I’m very busy working on a top secret painting commission for Caplan Art Designs. So instead of talking about that – look! Poetry! Pasta! Pretty cups! Books!
Poetry: Two books of Andrea Gibson‘s poetry came by mail from one of my local bookstores! Gibson is my latest favorite poet.
Here’s one of Gibson’s poems on page 32 of You Better Be Lightning.
Pasta: My wife got a mixer with the pasta attachments for Christmas! So we’ve been making pasta together! She makes the pasta from scratch while I make the sauce.
Here she’s making large elbow noodles.
I made a butter and parsley sauce for our first pasta attempt so we could primarily taste the homemade noodles. Yum!! Homemade noodles really are worth the effort for the flavor!!
Pretty cups: Recently we’ve been to a few special events with dear friends. There were pretty cups at each occasion. Having recently made a calendar of coffee cups perhaps I was primed to notice them. Even so the cups, and my awareness of them, added a soupecon of extra special to the time with friends.
Here’s a related-to-cup-thoughts page from my sketchbook.
Books: I finished reading this book about books and oh my! What a marvelous invention writing things down and storing them in a book format has been for us humans! And how easy it is to stand on the shoulders of giants simply by reading.
I enjoyed this video about why we should read more. This article about how reading is itself a creative act. And this article about how creativity is actually a practice of resiliency.
So here’s a photo of one of the books I’m reading now in addition to Andrea Gibson’s poetry, a book of short stories and a book of essays.
Hope your week contains good books in it. I’ll see you next Monday or thereabouts.
I hope your holiday season was refreshing. A friend asked me 2 questions: what’s the difference between your blog and your email newsletter? My blog is about my creative life generally. My newsletter (via Substack) is where I’m serially publishing my sketchbook content, both art and words, prior to the time and efforts of creating a printed book. There may be a printed book of the art and words someday just not right now. But rather that let my art and my stories sit unseen in my sketchbooks I’m going ahead and sharing them. It’s like publishing a novel, in short excerpts, serially in a magazine. It’s also like what I currently do for Storyberries – I’ll create one of my short artist books and let it become a short ebook on the Storyberries website. Then after I have enough of the “shorties” I’ll create a printed book collection of them. But the kids who visit the Storyberries website didn’t have to wait for my printed book before they had a new story from me!
Anyway, like I was saying, here on my blog I share my artistic inspirations and other resources… like my recent collection of Jolabokaflod books that cover the 3 categories, poetry, short stories and essays, that Ray Bradbury mentions in his reading program. I’ll use many of these books in the new year as inspiration materials.
During the holidays I also got a new set of acrylic paints from the same art supplies company, Arteza, that made the advent calendar our friend gave us. I liked the quality of the Arteza paints and the way they’ll let you create a custom palette!! So many of the available art supply sets are primary colors only – and it gets expensive buying individual paint tubes to construct a custom color palette. So Arteza is a find!!
Here’s a series of color swatches I painted with the acrylic paints I chose for my personal palette. As you can see it’s not kindergarten primary colors but there is a sortof red, yellow and blue…
Two of the other color palettes I also got from Arteza are gouache paints. One set is a human portrait skin tone palette. The other set is a natural land based palette. These color sets join my “butterfly palette” – a color assortment based on the colors of butterfly wings – for use in the new year.
Here’s a closer look at the gouache colors squeezed out of the tube on the new, previously empty, palette box.
Immediately I did a project that allowed me to use every one of my new gouache palette colors, both the human skin tone and the landscape tones. Just like when I use my butterfly palette I enjoy using the color tones of diverse human skin and the myriad of landscape colors to give color to mundane objects like coffee or tea cups.
My project, my excuse to try all of my new paints, is a 2023 calendar. I’m going to scan these monthly pages with my original art on them and make a downloadable (and printable) calendar for the paid subscribers of my email newsletter. Starting at 7 dollars a paid subscriber gets a calendar and access to my other artist book ebooks including current sequences of my sketchbook. I’m publishing my entire sketchbook a sequence at a time – at least one sequence each month.
Here’s a closer look at my calendar in progress…
Anyway, that’s what’s going on in my creative life as we begin 2023 … please visit my newsletter to see and get downloadable versions of my 2023 calendar and other art projects that I talk about here. It’s easier for me to share the downloadable digital files over there…
Recently I did a post titled Pug Epic Book In Art – (the post is about my painting in which a pug sits in a café reading a book) – since then I’ve also mused about a character who wrote the book the pug in the painting is reading. Here is an illustration of who I imagine is sitting to write the story “Epic Tales of the Pug King” – the book being read by the other pug in the painting:
“Epic” by Clancy – ink and gouache on paper
And I’ve written the full text of the story that I hand lettered on the painted-book within my painting referred to in the prior post – the painting that when my wife saw it said she’d like to read the rest of the story of which only a part was depicted within the painting. So here’s the story:
Epic Tales Of The Pug, King – by Clancy
The Pug King’s elegantly chipped ceramic bowl appeared before him resplendent with gravy, chunks of meat and yams. His Majesty tasted the gravy, then a meat chunk, the gravy again, then a yam, a meat chunk with the gravy and a piece of yam with gravy. He licked his lips, the bowl and his lips again. The Royal Feast was done; the dog sought some sport to aid all digestion and to his owner cried “Sir, Fool! Kneel now and play some ball!” The owner bowed and bent his knee. “Fetch!” he said and flung a mighty fling. The ball arched high into the air across the green expanse of Royal lawn. His Majesty ran flowing, majestically, swiftly, across the grass, conquering the ball and returning back to his owner. Three times, four times they did this at the King’s command. On the 12th time the owner knelt, patted the Monarch’s silken head, saying “Enough now, lets go inside and get ready for bed.” His Royal Majesty barked sharply. “Sir Fool, there’s a King’s personal business still to do…”
Recently I was in a local coffee shop and a coffee cup was silhouetted beside a rainy window. Steam rising from the cup. Such a simple thing but I began thinking of how many stories begin with simple things and grow, cumulatively, until they become epics.
