If you got a post titled “Dragon postal whimsy” I accidentally hit a button. Here’s the real post about “How To Draw A Dragon“! After a week spent creating cover art and scanning 36 pages there’s now a coloring book poem that exists in the world!
This is the book description:
“How do you draw a grumpy dragon? This coloring book story poem written and illustrated by the artist sue clancy shows you how.
This whimsical poem is also about how creativity works, how our creative child selves and our analytical adult selves can work together.”
Below is a look at the original manuscript.
I used the computer to put the text on the front and back covers. I thought long and hard about handwriting it all but I learned when I did Patch La Belle that handwritten text on a cover isn’t “searchable” and could be harder for people to find. That searchable issue isn’t a big concern for me coming from the art world as I do where one-of-a-kind things are the norm. But after thinking a while I opted to type the cover text for “How To Draw A Dragon” even though I hand drew and hand colored everything else.
So here’s the cover becoming…
And here’s what the cover became.
I’m especially pleased that my book layout “thinking in page spreads” turned out so well! They line up in the middle when bound! In the first photo below you see my original art. Below that you see the printed book.
Since we’re still in a pandemic I have added a free printable pdf file for this book to my “shop” page where I have several of my free downloadable artist books. It’s on my to-do list to make a portfolio page for How To Draw A Dragon and have everything in one spot.
Storyberries will, eventually, also do a free ebook version of How To Draw A Dragon and have a link to the free printable pdf too. But that’s still in progress. I will update my still-to-be -made portfolio page and this blog when it’s been set up at Storyberries.
Since we are still in a pandemic the Gallery is doing all the prudent safety measures and I’m doing my part as best I can. Besides doing the virtual page about Odditorium I have done a series of videos on my YouTube channel about this exhibit as well as about why I do this work. I’ve made 5 videos in all but here’s the one about this exhibit. The Gallery will post my videos and share them with clients digitally thereby minimizing everyone’s exposure. I’m glad and grateful to work with a gallery that cares about the health of both their artists and their clients.
On still another topic: A friend recently enjoyed getting a card from me and called it “postal whimsy”. I like that phrase and asked for and was give permission to use it! So I’ve updated my Zazzle collection of odd greeting cards both with the “postal whimsy” phrase and some new card designs. I am getting serious about sending postal whimsy and helping cheer people. Below is one of my favorite cards…
This week was so busy that while I did make sure to eat meals of fruits, vegetables and whole grains – more often than not – I didn’t do any sketches or photos of the food. I just stuffed my quiche-hole and got to work.
Despite all of the busy-ness I still did drawings in my sketchbook in the mornings and my evening reading of books before bed. Makes for nice creative bookends, pun intended, to a day.
However busy your week is I hope it is bounded by pleasant things. See you next Monday? Or before then if I hit a wrong button again…
This week we had a fully vaccinated family gathering planned. So these pages of my “How To Draw A Dragon” were the only ones nearly finished this week.
Also just before the family visit the Aurora Gallery wanted more of my books and signed green dragon bookplates so delivery arrangements were quickly made. (Details about these books on my portfolio page.)
And then family came! It was very good to see them all! At one point we had a mini family reunion of 10 people! Especially after hardly seeing them during 2020 it was a treat to get to visit in person! I was grateful we were all fully vaccinated. Still I worried about everyone’s health and safety. But everyone was careful of everyone else. (So proud of my caring loving family!) We spent almost the entire week outside on our patio and in our yard. When we were inside to sleep we had all of the windows open and fans running. I was grateful too for nice weather with the high temperatures in the low 80’s and low temperatures in the 60’s.
My morning sketchbook work more or less continued while I made and served breakfast. More on that later.
My brother-in-law Jim had a career in the military in electronics and was a Master Sargent in the Air Force before he retired. He noticed the first day of the visit that I was drawing and asked to see what I was doing. I showed him my drawing of a hedgehog sitting in a measuring spoon. I explained that I was combining the thought of how one weighs and considers books in a bookstore with the way one measures things in a kitchen. He grinned and said “That makes a lot of sense!”
After dinner the evening we had the most people at the reunion I drew sketches of our family members and shared them. The entire family seemed to enjoy seeing my drawings and I had fun loving everyone that way! After that evening during the rest of the week Jim and I regularly talked about my sketchbook work.
Over the next days I shared that my thoughts for these sketches pictured below were about drinks and my feelings about the drinks. That made sense to him too! It made me feel good that my art could be so easily understood by someone who self described as “knowing nothing about art”.
We also talked of colors and color mixing. We looked at the shirts other family members were wearing and talked of how colors are mixed with black or with white or other colors. I talked of what paint colors I’d use to mix the colors of various family members clothing. He talked of the importance of colors in electrical wiring or as identity marks on planes and military clothing.
I showed him the book about colors I’d shared here in my last post.
At some point I took a moment and called my local art supply store Artists and Craftsmen and ordered all the butterfly colors from this page below. Won’t it be fun to make butterfly colored worlds?
Within a day my order was delivered by mail!
I checked to make sure all of the colors I wanted were here. They were! Artist and Craftsman really did a great job filling my very specific color order!
During another spare moment I labled my new palette and each new paint tube with the color number listed in the book. During other spare moments I squeezed out paints into the palette well corresponding with the numbers and put the tube I’d just used into a small drawer on my supply shelf.
In another snatched moment of time I labled my drawer of the new paints the “butterfly drawer”.
