On being at home and eating well

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In times like these we need to do what kindnesses we can for each other so I’ve decided to release my kitchen sketchbook earlier than planned. The title of this new artist book is Favorites So Far – a kitchen sketchbook. Details follow.

I spend most of my time working at home. Now, with coronavirus, more people, especially here in Washington state, are too. Welcome to my world. There’s lots of work but also books, good meals, drinks and snacks.

So perhaps it will be kind to go ahead and share more of how cooking at home fits with my working at home life? Hope so…

I was going to wait until just before my one-person art exhibit in June 2020 to officially debut this memoir cookbook, Favorites So Far, as many of the recipes relate to my artwork. I’ve been dribbling out teaser recipes on my Instagram page especially as they relate to the artwork as I finish the art. My original intention was to build momentum toward my June exhibit, display the artwork at the physical exhibit and have this 48 page sketchbook, itself intended as artwork, available as an accessory to the exhibit. You know, big splash.

But to heck with that. It seems kinder to share this book right now because people gotta eat.

Technically this book, Favorites So Far, is a printed 48 page memoir sketchbook – with my sketches on every page. That a meal could be made from it was just bonus. It’s suposed to be autobiographical amusement. But it really is a practical book, we refer to it for our own meals regularly.

Here’s a photo of the front and back covers of the printed book Favorites So Far:

Recently my co-author, Judy Sullens, and I got to talking: in the best of times what to cook/eat is a question. Door Dash and other innovative food delivery services are super helpful – but people suddenly being at home more… perhaps they’ll find it helpful to hear how a couple of busy creatives who’re not always flush with cash, not always remembering to get stuff at the store, how do they fill their belly’s?

So we decided to release the book now rather than wait. This link to the full color printed book has the entire book as a preview – and you can purchase it there too. https://www.blurb.com/b/9759759-favorites-so-far

The book is set up to be printed, 48 pages, full color, landscape format to showcase the artwork. And, since we’re not waiting to do a big splash at the exhibit, we’ve now set it up so the printed book can be shipped directly to you from the printer.

Perhaps even more helpfully we’ve set it up as an immediately downloadable ebook viewable on any device: Google Android devices, Kindle etc. It’s still 48 pages, full color with all the artwork. You can get the ebook version here. https://www.blurb.com/ebooks/709744-favorites-so-far (preview first 15 pgs)

Speaking of previews here’s some of the pages:

The title page
Book info page…. see, drawings on all pages!
Introduction page…how this book came to be.

And here are a few of the inner pages so you can see the memoir attributes.

More generally how I handle being a busy artist while not starving: after breakfast, before getting to work in my studio, I cut up veg and etc ingredients and throw them in a pot to slow cook until lunchtime. I work for several hours in my studio, take a short break to stir the pot. Back to work for another hour or so. Then lunch!

This is a pic of my sketchbook that Favorites So Far is a reproduction of – and a pot of just assembled stew:

And, yes, since it’s so near to St. Patrick’s Day I couldn’t resist posting this Irish stew recipe!

Oh, and we showed this sketchbook to a chef friend who said “I love it that a third of the book is cocktails!”

Hope you enjoy this book and that you eat well.

lord of the fries

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I’ve learned that all fries are not the same; here in the Pacific Northwest the local brew pubs serve “Jojo’s”, which are often baked, not fried. From the plate of Jojo’s you could assemble whole potatoes Jenga game style and dip them in a special sauce as you eat the, ahem, game pieces. I’ve discovered that I like the Jojo’s much better than the limp, soggy with grease, loaded with salt, fries I remember from the past.

