understood by someone who self described as “knowing nothing about art”.
We also talked of colors and color mixing. We looked at the shirts other family members were wearing and talked of how colors are mixed with black or with white or other colors. I talked of what paint colors I’d use to mix the colors of various family members clothing. He talked of the importance of colors in electrical wiring or as identity marks on planes and military clothing.
I showed him the book about colors I’d shared here in my last post.
At some point I took a moment and called my local art supply store Artists and Craftsmen and ordered all the butterfly colors from this page below. Won’t it be fun to make butterfly colored worlds?
Within a day my order was delivered by mail!
I checked to make sure all of the colors I wanted were here. They were! Artist and Craftsman really did a great job filling my very specific color order!
During another spare moment I labled my new palette and each new paint tube with the color number listed in the book. During other spare moments I squeezed out paints into the palette well corresponding with the numbers and put the tube I’d just used into a small drawer on my supply shelf.
In another snatched moment of time I labled my drawer of the new paints the “butterfly drawer”.
Another moment included a quick sketch of a butterfly on sticky lable paper which I stuck on my new palette.
Such labels help me – in the midst of work – to be able to grab the proper palette and paints without having to stop to re-read or re-research my original source book.
I think Master Sargent Jim enjoyed seeing my organization skills. His wife enjoyed looking at the colors. We had lots of fun conversations and many of those were about art and creativity.
I will swear again that being creative is a normal facet of being alive and that labeling only certain activities “creative” is merely a cultural convention. What military man hasn’t creatively rigged something when necessary? What mother hasn’t done the same? Being creative simply means being a fully alive aware and thinking human.
Anyway, I also got to practice making brunch for 6 people! I learned how to bake bacon and sausage in the oven on parchment paper. When the meat was almost done I put English Muffins on another parchment covered sheet pan in the oven to toast them. Then all that was left was to make the scrambled eggs in my cast iron skillet. I managed to draw a little and have all of the food hot at the same time to serve breakfast buffet style! A good time was had by all I think! Wahoo!
I hope this week to do more on my Dragon book and to get to spread the new colors around on something using a brush or two! 😁
I hope your week is a creatively arranged buffet style selection of love, color and happiness! See you next Monday.
In my last post I talked about how I manage art projects and time. I have an heretical approach and I was asked for more details. Here goes:
One of my longtime interests is in how humans think, learn and how to maintain good mental health. I read on the topics often. Here’s a few of my bookshelves full of books on these topics.
I’ve learned that humans tend to learn best by hearing stories or anecdotes or metaphors or allegories. Or by seeing examples or demonstrations. Rarely does a direction “do it like this” get followed. This includes self-directions related to art projects and time management. Even if the direction is followed often the purpose for “doing it like this” is rarely fully understood at the time. This includes self-directions.
Let me tell a story to illustrate what I mean: Once there was a mother, with a very tiny kitchen, who always cut her pot roasts in half before cooking them. She taught her daughter to cook pot roast by explaining and demonstrating. Her daughter grew up and had a daughter of her own. One day the grandmother was visiting. The daughter was in her very large kitchen demonstrating cooking a pot roast to her young daughter. She said proudly “In our family we always cut the roast in half first. Isn’t that right mom?” The grandmother replied “Oh, no! The only reason I cut my roast in half was that I didn’t have a pot or a stove big enough to hold a whole roast!”
Being aware of this attribute of human thought and attention I approach self-directions about my own art projects and time use rather sideways. More details below.
The other interesting thing I’ve learned about human thinking is that good mental health and happiness often happens while we’re busy doing something else. Often with, and for, other people. I think the same is true of creativity.
Similarly when humans feel good about, curious about or interested in something they’re more likely to do it. If we make activities we want to do fun and easier to do it increases the likelihood that they’ll be done.
So I give myself directions about my projects in terms of what I *want* to do rather than what I must do and I accept that I may not fully understand what I’m doing, or why, until after the project is completed. I’m also careful to keep lots of projects in various stages of production so that I’m “busy doing something else” and not as likely to get too focused (and too critical) about one project.