Another moment included a quick sketch of a butterfly on sticky lable paper which I stuck on my new palette.
Such labels help me – in the midst of work – to be able to grab the proper palette and paints without having to stop to re-read or re-research my original source book.
I think Master Sargent Jim enjoyed seeing my organization skills. His wife enjoyed looking at the colors. We had lots of fun conversations and many of those were about art and creativity.
I will swear again that being creative is a normal facet of being alive and that labeling only certain activities “creative” is merely a cultural convention. What military man hasn’t creatively rigged something when necessary? What mother hasn’t done the same? Being creative simply means being a fully alive aware and thinking human.
Anyway, I also got to practice making brunch for 6 people! I learned how to bake bacon and sausage in the oven on parchment paper. When the meat was almost done I put English Muffins on another parchment covered sheet pan in the oven to toast them. Then all that was left was to make the scrambled eggs in my cast iron skillet. I managed to draw a little and have all of the food hot at the same time to serve breakfast buffet style! A good time was had by all I think! Wahoo!
I hope this week to do more on my Dragon book and to get to spread the new colors around on something using a brush or two! 😁
I hope your week is a creatively arranged buffet style selection of love, color and happiness! See you next Monday.
In my last post I talked about how I manage art projects and time. I have an heretical approach and I was asked for more details. Here goes:
One of my longtime interests is in how humans think, learn and how to maintain good mental health. I read on the topics often. Here’s a few of my bookshelves full of books on these topics.
I’ve learned that humans tend to learn best by hearing stories or anecdotes or metaphors or allegories. Or by seeing examples or demonstrations. Rarely does a direction “do it like this” get followed. This includes self-directions related to art projects and time management. Even if the direction is followed often the purpose for “doing it like this” is rarely fully understood at the time. This includes self-directions.
Let me tell a story to illustrate what I mean: Once there was a mother, with a very tiny kitchen, who always cut her pot roasts in half before cooking them. She taught her daughter to cook pot roast by explaining and demonstrating. Her daughter grew up and had a daughter of her own. One day the grandmother was visiting. The daughter was in her very large kitchen demonstrating cooking a pot roast to her young daughter. She said proudly “In our family we always cut the roast in half first. Isn’t that right mom?” The grandmother replied “Oh, no! The only reason I cut my roast in half was that I didn’t have a pot or a stove big enough to hold a whole roast!”
Being aware of this attribute of human thought and attention I approach self-directions about my own art projects and time use rather sideways. More details below.
The other interesting thing I’ve learned about human thinking is that good mental health and happiness often happens while we’re busy doing something else. Often with, and for, other people. I think the same is true of creativity.
Similarly when humans feel good about, curious about or interested in something they’re more likely to do it. If we make activities we want to do fun and easier to do it increases the likelihood that they’ll be done.
So I give myself directions about my projects in terms of what I *want* to do rather than what I must do and I accept that I may not fully understand what I’m doing, or why, until after the project is completed. I’m also careful to keep lots of projects in various stages of production so that I’m “busy doing something else” and not as likely to get too focused (and too critical) about one project.
I’ve mentioned it before but my approach to creative projects and time management has it’s roots in a mental health book I illustrated “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit“. Below are a few of the pages that relate to what I’m blogging about today.
For much of my creative life I have taken these concepts about human thinking/emotional health and applied them to my overall approach to creative projects and time management. It has helped me to consistently get projects done in a sustainable and enjoyable way. I say my approach is heretical because I have known art coaches and art teachers who advocate, for example, “strict discipline to do one thing till it’s done” as if we are machines and I strongly reject that notion. That’s too much like lunging and grabbing at a stray cat. That’s a sure fire way to spook the cat – or the ideas – away!
My approach to creativity is similar to the method for befriending a shy cat. You see a cat hiding in the bushes and you can’t see enough of the cat to know what breed it is, whether it’s healthy or not or whether it’s wearing a collar. So you get some cat treats and with very slow movements place the treats strategically to coax the cat into visibility. You remove yourself, slowly, to a short distance where you do your best to act as if you’re *not* interested in the cat. With patience the cat will emerge at it’s own pace and you can see it. No lunging and grabbing is necessary on your part!
My morning work in my sketchbook is akin to the cat treats strategically placed. I wake up and I just play with words in my poetry sketchbook or with images in my mixed media sketchbook. I do *not* take these efforts seriously. This is just something fun to do while still half asleep waiting while the coffee percolates. Of course I hope something good will come from this work and often it does but that “good” is to be determined much later. At the time I’m drawing or writing in my sketchbook I’m thinking of it as a fun gentle way to ease into the day.
I literally keep these sketchbooks handy in my breakfast nook along with a few pens and a small gouache watercolor set. The sketchbooks and the watercolor set are small 3 x 5 inches or so. Seldom have I spent more than 10 minutes on these efforts. You see, I’m busy doing something else besides creating – I’m making breakfast and eating it with my spouse. But I have this regular habit of luring ideas into my sketchbook.
Here’s a few recent sketchbook pages.
When my idea-cat begins to emerge from several weeks of my sketchbook morning work I’ll begin gently, tentatively, feeding and petting the idea. I do this by reading books somewhat related to my idea, by writing about my idea on a legal pad, brainstorming in a what-if-I manner.
