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

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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

designing habits 6 ways

A Creative Life, artistic inspirations, mental health, Sustainable creativity

“Stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive” – an old saying that Dr. Bob Hoke reminded me of often.  I’ve been thinking of that today – and thinking of how easy it is to form habits, how quickly these habits become the “air” we breath. This air becomes so normal that we soon think that things have “always been this way”.

As a professional artist my job depends on my “thought systems” – the quality of my ideas and how well I’m able to communicate them. I’ve modified Dr. Hoke’s saying above to “Stay close to anything that makes you want to be creative”.  My imagination is formed – fed – by my life experiences so I try to be careful what of my life experience becomes “normal”.  I do not, for example, keep mint candies in my house/studio as I know I have a hard time eating just one.  Similarly I purposefully create art studio habits that help me to happily achieve my goals:

  1. Keep favorite art supplies on hand, things I want to pick up and use.
  2. Leave some of the favorite art supplies or an in-progress project out on a work surface that I’ll see when I first walk into my studio. That way I get right to work.
  3. Keep a strict work schedule -be ruthless- decide what needs to be done/can be done within a day/work period and do it.  (And no, I’m not always perfect at this – it’s a goal) At the end of each work day I make a list of what needs to be done tomorrow. This list is broken into small achievable steps like “gesso boards” – that can be easily picked up/begun.
  4. Keep a list of quotes, photos (etc.) that stimulate my creativity/good habits – I post these encouraging items somewhere visible. It is best if it is something that makes me smile and want to do my best.
  5. Keep phones and other distracting items out of the studio for set periods of time. See number 3 above again. Rinse. Repeat.
  6. Keep a list of favorite people – think of them and make something each day with them in mind. Keep a list of favorite places, foods, music, movies, books – etc – and use them as a “guiding light” for creative efforts. (i.e. view them as a mentor, a source of encouragement, something that feeds my good wolf/your better angels, reminds me that it CAN be done.) Create habits of happiness – and happiness out of habits.

Flannery O’Connor once said “I’m a full-time believer in writing habits…You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away…Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place.”

For me it comes down to doing my best to be aware of what I pick up and spend time on – and choosing carefully. Below is a cartoon I drew that puts this concept in 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

TheSnake

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:

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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.

 

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

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.

pleasure patterns

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, ebook, fine art

About a year ago I began working towards my upcoming October exhibit at Caplan Art Designs. From a book I’d created years ago with Dr. Bob Hoke titled “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” (aka The First Aid Kit) I selected a ‘living well’ aspect to explore via fine art.  Then I spent the next year making art.

The aspect I’d selected from The First Aid Kit was: (and I’m paraphrasing) “happiness is not about getting what you want from the external world – it’s how you interpret the things you perceive in the external world”.  (You can see some sample pages from The First Aid Kit  here: https://sueclancy.com/artist-books/  – and you can see links for getting either an ebook copy or a print copy of it there too. )

So fast forwarding to now: a year’s worth of artwork has been created and/or selected by the gallery and I’m working on the paperwork  for my exhibit. The gallery likes to have an “exhibit statement” i.e. they want me to create some text based handle by which people visiting my exhibit could have a framework, a context, for understanding my work. I came up with this:

Pleasure Patterns

By Sue Clancy

(exhibit statement for exhibit at The Daily in the Pearl October 2016 via Caplan Art Designs)

I read somewhere that “Happiness is a skill to be practiced like the violin” and I asked myself “How do I practice happiness?”  Then after attending a friend’s mother’s 90th birthday party I began thinking about how our lives are made up of patterns; patterns in nature, patterns in culture, as well as our own mental patterns or habits of mind. So I began to collect, from my daily life, “pleasant patterns” of happiness and have recreated those moments for you.

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First Luncheon Of The Ladies With Red Hats by Sue Clancy

riding the PR train

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, fine art

Kurt Vonnegut once said “Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted” and I’ve taken those words to heart. I even have Vonnegut’s statement pinned to the wall above my art studio work table. I believe that my creative out-put is not about me. Art-making is not some self-indulgent ego-trip on my part. It’s about the kind of world we are creating together; me and all my friends, pre-friends and strangers. We are all in this together.

Which is why, even after all these years of being a professional artist, I still have mixed feelings when I see PR stuff with my name prominently as the “featured artist”.  On the one hand a one-person fine art exhibit is a culmination of at least a years worth of daily work on my part – so I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. Yet at the same time I’m very aware that while it may be my name on the marquee, so to speak,  there’s a whole host of people behind me, believing in my artwork, working hard to make the event successful; the gallery owner, the gallery director, the interns and assistants in the gallery to name the obvious ones.  When the opening reception (as it is for my October exhibit) is also a 3 course dinner with wine pairings – there is also the restaurant (Daily in the Pearl!), the chef, the winery (Hip Chicks Do Wine!) – all working hard too.  And I didn’t mention the art supply stores in my beloved Pacific Northwest that provide materials for me to work with… or my spouse, friends, neighbors…. I’ve so many people to be grateful for that I’m not sure the Internet has enough bandwidth to hold my entire list.

