Here are the 6 pieces I created last night during my 3 hour demo at Burnt Bridge Cellars. I worked on these dog portraits while people talked, drank wine, watched me work and asked me questions. One of the staff at the winery took a brief moment to watch and said “Oh! Each of your pieces have either a glass of wine or a wine bottle in them!” I grinned and said “Yes, I’m aware of where I am!” And everyone laughed. It was a fun evening! Thanks again everyone!
You knew, I’m sure, that it was only a matter of time until I tried putting my dog drawings onto fabric… and you were correct! Look what came in the mail just now – a fabric test swatch for my approval. (I approve!!) Tea-towels and napkins here we come…
Here’s the swatch as it came out of the mail-envelope… the rulers are to show scale:
I’ve been very busy with art commissions and upcoming art exhibit work lately – but thank goodness for my practice of making a creative appointment with myself. When I do this I set aside 5 to 15 minutes to do a “quick study” on one of my regular themes…. it’s a way to take a breather, meditate/think on a topic while doing something creative.
Here’s a recent “quick study”:
You can see more art like this in my recent book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dogs-By-Sue-Clancy
Creating “Bailey At The Lake” By Sue Clancy
(this art commission project was handled by the Downtown Art & Frame gallery in Oklahoma)
Almost 9 years ago I did an art exhibit and someone saw it. Almost 9 years later they remembered my artwork and contacted me wanting me to do a portrait of their dog! (Lucky me!) After conversation and photos were exchanged I did 2 sketches and some color samples. They selected one of my sketches and they liked the color scheme so I got started on the art!
I dyed handmade papers – first for the color samples and then I dyed still more handmade papers for the “nuances” of color papers that would be cut up make up each element within the artwork.
Here’s a photo of me dying paper. Each handmade paper starts out white – the colors and patterns you’ll see I put onto the white paper using various processes. This paper dying process was repeated with many different colors using several different paper-dying techniques. Only one photo of this process is here so I can keep this document brief.
Below is the “basic” color scheme that was approved. Then I set about making dyed papers that were the same colors but shades lighter or darker than each of these. So about 26 papers got dyed. (and a few extra)
Each paper was much larger than the area I intended to use it for because I layer multiple pieces on top of each other to build up the color.
When all of the dyed papers were dry I cut out the overall basic shapes from each “local color”
I glued each of those cut paper shapes to each other – and generally began the layering process….
Some paper layers go on top, others interlock with each other, some go behind and others on top of what’s on top – basically I design for both 2D and 3D space. To create this art work, I use an Xacto knife to cut out the shapes I need – sometimes scissors. A tin tray holds the cut pieces – and I use a miniature spatula and several kinds of tweezers to position the paper shapes in the correct position…. Lots of archival glue and glue brushes are used… then a roller to roll it all flat.
Then I glue the basic cut paper shapes onto the board – layering what goes behind first and slowly building up.
When all of the “base papers” are on the board it is allowed to dry for several days. Then I begin to layer more cut dyed paper shapes on top of what is dry on the board. This next photo is of me starting that layering process – adding the cut paper “nuances” of color and shape.
And so it goes for quite some time… I’m skipping ahead now and the following photo shows how it looked when I had gotten it to a stage where it had to dry a few days before I could do more detail work. And yes, in this photo below you can see the sketch that got approved – and some of the many photos of the real-life dog that the client sent to me for reference.
Once the above stage was dry – I cut and layered in more cut paper shapes. While working I looked a lot like I did in the earlier photo: tweezers and cut paper in one hand a glue-y glue brush in the other. I would cut the shapes I needed out of the correctly colored paper using an Xacto knife, lay those cut paper pieces in a tin tray, step to my easel use the tweezers to pick up the cut paper piece, load my brush with glue and apply … and so it went. But I’m keeping this document brief… so please repeat in your mind, a gajillion times, that earlier photo of me with tweezers and glue.
In the photos below you can see that I’ve layered on many more nuances and details since those photos above.
As you can see my dyed cut paper shapes go around all 4 edges of the board.
The above stages have to dry a while before I can do any finishing touches.
Well, I got so excited when things were dry that I got right to work and finished the artwork without taking any more progress photos. Ah well.
Here it is finished:
“Bailey At The Lake” By Sue Clancy
6 x 6 inches – Hand dyed paper, handmade paper, handmade paste paper and acrylic on cradled board.
Here’s more schnauzer practice (referring to my last blog post here) – this one is bigger (15 x 11 inches) and is more like the client’s dog I’m to feature in my fine art commission (via Caplan Art Designs). The commission is being done in color, using my cut handmade paper collage method, but I gotta get the shapes right first. So I’ve been practicing… https://sueclancy.com/2017/03/08/the-art-of-practice-and-a-story-inside/
I wrote a short synopsis of what my book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” is about and I showed the synopsis, an early copy of the book – containing my dog portraits like what is currently at the Caplan Art Designs gallery – to friends in real-life. These friends can be counted on to have-my-back regarding my artistic efforts and I know they’ll ask good questions! Their questions often help me refine my artistic efforts. Valuable friends!
