Learning almost anything and the magic dance

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, business of art, fine art, mental health, Odditerrarium, Sustainable creativity

Dancing smoothly nowadays as I near time to deliver all 20 of my Odditerrarium artworks for exhibit via Caplan Art Designs which opens in June at Burnt Bridge Cellars.

All 20 artworks are finished. In progress is the framing, the exhibit paperwork, the delivery and the social media about it all. An artist’s work is never done…it’s a lot like a cooks work that way.

But here’s one of my paintings titled “Learning Almost Anything”. Like the others in my Odditerrarium series it is 10 x 8 inches, created with ink, gouache and collage on board.

Here’s a closer view so you can see what this dog is thinking.

Doing fine art exhibits, like writing for publication, requires both being organized and resisting tempting parking spots. I have two phrases thumbtacked to my studio wall to help me remember.

When I began my Odditerrarium painting series in 2021 I did enough planning in my sketchbook that I knew the sizes I wanted to work in. I created 5 or so of the paintings to see if my series idea had legs. Then over a month ago I ordered frames from the Aurora Gallery. The frames are made by hand and that takes time.  The first box of frames is in my studio ready for action. A second box of frames is due soon.

Now that creation of the paintings is done I set up a system, a working routine, so that I don’t wear out my hand doing the varnishing or framing processes.

Elsewhere in my blog I’ve talked about working in short bursts as a way to make time, energy and the financial components of a creative life sustainable. This is true too of the varnish and frame stage.

More than a month ago I also ordered the cans of varnish I knew I’d need along with a few other art supplies from my local Artist and Craftsman. My dachshund supervisor made sure the order was correct when it came.

Now my daily routine includes a “spray two frame two” dance. It goes like this: just before lunch I take two paintings to my garage where I spray a coat of varnish. Then we have lunch. After lunch I spray another coat of varnish on those same two paintings. Here’s a photo of me in the respirator mask I use when I spray varnish.

Those just varnished paintings stay out in the garage the rest of the day. When I quit working for the day, around dinner time, I bring them into the studio and put them on the easel to finish drying. In the photo below you see two just-varnished paintings on my easel. To the right of the easel is a framing station. My painting supplies are still out because there are other projects in progress just to the left of this photo. There are other creative projects that get a short burst of work each day so that’s another reason why the just-varnished stay out in the garage till the day is done.

Here are two getting framed. Having the varnished art on the easel puts them within easy reach of my frame station. Doing the varnishing around lunchtime the previous day means that by the time they get put into frames 24 or so hours have passed and the varnish is completely dry.

Besides checking in the new art supplies my dachshund supervisor also oversees the framing. He’s very busy, perhaps more busy than usual lately, but like I do, he paces himself so that it’s sustainable.

Like the quote thumbtacked just above the light switch in the photo below says about dancing and magic happening, being organized doesn’t guarentee smoothly run projects. (Another mantra I use often: “Nothing has to go right today”) Organization gives my projects a sporting chance to be sustainable, it gives me the possibility of meeting deadlines with a smile. Besides I deeply despise chaos and rushing about so I prefer to pace myself (and dance) at a calm speed.

And I treasure time each day to read and learn almost anything.

I hope your week goes at your preferred pace. Take care of yourself. See you next Monday.

Fine art, books and similarities between art and writing

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, dog portrait, fine art, household surrealism, life of the mind, mental health, miniature art, Odditerrarium, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

More work this week towards an upcoming art exhibit I’m calling “Odditerrarium”. I’ll tell more about my creative process on this exhibit here and in subsequent posts. Odditerrarium will be an exhibit via Caplan Art Designs later this year.

This week I finished a dog portrait I’ve titled “Secret Knowledge”. It’s 10 x 8 inches and made with ink and gouache on board.

Here’s a closer look at this dog’s thoughts – according to the dog’s human this dog likes walks and is passionately interested in moles, chipmunks, mice and frogs.

Elsewhere in this blog (here) I’ve written about the similarities I see between the creative process of writing and the creative process of fine art. Like a writer might begin creating a novel by noting a story idea nugget in a notebook I began this Odditerrarium series with the nugget “what if we could see what our dogs and cats thoughts?” – just this nugget of a thesis and little else. But I began there and with exploration of that notion came the notions of thought bubbles and terrariums… and I began drafting in my sketchbook. Here’s some examples.

After a number of sketchbook drafts I began a few full size paintings – generally I do at least 5 paintings before I declare that I’m working on a series or give the series a working title. This is like a writer deciding to write a few chapters to see if their idea has merit – by creating an overview or even a rough draft of the whole work.

I think of my one person art exhibits as books you can walk around inside. And each painting is a “chapter” within the book. Each chapter/painting begins with it’s own notion, an outline or rough indication of what could be. Things at this point are usually vague. For “Secret Knowledge” thanks to my friend (the excellent author Liz Gauffreau) I had a photo of the dog I wanted to portray and the dogs thoughts also thanks to our conversation. Then I spent time thinking and making sketchbook notes. Then I drew on a board. As you can see I work on several paintings at the same time – this too is like a writer writing though the gaps in one chapter by writing on a different segment within the work.