I’ve even tried cooking Jojo’s at home several times and had success! It was so easy to make I didn’t even do my usual kitchen sketchbook notes about the dish: briefly boil medium size unpeeled potatoes (one per person), let them cool. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut each cool potato in half and then into thick strips. (The potatoes are still firm). Lay parchment paper on a baking sheet with a lip. (Or if only serving 2 people grease a casserole dish) Pile the cut potatoes on the pan, drizzle olive oil, garlic, and/or salt and/or pepper, and/or cheese and mix with hands. Spread out into a layer and bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Watch carefully and at the end of baking, broil to make the potatoes crispy to suit. Here’s a photo of one of my efforts (in a casserole dish, potatoes with garlic and cheese)

My growing awareness of methods of cooking potatos tumbled into current politics, as the news has been about behavior in the American White House that reminded me of William Golding’s book “Lord Of The Flies”. I checked the book out from my public library and reread sections of it. I read this book back in high school but I’ve slept since then. Yes, I was remembering the book well; the way the book depicts the conflict between savagery and civilization. I didn’t reread the whole book. Current events mirror the books conflict well enough. Let’s just say I’m in favor of civilization, rule-of-law and basic human decency. (And also in favor of good quality hot chocolate)

Anyway, my mind kept contrasting the extremely unhealthy fries from my past with the still indulgent but healthier Jojo’s here in the PNW; contrasting the horrifyingly savage qualities of the current American administration with the ideals of Democracy, civilization, human rights – and hoping things will end better than they did in Golding’s book.

Here’s the painting I did with all of these thoughts – titled “Lord Of The Fries” – I’m sure you’ll see that I made artistic use of looking closely at my homecooked Jojo’s.

“Lord Of The Fries” by Clancy – 11 x 8 inches – ink and gouache on board

My kitchen sketchbook methods

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What’s for dinner? I began keeping a kitchen sketchbook years ago so I could answer that question with a reliably pleasing meal. In a blog post recently I talked of how my kitchen sketchbook, a sketchbook solely devoted to the topic of food, is “feeding” my current fine art series to be exhibited later this year. After posting someone said they’d be interested in my process of ‘kitchen sketchbook keeping’ as they’d like to create such a keepsake for their family. So my process goes like this …

I see a recipe, in a library book, a cookbook I own or online ( I follow some food blogs and Instagram accounts: Food In Books, In Diane’s Kitchen, TikiChefKim ) and I decide to try the recipe. Here’s a cookbook I found in my local library. I looked through it identifying several recipes that look possible.

Often in reading the recipe I realize that it includes an item someone at my table is allergic to, or strongly likes/dislikes, or the recipe includes an ingredient I don’t have in my cabinets. Some adaptions, adjustments, are made. In this case, pictured below, I don’t have Borlotti beans so I substitute Cranberry beans (another Italian dry bean) which I do have. I write my adjustments on my scrap of paper.

And here’s a close up of my writing on the scrap of paper.

Things I’m looking for in a recipe are: easy to make, variable when served as leftovers and yummy for the people at my table. Sometimes it can be a day or two between reading a recipe and doing the actual cooking. Whenever I do start cooking I tweek my notes on my scrap of paper.

The first meal of my Cranberry Beans and Cabbage with Rosemary Breadcrumbs was served alongside sauteed Brussels Sprouts for a vegetarian dinner. It was an easy meal for me, the cook, to prepare: I didn’t have to spend lots of time in the kitchen fussing and could work in my art studio while the beans cooked. The meal, as served, tasted yummy to both me and my spouse. So I saved my scrap of paper with my recipe notes. (If the recipe had been too fussy, or not yummy, the paper scrap would be discarded)

The next day was a busy one so just before lunch I hurridly scooped some leftover Cranberry Beans, Cabbage and Breadcrumbs into individual portion size oven safe dishes, threw a few frozen Itallian meatballs onto the beans, covered each dish with aluminum foil, put them into the oven for 30 mins and returned to my art project. When the timer went off lunch was ready.

Lunch was quite quick, yummy and got high mark’s for its ease and versatility! So the scrap of paper with the recipe got slipped in to its potential spot in my kitchen sketchbook. The next day was similarly hectic so the third re-heat of leftover Cranberry Beans and Cabbage was similar except I put an Itallian sausage in place of the meatballs.