Here’s the synopsis I showed them:
“Featuring all kinds of dog breeds artist Sue Clancy whimsically combines man’s best friend and many of life’s pleasant experiences by drawing them using a dip pen, a brush and Sumi ink.”
One of the first questions was “What is a ‘dip pen’?”.
A dip pen has a metal – often steel – nib which is inserted in a holder. You can see three nibs to the left in the photo. Also on the left is a long brown nib holder with another nib inserted in the holder. The term ‘dip pen’ is slang for ‘metal-point drawing pen’ and I think the term ‘dip pen’ is more descriptive of what kind of pen it is.
That led to the next question which was “How often do you dip it?”
It depends on how large the nib is as to how much ink it holds at a time. The very small finest nibs (like what is pictured in my brown holder), that I use to draw doggy whiskers, eyebrows and such, would probably be dipped into my ink-well (the green bottle in the picture) 2 or 3 times when drawing fine detail work on a dog. I mean very fine details like the soft muzzle fuzz, eye-lashes and whiskers – and areas needing lots of short to medium strokes to convey fur. A larger pen nib like the one in the picture nearest the pen holder may not be dipped quite that often – and it can do a longer line at a time. I’d use a larger nib, for example, when drawing the detail of a coffee cup and saucer.
An oriental brush – the kind of brush pictured to the right of the pen nib holder – may be dipped into the ink once or twice to draw an entire dog with lines of varying thickness. It’s dipped again into a water and ink dilution when I need to make a tonal shade. The brush is used the most and does most of the work on each portrait – the dip pen is just for details too small to draw with my brushes.
The third question was “What is Sumi ink?”
This question is a bit harder for me to answer because the first reply that springs to my mind is “awesome wonderful good elixir-of-life stuff!!!!” and that answer doesn’t really tell anyone anything other than the fact that I really like the ink!
Sumi ink is more commonly known as a Chinese calligraphy ink. But both Chinese and Japanese artists use Sumi ink to do all kinds of things from text based documents to large works of visual art. Invented well over over 2000 years ago the ink is often made – and is even today made – from vegetable soot, carbon soot, lamp black, camphor and sometimes a glue-binding agent.
For my artwork I use both the liquid-in-a-bottle style of Sumi ink as well as the stick form. The stick form of the ink is pictured in the middle towards the bottom of the photo on top of the red box I keep the ink stick in. I’ve been using this same stick of ink weekly, if not daily, for perhaps 10 to 12 years – and only about half an inch of the stick has been used up.
The black square next to my ink stick is an ink-stone. I put a bit of water and “grind” the ink stick until I’ve a pool of black liquid ink. The surface of the stone has a grit or tooth to it so I say “grind” but it’s not like grating cheese nor even like rubbing a bar of soap on a stain – it’s more meditatively moving the stick in small circles in the water using a very light touch while I think about what I want to draw. Then when the pool is black enough I get to work using the newly formed ink!
The ceramic dishes in the photo are where I put water and varying amounts of ink so that I can have a gradation of tones within my drawings. The liquid kind of Sumi ink is in the green bottle in the photo. Both forms of this ink at their blackest – least diluted with water – feel and look like a small pool of honey.
While Sumi ink and the brushes I use may be of the kind associated with Zen Buddhism and Asian art in general – I’ve done my own thing with the Sumi ink medium; my dog portraits are my own invention. Due to my subject matter I’ve needed crisp details like whiskers so I use the dip pen in addition to the brush-and-ink techniques.
I do, in the philosophical sense, enjoy a kinship between some of the Zen Buddhist ideas related to this Sumi-ink art form (chiefly: relax! breathe! let-go!) and my own desire to artistically explore joy, beauty, whimsy, visual story-telling and concepts related to good-mental health.
As I’d talked and tried to answer the questions each of my friends took turns looking through the early copy of “Dogs by Sue Clancy”. When I stopped talking one of them said “It looks like a real book!”
“Oh! What a great comment!! Can I quote you on that?” I asked.
“Yes.” was the reply.
You can see some of my Sumi ink dog portraits on my dog portraits page on my blog: https://sueclancy.com/dog-portraits/
There will be more in upcoming blog posts about “Dogs by Sue Clancy”
I’ve decided to call my upcoming artist book of dog portraits “Dogs by Sue Clancy”. Simple and straightforward feels best… so here’s what the cover will look like:
I worry about human adults. I worry that people forget to play. This worry has included me.
So I’ve been trying to do something about that. Dog portraits are my effort to remember to play. I’ve been purposefully spending time enjoying something and making notes and in the process I created an art exhibit’s worth of artworks. Yes, 32 of my dog portraits are currently scheduled for an exhibit at Caplan Art Designs www.caplanartdesigns.com in the new year, Jan 2017! So here’s hoping that other people see my artwork – and the whimsy there and play a little too!
