Hedgehogs, foxes, reading and making meaning

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art prints, art techniques, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, fine art, life of the mind, mental health, sketchbook, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

I wrote in my last post that there may be hedgehogs and foxes in my upcoming sketchbook pages because I’m reading “The Hedgehog and the Fox” Isaiah Berlin’s famous essay about Tolstoy and history based on the Greek aphorism “The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing”

In his book Isaiah Berlin writes (I’m paraphrasing) of how history is actually created by a whole bunch of people but when we talk about a time in history we tend to single out one person as a “hero” and the lone “causal agent” of an event. Berlin writes of how as a creative person Tolstoy was naturally a “many things” fox but as he got older Tolstoy wanted to be a hedgehog with “one big thing” that explains everything.

My reading got me to thinking about hedgehogs, foxes, Tolstoy’s demands of himself as a creative person and how that aphorism related to creativity. I said something about that and my friend Liz Gauffreau asked me how hedgehogs relate to the literary world:

Well, besides the fact that both foxes and hedgehogs are so very cute and fun to draw and write about here are a few of my somewhat random thoughts while reading the essay by Isaiah Berlin. Don’t worry I’ll intersperse my thoughts with sketchbook drawings of hedgehogs and foxes using all 3 of the new fountain pens I described in my last post. (BTW there are even more fox and hedgehog sketchbook pages in my recent email newsletter )

As I read Berlin’s essay I’m realizing that as  a creative person I use the fox-like kind of “knowing many things” in a free ranging playful open way while I’m in the midst of creating. I’m free-associating between many things while I’m on the hunt for how to best express my elusive thought. But once I’ve finished my creation and caught my thought then, if I’m not careful, I can curl up into a prickly ball hedgehog-like defensive about whether my creation “means” something, what it means, whether it was worth doing, which “one big things” label it belongs within…etc. Staying for any amount of time in such a prickly ball isn’t helpful.

This getting stuck in a hedgehog ball mode happened more often in my younger years but still occasionally I feel a despairing “what was the point of doing all that?” moment. By now I know not to “feed” such overly self-critical negative thoughts and to deliberately stretch out and switch my thinking to some other more pleasant topic. I know such moments will pass especially after a good meal, a good night’s sleep, time spent reading a novel or going for a walk with my spouse. It’s not always easy but that’s the way I deal with it. I avoid getting stuck by deliberately keeping fluid movements between the modes of fox and hedgehog. Anyway, in my mind, that’s one part of how hedgehogs and foxes figure in the creative/literary life.

Another part of how hedgehogs and foxes figure in to it: our creative life isn’t “one big thing”: we aren’t the sum total of one published book or one painting. We aren’t one label. A creative life is cumulative. Of course when people talk about artists or writers shorthand references – labels – are often made like “So And So is the insert genre label author of Famous Book”. But this is just a way of speaking, a verbal convention. It’s even a necessary one because we use helpful labels to find things, like books to read, and a name or a genre category label is a great starting place.

Yet during the lived reality of a creative life things aren’t so simplistic. Creativity is many-things fox like when we’re in the midst of our unnamed, unlabeled creative project. It can feel unfocused, messy, free ranging all over the territory at the beginning only slowly becoming focused over time as the thought “scent” is caught and the project develops towards completion. After completion then the one-big-thing hedgehog label can be applied. And while my diagram below simplifies the fox/hedgehog creative process please know that this process isn’t linear, its fluid, there will be foxhogs and hedgeoxes, there’ll be all sorts of fits and starts, beginnings and endings, rushing currents and still pools… before a project is finished.

This process of metamorphosis from fox to hedgehog is part of why it is such a challenge for writers and artists to think up loglines or book jacket blurbs or elevator speeches or art statements that sum up their creation in a few sentences (or a Tweet). To sum up their work of the last few years, work they sweated daily over, work they gnashed their teeth on – to distill what it was about using 150 words or less both encompasses and transcends the lived creative process itself. It’s hard to rise above the creative life meadows where the foxes and hedgehogs have played and, from a birds eye viewpoint, select a single meaning for the shorthand talking points. This difficulty is why it’s also a challenge to write query letters that briefly describe a manuscript submission. It’s hard to reduce a fox-y many splendors creation down to a hedgehog-y one big thing and to call the hedgehog an accurate, yet attractive, name.

By the way if you formulate the hedgehog one-big-thing, the logline or art statement, in advance and are rigid about it (i.e. curl up in a prickly hedgehog ball) the resulting project is seldom satisfying to either the foxes aka the creators themselves or to their audience.

And yet a hedgehog can be a great starting place – if you aren’t rigid about the hedgehog label and use it as a prompt! It’s highly likely that a creation that starts out as one defined hedgehog can shape-shift to a fox during the creative process and finish up needing an entirely different hedgehog-y label. So that’s another reason it’s a challenge at the end of a project to select the exact hedgehog that was metamorphosed from that fox. This is also part of the exhilarating fun of a creative life.