The result was so yummy that this recipe, as adapted, earned “keeper” status, meaning it goes into my kitchen sketchbook.

During the next available 10 minutes I did a short-burst and, all at once, wrote my adapted recipe in pencil in my kitchen sketchbook.

A few days later I spent 5 minutes or so using a Micron ink pen to write over the pencil, tweeking the lettering spacing as I inked.

On still another day during another spare 5 minutes I did more inking, tweeking wording and letter spacing as I went. In the pic below you can see how different the ink work is from the original pencil.

On still another day I snuck in a moment and I erased all of the pencil marks.

Then on successive days as I worked on other art projects whenever I had a bit of color that’d also fit with something on my recipe page I’d take a minute dab the color into my kitchen sketchbook, leave the sketchbook open to dry, then I’d wash out my brush and return to my main art project.

I used color and boldness of ink to indicate ingredients and order of instructions. So in the future I’ll be able to glance through my sketchbook and easily plan dinner!

My kitchen sketchbook is 3.5 x 5 inches when closed and a half inch thick. It’s pages are a lightweight watercolor paper that takes ink and gouache fairly well if I don’t get too vigorous with it.

For my upcoming art exhibits this year, as part of my, ahem, bibliography, I’ve made artistbook copies of my kitchen sketchbook titled “Favorites So Far”. You can get a copy in advance via this link. As published the book is 8 x 10 inches, a bit larger than the original sketchbook.

And now you know how my busy, we don’t want to starve, art studio solves the “what’s for dinner” question.

mixing the mundane and magical

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I’ve been reading “Whiskey Galore” by Compton Mackenzie. Once again I realize that I enjoy the mix of real-life and a whimsical imaginative look at real-life. Mackenzie used a real-life event as the inspiration for his whimsy and did the mix extremely well.

Already I’ve been doing some of this mixing in my work – but I want to do even more of that mundane/imagination mixing in my various art projects. Here’s what I did most recently: it’s 8 x 18 inches, ink and gouache on board – I’ve titled it “The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients”

TheSoupBookStartingWithIngredientsSM

“The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients” by Clancy

It mixes the real-life (mundane) action of consulting a cookbook recipe, perhaps for chicken soup, with a (magical) chicken rescue. “The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients” will be one of several new works for an upcoming one-person art exhibit in September at Caplan Art Designs in Portland Oregon. I’ll post the new artworks here as I get them done.

But back to the artwork itself: I enjoyed doing a panoramic visual story that continues what I began doing for my “Dear Readers” exhibit currently on display at Burnt Bridge Cellars. The new wider format let me put in more details, more “story-ness”.

“The Soup Book…..” was such fun to create that I plan to do more in this format! And of course do more general mixing of metaphors, more blurring the lines between the mundane and the magical in all of my work. We’ll see how it all goes of course.

Generally I’ve been thinking of how important it is, for living well (and good mental health), to be able to view mundane life with a “glass half full” attitude, to be able to see what is good/delightful, and to use curiosity and imagination (and good books) to stimulate ones own inner life. Which is why I aspire to do an even better artistic job of mixing the mundane and the magical.

BTW: “Whiskey Galore” has been made into a movie – and a very well done movie too! The book version has a bit more story to it – but the movie is wonderful and it’s not always that both the book and movie are equals in quality.

Now for a wee dram….. Slàinte mhath!

 

 

illustrated poetry about food

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Last weekend I spent some time looking through my cookbook collection which sits on the shelves next to my poetry collection. Since I’ve been practicing both cooking and writing I look to my favorite “masters” in each genre for inspiration. It’s nice to have them all in one spot.  Mollie Katzen, Aliza Green, Rick Bayless and Maryana Vollstedt are some of my favorite masters from the cooking world.  Edward Gorey, Edward Lear, Ogden Nash and Shel Silverstein are some favorites from the poetry world.

