To my awareness there aren’t many books for children that talk about looking at an artist’s exhibit whether the fine art is in a book or on walls.
I think looking at a book of fine art is similar to looking at a wordless picture book. Looking at one artist’s series of paintings on a gallery wall is like a wordless book too. But looking at fine art, while there are similarities to wordless picture books, it is also different; a collection of fine art often refers to the feelings and lived experiences of the artist in addition to any visual story there may be within the artwork itself.
So I’ve been lucky enough to work with Storyberries to create a childrens book On Looking At Odditorium that I hope will help kids enjoy looking at artwork and be able to speculate about the artist’s thinking.
Towards that end I created cartoon drawings of myself so they could take a trip (or tour) through a book of my Odditorium fine art exhibit and explain what I was thinking and how I created each painting.
Here’s a closer look at all of the avatar drawings. In many of my childrens books on Storyberries.com there’s a photo of me wearing a sweater. For consistency sake I drew myself in a sweater pointing this way and that.
I want to encourage imaginations so in the book I try to both show and tell what using imagination is like.
For a childrens book I didn’t want to get too technical about art materials and methods but I did want to share something about them. I wanted to share especially when the materials and methods directly interacted with my imagination.
Below is a look at the book layout so you can see the little avatars on tour across a page spread.
The adult version of my Odditorium exhibit coffee table book does not have the avatar or descriptions. Here’s what the cover of the adult book looks like.
And here’s the childrens book version titled “On Looking At Odditorium“. The cover design is very similar to the adult book on purpose – to emphasize that anyone of any age can look at art. The layout inside this book is different as is the kind of paper for the printed books. I wanted paper likely to withstand children’s hands.
Storyberries has a extra special ebook edition that went live within hours of this post. And I love the nesting specialness of this project: it’s a fine art exhibit called Odditorium at Burnt Bridge Cellars via Caplan Art Designs that has a companion exhibit book titled Odditorium. The Odditorium exhibit book then has a companion childrens book version titled On Looking At Odditorium. Then the special ebook on Storyberries – which you can see here for free – about looking at On Looking At Odditorium! Here’s what the Storyberries ebook version looks like at the top…
Did you get all the nesting nuances to this project? I’ve hopefully laid it all out clearly on my portfolio page about this project… but even if no one besides me sees the nesting qualities – thinking about it in this interlocking way served to help me construct it all – my main point is for people to have fun.
Needless to say it’s been a very busy week. There’s been food, some of it tasty and blog-worthy, but I was tired and just ate it without photos or noting recipes.
Also due to busy-ness not much was done on my new crocodile project mentioned last post. But I have kept up my sketchbook activities and reading books of an evening. Sketching and reading are like breathing.
So I’ll not promise anything specific for next Monday… but there will be something. Hopefully, something that encourages your own creative life or is at least entertaining for you.
Till next time – have a good week looking at stuff.
One of the gifts of travel is the awareness that things don’t have to be what you’re used to in order to be enjoyable.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 I’ve been looking at household things with the eye of a traveler. I’m practicing being okay with things as they are, seeing them in new ways and enjoying them – like how I would enjoy things on a trip. Along the way it occurred to me that domestic arrangements are one place in life where things can be more or less to our preferences. Home is a place of fairly reliable comforts. There’s a gift of comfort in that.
The sketchbook I began this, ahem, journey in has been published as Another Sketchbook. I decided at first to view household things as if they were public monuments, things we might travel to see. Then I decided that was too distant…the people too small and far away. Then I decided I didn’t want to draw people after all because animals feel more comforting. Anyway, here are a few pages from Another Sketchbook…I’m hoping you can see how I got to my present Odditorium art series via this trail.
Here below is the book cover and a link where you can look through the entire book.
Of course after publishing Another Sketchbook I’ve kept on keeping a sketchbook. I post these new pages now and then on my social media. Here’s a few pages from my new sketchbook that are relevant to the painting you’ll see in this post.
While musing about the crows I often see in my yard I thought of how the kitchen gadgets I have are so useful. And I love herbs and spices – especially those from Penzeys. So I took a photo of the kitchen tools and spices I was about to use at that moment.
Then as the days progressed I began a new acrylic painting full of my thoughts about my ongoing efforts to dance and appeal, so to speak, to the various gods of good-food cooking. My spouse snapped this photo of me working.
