Needless to say I’ve been carefully balancing my time between work on the commission for Caplan Art Designs and time for rest and playing towards the art exhibits scheduled for this year. The commission has a firm deadline and I’m steadily on schedule. In order to stay on schedule I’ve let go of much of my social media. If I haven’t responded to you this is why. Anyway, around the commission priority comes work towards a new painting series.
As I mentioned last week extra paint from the commission gets used on another painting in progress. This way I don’t get distracted from the commission and am still making progress towards future exhibits. Last week I was working on this painting and this week I finished it.
As I mentioned on my recent email newsletter I’ve been reading and thinking about time. Specifically time and creativity. Human brains simply need time in order to put ideas together. Here’s some of what I’ve been reading. (Details about the books are available here https://bookshop.org/shop/clancy)
Yes, despite being busy I’m still carefully making time to read every day. It’s how I maintain my creative focus, enthusiasm and fun. Same with my sketchbook work which I share via my email newsletter.
A book – whether a library book or a personal notebook/sketchbook – occupies time in uniquely personal ways. The reader moves through time and space as they page through a book at their own pace and magically whole worlds, memories and ideas are built letter by letter, word by word, page by page in the readers mind!
As I say on another page of my website the definition of an “artist book” is “… a book conceived as an art object. It reveals a story over time and space using a combination of content and art techniques in a way that directly involves the viewers participation. “
Books and artwork both use time – time itself – as a creative technique!!! These thoughts about time and the book format also lead me to thinking more about handwriting, hand created art, handmade books and the value of the handmade in this Artificial Intelligence, rush rush, hurry hurry, often prefabricated and canned world. Can both handmade paintings, handmade books and handwriting be analogous to homemade cooking? What does it mean to be real? To be authentic? To be human? To be a time bound being that exists in space?
There is no one grand answer to any of these questions (that would be too hedgehog-y – in reference to the book “The Hedgehog and the Fox” by Isaiah Berlin) but all of this is in my mind as I work. You’ll see some evidence of my musings on these topics in the upcoming illustrated short story about an alien in outer space on my email newsletter…🤣… but I digress.
I hope you too are being mindful of your time this week. It’s a precious resource. Thank you for sharing time with me. See you next Monday.
I’m very busy working on a top secret painting commission for Caplan Art Designs. So instead of talking about that – look! Poetry! Pasta! Pretty cups! Books!
Poetry: Two books of Andrea Gibson‘s poetry came by mail from one of my local bookstores! Gibson is my latest favorite poet.
Here’s one of Gibson’s poems on page 32 of You Better Be Lightning.
Pasta: My wife got a mixer with the pasta attachments for Christmas! So we’ve been making pasta together! She makes the pasta from scratch while I make the sauce.
Here she’s making large elbow noodles.
I made a butter and parsley sauce for our first pasta attempt so we could primarily taste the homemade noodles. Yum!! Homemade noodles really are worth the effort for the flavor!!
Pretty cups: Recently we’ve been to a few special events with dear friends. There were pretty cups at each occasion. Having recently made a calendar of coffee cups perhaps I was primed to notice them. Even so the cups, and my awareness of them, added a soupecon of extra special to the time with friends.
Here’s a related-to-cup-thoughts page from my sketchbook.
Books: I finished reading this book about books and oh my! What a marvelous invention writing things down and storing them in a book format has been for us humans! And how easy it is to stand on the shoulders of giants simply by reading.
I enjoyed this video about why we should read more. This article about how reading is itself a creative act. And this article about how creativity is actually a practice of resiliency.
So here’s a photo of one of the books I’m reading now in addition to Andrea Gibson’s poetry, a book of short stories and a book of essays.
Hope your week contains good books in it. I’ll see you next Monday or thereabouts.
This week my new hearing aids came in! Besides the new aids I got kisses from Gus the Labrador! The hearing aid fitting went very well and I’m amazed at how good I hear with the new aids! As per directions I’m keeping a journal about my adjustment to my new perceptions. Did you know that freezers and refrigerators make sounds when you open and shut them? Rice cookers too make bub-bub-bubbling noises when they’re cooking. Who knew?!
Needless to say I’ve been thinking about perceptions in the mornings when playing in my sketchbook. Here are some pages.
It occurs to me that having words and metaphors for our perceptions of the world is a big reason to read and read widely. Having ready access to language helps us think, be creative and to be fully human. After all a main quality of human beings is our use of words and pictures/symbols.