I spent the most “looking-for-a-recipe-to-cook” time with Vollstedt’s cookbook “The Big Book Of Soups And Stews” as it was a cold weekend. Plus a hearty stew puts me in a happy “comfort food feast” frame of mind. But the most “just admiring a cook book” time was spent with Katzen. However I did use one of Katzen’s salad recipes to go alongside a stew. I love the way Katzen hand lettered her recipes and illustrated them in her “Moosewood Cookbook”.  My poetry time was divided between Edward Gorey and Edward Lear.

This concept of mashing up wildly different genres as inspiration to make something new? Well Austin Kleon has written wonderful creative thinking technique books about that – specifically Steal Like An Artist!

Anyway I combined my big pot of stew thoughts with the limerick poem form for this poem I wrote and illustrated below – which has been published now on They Draw & Cook.

ForTheCooksPlentitude72

For the cooks plentitude – by Clancy https://www.theydrawandcook.com/artists/sue-clancy

I’m still practicing combining India ink and gouache – and doing text with a brush.  I used a smaller size brush this time for the type – and all lower case letters.  This brush-and-ink type style felt looser, more relaxed, than the type I did with a fountain pen for the birthday card – though both projects use a similar lower case.  I like both methodologies and will probably use both techniques as they fit with the project at hand. But this brush style… I’m liking it and am finding my hand reaching for a brush more often.

What do you think?

art snacks

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Some time back I read an article in my local newspaper about teaching kids to snack healthy and to learn to trust their body’s cues about food. Since then I’ve been thinking of similarities between healthy snacking habits and developing a healthy creative life.

  1. Teach yourself how to recognize aesthetic cues/desires – and practice responding to them – over time. I think of aesthetic cues as mental indulge-ments; things like stories, poems, movies, music, art etc. that make you feel glad to be alive. Just like a kid has to learn how to try new foods and then practice recognizing what foods they enjoy eating.  As we go through life our aesthetic preferences change – just like our food preferences do. So it’s helpful to continue to try new aesthetic/art snacks periodically – and practice trusting your own cues.
  2. Allow yourself to listen to your own aesthetic cues/voice without input from other people. This takes practice and no matter how experienced a person is one has to remember to return to listening to one’s own voice – rather like how sometimes a kid (or an adult) has to be reminded to pay attention to their plate and eat.  (When my wife and I go to happy hour with our friends I have to remind myself to eat…I tend to focus on the conversation…)
  3. Give yourself permission to just practice. Practice-an-art-materials can be as simple as  keeping a book of stories or poems handy for reading and a small book to write in. Think of it as adult playing. Some helpful mantras: “Nothing has to go right today”, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.” and “It’s okay to make mistakes and messes – it’s part of how we learn.”
  4. Set specific times to practice. These can be very short bursts of time. They can be event/circumstance based rather than clock based. i.e. I’ll practice reading/writing poems while the coffee/tea brews, the water boils or the oven pre-heats.
  5. Create a small place/drawer where your practice-an-art materials are kept handy. Perhaps a shelf where books related to your art snack indulge-ments are stored. Look for and collect objects, events, places that feed your creative-soul-heart-mind. Stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive. Plan to indulge in these things in small ways – daily.
  6. Set a habit (I hate the word “rule”) for what time per month you’ll indulge yourself – for an aesthetic “meal”, something more than a short snack – with someone else’s artwork: i.e. go to local art-openings, poetry/story slams, indie film nights, music jam nights or a visit to an art museum.

Here’s what I indulged myself with this morning as an art snack while my breakfast bread toasted:

InnisfreeWBYeats72

The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats is a new-favorite poem. It reminds me that we can – and do – create our own solace.

Thanksgiving and The Arts

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I remember being told, as a young person, that the arts were “not practical”. Today I thought of 8 ways, both serious and silly, that the arts are useful on Thanksgiving day.

