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”
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…
Last weekend I spent some time looking through my cookbook collection which sits on the shelves next to my poetry collection. Since I’ve been practicing both cooking and writing I look to my favorite “masters” in each genre for inspiration. It’s nice to have them all in one spot. Mollie Katzen, Aliza Green, Rick Bayless and Maryana Vollstedt are some of my favorite masters from the cooking world. Edward Gorey, Edward Lear, Ogden Nash and Shel Silverstein are some favorites from the poetry world.
I spent the most “looking-for-a-recipe-to-cook” time with Vollstedt’s cookbook “The Big Book Of Soups And Stews” as it was a cold weekend. Plus a hearty stew puts me in a happy “comfort food feast” frame of mind. But the most “just admiring a cook book” time was spent with Katzen. However I did use one of Katzen’s salad recipes to go alongside a stew. I love the way Katzen hand lettered her recipes and illustrated them in her “Moosewood Cookbook”. My poetry time was divided between Edward Gorey and Edward Lear.
This concept of mashing up wildly different genres as inspiration to make something new? Well Austin Kleon has written wonderful creative thinking technique books about that – specifically Steal Like An Artist!
Anyway I combined my big pot of stew thoughts with the limerick poem form for this poem I wrote and illustrated below – which has been published now on They Draw & Cook.
I’m still practicing combining India ink and gouache – and doing text with a brush. I used a smaller size brush this time for the type – and all lower case letters. This brush-and-ink type style felt looser, more relaxed, than the type I did with a fountain pen for the birthday card – though both projects use a similar lower case. I like both methodologies and will probably use both techniques as they fit with the project at hand. But this brush style… I’m liking it and am finding my hand reaching for a brush more often.
What do you think?
Some time back I read an article in my local newspaper about teaching kids to snack healthy and to learn to trust their body’s cues about food. Since then I’ve been thinking of similarities between healthy snacking habits and developing a healthy creative life.
- Teach yourself how to recognize aesthetic cues/desires – and practice responding to them – over time. I think of aesthetic cues as mental indulge-ments; things like stories, poems, movies, music, art etc. that make you feel glad to be alive. Just like a kid has to learn how to try new foods and then practice recognizing what foods they enjoy eating. As we go through life our aesthetic preferences change – just like our food preferences do. So it’s helpful to continue to try new aesthetic/art snacks periodically – and practice trusting your own cues.
- Allow yourself to listen to your own aesthetic cues/voice without input from other people. This takes practice and no matter how experienced a person is one has to remember to return to listening to one’s own voice – rather like how sometimes a kid (or an adult) has to be reminded to pay attention to their plate and eat. (When my wife and I go to happy hour with our friends I have to remind myself to eat…I tend to focus on the conversation…)
- Give yourself permission to just practice. Practice-an-art-materials can be as simple as keeping a book of stories or poems handy for reading and a small book to write in. Think of it as adult playing. Some helpful mantras: “Nothing has to go right today”, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.” and “It’s okay to make mistakes and messes – it’s part of how we learn.”
- Set specific times to practice. These can be very short bursts of time. They can be event/circumstance based rather than clock based. i.e. I’ll practice reading/writing poems while the coffee/tea brews, the water boils or the oven pre-heats.
- Create a small place/drawer where your practice-an-art materials are kept handy. Perhaps a shelf where books related to your art snack indulge-ments are stored. Look for and collect objects, events, places that feed your creative-soul-heart-mind. Stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive. Plan to indulge in these things in small ways – daily.
- Set a habit (I hate the word “rule”) for what time per month you’ll indulge yourself – for an aesthetic “meal”, something more than a short snack – with someone else’s artwork: i.e. go to local art-openings, poetry/story slams, indie film nights, music jam nights or a visit to an art museum.
Here’s what I indulged myself with this morning as an art snack while my breakfast bread toasted:
The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats is a new-favorite poem. It reminds me that we can – and do – create our own solace.
In September at Caplan Art Designs www.caplanartdesigns.com I’m doing a one-person fine art exhibit titled “Story Stuff”. And you can thank the literary genre of the “cozy mystery” for it.
You see I enjoy detective novels and movies. I particularly enjoy cozy mystery novels because I like the inherent premise in them that a regular person living an ordinary mundane sort of life can use reason and logic to resolve problems.
After reading and watching a gazillion mystery stories – I realized how often some small object; a receipt, a coffee bag, or a whiskey tumbler is the clue that solves the mystery. That thought inspired me to try telling visual stories with “just stuff”. So for this exhibit I’ve selected things from my daily life and arranged them in my imagination, along with color, light and texture, in such a way that the viewer can deduce a story; they can “read” my visual description of how things are and which things matter. The viewer becomes the story detective/character-actor.
In some of my works I’ve also invented a character-actor – a cat or a dog – who plays a more obvious part in the story. Anthropomorphic animals are a way to make it plain that the artwork is a visual story. These particular animal characters are created and chosen because their breed characteristics add elements to the tale. The viewer is still the detective – there’s just more actors on stage.
I’m merging fine art techniques, and fine art genres of “Still Life” and “Animals in Art”, with literary and mystery genre concepts. I also love food, drinks and books – they are the elements of everyday Pacific Northwest life which for me is the stuff of stories.