This human use of words and pictures is also why we want 5 working senses – and that’s including assistive devices like eye glasses and hearing aids – so we have the ability to grasp images and words. I tell you it’s been a treat to hear my wife’s voice after the last 3 hearing-aid-less weeks!
Which gets me to wondering – what if books are assistive devices for our minds? In that case having a personal reading program takes on a new meaning. In the past I’ve shared my own ongoing use of the Ray Bradbury Reading Program (and here’s a great article about the Bradbury Challenge) but today I want to share a great article I read listing 14 ways to get out of a reader slump! It’s good to keep these 14 ways handy just in case. Two of my favorite ways to get over a slump are 1) read short things and 2) to remember that I don’t have to read the whole thing – I can stop anytime and switch to something that’s more fun. Yes, there’s value in persistence with a difficult topic but if I find myself dreading to read something then I consider switching. It’s important to my creativity to maintain my enthusiasm for my reading program.
BTW here’s what I’m currently reading. It’s lighthearted fun. And it pairs well with that fluffy yellow throw pillow on the couch and a mug of hot chocolate.
Speaking of gifts and holidays I’ve decided this holiday season to publish, via my email newsletter, many of my stories and sketchbook pages in a hybrid step between my creative process and a printed book (or ebook) publication. Kind of like an advance release book of the month club. On this WordPress blog I talk generally about my creative life. Well, on my email newsletter I’m primarily living/doing my creative life. For example I share my creativity from both my poetry/story sketchbook (the orange book in the photo below) and my art sketchbook (the black book) directly to people’s email. (You can get more info or sign up here.)
Since sensory perception is on my mind I’ve written a related story called “The Key” that I’ll share in one of my upcoming email newsletters for my paid subscribers. In the photo below you see the beginning of my story handwritten in my poetry sketchbook and beside it you see an in progress illustration for the story.
My newest book, Patchwork Poems, is doing well on Storyberries.com!! Look at that number of story reads! Barely a week old and my book has been read over 4000 times!
This week I took some copies of Patchwork Poems to the Aurora Gallery for their shelf of 14 other book titles written and illustrated by me! Some of my framed art is in this photo and to the right of the book I’m holding up you can see the book shelf!
I was a bit nervous at first about hearing in the large Gallery space but I did just fine! I tell you these new hearing aids are amazing!
I hope your week is full of pleasant perceptions. Thank you for reading and viewing my work! Happy Thanksgiving!
It’s been a tough week. One friend died. Another is on hospice. I’ve also completed two commissions for holiday gifts and delivered them. So my bandwidth for writing this blog barely registers on the scales. Please forgive me. I’m still playing in my sketchbooks I just find it is easier (and soothing) to actually *be* creative than it is to talk *about* being creative.
A very happy highlight this week was when I was asked to sign books for two twin 4yr old fans of my work!
They had come over to my studio to see this book several times while I was making it! (Their grandparents live nextdoor) The kids are both quite helpful editors! The first time they saw my original artwork in progress I had done perhaps half of the book. I read some of the poems out loud to them. They seemed pleased! However there were blank pages. They pointed at the blank spots. “You’ll do a something here right? And here, and here, and here? A something?” I said that I would. They came back over the very next day. “Did you finish our book yet?”. I explained that these things take time to do, sometimes months, but that I was working as fast as I could. A month or so later they came over for a visit. “Did you finish our book yet?” This time I said that I almost had and would they like to see it? They looked at it with me and took turns very gently holding my original book (it’s the size of a credit card) and opening it carefully. The covers were still blank at that time. “You’ll do a something here right?” I said yes, and that it would become an ebook and a printed book too so even after I finished the original book covers there was still work to do before it was ready. “But there will be a something everywhere right?” They asked. I said yes.
Here below is a look at the printed book Patchwork Poems. It’s much larger, 8 x 11 inches, than my original artist book which is 2 x 3 inches. As per both of my 4yr old editor’s suggestion I made absolutely sure there is “a something” on every page! The magazine style format lets me do that so that’s one of the reasons this book is so much bigger than the original artwork.
Thank you in advance for sharing any of the above Patchwork Poems related links. Thank you most of all for staying as healthy and as happy as possible. I’m glad and grateful to you for reading my work and for your comments!
