Gouache and grin cycles

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, ebook, fine art, food in art, illustration, mental health, printed books, product design, publications - publishing, published art, Sustainable creativity

Since I’ve been asked by several people: here’s info about the art media gouache, why it makes me grin and my working cycles with it.

Gouache is a water based paint. It’s more opaque than watercolor. Using gouache feels like spreading soft butter on toast. Applied gouache dries quickly but is easily made moist and workable again. It dries to a matte non sticky appearance which makes it suitable for use in bound sketchbooks, in folded artist books as well as for fine art to be framed. Gouache also reproduces well via various printing mechanisms on fabrics, in printed books and on many other surfaces.

In the studio, because I don’t have to worry about my gouache paints becoming unusable on my palette before I can use them (as is sometimes an issue with acrylics), gouache is suited to my busy life. I call this my gouache and grin cycle.

I prefer to work on multiple art projects at a time in “short bursts” on each project. Rather than count on a long span of uninterrupted time I dash in and work a bit on an art project, then go make lunch or do whatever stuff-of-life or other work matter that needs to be done. Then I cycle back to an art project…

To borrow a sports analogy I just try to advance the ball, my various art projects, a little bit each day rather than doing a project all at once. I try to amuse myself with whimsical art making, aka spreading color, for at least a few minutes every day no matter what else is happening in life. The qualities and attributes of gouache help me to do this, to keep my creative games in play – come heck or high water.

Here’s a series of photos showing my gouache working methods in my sketchbook. (This is also my work method for fine art and other projects.) In the first photo you see my 3 x 5 inch watercolor sketchbook held open with clips. Also pictured from the top left and rotating clockwise: paper towel, peppermint candy model, graphite pencil, 3 watercolor pencils, 2 waterproof ink pens, a water brush and my lidded paint palette with its wells of various dry gouache colors.

In the photo below I begin 3 demo peppermints: the top left mint is sketched in graphite pencil and waterproof ink pens. The bottom left mint is drawn in watercolor pencil only. The mint on the bottom right page was doodled in all of the above; graphite pencil, ink and watercolor pencil. [The quote was just on the sketchbook page I chose to use for this demo.]

So you can see what they look like here in the photo below are two tubes of gouache paints. I like the Holbein Artist Designers Gouache brand best but the Winsor and Newton brand is good too. (There’s a monster called “acryla gouache” also available on the market which I avoid like a character would avoid a flesh eating zombie in a horror film.)

I begin painting by laying down the local color – the general color an item is supposed to be. At this point I don’t worry about shadows or highlights or details. I just get the color shapes down – in this case for the peppermint candies.

I did not squeeze out new paint from my tubes when I began. I got my water brush wet and put a few drops of water on the dried red gouache already on my palette so I can use the newly moistened color. I add a small amount of moisture to a portion of the dried chunk of red gouache until that portion feels like soft butter, then I paint the candy stripes.

Here’s a closer look.

Now I get the general color and shape down for the wrapper in the same method. I put a drop or two of water on my blue gouache color, get my brush damp, dab at the blue paint a second or two to get a portion of it moistened and softened – then I paint.

Now I create the cast shadows using a watery mixture of the red and blue gouache colors. To make the watery mixture on the lid of my palette I dipped my brush on the now moist blue color, dab on an area of the lid, then dab the brush clean on the paper towel, then dipping into the now moist red and adding it to the tiny blue puddle, mixing till it’s a purple color I want for the shadow. Then I add a tiny bit of plain water to the newly mixed purple till it’s a small fingernail size puddle of watery purple – this enables me to do the cast shadows in a faint shadowy way.

Now I do squeeze out a tiny amount of the white gouache from the tube and use it, fresh from the tube, to make the highlights on the candy and wrappers. Note in the photo below how the white gouache can completely obscure the darkest ink lines. This is part of what I love about gouache – any mistake can be covered with the opaque paints. If an edge in a painting needs to be softened or a color edge blended all I need is a wet brush.

Then in a few minutes, perhaps the length of time it takes for a decent sip or two of coffee, when the paint is dry I go back over the paint with ink lines or watercolor pencil lines to snap the details into sharper focus.

Now that I’ve finished painting I leave my sketchbook and my palette open and let them dry completely. I even leave the shadow color mixture on my palette lid to dry. All I will need to do to reuse the mixed color in the future is to get my brush wet and dip in.

Peppermints are one of my guaranteed-to-make-me-grin art subjects that don’t require a lot of time or planning. I’ve learned over years of painting peppermints that different candy makers have their own peppermint candy look. And I don’t mean the wrapper.

Here’s a fabric pattern I did of peppermints for my Spoonflower shop. I used the gouache techniques I describe above to create this pattern. But do you notice how these mints are different from the ones I did in the demo above? Different candy maker… yummy too!

More about my “Peppermint Candies” fabric pattern is here: https://www.spoonflower.com/en/fabric/8224417-peppermint-candies-by-sueclancy

To illustrate what I mean about working in short bursts despite life situations. A hot water pipe burst on our hot water heater recently. (Talk about heck and high water! 🤦‍♀️) After we got the immediate crisis dealt with I did little quick bouts of drawing as a self calming technique. Also while waiting for plumbers etc restoration crews I doodled and painted in my sketchbook. Gouache makes it easy for me do short bursts of spreading color which makes me smile. And having had a brief grin makes dealing with life much better.