As I worked I tried a new-to-me color scheme that includes magenta, an orange-red, a light pink, grass green, a grey-blue and a creamy yellow. The crows aren’t really black there’s a lot of dark purple and deep blues to their feathers. The color nuance shows more when you see the painting with a human eye. I have another camera that shows more of the color range that I use when taking pictures of the art for publication. Anyway, I’ve titled this new painting Domestic Comforts
Another thing I keep thinking about is the different speed of time at home. When traveling in the past I have tended to be very rushed and scheduled. But at home and in my art studio, which is in my house, I tend to be scheduled but usually much less rushed. In fact for quite some time – even before the pandemic – I have intentionally tried to maintain the habit of a steady but relaxed pace in my studio and home. Sustainability of energy is my focus. No, I don’t do this perfectly it’s an ongoing goal. During the pandemic this goal has strengthened as I’ve realized this habit also maintains a critical space for long-form thinking.
Long form thinking is a term usually applied to reading and literacy. It’s a discussion of cultivating the ability to pay attention. There’s an article by James Patterson here and another related article here on the long form thinking as it relates to literacy.
I think of the term long form thinking as applying more generally to creative efforts that stretch over a longer span of time. The actual work may be done in fits and starts or in short bursts of actual hands on time but a thought is held in mind, come what may, over an extended time period. Long-form thinking, in my opinion, allows for a sustained leisurely attitude towards time for art, for reading and writing. Creativity requires time to meander and travel in ones mind – even while cooking dinner or mowing the lawn one plays with the thought topics currently being considered.
Long-form thinking purposefully includes time for making homemade cookies or any other bits of meandering fun. This week I tried a cinnamon sugar cookie recipe. I cut this recipe in half, dumped all the ingredients in my Cuisinart (kitchen gadget!) blended the dough and otherwise followed the recipe directions.
The cookies turned out very yummy!! As hinted above taking the time to read books is an essential part of my creative process – with or without hot from the oven cookies and hot chocolate. Here’s one of the books I’m reading…
My art is a part of my life and vice versa. Creativity is a continuous thing I’m committed to doing within and amongst all of the various domestic concerns and that’s-life stuff.
In fact I view the public aspect of my creative life of making artist books and art exhibits as like the game of musical chairs. I do steady continuous studio work then about a month before the fine art exhibit goes up the music stops. As in the hands on action of creating paintings temporarily stops, and I start framing, photographing, publishing everything I finished up to that point.
It is exciting as I frame and publish the artwork to both see and feel my Odditorium series coming together. The work that I began last year will be exhibited this year in June and July at Burnt Bridge Cellars and when my work is on their walls that will add to my ongoing Odditorium thoughts. Then there’s another exhibit at the Caplan Art Designs Gallery in September. After delivering art to Burnt Bridge Cellars later this month the music (active painting) starts again – specifically the thoughts I have when seeing my works hung together will inspire more work in the series. Then I will begin making the new art in this Odditorium series with an eye towards the next exhibit. Some of the art at Burnt Bridge Cellars along with the freshly made new art will go to Caplan Art Designs when the music stops again at the end of August. This is the way my exhibits grow and travel.
So yes I like long-form thinking. I like projects that stretch over a years time. This allows me to explore a topic from several angles as well as to change my approach as I’ve described in this post. It’s risky as I don’t know at the beginning where my thoughts will go. Plus I do all of the hands on work in short bursts of time each day so I “live in” small slices of my thoughts. My sketchbook is the way I both develop the exhibit idea and keep track of my thoughts – but still the uncertainty is there. I’ve just learned to ride with it.
My long-form working process is like reading a long novel – when you have a few minutes you read a paragraph or a page or two a day. When you begin reading you’ve no idea where the book is going. But if you keep reading a bit per day pretty soon you’ve read the whole book and you know the book conclusion. Same goes with creating an art exhibit.
There’s an excellent article here about the counterculture of commitment. It describes well what I’m talking about. I see this concept of long-form thinking (aka commitment) as similar to the idea of slow food/ home cooked food but about the subject of creativity. Inherent in this notion is the acceptance that things can develop slowly over time and that slowness allows for uncertainty and changes of mind.
I have a quote by Christopher Morley thumbtacked to my art studio wall. The quote applies, in my view anyway, to ones sense of time and space too.