After doing enough sketchbook work and legal pad what-if work that I feel I’ve got something, some idea emerging into visibility, I’ll sometimes draw a series of thumbnail drawings on loose paper in color to try different color arrangements. Or perhaps I make a folded paper dummy of a book idea. Perhaps I’ll make larger drawings – redrawing images from my sketchbook onto art paper. I am still just playing around and seeing what could happen.
The intention is to test the idea in my sketchbooks to see if it might become something more than a sketch in my sketchbook. A bit more time is spent, 20 or 30 mins in this phase of idea attracting. These writings and drawings are kept in a 3 ring binder by topic or perhaps with a tentative working title related to what my idea may become: an art exhibit series? A childrens book? A greeting card??? Things are left very open ended.
Still I am busy doing other things – specifically my main art project of the moment – the binder is just a way to keep all of my notions on a theme handy in one spot. This is like giving that still shy cat a temporary foster home. This way we’ll keep track of kitty, give it some time to adjust, learn about kitty and see how it goes.
Here’s my shelf of 3 ring binders
Here’s some photos from the 3 ring binder for my currently in progress “How To Draw A Dragon” project. There are several folded paper book dummies, several rewrites of the poem and many drawings.
If a 3 ring binder project collection goes well and the idea begins to show promise – by ‘promise I mean ‘potential to be fun’ – then it may move to the “main project” status. The idea cat has been adopted…however we’re still in the probationary period. Anything could happen. This is where I currently am on my ” How To Draw A Dragon” project.
Here’s a few of the “Dragon” pages I did this week.
A main project has the serious art supplies out for it. It has the studio space devoted to it. Time during a day will be set aside for it, but not an entire day, I mean an hour or two. Time is set aside in a task-oriented way not a from-when-to-when on the clock way. I have a master list of tasks to be done on a main project and each day I pick from 1 to 3 of those tasks and set them as a goal to accomplish that day. That’s the establishing a working rhythm that I spoke of last post.
The main project is taken a tiny bit more seriously as in I will erase and redraw whereas in my sketchbooks, legal pads or binders I’ll leave a drawing however it is. I will also write and rewrite with attention to spelling and grammar on a main project. As I go I’m feeling my way along. The uncertainty is normal. Perhaps my idea cat isn’t ready for such attention. Or perhaps it will thrive on it. We will take it slowly and see. My “How To Draw A Dragon” so far seems to be thriving meaning it is still growing and becoming and I’m having fun with it.
Below is a studio photo showing that “How To Draw A Dragon” is filling my easel and overflowing into nearby surfaces. My art supplies used for this project are left out and handy. I don’t open windows in my studio so no breeze disturbs my papers. If you were to visit my house today we would stay far away from my studio because I have things in a careful order for my projects sake. My cat and dog are trained to not disturb things in my studio. There’s a door to my studio and I use it to remain undisturbed. A main project filling the studio is a tender kitten. I handle gently. I have heard art coaches speak of clearing ones working area at the end of each workday — that’s another area where I heretically scream *nooooo!*
Even with the extra attention given to a main project I carefully keep it fun and playful. I will find ways to “feed” a project- to feed my unconscious mind – for example by reading books related to the topic I’m making art about. For my current How To Draw A Dragon project I’m reading about creativity – about creating poetry in particular- and the interplay between our left brains and right brains, between our inner adult selves and our inner child selves. The topical reading is kept up for a duration of a project as it helps with my focus and fun. I simply cannot stress this enough *keep a project fun* and the project will likely get finished.
Another helpful way I keep going on a main project is that I *dedicate* the project to someone – I give the project a purpose, a reason for being (something *not* related to money or fame). I give it something beyond myself. The person or people I dedicate my work to often never know. But I am busy making my main project *for* somebody. During this pandemic openly dedicating works, or embedding symbols a friend might recognize, has been a fun way to stay in touch.
Here’s the dedication page for my Dragon book. Dedications for my fine art most often just happens in my mind.
It may be that I work on something as a main project for a while and it stalls. The stall could happen at the 3 ring binder stage or earlier in the sketchbook stage. A project may fluidly move back and forth between these three stages over a lengthy time period. This is another part of my business of art/creative heresy – I think this fluidity is perfectly normal and fine! Uncertainty is okay! I see it as part of the creative process, part of the ways a creative mind (and a subconscious mind) naturally works. Human brains are not linear machines! This is another reason I work on multiple projects – one stalls and I shift attention to another until the stalled one wants attention again.
Very carefully as I’m in the process of making artwork I avoid any sweeping declarative statements, to myself or anyone else, like “this is dumb” or “this is awesome”. I use moderate language statements, if a statement is needed and I can’t avoid it, I’ll say something like “so far so good” or “it’s a fun challenge”. To make a hard sweeping definitive declaration like “this is horrible” is to force a still-in-progress project into a labled pigeon hole. What may not work as a painting might be a good greeting card. I don’t know yet! When a project is in process I may think I am making X only to discover when I’ve finished that I’ve made Y instead. I deliberately leave linguistic and mental room for such progress! (See my pot roast story above) Harsh declarations make it hard to extract a project from the dispair/elation and continue. It makes it harder to allow a work to change from a painting to a greeting card. I prefer to leave room for discovering and being surprised by what a project becomes. It’s more fun that way. I would no more force an art project to become something than I would force a stray cat to accept a grooming before feeding it and earning its trust.
Here’s more from Dr Bob about being careful about self talk.