This week I delivered the finished 3D box I’ve titled “Dogs On The Block” to the Caplan Art Designs Gallery for the upcoming holiday exhibit.
It has come to my attention that I’ve not explicitly shown that in the mornings I use two small books, both referred to as “sketchbooks”, one for writing and thinking in words: my efforts at poetry, stories, and plans about my artist books and art exhibits. The other book is art, drawing and painting focused. From either sketchbook I work on more finished versions of the art, poems and stories. Here’s a few photos of what I mean and there are more details on my email newsletter.
The writing sketchbook has lighter weight pages which are nice to write on with fountain pens and suit light pen drawings. When I want to really explore an image idea I redraw it in my art sketchbook which has thicker paper that can deal with heavy pen drawings or whatever other art materials I want to use. Here’s an example of that. The writing book is on the left, the art book on the right.
There are promotional things still to do about Patchwork Poems but the active creation part is done.
Whenever I’ve finished most of my current art projects to refuel my creativity I turn my attention to what I call my “Bradbury Reading Program For a More Creative Life”. I’ve practiced this program fairly constantly for more than a decade by now and firmly believe it has helped me be as creative and prolific as I am. Here’s the “Bradbury Reading Program” in a nutshell: for the next 1000 days read one poem, one short story and one essay on any topic. Even if I don’t actually manage 1000 consecutive days I aim for as many in a row as possible. If life happens and I miss a day I forgive myself and get back to it asap. Here is a video of Ray Bradbury himself talking about this reading program. https://www.instagram.com/reel/CkdkDiuvNrR/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=
In the mornings I play in my writing or art sketchbooks in response to whatever is on my mind in the mornings while I’m still in that groggy half asleep state. I am *not* a morning person and this is my superpower: dawdling, doodling and dream-noodling over coffee and breakfast.
The poetry and short stories I read each day are seriously short. Towards evening I randomly pull a book from my shelves, read the poem or story within a few minutes, replace the book on the shelf and go on with making dinner. To show you what I mean… here’s a bookshelf with poetry books on it…
…the book I chose is titled Comic Poems – Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets…
… I open it randomly and read the 4 line poem by Ogden Nash. I replace the book on the shelf and the poem section of today’s Bradbury Reading Program is done.
Now from part of my short story bookshelves…
… I select Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah and open it at random…
… to a half page sized story titled The Oath. I read the story and replace the book on my shelf. Now the short story part of the Bradbury Reading Program is done. And possibly dinner is ready too – or will be shortly.
I shared this photo below in my last post but I’m still happily reading these books each day after dinner. The top most book, The Book of Delights by Ross Gay, is a book of short essays that fits with my “Bradbury Reading Program”. The essays generally are two pages long, sometimes a bit shorter or longer. It doesn’t take long to read an essay after dinner prior to clearing the table and doing dishes. I’ve been reading these essays aloud to my wife just so I can keep my voice in practice while I’m basically without hearing aids.
The titles by Salman Rushdie were chosen because I enjoy reading biographies of artists alongside one or more of their creative works. In this way I learn so much about living the creative life. These Rushdie books are what I’m reading each night for about an hour before bedtime. Usually with a mug of hot chocolate.
Details about the books in the above photos are available on my public bookshelves on @bookshop_org – and book sales from this link benefit indiebookstores https://bookshop.org/shop/clancy
The only book pictured in this post but not listed on my public bookshelves is Comic Poems by the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets. Sadly it seems well and truly out of print however they offer many other small books with short poems https://knopfdoubleday.com/imprint/everymans-library/
I hope your week is pleasant and full of creativity! See you next Monday.
I think a lot about thinking. So do cats I think. Here’s another painting in my Odditerrarium series for upcoming exhibit at Caplan Art Designs in October. My painting is titled “Cognition”. Sometimes it seems like brains are fish bowls with thoughts swimming about.