When I have a rough drawing on board I begin what I call “chunking” trying to get a bit of color on every area in the artwork. The colors don’t have to be perfect – it’s a rough indicator subject to adjustment based on other colors. I don’t worry about details at this stage just rough shapes of color and contrast. Like how a writer writes a whole story imperfectly, all in a rush with “detail to come” notes sprinkled throughout the tale.

In the photo below I’m in the chunking process. I know I want a blue background for the portrait of the white dog but at this point I’m not sure of the precise shade of blue. The other colors within that portrait will help me determine that. Like when a writer decides a character’s course of action based on another character’s choices.

When the chunking is more or less done I begin bit by bit to fill in and flesh out areas. Here’s an example- I’m sure you can see the transition happening from chunky to smoother.

The photo at the beginning of this post is of the finished portrait which I titled “Secret Knowledge”… the blue I ultimately chose is of early morning or late evening sky: a time for walks and a time when small mammals might be more active… something of which this dog certainly has knowledge! 😉

For my art exhibit Odditerrarium I’m thinking about mental lives and encounters with the minds of other humans and other beings in this world. Here’s a few of my favorite sketchbook pages on this topic. To help me keep on task, so to speak, for my Odditerrarium series I will continue to read, write and sketch on this topic of self awareness and encounters with other minds.

In psychology this called a developing a theory of mind …and this link explains it well and I quote “Forging a strong theory of mind plays an important role in our social worlds as we work to understand how people think, to predict their behavior, to engage in social relationships, and to solve interpersonal conflicts… Forming a theory of mind is critical in our ability to understand ourselves and others. This ability to understand mental states allows people to introspect and consider their own thoughts and mental states. Such self-awareness is important in the formation of a strong sense of self. Our social functioning also hinges on having a theory of mind. By being able to think about what other people are thinking, we can better understand others and predict what they might do next.”

Anyway, when paintings on the easel need to dry a bit I’ve been playing with my poetry sketchbook.

Inside my poetry book is a notion of a new experimental art book for Storyberries. In the photo you see my notions in my book and on the right side I’m beginning to work on my notions in a tiny concertina format book.

A cat reaching is my main notion that’s getting played with in two different ways in this photo for two different books.

I’ll keep you posted on whatever happens with these newbies.

The Aurora Gallery contacted me wanting more of my cards and books so I took those to them this week!

It did my artist heart good to see my things displayed by the Gallery so well and to know that my work is appreciated! The Aurora Gallery ships my art, cards and books anywhere and my signed green dragon book plates are available on request.

This week in kitchen creativity I made spinach enchiladas inspired by “Mrs Rasmussen’s Book Of One Armed Cookery” by Mary Lasswell. I used both arms to cook with and didn’t have a beer. I’d probably get demerits for that from Mrs Rasmussen as I can imagine her saying “What?! No beer?!” but the chili onion gravy was divinely scrumptious over spinach enchiladas and beans and rice!

I say I was “inspired by” Mrs Rasmussen’s recipe because I ruthlessly adapted this recipe as I was only cooking for two people and as you can see below Mrs R was cooking for the entire tricounty area. Plus I don’t use lard…

To make my chili onion gravy I used my good gravy recipe but instead of sausage I used a small can of roasted chilies and some chopped white onion.

In one serving size oven safe boats I made one spinach enchilada for each of us and surrounded the enchilada with beans, rice then ladled the gravy over it all and topped it with cheese. Turned out so good!! I did have gravy leftover which I used for another meal.

My evening reading loosely related to the topic of encounters with and awareness of other minds is the last book in the trilogy “His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman and Pullman’s nonfiction book “Daemon Voices” about stories and storytelling.

Hope your week is a good one! See you next Monday?

Of poodles books beer and food for the heart

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, food for thought, gift books, mental health, publications - publishing, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, words and pictures

For weeks I’ve been working on two poodle portraits. The details of their hair and eyes has been such fun! It’s also been delightful to imagine what each dog is thinking about! My wife and I have had the honor of knowing these poodles’ humans for a very long time – so it’s been a treat to get to love on our friends via these dog portraits!

Here they are on my easel. I worked on both paintings at the same time. I did a Reel of me in action working and another Reel that looks up close at the finished paintings. Both Reels can be found on my Instagram page.

I imagined each dog keenly watching their energetic humans and philosophically contemplating (from a dogs point of view) their humans divinity and mysteries. Naturally I titled one painting “Divine” and the other “Mysteries”. Both are 10 x 8 inches and created with ink and gouache on board. Eventually these portraits will be in an art exhibit via the Caplan Art Designs Gallery www.caplanartdesigns.com

Below are some closer photos so you can see the miniature art details! I’m particularly pleased with their eyes!

Since the pandemic began in 2020 we’d not set foot in one of our favorite brewpubs Mcmenamins on the Columbia river. So during a cold rainy walk by the river we decided to pop in and get a growler full of our favorite beer to take home. We’re not dining indoors yet and we’ve normalized mask wearing no matter what the numbers and rules may be.