It’s okay maybe even good to be a little odd. It’s not a goal to have domestic life or travel or art projects or life in general be perfect. The goal is to have the coping skills to deal well with imperfections when they happen. To be able to do the domestic dances and appeal well enough to the gods (metaphorically) of home cooking. Or to the gods of plumbing or whatever the household issues may be. To be relaxed and calm enough that one’s able to see the solutions, comforts and enjoyments near to hand. This is my approach to art projects too. Slow but steady, to have the coping skills to fix artistic mistakes, to adjust, to try something new.
Since this month began – besides framing the artwork a bit per day – I’ve been creating an exhibit catalog, a coffee table picture book of my exhibit. Last year during the worst of the pandemic it seemed to please fans of my artwork that they were able to get a printed book or an ebook of my entire art exhibit. So that’s why I’m doing a book this year too.
Additionally I’m doing a few greeting cards and coffee mugs with my art from this series. Both the cards and mugs are in keeping with the root idea of my Odditorium series – taking an uncommon view of ordinary household things and surreally creating souvenirs of pleasant moments. Here below is an example of a note card with the artwork I wrote about in my last post.
Yes, the temptation to stress, to worry, to rush is there, especially as the day nears to deliver all of the artwork. But I remember those pre-pandemic travels when I rushed mightily because the day the trip ended was coming nearer and I didn’t want to miss anything … what I remember now of those trips isn’t the scenery or the food but the stress and rush. So I try to remain calm now and go slowly as I continue towards the exhibit. And I rest knowing my thinking-work will continue …
Thanks for reading! I hope you have many enjoyable domestic comforts this week – and if you try the cookies I hope you like them. See you next Monday?
These thoughts swirled in mind as I watched the crows in my yard. I don’t know where the wingtip shoes came from… but here they are in my sketchbook.
From my morning reading I added the quote from Plutarch. And I thought of how all too often we see only what we expect to see. It takes practice to work on our inner selves, to moderate our expectations and let things just be however they are. Then I put away my book and puttered in my studio cleaning things up, sorting pen nibs back into their places and cleaning the nib holders.
With these thoughts still swirling I started a new painting loosely based on my sketchbook page above. After a few days of work my spouse snapped this photo.
And then my spouse took this photo to show that sometimes I “hide” things on the edges of the paintings I do on cradled board.
Some time later I took a photo of the finished painting. I’ve titled it “Enjoyment”. I keep thinking of how we can choose to dip our pens in our pleasures and write them on our souls rather than rehearse the things that upset us. That choice can change one’s attitude and the kind of day one has.
Here’s a close up photo of the area of “Enjoyment” that contains the collage elements. I carefully chose text from the falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that I’ve mentioned in recent posts. So much of Austen’s work is a social comedy of people’s expectations and emotions. That’s why I choose this book for my collage source material besides the fact that it was already falling apart and was handy. (I have a collection of collage material to choose from and could have chosen some other theme.)
After I posted “Enjoyment” on social media a friend who had studied poetry and Victorian literature in college commented that crows represent transformation. And the symbolism of crows was definitely on my mind. What a good word the word transformation is and I appreciate my friend for reminding me of it. When we are able to remember to enjoy the smallest of pleasures – and to be curious – we are in a position to transform moments of stress into something manageable.
Getting curious and writing and drawing (however well or poorly) are all tools of the emotional transformation process.
It wasn’t until later after conversation with my friend that I realized that in my new crow painting I echoed a theme (transformation) I have played with before. Such as when I took a tale by Aesop and made a wordless story “The Crow And The Water Jug” (you can also see the whole book via this link at Storyberries.com )
As I mentioned last post I’ve been working on writing a short summary for my entire fine art exhibit that I’m calling Odditorium. Writing in my sketchbook as I work on art projects helps me focus my fine art onto a clear theme. I write my thoughts down as I work on fine art and vice versa so there’s a *lot* of both writing and art to winnow when it’s time to write an exhibit summary statement. Besides helping me sort my own thoughts the short summary text is something that Burnt Bridge Cellars and Caplan Art Designs will use when talking about my exhibit with the public. Anyway, after more rewrites than most humans can count without a calculator here’s what I came up with:
Odditorium: I’ve been practicing household surrealism; painting visual stories inspired by looking in an uncommon way at common objects and plants. A useful mental health technique for dealing well with feelings is to deliberately look at the feeling in a new way. This is what I’m practicing when I do household surrealism. I take ordinary things found about the house and depict them in odd, different from the usual, ways so that instead of feeling mundane they evoke feelings of magic, wonder and laughter. Perhaps the flowers, the wine opener, the coffee mug are really souvenirs of pleasant moments in life?
