Numpurrs and a dragon

A Creative Life, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, Authors, books, cat portrait, Cats in art, ebook, fine art, illustrated poem, math and numbers, Numpurrs, pet portraits, poetry, product design, publications - publishing, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

It’s barely been a week and Numpurrs on Storyberries.com has been read over 3000 times! Here’s one kind comment:

“Thank you, this is exactly what teachers are looking for, online opportunities during virtual teaching makes teachers lives so much easier. That was perfect timing! And a beautifully illustrated and written book! The weird thing is, I just did a cat drawing lesson for 1st grade. Now we can read the book and learn how to draw a cat!”

How nice is that?! It made my artist heart sing! 

Here’s a link to my book Numpurrs on Storyberries.com – where you can see it (and many other stories) for free – https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-numpurrs-by-clancy-free-counting-books-for-kids/

So this week quickly filled with additional efforts to help teachers and parents: I also made a poster, a calendar and then a 676 piece jigsaw puzzle too.

Here’s what the poster looks like. It’s big, 23 inches square, big enough to be seen in the backgrounds of online classes.

Numpurrs posterhttps://www.zazzle.com/numpurrs_poster-228224328093121348

My copies of the printed book version of Numpurrs also arrived at my studio this week! So I photographed the book and created a portfolio webpage to hold all of my work on Numpurrs in one spot – to help the teachers find things easier – here’s that page https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/numpurrs/

Below are just a few of the photos of the printed book…you can see more on that portfolio page I just mentioned

I’m pleased with how the book turned out! Of course I can nitpick and find things I could have tweaked – that’s always the case with any creation. I think of art making as similar to cooking, you do your best to create a good meal then you say “good enough, let’s eat” and you go on to the next thing. Perhaps you make a note for yourself on that recipe as to what you’d do differently in the future – but you enjoy the meal as it is and you go on.

Speaking of going on: for years now I’ve been regularly jotting short poems in a small 3 x 5 inch book with my fountain pen. Now, as per discussions with the people at Storyberries, I’m working on illustrating some of the poems for a new book. As I wrote my last post I’d thought I’d do more on this new project this week than ended up happening – so more on these illustrated poems in coming posts.

Here’s a look at my little poetry sketchbook with some of the potential to-be-illustrated poems flagged with sticky notes.

I write with a fountain pen because they’re refillable. Fewer plastic bits of discarded pens to end up in the landfill this way. Besides a fountain pen – if you have a good quality one – can be super smooth to write with.

For those who say a nice pen and hand bound book would be “too precious to use” I reply “your thoughts are precious too”. Buy quality supplies and use them with joy. It’s just stuff on Earth here to be enjoyed. (And if you just can’t bear it then buy whatever supplies you will actually use and get your thoughts written down. But remember that you really deserve the best.)

Below is the dragon poem you can see my handwritten draft of in the photo of my book above and the handwritten poem and illustration I got done this week with ink and gouache on nice paper.

More of that kind of thing here next Monday – I hope. Thanks for reading. Have a good week.

Numpurrs 20 & it sums up…

A Creative Life, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, cat portrait, ebook, fine art, food in art, graphic design, illustrated poem, illustration, math and numbers, Numpurrs, pet portraits, printed books, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

There now! Despite all the odds (see last post) I finished “Numpurrs”! I’ve also sent it in to Storyberries for distribution. When I sent it in this last week Storyberries said “I just LOVE it Sue!!! It has come together so nicely !!!! Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful work with us!!”

So I think it’s safe to say that they’re pleased! The book will be live on Storyberries.com very soon as they said they’ll “…schedule it for 9am Gold Coast time Australia on Monday morning.” Which works out to about 4 pm in Washington state, USA on Sunday. And I post these blog posts on Mondays but write them on Sunday morning’s… so, yes, I can have a bit of time zone confusion.

[Update: here’s the link to Numpurrs on Storyberries.com: https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-numpurrs-by-clancy-free-counting-books-for-kids/ ]

Time zone differences between where I live on the western US coast and the time where Storyberries is in Australia can confuse me even when I have help from the internet. My solution to working across continents and time zones is the same in publishing as it has been when I’ve done fine art exhibits outside of the U.S.A; get it all done early and everything into their hands as soon as humanly possible then let the people I’m working with sort the what-happens-when out at their end.