I’ve mentioned it before but my approach to creative projects and time management has it’s roots in a mental health book I illustrated “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit“. Below are a few of the pages that relate to what I’m blogging about today.
For much of my creative life I have taken these concepts about human thinking/emotional health and applied them to my overall approach to creative projects and time management. It has helped me to consistently get projects done in a sustainable and enjoyable way. I say my approach is heretical because I have known art coaches and art teachers who advocate, for example, “strict discipline to do one thing till it’s done” as if we are machines and I strongly reject that notion. That’s too much like lunging and grabbing at a stray cat. That’s a sure fire way to spook the cat – or the ideas – away!
My approach to creativity is similar to the method for befriending a shy cat. You see a cat hiding in the bushes and you can’t see enough of the cat to know what breed it is, whether it’s healthy or not or whether it’s wearing a collar. So you get some cat treats and with very slow movements place the treats strategically to coax the cat into visibility. You remove yourself, slowly, to a short distance where you do your best to act as if you’re *not* interested in the cat. With patience the cat will emerge at it’s own pace and you can see it. No lunging and grabbing is necessary on your part!
My morning work in my sketchbook is akin to the cat treats strategically placed. I wake up and I just play with words in my poetry sketchbook or with images in my mixed media sketchbook. I do *not* take these efforts seriously. This is just something fun to do while still half asleep waiting while the coffee percolates. Of course I hope something good will come from this work and often it does but that “good” is to be determined much later. At the time I’m drawing or writing in my sketchbook I’m thinking of it as a fun gentle way to ease into the day.
I literally keep these sketchbooks handy in my breakfast nook along with a few pens and a small gouache watercolor set. The sketchbooks and the watercolor set are small 3 x 5 inches or so. Seldom have I spent more than 10 minutes on these efforts. You see, I’m busy doing something else besides creating – I’m making breakfast and eating it with my spouse. But I have this regular habit of luring ideas into my sketchbook.
Here’s a few recent sketchbook pages.
When my idea-cat begins to emerge from several weeks of my sketchbook morning work I’ll begin gently, tentatively, feeding and petting the idea. I do this by reading books somewhat related to my idea, by writing about my idea on a legal pad, brainstorming in a what-if-I manner.
After doing enough sketchbook work and legal pad what-if work that I feel I’ve got something, some idea emerging into visibility, I’ll sometimes draw a series of thumbnail drawings on loose paper in color to try different color arrangements. Or perhaps I make a folded paper dummy of a book idea. Perhaps I’ll make larger drawings – redrawing images from my sketchbook onto art paper. I am still just playing around and seeing what could happen.
The intention is to test the idea in my sketchbooks to see if it might become something more than a sketch in my sketchbook. A bit more time is spent, 20 or 30 mins in this phase of idea attracting. These writings and drawings are kept in a 3 ring binder by topic or perhaps with a tentative working title related to what my idea may become: an art exhibit series? A childrens book? A greeting card??? Things are left very open ended.
Still I am busy doing other things – specifically my main art project of the moment – the binder is just a way to keep all of my notions on a theme handy in one spot. This is like giving that still shy cat a temporary foster home. This way we’ll keep track of kitty, give it some time to adjust, learn about kitty and see how it goes.
Here’s my shelf of 3 ring binders
Here’s some photos from the 3 ring binder for my currently in progress “How To Draw A Dragon” project. There are several folded paper book dummies, several rewrites of the poem and many drawings.
If a 3 ring binder project collection goes well and the idea begins to show promise – by ‘promise I mean ‘potential to be fun’ – then it may move to the “main project” status. The idea cat has been adopted…however we’re still in the probationary period. Anything could happen. This is where I currently am on my ” How To Draw A Dragon” project.
Here’s a few of the “Dragon” pages I did this week.
