I continued work this week on my 3d box sculpture for upcoming exhibit at the Caplan Art Designs Gallery that I’d mentioned in my last post and finished it. Specifically, as I worked towards final touches, I looked at more cardboard and learned about the various symbols printed on boxes and what they mean.
Of all the possible cardboard box symbols- I chose the “this way up” symbol. In my art the “23” denotes the year I made it whereas in the real world on a cardboard box that type of number would indicate the edge crush test rating.
I did a bit more to the elephant character – but not too much.
After adding the box upright marks on the sides and adding highlights to the elephant… while all of the sides dried, I examined still more cardboard box bottoms for what kinds of marks are typically there.
When the sides of my sculpture were dry I turned my sculpture over and signed my name in a parody of cardboard box standards 😁🤣
Below are some of the official photos that I’ve taken for the Caplan Art Designs Gallery of my newly finished 3d sculpture that I’m titling… oh, I’ll bet you can guess… “Thinking Outside The Box”
Next I will varnish this sculpture but I won’t do photos of, or blog about, that process…🤣
Also this week Kathryn Vercillo asked me lots of questions about my artwork and how it relates to mental health. This interview relates directly to why I create the artwork I do. Very candidly I told all… I mean really told it all. 👇
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”.
Last week I took 3 boxes containing all of my Odditorium fineart into Burnt Bridge Cellars where it will be through the end of July. Everything I’ve done over the last year is now in the capable hands of the winery and the Caplan Art Designs art gallery!
My spouse took this photo as I paused with one of the boxes on my way into the back patio door of the winery.
Due to our state’s Covid19 protocols reservations are needed for drinking and eating indoors or outdoors at the winery. Masked people are welcome to drop in to see the fine art and buy bottles or growlers of wines. When not seated masks are required.
While not exactly a full art opening the winery took reservations for a special Friday night dinner: marinated salmon or chicken sate by Class Cooking and of course one could sit and enjoy a variety of wines!! Masks can be removed when seated it’s just when walking about that they’re needed.
Friday night there was live music outside on the winery patio. And you could go inside to see my fineart and artistbooks then you could go outside to hear the music or vice versa.
These photos below are a look at my Odditorium artexhibit on the winery walls before people came (there are more photos here).
Below is a photo of the artist books that are in the basket in the photo above.
And my green dragon bookplates did come in time!! I had hoped in my last post to sign a few of the bookplates for the exhibit in case someone wanted one in one of my books.
Anyway, I was very aware all week that in the best of times and conditions I don’t hear well. Add the masks worn sensibly during a fading pandemic and lip reading isn’t an option either. So I made the decision to stay home even though I could have made a reservation at Burnt Bridge Cellars and spent at least some time at the winery during the first Friday my Odditorium art exhibit was available.
But I know myself and I know that if I saw someone looking at my art I’d want to pop up from my seat put my mask on and try to talk with them and try to hear what they’d say even knowing it wouldn’t be likely…. so I just chose to not put myself in that situation.
While it was a sensible decision I still had some upset feelings about it. So I worked on remembering this 👇
Bookstores and libraries have often been my places of consolation. So my spouse and I went and had our first in-person visit to a local independent bookstore Vintage Books ! We’ve both been buying online from Vintage Books for a year now…but the impulse buying when indiebookstore shopping in person can’t be beat!! https://www.vintage-books.net/
Here’s a selfie I snapped inside the store. At the time we went there were only two other customers and two store employees. We were all spread out throughout the store. It was silent (at least to my perception) except for one of the two store cats who sat up when I neared the shelf where she lay and said “meow”. Vintage Books has both new and used books so the store smelled like book heaven even though my mask. I loved the sights of the colorful book spines and book covers displayed on shelves from floor to ceiling. The staff write handwritten notes about books and I enjoy seeing the various handwriting styles in various places on the shelves. There were multiple spaces where books from different topics/genres had been collected together with staff comments like “if you like the topic in this book then you may like these too” – and that’s a sure way to get me to impulse buy! 🤣
Here’s a photo of my book haul.
Then after we got home I used my usual “how to pick a book” method. I’ve described it in Another Sketchbook and also included it on this coffee mug in my Zazzle shop.
It felt so good to have an extended length of time reading!!
Another soul satisfying restorative was finding that my order from Paperblanks came!!! (https://www.paperblanks.com/en/) Yippee!!! I buy blank books 5 or 6 at a time because it gives me the joyous feeling that I can write with impunity. I can draw with abandon. I can liberally spread the sunshine of my imagination. I can run around with my pen… I can…I can… I can…❤❤❤❤🖋🖋🖋☕☕❤❤❤❤
So this weekend I immersed myself in my books, I dipped into novels like a diver into a swimming pool. I also swam freely in my new orange poetry sketchbook book (mentioned last post). The orange book was the last unused book from my last order-of-5 books. Whenever I get to the last few books I order more immediately.