We enjoy the arts for the fox-y complexity of many things in them – we talk about that complexity we enjoyed viscerally using simple hedgehog-y verbage. The fox represents a direct experience and a nonverbal expression of life. The hedgehog represents a definition and ways of talking about that artistic representation of life. We need both the foxes and the hedgehogs. The challenge is to remain loose, open, letting the foxes and hedgehogs become themselves while also keeping a benevolent watch over them.

What a work of art or literature “means” in the big scheme of it’s hedgehog label, is identified (if ever) after the work has been  made and existed in the world a while. After the artist is finished then we use simple language to sum up what a creation meant. We give it a genre, a category, a label. That summing up or meaning finding is done and verified over the duration of time that the art exists – it gets reevaluated by the artist and by the audience constantly. The lables often get changed multiple times before they “settle” if they ever do. Almost all of Tolstoy’s work has gotten reevaluated numerous times since the era in which he was living and working.

From a creative person’s point of view I find it’s sanity-saving to not worry about the meaning of one work in the big scheme of things but to just get on with the next project. I don’t worry overmuch about the hedgehog labels I give my work for use when submitting or promoting it. As I wrote in my last post I’m regularly surprised by what labels publishers, distributors and art gallery owners place on my work. I just accept the label and these labels become tools I can use to talk with that distributor. For example I now can say to Storyberries “Here’s a new ABC123 Poetry book from me”.  But even with that new knowledge generally my attitude when I’m working in my studio is “I’ll make the stuff and you can sort it out” rather than getting stuck on any of the potential labels while I’m in the creative process. Anyway, here’s a note on this topic that I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall.

The meaningfulness that is found after the creation is finished also has an element of danger. Sometimes because an artist is so tired upon completion they, in their fatigue, misjudge their own work and may mislabel it or even destroy it. Sometimes an artist gets stuck on a label and that impedes their progress. Sometimes the selected audience isn’t ready for a creative work and rejects it. Sometimes a work isn’t found to be meaningful until long after the artist and audience’s current era is gone and a new era begins. Sometimes a different audience within an artist’s lifetime finds the work more meaningful. Sometimes meanings and labels change over time too. Sometimes these new labels are helpful and sometimes they’re not.

So for all of those reasons I find it’s best to avoid gaslighting myself, i.e. making hard declarative statements about my work, either as I’m working on projects or whenever they’re finished. I just enjoy the process of making things. Other people can sort them into meanings and categories. That said, I do find the effort of succinctly summarizing my own creative works as a logline etc helpful as long as I don’t take it too seriously. Whatever you want to call it is fine with me as long as my personal foxes get to play and my hedgehogs stay cute.

Hedgehog in Shade – art print- by Clancy https://society6.com/product/hedgehog-in-shade7281858_print?sku=s6-24823546p4a1v45

Which brings me to book banning. I despise censorship because someone somewhere has decided in advance what a book or work of art “means” and they aren’t willing to let people decide that for themselves. They get rigid, in a hedgehog-y prickly defensive ball way, about everything fitting into their one big thing label whether that label is political or religious. They can’t, or won’t, deal with the foxes free ranging exploration. They’re allergic to questions  and uncertainty. They reject categorically the concept of changes over time. They’ll decide they just don’t like one particular fox or hedgehog and insist that the external world must conform to their preferences.

Creativity is all about questions and dealing well with uncertainty. To be creative is to actively participate in change and growth. Creativity is a response to the world. Anyway, here’s an article about many of the current censorship efforts that I keep a careful eye on.

In my current art exhibit at the Aurora Gallery on the upper left shelf in the photo below is an artist book I made which tells a truth about rabbits and metaphorically about people. It’s called “The Rabbit” and it is about book banning.

You can see my original artwork in person at the Aurora Gallery www.auroragalleryonline.com or still photos of the exhibit and the entire book “The Rabbit” online here. https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/for-you-by-sue-the-abcs-art-books-cards/

There’s also a video look through the illustrated poem artist book here https://youtu.be/6-T5zi-fLvM
on my YouTube channel. Below are a few still photos.

Speaking further of free expression I avidly watched the recent Stand with Salman Rushdie event. It did my author/artist heart good to see so many people so supportive of authors and the literary life!!
https://lithub.com/famous-writers-will-stand-with-salman-rushdie-on-the-steps-of-the-nypl-this-friday/

I also participated from home by posting this:
I #standwithsalman in favor of free expression. For the Aug 19 2022 @PENamerica event I’m reading from “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” by @SalmanRushdie – it’s one of my favorites – Here’s my reading on YouTube.

There now that I’ve finished this blog post I’ll deliberately avoid the one-big-thing type question of “did my efforts to write this blog post mean anything or matter in any way to the larger literary or creative culture?”. In such a question lies gaslighting madness.  So instead of going there I accept that I enjoyed writing out my views of the creative process within the context of hedgehogs, foxes and the essay by Isaiah Berlin. And I hope my friend Liz will enjoy reading my thoughts on how hedgehogs and foxes relate to the literary world. There, that’s enough mattering and meaning for me.

Aha, now after rereading what I’ve written (and correcting the autocorrect 🙄) I see that there’s a few category and tag labels that I can use when publishing this blog post! Good enough…

I hope your creative week is full of playful foxes and hedgehogs. See you next Monday.

