I finished the artwork I was working on in my last blog post! https://sueclancy.com/2017/04/06/art-of-the-onion/ and then I applied the illustration to some things… a framed print, greeting cards and other items you can find here: https://society6.com/sueclancy
About a month ago now Sweetie and I took a cooking class (www.class-cooking.com) as a “date night out”. It was fun and as usual when I do something fun I made notes in my sketchbook. Here is one of the sketchbook pages I did during cooking class with Chef Kim Mahan.
Then I got very busy with fine art commissions and etc. freelance projects – and life.
But every time I’d cut an onion when cooking supper I’d think about our class and the valuable instructions I’d gotten about onions. Since for me drawing is thinking – I ached to draw onions and the chef’s “how to chop onions” instructions so as to think about and “visualize” them. So for several weeks now when I’ve had a spare 5 or 10 minutes I’d look at my sketchbook pages and brain-storm about what I wanted to create. After a brain-storm option had been settled upon I spent my spare 5 or 10 minutes drawing and writing in pencil on a larger sheet of Bristol paper the onion art/illustration I’d brain-stormed about. Some days I only erased pencil lines that didn’t work. Other days I re-drew pencil lines. After the pencil lines were settled in my spare few moments I’d do an ink line or two…
We’re talking quick-quick drawing work on the “onion art” then I’d go on with my day-job art projects. Every day though I did something in my spare 5 to 10 minutes to inch the onion art along.
Then today I had 20 whole minutes in a row to spare! Wahoo!! And the pencil work was done and I even had a few ink lines done – so I grabbed my ink pens, watercolors and color pencils…
Here’s what I’ve done today – as it is on my work table – I’ve a bit more work to do but it’s almost finished!
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 been asked “how do you get your ideas for your dog drawings?” I begin by thinking of something pleasant. This “something pleasant” has often been noted previously in one of my sketchbooks. The pleasantness can be a drink I enjoyed, a bowl of soup, a game, a book… anything I remember as being particularly “pleasant”. You can see some of my sketchbook pages on my “sketchbooks” page on my website https://sueclancy.com/sketchbooks/
Once the “something pleasant” topic has been found I need a character to help me describe that topic.
Lately I’ve been finding dogs a good representative actors. Breed characteristics can add content to my story… for example when I was remembering the pleasantness of hearing a street musician play I chose a Basset Hound to be the musician character. I thought that fit because that breed can be a vocal sort but in a good-sounding way. At least ones I’ve met in person have been. You can see the dog drawing I’m talking about by looking for “Pickles” on my dog portraits webpage. https://sueclancy.com/dog-portraits/
Sometimes I see a dog on one of my walks and make sketches on location. Then back at the studio, I want to draw that dog breed better so I think of “something pleasant” that may fit with that dog and try drawing again but this time using my ink methods on good quality paper.
When I’m too busy to go out where the dogs are likely to be seen during a walk (i.e. it’s too snowy/rainy) I’ll flip through a photography book about dogs looking for a breed to characterize in a way that helps me describe non-verbally my “something pleasant”.
By now I’ve drawn enough dogs from real-life sources (can you say “dog park”?) that i can work decently from a photograph – using the photo primarily as a memory aid for specifics about a dog breed.
Here’s some recent dog-related photography books I’ve used as resource material.
Perhaps you’re wondering why I think of “something pleasant” when drawing dogs. After all there’s so much that is wrong with the world, so much to be upset about…war, poverty, injustice, fake news….
To answer quickly: focusing on pleasant things feeds the good wolves. A small drawing is not the best place to outline a social problem and propose any policy solution.
A small drawing is a place for solace, love and comfort.
You can see more about this “feed the good wolves” philosophy of mine in my book “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” on the artist book webpage https://sueclancy.com/artist-books/
I’ve kept sketchbooks for many years – and I have drawn dogs a lot. I sketch and draw in ink almost every day. Some time ago my wife Judy saw some of my dog drawings in my bound sketchbook and said “I really wish you’d do these on good paper.” The phrase ‘good paper’ in our house means handmade paper.
So I did.
After a while I had a lot of drawings-on-good-paper. Then Judy said “I wish you’d show these to Amy.” Amy is the gallery owner of Caplan Art Designs.
So I did.
