I’m still mostly having a break from blogging and social media: Last week for my birthday my spouse and I went to Oblation Papers in Portland Oregon https://www.oblationpapers.com/ where, one of their knowlegeable staff, directed me to the TWSBI ECO fountainpens with their high volume ink chamber!! I also got a new Noodlers Ink called “Heart Of Darkness”! Won’t it be fun to make my whimsical art from this ink of Darkness?! We rushed home where I immedately filled the new pen and drew in my sketchbook!
Later that day a box from Vintage Books https://vintage-books.net/ came via mail!! I love how they individually wraps each book so they arrive in beautiful condition! In the last photo you can see the titles of the books I got!! This was my first birthday after my adopted Mom’s recent death. It was hard but focusing on things I know I enjoy helps. I even wrote a smidge about keeping a list of self soothing things over on A.M. Sketching.
Quite on purpose not a lot else happened this week so I’ll catch you up on another art for a winery project. This happened over the last 6 months or so and was kept under wraps till the winery could open publicly. For Canal District Wines in Massachusetts I did a series of pet portraits and made them into art prints.
Here you see them being installed.
Here’s a few photos with my art in the background.
Here’s a closer look at a few of the art prints themselves. You can see the whole collection on my Society 6 shop here.
I’ve shared it before but this thumbtacked note on my studio wall containing what Mom said in one of our last conversations bears repeating … she said it in her authoritative Mom voice too! Mom had worked as a psychiatric nurse and she always placed a high value on self-care, especially upon mental health self-care as a way to foster good relationships with yourself and other people, self-care as a lens through which to view one’s choices of activities. When I was younger and Mom learned – before I realized it myself – that drawing and writing were some of my main ways to self-soothe whenever I was upset she would gently direct me towards pens and paper.
Now after Mom’s passing I keep thinking about creativity and mental health skills… what if making stuff is primarily a way of listening to yourself? Not something to be primarily viewed as a way to make money or even with an expectation to make “good art”. What if writing and drawing, along with reading and looking at art, are simply coping skills in times of stress? Something accessible to everyone. What if, as I shared last Friday in my A.M. Sketching email newsletter, art making is simply intelligence doing self-care and playing?
Now I’m thinking of sharing more of my sketchbook work in a step by step way over on A.M. Sketching and possibly here too. Somehow I want to emphasize the connection I see between mental health and marks on paper … but how do I want to do this? How can I do it that also helps me take care of myself by not adding to my already long project list? I’m reminded of this teaspoon page in my sketchbook.
Now I look at the silverware drawer in the kitchen as a homage to grit and resilience.
I wish you to have a good grasp on your spoon too this week. See you next Monday.
Since I’ve been asked by several people: here’s info about the art media gouache, why it makes me grin and my working cycles with it.
Gouache is a water based paint. It’s more opaque than watercolor. Using gouache feels like spreading soft butter on toast. Applied gouache dries quickly but is easily made moist and workable again. It dries to a matte non sticky appearance which makes it suitable for use in bound sketchbooks, in folded artist books as well as for fine art to be framed. Gouache also reproduces well via various printing mechanisms on fabrics, in printed books and on many other surfaces.
In the studio, because I don’t have to worry about my gouache paints becoming unusable on my palette before I can use them (as is sometimes an issue with acrylics), gouache is suited to my busy life. I call this my gouache and grin cycle.
I prefer to work on multiple art projects at a time in “short bursts” on each project. Rather than count on a long span of uninterrupted time I dash in and work a bit on an art project, then go make lunch or do whatever stuff-of-life or other work matter that needs to be done. Then I cycle back to an art project…
To borrow a sports analogy I just try to advance the ball, my various art projects, a little bit each day rather than doing a project all at once. I try to amuse myself with whimsical art making, aka spreading color, for at least a few minutes every day no matter what else is happening in life. The qualities and attributes of gouache help me to do this, to keep my creative games in play – come heck or high water.
Here’s a series of photos showing my gouache working methods in my sketchbook. (This is also my work method for fine art and other projects.) In the first photo you see my 3 x 5 inch watercolor sketchbook held open with clips. Also pictured from the top left and rotating clockwise: paper towel, peppermint candy model, graphite pencil, 3 watercolor pencils, 2 waterproof ink pens, a water brush and my lidded paint palette with its wells of various dry gouache colors.
In the photo below I begin 3 demo peppermints: the top left mint is sketched in graphite pencil and waterproof ink pens. The bottom left mint is drawn in watercolor pencil only. The mint on the bottom right page was doodled in all of the above; graphite pencil, ink and watercolor pencil. [The quote was just on the sketchbook page I chose to use for this demo.]
