Been thinking of how people can focus too much on things that are unlikely to happen and forget to see what really is possible – such as enjoying the here-and-now moments. I’ve also thought of related quotes and phrases: “Life is not a dress rehearsal” and “Take tarts when tarts are passed” and “If not now, when?”. These thoughts baked in my brain pan a while and out came this painting I’ve titled “Pie In The Sky”
I’ve been reading “Whiskey Galore” by Compton Mackenzie. Once again I realize that I enjoy the mix of real-life and a whimsical imaginative look at real-life. Mackenzie used a real-life event as the inspiration for his whimsy and did the mix extremely well.
Already I’ve been doing some of this mixing in my work – but I want to do even more of that mundane/imagination mixing in my various art projects. Here’s what I did most recently: it’s 8 x 18 inches, ink and gouache on board – I’ve titled it “The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients”
It mixes the real-life (mundane) action of consulting a cookbook recipe, perhaps for chicken soup, with a (magical) chicken rescue. “The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients” will be one of several new works for an upcoming one-person art exhibit in September at Caplan Art Designs in Portland Oregon. I’ll post the new artworks here as I get them done.
But back to the artwork itself: I enjoyed doing a panoramic visual story that continues what I began doing for my “Dear Readers” exhibit currently on display at Burnt Bridge Cellars. The new wider format let me put in more details, more “story-ness”.
“The Soup Book…..” was such fun to create that I plan to do more in this format! And of course do more general mixing of metaphors, more blurring the lines between the mundane and the magical in all of my work. We’ll see how it all goes of course.
Generally I’ve been thinking of how important it is, for living well (and good mental health), to be able to view mundane life with a “glass half full” attitude, to be able to see what is good/delightful, and to use curiosity and imagination (and good books) to stimulate ones own inner life. Which is why I aspire to do an even better artistic job of mixing the mundane and the magical.
BTW: “Whiskey Galore” has been made into a movie – and a very well done movie too! The book version has a bit more story to it – but the movie is wonderful and it’s not always that both the book and movie are equals in quality.
Now for a wee dram….. Slàinte mhath!
My new exhibit this year is titled “Dear Readers” and is book/reading themed. As I’ve worked this last year towards this new one-person fine art exhibit at Burnt Bridge Cellars, that will open June 7 in Vancouver WA, I’ve written lots of hand-written notes in my sketchbooks, on random slips of paper, on post-it notes in the margins of newspaper articles. I wrote down as many thoughts as possible – including quotes from books I’ve read – and kept them together in a binder. When it came time to write my exhibit statement I could reread all of my notes and pull from them.
Here’s a pic of my binder and one of my sketchbooks. And my pen.
Below is the finished “Dear Readers” art exhibit statement – text I wrote that pulled from the data pool in my binder and sketchbooks. This statement will be put on the wall somewhere within my exhibit:
By Sue Clancy
I’ve been thinking about the interconnectedness of everything in life. These thoughts led me to the concept of nested ideas; how one thing leads to another, one food or drink pleasure can lead to another new pleasure in a similar way that one enjoyed book can lead to another new book.
I’ve also thought of how much the written word in general has enhanced our pleasure in and understanding of the sensual world by enabling connections to be made between elements and people across time and space.
So, in this exhibit I’m using the printed-and-bound book as a symbol for “the written word” in its myriad of formats. And I’ve deliberately, whimsically, played with the one-thing-leads-to-another-everything’s-connected concept by including spoofs of my own artwork, my still life paintings, within my other paintings that have dog characters in them. The titles of the still life paintings, the titles of the dog character paintings, the titles of the humans with pet’s paintings all correlate.
Each artwork in my exhibit is related in some way to at least one other artwork in this exhibit. I leave it for you to puzzle out which is connected to which – and in what way.
And yes, you can read my exhibit like you would a mostly wordless comic.
I’ve been thinking about cookbooks and bartending books. And parties. It’s becoming the season here in the Pacific Northwest for drinks with friends outside on patios and decks.
On one of my walks I saw a beautiful Pointer dog. The dog dovetailed with my thoughts about bartending books which give “pointers” – pun intended – for drink mixing.
Here’s the painting those thoughts inspired – titled “Party Pointers”.
As I’ve been doing with this “readers series”, my body of work for my upcoming one-person exhibit at Burnt Bridge Cellars, in the background of “Party Pointers” I’ve spoofed several of my own still life paintings. You can see a few of the original still lifes here and I’ll post some over on my Instagram page.