It helps that I work on the graphic design part of any book almost simultaneously with creating the fine art illustrations. This way by the time I finish creating the fine art illustrations I’ve almost finished the book design too.

The graphic design informs and affects my illustrations – in the number of illustrations needed, the size of them and so forth. But what I want to do in the first place with my illustrations/fine art at my easel (using ink and gouache on board) will also affect the graphic design.

This interdependence (and writing the poem is in there too) is related to the construction of my book idea in the first place in a which-comes-first chicken-or-egg kind of fashion. As a result of my working method the posting I do online nearly always slightly behind the action. My motto is create the thing first talk about it later.

Anyway, here’s a pic of me working on my laptop doing the book layout. I often do my computer work in the corner of my dining room near the cookbooks and am almost always cooking something on the stove. Taking breaks to stir something on the stove is so nice!

Sue Clancy creating “Numpurrs”

And here are the last poem lines in my book:

Twenty butters bread, risen with yeast

And it all sums up to a wonderful feast!

In the printed book my three panel “feast scene” will flow in sequence left to right and will line up side by side. But it worked pretty well in scroll ebook form too even tho it doesn’t line up at the edges. As I worked I had to think of both of these “flow” patterns when I was creating the images.

Even though I’m doing so much myself – which sounds like a lot of freedom – there are still constraints: page flow, number of pages allowed within the publication formats, where the blank pages must fall, printing product options, ebook construction and so forth. I see these constraints as the path, the way forward, the technical issues become part of my creative process.

When it came to creating the feast scene artwork in Numpurrs I consulted this book, Food and Feasting in Art by Silvia Malaguzzi

Many of these art historical images had the viewers eye moving left to right and or moving up and down. This served as a guide as I created my cat feast illustrations. (I love art history!)

Running into the graphic design publication constraints I mentioned earlier I only had 3 pages within which to fit my feast. When, in an early sketch, I fitted all 20 cats in – the cats were too small and the numbers couldn’t be easily read. Since the point of the book is to distinguish between cats and to recognize numbers I decided to make the cats and numbers bigger even tho it meant leaving out some cats.

Besides at almost every group photo I’ve ever participated in there were several people who declined to be in the picture. Perhaps we can pretend some of the cats in my artwork were similarly shy?

After sending everything in to Storyberries, and after being given the release schedule, I was asked to send in a new photo of all three of the feast panels as one image. There are design constraints and issues at their end too – and we’re in this project together. So I hustled (time zones remember…) and sent this photo in:

Since my book idea is about distinguishing between cats and numbers I also used 4 of my allotted pages to include the photos of real life cats that my friends had sent to me for use as reference to create my artwork. Like the feast scene artwork not every cat illustrated in the book is on the cat photo pages… again it was a case of if I fit in every photo the cats were too small to see well. And in some cases the photos my friends sent was fine for my art reference use but it wasn’t high enough resolution for a printed book. Since I’m doing both print and ebook forms I had to design for both to look the same. Perhaps it can add fun to also distinguish which cat is there and which isn’t and also to see some of the source material I worked with?

Here’s what the Numpurrs book cover looks like, and the dedication page where I thank my friends for all of their help.

Numpurrs by Clancy – https://www.blurb.com/b/10297565-numpurrs

You can see a preview of the entire book Numpurrs via this link: https://www.blurb.com/b/10297565-numpurrs

You can see all of my artwork and my blog posts containing my thinking as I developed this project on the webpage here.

Here, again, is the link on Storyberries where you can see what they ended up doing with the new feast scene photo I hustled to send in …. https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-numpurrs-by-clancy-free-counting-books-for-kids/

On my Instagram page I will tell more about Numpurrs as things on Storyberries develop. (An audiobook version is in the works etc)

Next Monday this blog will move on to my next art project…

Thanks again for reading and adding to the Numpurrs fun!