Odditerrarium, art, ants, anteaters and books

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Ants are making progress… in my new artist book that is! In my last post I was working on “Ant Hology” using a collage of letters, ink and gouache. It’s another miniature 2 inch square book that opens to 20 inches long. Here’s the progress:

The letters I used came from Columbia Gorge Book Arts.

Now to do the graphic design hocus pocus and send a digital file containing all of these ants to Storyberries!

In my last post I shared a sketchbook page that had Anteaters in it … yes, there’s a new children’s book in progress. The text was written by Judy Sullens. Please notice that I used my ant research in this project too! Ha! Here’s the first illustration:

But this new book has been put aside temporarily so I can make new Odditerrarium paintings to replace some of the paintings that have sold at Burnt Bridge Cellars via Caplan Art Designs.

Here’s my studio supervisor dachshund supervising the paintings in progress. They need to be finished by the time you read this post so my supervisor is helping to keep me focused. Says the dog “Hey, where are you going..?”

Here’s a look at the two paintings on my easel now that they’re finished except for the varnishing, framing and delivering. Due Tuesday!

Storyberries contacted me about their release date for the ebook version of my Odditerrarium. Here’s a Reel about Odditerrarium on Storyberries that I did to help explain the visual story puzzle aspect of my Odditerrarium project.

And – drumroll please – here’s the ebook version of Odditerrarium on Storyberries! https://www.storyberries.com/short-stories-for-kids-odditerrarium-by-sue-clancy-art-books-for-kids/

When I was a kid I loved looking at coffee table books with paintings in them. Now I’m enjoying making books for children that contain my fine art because the little kid I once was would have absolutely loved a book like Odditerrarium!

Anyway, this week has been very busy but even so I still played in my sketchbook most mornings (you can see what I sketched via my Substack sketchbook emails here) and each evening I read books. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

And here’s the evening shift supervisor cat who makes sure we have whipped cream on our hot chocolate, maintain a regular reading program and still get to bed at a decent hour. Says the cat “Hey, you with the thumbs, quit poking about on the phone and get back to lap making and book reading.”

I hope your week is pleasant. See you next Monday.

Our current times, tuning in to awe and books

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This week war began and for a second being an artist felt frivolous. But in difficult times we need art more than ever. We need things and people that feed our spirits and remind us of why we’re glad to be alive. We need hope. That’s how we fight for democracy  and win.

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began I listened to the news and searched my bookshelves for a title I had gotten in 2003 not long after 9/11 and when war began in Iraq. My thoughts then, like now, turned to the role of artists during times of war. “Artists in Times of War” by Howard Zinn was very relevant in 2003 and still is even though the current event details are different.

Spoiler: artists are carriers of democracy. To quote from page 108 they are “profoundly democratic”. Democratic is defined as upholding, however imperfectly, the ideas of rule of law, of equality before the law, equality in access to resources, equality of representation in government and the human right of self determination. The Arts are a living language of a people, a dramatization of what they feel, what they need, what their hopes are … The Arts help people become self aware. Self-awareness helps people make choices and become active participants in their own lives and communities. That’s what makes living artists so dangerous in the viewpoint of authoritarians.

And perhaps equally important is the fact that artists help us, no matter how high flying the political rhetoric, to remember that the kids will still need to be entertained and educated, that adults will still need kindness, that dinner will still be wanted. Art, poetry and writing of all kinds can help us remember that the statistics a politician quotes represent actual people.

Speaking of dinner: a dear friend came over to visit for an evening and to ask me to sign some copies of two of my book titles that she plans to give as gifts! It was so good to see her!

After serving wine I signed copies of The Professional Dog and Numpurrs. I also did little drawings in each book!

We had a free ranging conversation about life, books, movies and my friend indulged me as I showed her my art projects in progress and outloud we played with what “could be”. This is an extremely exciting and valuable sort of conversation! Bouncing ideas around in loose “what if…” and “what about…” ways helps me in my creative process! It was so unbelievably good to get my friends input! Sharing artwork in its fragile beginning stages is risky and I’m so lucky to have trustworthy creative-playing friendships.

I made a new batch of potato soup (recipe last post) and when it was ready the three of us ate soup out of large mugs while sitting informally in the living room where it was warm and comfy.

I delighted in having fabric cocktail napkins with my Professional Dog portraits on them and enjoyed our friends chuckles when she saw the napkins!

The Professional Dog cocktail napkins- https://www.spoonflower.com/en/home-decor/dining/cocktail-napkins/12418133-professional-dog-by-sueclancy

Whenever I feel unsettled about world events besides talking with my spouse and trusted friends I deliberately tune in to awe. Meaning that I purposefully do some small thing that delights me, sparks my curiosity or causes me to notice something and say “wow!”. A good article I read this week on the topic of awe and why it’s important is here. An aspect of tuning in to the feeling of awe is to cultivate time to play in unstructured ways, to make time to wander, to ponder.

On a recent wandering meandering car drive we saw snowfall and large trees. That’s a guaranteed “wow” from me – I love the large evergreens any time of the year.