A main project has the serious art supplies out for it. It has the studio space devoted to it. Time during a day will be set aside for it, but not an entire day, I mean an hour or two. Time is set aside in a task-oriented way not a from-when-to-when on the clock way. I have a master list of tasks to be done on a main project and each day I pick from 1 to 3 of those tasks and set them as a goal to accomplish that day. That’s the establishing a working rhythm that I spoke of last post.
The main project is taken a tiny bit more seriously as in I will erase and redraw whereas in my sketchbooks, legal pads or binders I’ll leave a drawing however it is. I will also write and rewrite with attention to spelling and grammar on a main project. As I go I’m feeling my way along. The uncertainty is normal. Perhaps my idea cat isn’t ready for such attention. Or perhaps it will thrive on it. We will take it slowly and see. My “How To Draw A Dragon” so far seems to be thriving meaning it is still growing and becoming and I’m having fun with it.
Below is a studio photo showing that “How To Draw A Dragon” is filling my easel and overflowing into nearby surfaces. My art supplies used for this project are left out and handy. I don’t open windows in my studio so no breeze disturbs my papers. If you were to visit my house today we would stay far away from my studio because I have things in a careful order for my projects sake. My cat and dog are trained to not disturb things in my studio. There’s a door to my studio and I use it to remain undisturbed. A main project filling the studio is a tender kitten. I handle gently. I have heard art coaches speak of clearing ones working area at the end of each workday — that’s another area where I heretically scream *nooooo!*
Even with the extra attention given to a main project I carefully keep it fun and playful. I will find ways to “feed” a project- to feed my unconscious mind – for example by reading books related to the topic I’m making art about. For my current How To Draw A Dragon project I’m reading about creativity – about creating poetry in particular- and the interplay between our left brains and right brains, between our inner adult selves and our inner child selves. The topical reading is kept up for a duration of a project as it helps with my focus and fun. I simply cannot stress this enough *keep a project fun* and the project will likely get finished.
Another helpful way I keep going on a main project is that I *dedicate* the project to someone – I give the project a purpose, a reason for being (something *not* related to money or fame). I give it something beyond myself. The person or people I dedicate my work to often never know. But I am busy making my main project *for* somebody. During this pandemic openly dedicating works, or embedding symbols a friend might recognize, has been a fun way to stay in touch.
Here’s the dedication page for my Dragon book. Dedications for my fine art most often just happens in my mind.
It may be that I work on something as a main project for a while and it stalls. The stall could happen at the 3 ring binder stage or earlier in the sketchbook stage. A project may fluidly move back and forth between these three stages over a lengthy time period. This is another part of my business of art/creative heresy – I think this fluidity is perfectly normal and fine! Uncertainty is okay! I see it as part of the creative process, part of the ways a creative mind (and a subconscious mind) naturally works. Human brains are not linear machines! This is another reason I work on multiple projects – one stalls and I shift attention to another until the stalled one wants attention again.
Very carefully as I’m in the process of making artwork I avoid any sweeping declarative statements, to myself or anyone else, like “this is dumb” or “this is awesome”. I use moderate language statements, if a statement is needed and I can’t avoid it, I’ll say something like “so far so good” or “it’s a fun challenge”. To make a hard sweeping definitive declaration like “this is horrible” is to force a still-in-progress project into a labled pigeon hole. What may not work as a painting might be a good greeting card. I don’t know yet! When a project is in process I may think I am making X only to discover when I’ve finished that I’ve made Y instead. I deliberately leave linguistic and mental room for such progress! (See my pot roast story above) Harsh declarations make it hard to extract a project from the dispair/elation and continue. It makes it harder to allow a work to change from a painting to a greeting card. I prefer to leave room for discovering and being surprised by what a project becomes. It’s more fun that way. I would no more force an art project to become something than I would force a stray cat to accept a grooming before feeding it and earning its trust.
Here’s more from Dr Bob about being careful about self talk.