  1. Culinary arts: Making food is considered one of the “fine arts”. Even if the kitchen looks like this: Funny Cooking Fails Compilation | AFV Funniest Videos 2018
  2. Sculptural arts: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Costumes are made by artists in the Macy’s Parade Studio .  Over 50 million people had the parade on the TV during their 2017 family holiday. A link for watching the Macy’s Parade in 2018 is here.  An on the parade topic, even though it’s film animation, here’s a Cat Parade.
  3. Musical arts: A background music playlist of “20 best Thanksgiving” songs here. And then there’s a funny video of when Dad sings…. Lol!
  4. Visual Arts: Arts and crafts projects to entertain the kids while the adults drink, I mean cook.  Here’s a video of some cute kids who had lots of fun with an art project until…oops!
  5. Arts and craft mess clean up techniques (aka Art School 101) outlined here. Btw: I’ve successfully used rubbing alcohol to get marker ink off of wood surfaces and crayon marks off walls. And in this video an adorable kid has Art School 101 down… too cute!
  6. Photographic arts: Here’s some real tips for taking family photos. And here’s some funny dog photos.
  7. Story arts: Serious tips for telling stories here and here. And then there’s a funny video of Grandpa telling a story… here. But Grandma decided to tell her story using the medium of dance… lets watch!
  8. Decorative arts: Here is a silly video of a dachshund decorating … But more seriously Spoonflower is one of my favorite sites for artist-created materials for things such as napkins and table cloths. Below is a photo of a table runner I designed. It looks good with some candles or a wooden bowl with fruit or nuts as a centerpiece. I also think it’d be fun visual joke to put tiny clean, cute birdhouses… and/or some small woven baskets with candy eggs in them, as centerpieces on my “autumn leaf” table runner.  But then I’m warped like that.

Anyway if anyone ever tells you that the Arts are not practical – don’t believe them.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

unconventional cookbook progress

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We are nearing the dessert stage of the unconventional cookbook “Kim Cooks Sue Draws”; meaning that all of the recipes have been illustrated, a short-cookbook-run has been sent to the printers and we’re waiting for delivery. I’m a mite nervous that it will arrive okay, that the printing will look good, that Chef Kim will be happy with it… but all I can do at this point is breathe and hope. 

Both Chef Kim Mahan and I have shown the work-in-progress to friends and each of us have heard that people enjoy the “playful and practical” qualities of it, that it’s not intimidating like some cookbooks can be, that it makes people want to cook. So overall I’m hopeful for the reception of this artist book and that it will be a useful helpful thing for Chef Kim to have in her classroom and available on her website http://www.class-cooking.com for her far-flung fans.

Personally I feel good about the artwork I’ve done and I feel that this project concept fits well with my general artistic thoughts (I dislike the word “mission”): that artwork can be both playful and practical, that “fine art” can be helpful to living life well, that the ability to cook is an essential survival skill for artists and other creative people.

Anyway, our “dessert stage” progress also means that all of the  unconventional cookbook recipe illustrations are now available as art prints and greeting cards and can be seen here: https://society6.com/sueclancy/collection/unconventional-cookbook

I know the prints and cards look good. I’ve seen them in person.

The short-cookbook-print run (the delivery I’m waiting somewhat impatiently for and slightly worrying over) that will be sold as a full “cookbook”, is a collection of 15 recipes,  as single cards that will be slipped into one envelope with these labels on the outside:

When we get the print run then Chef Kim and I will sort the books by hand and we’ll probably ask our loving, tolerant, patient and wonderful spouses to help us. There’s only 90 of the books on this first print run so we’ll be able to quickly to get them ready for an event the Chef is doing.  Some of the cookbooks will also be available via the Chef’s website www.class-cooking.com – and I’ll put a link here too when the books are ready.

As you may know from my previous posts this cookbook is not a traditional bound along one edge kind of book – it’s a collection of recipe cards; you can put one of the recipe cards under a magnet on the fridge while cooking from it, you could loan one to a friend, you can frame a recipe-card as “kitchen art” or mail one via snail mail. (This book design is also why the cards will need the hand-sorting mentioned above.)