The tendency all humans have to take things too seriously- even obsessively – is another reason why I deliberately have multiple projects at various stages. One main studio project -or possibly two main projects- at a time but several other projects are being developed in my sketchbooks, legal pads and binders. This helps me not be too “precious” about any one of them. I work on something a while then stop working *while it’s still fun* and do something else. I find it helpful to try to stop working before I am too fatigued, while I’m still interested or enjoying my work and then move on to something else.
So I am always busy “doing something else” which allows my idea-cats space to breathe without micro-attention. This method allows my subconscious mind to work on my projects. I can trust that my inner voice will say “oh, let’s work on this!” when the next part of my idea is ripe. I can trust that I will keep returning to a project until it is finished.
When a main studio project is finished there is usually another project in a binder that’s developed enough that it’s ready for attention at my easel. No force to finish or start a project is needed. No strictness. No machine-like “discipline”. Knowing and accepting the way human minds are naturally has worked well for me. I work with my brain not against it. I am just playing around with topics that interest me. Like most real life fur covered cats I can trust that my idea-cats will tell me when it’s dinner time.
Speaking of dinner. The outstanding dinner of the week was broccoli pasta. I was out of fettuccine so I used short noodles but the recipe in my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook is still yummy!
Earlier this year I was asked to make some gender neutral fabric designs and put them on my Spoonflower shop so someone could get fabric with my designs and sew some bibs and blankets for a new baby.
Here’s a photo of me working at that time on the fabric pattern.
Here’s the finished original art
This week I was given, by the person who had requested the fabric patterns, pictures of some of the finished baby things they’ve made and permission to post about them! It was lovely having something fun like this to post about as my Dragon project is still becoming and is in the gawky teenage stage and camera shy.
Where I tend to run out of time in a day is the social media promotion thing. And frankly there are times, especially when I’m busy, that I’d rather just do my art projects than talk about them. But talking about them is necessary and most of the time I enjoy doing it so… Anyway, I really appreciate it when people share what I post or when someone sends me photos of themselves with my fine art or artist books or share photos of what they sewed with my fabric designs! It helps and is such fun to see!
Anyway, here’s the photos of a burp cloth and a few blankets my friend created with my fabrics! They turned out so well!! The sewing is marvelous!
Hope this description of how I manage my art projects and deal with time was interesting and even helpful to you as you do your own creative projects! Have a creative week and I’ll see you next Monday.
Frankly, I’m tired. But it’s the I’ve-played-hard good kind of tired. So more pictures and less text in this post and you get a special peek … I’ve been thinking about Kurt Vonnegut’s book If this isn’t nice what is? Here’s an article I enjoyed about this Vonnegut book. Here’s a photo of the book in my library with other Vonnegut titles.
Below is one of the poems I read during breakfast this week in a book called Animal Poems. It’s one of the titles in the Pocket Poetry series by Everyman’s Library. (I love this series! Especially with breakfast!) The poem in the photo is by Wiliam Cowper. I love the last line “The comfort of a reasonable joy.” So I’ve also been thinking how important it is to have regular reasonable enjoyments. I take the phrase “reasonable enjoyments” to mean the simple kind that don’t require lots of money, a travel agent or dressy clothes. Anyway, here’s the poem.
In my last post I talked about the pace of creative life. I’ve still been thinking about the skill of crafting daily rhythms and here’s a link to an inspiring article I read on the topic: https://www.wired.com/story/calendar-tips-post-pandemic-reentry-organization/ Maintaining a daily rhythm has enabled me – to get very tired 🤣 – but also to have nearly everything completely finished two weeks early prior to delivery of all the art and books for my Odditorium exhibit. Being early gives me flexibility to have time to rest as well as to deal with any unexpected issues.
Below are some of my sketchbook pages … and some kitchen gadgets I looked at and thought about as I worked on one of the last paintings for this exhibit.
Here’s a photo my spouse took of me working out how flamingos might carry things.
Below is the finished painting on my easel drying. Below that is a close up of the dry painting. I titled it “Is Not This Nice?” The title fits with my thoughts recently and echos the collage text I found in my falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was fun to find text written by Austen that was similar to what Vonnegut said.
If the background of my painting reminds you of the ocean….we went there recently and seeing the sea lingered in my mind. The Pacific Ocean isn’t far from our house. I find it soothing to visit.
The other way I’ve been earning my tired is that I’ve been working on the exhibit catalog aka a picture book of my Odditorium exhibit. In addition to that I’ve been working on a kid friendly version of my exhibit catalog. Children need fine art in their lives too in my opinion. When I was a kid I would have loved to see a book talking about looking at fine art. That’s why I took the extra steps to make a children’s book version too. I have sent the kid friendly version to Storyberries.com and they have an exciting plan for the book design! Below is a screenshot of a post they did on Instagram about it!
Here’s a special early peek into the Odditorium – at my exhibit book!!! And a link so you can see the whole book!!! Even in the midst of being tired I’m excited!!
One of my reasonable enjoyments this week was my spouse’s homemade biscuits for breakfast. The recipe is in my kitchen sketchbook Favorites So Far and you can see more of it here.
More next Monday about the Odditorium exhibit book and the other fun stuff…after I have a bit of rest. Hope you have a good week full of relaxation and reasonable enjoyments.