So you can see what they look like here in the photo below are two tubes of gouache paints. I like the Holbein Artist Designers Gouache brand best but the Winsor and Newton brand is good too. (There’s a monster called “acryla gouache” also available on the market which I avoid like a character would avoid a flesh eating zombie in a horror film.)
I begin painting by laying down the local color – the general color an item is supposed to be. At this point I don’t worry about shadows or highlights or details. I just get the color shapes down – in this case for the peppermint candies.
I did not squeeze out new paint from my tubes when I began. I got my water brush wet and put a few drops of water on the dried red gouache already on my palette so I can use the newly moistened color. I add a small amount of moisture to a portion of the dried chunk of red gouache until that portion feels like soft butter, then I paint the candy stripes.
Here’s a closer look.
Now I get the general color and shape down for the wrapper in the same method. I put a drop or two of water on my blue gouache color, get my brush damp, dab at the blue paint a second or two to get a portion of it moistened and softened – then I paint.
Now I create the cast shadows using a watery mixture of the red and blue gouache colors. To make the watery mixture on the lid of my palette I dipped my brush on the now moist blue color, dab on an area of the lid, then dab the brush clean on the paper towel, then dipping into the now moist red and adding it to the tiny blue puddle, mixing till it’s a purple color I want for the shadow. Then I add a tiny bit of plain water to the newly mixed purple till it’s a small fingernail size puddle of watery purple – this enables me to do the cast shadows in a faint shadowy way.
Now I do squeeze out a tiny amount of the white gouache from the tube and use it, fresh from the tube, to make the highlights on the candy and wrappers. Note in the photo below how the white gouache can completely obscure the darkest ink lines. This is part of what I love about gouache – any mistake can be covered with the opaque paints. If an edge in a painting needs to be softened or a color edge blended all I need is a wet brush.
Then in a few minutes, perhaps the length of time it takes for a decent sip or two of coffee, when the paint is dry I go back over the paint with ink lines or watercolor pencil lines to snap the details into sharper focus.
Now that I’ve finished painting I leave my sketchbook and my palette open and let them dry completely. I even leave the shadow color mixture on my palette lid to dry. All I will need to do to reuse the mixed color in the future is to get my brush wet and dip in.
Peppermints are one of my guaranteed-to-make-me-grin art subjects that don’t require a lot of time or planning. I’ve learned over years of painting peppermints that different candy makers have their own peppermint candy look. And I don’t mean the wrapper.
Here’s a fabric pattern I did of peppermints for my Spoonflower shop. I used the gouache techniques I describe above to create this pattern. But do you notice how these mints are different from the ones I did in the demo above? Different candy maker… yummy too!
To illustrate what I mean about working in short bursts despite life situations. A hot water pipe burst on our hot water heater recently. (Talk about heck and high water! 🤦♀️) After we got the immediate crisis dealt with I did little quick bouts of drawing as a self calming technique. Also while waiting for plumbers etc restoration crews I doodled and painted in my sketchbook. Gouache makes it easy for me do short bursts of spreading color which makes me smile. And having had a brief grin makes dealing with life much better.
Anyway, there’s a new artist book I’ve done for children called “B Mouse Reads A Book”. In it you can see my original ink and gouache artwork, and how the art media is on folded paper in this video on my YouTube channel. Because this book was meant to be handled in a gallery I used a spray fix varnish to make sure the gouache wouldn’t smear or run.
But since the pandemic hit there’s no going to art galleries to handle or view artist books in person. So I was lucky enough to have “B Mouse Reads A Book” published as an ebook here on Storyberries.com! They also included the book B Mouse is reading too…it’s another artist book I created as part of the B Mouse Reads A Book story…there’s a link at the bottom of the B Mouse book that you can click to see the companion book.
I’m sure you can recognize in the image above the ways I did my combinations of ink and gouache. The video shows how flexible gouache can be when applied on paper bound or folded as pages. The ebook shows how well the nuances of the colors show even as a digital image.
If you look at my portfolio pages you can see my ink and gouache work as both fine art framed in an art gallery setting as well as reproduced in printed books.
That reminds me to tell of another practical matter: if you apply gouache too thickly it can pop or flake off. Especially in a folded or bound paper book. And when scanning or photographing gouache artwork for reproduction a too-thick gouache application can cast shadows unrelated to the artwork subject. So I apply gouache as if I were basting bread with semi melted or melted butter.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and found it helpful for when you try gouache yourself.