Numpurrs 16, 17, 18, 19

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, cat portrait, Cats in art, creative thinking, ebook, fine art, illustrated poem, illustration, life of the mind, math and numbers, mental health, Numpurrs, pet portraits, publications - publishing, small things, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

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.

See you here next Monday

Numpurrs 12, 13, 14, 15

A Creative Life, animals in art, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, Authors, books, cat portrait, Cats in art, creative thinking, fine art, illustrated poem, illustration, math and numbers, Numpurrs, pet portraits, poetry, printed books, publications - publishing, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

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!

Part of what I have been so busy on can be seen here: https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/readings-from-the-heart/

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

Numpurrs 8, 9, 10, 11

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, cat portrait, Cats in art, creative thinking, fine art, food in art, illustrated poem, illustrated recipe, illustration, kitchen art, math and numbers, miniature art, Numpurrs, pet portraits, poetry, publications - publishing, published art, sketchbook, sketchbook suppers, Sustainable creativity, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

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:

This page is from “Favorites So Far
You can see the whole sketchbook here.

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.

Numpurrs 4, 5, 6, 7

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, cat portrait, Cats in art, creative thinking, fine art, illustrated poem, illustration, Numpurrs, pet portraits, poetry, publications - publishing, published art, Sustainable creativity, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

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.

If you’re wondering what I’ve been so busy doing: I finished up some new fine art pieces for an upcoming exhibit at the Caplan Art Designs gallery – I also added my new art pieces to this virtual exhibit tour of sorts webpage here (hint: the newest pieces have birds reading books) https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/readings-from-the-heart/

I’ll post more of my Numpurrs progress during the week on my Instagram etc. social media pages and then sum up with more details about my creative process in a blog post next Monday.

But first let there be pizza, time to read books and watch movies.

Thanks for reading, commenting and buying my artist books – you help me keep going.

Numpurrs 0, 1, 2, 3

A Creative Life, animals in art, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, cat portrait, Cats in art, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, fine art, illustrated poem, illustration, math and numbers, Numpurrs, pet portraits, poetry, publications - publishing, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

Here’s this weeks progress on my new artist book for children to be titled 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 related to numbers and math from me.

As I wrote in my last post when I start a new project I work in short bursts [Very Small Goals] until my idea has firmed up a bit. By “firm up” I mean that there’s a draft nearly finished and all the research and other materials have been collected. Even some messy doodle-drawings have been done. There’s now a “there” there – something to work with.

Then my project moves into the “more serious” project slot within my day. Instead of only spending 10 or 20 minutes on my project I’ll spend 30 to 40. Adjustments to my idea are still happening, things are still uncertain but it’s becoming clearer. I rewrite my text drafts more in a more legible way. I begin doing the illustrations more carefully using ink and gouache on board. (And yes, I redraw and repaint, in short bursts, till I’m somewhat satisfied with each portrait.)

Here are the finished poem lines that fit with my first 4 illustrations for Numpurrs

Zero has nothing but wants to eat

One lists numbers of friends who can meet

Two proposes a potluck fondue

Three invites him, her, them and you

I selected the potential cats-to-be-illustrated from the various photos of cats that my friends have been kind enough to share. The cat photos themselves inspired which cat to pair with which number and poem line. Also in my inspiration mill where some things me friends told me about their cats.

I decided to begin my poem-story with Zero because the concept of zero – nothing – was revolutionary in the early days of math. (A fun article about the history of Zero is here) Nothing is so often the start of something that it suits my sense of humor to have the catalyst (pun intended) for my story being a cat who has nothing…

The cat for number 1 was sent by a friend who told me the Japanese word for the numeral one – Ichiban. I toyed with the idea of using different languages, different kinds of clothing… for each numeral…

But as I drafted and doodled and read about numbers I decided to keep the illustrations simple, and each drawing similarly formatted, so as to keep my book focused on the numbers and the diversity of cats. This book is intended to amuse the adult fans of my work but also – primarily even – to help kids gain awareness of numbers. I plan to have the poem text have each number spelled out, such as, “Zero” while the illustrations have the matching number, i.e. “0,” in them. Since English is my primary language I decided to stick with that.