And now Amy has been selling my dog drawings almost as fast as I can make them! I love being this busy! To make my drawings I use fountain pens and brush-and-ink. Occasionally I’ll use a very sharp pointed pen-nib and the ink – for very fine lines. I use that when a dog has lots of whiskers.
Then Judy said “I wish you’d post some of these regularly on your blog.”
So I am….starting now.
Earlier today I did a blog post called “Friday Fun In Progress” about a short narrative poem I was in the process of writing and illustrating. Then I took a lunch break. Thanks for waiting so patiently…. and without further ado here’s what I came up with:
The Fudge Judge – By Sue Clancy
A strict, stiff, sober Judge
was asked to jury some fudge.
With unusual glee
he shouted “For me?”
then ran off with the very best fudge.
I’m working on my short narrative practice again; aka writing a quickie poem/story plus creating an illustration for it. I’m thinking of fudge, fudge competitions, and the process of asking people to judge something so subjective as what something tastes like… and what could happen.
Anyway, here’s what my desk looks like right now… more progress to come later, after lunch. All this thinking about fudge and I’ve realized that I’m hungry. Back in a bit…
As a kid I remember drawing on almost anything I could. In self defense my Grandmother kept a stack of paper, pencils and a few crayons in her kitchen and encouraged me to stick to those surfaces. Oh, and there was a small blackboard with some color chalk.
I loved those materials but now and then I strayed; I drew in chalk on the wall, the porch and the sidewalk, I drew with sticks in the mud, I drew on paper napkins, I drew with berries in the kitchen sink, I drew with a blue crayon on a pillow case.
I think the blue crayon on the white pillow case upset Grandma the most.
So let’s just say that after the “pillow case incident” I got the message about staying on paper or chalkboards.
Recently (as an adult professional artist I might add) I’ve had the opportunity to do some pattern designs for pillows! White luscious pillows covered with my art! Childhood dreams do come true! Or perhaps people now-a-days are simple more okay with me drawing on the pillows? http://www.shopvida.com/collections/sue-clancy
You can see a video of me making the blue star pattern on YouTube: https://youtu.be/cAx88mwARqo
Back in the 1980’s when I declared my intention to be a fine arts major at university I was told that an arts education wasn’t much use in life. I disagreed then and now after up-teen years as a professional artist (with a BFA!) I still disagree. I’ve used, and benefited in multiple ways from, my arts education – particularly from drawing and painting techniques. For example – just yesterday I burnt my lunch. The food was seared to the bottom of the pan as if I’d welded it on. But thanks to my drawing and painting professors (and a high school art teacher before them) this was no problem! I simply took my plastic food scrapper and used “cross hatching” and “stippling” techniques as if I was doing a drawing using a large chunk of graphite on paper. I employed the sharp edge of my plastic scrapper as if I’d been assigned to do a delicate “scratch-board” illustration. I “scumbled” small circles with the duller edge of my plastic scrapper as if it was a stiff ox-hair paintbrush – and voila! An artistically cleaned pan! Thanks art teachers!
“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first” – Dr. Bob Hoke
When I’m beginning a new piece of artwork I make thumbnail sketches, I write notes and doodles in my sketchbook, I make small studies, I make to-scale drawings, I draw, draw and re-draw before arriving at something that “works”. Then what “works” is redrawn and refined until it not only works but works well. (Then I dye handmade paper and pattern it … but never mind about that part just now.) When I start any effort the above quote by Dr. Bob Hoke serves me well. I do not have to make a perfect drawing right off the start. I don’t even have to have a perfect drawing by the end of the day’s work session. All I have to do is one line, one stroke, one effort at a time and trust myself that eventually I will have something that works well. And even if I don’t I will have made an honest effort. Ironically by being willing to do poorly, by focusing on my working process, I relax and thereby increase the likelihood that my project will progress pleasantly and ultimately become something my agents, galleries or clients will call a “success”. And my willingness to enthusiastically do poorly to the very best of my ability and have fun “just making a mess” has become my definition of “something worth doing”. And that, to me, is “success”.
The above quote by Dr. Bob Hoke is included in the ebook “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” http://my.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit – I’ve decided that in addition to my sketchbook pages (such as those from my Oregon Coast sketchbook) I’ll post bits from the “First Aid” ebook here on this blog – and I’ll also start posting pages from a new book effort I’m working on titled “The Artist and the Psychiatrist”.
And here is a photo of me working on a to-scale drawing….