The feelings of awe, the feelings curiosity and the feelings of an aha moment are part of why I object so strongly to book banning (see a recent post). The attempts to control the mental resources available to others is a form of abuse. Banning preempts the victims ability to be self-aware and to be able use, as democracy offers, however imperfectly, the right of self determination. The restrictions of a person’s access to books and other mental resources is as serious as someone restricting a person’s access to food, water or healthcare.

Books Are All We Know … art print by Clancy –  https://society6.com/product/books-are-all-we-know-of-heaven4207368_print?sku=s6-18617343p4a1v45

During times of unrest I think taking the time to ponder is crucial because an artist is so much more than a reaction to or a mirror of society. If an artist is going to take action rather than simply knee jerk react to current events it takes time to think things through.

Here’s a paraphrased quote that I wrote on a card and thumbtacked to my studio wall.

Progress is happening on a new experimental art book for Storyberries! It’s a wordless visual poem about letter soup with only 10 panels plus front and back covers. 12 images total. Ink, acrylic and gouache are my art methods on another 2 inch square concertina zig zag folded book. I focused as I mentioned last post on rhythm, repetition and surprise. It will be a challenge to talk about this poem on this blog and on my social media without giving the poem’s punchline away immediately before Storyberries has a chance to distribute it but I’ll do my best.

In the photo below I’ve laid in the extreme dark and light areas to establish the contrast as well as to focus on the visual rhythm. I’m thinking of how the ebooks on Storyberries flow up and down so I’m designing my content to flow with that book motion. Will it work? I don’t know. 🤷‍♀️ Yes, my new poem is for a category on Storyberries called “experimental” for a reason! 🤣

The sortof weird thing is that I’ve not completely finished promoting “How The Cow Went Over The Moon” yet. So there might be some promotion overlap. Oh well. People read more than one book at a time anyway right?

A few evenings this week I took a break from reading “The Annotated Arabian Nights” to read “Suds in Your Eye” by Mary Lasswell. This book was published in 1942 when World War II began. What I’ve enjoyed about this book, besides seeing an artistic response to the wartime events of the 1942 era, is that no single person is the “hero” or center of the story. The story centers around how a group of people work together as a community. The concept of working together is also what drives the story plot. And “good food, great friends and cold beer” could be the books motto. This is such a good book to cheer up by! I’d list this book as an early example of the hopepunk genre (mentioned last post). And the illustrations are darling!

Besides the visit from a great friend this week my wife and I talked by phone with my adopted mom and big sister! Mom said she’s proud of me and that I’m to “Keep making art”! Big sister agreed! So I wrote the exact quote of Mom’s on a card and thumbtacked it to my studio wall just above the light switch for the room. That way I will always remember!

I hope your week contains many connections with your support system so that you feel encouraged to do all the good you can in this world.

See you next Monday?

Professional dogs, box project, cards, books, the first chat and some biscuits with gravy

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The Professional Dog text for my in-progress childrens book is solid enough that this week I focused on the illustrations. I’ve done about 12 of them in ink and have established a pattern for the artwork that relates to the text. I’m working on bringing the illustrations up to the same semi solid level of preparation as the text.

As per my last post I’m still looking at this project somewhat sideways. It’s more in focus and it’s now moved into my “main project” work time slot but it is still becoming itself, so rather that looking at it head on and making declarative  statements about it – it’s just a project I’m working on every day now. That attitude helps me keep it playful.

In my last post I spoke of picking up a box, a cube really, from the Caplan Art Designs gallery. The Gallery asked several of their artists to do something in their art style for what the Gallery is calling the “holiday box project”. Over this week I put 3 coats of gesso on my box. I also did some brainstorming in my sketchbook  about what I might do with the cube.

Allowing time for gesso to dry between coats gave me time to think and try stuff with The Professional Dog project as I mentioned above and also experiment with other things…

… one of the things I thought about is this: It feels urgent to me to practice patience and to encourage decency as much as I can. The selfish meaness of a small group of people during this time in U.S. history is toxic. The majority of people are generous and kindhearted but I see the kind people, particularly my friends in the medical and teaching professions, being worn out by the few meanies. Sometimes even I feel worn out. So I have taken it as a creative challenge to do whatever I can to give the kind people a bit of care.  Yes, my attempts to give care via art sometimes feels small, it feels like trying to refill a dry lake by the teacups full. But art is what I can do. And I do firmly believe this quote on my studio wall pictured below. Art is all we have. It’s certainly all I have.

Every time we’re kind, loving and supportive of each other – even in small ways – we’re enabling ourselves to not only survive but thrive. When we share art and beauty we help each others spirits – moment by moment. These moments add up. We are truly stronger together. And helping each other helps us feel better too. Self-care is community care and vice versa.

As I waited for gesso to dry I rummaged in my files, and my sketchbook for art pieces I’ve done that might encourage people. So I’m beginning a “For pleasant encouragement” art prints series on my Society 6 shop. Perhaps this series may also become a book someday? Anyway here’s one from this series.

Lighting Candles art print by Clancy – https://society6.com/product/lighting-candles424527_print?sku=s6-6943722p4a1v45#1=45

Also while gesso dried I added a few more recipe postcards and odd cards to my collections on my Zazzle shop. I have been enjoying mailing cards to friends and they’ve seemed to like getting them – so these cards fit with my overall project of encouraging people.