Hope you’ll also get to sit outside and have an adult beverage with a fun companion or two!
Most of my artwork is me telling visual stories inspired by data from my real-life. A kind of “creative nonfiction”. When I do art commissions the client provides the life-data and I tell their story. A kind of “biography”. Elements from a persons real-life are woven into the portrait of their dog or cat. I love helping people tell their stories!
Like this commission I recently finished… pictured below… the coffee cup is special to the owner, the tee-shirt logo is important… and of course the dog looks like their very special dog, Potter.
I had such fun drawing this dog – (those ears!!!) – and working with the client who commissioned this portrait. They gave me such good data to work with!
If you’re curious about some of my other commission work you can see them here.
On one of my walks near the Columbia River I had the pleasure of seeing, then meeting, a mutt. She was a beautiful white and buff longhaired dog, larger than a Labrador, stockier than a Greyhound and hairier than a Golden Retriever. I asked the owner what breed she was and the owner didn’t know. The dog and human had rescued each other. The dog was friendly, beautiful and let me make drawings of her in my sketchbook.
Fast forward to my currently in progress reading and books in art series – and the wonderful mutt I’d met made an appearance:
Yes, in “Meditations For The Metrosexual Mutt” I’ve spoofed a famous painting by James Whistler along with two of my own still life paintings. If you look at the titles I’ve used for each of my paintings you’ll get a hint about my theme…
The still life, pictured below, is on the deep cradled edge of “Meditations for the Metrosexual Mutt”, where it will only be seen if you’re able to see my work in person.
The selection of Whistler’s famous painting to spoof was deliberate as the art history around Whistler’s work is part of my meditation on life, beginnings, origin stories etc.
I imagined that the dog in my painting is reading a book titled “Meditations For The Metrosexual Mutt” – which is why I used that as the title for my work.
As you can tell I’m still thinking about “nesting ideas” and stories within stories…
Here’s a new painting in my “reading and books in art” series. I confess that I love printed dictionaries, thesaurus’s and puzzle/game related books. In my art studio resource shelves I have 8 dictionaries, 3 thesaurus’s and 5 puzzle/game related books. Art idea gold-mines in my opinion. Naturally a Boston Terrier would consult one of these books…
The puzzle in the painting is actually work-able – at least somewhat – if you could get the Boston Terrier to move his arm. It was fun to imagine a puzzle related to sounds (words?) a dog makes.
If you look in the upper corner of this painting you’ll see that I’ve spoofed another painting that I did earlier.
As I’ve worked toward this exhibit theme of reading and books in art I’ve become aware again of my love of words so I’ve also been experimenting with abecedarian poems, nonsense poems and made up words. This is in conjunction with thinking about constructing some artist books related to my upcoming reading and books themed art exhibit.
Still noodling about this concept of nesting-ideas-within-nested-ideas I’d mentioned in my last post. We’ll see where it goes.
And yes, I love it when I take the time to sit and work a crossword puzzle. I’m not up to The New York Times puzzle level yet. Someday perhaps. I’ve known two people who could do the Sunday NYT puzzle in ink. They impressed me enough with their level of education/smarts that I started on the bunny-slope level of crosswords. They inspired me reading more widely too. I like to think I’ve gotten a little better at puzzling since then.
Do you like crossword puzzles?
I’ve begun a new series of fine art pieces intended for exhibits later this year. (Yes, I’ve a deadline dragon) And I’ve been thinking of how when I walk into a library or bookstore I feel like I’m entering a galaxy. Words and ideas that are interrelated with other words and ideas, like an array of planets and stars, or like nesting dolls or stuffed vegetables.
Also in my thoughts; the way I can experience something first hand but when I read about that same experience in a book I have a delightful momentary shock of recognition and I better understand my experience.
So I’m exploring these thoughts, as best I can, within my new series.
Here’s one of my new pieces:
You’ll notice, I’m sure, the “nesting” ideas of the coffee and mints. There’s a real still life, also by me, which is spoofed within the above painting that I will also include in my upcoming exhibit. I love the idea that a viewer could find the real-life painting that is referred to within another painting – sort of a “find the image” puzzle exhibit.
Here’s a picture of the still life referred to in the painting above:
I’m also thinking it’ll be fun to also include at least one artist book version of an imaginary book depicted in one of my paintings – so the viewer could look at the painting and then leaf through a copy of the book depicted in the painting. But we’ll have to see how that works out.