One of the gifts of travel is the awareness that things don’t have to be what you’re used to in order to be enjoyable.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 I’ve been looking at household things with the eye of a traveler. I’m practicing being okay with things as they are, seeing them in new ways and enjoying them – like how I would enjoy things on a trip. Along the way it occurred to me that domestic arrangements are one place in life where things can be more or less to our preferences. Home is a place of fairly reliable comforts. There’s a gift of comfort in that.
The sketchbook I began this, ahem, journey in has been published as Another Sketchbook. I decided at first to view household things as if they were public monuments, things we might travel to see. Then I decided that was too distant…the people too small and far away. Then I decided I didn’t want to draw people after all because animals feel more comforting. Anyway, here are a few pages from Another Sketchbook…I’m hoping you can see how I got to my present Odditorium art series via this trail.
Here below is the book cover and a link where you can look through the entire book.
Of course after publishing Another Sketchbook I’ve kept on keeping a sketchbook. I post these new pages now and then on my social media. Here’s a few pages from my new sketchbook that are relevant to the painting you’ll see in this post.
While musing about the crows I often see in my yard I thought of how the kitchen gadgets I have are so useful. And I love herbs and spices – especially those from Penzeys. So I took a photo of the kitchen tools and spices I was about to use at that moment.
Then as the days progressed I began a new acrylic painting full of my thoughts about my ongoing efforts to dance and appeal, so to speak, to the various gods of good-food cooking. My spouse snapped this photo of me working.
As I worked I tried a new-to-me color scheme that includes magenta, an orange-red, a light pink, grass green, a grey-blue and a creamy yellow. The crows aren’t really black there’s a lot of dark purple and deep blues to their feathers. The color nuance shows more when you see the painting with a human eye. I have another camera that shows more of the color range that I use when taking pictures of the art for publication. Anyway, I’ve titled this new painting Domestic Comforts
Another thing I keep thinking about is the different speed of time at home. When traveling in the past I have tended to be very rushed and scheduled. But at home and in my art studio, which is in my house, I tend to be scheduled but usually much less rushed. In fact for quite some time – even before the pandemic – I have intentionally tried to maintain the habit of a steady but relaxed pace in my studio and home. Sustainability of energy is my focus. No, I don’t do this perfectly it’s an ongoing goal. During the pandemic this goal has strengthened as I’ve realized this habit also maintains a critical space for long-form thinking.
Long form thinking is a term usually applied to reading and literacy. It’s a discussion of cultivating the ability to pay attention. There’s an article by James Patterson here and another related article here on the long form thinking as it relates to literacy.
I think of the term long form thinking as applying more generally to creative efforts that stretch over a longer span of time. The actual work may be done in fits and starts or in short bursts of actual hands on time but a thought is held in mind, come what may, over an extended time period. Long-form thinking, in my opinion, allows for a sustained leisurely attitude towards time for art, for reading and writing. Creativity requires time to meander and travel in ones mind – even while cooking dinner or mowing the lawn one plays with the thought topics currently being considered.
Long-form thinking purposefully includes time for making homemade cookies or any other bits of meandering fun. This week I tried a cinnamon sugar cookie recipe. I cut this recipe in half, dumped all the ingredients in my Cuisinart (kitchen gadget!) blended the dough and otherwise followed the recipe directions.
The cookies turned out very yummy!! As hinted above taking the time to read books is an essential part of my creative process – with or without hot from the oven cookies and hot chocolate. Here’s one of the books I’m reading…
My art is a part of my life and vice versa. Creativity is a continuous thing I’m committed to doing within and amongst all of the various domestic concerns and that’s-life stuff.
In fact I view the public aspect of my creative life of making artist books and art exhibits as like the game of musical chairs. I do steady continuous studio work then about a month before the fine art exhibit goes up the music stops. As in the hands on action of creating paintings temporarily stops, and I start framing, photographing, publishing everything I finished up to that point.
It is exciting as I frame and publish the artwork to both see and feel my Odditorium series coming together. The work that I began last year will be exhibited this year in June and July at Burnt Bridge Cellars and when my work is on their walls that will add to my ongoing Odditorium thoughts. Then there’s another exhibit at the Caplan Art Designs Gallery in September. After delivering art to Burnt Bridge Cellars later this month the music (active painting) starts again – specifically the thoughts I have when seeing my works hung together will inspire more work in the series. Then I will begin making the new art in this Odditorium series with an eye towards the next exhibit. Some of the art at Burnt Bridge Cellars along with the freshly made new art will go to Caplan Art Designs when the music stops again at the end of August. This is the way my exhibits grow and travel.
So yes I like long-form thinking. I like projects that stretch over a years time. This allows me to explore a topic from several angles as well as to change my approach as I’ve described in this post. It’s risky as I don’t know at the beginning where my thoughts will go. Plus I do all of the hands on work in short bursts of time each day so I “live in” small slices of my thoughts. My sketchbook is the way I both develop the exhibit idea and keep track of my thoughts – but still the uncertainty is there. I’ve just learned to ride with it.
My long-form working process is like reading a long novel – when you have a few minutes you read a paragraph or a page or two a day. When you begin reading you’ve no idea where the book is going. But if you keep reading a bit per day pretty soon you’ve read the whole book and you know the book conclusion. Same goes with creating an art exhibit.
There’s an excellent article here about the counterculture of commitment. It describes well what I’m talking about. I see this concept of long-form thinking (aka commitment) as similar to the idea of slow food/ home cooked food but about the subject of creativity. Inherent in this notion is the acceptance that things can develop slowly over time and that slowness allows for uncertainty and changes of mind.