This week my book This Rabbit was featured on the Read Aloud by Kidz Stories And More YouTube channel! I am honored to be called a “favorite author”! Kidz Stories And More reads childrens books aloud very well and they welcome submissions from self published childrens book authors. They can be contacted via social media.

https://youtu.be/13yziUOlj6U

As I mentioned above during one of my “gotta let the gesso dry” times I set up my new video thingamajig and did my first Creativity Chat!

I haven’t figured out how to embed video in blog posts yet so to view it you’ll have to click here.

Creativity Chats: introduction – https://youtu.be/IDhodTsN_EM

I’ve written short scripts for about 15 of these chats so far and my main point of doing these is to encourage people and discuss the intersection I see between creativity and good mental health. Some time ago I had planned to do another version of Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit and focus the new book on creativity. But other projects took precedence … so I’m excited about doing videos on this topic! I can squeeze a short chat on video into my busy life!

The yummy comfort food this week was homemade biscuits and gravy! See recipe postcards above or via these links: Judy’s Biscuits and Good Gravy. It was a fun collaborative brunch!

Some books I’m reading in the evenings: Death in D Minor by Alexia Gordon – a mystery novel with a ghost in it. (It is October after all.) I’m finishing A Swim In The Pond In The Rain by George Saunders. Both are very delightful to read and transport me to other worlds smoothly! Technically I’m rereading the Saunders – I read it first as an ebook and am rereading a print version now and making notes. Thank goodness, I say almost daily, for writers – how dismal our lives would be without good soul-satisfying books.

Temperatures here in the Pacific Northwest are now cool to cold as the sun goes down so my reading evenings often have hot chocolate or hot tea to go with a book. Last night as I returned to my chair I thought “this is one of my happy places” so I took a photo.

I hope you get to spend time this week in one of your happy places. See you next Monday.

On Looking at Odditorium

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To my awareness there aren’t many books for children that talk about looking at an artist’s exhibit whether the fine art is in a book or on walls.

A child looking at a painting by Sue Clancy in the Caplan Art Designs gallery

I think looking at a book of fine art is similar to looking at a wordless picture book. Looking at one artist’s series of paintings on a gallery wall is like a wordless book too. But looking at fine art, while there are similarities to wordless picture books, it is also different; a collection of fine art often refers to the feelings and lived experiences of the artist in addition to any visual story there may be within the artwork itself.

So I’ve been lucky enough to work with Storyberries to create a childrens book On Looking At Odditorium that I hope will help kids enjoy looking at artwork and be able to speculate about the artist’s thinking.

Towards that end I created cartoon drawings of myself so they could take a trip (or tour) through a book of my Odditorium fine art exhibit and explain what I was thinking and how I created each painting.

Here’s a closer look at all of the avatar drawings. In many of my childrens books on Storyberries.com there’s a photo of me wearing a sweater. For consistency sake I drew myself in a sweater pointing this way and that.

Below are several sample pages from On Looking At Odditorium. You can see the avatar and a speech bubble on each page.

I want to encourage imaginations so in the book I try to both show and tell what using imagination is like.

For a childrens book I didn’t want to get too technical about art materials and methods but I did want to share something about them. I wanted to share especially when the materials and methods directly interacted with my imagination.

Below is a look at the book layout so you can see the little avatars on tour across a page spread.

The adult version of my Odditorium exhibit coffee table book does not have the avatar or descriptions. Here’s what the cover of the adult book looks like.

https://www.blurb.com/b/10698335-odditorium

And here’s the childrens book version titled “On Looking At Odditorium“. The cover design is very similar to the adult book on purpose – to emphasize that anyone of any age can look at art. The layout inside this book is different as is the kind of paper for the printed books. I wanted paper likely to withstand children’s hands.

https://www.blurb.com/b/10758158-on-looking-at-odditorium

Storyberries has a extra special ebook edition that went live within hours of this post. And I love the nesting specialness of this project: it’s a fine art exhibit called Odditorium at Burnt Bridge Cellars via Caplan Art Designs that has a companion exhibit book titled Odditorium. The Odditorium exhibit book then has a companion childrens book version titled On Looking At Odditorium. Then the special ebook on Storyberries – which you can see here for free – about looking at On Looking At Odditorium! Here’s what the Storyberries ebook version looks like at the top…

https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-odditorium-free-art-books-for-kids/

Did you get all the nesting nuances to this project? I’ve hopefully laid it all out clearly on my portfolio page about this project… but even if no one besides me sees the nesting qualities – thinking about it in this interlocking way served to help me construct it all – my main point is for people to have fun.

Needless to say it’s been a very busy week. There’s been food, some of it tasty and blog-worthy, but I was tired and just ate it without photos or noting recipes.

Also due to busy-ness not much was done on my new crocodile project mentioned last post. But I have kept up my sketchbook activities and reading books of an evening. Sketching and reading are like breathing.

So I’ll not promise anything specific for next Monday… but there will be something. Hopefully, something that encourages your own creative life or is at least entertaining for you.

Till next time – have a good week looking at stuff.

