books and creativity

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, food for thought, food in art, mental health, still life, Sustainable creativity

It’s been my experience that one’s reading is the fertile soil from which all other creativity grows. So I find books like this one, “1000 Books To Read Before You Die” by James Mustich, an essential art studio tool.

The Mustich title is especially useful as it’s more like a restaurant guide than most “read-this” books; the suggested titles are sorted alphabetically by author, there are readable book note details about the genre/subject, when it was written, and other notable works by the author are listed. A “further reading” section about the author’s life and work or on the book’s subject is included. There’s a “try this” section listing other books by other authors suggested for the reader if they enjoyed the featured book. Helpfully “adaptions” of the featured title are also noted: films, plays, musical compositions and audio books. Hints are given whether you could read the book “in a sitting” or not. There is also a section of Mustich’s book that lists books sorted by genre/section: my favorites (so far) are “Lol”, “Mysterious Matters”, “Soul Food” and “Animal World”.

I find all of this pre-sorted book sorting helpful by making it easier to find books related to my creative topic. For example I’ve been reading books about objects lately since I’ve been doing some still life paintings. So yes, that has meant reading Marcel Proust and John Ruskin among other authors.

As you know I’ve been doing both food themed fine-art paintings as well as several food-recipe illustrations – so reading mystery novels that have food in them has been a good way to keep the “creative fun” going in my head while I wait for paint to dry.  BTW, I found an online source for culinary themed mystery novels; https://www.cozy-mystery.com/blog/cozy-mystery-authors-with-culinary-themes-part-1.html)

One of my favorite things to do is sit for an hour or so before bed and read with my beverage of choice handy.  If you follow my Instagram page occasionally I post what I’m reading and what I’m drinking.  While it looks (and often feels) like pure indulgence I’d say that my time spent reading is one of the most important things I do to develop and maintain my creativity.

Anyway, here’s a photo of the book by Mustich – alongside one of my favorite wines by Burnt Bridge Cellars. And, don’t worry, I was sharing the bottle of wine with my wife… 😉

1000BooksToRead

1000 Books To Read Before You Die by James Mustich

BTW, a local newspaper had a wonderful interview with James Mustich about what books did and didn’t get included in his “1000….”.  Oh, and here’s a link to a local bookstore for more info about the book itself.

four topic sketchbook keeping

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, ebook, kitchen art, psychogeography, sketchbook, sketchbook suppers, Sustainable creativity, travel art and writing, travelog, travelogue, visual thinking

Oh I’ve had an excellent question asked of me! Here’s the question: “Do you keep separate sketchbooks for different subjects/projects/media or do you use one sketchbook for all sorts of art experiments and ideas?”

My answer:  I used to keep one sketchbook but I found it hard to find the bit of research I needed because I’d have to flip through the whole book to find something.  Now I keep sketchbooks by topic.

Here is one of my “kitchen sketchbooks” – recipe inspired art – where I am inspired to draw by a recipe I’m cooking. This book is 5 x 4 inches in size, sewn binding and paper that can handle ink and water-media.  This way my favorite recipes are all in one spot – and when I have an ingredient I can flip through this one book to find a recipe that I know works and that my family likes.  This sketchbook, additionally, is my “testing ground” for ways to combine food, drink and art together – ways to interpret food/drink artistically.  This sketchbook is also a place where I’ll try new-to-me art media or methods. I’ve been trying gouache lately and I posted a few pages from this book the other day https://sueclancy.com/from-my-kitchen-sketchbook/ – Here’s what the outside of my current kitchen sketchbook looks like:

MouthpieceFourCover72

I have been working on a new series of fine art paintings with Cats as the main characters. So I have one sketchbook that collects my cat related painting practice and research. In it I’ve been studying cat shapes and experimenting with lines, colors. I’ve also experimented with combinations of collage, ink and water-media. This sketchbook is called “Various Cat Sketches” and is 8.5 x 11 in size, with a sewn binding. Here, below, is what the outside of it looks like. I’ll post more of it’s pages on this blog soon because it will contribute to an upcoming fine art exhibition

VariousSketchesCover72.