Posting progress as I go… thanks for staying tuned.
I’ve enjoyed, this season, being commissioned to create several portraits of pets which included many elements that reflected the pet owners too! Thank you for the privilege of making something special for you and your loved ones – that was the wonderful gift you gave to me this Holiday season!
You can read juicy details about one of my commissioned portraits of two cats here.
And there is a wonderful newspaper article in my local paper, The Columbian, about commissioning a portrait from an artist and how it can become a treasured family heirloom – and how a portrait by an artist is different from a photograph. It’s true, at least by my experience, that people really do treasure portraits of pets and people that they know. Btw: portraits can be commissioned any time of the year – not just during Holidays.
As it may still be possible that some gifts have not yet been unwrapped in 2018 here, for your amusement, are a few commissioned portraits that I did in the past (and are thus safe to post!):
You can see more about my portraits, information about how to commission one, as well as more examples of my work on this page.
Thank you also for your support and encouragement of my work throughout the year! Happy Holidays and my best wishes for a Happy New Year!
This time of year most of my art commissions are gifts and are top secret. No blogging about them. Well this time a couple asked me to create a double portrait of their two cats and since it’s a gift to themselves they’ve let me blog about it! (Happy Holidays to all of us!) Here’s how it went:
In September Sue and Dean asked me via Caplan Art Designs, my Portland gallery, to create a double portrait of their two cats. They were pretty sure they wanted it to be 12 inches by 18 inches and on handmade paper to be framed.
A time to meet to discuss the commission was arranged and my wife, Judy, and I went to dinner at Sue and Dean’s house. I brought an example of the 100% cotton handmade paper that I’d use at the size they’d requested and a few other sizes just in case. I also brought my camera, a note pad and an extra pen.
After we’d been there a short while the cats came out. So did my camera. As the cats got used to me, and over the evening, I took over 41 photos of them. Here are two of the photos I took.
I asked questions of the humans about the cats favorite places, toys and habits. I asked questions about the humans favorite places, drinks and memories. On my note pad I wrote down the answers. Where possible I photographed the answers . For example on of my questions was: “What drink do you reach for most often when you want to relax? And what kind of glass do you have it in?” Here was the answer:
Generally we just talked about one thing and another. You know, dinner party talk. I asked questions, kept my ears open, and my notepad ready for recording things that might be relevant to the commission. I like to include in any pet portrait elements from the humans’ lives: favorite objects, drinks, food, anything that sparks pleasant memories. Helpfully, Sue and Dean both volunteered lots of information about themselves such as a favorite artwork that was meaningful to them.
They told of past travels that were particularly memorable. Famous people they’d met in Hawaii. All kinds of things were talked about and without interrupting flow I asked more questions and made as many notes as I could. Without being too obvious I also looked around their house noting colors and patterns, writing those notes down too. This is what I call the “data dump” phase of a commission. At this point I have no idea what information will be relevant for the final artwork.
We relaxed into the evening; just talking, having a very yummy dinner with a good wine. Slowly as Sue and Dean talked I began to get ideas… The cats got comfortable too and began doing their “normal” behavior.
Ollie likes to sit in a basket that holds magazines. Tony likes to sit on the couch and watch Nature on television. The cats behavior prompted me to ask which human had the magazine subscriptions (Sue did) and what magazines were favorites. Dean has worked in technological fields…so technological advances (including TV) were discussed..
Later in the evening I floated a general portrait concept: Ollie reading magazines and Tony watching TV…perhaps the basket Ollie likes so much could become a “table” in the artwork, perhaps… They both seemed to like my concept direction. They verified the size of artwork they wanted. I said I’d send them, via the gallery, a sketch for their approval before I began the finished artwork. We enjoyed a bit more conversation (and wine) – I glanced at my notes and racked my brain to make sure I had all the data I needed – and then we said our good-nights.
In the driveway pulling away from their house about 9:30pm I texted the gallery owner with the gist of what size artwork Sue and Dean wanted etc. Then my wife, Judy, and I discussed the evening in the car as we drove home. I still had my note pad out and was writing notes in the moving car by flashlight. (Judy was driving.)
Occasionally it had happened during the evening that I was talking with Sue in one room while Judy was in another room talking with Dean. So Judy filled me in on what I’d missed. At this point I am still in “data dump” mode. I have a rough direction for my design. But the details are very fuzzy. (Over the many years I’ve done special commissions this kind of uncertainty is normal and I trust it as a part of the process.)
