designing a creative life 3 ways

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, mental health, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking

“Art cannot be separated from life. It is the expression of the greatest need of which life is capable. And we value art not because of the skilled product, but because of its revelation of a life’s experience.” – Robert Henri (American painter).  

I’ve been thinking of that quote today – and thinking of the people who have told me that they want to “be more creative” but aren’t sure how to start or what to draw. I’ve been thinking of how easy it is now for me to find subject matter. But it wasn’t always so.

As a young art student one of my first college assignments was to “do a 4 foot by 4-foot painting in acrylic of any subject matter but it cannot be abstract.”  Well that was a stumper. What to paint?  My professor went on to tell my class about how we needed to look around our own lives, our own experiences and find subject matter there.

That helped somewhat but still… what to make art about? My college life seemed boring and un-dramatic. How to identify subject matter I cared about?

I muddled through the school assignment and over the years got better at coming up with subject matter. It took even more time for me to figure out that a system of “short bursts of creativity” worked best for me but here’s what I’ve learned on my personal quest for the fountain of continually-interesting-to-me artistic subject matter:

A.   Keep a daily sketchbook, 5 to 10 minutes of work at a time, in which I draw or write about anything that occurs during a day that “catches my attention”. No censorship. No “trying to make art”. Just make notes, doodles. Play. Note the fun stuff, the things I’m grateful for and things that make me laugh or feel curious.

B.  After several weeks or months of sketchbook work I look back through my book and notice any reoccurring themes and I list them.

C.  I select one of the themes and set a series of creative appointments with myself to do a “real drawing” of that theme using good art materials. The creative appointments are 10 to 20 minutes of work/play at a time. I purposefully keep these sessions short! Repeat the creative appointments (aka short bursts of creativity) until the drawing is finished.

Then I select that same theme – or a similar one from my sketchbook – and do another “real drawing” – trying to do an even better job of communicating my thought or feeling. Again, no censorship, no “trying to make great art” – just trying to draw as neatly as possible, to convey as clearly as possible what “caught my attention”.

I keep working in my sketchbook every day even when I have a creative appointment with myself. Both of these 10 minute activities go on behind the scenes of my very busy professional artist life – and this “short bursts” concept could work within anyone’s “too busy” life and add more ongoing creativity. (Also, this concept builds on my “designing habits” concept from an earlier blog post: https://sueclancy.com/2017/03/29/designing-habits-6-ways/ )

Here’s a visual-thinking-drawing I did that describes this in a different way:

ShortBurstsCreativeTime72

For me it has turned out that creativity is a lot like happiness – it follows me wherever I go.  Below is a cartoon I drew about happiness that explains this concept in yet another way – it’s from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit

AHappyTail72

page from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit

You can also see one of my published sketchbooks as an ebook here: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/coffee-table-book

art of quick coffee

A Creative Life, animals in art, art techniques, artistic inspirations, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, drawing as thinking, Sue Draws Dogs, Sustainable creativity

I’ve been very busy with art commissions and upcoming art exhibit work lately – but thank goodness for my practice of making a creative appointment with myself. When I do this I set aside 5 to 15 minutes to do a “quick study” on one of my regular themes…. it’s a way to take a breather, meditate/think on a topic while doing something creative.

Here’s a recent “quick study”:

Arlie

“Arlie” by Clancy – ink on handmade paper.

You can see more art like this in my recent book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dogs-By-Sue-Clancy

art of onions chopped

A Creative Life, Art Licensing, art techniques, artistic inspirations, commonplace book, drawing as thinking, food for thought, illustration, Not-So-Sketchy-Food, sketchbook, sketchbook suppers, visual story, words and pictures

I finished the artwork I was working on in my last blog post! https://sueclancy.com/2017/04/06/art-of-the-onion/ and then I applied the illustration to some things… a framed print, greeting cards and other items you can find here: https://society6.com/sueclancy

art of the onion

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, commonplace book, drawing as thinking, illustration, Not-So-Sketchy-Food, sketchbook, sketchbook suppers, visual story, words and pictures

About a month ago now Sweetie and I took a cooking class (www.class-cooking.com) as a “date night out”. It was fun and as usual when I do something fun I made notes in my sketchbook. Here is one of the sketchbook pages I did during cooking class with Chef Kim Mahan.

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Then I got very busy with fine art commissions and etc. freelance projects – and life.

