Quilts, love and the importance of stories

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, books, creative thinking, fine art, life of the mind, mental health, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity

This week a box came from my sister that held a quilt our Mom was adamant that I have. Opening the box transported me instantly to my adopted Mom and Dad’s house. Love smells like old books, coffee, flowers, swimming pool chlorine, Mom’s soap and cleaning products, wine, champagne, cigars and cigarettes. Here’s what the quilt looks like.

As I wrote on my email newsletter I remember well over 25 years ago when this quilt was being created by both Mom and Dad. The quilt took some time to do so I saw it in several stages of production. During each visit Mom and Dad told stories and talked about ideas that relate to the quilt. Rather than completely repeating what I already shared – here’s the main story and…

…a related story…

…along with the truth as illustrated below that both the light and dark parts of ourselves are accepted – we may wish to be more careful about what parts of ourselves that we “pick up” or choose to feed. But no matter what we are accepted just the way we are. (Btw: These stories are are in this book)

There are other quilt related thoughts on my email newsletter A.M. Sketching but here’s a look at the frame and mat we chose at the Aurora Gallery. The just off white mat looks like fabric, woven texture and all. That was one thing I’d enjoyed about Mom, her use of textured fabrics around her house. The frame we chose is a teak wood which reminds both my spouse and I of Dad’s bookcases.

While we were at the Aurora Gallery I realized my current exhibit was still there. This photo is what I could see just by turning my head from where the quilt was spread out. It felt like Mom and Dad got to visit my exhibit. Yes, I teared up at the thought and no one at the Gallery minded.

Both Mom and Dad were unbelievably supportive of my artwork. My art was displayed constantly in their house. So it feels extremely proper that their artwork will soon be displayed prominently in our house! According to the Gallery it will take about 2 weeks until the frame is ready. We already have a place of honor for it in our living room.

Over 15 years ago, during my Abstract art phase, Mom asked me to make a piece for a particular place in their house. Spirals, dots and piano keys were my visual interrelated motifs, each element feeding other elements… I titled it “Food For Thought”. It was about storytelling, the arts and feeding our minds and hearts. My mixed media painting was a response to the quilt and the quilt related stories.

Here’s “Food For Thought” as it was displayed in Mom and Dad’s house many years ago.

All of the above has me thinking of the importance of stories more generally. I’m painfully aware that book writers, illustrators, publishers, educators and librarians are currently under attack – and that books are being removed from public access. I’m feeling an urgency to support local bookstores and the general awareness of books that encourage creative people. So I’ve begun keeping a few publicly available book lists here on Bookshop.org – online book sales there benefit independent bookstores and a small benefit to affiliated people who keep book lists. We create the world together. I learned that too from Mom Penny and Dad.

Ursula K. LeGuin, an author Mom, Dad and I enjoyed together, says it extremely well.

This is why I value the idea of democracy and a nonviolent society. Democracy is the ideal of creating a civilization rooted in free thinking, in equality, in equal access to ideas, to a society based on rule of law, to fact based evidence, transparency, and the right to explore ideas without having to tiptoe on eggshells in fear of some authority figures displeasure, without fear of violence from those who disagree. To create society based on the stories we tell ourselves and each other rather than via the whims of a strongman, or fists or other weapons. Stories can be dangerous enough… part of growing up (or of good therapy) is to learn to distinguish helpful stories from the unhelpful ones. To learn this valuable lesson one needs access to a wide array of thoughts. As this article says “….if we lose our librarians, we lose a core element of our democracy.”

Anyway, all of this was swirling in my head along with my memories of Mom and Dad, storytellers both, and I cried. After I subsided a bit my spouse gently asked if a visit to a bookstore would feel good. I said yes so off we went to Broadway Books. When we entered the store a clerk asked if she could help. I asked for some hopepunk books, books with gentleness and kindness in them. Quickly a book of essays by Ross Gay was handed to me followed by 3 fiction titles. Here’s a selfie of me waiting in the fiction section while the clerk looked up another title. She was so kind!

After a good browse we were at the counter paying for our books. Since we’d gotten so many books they gave us a thick cloth bag to hold them all. I teared up suddenly remembering how Mom made thick reusable cloth bags long before they were normal in stores. Mom even made cloth bags with drawstrings for use when wrapping presents rather than using paper. Whenever we had our lunch meetings at restaurants Dad would bring his Mom-made cloth bag with books in it and I would bring my Mom-made cloth bag with my sketchbook and other books… So there I was standing at the Broadway Books checkout counter with tears running down into my mask. Again no one minded. Everyone was so kind! I waited until we were outside to take my mask off to wipe my eyes and blow my nose.

Here’s the stack of books we came home with.

So I think we chose well. As both Mom and Dad often said “Stories, for better or worse, inform how we relate to our own emotions and experiences”.

Specifically I found this book and it’s chapter about dealing with grief while getting on with one’s creative life to be helpful. Here’s a link for it on my new Bookshop.org page. (Fyi: I’m probably going to mention more often the books I’m finding helpful…)

Here’s a recent sketchbook page… Mom and Dad had cats, Mom liked orchids…

I hope your week is full of love, kind people and helpful stories. See you next Monday.

The Professional Dog and our Jolabokaflod festivities

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, Dogs in Art, fabric design, fine art, greeting cards, illustrated recipe, mental health, pet portraits, sketchbook, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

Here below are 3 dogs from The Professional Dog and details about our Jolabokaflod holiday!

The text from the book is below each dog portrait.

The Teacher’s dog is a thoughtful dog.
The Underwriter’s dog is an understanding dog.
The Volunteer’s dog is a vivacious dog.