See you here next Monday. And in case you’d like to know even more about gouache – here below are a few links to more information about painting with gouache:
The Alphapets portrait project this week is brought to you by the letters E, F, G and H. My abecedarian poem to go with these letters and artwork :
Everett often warbles with glee
Farley is so easy to please
Gingerbread loves days when it’s snowed
Henry is sure he’s cracked the code
Here’s the artwork (somewhere on each piece is an alphabetical letter):
I did portraits of a Siamese cat, a poodle, an Alaskan Malamute and a tabby cat. While working I thought of a friends Siamese cat who “sings” constantly and I combined that with a memory of being in college art school which was next door to the music building and often hearing music as I went to class. While working on the poodle I remembered a poodle I knew in the 1970’s and the decor from that era – for some reason poodle haircuts remind me of the 70s. The Alaskan Malamute was inspired by a fairly recent portrait I’d done of a special person’s special dog – and I, too, love seeing snow. I am currently owned by a tabby cat who, I’m fairly sure, has this human figured out (and wrapped around his dew-claw).
All of this artwork was created with ink, gouache and color pencil. I love the forgiveness of gouache, the opacity of it, the buttery-smooth feel of working with it. It brightens my quarantine-days to make these Alphapets pieces – hope it brightens your day to see them.
If you’re just joining us the previous post is here. My Alphapets project is aiming to be both an art exhibit and an artist book. With framing eventually done by Aurora Gallery and Frameshop. https://auroragalleryonline.com/ as part of the Ambassador for Small Frames program. I want to eventually bring them all together in a book – with my abecedarian poem. More of poem will be revealed on each Monday’s post as I get more of the artwork done. More of my artist books are here.
My last post featured my sketchbook pages and those sketches added to my reading in Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut were combined in my mind becoming this fine art piece I’ve titled “Slaughterhouse Chives”
If you saw my last post you may recognize the man’s gesture from my “loosey” sketchbook studies.
I combined the man’s gesture with my soup thoughts, a recipe I cooked this week (and posted on my Instagram page) from my kitchen sketchbook. Then I read around in both Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut.
The Vonnegut title, with its focus on time (and other things) fit best with the thoughts I’d noted in my sketchbooks. (And my thoughts about current absurd American politics.) Reading the Vonnegut book helped me pull together all of my thoughts. Then I did a preliminary drawing, tweaked the drawing over a few days, transfered it to a board and painted.
Here’s some closeup details of sections within my painting:
There now. As Kurt Vonnegut says so often “And So It Goes”.
This is the fine art piece I said I was working on in my last post. It’s titled “Midnight In The Garden Of Goode And Weeval”. If you look closely at the art you can see a plate of veg and cheese.
One recent evening I made a spread of assorted veggies and cheeses for a light dinner. As I assembled the plate I fondly remembered the light and yummy plates of fresh veg, fruits and cheeses that my adopted Mom would make – even late at night – during our visits. That memory merged with memories of travels to New Orleans, visits to a Portland gardening store where I marveled at the colorful planters and the novel, which I’ve read, by John Berendt titled “Midnight In The Garden Of Good and Evil”.
So as I worked with my inks and gouache paints I tried to create a riot of color to reflect these thoughts. My paintings title, a pun on Berendt’s book, also mirrors my kaleidoscopic impressions – all of which were inspired by a plate of veg and cheese.
If you’re curious about my recipe for “light and yummy…plate of veg and cheese” look here.
It’s finally gotten to be “soup and stew” weather here in the Pacific Northwest! When I was making a stew the other day I realized I was twirling, aka dancing, in the kitchen; popping quickly between the stove, the counter where I was chopping veg, the pantry and the refrigerator. I was so excited about making a stew that I’d forgotten my cardinal rule of getting all the ingredients out before starting.
The experience inspired this artwork I’ve titled “The Sacred Dance Of The Stew-pot”.
Sacred Dance Of The Stew-pot – by Clancy – 8 x 10 inch – ink and gouache on board
I created the artwork using my fountain pen and gouache on board – after I’d finished eating of course.
The stew turned out okay. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever made. But for the first stew of the season I’ll give it marks for effort.
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”
Pie In The Sky – by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – ink and gouache on board
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”
“The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients” by Clancy
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.
Yesterday was a busy day full of play both in the kitchen and on a hike. Somehow in the mix I thought of a new-to-me way to combine my handwritten words and artwork on a page. Late last night I tried it in my sketchbook. Here’s what I did using ink and gouache:
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!
“Potter” by Clancy (ink and gouache on handmade paper)
If you’re curious about some of my other commission work you can see them here.