But every time I’d cut an onion when cooking supper I’d think about our class and the valuable instructions I’d gotten about onions. Since for me drawing is thinking – I ached to draw onions and the chef’s “how to chop onions” instructions so as to think about and “visualize” them.  So for several weeks now when I’ve had a spare 5 or 10 minutes I’d look at my sketchbook pages and brain-storm about what I wanted to create. After a brain-storm option had been settled upon I spent my spare 5 or 10 minutes drawing and writing in pencil on a larger sheet of Bristol paper the onion art/illustration I’d brain-stormed about. Some days I only erased pencil lines that didn’t work. Other days I re-drew pencil lines. After the pencil lines were settled in my spare few moments I’d do an ink line or two…

We’re talking quick-quick drawing work on the “onion art” then I’d go on with my day-job art projects. Every day though I did something in my spare 5 to 10 minutes to inch the onion art along.

Then today I had 20 whole minutes in a row to spare! Wahoo!! And the pencil work was done and I even had a few ink lines done – so I grabbed my ink pens, watercolors and color pencils…

Here’s what I’ve done today – as it is on my work table – I’ve a bit more work to do but it’s almost finished!

HowToCutOnionWorkProgress.jpg

 

 

postcard from the dogs with 4 tips to avoid being sick

A Creative Life, books, Dogs in Art, published art, Sustainable creativity

As you know I’ve a new book being formally released Feb 17th titled “Dogs by Sue Clancy”. This means in addition to creating the art that is in the book, designing and creating the book itself, arranging for its publication… now websites about it are rolling out: There’s the bit about “Dogs…” on my website, there’s this web page here: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dogs-By-Sue-Clancy and there’s now an entry over on Amazon.com (search for “Dogs by Sue Clancy”).

It’s been a long long long car ride…and we’re not even there yet!

Now I’ve done a postcard about the book. Yep, did the graphic design for the card all by myself too.  Here’s a photo of the front and back of the card:

dogsbookpostcard72

Postcard with details about “Dogs by Sue Clancy” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dogs-By-Sue-Clancy

So go on. You know you want to. Ask me how I avoid getting completely and heartily sick of a project by the gosh-darn-long end of it. Go on ask me.

Here are my 4 tips:

  1. At the start of a project when I’m all enthusiastic about it I write down in my journal all of my thoughts, hopes, dreams – what I’m excited about and why i want to do the project!  Then, later on, when my enthusiasm lags I re-read it. Usually that does the trick!
  2. I take care to remember that by the time the project has exited my head (i.e. there’s art to hang on a gallery wall etc.) that there are other people involved with my project now. And their salary depends on me doing my part well! In other words the project is no longer “all about me”!
  3. I make sure to spend quality time with my sweetie, my friends and my dog and cat who love me for other reasons besides artwork, books and whatever else my creative mind outputs. My sweetie and friends love my art stuff too but that’s not the ONLY thing! (Whew!) And we can talk about things besides my current project. (Whew!) And my dog and cat… well, my dog Rusty thinks I’m pretty darn special anytime I make a lap for him. And my cat Hawkeye thinks my ability to use my thumbs is swell – even if I do use them to draw those silly canines so much – I do come to my senses now and again and apply my thumbs in service to the CAT! (Whew!)
  4. I start work on a new art project pronto! I get curious about something in the world and get to self-educating… which involves books and art supplies…and creative appointments with myself…and…

And now I’m going to pull this car over for a bite of dinner.

 

9 ways to make more art and why

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations

My response to difficult times, whether personal or in the wider culture, has been to make more art. This is a concept I’ve adapted from my past work on Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit  – a book I did some time ago in which Dr. Bob says “The best response is living well” and also “Feelings are guides not gods”.  These concepts have stood me in good stead and helped me to make more art.

Creative people tend to “feed good wolves” to use their imaginations and think of what is possible, needed, hopeful, helpful, necessary – this is kindness, this is ‘living well’, and it is most needed during difficult times. The issue is that sometimes during the difficult times when the creative persons activity is needed most they don’t ‘feel like’ creating.  So the question becomes how to do it anyway.

I define “creators” broadly as any one who writes, sings, acts, draws, films – any technique or medium that uses a human mind and heart to (re)imagine the world. Creativity can be done by anyone – you don’t have to be a professional artist or have fancy equipment.  That said in my list below I’ll refer to fine art making as that’s what I know best but please know that this list applies to any artistic endeavor at any skill level.