While we were waiting for our growler to be filled I admired one of my favorite posters on the Mcmenamins wall. I enjoy the funky steampunk-ish vibe in this pub.

On our walk we saw a bald eagle big as you please just above the walk path!

Here’s some of the books we read with our beer after we got home: Old in Art School by Nell Painter, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, Daemon Voices by Philip Pullman, The Summer of a Dormouse by John Mortimer.

The children’s writer Philip Pullman ranks number two on the lists of books often banned in the U.S. The other titles are from writers who are similarly considered “unorthodox”. Yep. Still reading banned books. Told you it was a “thing” for me.

In my last post I wrote about having a “books-to-cheer-up-by” shelf. My friend Audrey Driscoll wrote in her blog about comfort reading and it’s a comforting post too! https://wp.me/pVsXa-1mr

As I mentioned above we read banned books and look for ways of fighting bans of books. Here’s a helpful blog post on that topic that I found this week. https://lithub.com/want-to-help-stop-book-bans-the-authors-guild-has-tools-for-you/

As my regular readers know besides fine art and books I’m fond of cooking. Well, my friend Bernadette of New Classic Cooking, a food blog I follow, did a wonderful blog post about feeding the Ukrainian people during this time. It’s comforting to have practical ways we can help each other.

Here’s a favorite soup I made this week. It’s from a recipe in our “Favorites So Far” kitchen sketchbook and thanks to a suggestion by my friend Bernadette it’s also part of a postcard series – we enjoy sending these recipe cards to friends!

https://www.zazzle.com/collections/recipe_postcards-119528196193002582

And speaking of soup…my experimental art book “A Scoop Of Letter Soup” is being served out by ladles full on Storyberries!

I’m excited about making some more of my unusual books for kids to read on Storyberries.com!!

And speaking of food for tummies, fare for minds, mental health, our interior lives and books… I’ve selected pages from my sketchbooks with my drawings and writings on the topic of our interior lives and made a book of them. You can see more about this book, Another Sketchbook, on my portfolio page.

Since books and beverages go together in my mind – and I also enjoy having soup out of a mug – I picked some of my favorite pages from Another Sketchbook and put them on a large mug here on my Zazzle shop.

Also on the topic of mental health I’m delighted to happy-dance with you about the news that a book I illustrated is now being carried by one of my local bookstores, Vintage Books! The book is titled “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” and it’s one of my creations that I am most proud of having done. I even keep a copy of it in my bathroom so I can reread it often – it means that much to me! Anyway, Vintage Books will ship anywhere so they can be asked to send my book to you by mail. More about my book can be seen on the bookstore website here. Okay, let’s dance another happy jig around the couch then back to posting photos…🤗

https://vintage-books.net/item/9sqOzQSJ43oNNE-eksMS2w

Sometimes remembering that the Universe loves you just the way you are helps. At least I find it helpful in my creative life… as is knowing there are fairly direct practical tools for dealing with feelings during difficult times.

I hope your week is full of love that you can embrace with relish as food for your heart and mind – see you next week.

Miniature art, dogs, cows and books

A Creative Life, art book review, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, Books In Art, creative thinking, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, drawing as thinking, fine art, handmade books, household surrealism, humor in art, miniature art, poetry, sketchbook, small things, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, whimsical art, wordless story, words and pictures

This week had a cow in it (more on that in this post) and a dog portrait. I selected one of my sketchbook drawings as an idea for what to paint using the new brush technique I learned from the book, Miniature Art by Joan Cornish Willies that I talked about in my last post. Here’s the sketchbook page.

This ink, gouache and watercolor painting below is 8 x 10 inches in size, well within the “miniature art” definitions. The brush method recommended in the book “Miniature Art” by Joan Cornish Willies is to lay a round pointer brush on its side in the paint and rolling it to absorb the paint while maintaining the point on the brush.  Dipping, pressing or stabbing the brush point in the paint, however gently, makes the brush point spread out and thus makes doing fine detail within a painting more difficult.

Here’s a look at the whole painting I’ve finished and titled “A Tale-carrier”

The new brush technique did help me get more fine details. Particularly around the dog’s eyes, nose and on the books. Here’s a closer look…

I’m loving the way creating finer details enables me to combine the human senses of touch and sight in this new miniature work! And I enjoyed making a miniature that knows it’s a miniature! Lol! It’s amazing what a gift awareness can be! Here’s an even closer look…

I do feel a bit of “well, duh”… of course laying a brush on its side and rotating the brush in the paint would help retain the brush point even while loading it with pigment! Ah well! Just goes to show that you really can teach an artist with 25 plus years of experience a new trick or two! Lol!

This week someone asked if I would pretty please make a mug with my “green leprechaun man” on it…

…so I did. https://www.zazzle.com/inhale_exhale_morning_mug-168743417915348054

https://www.zazzle.com/inhale_exhale_morning_mug-168743417915348054

Also this week another printed book on the topic of miniature art came in the mail from one of my local bookstores. The Big Book Of Tiny Art by Karen Libecap is just plain fun to look at and read. It does have a good review of pencil techniques as well as use of color. The main attraction for me is the “watch-it-develop” sequences of photos that document ways to achieve tiny details. Oh, and the gallery of examples of finished miniature artworks is a treat. This book is encouraging and pleasing in tone – which will make it nice to have on my shelves. No Earth shattering art technique BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) moments in this book like there was in reading Miniature Art by Joan Cornish Willies. But the friendly can-do spirit and lack of snooty-ness in the Tiny Art book by Libecap, I think, means more people- myself included- are more likely to keep trying this art form. Plus I just love it that these tiny art techniques are so applicable to what I do in my sketchbooks.