My hope is also that people will smile and laugh when they see some of the recipe illustrations, that they will collect them and display them for a continued boost of humor.  I really like laughter and firmly believe that laughter belongs in kitchens and dining rooms.

Here is a link to a post from the “appetizer days” of this project – which describes more about my ideas and intentions behind this project: https://sueclancy.com/2017/10/18/an-unconventional-cookbook-artist-book/

I’ll let you know when the delivery finally happens and I’m breathing easier….

peppers and burgers oh my and artist books too

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Chef Kim Mahan came to my studio for a visit and made some decisions about recipes. We are cooking with real butter now! Meaning major progress towards having a real live published cookbook has occurred.

It is an artist book. Which means it’s an unconventional cookbook. It’s not bound in the traditional sense. It’s artwork – that you can cook with. Part of the reason for not-binding this book is that as separate pages one can be placed under a refrigerator magnet while in use.

Also the Chef will be able to mix and match sets of recipes according to themes (yes, we already plan to do more illustrated recipes!).

Here’s an example of mix-and-match:

There’s a kitchen-skill being taught (“how to roast a pepper”) and then there’s a recipe that applies that skill.  (The “Please-ya Burger” recipe also uses the kitchen-skill “How to peel and roast garlic” that I’d illustrated and shared on my last blog post here.)

Incase enquiring minds want to know – here’s my general definition of what an “artist book” is:

Artists’ books are works of art that utilize the form of the book – a set of sequential “pages” that unfold/display in a way that utilizes time like a printed book does. The reader sets the pace of the viewing/reading. Artist books are intended as works of fine art they just happen to be “book-like” as that format helps convey the artist’s concept. Artist books are often published in small editions and they are sometimes produced as one-of-a-kind art objects. Often they are produced for a specific audience or purpose. Artists’ books utilize a wide range of forms, including scrolls, fold-outs, concertinas or loose items contained in a box, portfolio or envelope. Artist books are often intended for art gallery, library or collectors display.

With that definition you can begin to see, I’m sure, the “artist book” aspects of this cookbook project with Chef Mahan.  The slight difference between the artist book definition above and this project is that this artist-book-cookbook will also be practical. You can use it to make dinner.

More about this project here and here.

 

pumpkin biscuits on the wall and in the mail

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I’ve now taken the finished artwork I did for Chef Mahan’s Pumpkin Biscuit recipe and done the hocus pocus necessary to make art-prints and greeting cards from it.

If you hover over the above photos or click on them you’ll see a link that takes you to the site where you can read more about them and order some.

The tea towels take a bit more slight-of-hand trickery to create a digital file for production – as it’s intended for printing on cloth and not paper. So as I have time – using my method of working in short spurts that I’ve blogged about before – I’ll work that magic and a tea towel with this artwork will quietly appear on the “Kim Cooks Sue Draws” page here https://sueclancy.com/artist-books/kim-cooks-sue-draws/

I’ve been pleasantly amused that the tea towels have been popular in Europe whereas the greeting cards and prints are more popular in the United States. Personally I giggle when I wipe my hands on a recipe-tea-towel. It’s been fun to see my art-prints on the Chef’s cooking school walls. And it’s a treat to mail a recipe as a card with a handwritten note inside. It’s all fun but mostly I’m delighted that my artwork is helping the Chef share her easy-to-cook recipes in a wider way.

As followers of my blog know: I think that knowing how to cook is an essential survive-thrive-as-an-artist skill and I’m lucky to get to learn more about cooking by working with the Chef on this art project! What fun!

Now what’s for lunch?

p.s. if you have trouble seeing the links under the photos here they are:

https://society6.com/product/pumpkin-biscuits_framed-print?#s6-7884502p21a12v52a13v54

https://society6.com/product/pumpkin-biscuits_cards?#s6-7884502p22a16v71