Besides forming a theory of mind as related to other living beings – I find it’s helpful in my creative life to keep notes, in a sketchbook/notebook, on things that happen in my life, things that catch my eye, my feelings, thoughts and responses to the world. My sketchbook/notebook becomes part of a collection of objects, photos, books, places etc that resonate with me in some way and yet may also be relatable to someone else. I think creativity is a way to connect with both ourselves and each other. To the elements of my ongoing collection I add my imagination…
… like in my current project for Nil-Tech I free-associated or imaginatively mixed a feeling experience in my life (of enjoying a coffee) with a real life cup from my kitchen and a photo of a dog. Almost everyone has has the experience of sinking into the relaxation of a pleasant beverage – almost like a hot tub – so it’s a safe bet that my feeling is relatable. A cup and a dog are common reference points too. Anyway, here’s a photo below and link to one of my videos on Nil-tech: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CitjpxIoBoO/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=
My point here is that my system of getting creative ideas is a lot like cultivating a garden: carefully planting perennials, evergreens, planning to rotate annuals etc regular cultivation for ongoing use in cooking or decor. This helps me sustain my creativity over the long term. Also for sustainable creativity I find it helpful to keep an uncultivated wild patch or two, some experimental ground areas where anything goes and uncertainty reigns, where I’m in the classic “beginner mindset”, or in the spirit of a kid flopped on their belly coloring to their heart’s content with no thought of their scribbles being “good”. All of this in my mind when I say I’m re-wilding myself.
The term “re-wilding” typically refers to ecological conservation, a way of letting the land be naturally whatever it is as a way of restoring the ecosystem.
I really think we can do this with our minds too, we can re-wild ourselves and our own mental landscape, from time to time by allowing ourselves a more expansive diverse habitat of the mind, to sidestep our own habits, group-think, expectations and presumptions. To deliberately try a new methods or materials just to be playful. (Play, at any age, is necessary for good mental health.) As creative people re-wilding is a neccessary part of a creative life. Generally speaking re-wilding is allowing ourselves to play off-leash now and then so we can reconnect and restore ourselves.
I wrote over on A. M. Sketching about re-wilding ourselves and included this page from my published sketchbook “Another Sketchbook” as a reason why cultivating a mental life is helpful. For us creative types our mental lives are what we create with so the quality of our mental lives is also a precious piece of equipment.
My 3d block project mentioned in my last post is coming along.
Another fun project currently in progress is also using ordinary things as prompts. I’m doing illustrations for a cookbook by Chef Kim Mahan! More on that as I go.
The experimental “re-wilding” projects I’m working on are two different poetry book projects. Possibly for Storyberries experimental art books section! Here’s a peek at my two projects. Both are about the size of a credit card when closed but they open out to about 20 inches long. The patterned and colored papers you see will possibly be the book covers of one book. I’ll share more as I go along.
I hope your week is wild in the best ways. See you next Monday.
A fun creative exercise is to list the good things in my life. As the saying goes here’s “a few of my favorite things”. Items on my list are in bold type.
Painting. Basset Hounds. Flowers. I combined these favorites in a mixed media painting titled “The Goods Of This Life”. It’s 8 x 11 inches and was made using ink, color pencil, gouache and collage on board.
And yes, the orchids are a homage to my adopted Mom (mentioned last post).
Art supplies. I’ve been channeling my inner Julia Child and practicing talking while doing a drawing demonstration for NIL-TECH. In this video I’m sharing how I get my ideas and start a drawing using watercolor pencils.
The idea for this “Coffee Pup” drawing was inspired by the feeling of enjoying the first sip of good coffee. Coffee is another good thing.
Fountain pens and poetry and the awareness of caring… 3 more good things.
Family. That’s a really big good thing! A group of us got together to watch a great nephew’s university soccer game! We had such fun seeing each other and cheering for our nephew!
Friends are another really big good thing and cookouts … two more good things that I enjoy. Naturally I had put them in a poem in my artist book Patch La Belle.
Libraries. Oh my goodness libraries are such gifts! Both the public libraries and private libraries you assemble yourself at home are treasures!! We recently visited our local library for the first time since the pandemic began in early 2020. Since the pandemic started we’ve primarily checked out the ebooks. I certainly count ebooks among the good things in life but printed books… oh, it was such a treat to get print books during our recent visit!
One of these days I’ll write more about why libraries and books are so important in my creative life. But not in this post. In case you’re curious, however, about how books relate to my creative life I’ve begun keeping a public list of some of my favorite books that help me in my creativity here: https://bookshop.org/shop/clancy
I never know when a good thing will inspire art – which is why I keep lists in my sketchbook. If you haven’t already signed up to get my email newsletter in which I share my sketchbook pages please do! https://sueclancy.substack.com/
I hope your week contains many of the good things in your life…and that you’re able to notice them. See you next Monday.