The tendency all humans have to take things too seriously- even obsessively – is another reason why I deliberately have multiple projects at various stages. One main studio project -or possibly two main projects- at a time but several other projects are being developed in my sketchbooks, legal pads and binders. This helps me not be too “precious” about any one of them. I work on something a while then stop working *while it’s still fun* and do something else. I find it helpful to try to stop working before I am too fatigued, while I’m still interested or enjoying my work and then move on to something else.
So I am always busy “doing something else” which allows my idea-cats space to breathe without micro-attention. This method allows my subconscious mind to work on my projects. I can trust that my inner voice will say “oh, let’s work on this!” when the next part of my idea is ripe. I can trust that I will keep returning to a project until it is finished.
When a main studio project is finished there is usually another project in a binder that’s developed enough that it’s ready for attention at my easel. No force to finish or start a project is needed. No strictness. No machine-like “discipline”. Knowing and accepting the way human minds are naturally has worked well for me. I work with my brain not against it. I am just playing around with topics that interest me. Like most real life fur covered cats I can trust that my idea-cats will tell me when it’s dinner time.
Speaking of dinner. The outstanding dinner of the week was broccoli pasta. I was out of fettuccine so I used short noodles but the recipe in my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook is still yummy!
Earlier this year I was asked to make some gender neutral fabric designs and put them on my Spoonflower shop so someone could get fabric with my designs and sew some bibs and blankets for a new baby.
Here’s a photo of me working at that time on the fabric pattern.
Here’s the finished original art
This week I was given, by the person who had requested the fabric patterns, pictures of some of the finished baby things they’ve made and permission to post about them! It was lovely having something fun like this to post about as my Dragon project is still becoming and is in the gawky teenage stage and camera shy.
Where I tend to run out of time in a day is the social media promotion thing. And frankly there are times, especially when I’m busy, that I’d rather just do my art projects than talk about them. But talking about them is necessary and most of the time I enjoy doing it so… Anyway, I really appreciate it when people share what I post or when someone sends me photos of themselves with my fine art or artist books or share photos of what they sewed with my fabric designs! It helps and is such fun to see!
Anyway, here’s the photos of a burp cloth and a few blankets my friend created with my fabrics! They turned out so well!! The sewing is marvelous!
Hope this description of how I manage my art projects and deal with time was interesting and even helpful to you as you do your own creative projects! Have a creative week and I’ll see you next Monday.
A work rhythm has been fairly firmly established. I wrote about that in my last post. My days now have a regularity that goes like this:
Breakfast time contains sketchbook drawings with or without characters from my currently in progress childrens book “How To Draw A Dragon”
Perhaps after eating breakfast I spend a few minutes more reading a poem or working the crossword puzzle with my spouse (we take turns doing 5 or 6 clues) while we finish our coffee. (The poem in the photo below is by Robert Service)
Then I pour another cup of coffee and carry it to the studio. There I look at the work I did last and my project schedule/guide that I described in my last post. I sip my coffee and settle in to work.
By now I’ve done about 10 of the 32 pages but even those, as you can probably see in the photos below, aren’t really finished. Some elements like the text will be the last to be inked and only after all 32 pages have been mostly finished. Similarly I will edit and ink all of the elements of foreshadowing for my poem story after all 32 pages are mostly inked.
As I work I am thinking of the pages both as page spreads and as individual pages.
These pages below have been quickly photographed where they are on my easel for sharing my progress with you here. My set up for photos for book reproductions is another thing entirely- and I’m not at that point yet.
The sharp eyed will probably notice that some changes have been made to my story setting and to my poem text since my last post.
Basically I’m in the early stages of this book project and everything is in flux and there aren’t “for public” images for this project yet.
And my books. I talk about one of the 9 books in my portfolio. Or I talk about one of my 10 books on Storyberries. Or I post a photo of my cat or dog. Or I post nothing at all. Especially as I settle into a project working rhythm I find I’m online less and less. That said I do enjoy finding your kind comments when I check in! And I thank you in advance for them.