Anyway, there’s a new artist book I’ve done for children called “B Mouse Reads A Book”. In it you can see my original ink and gouache artwork, and how the art media is on folded paper in this video on my YouTube channel. Because this book was meant to be handled in a gallery I used a spray fix varnish to make sure the gouache wouldn’t smear or run.

But since the pandemic hit there’s no going to art galleries to handle or view artist books in person. So I was lucky enough to have “B Mouse Reads A Book” published as an ebook here on Storyberries.com! They also included the book B Mouse is reading too…it’s another artist book I created as part of the B Mouse Reads A Book story…there’s a link at the bottom of the B Mouse book that you can click to see the companion book.

“B Mouse Reads A Book” by Clancy – https://www.storyberries.com/free-books-for-kids-b-mouse-reads-a-book-by-sue-clancy-bedtime-stories/

I’m sure you can recognize in the image above the ways I did my combinations of ink and gouache. The video shows how flexible gouache can be when applied on paper bound or folded as pages. The ebook shows how well the nuances of the colors show even as a digital image.

If you look at my portfolio pages you can see my ink and gouache work as both fine art framed in an art gallery setting as well as reproduced in printed books.

Most of my jigsaw puzzle designs, greeting cards and odd mugs on my Zazzle shop were also created with my combinations of ink, watercolor pencil and gouache. It’s a very versatile media.

That reminds me to tell of another practical matter: if you apply gouache too thickly it can pop or flake off. Especially in a folded or bound paper book. And when scanning or photographing gouache artwork for reproduction a too-thick gouache application can cast shadows unrelated to the artwork subject. So I apply gouache as if I were basting bread with semi melted or melted butter.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and found it helpful for when you try gouache yourself.

See you here next Monday. And in case you’d like to know even more about gouache – here below are a few links to more information about painting with gouache:

COMBINE WATERCOLOR AND GOUACHE TIPS https://www.erikalancaster.com/art-blog/3-tips-to-combine-watercolor-and-gouache-like-a-pro

GOUACHE INFO (VERY GOOD)
https://www.skillshare.com/blog/learn/7-artists-using-gouache-in-gorgeous-ways

GOUACHE SKILLS
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.skillshare.com/blog/learn/8-gouache-paint-pro-tips-you-should-know%3Fformat=amp

GOUACHE IN SKETCHBOOKS
https://juliabausenhardt.com/how-to-get-started-with-gouache-paint/

LENA RIVO – GOUACHE
https://www.lenarivo.com/guide-to-gouache and generally see
https://www.lenarivo.com

Numpurrs and a dragon

A Creative Life, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, Authors, books, cat portrait, Cats in art, ebook, fine art, illustrated poem, math and numbers, Numpurrs, pet portraits, poetry, product design, publications - publishing, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

It’s barely been a week and Numpurrs on Storyberries.com has been read over 3000 times! Here’s one kind comment:

“Thank you, this is exactly what teachers are looking for, online opportunities during virtual teaching makes teachers lives so much easier. That was perfect timing! And a beautifully illustrated and written book! The weird thing is, I just did a cat drawing lesson for 1st grade. Now we can read the book and learn how to draw a cat!”

How nice is that?! It made my artist heart sing! 

Here’s a link to my book Numpurrs on Storyberries.com – where you can see it (and many other stories) for free – https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-numpurrs-by-clancy-free-counting-books-for-kids/

So this week quickly filled with additional efforts to help teachers and parents: I also made a poster, a calendar and then a 676 piece jigsaw puzzle too.

Here’s what the poster looks like. It’s big, 23 inches square, big enough to be seen in the backgrounds of online classes.

Numpurrs posterhttps://www.zazzle.com/numpurrs_poster-228224328093121348

My copies of the printed book version of Numpurrs also arrived at my studio this week! So I photographed the book and created a portfolio webpage to hold all of my work on Numpurrs in one spot – to help the teachers find things easier – here’s that page https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/numpurrs/

Below are just a few of the photos of the printed book…you can see more on that portfolio page I just mentioned

I’m pleased with how the book turned out! Of course I can nitpick and find things I could have tweaked – that’s always the case with any creation. I think of art making as similar to cooking, you do your best to create a good meal then you say “good enough, let’s eat” and you go on to the next thing. Perhaps you make a note for yourself on that recipe as to what you’d do differently in the future – but you enjoy the meal as it is and you go on.

Speaking of going on: for years now I’ve been regularly jotting short poems in a small 3 x 5 inch book with my fountain pen. Now, as per discussions with the people at Storyberries, I’m working on illustrating some of the poems for a new book. As I wrote my last post I’d thought I’d do more on this new project this week than ended up happening – so more on these illustrated poems in coming posts.

Here’s a look at my little poetry sketchbook with some of the potential to-be-illustrated poems flagged with sticky notes.

I write with a fountain pen because they’re refillable. Fewer plastic bits of discarded pens to end up in the landfill this way. Besides a fountain pen – if you have a good quality one – can be super smooth to write with.