9 ways to make more art

  1. Find a regular time daily or weekly – whether 15 or 30 minutes at first – when you’re awake and alert and set it aside as a ‘creative appointment’ with your self and your art supplies. Set it in your schedule/to-do list. This way it’s an appointment not an activity subject to how you feel at a given time. (Obviously if you’re throwing up then please stay in bed so as to not get sick on the art supplies.)
  2. Stick to this appointed time for 2 weeks. Evaluate. If that time period seems to not work. Set a different one. Stick to that new time for 2 weeks. Do this 2 week trial period until you find a time/day that works for you. The same with the length of the appointment; start off with a short time like 10 minutes – keep testing until you have set a duration that feels playful. Be religious about doing this testing. Once you find the best time/day that works for you then successfully meet your creative appointment with your self for 45 consecutive days minimum. (after that it’ll become  a habit)
  3. During your ‘creative appointment’ step away from the phone, social media and any other “in boxes”. Don’t answer the doorbell. Take the dog out for a potty break before you start your appointment. Tell your spouse, kids that you’ll be having 15 minutes (or 30) of uninterrupted creative time. (Remember to say please and thank you to them.)
  4. Have your art/creative supplies at the ready. This can be an entire room set aside for the purpose of creativity. It can be a corner of one room. It can be a box or tray of supplies kept in a drawer or cupboard to be pulled out during your appointment. It can even be as simple as a single sketchbook and a few pens kept in one spot. But whatever arrangement works – keep it well stocked!  You don’t want to run out of your favorite ink pen in the middle of a ‘creative appointment’!  Re-stock during non-appointment times. At the end of each ‘creative appointment’ re-sharpen your pencils or put your color pens back in their box etc. Make sure everything is ready for use at the next appointment time.
  5. Keep a set of creative prompts handy to get you started. (One of the ones I like “The Tricksters Hat” by Nick Bantock.) Look at art blogs, how-to books for prompts.  As a ‘creative appointment’ exercise one thing I do is sit and list as fast, as I can, 10 or 20 topics that interest me or are on my mind at that moment. From such a list I often get ideas for artwork projects.  I also enjoy using a set of “Story Cubes” (yes, the kids dice game) as creative prompts. Don’t be afraid of the genres – explore any of them related to your creative prompt/topic!  Whatever kind of creative prompts appeal to you  collect them outside of your ‘creative appointment’ time and have them accessible (like your supplies) when your appointment starts.
  6. You do not have to complete anything during your appointment. You can continue to work on the same project from one appointment to the next. You do not have to make a “masterpiece”. You can make a mess!  If after a few minutes you’re not having fun feel free to start something else creative!  All you have to do is something of a creative nature for the entire 15 minutes (or whatever duration of time feels fun and natural to you) of your appointment time. As Dr. Bob said “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first”
  7. When trying a new medium or a new subject in earnest set aside a block of time longer than your typical creative appointment so as to really get into the spirit of your new medium or subject. After that you can continue work on your project in short bursts during a regular ‘creative appointment’.
  8. Gather data from the world. Visit art galleries, museums, other artist studios, listen to another artist talk about their work or read a book about an artist or art medium – and take notes, write your responses, your thoughts about what you see. Note what you like and why you like it. Ask yourself questions.  Or if you’re interested in a certain topic – investigate that (for example; I’m interested in dogs so sometimes I go to dog parks). Find and pursue whatever your interests are that make you glad to be alive. Surround yourself with things that remind you of them.  This type of ‘data collection’ can count as a ‘creative appointment’ activity.
  9. Keep a list of what you’ve created – no matter how small or silly you feel your creation was write it down in a log book. Keeping a log book of your creative activity (whatever you did during each ‘creative appointment’) is a weirdly effective incentive to keep creating!

I’ve posted this page from Dr. Bob’s Emotional First Aid Kit before – but it’s my favorite page and is a “prompt” that I put in the front of each one of my new sketchbooks.

TwoWolves72

page from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit

 

drawing on grandmas pillow

A Creative Life, Art Apparel, pattern design

As a kid I remember drawing on almost anything I could. In self defense my Grandmother kept a stack of paper, pencils and a few crayons in her kitchen and encouraged me to stick to those surfaces. Oh, and there was a small blackboard with some color chalk.

I loved those materials but now and then I strayed; I drew in chalk on the wall, the porch and the sidewalk, I drew with sticks in the mud, I drew on paper napkins, I drew with berries in the kitchen sink, I drew with a blue crayon on a pillow case.

I think the blue crayon on the white pillow case upset Grandma the most.

So let’s just say that after the “pillow case incident” I got the message about staying on paper or chalkboards.

Mostly.

Until now.

Recently (as an adult professional artist I might add) I’ve had the opportunity to do some pattern designs for pillows! White luscious pillows covered with my art! Childhood dreams do come true! Or perhaps people now-a-days are simple more okay with me drawing on the pillows?  http://www.shopvida.com/collections/sue-clancy

You can see a video of me making the blue star pattern on YouTube: https://youtu.be/cAx88mwARqo

Irish art and pub food

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, comfort food

Long ago now I was in an art exhibit in Wexford Ireland (my last name is Clancy, in case you’re wondering about the Irish connection). Communications regarding shipping my artwork to the Wexford Ireland Arts Centre http://www.wexfordartscentre.ie/ – happened via email and chat. Anyway, at one point the director said that he was going to go get a bowl of “Dublin Coddle” and would be back shortly. I replied “Great, talk more soon… and when you get a chance; what is ‘Dublin Coddle’?”