So now when I draw in my sketchbook I’m trying for more details – like the feathers on this bird.

As you know in the evenings I’ve been reading a print copy of The Annotated Arabian Nights. On my ebook reader, which I read while exercising, is “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. So in addition to the story-within-stories format of the Nights and the lovely idea (last post) about the genre of “mirrors for princes” that I encountered in the annotations of the Arabian Nights I’m getting a regular therapeutic dose of Adam’s gentle absurdity.

Thus I’ve been pondering just how it is that Mother Goose’s cow went over the moon. And our human habit of having sacred cows… beliefs that take us into the stratosphere away from reality. Consequently there’s a new wordless book in progress on my easel.

Here’s a closer look at the sequence of pages

As I write this blog post I have put these pages under smooth boards with weights on them so they’ll be flat. I’ll be making a physical artist book from these pages and then both a printed book and an ebook version. More about this in upcoming posts.

A dear friend and fellow artist Donna Young https://www.donnayoung.com/ and I used to fairly regularly visit each other’s studios in pre-pandemic times. Recently Donna posted a photo of her studio and asked me to post a photo of mine. Here it is below!

I’m sure you’ll recognize one of the dog paintings on my easel. The other dog you’ll probably see next Monday. And I’m sure you’ll notice my new magnifying glass (last post) in use!

If you were standing in my studio, where I took this photo, to your left would be a stack of boards and weights holding down my “How The Cow Went Over The Moon” pages. More about that next Monday too.

Thanks for reading this post. I hope your week is kind to you and I’ll look forward to sharing more with you on Monday!

The Professional Dog book on Storyberries, Thanksgiving and holiday box details

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, children's book, creative thinking, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, fine art, pet portraits, printed books, sketchbook, Sue Draws Dogs, The Professional Dog, visual thinking, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

Lots to share: The Professional Dog is out in print and as an ebook on Storyberries! In a bit I’m sharing my creative process for my holiday box project. But first, because people tell me they’re enjoying it, I am continuing to feature 3 dogs from The Professional Dog per week so here’s this weeks…

The text in the book, which is also the title of the original artwork, is below each of this weeks featured dogs.

The Librarian’s dog is a learned dog.
The Mayor’s dog is a magnificent dog.
The Nurse’s dog is a nice dog.

Here’s the ebook on Storyberries.com

https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-the-professional-dog-abc-alphabet-books-for-kids/

I wanted to share somehow that my original artwork for The Professional Dog is smaller than the finished book. So I did a video look at all of the original artwork for The Professional Dog. Each original dog portrait is 2.5 x 3.5 inches and was made by hand using ink and gouache on board. The finished print book is 6 x 9 inches and as faithfully as possible reproduces the colors and details in the original artwork. I did this because the reproductions do enlarge the details in the artwork. Below is a photo showing a bit of what I’m saying … perhaps you can see both the small original art and the book reproductions?

I’m still learning how to put video in these posts but here’s the link to the video https://youtu.be/3hAOKBosDDU

You could say that Thanksgiving was a nicely quiet event considering it was just my spouse and I and a giant veggie lasagna. But it really felt like we’d hosted a come-and-go party all day as we were in contact with friends and family via text, social media and the voice phone! It was such a fun day and we both went to bed tired-happy feeling like we’d been talking and partying nonstop! We joked that we could get used to partying like this – there was a lot less to clean up afterwards! Lol!

After the holiday I delivered all of the original art for The Professional Dog to the Aurora Gallery. This project was a big one that encompassed multiple months of intense work and it all – all 40 dog portraits – fit into a 5 x 7 x 4 inch box! (Another benefit of making the original art small in size)

Here’s the box of original artwork sitting atop the signed books wrapped in paper for protection during transfer to the Aurora Gallery.

Even though everything is done now including the portfolio page for The Professional Dog I will still be posting the dog portraits in sequence over the next weeks. People have told me that they’re enjoying them.

The Thanksgiving event held by the Caplan Art Designs Gallery also began the day after Thanksgiving. Below is another attempt to include a video in this blog. This video was made by the Gallery and is shared by permission. In case I’ve not gotten the video embedded in this post like I think I do – the video camera pans around a nice large room filled with art by the Caplan Art Designs Gallery artists. You see some of my larger works right at the start. Many of my works are small and not captured in the video. My last post included images of my artworks in this event. Over the weekend the Gallery posted more videos on the Gallery’s Instagram and Facebook pages that showed more of the event! There were many sales of my artwork and of the other Gallery artists work!

And now for the full details about the holiday box project! Back in very early September the Caplan Art Gallery gave certain artists an 8 inch cube to paint in our style. These boxes are to be in a special holiday exhibit opening the first Thursday in December.