I have a quote by Christopher Morley thumbtacked to my art studio wall. The quote applies, in my view anyway, to ones sense of time and space too.
It’s okay maybe even good to be a little odd. It’s not a goal to have domestic life or travel or art projects or life in general be perfect. The goal is to have the coping skills to deal well with imperfections when they happen. To be able to do the domestic dances and appeal well enough to the gods (metaphorically) of home cooking. Or to the gods of plumbing or whatever the household issues may be. To be relaxed and calm enough that one’s able to see the solutions, comforts and enjoyments near to hand. This is my approach to art projects too. Slow but steady, to have the coping skills to fix artistic mistakes, to adjust, to try something new.
Since this month began – besides framing the artwork a bit per day – I’ve been creating an exhibit catalog, a coffee table picture book of my exhibit. Last year during the worst of the pandemic it seemed to please fans of my artwork that they were able to get a printed book or an ebook of my entire art exhibit. So that’s why I’m doing a book this year too.
Additionally I’m doing a few greeting cards and coffee mugs with my art from this series. Both the cards and mugs are in keeping with the root idea of my Odditorium series – taking an uncommon view of ordinary household things and surreally creating souvenirs of pleasant moments. Here below is an example of a note card with the artwork I wrote about in my last post.
Yes, the temptation to stress, to worry, to rush is there, especially as the day nears to deliver all of the artwork. But I remember those pre-pandemic travels when I rushed mightily because the day the trip ended was coming nearer and I didn’t want to miss anything … what I remember now of those trips isn’t the scenery or the food but the stress and rush. So I try to remain calm now and go slowly as I continue towards the exhibit. And I rest knowing my thinking-work will continue …
Thanks for reading! I hope you have many enjoyable domestic comforts this week – and if you try the cookies I hope you like them. See you next Monday?
This Rabbit, my newest children’s book, is now a free ebook and audiobook on Storyberries.com! How fun is that? Click here to both see the book and/or listen to it read aloud! Basically This Rabbit is now officially available worldwide! Wahoo!
The Aurora Gallery also now has my signed books – This Rabbit being one title – along with a number of the original illustrations from the books framed and on the Gallery walls!
For example the Numpurrs book and some of the artworks in that book are there at the Aurora Gallery too.
Since rabbits can deliver more than just treats for kids this time of year in addition to making lots of rabbits for a children’s book I’ve also made a collection of my rabbits available on my Zazzle shop. These are intended as fun gifts for grownups; greeting cards, jigsaw puzzles and coffee mugs. (The photos below are a small sample of what’s available on my shop.)
Since we’re nearing Easter naturally my thoughts turn from rabbits to eggs. This week I tried, in the name of I’m-to-busy-to-cook, a sheet pan breakfast with eggs, bacon, green bell peppers and sweet potato chunks. It worked reasonably well … one set of eggs got a little more firm than I like but everything – including the eggs – were quite enjoyably edible. And enjoyably edible counts!
This week I rearranged the most important bookshelf in my house: the one in the bathroom. It seems that the average person spends 1 hour and 42 minutes per week in the bathroom. Or to put it another way during an average lifetime we will spend at least 92 full days in the john. Might as well use that time for some encouraging reading. Here below is a photo of my bathroom bookshelf. The purple ceramic thing serves as a bookend as well as holding the extra roll of TP.
For the same reason I have inspiring books in my bathroom – notice all the books by Austin Kleon! – I also like having good artwork there too. Keeping good books and art where they’re viewed often is a way to keep my own creativity sustainable. The framed art you see in this photo is by another Pacific Northwest artist named Jill Mayberg https://jillmayberg.com/ I like the colors and textures in Jill’s work.
We’re here, so we might as well get comfortable. Reading books about writing and creativity are where we learn about, and practice, being human. I’ve written elsewhere in this blog (see links here and here) about the similarities I see between the creative acts of writing and making fine art. Verbal storytelling, writing, drawing and reading are such quintessentially human activities. Are we completely human if we don’t do those things?
These thoughts are why I find it such fun to depict animals reading books and doing other typically human behaviors – it’s my way of pondering what in means to be fully human.
Btw: there are more animals besides rabbits running around in my brain now. The new critters are getting comfortable too. As I wrote in my last post I’ve been thinking about human development and about dealing with feelings. I’ve also been thinking about Jane Austen and her descriptions of emotions within her novels.
Anyway, I’ll keep thinking and drawing… Share more with you next Monday? Oh, and Happy Easter, aka Rabbit-delivers-fun-things-day, in advance. [Thanks again Kris and Nan for this stuffed rabbit!]
My newest artist book for children “This Rabbit” is rolling out! It’s a whimsical look at self-awareness with lots of different rabbits liking a variety of things. As I mentioned in my last post “This Rabbit” shares a cover design similarity with some of my other artist books that also have a bunch of different characters exploring a life concept. In the photo below you can see the covers for my series of books.
Here’s a closer look at the hardcover version of “This Rabbit“
And here’s a look at the page design. I made the artwork large so that it mostly fills each page with a small space at the bottom for the poem lines.
Book signing during a pandemic is a challenge. I’m solving that in a few ways and one of those is by placing a few signed books at the Aurora Gallery. Some of the original artwork for many of my books is there too. In the photo below is an assortment of books signed and destined for the Aurora Gallery. https://auroragalleryonline.com/
And while I waited this week for my copies of “This Rabbit” to arrive from the printer I worked in my sketchbook and over short bursts of time towards a new painting using all of my recent rabbit research. This painting is one of several that will be in new art exhibits later this year.