The next day I went over my notes and began making 4 x 6 inch size thumbnail sketches. Over several weeks I did this; going over my notes and photos, drawing possible poses of the cats, possible objects, considering composition and colors. I also showed my sketches to Judy discussing the possibilities. At one point Judy said that they had both talked of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Hawaii enough that she was sure that they were important. I agreed and adjusted my drawings so that a reference to those travels was emphasized. Slowly an idea began to come together in the small thumbnail size anyway. What works visually at a small size doesn’t always work at a larger size but it’s a place to start.
On my easel I put the 12 x 18 inch handmade paper. Then I covered that with tracing paper and drew a grid (you can see it in the photo below). Then I put tracing paper over the grid and drew one of the thumbnail ideas to that scale. Then another tracing paper was put over that and that drawing tweaked…. And so it went, with multiple tracing paper overlays and re-draws, for a week or more. Tweak, tweak, tweak, until I had something I felt good about. The “good drawing” I sent to the gallery and to Sue and Dean for their approval. Here is what I sent:
They approved the drawing! Yippee! I did a happy dance and then I got serious about colors.
Upon arriving home after the dinner with Sue and Dean I had gotten out one of my interior design color swatch books. Flipping through the pages I found a couple of color spreads that I felt had the “vibe” of Sue and Dean’s house. I showed the pages to Judy to get her input. With those interior design book pages as a rough guide along with my photographs taken inside their house I began mixing colors and making color notes. I used my thumbnail drawings to play with color schemes too, painting blobs of color here or there. Anyway, here’s a photo of the interior design book page as well as a few pages of my sketchbook color notes. I did 6 pages of color notes but this one photo will give you the idea.
As I decided on the colors I made pencil notes on the approved to-scale drawing where the colors would go. You can see some of this in the photo above.
Then I began on the finished artwork. The actual painting took about 10 days start to finish. As I say often – the sketching/drawing/planning is where the bulk of creation happens. I transferred the approved sketch/drawing to the handmade paper I intended to use for the finished artwork. Then I began to make tiny adjustments to the drawing directly onto the handmade paper in prep for painting. I also discovered gaps in my visual data base.
For example I realized that I didn’t know what the back of a vintage TV set looked like. Not well enough to paint it in detail anyway. Fortunately there are some vintage shops where I live – so a few visits downtown with my sketchbook and the problem was solved!
I also realized that I had an opportunity to make a portrait of Sue and Dean on the front cover of the “magazine” that Ollie, the cat, would be reading in the finished artwork. So I asked for, and got, a picture of the couple that I could use as a reference photo. From the photo I did several pencil drawings on tracing paper to design the magazine cover and to get the humans to look like themselves. I drew until I had a cover design and human portrait that worked. Here it is:
Once I had the magazine “cover” drawing ready (drawn to the scale needed in the artwork) I transferred it to the appropriate spot on the handmade paper. At another point I realized that I could include the stain glass windows I’d seen in their house as part of the “back cover” of the magazine. But I hadn’t gotten photos of the window when we visited for dinner. And neither Judy nor I could remember the exact details of the windows. So I contacted Amy at the Caplan Art design gallery and she helped fill in the missing data! Whew!
Here’s what the finished artwork “Ollie and Tony” looks like. I’ve photographed it as it was on my easel when I finished it, so you can see the four deckled edges of the handmade paper. I used acrylic, gouache, watercolor and ink.
I sent the photo of the finished art to Amy the gallery owner to let her know it was done. Then I spray varnished the piece with a removable varnish that has UV protection in it.
When that was dry I contacted Amy and arranged for a time to deliver it to the gallery. The date was set and the varnish dry so I slipped the artwork into an archival plastic sleeve and into a cardboard portfolio to protect the artwork from being bent on its travels between my studio and the gallery or between the gallery and the framer. (It rains in the Pacific Northwest – so artwork needs all the protection it can get.)
We delivered the artwork to the gallery and as a nice surprise Sue and Dean were there! Here we all are looking at the artwork and talking about it:
Amy will take the artwork to the professional framer the gallery works with and have the art floated on a neutral mat, with spacers so the artwork won’t touch the glass. It will be given a simple black frame.
What a fun project!! I love getting to make highly personal and meaningful visual stories like this! Thank you!! And thank you, Sue and Dean, for letting me share it on my blog!
Happy Holidays Everyone!!