For those who say a nice pen and hand bound book would be “too precious to use” I reply “your thoughts are precious too”. Buy quality supplies and use them with joy. It’s just stuff on Earth here to be enjoyed. (And if you just can’t bear it then buy whatever supplies you will actually use and get your thoughts written down. But remember that you really deserve the best.)

Below is the dragon poem you can see my handwritten draft of in the photo of my book above and the handwritten poem and illustration I got done this week with ink and gouache on nice paper.

More of that kind of thing here next Monday – I hope. Thanks for reading. Have a good week.

Numpurrs 20 & it sums up…

A Creative Life, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, cat portrait, ebook, fine art, food in art, graphic design, illustrated poem, illustration, math and numbers, Numpurrs, pet portraits, printed books, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

There now! Despite all the odds (see last post) I finished “Numpurrs”! I’ve also sent it in to Storyberries for distribution. When I sent it in this last week Storyberries said “I just LOVE it Sue!!! It has come together so nicely !!!! Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful work with us!!”

So I think it’s safe to say that they’re pleased! The book will be live on Storyberries.com very soon as they said they’ll “…schedule it for 9am Gold Coast time Australia on Monday morning.” Which works out to about 4 pm in Washington state, USA on Sunday. And I post these blog posts on Mondays but write them on Sunday morning’s… so, yes, I can have a bit of time zone confusion.

[Update: here’s the link to Numpurrs on Storyberries.com: https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-numpurrs-by-clancy-free-counting-books-for-kids/ ]

Time zone differences between where I live on the western US coast and the time where Storyberries is in Australia can confuse me even when I have help from the internet. My solution to working across continents and time zones is the same in publishing as it has been when I’ve done fine art exhibits outside of the U.S.A; get it all done early and everything into their hands as soon as humanly possible then let the people I’m working with sort the what-happens-when out at their end.

It helps that I work on the graphic design part of any book almost simultaneously with creating the fine art illustrations. This way by the time I finish creating the fine art illustrations I’ve almost finished the book design too.

The graphic design informs and affects my illustrations – in the number of illustrations needed, the size of them and so forth. But what I want to do in the first place with my illustrations/fine art at my easel (using ink and gouache on board) will also affect the graphic design.

This interdependence (and writing the poem is in there too) is related to the construction of my book idea in the first place in a which-comes-first chicken-or-egg kind of fashion. As a result of my working method the posting I do online nearly always slightly behind the action. My motto is create the thing first talk about it later.

Anyway, here’s a pic of me working on my laptop doing the book layout. I often do my computer work in the corner of my dining room near the cookbooks and am almost always cooking something on the stove. Taking breaks to stir something on the stove is so nice!

Sue Clancy creating “Numpurrs”

And here are the last poem lines in my book:

Twenty butters bread, risen with yeast

And it all sums up to a wonderful feast!

In the printed book my three panel “feast scene” will flow in sequence left to right and will line up side by side. But it worked pretty well in scroll ebook form too even tho it doesn’t line up at the edges. As I worked I had to think of both of these “flow” patterns when I was creating the images.

Even though I’m doing so much myself – which sounds like a lot of freedom – there are still constraints: page flow, number of pages allowed within the publication formats, where the blank pages must fall, printing product options, ebook construction and so forth. I see these constraints as the path, the way forward, the technical issues become part of my creative process.

When it came to creating the feast scene artwork in Numpurrs I consulted this book, Food and Feasting in Art by Silvia Malaguzzi

Many of these art historical images had the viewers eye moving left to right and or moving up and down. This served as a guide as I created my cat feast illustrations. (I love art history!)

Running into the graphic design publication constraints I mentioned earlier I only had 3 pages within which to fit my feast. When, in an early sketch, I fitted all 20 cats in – the cats were too small and the numbers couldn’t be easily read. Since the point of the book is to distinguish between cats and to recognize numbers I decided to make the cats and numbers bigger even tho it meant leaving out some cats.

Besides at almost every group photo I’ve ever participated in there were several people who declined to be in the picture. Perhaps we can pretend some of the cats in my artwork were similarly shy?

After sending everything in to Storyberries, and after being given the release schedule, I was asked to send in a new photo of all three of the feast panels as one image. There are design constraints and issues at their end too – and we’re in this project together. So I hustled (time zones remember…) and sent this photo in:

Since my book idea is about distinguishing between cats and numbers I also used 4 of my allotted pages to include the photos of real life cats that my friends had sent to me for use as reference to create my artwork. Like the feast scene artwork not every cat illustrated in the book is on the cat photo pages… again it was a case of if I fit in every photo the cats were too small to see well. And in some cases the photos my friends sent was fine for my art reference use but it wasn’t high enough resolution for a printed book. Since I’m doing both print and ebook forms I had to design for both to look the same. Perhaps it can add fun to also distinguish which cat is there and which isn’t and also to see some of the source material I worked with?

Here’s what the Numpurrs book cover looks like, and the dedication page where I thank my friends for all of their help.

Numpurrs by Clancy – https://www.blurb.com/b/10297565-numpurrs

You can see a preview of the entire book Numpurrs via this link: https://www.blurb.com/b/10297565-numpurrs

You can see all of my artwork and my blog posts containing my thinking as I developed this project on the webpage here.