Immediately when I got my box and over the next 4 days, I began the process of putting 3 coats of gesso on it even though I didn’t know what I would create.

While the gesso dried over that first week I brainstormed in both my sketchbook and on my legal pad. First I listed over 20 things that I could think of that are square or cube shaped. Then in my sketchbook I played visually with the various items listed to see what might be fun, how I might approach it. During this time my spouse and I had a dear friend come over to our outdoor patio to visit and have dinner. I told her what I was brainstorming and she liked the idea of dice.

At that time I was still in the middle of creating the dog portraits for The Professional Dog so it felt natural to think of dog shelters and dice, the chances for pet adoption, the many names for dogs … so in my brainstorming with my friend and my spouse we thought “what are the odds you’d find 21 dogs named Chance”?

My sketchbook became focused on dice-dot portraits of dogs.

I also rummaged about the house and found some game dice I could use as a model.

Using a ruler I calculated the size of the dots in relation to the size of the cube and I made measurement marks on the gesso using a watercolor pencil. The watercolor pencil marks will blend in and dissolve when I paint over the marks with acrylic paints.

Since the cube is a sculpture and will likely be handled by humans or sat upon by cats I decided from the start to work in acrylic as that’s a permanent waterproof media. I also planned to (and did) varnish it so the dice could be protected and easily cleaned.

I painted a different dog portrait on each dot on my dice using black and white acrylics mixed to form a range of greys. And yes, some of the dog breed research and practice I was already doing for The Professional Dog was applied to this project too.

After painting each dice-dot with a dog using black and white acrylics I painted the body of the dice with white acrylic. Every bit of the gesso got covered! Below you can see the entire dice in 3d plus each dice face separately so you can enlarge it and see the portraits.

I hope you had a yummy and fun Thanksgiving too. I look forward to catching up with some of my fellow bloggers and hearing about your creative projects but some of my days this week might resemble this…

… even if it does I hope you have a delightful week! See you next Monday.

Professional dogs, artist books, unmentionables and hamburger

A Creative Life, art commission, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, business of art, children's book, creative thinking, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, fine art, Fine Art Commission, public art, Sustainable creativity, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

My new childrens book, The Professional Dog, is progressing nicely. I’ve been thinking of this as a fine art dog portrait album inspired by the idea of the 19th century parlor game The Minister’s Cat. My book concept is an excuse to talk to my friends about their dogs and see if I can do 40 portraits of dogs whose owners are people I know. It just so happens that I know people occupying an alphabets worth of professions! How fun is that?! Anyway, here are three of the dog portraits together.

Below the larger portrait is the text I’ve written for the book.

The Helper’s dog is a hopeful dog.
The Inventory Manager’s dog is an insightful dog.
The Judge’s dog is a jolly dog.

Besides keeping on my work schedule for The Professional Dog I’ve been working closely with two of my galleries. We’re doing fine art commissions and studio visits in prep for the upcoming gift giving season. It’s beginning to resemble Santa’s workshop around here.

For example I created, then delivered, an art commission to Aurora this week for someone’s holiday gifts (shhhh!). Then while I was in the Gallery I got to see a glorious display of my own work! That sight inspired and encouraged me to keep making my stuff. https://auroragalleryonline.com/

The Aurora Gallery does such a good job displaying my wide variety of differently sized things – artistbooks, greetingcards and fineart – I love it that someone can see my books and around the corner nearby in the art gallery they can see the original artwork in the books!

Since we’re not talking about the fine art commission I just did for the Aurora Gallery here’s the art studio dachshund keeping mum with me.

And as I mentioned in my last post we’re still very definitely not talking about the Caplan Art Designs upcoming holiday box project.

Also there’s another event upcoming at Caplan Art Gallery that… well, we’ll talk more about that later. (There is a hint on my Instagram page about that however 😉)

Suffice it to say that I was extremely busy this week, working in both short and long bursts, on several projects I can’t talk about publicly.

Thank goodness I can talk about my childrens book project The Professional Dog! The book is farther along than my posts make it appear. And I’m excited about this book! I believe kids need fine art in their lives too so I’m taking great pleasure in making an album of fine art paintings and producing the work in such a way that while being an art object itself – as in I am personally making an artistic reproduction of my original artwork – my finished book will be affordable and will also withstand little hands with grape jelly on them!

I’ve been so slowly posting about this work because when I run out of time in a day it’s the online posting that drops off my to-do list. Creative work comes first. Talking about it comes later.

Similarly there wasn’t time for one of my Creativity Chats this week. I wrote notes for it though.

Food got simplified this week too. I threw ingredients for this recipe from a blog I follow called In Diane’s Kitchen into my slow cooker, pressed buttons and went to work in my studio. The reheated leftovers were even better the next two days.

And you bet your sweet bippy that I am still taking the time, up to an hour or so every evening, to read books and have hot chocolate before bedtime. It’s the way I keep calm and carry on during busy times.