I use gouache, ink, color pencil acrylic and collage to make my images. The collage text is from a falling apart copy of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen that I had in the house. Austen wrote about emotions and dealing with them so I enjoy the visual pun of including bits of her text in this series. I use animal characters because an animal behaving like a human highlights our humanity.
That’s the end of my statement which counts to about 200 words. I may tweak at it a bit more. But there it is.
No grand food experiments to crow (sorry!) about this week but I did repeat a reliably good sandwich recipe.
So I hope you have a very good week. See you next Monday?
Stockings were hung by the whimsy with care in hopes of the giggling soon to be there…
Okay so that’s not how the poem really goes. Still I’m thinking of ways to keep up my sense of humor and share a chuckle with other people. Imaginative play and laughter are crucial to mental health and humor seems more important this year, 2020, than ever.
My what a creative challenge this year has been on all levels. For example, instead of the usual holiday art gallery openings and parties my galleries are doing things differently: open by appointment, digitally showing work, shipping and delivering directly. Some are also doing limited hours “popup” shops with items that can be picked up curbside or quickly and safely in the gallery.
Through all of the changes my creative efforts still focus on hopefully making you grin.
Toward that goal here’s a few of my gouache and ink paintings available via the Caplan Art Designs gallery www.caplanartdesigns.com
Here, below, are a few paintings at the Joseph Gierek Fine Art Gallery in Tulsa, Oklahoma
And there are more than a few paintings – artwork that is reproduced in my artist books for children – many of my artist books (signed) and other stocking stuffers at the Aurora Gallery – www.auroragalleryonline.com
Besides fine art and artist books for the Aurora Gallery popup event, Dec 12 from 12 to 4 pm, I’ve created some small stocking stuffers: book mark ribbons, playing cards, drink coasters and other items not pictured below.
Besides paintings that include socks, I even made a few largish non holiday theme stockings that can hold smaller gifts.
Perhaps you’re noticing some common themes in my work: books, beverages, music and funky socks. All various comforts that can be enjoyed at home.
And it’s all whimsical. Humor is important to me because a sense of humor is one of our best tools for thinking and living well – despite circumstances.
Anyway, I’ve been enjoying the puns within puns… my fine art about reading books that becomes a bookmark ribbon for a reader. Or my fine art that includes a beverage becoming a drink coaster…
No, I don’t expect that everyone will understand all of my jokes – certainly not the “meta” ones – I’m just hoping you’ll get a surprise and a smile from my work.
Please do whatever you need to do this week to maintain your sense of humor and whimsy. Playfulness helps us cope.
A good laugh heals a lot of hurts – Madeline L’Engle
This week has been less busy but weird with wildfires and bad air quality where I live in SW Washington. (More re in a sec.) Despite it all I still made progress on my Numpurrs book (see also my last post for more project details)
Here are the poem lines that go with the illustrations I managed to get done this week:
Sixteen puts flowers out on a whim
Seventeen pours saucers of milk labeled skim
Eighteen opens fish oil good for the fur
Nineteen is so happy she starts to purr
To think about art and creating a book for children this week, as wildfires raged, as we worry about the safety of family and friends has, at times, felt a bit frivolous. But it is also an act of hope. An act of resilience. An act of pushing back against the darkness…
One of my sources of comfort in times of difficulty is to walk among my bookshelves at home, selecting a random book, reading a page or so and putting it back on the shelf. I often hope to find encouraging, uplifting passages. As you might know from my artist book Another Sketchbook I’ve been adapting this comfort recently to include ebooks. Here’s something I read this week from Albert Camus
I think creating art is a way of maintaining hope. Sharing art is a small act of kindness. So I keep on. Besides, I find it helpful to spend time each day focusing on something that is pleasing, enjoyable, as doing this helps me exercise and maintain my inner muscles that give me strength to push back.
Things that are enjoyable are what we push for, what we want to maintain, what we want to have more of in life because it’s not enough to merely endure. Besides doing whatever it is that helps us endure we need to also remember what we’re enduring for. And when the enduring is done to remember to appreciate what we have.