So let it suffice to say that while my name may be the most prominent in the PR materials being circulated currently – like this email flyer (below) that the Caplan Art Designs gallery sent out – as well as all the other stuff on Facebook and Twitter etc. This whole exhibit is really about an overall aesthetic experience we’re creating together; my artwork is just the focal point.  Still I have endeavored to use the time of my gallery owners, friends, supporters and strangers as respectfully as I know how… and now I’m riding the PR train, doing my best to support my supporters efforts, prepping for the next stop; the night of the opening. And all the while remembering; It’s not about me, it’s not about me, it’s not about me… choo chooo!!!!

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Saturday, October 1st @6:30

Daily Cafe

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Wine pairings by Hip Chicks Do Wine and a special three course dinner.
 
Featured artist, Sue Clancy will be raffling a modal scarf with one of her design pattern used in her work.
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more star stuff

A Creative Life, Art Apparel, art exhibit, art gallery, Art Licensing, art techniques, artist book, fine art, psychogeography

I alluded in my last blog post  about my newest fine art piece “If It’s Any Constellation” that when I start with one pattern design I tend to do several creative things with it. It’s my way of examining my thinking. You know, like any good philosopher is supposed to do; think about ones own thinking.

That star pattern paper I made in this YouTube video https://youtu.be/cAx88mwARqo became 3 different creative things: a fine art piece (see my last blog post for the image and details), a scarf, and an artist book page.

Here’s the scarf which I titled “Starry Summer Sky”. As I was creating it I was thinking “we wrap ourselves in stars…” and cozy romantic evenings, wrapping oneself up as the summer evenings begin to become chilly autumn nights. You can get a custom made scarf with this design via this link http://shopvida.com/collections/sue-clancy 

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Pattern design titled “Starry Summer Sky” by Sue Clancy for VIDA http://shopvida.com/collections/sue-clancy

And here is the artist book page:

cityandsky72

“City And Sky” by Sue Clancy – 8 x 8 inches – handmade paper, hand stenciled paper, found paper and acrylic on paper

In “City and Sky” I was thinking of how the same starry summer sky shelters all of us….

Anyway, my artist book page is currently on its way to Constellation Studio Gallery in Nebraska. It will be on exhibit there for a few months and then become part of a collaborative artist book – and eventually end up in a library/museum – the entire project is titled “Invisible Cities”.

The overall thought I was pondering with my star pattern design was “What ways do we/can we all live with a vast starry universe at the end of summer?”

Maybe that’s too simple a sentence but do you see what I’m talking about? How a single pattern design – with variations –  can be used as a metaphor, a theme, in different ways. How a pattern can be used as a visual story element – or a way of exploring the questions of life from different angles?

This, besides working aortic valves, is what gets my blood pumping! Pattern designs as a way of thinking…thinking in patterns…. patterns of thinking….designs of patterns…patterns of design! OMG!! Wow!!!!!!!!

Okay, okay, I’ll go take a few deep breaths and calm down.

finished constellation

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artistic inspirations, fine art, handmade papers

I’ve finished the artwork I was working on in my last blog post! This one is destined for exhibit by Caplan Art Designs in October. See the events page http://www.caplanartdesigns.com for details. Here’s the nitty-gritty about my just-completed artwork titled “If It’s Any Constellation”.

ifitsanyconstellation72

If It’s Any Constellation By Sue Clancy 12 x 12 x 1.5 inches Hand dyed paper, handmade paste paper, found paper and acrylic on cradled board

In my last blog post I wrote that recently I was taking out the trash and it seemed the stars were larger than usual… and that that had inspired a pattern design. All true… and here’s the “official blurb” aka what the gallery is likely to post beside this piece as an explanation of my inspiration:

If It’s Any Constellation  by Sue Clancy

The stars seemed larger and clearer one summer Pacific NW evening just before autumn. That same evening I watched a cat playing with a toy; grabbing it, running with it, enjoying it and I thought of how we all have to “pick something” from the many possibilities within our personal galaxy to focus on and enjoy.

So that above is the official blurb and I’m sticking with it.

Just in case you didn’t see it: here is a Youtube video of me making a star pattern paper that you see in “If It’s Any Constellation”: https://youtu.be/cAx88mwARqo

Now I’ll  do the varnish, paperwork and other stuff that needs to be done before I deliver this new artwork to the gallery. After that I’ll also work on some art apparel designs – and on an artist book page – that also applies my “star paper” design pattern thinking – more on all of that later.

seeing stars

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, fine art

I’ve been busy working on the last fine art piece I’ll be able to finish in time for my October 2016 exhibit at Caplan Art Designs (see the events page at www.caplanartdesigns.com). Recently I was taking out the trash and it seemed the stars were larger than usual. That inspired a pattern design – Youtube video of me making a star pattern paper is here: https://youtu.be/cAx88mwARqo

Now I’ve glued the paper that I made in the video as the background within my artwork-in-progress and in this photo I’m gluing on more paper ….

scgluingstaronconstellation72

Sue Clancy working on a new fine art piece (handmade paper collage) that uses the star stencil paper made in this video: https://youtu.be/cAx88mwARqo