Another current sketchbook is my “Running Around Loose” book. This is the sketchbook that fits in my small go-sketching bag and is 3 x 5 inches, with a sewn binding, water-media ready paper in a landscape format. In this book I record my observations of the world around me; places I go, people I see, food or drink I have. It could easily be called a travel sketchbook  but I call it my “running around loose” book because that’s what I try to do as I run around town with this book – be loose and free with my lines, colors and thoughts. Here, below, what this book looks like. I’ll post more of it’s pages here too.  (I’ve posted my last sketchbook like this as an ebook titled “Glad To be Alive” available for download here)

RunningLooseCover72

And the 4th topical sketchbook is called “The Forked Tale: thoughts about creative life”.  This one is a hardback book 6 inches tall by 8 inches wide and over an inch thick. In it I’ve collected my thoughts, readings, quotes etc. about this business of being creative.  I’ve shown pages from this book to friends before who enjoyed it and found it helpful. But recently my friend Liesl was over for dinner and asked me a question about art-studio furniture. We kept talking about aspects of living a creative life and eventually I got out this book and shared it with her. She very strongly encouraged me to publish this book. So I will. After all she’d brought a very good wine to dinner. Here, below, what the outside of this sketchbook looks like.

ForkedTaleCover72

Yes, this method of sketchbook keeping helps me to organize and find things but keeping topical sketchbooks is also helpful when I only have a short span of time to work. I can select a topic and can get right to it because I don’t have to wonder what topic to paint/work on. 

Thanks for the question! I’d not thought to do a blog post outlining this method of mine before!

reading books making art eating popcorn

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, Authors, books, creative thinking, food for thought, Sustainable creativity, The Sketchbook Project, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures

Below are some books I’m currently reading that are “feeding” many of my upcoming art projects. That’s art exhibits, illustration projects and yes even my sketchbook work for The Sketchbook Project I blogged about last post.  Even though it may seem that I produce a random variety of things – there’s a uniformity to my randomness and it begins with what I read. I see all of the things I make as telling a visual/tactile story about being human, enjoying life and living well.  And to help me develop my visual story I read…

BooksReading72

In case you can’t see all the titles in the picture they are:

“Wonderland; How play made the world” by Steven Johnson

“Books for Living” by Will Schwalbe

“The Creative Spark; How imagination made humans exceptional” by Agustin Fuentes

“The Foundations of Mindfulness” by Eric Harrison

“Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel

All of these books relate to themes I’ve been working with artistically for some time now:

How being willing to try new foods, to eat diverse foods, has helped us develop biologically as physical human beings. And how it helps us still.

Playing music, playing games, “playing” with our food – each kind of play in it’s own way has helped humans as a species develop and maintain physical and mental structures as individuals – and also social structures as communities. This is still true today. When we do not take time to play we hurt ourselves and each other.

Reading books (and writing them) has helped us – as a species – to pass on information so that each generation doesn’t have to completely reinvent the world from scratch.  This ability to collect information, and learn from it, informs our abilities to play – to playfully combine/recombine things – helping us to develop and maintain our mental skills.

Which leads me to mindfulness. Mindfulness for me is the human ability to pay attention, to focus attention and also to have a state of open/non-judgmental acceptance – curiosity even. This is essential to developing, having and keeping our human ability to imagine and be creative.  Mindfulness is part of being able to play and learn…and being able to play and learn is a way of being mindful. And for me, keeping a sketchbook, making art, is at it’s heart an exercise in playful mindfulness – but more about that in another post.

The novel by Esquivel is included in my current reading list because woman does not live by non-fiction alone.

Now please pass the popcorn. Thank you.

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

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:

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.

 

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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Caplan Art Designs
Cooks, Corks and Co-conspirators

Saturday, October 1st @6:30

Daily Cafe

Featured Artist

Mixed Media

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Menu
 
 
 
 If the menu is not current, please check back, special diet needs are available upon request.
 
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.
Caplan Art Designs
 
1323 NW 16th #1001/entrance on Pettygrove
Portland, OR 97209
503-319-6437
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