I wrote in my last post that there may be hedgehogs and foxes in my upcoming sketchbook pages because I’m reading “The Hedgehog and the Fox” Isaiah Berlin’s famous essay about Tolstoy and history based on the Greek aphorism “The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing”
In his book Isaiah Berlin writes (I’m paraphrasing) of how history is actually created by a whole bunch of people but when we talk about a time in history we tend to single out one person as a “hero” and the lone “causal agent” of an event. Berlin writes of how as a creative person Tolstoy was naturally a “many things” fox but as he got older Tolstoy wanted to be a hedgehog with “one big thing” that explains everything.
My reading got me to thinking about hedgehogs, foxes, Tolstoy’s demands of himself as a creative person and how that aphorism related to creativity. I said something about that and my friend Liz Gauffreau asked me how hedgehogs relate to the literary world:
Well, besides the fact that both foxes and hedgehogs are so very cute and fun to draw and write about here are a few of my somewhat random thoughts while reading the essay by Isaiah Berlin. Don’t worry I’ll intersperse my thoughts with sketchbook drawings of hedgehogs and foxes using all 3 of the new fountain pens I described in my last post. (BTW there are even more fox and hedgehog sketchbook pages in my recent email newsletter )
As I read Berlin’s essay I’m realizing that as a creative person I use the fox-like kind of “knowing many things” in a free ranging playful open way while I’m in the midst of creating. I’m free-associating between many things while I’m on the hunt for how to best express my elusive thought. But once I’ve finished my creation and caught my thought then, if I’m not careful, I can curl up into a prickly ball hedgehog-like defensive about whether my creation “means” something, what it means, whether it was worth doing, which “one big things” label it belongs within…etc. Staying for any amount of time in such a prickly ball isn’t helpful.
This getting stuck in a hedgehog ball mode happened more often in my younger years but still occasionally I feel a despairing “what was the point of doing all that?” moment. By now I know not to “feed” such overly self-critical negative thoughts and to deliberately stretch out and switch my thinking to some other more pleasant topic. I know such moments will pass especially after a good meal, a good night’s sleep, time spent reading a novel or going for a walk with my spouse. It’s not always easy but that’s the way I deal with it. I avoid getting stuck by deliberately keeping fluid movements between the modes of fox and hedgehog. Anyway, in my mind, that’s one part of how hedgehogs and foxes figure in the creative/literary life.
Another part of how hedgehogs and foxes figure in to it: our creative life isn’t “one big thing”: we aren’t the sum total of one published book or one painting. We aren’t one label. A creative life is cumulative. Of course when people talk about artists or writers shorthand references – labels – are often made like “So And So is the insert genre label author of Famous Book”. But this is just a way of speaking, a verbal convention. It’s even a necessary one because we use helpful labels to find things, like books to read, and a name or a genre category label is a great starting place.
Yet during the lived reality of a creative life things aren’t so simplistic. Creativity is many-things fox like when we’re in the midst of our unnamed, unlabeled creative project. It can feel unfocused, messy, free ranging all over the territory at the beginning only slowly becoming focused over time as the thought “scent” is caught and the project develops towards completion. After completion then the one-big-thing hedgehog label can be applied. And while my diagram below simplifies the fox/hedgehog creative process please know that this process isn’t linear, its fluid, there will be foxhogs and hedgeoxes, there’ll be all sorts of fits and starts, beginnings and endings, rushing currents and still pools… before a project is finished.
This process of metamorphosis from fox to hedgehog is part of why it is such a challenge for writers and artists to think up loglines or book jacket blurbs or elevator speeches or art statements that sum up their creation in a few sentences (or a Tweet). To sum up their work of the last few years, work they sweated daily over, work they gnashed their teeth on – to distill what it was about using 150 words or less both encompasses and transcends the lived creative process itself. It’s hard to rise above the creative life meadows where the foxes and hedgehogs have played and, from a birds eye viewpoint, select a single meaning for the shorthand talking points. This difficulty is why it’s also a challenge to write query letters that briefly describe a manuscript submission. It’s hard to reduce a fox-y many splendors creation down to a hedgehog-y one big thing and to call the hedgehog an accurate, yet attractive, name.
By the way if you formulate the hedgehog one-big-thing, the logline or art statement, in advance and are rigid about it (i.e. curl up in a prickly hedgehog ball) the resulting project is seldom satisfying to either the foxes aka the creators themselves or to their audience.