While working this week I was thinking about human development. In addition to learning what you like as one lives you also learn and practice attention to your feelings. With that in mind I’ve been thinking of what Dr Bob says in the book I illustrated some time ago…”feelings are guides not gods to be obeyed“. For example we’ve all done things like cleaning up yucky messes even when we didn’t feel like doing it at the time – but once it was done we were glad it had been done. So we’re capable of using our executive brain to decide when to listen to our feelings and when to go ahead and do something despite our feelings.
In the picture above is my breakfast: overnight oats (made in a small wide mouth mason jar) along with coffee. And here’s a recipe article link about this quick-easy meal. I like quick-easy breakfasts so I can spend more time in the morning drinking coffee, reading and sketching.
In the photo below I’m working (after breakfast) on a new painting. There’s a collage bit in it from the falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that I’d talked about in another post.
Here below is what the new painting became: “Attention To The Feelings” – 12 x 9 – acrylic and collage on board.
One of my favorite authors who write about sketching and creative efforts is Danny Gregory. Here’s what he wrote about dealing with feelings in his book “Art Before Breakfast” :
This is inner-voice phenomen is true for any creative effort. Including trying a new recipe for breakfast.
So please be gentle with yourself and the other people in your life this week. We’re all just muddling though trying to remember what we like, trying to pay attention to our feelings – but not too much attention – and trying to regularly eat a good meal.
I’m having fun with new combinations of colors. In a recent post I tried a yellow and grey color set. After posting about that a friend said she liked pink and grey together. So I tried that combination this week.
I’ve enjoyed playing with odd sized elements so I continued that in this new ink and gouache painting I’ve titled “The Comfort Was Indeed Beyond…”. Again I used some text collage from that falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice I’ve spoken of.
As mentioned in a prior post I’d played with yellow and grey colors while doing a cup pattern for fabrics on my Spoonflower shop… here’s how that turned out. I titled my pattern “Cups Of Comfort”
And thinking of rabbits…I made an encouragement greeting card this week with a rabbit character. Everyone needs encouragement so by making this card I hope to help people encourage others in their life.
Speaking of encouragement to keep going: we have had some serious snow in the Pacific Northwest United States. Over 18 inches! So that’s encouraged me to continue my reading, working in my studio and puttering in the kitchen. Taking everything that happens in life as encouragement to keep going seems a helpful habit of mind.
Speaking of habits of mind: I tend to blur the line between art studio work and my kitchen. Here’s my kitchen sketchbook and the meatball recipe I made this week. I make meatballs to freeze and store in my freezer to add as desired to future meals. I love having ingredients on hand that make other recipes easier.
As I mentioned in my last post I’m working on a new children’s book with lots of rabbit characters. I did the illustrations first this time…mostly. Here I am working on the poem couplets to go with the illustrations. There’s a cup of tea at my side. My spouse took this photo.
I spread out my illustrations on a queen size bed to sort, resort then sort again. As I sort I’m referring to my poetry and rewriting. I have far more illustrations and poetry bits than will fit in a 32 page kids book. So I have still more sorting and winnowing to do.
This is a physical way of creating a book. With real-life illustrations laid out I’ll write the poems on index cards for sorting purposes. After I get them all sorted then I’ll start photographing the illustrations and typing the poem. Lots to be done. More about this project in future blog posts.
When I was thinking of describing, for this blog, my working process towards a children’s book I thought of my recent reading. Here’s a shelf of books I’ve been collecting on the topic of how our physical world, the objects, technology, the environment affect the ways we think. And vice versa: the ways we think affects our physical world.
When I work on a children’s book using physical elements as opposed to abstract outlines, book dummies or computer files it feels much like what I do in the kitchen. It feels like having a full pantry, a stocked freezer and refrigerator to choose from for making meals. “It” exists and all I have to do is rummage till I find it.
The work feels easier this way…and more fun!
For my pleasure reading this week – with coffee, hot tea or hot chocolate depending on the time of day – I’ve been reading a hard-boiled detective mystery.
I hope you’re snug, cozy and are able to rummage for the good things in your life. See you next Monday?
It’s barely been a week and Numpurrs on Storyberries.com has been read over 3000 times! Here’s one kind comment:
“Thank you, this is exactly what teachers are looking for, online opportunities during virtual teaching makes teachers lives so much easier. That was perfect timing! And a beautifully illustrated and written book! The weird thing is, I just did a cat drawing lesson for 1st grade. Now we can read the book and learn how to draw a cat!”
So this week quickly filled with additional efforts to help teachers and parents: I also made a poster, a calendar and then a 676 piece jigsaw puzzle too.
Here’s what the poster looks like. It’s big, 23 inches square, big enough to be seen in the backgrounds of online classes.
My copies of the printed book version of Numpurrs also arrived at my studio this week! So I photographed the book and created a portfolio webpage to hold all of my work on Numpurrs in one spot – to help the teachers find things easier – here’s that page https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/numpurrs/
Below are just a few of the photos of the printed book…you can see more on that portfolio page I just mentioned
I’m pleased with how the book turned out! Of course I can nitpick and find things I could have tweaked – that’s always the case with any creation. I think of art making as similar to cooking, you do your best to create a good meal then you say “good enough, let’s eat” and you go on to the next thing. Perhaps you make a note for yourself on that recipe as to what you’d do differently in the future – but you enjoy the meal as it is and you go on.