Here, again, is the link on Storyberries where you can see what they ended up doing with the new feast scene photo I hustled to send in …. https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-numpurrs-by-clancy-free-counting-books-for-kids/

On my Instagram page I will tell more about Numpurrs as things on Storyberries develop. (An audiobook version is in the works etc)

Next Monday this blog will move on to my next art project…

Thanks again for reading and adding to the Numpurrs fun!

Numpurrs 16, 17, 18, 19

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, cat portrait, Cats in art, creative thinking, ebook, fine art, illustrated poem, illustration, life of the mind, math and numbers, mental health, Numpurrs, pet portraits, publications - publishing, small things, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

This week has been less busy but weird with wildfires and bad air quality where I live in SW Washington. (More re in a sec.) Despite it all I still made progress on my Numpurrs book (see also my last post for more project details)

Here are the poem lines that go with the illustrations I managed to get done this week:

Sixteen puts flowers out on a whim

Seventeen pours saucers of milk labeled skim

Eighteen opens fish oil good for the fur

Nineteen is so happy she starts to purr

To think about art and creating a book for children this week, as wildfires raged, as we worry about the safety of family and friends has, at times, felt a bit frivolous. But it is also an act of hope. An act of resilience. An act of pushing back against the darkness…

One of my sources of comfort in times of difficulty is to walk among my bookshelves at home, selecting a random book, reading a page or so and putting it back on the shelf. I often hope to find encouraging, uplifting passages. As you might know from my artist book Another Sketchbook I’ve been adapting this comfort recently to include ebooks. Here’s something I read this week from Albert Camus

I think creating art is a way of maintaining hope. Sharing art is a small act of kindness. So I keep on. Besides, I find it helpful to spend time each day focusing on something that is pleasing, enjoyable, as doing this helps me exercise and maintain my inner muscles that give me strength to push back.

Things that are enjoyable are what we push for, what we want to maintain, what we want to have more of in life because it’s not enough to merely endure. Besides doing whatever it is that helps us endure we need to also remember what we’re enduring for. And when the enduring is done to remember to appreciate what we have.

Thinking beyond the thing to be endured and the endurance process itself takes practice. Enjoying things is a skill to be practiced – and one doesn’t have to wait for a perfect time/situation/condition in which to practice. That time is now.

As Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors said “I urge you to please notice when you’re happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” “

Anyway, here’s my cat sitting where he can look out on the smokey world. It’s pleasant to watch him watch the world. This photo was taken about noon on Sunday.

And here’s my dog covering his nose, burrowing into a towel, in an effort to get away from the smell of smoke. He’s so sensible – and cute!

Besides working on my art projects and pulling books randomly from my shelves, I’ve still been reading the books I mentioned in my last post.

Also I’ve added to my daily reading an ebook, “The Cat Who Said Cheese” by Lilian Jackson Braun. Walking around inside my house, for gentle exercise, is more fun with a cozy mystery in hand. And since one of the current topics in my head is cats…. this book is lightweight fun for me to burrow into while still being somewhat on topic.

The air quality outdoors here has been so bad that, wisely, all the places hosting my current fine art exhibit “Readings From The Heart” closed temporarily to the public. As of 8 PM Sunday night the Airnow.gov site has my location’s air quality as “beyond index” meaning it is worse than the number they use to indicate really-awful-very-bad-horrible-dangerous. My nose and chest would agree with that assessment. (An air particulate level of 300 to 500 is considered hazardous – ours Sunday eve was well over 500. Monday morning the number is 414… update: at 6pm Monday we are at 517. My local paper has this article. )

But I tend to think that inside a difficulty is an opportunity – a chance to think beyond an immediate crisis – so just as soon as one Gallery told me they were closing I made the ebook version of my artist book about the exhibit available as a free download on my shop page. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you’ll find my free ebooks. You can also see all of my art in the current exhibits from the comfort of your phone here. And if this isn’t nice I don’t know what is!

Please find ways to keep hope alive, to keep enjoying something, to keep going forward somehow and be kind – I will do the same.

See you here next Monday

Numpurrs 12, 13, 14, 15

A Creative Life, animals in art, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, Authors, books, cat portrait, Cats in art, creative thinking, fine art, illustrated poem, illustration, math and numbers, Numpurrs, pet portraits, poetry, printed books, publications - publishing, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

I didn’t think it possible to be even busier this week than last week but I was. Still there’s been progress on my new artist book for children called Numpurrs. On Storyberries.com I had done a counting book titled “The Crow and the Water Jug” so Storyberries wants another book from me related to numbers and math.

Here’s my progress: the finished poem lines that fit with my next 4 illustrations for Numpurrs

Twelve spoons out all of the treats

Thirteen plans who will sit in which seats

Fourteen carries dishes piled so high

Fifteen slices the roasted magpie

As I worked on these cat portraits, in snatches of time, I chose the cats-to-be-illustrated from photos of cats that my friends have shared. My friends also shared stories about their cats – and both the stories and photos inspired which cat to pair with which number and poem line.

Also informing my work on these cat portraits are the books I’ve been reading. More details below. But did you know that magpies relate to math? So does carrying … math fiction as a genre to explore is lots of fun!