And yet a hedgehog can be a great starting place – if you aren’t rigid about the hedgehog label and use it as a prompt! It’s highly likely that a creation that starts out as one defined hedgehog can shape-shift to a fox during the creative process and finish up needing an entirely different hedgehog-y label. So that’s another reason it’s a challenge at the end of a project to select the exact hedgehog that was metamorphosed from that fox. This is also part of the exhilarating fun of a creative life.
We enjoy the arts for the fox-y complexity of many things in them – we talk about that complexity we enjoyed viscerally using simple hedgehog-y verbage. The fox represents a direct experience and a nonverbal expression of life. The hedgehog represents a definition and ways of talking about that artistic representation of life. We need both the foxes and the hedgehogs. The challenge is to remain loose, open, letting the foxes and hedgehogs become themselves while also keeping a benevolent watch over them.
What a work of art or literature “means” in the big scheme of it’s hedgehog label, is identified (if ever) after the work has been made and existed in the world a while. After the artist is finished then we use simple language to sum up what a creation meant. We give it a genre, a category, a label. That summing up or meaning finding is done and verified over the duration of time that the art exists – it gets reevaluated by the artist and by the audience constantly. The lables often get changed multiple times before they “settle” if they ever do. Almost all of Tolstoy’s work has gotten reevaluated numerous times since the era in which he was living and working.
From a creative person’s point of view I find it’s sanity-saving to not worry about the meaning of one work in the big scheme of things but to just get on with the next project. I don’t worry overmuch about the hedgehog labels I give my work for use when submitting or promoting it. As I wrote in my last post I’m regularly surprised by what labels publishers, distributors and art gallery owners place on my work. I just accept the label and these labels become tools I can use to talk with that distributor. For example I now can say to Storyberries “Here’s a new ABC123 Poetry book from me”. But even with that new knowledge generally my attitude when I’m working in my studio is “I’ll make the stuff and you can sort it out” rather than getting stuck on any of the potential labels while I’m in the creative process. Anyway, here’s a note on this topic that I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall.
The meaningfulness that is found after the creation is finished also has an element of danger. Sometimes because an artist is so tired upon completion they, in their fatigue, misjudge their own work and may mislabel it or even destroy it. Sometimes an artist gets stuck on a label and that impedes their progress. Sometimes the selected audience isn’t ready for a creative work and rejects it. Sometimes a work isn’t found to be meaningful until long after the artist and audience’s current era is gone and a new era begins. Sometimes a different audience within an artist’s lifetime finds the work more meaningful. Sometimes meanings and labels change over time too. Sometimes these new labels are helpful and sometimes they’re not.
So for all of those reasons I find it’s best to avoid gaslighting myself, i.e. making hard declarative statements about my work, either as I’m working on projects or whenever they’re finished. I just enjoy the process of making things. Other people can sort them into meanings and categories. That said, I do find the effort of succinctly summarizing my own creative works as a logline etc helpful as long as I don’t take it too seriously. Whatever you want to call it is fine with me as long as my personal foxes get to play and my hedgehogs stay cute.
Which brings me to book banning. I despise censorship because someone somewhere has decided in advance what a book or work of art “means” and they aren’t willing to let people decide that for themselves. They get rigid, in a hedgehog-y prickly defensive ball way, about everything fitting into their one big thing label whether that label is political or religious. They can’t, or won’t, deal with the foxes free ranging exploration. They’re allergic to questions and uncertainty. They reject categorically the concept of changes over time. They’ll decide they just don’t like one particular fox or hedgehog and insist that the external world must conform to their preferences.
Creativity is all about questions and dealing well with uncertainty. To be creative is to actively participate in change and growth. Creativity is a response to the world. Anyway, here’s an article about many of the current censorship efforts that I keep a careful eye on.
In my current art exhibit at the Aurora Gallery on the upper left shelf in the photo below is an artist book I made which tells a truth about rabbits and metaphorically about people. It’s called “The Rabbit” and it is about book banning.
I also participated from home by posting this: I #standwithsalman in favor of free expression. For the Aug 19 2022 @PENamerica event I’m reading from “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” by @SalmanRushdie – it’s one of my favorites – Here’s my reading on YouTube.