Speaking of going on: for years now I’ve been regularly jotting short poems in a small 3 x 5 inch book with my fountain pen. Now, as per discussions with the people at Storyberries, I’m working on illustrating some of the poems for a new book. As I wrote my last post I’d thought I’d do more on this new project this week than ended up happening – so more on these illustrated poems in coming posts.
Here’s a look at my little poetry sketchbook with some of the potential to-be-illustrated poems flagged with sticky notes.
I write with a fountain pen because they’re refillable. Fewer plastic bits of discarded pens to end up in the landfill this way. Besides a fountain pen – if you have a good quality one – can be super smooth to write with.
For those who say a nice pen and hand bound book would be “too precious to use” I reply “your thoughts are precious too”. Buy quality supplies and use them with joy. It’s just stuff on Earth here to be enjoyed. (And if you just can’t bear it then buy whatever supplies you will actually use and get your thoughts written down. But remember that you really deserve the best.)
Below is the dragon poem you can see my handwritten draft of in the photo of my book above and the handwritten poem and illustration I got done this week with ink and gouache on nice paper.
More of that kind of thing here next Monday – I hope. Thanks for reading. Have a good week.
There now! Despite all the odds (see last post) I finished “Numpurrs”! I’ve also sent it in to Storyberries for distribution. When I sent it in this last week Storyberries said “I just LOVE it Sue!!! It has come together so nicely !!!! Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful work with us!!”
So I think it’s safe to say that they’re pleased! The book will be live on Storyberries.com very soon as they said they’ll “…schedule it for 9am Gold Coast time Australia on Monday morning.” Which works out to about 4 pm in Washington state, USA on Sunday. And I post these blog posts on Mondays but write them on Sunday morning’s… so, yes, I can have a bit of time zone confusion.
Time zone differences between where I live on the western US coast and the time where Storyberries is in Australia can confuse me even when I have help from the internet. My solution to working across continents and time zones is the same in publishing as it has been when I’ve done fine art exhibits outside of the U.S.A; get it all done early and everything into their hands as soon as humanly possible then let the people I’m working with sort the what-happens-when out at their end.
It helps that I work on the graphic design part of any book almost simultaneously with creating the fine art illustrations. This way by the time I finish creating the fine art illustrations I’ve almost finished the book design too.
The graphic design informs and affects my illustrations – in the number of illustrations needed, the size of them and so forth. But what I want to do in the first place with my illustrations/fine art at my easel (using ink and gouache on board) will also affect the graphic design.
This interdependence (and writing the poem is in there too) is related to the construction of my book idea in the first place in a which-comes-first chicken-or-egg kind of fashion. As a result of my working method the posting I do online nearly always slightly behind the action. My motto is create the thing first talk about it later.
Anyway, here’s a pic of me working on my laptop doing the book layout. I often do my computer work in the corner of my dining room near the cookbooks and am almost always cooking something on the stove. Taking breaks to stir something on the stove is so nice!
And here are the last poem lines in my book:
Twenty butters bread, risen with yeast
And it all sums up to a wonderful feast!
In the printed book my three panel “feast scene” will flow in sequence left to right and will line up side by side. But it worked pretty well in scroll ebook form too even tho it doesn’t line up at the edges. As I worked I had to think of both of these “flow” patterns when I was creating the images.
Even though I’m doing so much myself – which sounds like a lot of freedom – there are still constraints: page flow, number of pages allowed within the publication formats, where the blank pages must fall, printing product options, ebook construction and so forth. I see these constraints as the path, the way forward, the technical issues become part of my creative process.
When it came to creating the feast scene artwork in Numpurrs I consulted this book, Food and Feasting in Art by Silvia Malaguzzi
Many of these art historical images had the viewers eye moving left to right and or moving up and down. This served as a guide as I created my cat feast illustrations. (I love art history!)
Running into the graphic design publication constraints I mentioned earlier I only had 3 pages within which to fit my feast. When, in an early sketch, I fitted all 20 cats in – the cats were too small and the numbers couldn’t be easily read. Since the point of the book is to distinguish between cats and to recognize numbers I decided to make the cats and numbers bigger even tho it meant leaving out some cats.
Besides at almost every group photo I’ve ever participated in there were several people who declined to be in the picture. Perhaps we can pretend some of the cats in my artwork were similarly shy?
After sending everything in to Storyberries, and after being given the release schedule, I was asked to send in a new photo of all three of the feast panels as one image. There are design constraints and issues at their end too – and we’re in this project together. So I hustled (time zones remember…) and sent this photo in:
Since my book idea is about distinguishing between cats and numbers I also used 4 of my allotted pages to include the photos of real life cats that my friends had sent to me for use as reference to create my artwork. Like the feast scene artwork not every cat illustrated in the book is on the cat photo pages… again it was a case of if I fit in every photo the cats were too small to see well. And in some cases the photos my friends sent was fine for my art reference use but it wasn’t high enough resolution for a printed book. Since I’m doing both print and ebook forms I had to design for both to look the same. Perhaps it can add fun to also distinguish which cat is there and which isn’t and also to see some of the source material I worked with?
Here’s what the Numpurrs book cover looks like, and the dedication page where I thank my friends for all of their help.