This Rabbit likes good eggs

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This Rabbit, my newest children’s book, is now a free ebook and audiobook on Storyberries.com! How fun is that? Click here to both see the book and/or listen to it read aloud! Basically This Rabbit is now officially available worldwide! Wahoo!

The Aurora Gallery also now has my signed books – This Rabbit being one title – along with a number of the original illustrations from the books framed and on the Gallery walls!

For example the Numpurrs book and some of the artworks in that book are there at the Aurora Gallery too.

Also framed are a few of the original illustrations for This Rabbit….and for Alphapets and Alphapets Too. (More about each of these books in my portfolio)

Since rabbits can deliver more than just treats for kids this time of year in addition to making lots of rabbits for a children’s book I’ve also made a collection of my rabbits available on my Zazzle shop. These are intended as fun gifts for grownups; greeting cards, jigsaw puzzles and coffee mugs. (The photos below are a small sample of what’s available on my shop.)

A note card: https://www.zazzle.com/my_heart_is_with_you_note_card-256344942961836795
Jigsaw puzzle: https://www.zazzle.com/rabbit_sax_jigsaw_puzzle-116637967822588564
Mug: https://www.zazzle.com/hares_to_hot_beverages_and_comforts_mug-168629126897898357

Since we’re nearing Easter naturally my thoughts turn from rabbits to eggs. This week I tried, in the name of I’m-to-busy-to-cook, a sheet pan breakfast with eggs, bacon, green bell peppers and sweet potato chunks. It worked reasonably well … one set of eggs got a little more firm than I like but everything – including the eggs – were quite enjoyably edible. And enjoyably edible counts!

This week I rearranged the most important bookshelf in my house: the one in the bathroom. It seems that the average person spends 1 hour and 42 minutes per week in the bathroom. Or to put it another way during an average lifetime we will spend at least 92 full days in the john. Might as well use that time for some encouraging reading. Here below is a photo of my bathroom bookshelf. The purple ceramic thing serves as a bookend as well as holding the extra roll of TP.

For the same reason I have inspiring books in my bathroom – notice all the books by Austin Kleon! – I also like having good artwork there too. Keeping good books and art where they’re viewed often is a way to keep my own creativity sustainable. The framed art you see in this photo is by another Pacific Northwest artist named Jill Mayberg https://jillmayberg.com/ I like the colors and textures in Jill’s work.

We’re here, so we might as well get comfortable. Reading books about writing and creativity are where we learn about, and practice, being human. I’ve written elsewhere in this blog (see links here and here) about the similarities I see between the creative acts of writing and making fine art. Verbal storytelling, writing, drawing and reading are such quintessentially human activities. Are we completely human if we don’t do those things?

These thoughts are why I find it such fun to depict animals reading books and doing other typically human behaviors – it’s my way of pondering what in means to be fully human.

Btw: there are more animals besides rabbits running around in my brain now. The new critters are getting comfortable too. As I wrote in my last post I’ve been thinking about human development and about dealing with feelings. I’ve also been thinking about Jane Austen and her descriptions of emotions within her novels.

Anyway, I’ll keep thinking and drawing… Share more with you next Monday? Oh, and Happy Easter, aka Rabbit-delivers-fun-things-day, in advance. [Thanks again Kris and Nan for this stuffed rabbit!]

This rabbit likes books and breakfast

A Creative Life, animals in art, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, book design and layout, books, home hare care, illustration, mental health, poetry, printed books, publications - publishing, published art, rabbits in art, story, This Rabbit, visual story, visual thinking, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

My newest artist book for children “This Rabbit” is rolling out! It’s a whimsical look at self-awareness with lots of different rabbits liking a variety of things. As I mentioned in my last post “This Rabbit” shares a cover design similarity with some of my other artist books that also have a bunch of different characters exploring a life concept. In the photo below you can see the covers for my series of books.

Here’s a closer look at the hardcover version of “This Rabbit

https://www.blurb.com/b/10612530-this-rabbit

And here’s a look at the page design. I made the artwork large so that it mostly fills each page with a small space at the bottom for the poem lines.

More of the inside of “This Rabbit” can be seen on my portfolio page here or as a preview on the page where the book can be ordered here

Book signing during a pandemic is a challenge. I’m solving that in a few ways and one of those is by placing a few signed books at the Aurora Gallery. Some of the original artwork for many of my books is there too. In the photo below is an assortment of books signed and destined for the Aurora Gallery. https://auroragalleryonline.com/

And while I waited this week for my copies of “This Rabbit” to arrive from the printer I worked in my sketchbook and over short bursts of time towards a new painting using all of my recent rabbit research. This painting is one of several that will be in new art exhibits later this year.

While working this week I was thinking about human development. In addition to learning what you like as one lives you also learn and practice attention to your feelings. With that in mind I’ve been thinking of what Dr Bob says in the book I illustrated some time ago…”feelings are guides not gods to be obeyed“. For example we’ve all done things like cleaning up yucky messes even when we didn’t feel like doing it at the time – but once it was done we were glad it had been done. So we’re capable of using our executive brain to decide when to listen to our feelings and when to go ahead and do something despite our feelings.