There now that I’ve finished this blog post I’ll deliberately avoid the one-big-thing type question of “did my efforts to write this blog post mean anything or matter in any way to the larger literary or creative culture?”. In such a question lies gaslighting madness. So instead of going there I accept that I enjoyed writing out my views of the creative process within the context of hedgehogs, foxes and the essay by Isaiah Berlin. And I hope my friend Liz will enjoy reading my thoughts on how hedgehogs and foxes relate to the literary world. There, that’s enough mattering and meaning for me.
Aha, now after rereading what I’ve written (and correcting the autocorrect 🙄) I see that there’s a few category and tag labels that I can use when publishing this blog post! Good enough…
I hope your creative week is full of playful foxes and hedgehogs. See you next Monday.
My adopted Mom’s favorite flower is the orchid. Both Dad and Mom enjoyed cats – even though sometimes the cats knocked over plants or books. So I thought those thoughts while creating a portrait of a friends cat. I’ve titled the finished painting “Wonders”. It joins the rest of my Odditerrarium series and is also 10 x 8 inches and made with ink and gouache.
Below are some sketchbook pages from this week. In difficult times I find that helps having a sketchbook routine.
When I first met my adopted Mom and Dad I asked “how do I know you’re for real?”. Mom’s response was “Watch what I say and do over time”. So during almost every visit with them I brought my sketchbook along and took notes. Sometimes these notes got illustrated during the visit. Often the notes were rewritten and illustrated more neatly shortly after the visit. As time has marched I have used these sketchbooks as source material for making my books and other creative projects. For example when I put together “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” I referenced my sketchbooks and consulted Dad and he shared his original lecture notes.
Here’s a recent video of me reading a story from this book here – it’s still a favorite story all these years later!
My friend Sherri Kennedy has a great post here related to this topic of imaginations and “feeding” attitudes.
I also see a correlation to what Michael Graeme says in his blog here “Try to go deeper, into the sublime, and feel it.” We can choose what we focus on, we can fully experience our feelings (taking breaks as needed) and fully embrace whatever feeds our good wolves and let that in turn feed our creative souls.
Speaking of feeding things: I remember as a barely in my 20s young person visiting my adopted Mom and Dad. We would get to talking with books and papers strewn about, including my sketchbook and drawing tools, time would fly by and suddenly Mom would put a large plate amongst the books. On this plate would be an assortment of foods, many of which I hadn’t seen before: specialty cheeses, meats, crackers, fruits, vegetables and nuts. The first time that happened Mom explained “charcuterie plates” to me. From that time on during visits when such plates appeared she’d tell me “this is Gruyere cheese” or whatever the new-to-me cheese was, each visit was an ongoing education in life, literature and food. Needless to say all of our visits revolutionized my previous “processed cheese food slices” existence for the better!
Naturally I included Mom’s charcuterie instructions when I got around to reproducing my kitchen sketchbook, along with I hope a sense of the combination of drinks, foods and conversation about books.
Here’s one of my favorite photos of a younger me with Mom and Dad.
Here’s a photo showing how things often looked just before Mom would put a charcuterie plate down.
When I was looking through my photos for this blog I saw this one of Dad looking at one of my wee books.
I miss Dad and I miss Mom being healthy (last post)… I am beyond glad that they (and my 5 siblings) adopted me! I will always carry them on in my life and creativity. This, I think, is part of the idea of “working from life” perhaps even more than the act of looking at a real life object and drawing it.
And I find comfort in loving the colors outside my window and the light and shadows. May have to try painting the grey-blue, greens, browns with that salmon color…
And I get comforts in doing the work of my creative projects. Here’s my art studio dachshund supervisor helping me with the book design and layout for my Odditerrarium exhibit book.
In my last post I was working on my exhibit statement. I edited it this week…chiefly I remembered that I needed to say something in the statement about the art media I work with! Amazing how I could forget something so basic! Ha! Thank goodness for creating books and the editing processes!! Here’s the finished exhibit statement that I’ve sent to the Caplan Art Designs gallery.
A dear friend sent a surprise knowing that I love getting books by mail! Such fun to share a favorite author in common with a friend!
Mom’s self-care directions throughout my life often included advice to “remember to eat mindfully”. Indulgence in her opinion was welcome, necessary and to be done in moderate mindfulness. This week I made macaroni and cheese using onion, garlic with Gruyere and cheddar cheeses. The recipe is here.