Anyway I don’t expect that the parents reading my Numpurrs to their kids will see all the math related research I’m putting in – the research is just a way for me to learn and enjoy this topic as I create my book Numpurrs. It helps keep me on track and inspired even when I’m not working on a cat portrait.

Anyway, I made these cat paintings with ink and gouache on board. They’re small, 3.5 x 2.5 inches. Both the small size of each portrait and my art media enable me to work in short bursts as time allows. If these works were in any other size or media I can’t imagine how I would have shoehorned this project into this week. As it was having this project to do in this way inserted a nice bit of relaxation and fun!

Part of what I have been so busy on can be seen here: https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/readings-from-the-heart/

The rest of what I have been so busy on would require lots of typing. Let it suffice to say that it’s very happy business (fine art commissions!) and that I enjoy it all very much!

Here in this blog my point is to show how I develop new projects and sustain my interest in them over a duration, despite a busy life. It’s a peek behind the scenes you can say in my creative life. So I’m trying to keep my writing here about the newest project under current development.

As I alluded to above here are some books that are helping me sustain my inspiration for this project. In addition to conversation with my friends about their cats I peek at one or the other of these books as I get a moment.

I’ve written about some of these books in my last posts but the book titles in the above photo are (from the top):

A Dictionary Of Color Combinations by Sanzo Wada – A link for this book in the bookstore Ampersand where I got my copy is here

I Am A Cat by Soseki Natsume – this link has a wonderful review/discussion of this book. The article mentions that this book was originally written serially, in installments. In addition to making this book readable for the busy times of life I also see it as informative on how to construct a story to be serialized. Besides all that it’s just a fun romp inside a cat’s mind!

Imaginary Numbers by William Fruct – I found my copy this book years ago in one of my local bookstores. I looked online just now for it and the best source for more information about this title that I could find is here at ABE Books.

Werner’s Nomenclature Of Colors by P. Syme. – The bookstore where I got my copy no longer has this title but you can see a fun article about this book, along with photos of the pages here.

So now you know how my week went: working on many projects, reading bits in books, thinking, musing, playing and adding new art progress, small bit by small bit, to my Numpurrs while also living life.

Anyway, thanks for reading. I’ll post during the week on my Instagram page and sum up here next Monday.

I hope your week is peaceful, fun and filled with your own creativity.

P.S. I also include photos of my other projects on my Instagram pages and elsewhere on www.sueclancy.com

Numpurrs 8, 9, 10, 11

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, cat portrait, Cats in art, creative thinking, fine art, food in art, illustrated poem, illustrated recipe, illustration, kitchen art, math and numbers, miniature art, Numpurrs, pet portraits, poetry, publications - publishing, published art, sketchbook, sketchbook suppers, Sustainable creativity, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

It’s been another busy week but there’s still been progress on my new artist book for children called Numpurrs. On Storyberries.com I had done a counting book titled “The Crow and the Water Jug” so Storyberries wants another book from me related to numbers and math.

Here’s my progress: the finished poem lines that fit with my next 4 illustrations for Numpurrs

Eight divides the large wheels of brie

Nine adds mice caught in the lea

Ten has a bird as big as the sky

Eleven bakes a vegetable pie

To create the illustrations I chose the cats-to-be-illustrated from the various photos of cats that my friends have shared. My happy thoughts of my friends – and their cat photos – inspired which cat to pair with which number and poem line. Life near-to-hand provides so much of my inspiration. I made these paintings with ink and gouache on board. They’re small, 3.5 x 2.5 inches. Just little savory slices of a good life…

As I wrote in my last post I’m still using the Dictionary Of Color Combinations as a playful inspiration source for my color schemes.

I’m also still reading the cat-themed book “I Am A Cat” by Soseki Natsume that I spoke of in my last post.

Speaking of slices – my last post also spoke of pizza…and I did manage to get that indulgence, and a movie worked into this busy week. It was so enjoyable! Here’s what my homemade pizza looked like

I used my simple sauce recipe from my published kitchen sketchbook “Favorites So Far” and topped it with mozzarella, gruyere and Comte cheeses. Simple pizza – sauce and cheese – but I adult-ed it, so to speak, with my homemade sauce and cheese choices. Here’s my sauce recipe:

This page is from “Favorites So Far
You can see the whole sketchbook here.

And yes, my cat shamelessly begged for bites of the cheeses.

Part of what I was busy doing this week was answering questions about my upcoming exhibit at the Caplan Art Designs gallery. One of the questions asked what inspired the artworks with birds in them. My answer: the poem from Emily Dickinson “Hope is a thing with feathers…” In these strange and interesting times maintaining one’s human spirit, hope and good mental health is crucial. So my entire exhibit is about that. You can see a virtual exhibit tour of sorts webpage here (hint: the very newest pieces have birds reading books) https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/readings-from-the-heart/

Anyway, thanks for reading. I’ll post during the week on my Instagram page and sum up here next Monday.

I wish you peace, a lap full of purrs and a plate full of good pizza.

Chapter 3: Readings From The Heart

A Creative Life, Alphapets, Alphapets Too, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, Books In Art, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, ebook, fine art, food in art, illustrated poem, illustrated recipe, life of the mind, mental health, pet portraits, printed books, public art, reading in art, sketchbook, story, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

I’ve been asked how I manage projects, like my “Readings From The Heart” exhibit, over a long duration. Half jokingly I replied “one bite at a time”. My joke is in reference to this saying I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall.