Like Pug dogs. So small yet so large in personality especially as they mature.
Here’s a painting I did that was inspired by these thoughts. I’ve titled it “Epic Tales of The Pug King”.
Epic Tales Of The Pug King – by Clancy – 16 x 20 – acrylic and gouache on board.
I wrote the story that’s ‘printed’ in the book depicted in the painting and hand-lettered it, with brush and acrylic, into place on the page-within-the-painting.
My wife came into my studio, saw my work-in-progress and said “What’s the rest of that story?”, saying that she wanted to turn the Pugs page for him and continue reading. Then she challenged me to write the rest of the story.
Right this minute I’m enjoying the visual pun – that the Pug’s epic story-poem, ahem, is really, really, short. Plus the setting and my character, the Pug dog, are not particularly grand as the word “epic” would imply.
And that’s in keeping with my feeling that the most important elements of this world are actually the mundane ones, the humble ones. Daily life and the qualities of it can have more impact on a person than the grandest once-in-a-lifetime vacation might.
I love this quote from Annie Dillard “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.”
I’ve been thinking of how essential friendly conversations are – and remembering a story Dr. Bob Hoke* once told. It went like this.
Once upon a time there was a king who was very busy from morning until evening chairing meetings and making decisions. When the king went home in the evening he wanted perfect silence; he didn’t talk to his very beautiful queen or his servants and he didn’t allow them to talk either. A no-talking policy reigned whether he was home or not. His queen was very unhappy and his servants didn’t stay in his employ long – even though the king was very rich and the queen and servants didn’t lack any material thing.
Eventually he noticed that his poorly paid chief advisor had a very happy wife. The advisor also had servants who had been in his employ for decades despite the fact that the advisor couldn’t pay them as well as others might.
The king attributed his advisors success in these relationships to sheer luck. One day the king demanded that the advisor swap. The advisor’s wife and servants went to live with the king. The king’s queen and servants went to live with the advisor.
A year went by. And the king noticed that most of the advisor’s former servants had left the king’s employment (despite their higher wages) and the advisor’s wife was now sad all the time. The king was also aware that his queen now laughed most of the time and his former servants, now in the poorly paid employment of the advisor, had stayed the entire year.
The king called his advisor and demanded “How have you done this?”.
“Your highness, almost every night I spend time asking everyone how their day had gone. I ask them how their children are. I listen to their hopes and dreams. I ask them to tell me stories and jokes. I tell them stories and jokes. I tell them about my day, my hopes and dreams. Neighbors and friends often drop by to visit – whether I’m home or not – and we offer the visitors what little we have to eat or drink. We accept what they offer us. We also visit other people.” replied the advisor.
The king reversed the swap and though it took some time he eventually became a good conversationalist with his queen and current servants (who began to stay in his employ longer). Above the entrance to his home, to help him remember, the king had a sign painter paint this phrase: “To be a good conversationalist is to have a good life.”
That’s the end of the story as I recall it. As I was remembering the story I painted this:
“Coffee With Friends” – by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches- acrylic and gouache on board
The story in this post was not included in the First Aid Kit because both Dr. Bob and I thought the “wife swapping” story element would be distracting within the book – even though it is a way within this particular story to demonstrate the point about conversation.
And in this still life artwork I experimented – swapped you might say – using a color I don’t use often: turquoise instead of the color I was tempted to reach for first. I feel I’m broadening my color-conversation skills at least.
I’ve been thinking lately about how much our lives are reflected in the objects we own, save, give away or dispose of – and the many mundane moments out of which a life is made. Perhaps choosing carefully what we focus on, choosing what encourages our “better angels”, choosing what becomes mundane is what makes for a good life.
These thoughts began when I was having coffee at one of my downtown coffee shops, staring at the highly polished surface of the ceramic coffee cup which reflected the surrounding city-scape. It was an ordinary moment that elevated my spirit. I carried it in my mind back to my studio where, to savor the feeling, I created this:
Coffee City – by Clancy – 5 x 7 inches – acrylic and gouache on board
I’ve been inspired by all the coffee here in the Pacific Northwest and enjoying going to the cafe’s and coffee shops with my sweetie. And yes, we’ve been buying coffee beans from local roasters and “trying it at home”.
Here’s a café inspired pattern design that I’m in the process of creating using a brush and walnut ink.
As you know I’ve been doing “coffee/tea cup research” lately. Here is a recent fine artwork I just finished titled “Café Paix”. Paix is French for “peace”. I’m sure you’ll notice the cup.
Café Paix by Clancy – hand dyed paper, handmade paste paper and acrylic on cradled board
One day my sweetie and I were on a busy urban street and we ducked into a café for a late brunch. There I was enchanted by the variety of people in the café – as well as outside on the street – and I thought “How wonderful it is to live in a such cosmopolitan region!
In my head I used the word “cosmopolitan” in the sense of “at ease with many different cultures”. That dovetailed with the café menu (in front of me) which featured coffee drinks and foods from many different areas of the world. So I made notes in my pocket sketchbook.
Later when I was back at the studio I did this finished sketch – which was a preliminary study for “Café Paix”:
Pierre by Clancy (ink on handmade paper)
The sketch is currently at Caplan Art Designs http://www.caplanartdesigns.com and “Café Paix” will be there too for future exhibits after it has fully dried.