As a separate project I’ve also been working on a printed artist book of my dog portraits. The concept behind both the art exhibit and the potential book is the same: collecting pleasant thoughts and describing those thoughts using imaginary dog characters (based on a real-life dog breed) in order to highlight the pleasant feelings. This idea has its roots in healthy mental health habits and the practice of happiness; creating gratitude lists, purposefully turning ones thoughts toward pleasant things, playing with ones imagination, and a meditative practice of enjoying time, memory, attention and whimsy.
Dogs were selected as characters because for me dogs of all breeds represent a joyful exuberant delight at being alive.
I’m thinking that the book – which I’ll call “Dogs by Sue Clancy” – will be another artist book by me, an artistic expression of its own. More than an exhibit catalog or a collection of reproductions of a body of artistic works the book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” is being organized around an artistic idea – the one I mentioned above: collecting pleasant thoughts and describing those thoughts using imaginary dog characters (based on a real-life dog breed) in order to highlight the pleasant feelings. The book will not be at the art exhibit – it’ll be its own separate thing…
Now, why does it matter that we think of pleasant things and seek to provoke pleasant feelings? Why is it so important to me that I’ve spent all this time to make both an art exhibit and a potential book filled with “pleasantness”?
Well it’s gosh-darn easy to provoke feelings of anger and fear. Some religious leaders and politicians do it often because it’s a reliable (if dirty-tricky) way to get peoples attention and exert control. Unhappy, frightened and angry people are more easily controlled. Even some grade-school kids use such tactics, because they’re easy to do and successfully get and control peoples attention.
You can even accidentally do it to yourself, get yourself down-spiraling; angry and fearful about almost anything. Particularly around a sleepless 3 am. Especially when you’ve been busy and stressed and not enjoying much in life. (In my book Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit –https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit – this is discussed in detail, particularly strategies how to deal with unpleasant emotions.)
So I’ve been speculating that very act of enjoying things – small things – and sharing enjoyments with other people – may itself be a moderating factor, a good-mental-health exercise, and a small way to combat the dirty-trickery of the fear-mongers.
After all one of the ways of responding to, and coming out of, a negative-downward-spiral is to keep a list of things you enjoy doing or thinking about and deliberately turning your thoughts away from anger and fear and towards something you enjoy and appreciate. Could it also be helpful-to-good-mental-health to have an entire art exhibit, and maybe a book, full of “pleasant things”?
As a professional artist I’ve thought why not deliberately – and as an artistic project – provoke laughter? Smiles? Warm-fuzzy’s? Playfulness? For both myself and hopefully others? It would be an artistic challenge. How do you get someone to smile – or even laugh – while looking at a piece of paper covered with lines, shading and patterns?
I’m convinced that happiness is a skill that must be practiced like tennis, like cooking, like drawing. I’ve been spending a lot of time practicing my own happiness – and enjoying it (pun intended) – I’m hoping that sharing my practice in both an art exhibit and in a book – will be fun for other people too.
Here’s a new dog portrait.
I think some of the best gifts you can give someone any time of the year are: time, attention, memory and whimsy. My dog portraits have been popular with art collectors this season (many of my pieces are being given as gifts!) so Caplan Art Designs www.caplanartdesigns.com has decided to do a January exhibit (a dog show?) of my dogs! Wahooo!!!
I play in the fine art genre of “Animals in Art” and “Dogs in Art” because it gives me maximum whimsy allowance…and creating and sharing art is itself a way I can give the gift of time, attention and memory to people… but never mind about art theory just now – the Holiday is near! And Happy Holidays to you!
Here, for the whimsy in it, are a few of my dogs that are currently at the gallery – enjoy!
You can see more of my dog portraits on my website here: https://sueclancy.com/dog-portraits/
When I was a little kid I remember once telling my Grandmother “I’m bored.” She asked me to look for and find the smallest object in the house and bring it to her. After some time I found a safety-pin about 1/2 inch long and about 1/4 inch wide. She said “I’ll bet you can do better than that.” So off I went again searching. I came back with a needle. It was a bit longer than the safety-pin but much skinnier. Which led to a philosophical discussion of what constituted “small”.
I was not bored any more that day!
Fast forward a hundred years or so and I was working with psychiatrist Dr. Bob Hoke who wanted to publish a book that could be available for his patients. The question was how to “keep the young adults from getting bored” as many of them were not great readers of prose in general and certainly not of books about how to develop and maintain good mental health.
Dr. Bob was a story-teller and holding peoples attention in person was no problem for him. It was in writing where he thought he got “too didactic”. We hit upon the idea of doing a book in a primarily graphic-novel comic format. (That idea became “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” – more info is on my artist book webpage https://sueclancy.com/artist-books/)
As a result of my work with Dr. Bob on that book (and other projects) I began to focus much more on the “small details” within my fine art work as one way of communicating a story, developing a character and, yes, keeping a viewers visual interest.
So as I’ve been working towards my new book – the one that I’m thinking of calling “Dogs” – I’ve been thinking about which dogs I’ve drawn in ink that include small details, surprising details and even hidden subtle details.