Seriously though when starting I create a general big picture, a kind of map for the entire project. Or, if you prefer, an outline. When I design a long project I do a hybrid blend of the two writing techniques: outlining and seat-of-pantsing. I apply these writing technique concepts to fine art making. I described in my last post what my big picture became for this exhibit that opens this week; the exhibit statement and the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. Here’s a few photos of the printed catalog. An ebook version is also available.

But when I began, more than 8 months ago, my big picture for this project was extremely vague. It was akin to a map of a forest without many details. It was akin to a book jacket blurb, with barely a teaser of what might be inside. It was akin to a writer’s outline with whole sections labeled ‘more research needed’.

My big picture map/ loose outline, was handwritten on a legal pad. Vague as it was it still served as a starting point. I keep a notebook/file box for each project so I can store all of my notes in one spot for easy updating and consultation as I work by the seat of my pants and a lots of “Very Small Goals” (VSG) for the project.

Then with the vague map in hand I identified some Very Small Goals (VSG) that would help me start and proceed on my project. These VSG’s can be as small as ‘buy a new art boards by Friday’. The VSG’s change as the process develops. The trick with VSG’s is to make them absurdly small, easily achievable and very specific – including what and when. It’s important to also find some way make each VSG fun.

I think of the creative life as an Eco-system rather than an Ego-system – what’s important is participating, showing up and finding ways to keep things fun. I can’t stress enough the importance of playing and keeping things fun. That makes creativity over a long project sustainable. Here’s another saying I have thumbtacked to my studio wall.

As I proceed to work I know many changes to my big picture/exhibit design will happen. I also know I don’t live in the big picture. I move organically back and forth from big, medium and small pictures of a project. It’s okay to be uncertain, to experiment and play. I just remember to update my big picture map as I have new thoughts. Slowly over time the picture map comes into focus. A project also changes as life happens.

In this case I began my Readings series well over 8 months ago. Then the pandemic happened and threw a monkey wrenchs in my plans. For example I had to suddenly adapt the way I was artistically inspired: to change from being inspired by things I experienced out in the world to a stay-at-home life, things that I read about or only happened in my imagination.

So to think through how to cope with the pandemic and quarantine I reread Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit, which I had created some time back, about mental health coping skills and wrote notes, drew pictures in my sketchbook in order to think.

I also worked daily in my sketchbook on the topic of how to adapt finding books to read, and the development of one’s mental life to a stay at home quarantine situation. Eventually this book was published as Another Sketchbook in order to share my entire process.

Being in quarantine meant cooking at home more so I consulted our Favorites So Far book. This is a sketchbook full of recipes that were enjoyable ways to feed body and mind. You could say that my work on these artist books/sketchbooks is the medium picture, the inset details within the bigger map, the more developed areas in the outline.

A look at the original sketchbook page which is included in Favorites So Far

All of this sketchbook work inspired my fine art, where I developed specific thoughts with ink and gouache on board. You can almost think of the fine art as the most visible leaves and fruits on the artist book “trees”. In the exhibit catalog I’ve tried to show the connections between the artist books and the fine art I created.

Sometimes, as the pandemic continued, the fine art on the topics of reading, cooking and thinking felt too serious. Needing some self comfort and to have some fun I began drawing portraits of dogs and cats. In order to organize these dog and cat drawings I decided to make them into a children’s book as a gift for some kids in our friends’ lives. Many of my adult friends enjoy my dog and cat portraits so I decided to share each pet portrait on my Instagram page as I finished it in hopes of cheering my friends as I created the kids book.

The finished artwork became an artist book titled Alphapets and was picked up by Storyberries.com. A sequel Alphapets Too followed. Many stories begin with love and an alphabet – so this portrait project felt fun, relaxed and like a small picture, a detailed map insert or a sample bit of text to be fitted into an outline. (In fact, I spoofed some of the pet portraits within my larger fine art paintings.) Here are the pages in the big picture book Readings From The Heart that tell about the smaller picture of Alphapets and how it fits in.

The original artwork for both Alphapets and Alphapets Too is on exhibit at the Aurora Gallery during August and September. More details about those projects here with lots of pictures of the artwork.

When all of the artist books and all of the artworks were finished I reread my notes and used those to create the exhibit statement I spoke of in my last post. I also used these notes to create the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. That was the very last thing I did for the August and September exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars, the Aurora Gallery and Caplan Art Designs. Well, the last thing besides the framing and art delivery.

Below is a photo of all of my artist books that relate to my Readings From The Heart exhibit. Additionally I’ve created a webpage with all of this projects more than 20 fine art pieces and details about each of the 3 exhibits here.

All 6 artist books related to the Readings From The Heart fine art exhibit

During this time period I was interviewed for a Doodlewash feature about my work in which I describe my working methods, the materials I use, how my daily work routine goes, images of my artwork, etc – you can see that here: https://doodlewash.com/sue-clancy-artist-whimsical-visual-stories/

Here’s a picture of me working in a sketchbook

Clancy at work in a sketchbook

I hope this look at how I work on long projects has been amusing for you. The exhibits open this week. Many of my upcoming Instagram posts will likely be about that. And I will update the above mentioned portfolio pages too.