Here’s (ahem) a short story collection from my upcoming exhibit:
It’s been hot and I’ve been busy – so my cooking activities have been of the quick-fix-no-stove sort. To catch you up here’s the last kitchen sketchbook post: https://sueclancy.com/from-my-kitchen-sketchbook/
And here are some recent recipe gouache and ink sketches from my kitchen sketchbook (BTW: when we ran out of fresh strawberries I substituted frozen blueberries in the “Dessert Anatomy” sketch)
Here’s another artist’s helpful blog post that tells how to make a sketchbook in 5 minutes: http://www.magicofcreativity.com/how-to-make-a-sketchbook-in-just-5-minutes/
I’ve been thinking lately about the various ways that language is used and how that usage relates to being human.
For example: it helps human relationships if people are sincere, honest and as clear in their verbal communications as possible. Deliberate efforts to use language so as to mislead others to one’s own advantage is the opposite of helpful human relating.
Being a language-using human means to try to make mental connections between ideas/concepts and that includes trying to connect with other humans. Human existence and experience are about making connections and evaluating the qualities of those on-going connections, selecting the helpful and meaningful ones, expanding the number of “good relationships”. We create the world together.
Bullshitting is an effort to avoid making meaningful connections. To bullshit is to manipulate language so as to avoid relating directly with people in fact-based, rational, practical ways.
To share a drink (whether alcoholic beverages or not), to share food and to share books is an expression of a strong desire to meaningfully connect with someone. Sharing drinks, food, books, sports and many other collaborative/cooperative activities are ways we develop relationships and nurture on-going connections.
I’ve recently re-read “Bullshit” by Harry G. Frankfurt, mused on it’s contents so much (see the above verbiage) that I’ve included the book in a painting. And yes I really did use lots of sticky-notes in my copy of Frankfurt’s book, my effort to make connections between the concepts I found there.
Now that we’ve discussed “Bullshit” – what beverages do you like to drink?
This coming Friday, June 1st at Burnt Bridge Cellars my cat portrait exhibit “Purrsuits of Pleasure” opens. Because I don’t think artistic inspiration needs to be mysterious I include the story behind each art piece. The text illustrates, so to speak, my visual images.
Here are some of the artworks in the exhibit:
And here are some of the stories that illustrate them as they’ll be posted on the walls in the exhibit (of course readers of my blog have seen more details than what’s included below… but then you’re special):
Purrfecting Happy Hour by Clancy
I’m part of a feral happy-hour group; between 7 and 14 of us get together once a month somewhere local for happy hour. Often the trays of drinks that arrive at our table look like a collection of fine jewels.
Purrameters of Pie by Clancy
In several local cafés, bistros and pizzerias I’ve discovered that I can get either a savory or sweet pie of almost any size: small hand-pies, “personal” pies, pie slices, medium and large pies and “family size” pies. The trouble is deciding which size to get.
Strad O’Various by Clancy
Going to music events during the winter is a delightful way to combat any “rainy-day blues”. This last winter I particularly enjoyed seeing the crowd, and some musicians, bustling in for a concert in their colorful coats and scarves.
Cat A List by Clancy
Wine tastings – and being friends with Mark at Burnt Bridge Cellars – have opened my eyes to the subtle differences between wines from one year to the next, how type of grape, the weather, water and soil affect the flavors. Small things can be a catalyst.
Alpha Betty by Clancy
The local libraries and bookstores are, for me, a large treasure-toy box. Which got me thinking of how we select books according to our interests. The libraries and bookstores also have books available in a wide variety of languages – and its fun to see them too. This got me to thinking about the alphabet. Each language has its own – and when we say “the alphabet” we immediately think of our native tongue whatever it is. Likewise, when we think of “good books” we think in terms of our own interests and preferences. But when we’re aware of bi-lingual people and the multiplicity of this world – perhaps we are better able to remember that our languages and personal preferences are just frames of reference. And that frames are adjustable. So what frame of reference would a cat have? A mouse obsessed one of course!
Purrfect Entertainment by Clancy
My friend Kevin and I were talking about local music, feral cats and handmade musical instruments. Specifically, we talked about the “found object” instruments we were both aware of in the Southeastern parts of the U.S. – guitars made out of cigar boxes or banjos from cookie tins. Our conversation drove me to the library to research “handmade music instruments in the Pacific Northwest”. I discovered a long tradition of using local wood scraps to hand-craft musical instruments. The native woodgrain was often a prominent decoration. These instruments were works of art not at all like the “found object” instruments of the SE. I also discovered that here in the PNW playing music in public, on porches, patios, anywhere outdoors was, and still is, the norm during “nice” weather. There has also been a strong connection between music, food and community no matter what the weather. But I could only get so much into one painting.
I’ve finished my sketchbook for the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project, packed it up and put it into the postal slot. But before I did that I created an ebook version of the book – and a video. I was going to post more photos of work-in-progress and such – but I’ve gotten very busy so… you can download-to-own an ebook version here. And below is the video…
Around the edges of working on cat portraits I’ve still been working with gouache. Specifically I’ve been testing it in my bound sketchbooks. Here are several pages, created with gouache and ink, in my current “kitchen sketchbook”. I have a series of kitchen sketchbooks, they are all small, around 3 by 5 inches, and I give each book a silly name. These books contain drawings of a recipe I was then-currently cooking – or a depiction of something I was drinking and eating. The following pages are from my “Mouthpiece Four” kitchen sketchbook. I have ambitions of publishing these sketchbooks… but that’s another blog post topic.