In the picture above is my breakfast: overnight oats (made in a small wide mouth mason jar) along with coffee. And here’s a recipe article link about this quick-easy meal. I like quick-easy breakfasts so I can spend more time in the morning drinking coffee, reading and sketching.

In the photo below I’m working (after breakfast) on a new painting. There’s a collage bit in it from the falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that I’d talked about in another post.

Here below is what the new painting became: “Attention To The Feelings” – 12 x 9 – acrylic and collage on board.

“Attention To The Feelings” – by Clancy – 12 x 9 inches – acrylic and collage on board

One of my favorite authors who write about sketching and creative efforts is Danny Gregory. Here’s what he wrote about dealing with feelings in his book “Art Before Breakfast” :

This is inner-voice phenomen is true for any creative effort. Including trying a new recipe for breakfast.

So please be gentle with yourself and the other people in your life this week. We’re all just muddling though trying to remember what we like, trying to pay attention to our feelings – but not too much attention – and trying to regularly eat a good meal.

See you here next Monday? Hope so…

This Rabbit likes Irish Coffee

A Creative Life, Alphapets, Alphapets Too, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, author illustrator, book design and layout, books, graphic design, illustrated poem, illustration, Numpurrs, poetry, printed books, publications - publishing, published art, rabbits in art, This Rabbit, visual story, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

My newest children’s book “This Rabbit” is about noticing what you like. For the book description I write “This rabbit likes one thing. This rabbit likes another thing. So many things to like and do! Which do you like to do?”

The act of noticing what you like sounds deceptively simple but it’s easy to be swept along in a tide of what’s popular, trendy or what people tell you that you “should” like. It’s easy to forget what you-yourself really really like.

For our entire lives it’s helpful to practice being aware of our inner self and our preferences as they change over time.

Anyway, here’s a few poem lines and illustrations from “This Rabbit”

This rabbit likes doing hair

This rabbit likes the outdoor air

Here’s a look at those same illustrations in the digital book layout I’ve designed in prep for making both print and ebook formats. As I mentioned in my last post I’m making these illustrations large in each page with a small space for the poem line running along the bottom of the page.

Below is a look at the cover art. The cover layout is similar to some of the other books I’ve done: Alphapets, Alphapets Too and Numpurrs. I did this cover design similarity on purpose because I’m working on a series of artworks and books that play with concepts using a variety of characters. This cover layout allows me to show many of the different characters right on the book covers. The cover similarities emphasize that each individual book is an art series collected on a topic that exists within a larger series of artist books.

By now the book “This Rabbit” is finished and will be released world wide on Storyberries Mar 29. I will continue to tease out the book a bit on my social media till then. But for my followers here’s the advance link to the finished printed book: https://www.blurb.com/b/10612530-this-rabbit Yes, you could get a copy of this book early, in time for Easter! (On average it takes 7 to 11 business days after placing your order to get a book)

Copies available via this link: https://www.blurb.com/b/10612530-this-rabbit

Before the digital files could be made I began “This Rabbit” by creating a series of ink and gouache artworks depicting rabbits enjoying activities. Then I wrote a poem on a legal pad with a fountain pen – prior blog posts here and here tell more of my working process. Anyway here’s a look at my legal pad scribbling and the illustrations. I like to emphasize the non-digital parts of my book creations – the digital reproduction, in print/ebook formats, are simply an allowance for kids messy fingers – the book is still intended as a work of fine art and of love.

On to other non-rabbit thoughts: Saint Patrick’s Day is coming up and we can celebrate the holiday and also drink to celebrate my new book “This Rabbit” – so here’s a recipe for an Irish drink I really like perhaps you will like it too? No matter what you’re drinking – “Sláinte!” 

A page from my kitchen sketchbook Favorites So Far – https://www.blurb.com/b/9759759-favorites-so-far

Saint Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays so my evening lounging-about-before-going-to-bed reading is an anthology of Irish writers mystery stories. The book title is “Murder Most Irish” edited by Ed Gorman, Larry Segriff and Martin H. Greenberg. Some of the stories are so enchanting that I’ve looked up almost surprised to find that I’m not in Ireland following behind a sleuth on a cold rainy night but sitting in my warm living room instead. The book pairs well with Irish Coffee….or peppermint tea.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day in advance and thank you for following my progress on “This Rabbit”! See you next Monday?

This Rabbit likes extra drawings

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When I was a kid I wanted drawings on every page of a picture book. For “This Rabbit”, my newest artist book for kids, I’m doing extra drawings, with simple lines like this drawing below, for the book info pages.

And here is the drawing placed in the software so it will print on the books title page.

Here’s the drawing I did for the book dedication page.

Here it is placed so that the rabbit’s heart shaped balloon floats up towards the dedication text.

In my last post I showed some of the poem lines and the illustrations that go with the poetry. I’ve also been serially posting pages from “This Rabbit” on my Instagram and Facebook pages. Here below are a few more poem lines and illustrations.

This rabbit likes to seed

This rabbit likes to read

I’m filling each page of the book with the artwork leaving a small white space for the poem line below each illustration.