Lunch, however, is rarely missed. This week the easiest meals were bean and grain bowls like this photo below and here’s the recipe scheme from my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook.
After lunch I head back to the studio for more work on my How To Draw A Dragon book. Generally speaking I get 2 pages finished per day. If I’m lucky I’ll get a start on a 3rd page. But my focus is on maintaining a work rhythm not in a quota of pages. If I have to totally redo a page and thus only get one page done in a day that’s fine! I just keep going! It’s a dance between discipline and the spaciousness of pleasurable play as talked about in this article.
I did take the time this week to go with my spouse to visit a new independent bookstore in our town Birdhouse Books! This was my book haul.
Short stories, poems and short essays give me an intellectual boost without requiring an investment of time like a long novel does. But sometimes a long novel is just the thing to accompany a long creative project. It just depends.
What’s not in question is the fact that time to sit and read each evening is essential to helping me maintain a steady working rhythm.
Hope your week has some good rhythms too! See you next Monday.
As per my last post I’ve been starting new projects in my studio. I’m also having some down time to rest and recharge. While starting new projects I’m keeping in mind my studio statement. Here it is on a 2 by 3 inch paper thumbtacked to my art studio wall.
I jokingly say that my mission in life is to wear pencils down to nubs. And I do think that’s true on one level at least – I practice drawing and writing daily and lots of pencils get used. So that must be the point right?!
Yes, daily practice is indeed the point! (And yes, I like the Blackwing pencils a whole lot!)
But, seriously, these statements are true in my experience: “What you repeat sticks. What you don’t repeat goes away.” – “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.” and “Nothing has to go right today” – all of these concepts come from an artist book I did. (More about that here).
It has been crucial for me to purposefully design my daily artistic habits (repetitions!). And to focus on maintaining the habit-ness of creativity rather than being out-come based about my creative output. (it’s okay if today’s artwork is not perfect!)
It’s also important to take breaks. Both the design of daily creative habits and the breaks from them are part of making my creative life sustainable. The point is to have fun being creative and to keep it fun!
Over on my Instagram page I’ll post a pic of at least one of the things I’m doing to rest and recharge…
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”:
I’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!
My new exhibit this year is titled “Dear Readers” and is book/reading themed. As I’ve worked this last year towards this new one-person fine art exhibit at Burnt Bridge Cellars, that will open June 7 in Vancouver WA, I’ve written lots of hand-written notes in my sketchbooks, on random slips of paper, on post-it notes in the margins of newspaper articles. I wrote down as many thoughts as possible – including quotes from books I’ve read – and kept them together in a binder. When it came time to write my exhibit statement I could reread all of my notes and pull from them.
Here’s a pic of my binder and one of my sketchbooks. And my pen.
Below is the finished “Dear Readers” art exhibit statement – text I wrote that pulled from the data pool in my binder and sketchbooks. This statement will be put on the wall somewhere within my exhibit:
By Sue Clancy
I’ve been thinking about the interconnectedness of everything in life. These thoughts led me to the concept of nested ideas; how one thing leads to another, one food or drink pleasure can lead to another new pleasure in a similar way that one enjoyed book can lead to another new book.
I’ve also thought of how much the written word in general has enhanced our pleasure in and understanding of the sensual world by enabling connections to be made between elements and people across time and space.
So, in this exhibit I’m using the printed-and-bound book as a symbol for “the written word” in its myriad of formats. And I’ve deliberately, whimsically, played with the one-thing-leads-to-another-everything’s-connected concept by including spoofs of my own artwork, my still life paintings, within my other paintings that have dog characters in them. The titles of the still life paintings, the titles of the dog character paintings, the titles of the humans with pet’s paintings all correlate.
Each artwork in my exhibit is related in some way to at least one other artwork in this exhibit. I leave it for you to puzzle out which is connected to which – and in what way.
And yes, you can read my exhibit like you would a mostly wordless comic.