My secrets to maintaining this level of creativity? In the mornings 5 or 10 minutes daily playing around with my sketchbook. In the evenings 30 minutes to an hour playing with books – print books I own as well as ebooks from my local library. (I especially love cozy mysteries, fiction, short story collections, poetry…)

And between those daily just-for-me fun times I play with whatever project is at hand. I just charge ahead with my project in my best imitation of a child arriving enthusiastically at a playground.

Yep, those are my secrets to a sustainable creative life which could be distilled to “Play and have fun every day come heck or high water!”.

I hope your week is a playful one no matter what else is happening. See you next Monday.

Professional dogs, clutch pencils, fountain pens, writing and drawing

A Creative Life, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, children's book, creative thinking, Creativity Chats, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, pet portraits, Sustainable creativity, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

More progress this week on The Professional Dog, my latest childrens book project. Here are three together and like I mentioned in my last post perhaps you can see how the colors transition from one piece to the next?

Here are closer looks so you can see the details. I’m creating each portrait using ink and gouache on board. The text I plan to use for the book is below each artwork.

The Guidance Counselor’s dog is a generous dog.
The Guitarist’s dog is a gentle dog.
The Hairdresser’s dog is a happy dog.

This week a friend dropped by with a surprise! Her son had made the pencil I’m holding in this photo!

The pencil is a lead holder aka a “clutch pencil” that extends then holds 2mm lead by clutching the lead in its jaws so to speak. This gift pencil is thicker than the clutch pencils I’ve used in the past! Right away I drew with it in my sketchbook. It is nicely balanced and the thickness does make it easier for my hand!

This new clutch pencil has now joined my fountain pen in daily use. Both have thick barrels which are easy to hold for durations of time.

To play some more I used my new pencil to draw a portrait of my pencil. Then I added ink and gouache. I’m thinking this might be a fun image for a thinking-of-you note card … for my Zazzle shop eventually.

If I’ve made you curious about clutch pencils aka lead holders there’s a good blog here with juicy details https://www.jacksonsart.com/blog/2015/10/02/why-use-a-clutch-pencil/

One of the many things I like about both clutch pencils and fountain pens is the environmental friendliness of them. Both are refillable so there’s no trash to throw away! Below are a few of my favorite books about using pencils and fountain pens.

I think the creative writing process benefits from visual drawings and vice versa. If a writer can draw a floorplan in which the story action happens sometimes that will help the written descriptions flow more easily. If a painter can write a verbal description of what they see in their imagination that can help the visual image flow better.

I’ve been thinking on this topic, the helpful cross-training effects on perception that comes from playing with words and pictures, for about a week. So almost the second the house was quiet and workmen had ceased hammering and sawing I did one of my Creativity Chat videos about this topic of seeing. https://youtu.be/4ljLOhgK30o

Creativity Chat: seeing https://youtu.be/4ljLOhgK30o

As I mentioned in my last post I’m still waiting for the go-ahead from the Caplan Art Designs gallery to post about my holiday box project. I varnished it this past week and will deliver it to the gallery soon. Here’s my art studio supervisor dachshund waiting … and wearing a sweater because it’s cold.

The food creativity this week now that the kitchen is back (Yay!) was a lentil stew over basmati rice. Yum! Here’s the recipe I used: https://mydominicankitchen.com/slow-cooker-lentil-stew/

Here’s hoping your week is full of fun play with words and pictures. See you next Monday.

Professional Dogs, puzzles, holiday box and figure ground relationships

A Creative Life, art book review, art gallery, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, children's book, creative thinking, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, fine art, Gifts, illustration, life of the mind, mental health, mundane and magical moments, pet portraits, small things, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

I got my Covid19 booster shot and thought of the relationship between individuals and community. That brought jigsaw puzzles to mind. Quite a number of people were getting vaccinated the same time I was and it got me to thinking of how each one of us fit into the local community in some interlocking way.

After getting the poke I had to stay for 30 minutes to make sure I wasn’t going to have a reaction. Since I was thinking about puzzles I got online and shared some jigsaw puzzles I’ve designed that are on my Zazzle shop.

Then, after sharing the puzzles, I kept thinking about the mechanism of human perceptions. When working on a jigsaw one shifts back and forth between looking at the colors and patterns on the puzzle pieces to looking at the shapes of the pieces themselves. Somewhat similarly we – well, most of us – shift back and forth between seeing ourselves as an individual person and seeing ourselves as part of a much larger community.

That got me thinking about optical illusions and the ways design, specifically the design of narratives, the design of governments, can dovetail with our perception mechanisms and our behavior choices in a which comes first the chicken or the egg sense.

I sat in the medical center waiting area trying to remember – without using Google – the name of the guy who did the pioneering work on the perception of figure-ground relationships. I tried to remember the name of the optical illusion that illustrated this figure-ground discovery and the name of what the switch of perception in a figure-ground relationship is called.

I didn’t remember the guy’s name but I did remember the book I had at home that would tell me! So when I got home I looked it up: Edgar Rubin is the guy, a Danish psychologist working in 1915, and Gestalt Switch is the name of the perception change he studied. The book I looked this up in once I got home is called Universal Principles of Design by Lidwell, Holden and Butler.