Where I’m playing visually in my Numpurrs project is with color combinations. Some time ago I got a book titled “A Dictionary Of Color Combinations” from one of my local bookstores, Ampersand Gallery and Fine Books. The book is primarily in Japanese with a smattering of English. Even though I don’t read Japanese this book has been a wonderful resource for color combination ideas. I’m using it much like I used a rhyming dictionary when composing my poem. Here’s some photos of this book:

I’ll post more of my Numpurrs progress during the week on my Instagram etc. social media pages and then sum up with more details about my creative process in a blog post next Monday.

Thanks for reading!

Beginning Numpurrs

A Creative Life, animals in art, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, cat portrait, Cats in art, fine art, illustrated poem, math and numbers, Numpurrs, pet portraits, poetry, printed books, publications - publishing, published art, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

I’m starting a new artist book for children to be titled 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 related to numbers and math from me. So here goes…

As I mentioned in my last post I work in short bursts, 10 or 20 minute increments, small time segments that cover a Very Small Goal (VSG) towards a project. I do these short bursts of VSG’s almost daily. Other projects – and life – take up time so working in short bursts on VSG’s is my way to do some new creative project without requiring a large chunk of time.

For example on successive days my VSG’s were 10 minute tasks like; gather my legal pads, refill my fountain pen, look at past poetry about counting, brainstorm a “thesis”, write a list of VSG’s, gather reference photos, doodle possible illustrations, write drafts of a poem… and so forth.

For my “thesis” aka the root idea of my Numpurrs book I thought of how cats often bring presents to their humans of some, delectable morsel, from a cats point of view. Some mouse or bird brought as a gift to the human as a contributing dish for dinner. My cats have in the past been so, ahem, generous. I added that thought to the human concept of potluck dinners and how all the various contributions of dishes “add up” to an extravagant meal.

With that in mind I wrote draft after draft – sometimes in short bursts of 2 lines at a time – of my potential Numpurrs poem in my legal pad. Here’s a photo of my messy handwritten poem draft number 5 or so.

Longhand draft of Numpurrs by Clancy

During this time I reached out to several friends and asked for photos of their feline companions. I asked friends because many have shared or can share stories of their cats personality. These photos will inspire lines of my poem and the potential illustrations. This was also just a fun topic to share with my friends. Here are some of my sketchbook doodles of cats, a way to “warm up” and begin.

Cat sketchbook by Clancy
Cat sketchbook by Clancy

Here’s a photo of my cat Hawkeye.

Everything at this point is in flux. I’m quite okay with this uncertainty – it’s an exhilarating part of the creative process made achievable by working in small chunks.

My evening reading to relax before bed is also tangentially related to my Numpurrs project. There may be a bit of additional inspiration in it – who knows. Besides it’s fun reading.

I’ll post my progress on my Instagram page during the week and write more details about my creative process here on Monday. We’ll see how much I get done – or not. Among my upcoming Instagram posts about Numpurrs you’ll see posts about my fine art exhibits that are currently up – and one still to come. So I’ve a lot going on this week. Full details about all of the exhibits are on my portfolio project pages.

Oh, I almost forgot: you can see The Crow and the Water Jug on Storyberries.com and you can also preview the printed book here.

portrait commission of two cats

A Creative Life, animals in art, art commission, art techniques, cat portrait, Cats in art, fine art, Fine Art Commission, handmade papers, visual story

This time of year most of my art commissions are gifts and are top secret. No blogging about them. Well this time a couple asked me to create a double portrait of their two cats and since it’s a gift to themselves they’ve let me blog about it! (Happy Holidays to all of us!) Here’s how it went:

In September Sue and Dean asked me via Caplan Art Designs, my Portland gallery, to create a double portrait of their two cats.  They were pretty sure they wanted it to be 12 inches by 18 inches and on handmade paper to be framed.

A time to meet to discuss the commission was arranged and my wife, Judy, and I went to dinner at Sue and Dean’s house.  I brought an example of the 100% cotton handmade paper that I’d use at the size they’d requested and a few other sizes just in case. I also brought my camera, a note pad and an extra pen.