In my last post I shared some of the books we’d ordered that came early for Jolabokaflod. Our house “rule” is that any adulting ceases and we open the book boxes when they come, pour the hot chocolate and give each book some attention even doing some sample reading. After that the books are put into the proper gift pile and, this is the hard part, left untouched until the evening of Jolabokaflod on Dec the 24th.

Here’s Judy opening one of the book boxes from Powell’s. She was pleased! I love her smile!!

Another book box came from Annie Bloom’s Books! And this is what was in it.

Still other book boxes came from Boadway Books. Our order came in two different boxes because one book is wonderfully big and bodacious!

We were both delighted with all of our books and with supporting our local independent bookstores! Here below is a description of what we did next… (and if you’re wondering what Jolabokaflod is there’s a fun article here https://www.theuncorkedlibrarian.com/iceland-jolabokaflod-tradition/ )

We did our book gift piles on the couch this year. We chose that place because more than a few of the books will be enjoyed by both of us and our comfy chairs are just across from the couch.

So you can see the stacks better here’s another photo below. There’s one book, the Louise Penny title mentioned last post, that didn’t make it into the group photo because it had snuck out onto the kitchen table… oops. 😁

Adding to my pleasure of Jolabokaflod was hearing from the Aurora Gallery that people were enjoying my artist books there! It felt good like I was “giving back” to my local book-art-world from which I receive so much delight.

Because Jolabokaflod, in addition to being about books, is also about chocolate – here’s our hot chocolate recipe, again. 😁📚☕😁📚☕

At some point Judy found this article which added to our fun. https://www.washingtonpost.com/food/2021/02/05/boozy-hot-chocolate-recipe/

I continued with my sketchbook playing practice and posted these pages on my social media.

Like last year instead of social gatherings we focused on sending cards, sharing on social media and doing whatever we could creatively think of as ways to be in touch with people while staying safe during a pandemic.

Most of our friends and family did the same. We loved getting cards from people, several different people dropped gifts off on our porch and many people sent me photos of the fine art I made that they’d gotten for Christmas! Some sent photos of their children with my artist books that they’d gotten for the holiday! And someone sent a precious photo of their new grandbaby wrapped in a blanket made with one of my fabric designs! All of that, plus comments on my social media and this blog has made this holiday feel special! My heart has grown 3 sizes!! Thank you all!!

I hope your holiday was good too and that the new year is gentle to us all. See you next Monday.

The Professional Dog and Jolabokaflod

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, author illustrator, books, children's book, fine art, greeting cards, household surrealism, magic realism, mental health, printed books, sketchbook, whimsical art, words and pictures

Here are this weeks featured Professional Dogs … waiting excitedly for Jolabokaflod! Or…

… maybe not. 🤣 Anyway, below are closer views of each dog portrait and below each is the text line in the book.

The Reporter’s dog is a responsible dog.
The Sculptor’s dog is a sensible dog.
The Stitcher’s dog is a smart dog.

As mentioned in a prior post the Aurora Gallery quickly sold out of my book The Professional Dog and asked me to bring more asap. So I did. When I delivered the books I saw the nice display the Gallery has done for The Professional Dog.

They even put this notice on the bin that had held printed copies of my book…

…so they were happy to see me come in with these freshly signed copies.

Here’s a closer look at the display. Someone at the Aurora Gallery does hand lettering extremely well!

Here’s the other display rack at the Gallery with my books and cards. I like it that this rack looks so ordinary as I think it may help people consider getting my books as gifts without feeling too “precious” about it. As regular readers of this blog already know I create my books as I do an art object rather than as a book publisher in the traditional sense.

Leaning into the Jolabokaflod season I particularly enjoy having copies of my sketchbook available at the Aurora Gallery and here. I’m enjoying the multilayered pun of having created a book full of sketches of books and readers that also talks about finding books! You can preview my entire sketchbook here too.

But I include these sketchbook pages in this post because they’re good descriptions of how we handle our holiday jolly book flood (Jolabokaflod)

As mentioned last post, and hinted above, we started our Jolabokaflod festivities by ordering books online from a number of our local independent bookstores. Our book orders will come to our doorstep in waves, or small tsunami floods.

The first wave to reach us was from Vintage Books!

What we got for each other: “The Boy, the mole, the fox and the horse” by Charlie Mackesy, “A Surprise For Christmas” a collection of short mystery stories from British Library Crimes Classics as well as novels by Kate Carlisle, Sarah Dreher and John Mortimer.

A few days later from the bookstore Another Read Through we got the books pictured below. When we ordered we selected one of their book bundles. A book bundle, according to the bookstore, is a surprise set of books the store selects for you based on your stated preferences. Since both my spouse and I enjoy a good surprise we ordered a small book bundle, told our preferences … and the store sent us titles by Louise Penny and a Christopher Moore! We are both very pleased with our book surprise! Also very pleasant, perhaps even best of all, was the handwritten note from the store owner!

We got all of our holiday cards into the mail. And our mantel is filling with holiday cards sent to us! That’s one of the fun aspects of this time of year, the sending and receiving of cards.

So you can see it better here’s a closer look at the card image I made by hand using ink and gouache and then photographed for reproductions using moo.com

Months ago when I created the artwork my spouse took a photo of me working on it because it might amuse people to see it. Here ’tis 👇

Here’s the sketchbook page drawing had done before beginning the ink and gouache painting of this image idea. I’m sure you can see what parts of the drawing I kept and what I changed when I did the painting version. Most notably I changed the angles of the sled, the ski’s and the pile of books.

Since we’re nearly upon the holiday I’m going to post more sketchbook pages on my social media and on this blog next Monday…

…and as my sketchbook page above says I hope your holiday is full of love in ways that make you glad to be alive.