I felt fine when I got home. My arm was hardly sore. I did feel a bit tired and decided on a day of indulgence. That means spending most of the day reading! My spouse documented the occasion – see below. The next day I was tired and had a slight headache. While I did do some work I mostly read books the next day too.

I’m reading “The Book” by Alan Watts slowly as there is a lot in it to think about. I read, fairly quickly, two wonderful fiction works that pair well with lap blankets, a warm dachshund and hot tea: The Nature Of Fragile Things and A Psalm For The Wild Built. Both of these titles feel like a hug from a dear friend.

Despite both my spouse and I getting our booster shots and being busy rearranging furniture and stuff for workmen to make house repairs I did manage to get some illustrations done for my in progress childrens book project “The Professional Dog”. Here are three together.

Below are closer views of each of these illustrations along with the text line I plan to use in the book.

The Fireman’s dog is a friendly dog.
The Framer’s dog is a famous dog.
The Gallery Owner’s dog is a gallant dog.

I did not have time to do one of my Creativity Chats this week. Also, since one of the home repairs is happening in the kitchen – there are no creative approaches to food that could be discussed or depicted here with glee. (I’m so looking forward to having my kitchen back!)

As I wrote in my last post my 8 inch cube shaped holiday box project for an upcoming exhibit at the Caplan Art Designs gallery is finished except for the final coats of varnish and we’re still waiting for Gallery permission to post publicly about it. Below is my art studio supervisor dachshund waiting very patiently. Mostly.

In addition to jigsaw puzzles and the figure-ground relationship shift of mind I’ve been thinking of how I use that mental shift method with words and images to stimulate my creativity.

For example when I began my holiday box project I listed, in longhand on my legal pad, over 20 items that are square or cube shaped. After making that list I worked in my sketchbook playing with images related to these words. (I’ve posted some of these in a past blog post) Below is a photo of part of my handwritten list – and I trust it doesn’t give too much away. 😁

I’ve also been thinking of figure-ground type shifting we do in other ways: inner life/social life, old/young, self/family, indoors/outdoors, leisure/work, mind/body, survive/thrive… I could go on listing these kinds of interrelated mental shifts but this is enough.

Anyway, of that list of shifts physical and mental health are important to me for both living-well reasons and to my creativity. Also important to me is the topic of doing a really good job of growing old (there’s a wonderful essay by Bertrand Russell here).

The main reason I create my artwork is because it makes me smile. I post publicly because it may give a friend a smile. And my friend Liz Gaffreau recently posted this which in turn made me smile. That’s why we’re here, I think, to love people and to be loved. That may sound somewhat purposeless – but this purposeless loving is the very attitude that leads to being creative, to playing well with oneself and with others.

This blog and my Creativity Chats on my YouTube channel are more of my small efforts to playfully encourage creativity in both myself and others – it’s one of my ways to participate in a creative community. I want the poets, the novelists, the painters, the quilters, the creatives of all kinds to be as well – physically and mentally – as possible. I want this because it is by play, by stories and beauty, that we all will get through difficult times. Mere physical survival is not enough. If I can encourage a poet or novelist to keep writing then perhaps their words will also help someone else keep going. Other writers work certainly helps me keep going. Each effort of creativity is a butterfly effect of sorts.

So, yes, my work feels urgent to me. It’s the shape and color of my jigsaw piece.

Please take good care of yourself this week. See you next Monday.

Professional dogs, box project, studio tour and veggie lasagna

A Creative Life, art gallery, artist book, author illustrator, children's book, Creativity Chats, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, pet portraits, Sustainable creativity, words and pictures

My childrens book The Professional Dog progresses along! Below are three in a row. Do you see how the colors in one piece leads to the colors of the next? For example the background color on the left dog becomes the shirt color on the middle dog… My use of color is one of the ways I am planning the pages to flow from one to another in the book. The original portrait is done on board and will be framed as fine art.

Below is a closer look at each dog portrait. The text for the book is under each painting.

The Dean’s dog is a distinguished dog.
The Doctor’s dog is a diligent dog.
The Entrepreneur’s dog is an energetic dog.

Now about the holiday box project: as I mentioned in my last post the Caplan Art Designs Gallery is asking us artists to wait to do social media about our box work until after early November. So I’m waiting … While we wait here’s my studio supervisor dachshund with a fuzzy toy.

And now for something completely different as they say in Monty Python:

Here’s a look at my art studio – I have small sketchbooks and a box of pens that travel, like my coffeecup, between rooms of my house and outdoors to the patio. Then there’s a room that has all of my art supplies including my art easel – in the photo you can see my work on The Professional Dog on my easel.

My holiday box project has been very carefully not depicted, displayed or described in the following photos of my studio. Oh, look a dachshund with a fuzzy toy! (See photo above)

When you see all the non-digital tools I use to make my artwork perhaps it won’t surprise you much to hear that I really enjoyed this poem on contrariness by Wendell Berry .

But I am enjoying the digital tool of making short videos on topics I think about a lot.