Then next Monday when I post here I hope to be beginning a new long-ish project; an illustrated poem for a children’s book titled Numpurrs. I found I quite enjoyed the serialized posts I did for Alphapets and Alphapets Too. So I look forward to doing that again!

Chapter 2: Readings From The Heart

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, Books In Art, creative thinking, ebook, fine art, mental health, printed books, reading in art, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

The purpose of art, in my opinion, is to cheer people and help them through stuff. My creative challenge during a pandemic has been how to share art during stages of quarantine.

In my last post I described how I’m doing three fine art exhibits in two states, in August and September, during this pandemic. Normally art exhibits are large-gathering social events. The gathering part is canceled but the exhibits will go on. All of us are just being creative about it. One of my solutions to the how-to-share problem has been to create artist books that can be shipped directly to you from the printer. My goal with these exhibits has been to be practical and amusing… and I think artist books help me do that.

One of the books I’ve made is an exhibit catalog, Readings From The Heart, that has the big picture, so to speak, of all of my exhibits. I also created the tiny picture, two alphabet books for children.

And in between there are three of my other artist books that also relate to my exhibit – and to coping with a pandemic:

Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit (mental health coping skills)

Another Sketchbook – more drawings from the heart (developing ones mental, creative life)

Favorites So Far– a kitchen sketchbook (enjoyably feeding body and mind)

The six artist books related to “Readings From The Heart” an art exhibit by Clancy

In total I’ve made 6 artist books to help cheer you that relate to my recent artwork. Poking about on my website www.sueclancy.com gives you access to everything – including some free ebooks I’ve playfully half hidden on my site.

In typical times when I exhibit art I write a short statement about it. The statement is used by the gallery for promoting the exhibit. In pre-pandemic times the statement would also be put on the gallery wall to serve as an explanation of my motivation for all of the art. People would walk up and read it. I would also be at the opening parties answering questions and talking with people. But since that’s not happening this year I put it all in my books – but in a much less formal way.

Even so here’s what I wrote for this exhibit spanning three galleries and two states: “Readings from the Heart
– It’s been a strange pandemic. Until recently I drew in my sketchbook from what I would see in the real world as I “ran around loose” in Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest. The pandemic altered that. As I stayed home, I began drawing people and animals more directly from my heart; from memory and imagination. This led to acknowledging that I deeply missed the local coffee shops, the winery, the pubs, the great the library, the bookstores, the museums, the gardens, the zoo… So, I began to experiment with how to adapt what it was that I enjoyed out in the world to this new “at home” life. This exhibit, and the artist books that accompany it, are my heart and mind’s adaption process.”

Because I have more space in my various artist books I went into more intimate details of what I was thinking and feeling – including cooking recipes and self-therapy techniques. I used a more conversational tone in my books as if you and I were chatting at an opening.

Favorites So Far – a kitchen sketchbook
One of the original sketchbook pages from Favorites So Far
A page from Favorites So Far
Another page from Favorites So Far

The galleries – Aurora GalleryBurnt Bridge CellarsCaplan Art Designs – will have photos and possibly video from my exhibits on their various social media and websites. Of course I’ve been sharing online too. Speaking of – here below is more of my artwork that relates to the topics within my artist books mentioned above.

Coffee To Go by Clancy
Sacred Dance of The Stewpot by Clancy
Pie In The Sky by Clancy
Midnight In The Garden Of Goode And Weeval by Clancy
The Way Of All Fresh by Clancy

As you can tell food, drinks and books are themes. I find it a useful mental health coping skill to be able to focus on small pleasures, to be able to experience subtle enjoyments.

You can see much more of the artwork from my exhibits on my portfolio page. I hope it all makes you smile at least a little.

Here’s a pic of me working in gouache and ink on the largest painting.

Sue Clancy at work on “The Way Of All Fresh”

Chapter 1: Readings From The Heart

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, author illustrator, books, Books In Art, drawing as thinking, fine art, mental health, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

My fine art exhibit schedule was thrown a loop this year. Three exhibits now happen in August and September. This is due to the global pandemic and the too slow response to the virus in the U. S. to which we’re all adapting. Changing exhibit schedules has been a challenge but one of the more easily dealt with.

Since March I’ve been processing, via my sketchbook and my fine art how to adapt to this new “at home” life and stay mentally healthy and creative. All of my artistic efforts have been about adaptation and maintenance of physical and mental health.

It amazes me to realize how much of my pre-pandemic mental stimulation relied on my travels away from my studio, relied on what I could see, hear, taste and experience “out there”, in the coffee shops, the restaurants, the museums and the gardens. Even when it was time to pick a new novel to read I’d rely on a trip to a physical library or bookstore to inspire what book to read next.

Yes, I was the kind of kid who got told “quit touching everything” when my grandmother and I’d go to stores. So how to change my habit of wanting to “be there”?

It was critical to begin my stay home adaptation process – because I couldn’t change the pandemic situation I had to change my attitude about it. For help I reread an artist book I created years ago titled Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit.

Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit – collected and illustrated by Clancy

I also drew every day in my sketcbook on the topic of books. Stories are how human brains process whatever happens in life so I felt I needed to get a firmer grip on my access to and my thinking about books and the life of the mind. You can see my process develop in my sketchbook because I’ve reproduced my sketchbook under this title: Another Sketchbook – more drawings from the heart

Another Sketchbook: more drawings from the heart – by Clancy

The self quarantine aspect of the coronavirus concerned me on a personal level but also on a communal one. Humans are social beings. I wanted to maintain my own mental health and possibly help others maintain theirs as the health of the community would help all of the individuals within it.

To clarify my thoughts about self comforting and to try to cheer people up – myself included – I made book themed fine art. Here are a few of the pieces:

Hare Heritage by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – ink and gouache on board
Sheldon’s Way – by Clancy – 7 x 5 inches – ink and gouache on board
A History Of The Sock Monkey – by Clancy – 7 x 5 inches – ink and gouache on board
Slaughterhouse Chives – by Clancy – 24 x 18 inches – ink and gouache on board

These artworks, and others, will be physically exhibited at Burnt Bridge Cellars and Caplan Art Designs in August and September. The pandemic being what it is there are limited open hours, appointments necessary and other special arrangements for the safety and health of everyone. For example: at the winery, Burnt Bridge Cellars, it’s possible to pickup a bottle of wine and my books curbside.

Primarily I’m making my artist books available to be shipped directly from the printer. Or to be downloaded digitally.

Like I say, it’s been a strange pandemic – many creative adaptations have been required.

Another example: due to the coronavirus there won’t be the typical art openings where lots of people come and visit with me about my work. So as an adaptation I have created an exhibit catalog, both printed and ebook versions, titled “Readings From The Heart” in an effort to share the big picture of my thinking behind my artwork in a safe and hopefully fun way….with images of the art of course. The catalog also explains how the other artist books relate to the fine art. Below is a look at the catalog cover:

Readings From The Heart: a fine art exhibit catalog – by Clancy

Since the prelude to any story is knowing the alphabet, as I worked on the fine art I also created two children’s books titled “Alphapets” and “Alphapets Too“. The original artwork for those books will be exhibited by the Aurora Gallery. Some of the Alphapets paintings appear in the background of the larger paintings. (I do love the painting within a painting playfulness)

Because all of my recent artwork is on the same theme – just slightly different perspectives – I’ve titled the three gallery exhibits that span two states “Readings From The Heart” and subtitled each Washington Chapter, Oregon Chapter and Alphapets.

I’m hoping my efforts will amuse you. All of it has helped me deal with this pandemic – and to smile. As Gerhard Richter says “Art is the highest form of hope.”

These exhibits open in early August and run through September. If you’re interested in any of the artworks – or in the wine – please contact each gallery. There will be images and virtual tours on social media if you follow each gallery online:

Caplan Art Designs (ebook versions of the exhibit catalog will be available as will access to my other books)

Burnt Bridge Cellars (it will be possible to curbside pick up bottles of wine and my artist books)

Aurora Gallery (copies of my artist books for children will also be available)

All of the six artist books related to my exhibits can be found online here. I will post again next Monday with another “chapter” of Readings From The Heart and exhibiting art during a pandemic.

Here’s a photo of me working on a painting.

Sue Clancy at work

Alphapets Too: Y, Z, the book cover and Storyberries

A Creative Life, Abecedarian, Alphapets, Alphapets Too, animals in art, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, ebook, illustrated poem, poetry, published art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

This week I finished Alphapets Too my sequel to Alphapets by Clancy! It began at the request of my fans and Storyberries – the publisher/distribution house I’ve been working with! (See my last post for prior letters)

The Alphapets Too portrait project this week is brought to you by the letters Y and Z. Here’s my abecedarian poem to go with these letters and artwork :

Yaka yawns under the flap

Zorro zealously says “Zip it! Let’s nap!”

Here’s the artwork (somewhere on each piece is an alphabetical letter):

I did portraits of a mouse and a hermit crab.

The theme, loosely, in this book is creature comforts. One of my personal favourite comforts is to read before bedtime until I get sleepy. So I did a portrait of a mouse, named Yaka, yawning while reading.

Earlier in this project a friend suggested that I do a hermit crab named Zorro. Naturally the crabby crab would like us all to be quiet and have a nap.

As I completed the original artwork for my abecedarian poem I also worked on the graphic design of Alphapets by Clancy. That’s part of what makes this an “artist book” – it was conceived and constructed like an art object – by me. My spouse did proofread the text, make some book design suggestions. That, in my mind, is akin to submitting a bunch of artwork to a gallery for exhibit. Here’s a photo of me doing the graphic design hocus pocus.

You can see a bit of my book cover design in the above photo but here, below, is a better view of the front cover of the printed book.

Alphapets Too by Clancy is now available as both hardback or soft cover printed books or as an ebook. All versions can be accessed here: https://www.blurb.com/b/10195818-alphapets-too

And – drumroll please – Alphapets Too is now available for free on Storyberries.com here: https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-alphapets-too-by-sue-clancy-free-alphabet-books-for-kids/

Since AlphapetsToo is the sequel to Alphapets you can see that book on Storyberries here: https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-alphapets-free-books-online/

Thank you for riding this ride with me! I hope you had as much fun as I did! On to the next ride…