This week I’ve talked with Storyberries.com sent them digital files and whatnot as per their request! They will distribute This Rabbit just before Easter! How fun is that? (Telling this news here first!)

Also this week I made homemade hummus to go with a Persian flatbread my spouse made. It was yummy! My hummus recipe is in my kitchen sketchbook Favorites So Far.

Page from Favorites So Far – https://www.blurb.com/b/9759759-favorites-so-far

Below is a photo of books I’ve been reading: it’s March and Saint Patrick’s Day is coming up so I’m reading some Irish writers work in a short mystery story anthology “Murder Most Irish”. I’m also reading a book from the Hamish Macbeth series by M. C. Beaton which is set in Scotland.

See you next Monday? Hope your week is as good as possible.

A box of leaves – Pembral Forgets

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The inside of a book is made up of pages which are called “leaves”. The handmade box I’ve been constructing holds all of the “loose leaves” for Pembral Forgets. I love the pun…a story about fall leaves housed in a box covered with a pattern of leaves, containing loose leaf pages….

Yes, I know…🤣 … Anyway…

Pembral Forgets is a story, written by Steve Tubbs and illustrated by me, about fall leaves, good food and an absent-minded boy who forgets something very important.

Below is a photo of me remembering to spray fix all of the loose pages to prevent smudges.

When I talked with the writer, Steve Tubbs, he expressed concern about the pages being properly protected. So in addition to spray fixing them I slipped each page into an archival clear sleeve.

After making doubly certain that the pages in the archive sleeves would still fit in the book shaped box I set about giving the box an “old book” trompe l’oeil effect using layered acrylic paints over handmade papers.

Multiple layers were needed to create the well-thumbed golden edged book pages appearance to the box sides. (In the background of the photo below you can see some of my character sketches for this book. I keep all such sketches until a project is absolutely finished…just in case.)

Once my book-pages effect on the edges of the box was dry enough to handle I applied the cover title. I had hand lettered, with ink, the Pembral Forgets title onto some of the same tissue-thin delicate paper I had used to make the overall leaf pattern cover paper. [See my previous blog post for details] I applied my archival book glue to the back of the handlettered bit of paper and carefully placed it onto the box.

I wanted the lettering to have a matte look and blend into the cover so that the only shiny, bold, parts to the cover are the stenciled pattern of leaves. (The photos in this post are “in progress” pics. My portfolio page has more photos of the finished project)

Because the paper is thin the applied paper with lettering on it lies flush with the cover itself. Since this box/book may be stored on a shelf just like any other book I don’t want any edges sticking up to catch on anything.

In addition to showing the flatness of the cover the photo below also shows the box edges more clearly.

While the cover title lettering was drying I applied similar lettering to the spine of the book. And worked on a colophon page… more on that in a bit.

I use various sizes of paperweights to hold just-glued papers flat while they dry. (In case you’re wondering beanbags make great paperweights.)

While things dried I created another tree scene – with ink and gouache – this one with frost on the ground and a pond. This tree image is unique to this artist book box version of Pembral Forgets and doesn’t appear in the printed book reproductions.

There are many reasons for having unique pages in the box but the main reason is I have a more flexible page count in a one-of-a-kind book with loose leaves than I do when creating book reproductions.

The photo below shows my handmade box without the loose leaf content pages in it so you can see the bottom of the box. There’s a raised area (the leaf pattern to the right) that has a recessed “valley” near the box walls to allow fingers to pick up the last loose leaf page easily. Also attached to that raised area in the well of the box is a black ribbon for the pages to rest on so they can easily be lifted out.

Here’s the bookmark ribbon with the loose leaf content pages in place

Below is a close view of the colophon page. A colophon gives info about a book authorship, publication and any information that’s relevant to the book creation. I glued it onto the inside front cover aka the inside lid of the box. Since I handmade the box I signed the colophon page.

The box lid has a “tray” which fits inside the box when closed. (Yes, that was very tricky to measure and create. Have I mentioned that I like puzzles?)

Anyway, perhaps in the photo below you can see how that brown tray edge on the box lid fits into the inside of the box. Or perhaps clicking on the video link below the photo gives you a better idea.

Here is a video look at this project

https://youtu.be/p5By-g5AR6E

This week wasn’t necessarily calmer politically speaking than I wrote of in my last post but in a personal sense I stayed busier. So that in itself was calming. I was glad to see that Trump was impeached for a second time. I am nervous about the upcoming inauguration of President Joe Biden – I want his administration to be safe…

So I will do creative work, read, cook, go for walks and find solace anywhere I can while I wait and hope.

As it’s getting colder here where I live in the Pacific Northwest- and since I’ve been staying so busy – reheating a pot of soup was simply easier to manage. Here’s a link to the soup recipe I enjoyed. Lentil Lemon Orzo Soup

I finished the Theodora Goss novel that I’ve been reading during my last several posts. I liked the way Goss writes and I found her monsters a pleasant diversion.

A friend kindly sent me some books by mail – so I’m enjoying them now!

I’ve been requested to make some art prints of a few of the pages from Pembral Forgets so this week I’ll do that and will update my Pembral Forgets portfolio page with those details! What fun!

See you here next Monday. Hope your week is as good as it can be.