This week in Creativity Chats I talk about the human attention/perception mechanism and how that relates to being creative…and how using that mechanism purposefully can help us relax. Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/9eGsbENABP0

https://youtu.be/9eGsbENABP0

The food to be remarked on this week was vegetarian lasagna! I loosely used this recipe for inspiration: https://www.food.com/recipe/very-veggie-lasagna-25181

My variations to the recipe: I did my Simple Sauce (my hand drawn recipe card here), and Cuisinart chopped the broccoli, carrot, celery, garlic, onion, red bell pepper. Then I used Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset spice mix when I sauteed the veg before layering them with the noodles, the sauce, the cheese. Seriously yummy! I made individual servings in oven safe “boats”. There were no leftovers. We wished for some though.

I will likely be late on the blog post next Monday. We’re having work done on the house. Also both my spouse and I are getting Covid booster shots. Hopefully I’ll stay on my project production schedule for The Professional Dog at the very least but however things go will be fine. The main thing is to be gentle and easy… Here’s hoping we all have a gentle week. See you as soon as I do.

Professional dogs, box project, cards, chats, contrasting books and soup

A Creative Life, animals in art, art gallery, artist book, books, comfort food, Creativity Chats, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, fabric design, fine art, greeting cards, mental health, sketchbook, words and pictures

I’m steadily progressing on my children’s book “The Professional Dog”.  Here are three art pieces together so you can see how the colors flow from one piece to the next. This project will be both a book an art exhibit. So each piece needs to both work with the others and stand alone. My last post tells more about this project.

Below are closer looks at each of these pieces. The text for the book is below the art.

The Botanist’s dog is a beautiful dog.
The Bus Driver’s dog is a bouncy dog.
The Chef’s dog is a charming dog.

Progress is also happening at an even more rapid pace on my holiday box project for the Caplan Art Designs Gallery. I’ve been in touch with the Gallery, sharing photos of my progress privately with them and it’s been agreed that I won’t post much publicly yet about this project. It wouldn’t be good to get too far ahead in posting… the art isn’t due at the Gallery till November and the exhibit is later still… so we don’t want to give too many clues too early.

It’s hard to keep my excitement to myself but I can do this. Right? Right?

I trust it won’t be too much of a spoiler to say that doing dog paintings in black and white is helpful when I’m  also doing a series of dog portraits in color. Nothing like painting in black, white and shades of grey to sharpen my observation skills. Very carefully I made sure that both of my main projects are dog related. This way the project concepts strengthen each other. Kind of like how doing similar but different physical exercises strengthen muscles better that just doing one kind of exercise.

Anyway, here’s a few sketchbook pages related to this holiday box project that we’re very carefully not talking about too much yet. Mums the word. Shhhh…

I heard this week from someone who got one of my fabricdesigns so they could sew nice things for a teacher in their life!! This makes my heart happy that my reading, literacy, fabricpattern on Spoonflower made someone smile!

https://www.spoonflower.com/en/fabric/10048658-read-by-sueclancy

Also this week my spouse and I sent some greeting cards to friends and family. I really enjoy making greeting cards! By now I’ve done over 35 card designs on my Zazzle shop – not nearly  enough! Lol!

Another one of my Creativity Chats  is on my YouTube channel now! This one is about my strategy for picking  topics to write, draw or paint about. https://youtu.be/92Sx7Pm18Y4

Creativity Chats: picking topics- https://youtu.be/92Sx7Pm18Y4

Here’s the direct link to the emotional health book “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” that I talk about in the video. Our brains and emotions are what we create with and taking care of them can be fun as I mention in the video.

Anyway, speaking of taking care… it’s soup weather here in the Pacific Northwest! So I got out one of our favorite cookbooks “The Big Book Of Soups and Stews” by Vollstedt and made the recipe for chicken noodle soup. I used precooked chicken as a shortcut but otherwise followed the recipe. It’s so yummy and really feels kind to the soul.

Speaking of kindness – I saw this in my local newspaper and took a photo so I could save it and share it. It feels important to me. Crucial even.

One of the other ways I’ve been gentle with myself this week is knocking off work a wee bit earlier so I can spend more time reading. I finished the George Saunders title I was reading in my last post. Saunders talked about and included stories from Chekhov which I enjoyed. So I’m reading more of Chekhov’s work.

I’m also reading “A Perry Mason Casebook” by Erle Stanley Gardner. Talk about two almost polar opposite kinds of writers! Chekhov’s characters, generally speaking, consider the feelings of other characters – the stories seem emotion driven. Gardner’s characters, generally, don’t consider or respond much to the emotion of other characters – these stories seem situation driven.

My response to each book is so very different that it almost seems unfair to compare them at all. They were written in such different era’s. Chekhov wrote in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. Gardner wrote in the 1950’s. But reading both books at the same time is a fun mental contrast – rather like the experience of contrasts that I remember from visiting the state fair; enjoying the quiet exhibits of quilts, animals, jams and jellies alongside noisy rides, carnival games, street performers and aerial acrobats.

Anyway, my spouse and I got a nice syrah wine from Burnt Bridge Cellars and had a glass of wine with our books in the evenings. Such fun!

Here’s hoping your week will give you many opportunities to be gentle and tender with yourself and the people in your life. See you next Monday.