After we’d been there a short while the cats came out. So did my camera. As the cats got used to me, and over the evening, I took over 41 photos of them. Here are two of the photos I took.

I asked questions of the humans about the cats favorite places, toys and habits. I asked questions about the humans favorite places, drinks and memories. On my note pad I wrote down the answers. Where possible I photographed the answers .  For example on of my questions was: “What drink do you reach for most often when you want to relax? And what kind of glass do you have it in?” Here was the answer:

Drink

Generally we just talked about one thing and another. You know, dinner party talk. I asked questions, kept my ears open, and my notepad ready for recording things that might be relevant to the commission. I like to include in any pet portrait elements from the humans’ lives: favorite objects, drinks, food, anything that sparks pleasant memories. Helpfully, Sue and Dean both volunteered lots of information about themselves such as a favorite artwork that was meaningful to them.

backgoundart

They told of past travels that were particularly memorable. Famous people they’d met in Hawaii.  All kinds of things were talked about and without interrupting flow I asked  more questions  and made as many notes as I could. Without being too obvious I also looked around their house noting colors and patterns, writing those notes down too.  This is what I call the “data dump” phase of a commission. At this point I have no idea what information will be relevant for the final artwork.

We relaxed into the evening; just talking, having a very yummy dinner with a good wine. Slowly as Sue and Dean talked I began to get ideas…  The cats got comfortable too and began doing their “normal” behavior.

Ollie likes to sit in a basket that holds magazines. Tony likes to sit on the couch and watch Nature on television.  The cats behavior prompted me to ask which human had the magazine subscriptions (Sue did) and what magazines were favorites. Dean has worked in technological fields…so technological advances (including TV) were discussed..

Later in the evening I floated a general portrait concept: Ollie reading magazines and Tony watching TV…perhaps the basket Ollie likes so much could become a “table” in the artwork, perhaps…   They both seemed to like my concept direction. They verified the size of artwork they wanted. I said I’d send them, via the gallery, a sketch for their approval before I began the finished artwork. We enjoyed a bit more conversation (and wine) – I glanced at my notes and racked my brain to make sure I had all the data I needed – and then we said our good-nights.

In the driveway pulling away from their house about 9:30pm I texted the gallery owner with the gist of what size artwork Sue and Dean wanted etc. Then my wife, Judy, and I discussed the evening in the car as we drove home. I still had my note pad out and was writing notes in the moving car by flashlight. (Judy was driving.)

Occasionally it had happened during the evening that I was talking with Sue in one room while Judy was in another room talking with Dean. So Judy filled me in on what I’d missed.  At this point I am still in “data dump” mode. I have a rough direction for my design. But the details are very fuzzy. (Over the many years I’ve done special commissions this kind of uncertainty is normal and I trust it as a part of the process.)

The next day I went over my notes and began making 4 x 6 inch size thumbnail sketches.  Over several weeks I did this; going over my notes and photos, drawing possible poses of the cats, possible objects, considering composition and colors. I also showed my sketches to Judy discussing the possibilities. At one point Judy said that they had both talked of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Hawaii enough that she was sure that they were important. I agreed and adjusted my drawings so that a reference to those travels was emphasized. Slowly an idea began to come together in the small thumbnail size anyway.  What works visually at a small size doesn’t always work at a larger size but it’s a place to start.

On my easel I put the 12 x 18 inch handmade paper. Then I covered that with tracing paper and drew a grid (you can see it in the photo below). Then I put tracing paper over the grid and drew one of the thumbnail ideas to that scale.  Then another tracing paper was put over that and that drawing tweaked…. And so it went, with multiple tracing paper overlays and re-draws, for a week or more. Tweak, tweak, tweak, until I had something I felt good about.  The “good drawing” I sent to the gallery and to Sue and Dean for their approval. Here is what I sent:

MorehouseCommPreApprove72

They approved the drawing! Yippee! I did a happy dance and then I got serious about colors.

