the eggplant technique of creativity

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, food in art, graphic narrative, illustration, mental health, story, Sustainable creativity, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures

“Feelings are guides not gods” is a phrase from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”, the new print version I’m currently working on. The concept is illustrated by this story:

EggplantSM

Here’s some text from the book related to the artwork: “Do you think that feelings keep you from doing things? More good news – they don’t! We’ve all done many things we didn’t feel like doing – such as going to school or work when we didn’t feel like it – which proves that: Feelings don’t keep us from doing things. Moreover, when you do that thing you feel scared to do, you are nourishing your courage…… Remember, you are responsible for your feelings not responsible to them.” (see the Eggplant story above)

Cultivating and maintaining a high level of Emotional Intelligence is essential to well-being (and creativity). Good mental health is about more than just the absence of mental illness – it is the presence of good coping skills, being able to self-regulate, to see feelings as a guide whether the feelings are your own or someone else’s. (Btw: there’s a good article about teaching Emotional Intelligence here.)

I’ve found Dr. Bob’s concept of “feelings are guides not gods” applies to creativity, and the creative life, as well. Whether or not I feel a particular way doesn’t have to affect whether or not I make my artwork. My feelings are not a “god” to be obeyed. If it’s time to work in the studio, however short or long the time-to-work I’ve allotted is, off I go to my creative work no matter how happy, sad or inspired I feel at the moment.

Where I use my feelings as a “guide” is when I’m out in the world on the lookout for possible art-topics. I keep my inner eye open for things that capture my curiosity and my imagination. Then I keep a list of those things and my feelings related to them in my sketchbooks for future art-making. My use of this “feelings as guide” technique has helped me create many helpful guidebooks, so to speak, for my own creative life.  I find it a sustainable creative practice.

All that aside I’d like to add that eggplant can, once in a while, be a very good vegetable – especially as eggplant parmesan.

on sustaining creativity

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, graphic narrative, illustrated shorts, psychogeography, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, travelog, travelogue, visual story, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

Especially when I’m super busy working on a one-person art exhibit I rely even more on my sustainable creativity technique of “running around loose”.  I define “running around loose” as going about my nearby surroundings like a child or a dog in a park; poking about and exploring as if there are no time constraints in the world.  My cell phone gets turned off and shoved deep into the bottom of my bag. It is there only for emergency use on the scale of needing to call 911.  I don’t use the GPS function on my phone either. “Running loose” involves getting lost, losing track of time and generally living by-guess-by-golly (no preconceived plan) for an afternoon into the evening.

I’ll bring my sketchbook and write, draw and paint but I do it with no agenda, no particular project in mind. The idea is to play like a child or a puppy. To observe my surroundings with curious, free-associative, eyes.

This is particularly helpful as a refresher when I’m coming down to the wire on an art exhibit.  I’m to deliver all of the artwork for my upcoming one-person exhibit at the end of May – and before that there’s all the paperwork.  So I’ve got to be fresh and remember why I’ve done all this artwork – and even get excited about it again.

I’ve been working toward this exhibit for about one year. I’m a bit tired by the time the exhibit nears. But it wouldn’t do to have a “well whatever” attitude here at the finish line.  Thus my mega-recharge session.

Here’s what I did in my sketchbooks when I “ran around loose” recharging my batteries for a whole day in Vancouver Washington and Woodland WA :

OldAppleTree300

I was particularly struck by the various colors of purple that I saw on the grapes I ate for a snack – and the many different colors of purple in the tulip gardens and lilac gardens in Woodland WA. Here are some sketchbook pages:

After running loose for a day I felt pleasantly tired but like I’d had a mini-staycation. Great recharge session!!

Links for where I “ran loose”:

https://www.cityofvancouver.us/parksrec/page/old-apple-tree-park

http://www.lilacgardens.com/

https://www.hollandbulbfarms.com

 

illustrated poetry dominos and books

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, author illustrator, games in art, illustrated poem, illustrated shorts, poetry, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

I’ve been thinking about how reading books is similar to playing dominos or sharing a meal with friends. In all of these activities we practice cooperating with others and peaceably bringing forth the world together.

Here’s a limerick poem I wrote and illustrated that playfully reflects my thoughts:

ThereOnceWasATomCatbyClancy72

original poem and illustration titled “There Once Was A Tom Cat…” by Clancy

This poem and illustration somewhat relates to my nested-ideas concept that I’m working with for my upcoming fine art exhibit. And this poem (along with others) could become an artist book to accompany my exhibit but I’m still playing around and not sure where all of this is going. This is one of the things I like about being an artist; getting to practice being flexible, playing and letting things unfold as they will.

Kind of like reading a novel, playing a game or sharing a meal with friends allows us to practice “letting things unfold…”.

On a technical note: To create the above poem and illustration I used pen and ink and gouache on a greyish off white handmade paper. It looks sharp in real life, and the paper is a dream to work on, but the scan accented the grey color of the paper more than the naked eye perceives in person. The scan looks good enough, I’m not unhappy … however, note to self; use white paper for things that will be scanned and leave this lovely greyish handmade paper for fine art stuff that will be photographed and not scanned.

I’m still learning!

illustrated poetry about food

A Creative Life, animals in art, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, creative thinking, Dogs in Art, illustrated poem, illustrated shorts, illustration, poetry, published art, Sustainable creativity, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

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

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

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

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

ForTheCooksPlentitude72

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

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

What do you think?

art snacks

A Creative Life, artistic inspirations, business of art, creative thinking, food for thought, mental health, small things, Sustainable creativity, words and pictures

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

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

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

InnisfreeWBYeats72

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

libation label list line

A Creative Life, art commissions, art techniques, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, functional art, illustration, kitchen art, poetry, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing

Around the edges of doing a cat portrait commission and Chef Carosi’s illustrated recipe I’ve done some wine label artwork to be used by Burnt Bridge Cellars for their 2018 Holiday Wine. To meet the winery’s request for art that was “festive but not religious” I used 5 writing techniques along these lines to generate visual art ideas:

  1. Freewriting: I wrote and doodled in my sketchbook concepts that called to my mind a social festive season not attached to religion. This also meant writing down the religiously associated concepts so as to avoid them!
  2. Listing: I wrote a list of items one would buy when planning a casual social event. I doodled some of the items too. I also looked up some event-planning websites and went to a local party store and browsed – adding to my list.
  3. Clustering: I selected a verb/adverb from my free-write or a verb related to an item from my list and wrote further associations that came to mind when thinking of that word.
  4. Thesaurus/Dictionary/Encyclopedia/Google: I looked up words like “party”, “festival”. I looked up historical references to past well-known holiday parties.  I read poetry that mentioned parties or was associated with the Holidays. (Twas the Night...)  I thought of, and researched, holiday fashions such as the “ugly sweater”.
  5. Consider the Audience/Project Purpose: After I had done the above 4 techniques, in a wild free-wheeling way, I looked at what I had written/doodled from the point of view of the Burnt Bridge Cellars winery and what they wanted to accomplish with the label art during the Holiday season.

Then I created several images based on the above brainstorming sessions:

Then I sent the above artwork in for the winery owners consideration.

Here below is the artwork they chose and how it looked on the bottles:

MyWineLabel72

The winery was pleased with my work – and has said that their customers were too! (Whew!)

The Holiday Wine inside the bottles is very good (I’ve tasted it!) and I feel like I got to participate in a collective effort to add enjoyment to people’s Holiday Season! What fun!

P.S. I originally got the idea to use writing techniques when generating visual art ideas from reading a book by Umberto Eco titled “Confessions of a Young Novelist“.

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