A bit later my food-education arrived via email: Dublin Coddle is a traditional Irish stew, almost every Irish family has “their” version of it and almost every Irish pub has “their” version and it’s a sort of stew that is easy to make and gets better the longer it cooks.

Mr. Collins kindly shared his version of a Dublin Coddle recipe – which used Irish Sausage. I haven’t been able to find Irish Sausage for sale at a grocers here in the U.S. tho I have had some great Irish Sausages in some local Pacific Northwest Irish pubs – but I’ve had good success with the good quality sausages I can find.

I’ve been grateful to Mr. Collins, for many years, for sharing his recipe and by now I’ve developed my own version. I find it’s easy to chop ingredients, throw ’em in a pot of a morning, then get to work in my art studio. Only occasionally do I go to the kitchen to stir the stew. Whenever I’m ready to stop my studio work and eat – it’s yummy, warm and feels like home! And the leftovers are even better!

Here’s my recipe:

DublinCoddle172

page from “Coffee, Table, Book” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/coffee-table-book

exhibiting art

art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, fine art

All of my artwork has been delivered to the Caplan Art Designs gallery for my one-person exhibit opening Oct 1st at The Daily in the Pearl in Portland Oregon! Here’s a pic of me handing one of my new artworks to the owner of the gallery (yeah, okay we’re posing for a photo):

sue-and-amy

Sue Clancy (black shirt) with the owner of Caplan Art Designs. Sue was delivering several new artworks for her upcoming one-person exhibit.

I took all of my work to the gallery and a few days later the gallery owner sent me an image of the exhibit – my artwork installed! Looks nice huh? There will be a 3 course dinner with wine pairings on opening night – Oct 1st – hence all the tables and chairs.

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Sue Clancy’s fine art installed by the Caplan Art Designs gallery

I had no clue as to the order the artworks would be hung – that I left up to the gallery owner’s considerable experience – so as I created the works over the last year I tried to make sure all of the art pieces would “make sense” when grouped together no matter what the order turned out to be.  Essentially I worked to a “theme”.

In a blog post titled “pleasure patterns” I talked about my theme development process so I’ll not repeat that here. But here is a photo of the exhibit statement as it is posted on the wall of the exhibit. It’ll give you a clue about the theme I worked toward.

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The fine art exhibit statement by Sue Clancy

Now all that’s left to do before the exhibit opens Oct 1st is the “shouting” – i.e. the P.R., social media stuff, email invitations etc…. here’s an example: http://dailyinthepearl.com/events.html

Thank heavens the Caplan Art Designs gallery and the Daily in the Pearl are also doing P.R. and social media – it’s not completely left to me! This is a prime example of what I’ve talked about before (like in this post titled “riding the P.R. train“) about how the life of a professional artist becomes about many more people than just the artist. It’s a team effort. Thank goodness!

Actually I misspoke – it’ not just the P.R. that’s left to do – I’m also writing and practicing a short 5 minute talk that I’m giving during the opening dinner party.

So… speech-writing… public speaking…. hoo boy, that’s a topic for another day.

back to the wire

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques

In my last blog post, titled ‘down to the wire‘, I listed 10 tips for prepping art for gallery display  – and someone asked me to post some photos of the finished backs of my artwork. So here are those requested photos:

backofcupcake72

The finished back of my artwork “Cupcake” – see the coated wire, the d-rings put in with screws, and the clearly typed label?

To make my labels I type up a Word file with all of the data then print it out on full sheet label paper that I get from an office supply store.  I’ve heard from my various gallery owners that they appreciate the legibility.

Here is a close-up photo of the D-ring held on with a screw – and the coated wire on the D-ring.  Extra wire is left on so that the gallery or the client can adjust it if necessary.

wiredringcloseup72

A close up of a D-ring and screw with the coated wire on it – and a tiny bit of the label showing on the left side of this photo.

Here’s another photo of the back of a different artwork – this one is a larger, heavier work so I put the felt “feet” on the bottom to help protect the wall. Also whenever there is a ‘makers mark’ on the back of my cradled board (in this case this board was made by Ampersand) I place my label so I won’t cover up the board makers mark.  If some art conservator someday had to do a repair on my artwork that information could be helpful.

backoffortunestoad72

The finished back of my artwork “Fortunes Toad”

I’m sure you’ll note that the back of this piece also has the coated wire, the D-rings with screws and the printed label.  I strive for consistency as much as possible in both the kind of artwork I do on the front and the kind of work I do on the backs.

And did I mention that the wire is coated? Yep! Coated hanging wire is as essential in the art studio as water is in a kitchen!