I’m reading an autobiography “The Summer of a Dormouse” by John Mortimer. I love his fiction and his way of writing in general. This autobiography is adding to my good-wolves in that I can read about Mortimer going though difficult times in his personal life while simultaneously creating his pleasant fictional works. I’m reminded that it is possible – normal even – to be able to acknowledge difficulties and still create pleasant things.
I hope you’ll be able to feed your good wolves this week and create pleasant things too. See you next Monday.
I’ve been thinking this week about the role of curiosity in a creative life. So here’s a fun curiosity/creativity game I play with myself. To play you’ll need: any printed book with lots of visual images in it, 5 sticky post-it notes from a post-it note pad, a separate piece of paper and a pen or pencil.
To begin the game open the book to random pages, page through very rapidly – ONLY PAUSE WHENEVER AN IMAGE CATCHES YOUR EYE – put a sticky post-it note on that page. Then keep going, quickly, through the book until all 5 of your post-it notes have been placed. DO NOT READ ANY TEXT IN THE BOOK. This part of the game will only take one minute or two. You’re just reacting and post-it note flagging that “something caught my eye” in an image.
After all 5 of your post-it notes are placed look at each of your chosen 5 images, look only at the image itself NOT at any accompanying text. Add a letter (or number) to the post-it note on each image, write a corresponding letter on your sheet of paper. Then write very specifically what caught your eye in the image. This is usually a brief description of some ordinary visual element in the image like “ladies funny hats” or “dogs droopy ears”. It could be the colors or the odd shapes that are described. There are no wrong answers. This is just YOU being curious about your own native interests and creative voice.
After writing about all 5 of your noticed images get curious about them as a group. Is there a theme or a commonality between any of the 5 images? For example the ladies funny hats and the dogs ears could be grouped as “head gear”. Again, there are no wrong answers. Be as absurd and freely-associative as you like. This is just you playing and being curious about any themes that may be subconsciously on your mind today.
When that part of the game is done read any text about the 5 images you chose. Does the information in the text add to your interest, to your curiosity? Feel free to investigate further…
And that’s the game! I’ve found in playing this game often that my themes repeat, certain elements consistently catch my eye, and knowing what those are helps me work deliberately and playfully in my studio. I play this game often because my interests and what catches my eye changes.
The Odditerrarium series painting that I finished this week is titled “Curious”. Like the rest of my series (for upcoming exhibits via Caplan Art Designs) this one is 10 x 8 inches and made with ink and gouache on board.
Here’s a closer look.
Part of curiosity, imagination and the life of the mind is allowing oneself to mentally reach, to play, to accept the risks and thrills of uncertainty. As a metaphor for these thoughts, as you may know from past posts, I’ve been thinking of the ways cats reach up. Here’s two in-progress artist books that have cats reaching in them. (Probably these books will eventually go to Storyberries.com)
Recently I stumbled across an Instagram post by Columbia Gorge Book Arts and got curious. (Lettering and alphabets consistently catch my eye.) I followed their Instagram account and looked at their website. I found out they live in the same town I do! So I contacted them online.
Letterpress and Linotype work is in my own past work history so I enjoyed the trip down memory lane while viewing their photos of equipment but more importantly I loved discovering that Ben, at Columbia Gorge Book Arts, hand-carves from bamboo the individual letters used in letterpress hand presses! The letterforms are beautifully created and Ben has quite a variety of typefaces! Seeing Ben’s printed proof sheets inspired my thoughts towards future kids books and children’s room decor. So when I contacted Ben I asked if I could buy a few printed proof sheets of his various alphabets. He sent me some!!!
When you’re a child learning one’s alphabet letters also means learning to recognize a letter even if that letter is differently shaped or colored. Towards that thought (and to indulge creatively in a theme that I love) I’m starting a new project, The Ralphapet Projects, in which, over time, I’ll make art prints, cards, cups and eventually a story book using some of the beautiful lettering I get from Columbia Gorge Book Arts.
Here’s the first one. I selected one of the Columbia Gorge alphabet proofs and mounted it on one of my boards using archival glue. Then when the glue was dry I drew, in ink, a cat muralist reaching up to “paint” a letter.
Here’s the finished “Ralphapet Cat” that I did using gouache on a 7 x 5 inch board.
So you can see the array of my recent cat reaching thoughts.
I took photos of the Ralphapet Cat artwork with my big camera (a better camera than a phone camera) and then my studio supervisor cat, Hawkeye, helped me do the graphic design hocus pocus in order to make art prints.