Thinking beyond the thing to be endured and the endurance process itself takes practice. Enjoying things is a skill to be practiced – and one doesn’t have to wait for a perfect time/situation/condition in which to practice. That time is now.
As Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors said “I urge you to please notice when you’re happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” “
Anyway, here’s my cat sitting where he can look out on the smokey world. It’s pleasant to watch him watch the world. This photo was taken about noon on Sunday.
And here’s my dog covering his nose, burrowing into a towel, in an effort to get away from the smell of smoke. He’s so sensible – and cute!
Besides working on my art projects and pulling books randomly from my shelves, I’ve still been reading the books I mentioned in my last post.
Also I’ve added to my daily reading an ebook, “The Cat Who Said Cheese” by Lilian Jackson Braun. Walking around inside my house, for gentle exercise, is more fun with a cozy mystery in hand. And since one of the current topics in my head is cats…. this book is lightweight fun for me to burrow into while still being somewhat on topic.
The air quality outdoors here has been so bad that, wisely, all the places hosting my current fine art exhibit “Readings From The Heart” closed temporarily to the public. As of 8 PM Sunday night the Airnow.gov site has my location’s air quality as “beyond index” meaning it is worse than the number they use to indicate really-awful-very-bad-horrible-dangerous. My nose and chest would agree with that assessment. (An air particulate level of 300 to 500 is considered hazardous – ours Sunday eve was well over 500. Monday morning the number is 414… update: at 6pm Monday we are at 517. My local paper has this article. )
But I tend to think that inside a difficulty is an opportunity – a chance to think beyond an immediate crisis – so just as soon as one Gallery told me they were closing I made the ebook version of my artist book about the exhibit available as a free download on my shop page. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you’ll find my free ebooks. You can also see all of my art in the current exhibits from the comfort of your phone here. And if this isn’t nice I don’t know what is!
Please find ways to keep hope alive, to keep enjoying something, to keep going forward somehow and be kind – I will do the same.
I didn’t think it possible to be even busier this week than last week but I was. Still there’s been progress on my new artist book for children called Numpurrs. On Storyberries.com I had done a counting book titled “The Crow and the Water Jug” so Storyberries wants another book from me related to numbers and math.
Here’s my progress: the finished poem lines that fit with my next 4 illustrations for Numpurrs
Twelve spoons out all of the treats
Thirteen plans who will sit in which seats
Fourteen carries dishes piled so high
Fifteen slices the roasted magpie
As I worked on these cat portraits, in snatches of time, I chose the cats-to-be-illustrated from photos of cats that my friends have shared. My friends also shared stories about their cats – and both the stories and photos inspired which cat to pair with which number and poem line.
Also informing my work on these cat portraits are the books I’ve been reading. More details below. But did you know that magpies relate to math? So does carrying … math fiction as a genre to explore is lots of fun!
Anyway I don’t expect that the parents reading my Numpurrs to their kids will see all the math related research I’m putting in – the research is just a way for me to learn and enjoy this topic as I create my book Numpurrs. It helps keep me on track and inspired even when I’m not working on a cat portrait.
Anyway, I made these cat paintings with ink and gouache on board. They’re small, 3.5 x 2.5 inches. Both the small size of each portrait and my art media enable me to work in short bursts as time allows. If these works were in any other size or media I can’t imagine how I would have shoehorned this project into this week. As it was having this project to do in this way inserted a nice bit of relaxation and fun!
The rest of what I have been so busy on would require lots of typing. Let it suffice to say that it’s very happy business (fine art commissions!) and that I enjoy it all very much!
Here in this blog my point is to show how I develop new projects and sustain my interest in them over a duration, despite a busy life. It’s a peek behind the scenes you can say in my creative life. So I’m trying to keep my writing here about the newest project under current development.
As I alluded to above here are some books that are helping me sustain my inspiration for this project. In addition to conversation with my friends about their cats I peek at one or the other of these books as I get a moment.
I’ve written about some of these books in my last posts but the book titles in the above photo are (from the top):
A Dictionary Of Color Combinations by Sanzo Wada – A link for this book in the bookstore Ampersand where I got my copy is here
I Am A Cat by Soseki Natsume – this link has a wonderful review/discussion of this book. The article mentions that this book was originally written serially, in installments. In addition to making this book readable for the busy times of life I also see it as informative on how to construct a story to be serialized. Besides all that it’s just a fun romp inside a cat’s mind!