Upon arriving home after the dinner with Sue and Dean I had gotten out one of my interior design color swatch books. Flipping through the pages I found a couple of color spreads that I felt had the “vibe” of Sue and Dean’s house. I showed the pages to Judy to get her input.  With those interior design book pages as a rough guide along with my photographs taken inside their house I began mixing colors and making color notes.  I used my thumbnail drawings to play with color schemes too, painting blobs of color here or there. Anyway, here’s a photo of the interior design book page as well as a few pages of my sketchbook color notes. I did 6 pages of color notes but this one photo will give you the idea.

ColorPaletteBlends

As I decided on the colors I made pencil notes on the approved to-scale drawing where the colors would go. You can see some of this in the photo above.

Then I began on the finished artwork.  The actual painting took about 10 days start to finish. As I say often – the sketching/drawing/planning is where the bulk of creation happens.  I transferred the approved sketch/drawing to the handmade paper I intended to use for the finished artwork.  Then I began to make tiny adjustments to the drawing directly onto the handmade paper in prep for painting. I also discovered gaps in my visual data base.

For example I realized that I didn’t know what the back of a vintage TV set looked like. Not well enough to paint it in detail anyway. Fortunately there are some vintage shops where I live – so a few visits downtown with my sketchbook and the problem was solved!

I also realized that I had an opportunity to make a portrait of Sue and Dean on the front cover of the “magazine” that Ollie, the cat, would be reading in the finished artwork. So I asked for, and got, a picture of the couple that I could use as a reference photo.  From the photo I did several pencil drawings on tracing paper to design the magazine cover and to get the humans to look like themselves. I drew until I had a cover design and human portrait that worked. Here it is:

MagCover

Once I had the magazine “cover” drawing ready (drawn to the scale needed in the artwork) I transferred it to the appropriate spot on the handmade paper.  At another point I realized that I could include the stain glass windows I’d seen in their house as part of the “back cover” of the magazine. But I hadn’t gotten photos of the window when we visited for dinner. And neither Judy nor I could remember the exact details of the windows. So I contacted Amy at the Caplan Art design gallery and she helped fill in the missing data! Whew!

Here’s what the finished artwork “Ollie and Tony” looks like. I’ve photographed it as it was on my easel when I finished it, so you can see the four deckled edges of the handmade paper.  I used acrylic, gouache, watercolor and ink.

OllieAndTonywithdeckles72

I sent the photo of the finished art to Amy the gallery owner to let her know it was done.  Then I spray varnished the piece with a removable varnish that has UV protection in it.

When that was dry I contacted Amy and arranged for a time to deliver it to the gallery.  The date was set and the varnish dry so I slipped the artwork into an archival plastic sleeve and into a cardboard portfolio to protect the artwork from being bent on its travels between my studio and the gallery or between the gallery and the framer.  (It rains in the Pacific Northwest – so artwork needs all the protection it can get.)

We delivered the artwork to the gallery and as a nice surprise Sue and Dean were there!  Here we all are looking at the artwork and talking about it:

artdelivery

Amy will take the artwork to the professional framer the gallery works with and have the art floated on a neutral mat, with spacers so the artwork won’t touch the glass.  It will be given a simple black frame.

What a fun project!! I love getting to make highly personal and meaningful visual stories like this! Thank you!! And thank you, Sue and Dean, for letting me share it on my blog!

Happy Holidays Everyone!!

 

cats collected collectively

A Creative Life, art exhibit, cat portrait, Cats in art, fine art, visual story

This morning I delivered my cat themed artwork to Burnt Bridge Cellars for the upcoming exhibit, “Purrsuits of Pleasure”, June 1st through the end of July. Below is the unvarnished, unedited, raw, bare-naked video of what the exhibit looked like just after it was hung. The exhibit will look entirely different with a glass of wine in hand and lots of friendly people to talk to.  Art is an excuse for a good conversation.

If you wish to actually read the exhibit statement that appeared out-of-focus in the end of the video you can see that in a recent blog post here – and some of the text beside the artwork can be read in the post here.

Here’s the link to Burnt Bridge Cellars: http://www.burntbridgecellars.com/

And here is the link to Caplan Art Designs – one of my galleries that can be contacted regarding my work in this exhibit: http://www.caplanartdesigns.com/

Now I’m going to grab a novel and read a while – generally get rested before the opening party on Friday.