Imaginary Numbers by William Fruct – I found my copy this book years ago in one of my local bookstores. I looked online just now for it and the best source for more information about this title that I could find is here at ABE Books.
Werner’s Nomenclature Of Colors by P. Syme. – The bookstore where I got my copy no longer has this title but you can see a fun article about this book, along with photos of the pages here.
So now you know how my week went: working on many projects, reading bits in books, thinking, musing, playing and adding new art progress, small bit by small bit, to my Numpurrs while also living life.
Anyway, thanks for reading. I’ll post during the week on my Instagram page and sum up here next Monday.
I hope your week is peaceful, fun and filled with your own creativity.
P.S. I also include photos of my other projects on my Instagram pages and elsewhere on www.sueclancy.com
It’s been another busy week but there’s still been progress on my new artist book for children called Numpurrs. On Storyberries.com I had done a counting book titled “The Crow and the Water Jug” so Storyberries wants another book from me related to numbers and math.
Here’s my progress: the finished poem lines that fit with my next 4 illustrations for Numpurrs
Eight divides the large wheels of brie
Nine adds mice caught in the lea
Ten has a bird as big as the sky
Eleven bakes a vegetable pie
To create the illustrations I chose the cats-to-be-illustrated from the various photos of cats that my friends have shared. My happy thoughts of my friends – and their cat photos – inspired which cat to pair with which number and poem line. Life near-to-hand provides so much of my inspiration. I made these paintings with ink and gouache on board. They’re small, 3.5 x 2.5 inches. Just little savory slices of a good life…
As I wrote in my last post I’m still using the Dictionary Of Color Combinations as a playful inspiration source for my color schemes.
I’m also still reading the cat-themed book “I Am A Cat” by Soseki Natsume that I spoke of in my last post.
Speaking of slices – my last post also spoke of pizza…and I did manage to get that indulgence, and a movie worked into this busy week. It was so enjoyable! Here’s what my homemade pizza looked like
I used my simple sauce recipe from my published kitchen sketchbook “Favorites So Far” and topped it with mozzarella, gruyere and Comte cheeses. Simple pizza – sauce and cheese – but I adult-ed it, so to speak, with my homemade sauce and cheese choices. Here’s my sauce recipe:
And yes, my cat shamelessly begged for bites of the cheeses.
Part of what I was busy doing this week was answering questions about my upcoming exhibit at the Caplan Art Designs gallery. One of the questions asked what inspired the artworks with birds in them. My answer: the poem from Emily Dickinson “Hope is a thing with feathers…” In these strange and interesting times maintaining one’s human spirit, hope and good mental health is crucial. So my entire exhibit is about that. You can see a virtual exhibit tour of sorts webpage here (hint: the very newest pieces have birds reading books) https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/readings-from-the-heart/
Anyway, thanks for reading. I’ll post during the week on my Instagram page and sum up here next Monday.
I wish you peace, a lap full of purrs and a plate full of good pizza.
It’s been a busy week but there’s still been progress on my new artist book for children called Numpurrs. On Storyberries.com I had done a counting book titled “The Crow and the Water Jug” and it’s been popular with readers so Storyberries wants another book from me related to numbers and math.
In my last posts I’ve written about how I work in short bursts [Very Small Goals] until my idea has firmed up a bit. But this week let’s cut the chatter and get right to it…
Here are the finished poem lines that fit with my next 4 illustrations for Numpurrs
Four brings jugs of heavy sweet cream
Five fetches trout in from the stream
Six tallies the tables and chairs
Seven moves them from under the stairs
I chose the cats-to-be-illustrated from the various photos of cats that my friends have been kind enough to share. The cat photos themselves – and my happy thoughts of my friends – inspired which cat to pair with which number and poem line.
While painting these cat portraits with my gouache and ink method I’m still using the Dictionary of Color Combinations that I spoke of in my last post and playing around with colors. Working in small chunks steadily – and keeping it fun – gets things done despite all else.
As I said it’s been an extremely busy week but to keep myself in a feline fun frame of mind I found time to amuse myself with this quirky book about a cat. It’s an enjoyable read, the reviews that call it a “comic masterpiece” have it correctly I think. If you’re interested this link and this one tell more details about the book.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
The galleries – Aurora Gallery – Burnt Bridge Cellars – Caplan 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.
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.