Several meals this week were quick sandwiches: cream cheese, various vegetables chopped up and some spring greens on lavash bread rolled up. A rolled sandwich only requires one hand to hold it which leaves the other hand free to hold a book! The Atoria Lavash are some of the best I’ve tasted and they ship directly from the bakery! Anyway here’s a link to the sandwich rolling technique https://www.atoriasfamilybakery.com/wrap-like-a-pro/
While my Odditorium exhibit will run through the end of July in subsequent posts I’m going to turn this blog towards new projects. I’ve already started new fine art that continues this Odditorium theme. The new art will be destined for exhibit in September. There’s also the children’s book version of my Odditorium exhibit book still to be released. So periodically on this blog I will probably return to this theme. But I’ve also got a different project in progress that I also want to share with you…
More about that next Monday. I hope your week is a good one!
I’ve been asked how I manage projects, like my “Readings From The Heart” exhibit, over a long duration. Half jokingly I replied “one bite at a time”. My joke is in reference to this saying I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall.
Seriously though when starting I create a general big picture, a kind of map for the entire project. Or, if you prefer, an outline. When I design a long project I do a hybrid blend of the two writing techniques: outlining and seat-of-pantsing. I apply these writing technique concepts to fine art making. I described in my last post what my big picture became for this exhibit that opens this week; the exhibit statement and the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. Here’s a few photos of the printed catalog. An ebook version is also available.
But when I began, more than 8 months ago, my big picture for this project was extremely vague. It was akin to a map of a forest without many details. It was akin to a book jacket blurb, with barely a teaser of what might be inside. It was akin to a writer’s outline with whole sections labeled ‘more research needed’.
My big picture map/ loose outline, was handwritten on a legal pad. Vague as it was it still served as a starting point. I keep a notebook/file box for each project so I can store all of my notes in one spot for easy updating and consultation as I work by the seat of my pants and a lots of “Very Small Goals” (VSG) for the project.
Then with the vague map in hand I identified some Very Small Goals (VSG) that would help me start and proceed on my project. These VSG’s can be as small as ‘buy a new art boards by Friday’. The VSG’s change as the process develops. The trick with VSG’s is to make them absurdly small, easily achievable and very specific – including what and when. It’s important to also find some way make each VSG fun.
I think of the creative life as an Eco-system rather than an Ego-system – what’s important is participating, showing up and finding ways to keep things fun. I can’t stress enough the importance of playing and keeping things fun. That makes creativity over a long project sustainable. Here’s another saying I have thumbtacked to my studio wall.
As I proceed to work I know many changes to my big picture/exhibit design will happen. I also know I don’t live in the big picture. I move organically back and forth from big, medium and small pictures of a project. It’s okay to be uncertain, to experiment and play. I just remember to update my big picture map as I have new thoughts. Slowly over time the picture map comes into focus. A project also changes as life happens.
In this case I began my Readings series well over 8 months ago. Then the pandemic happened and threw a monkey wrenchs in my plans. For example I had to suddenly adapt the way I was artistically inspired: to change from being inspired by things I experienced out in the world to a stay-at-home life, things that I read about or only happened in my imagination.
So to think through how to cope with the pandemic and quarantine I reread Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit, which I had created some time back, about mental health coping skills and wrote notes, drew pictures in my sketchbook in order to think.
I also worked daily in my sketchbook on the topic of how to adapt finding books to read, and the development of one’s mental life to a stay at home quarantine situation. Eventually this book was published as Another Sketchbook in order to share my entire process.
Being in quarantine meant cooking at home more so I consulted our Favorites So Far book. This is a sketchbook full of recipes that were enjoyable ways to feed body and mind. You could say that my work on these artist books/sketchbooks is the medium picture, the inset details within the bigger map, the more developed areas in the outline.
All of this sketchbook work inspired my fine art, where I developed specific thoughts with ink and gouache on board. You can almost think of the fine art as the most visible leaves and fruits on the artist book “trees”. In the exhibit catalog I’ve tried to show the connections between the artist books and the fine art I created.
Sometimes, as the pandemic continued, the fine art on the topics of reading, cooking and thinking felt too serious. Needing some self comfort and to have some fun I began drawing portraits of dogs and cats. In order to organize these dog and cat drawings I decided to make them into a children’s book as a gift for some kids in our friends’ lives. Many of my adult friends enjoy my dog and cat portraits so I decided to share each pet portrait on my Instagram page as I finished it in hopes of cheering my friends as I created the kids book.
The finished artwork became an artist book titled Alphapets and was picked up by Storyberries.com. A sequel Alphapets Too followed. Many stories begin with love and an alphabet – so this portrait project felt fun, relaxed and like a small picture, a detailed map insert or a sample bit of text to be fitted into an outline. (In fact, I spoofed some of the pet portraits within my larger fine art paintings.) Here are the pages in the big picture book Readings From The Heart that tell about the smaller picture of Alphapets and how it fits in.
The original artwork for both Alphapets and Alphapets Too is on exhibit at the Aurora Gallery during August and September. More details about those projects here with lots of pictures of the artwork.
When all of the artist books and all of the artworks were finished I reread my notes and used those to create the exhibit statement I spoke of in my last post. I also used these notes to create the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. That was the very last thing I did for the August and September exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars, the Aurora Gallery and Caplan Art Designs. Well, the last thing besides the framing and art delivery.
Below is a photo of all of my artist books that relate to my Readings From The Heart exhibit. Additionally I’ve created a webpage with all of this projects more than 20 fine art pieces and details about each of the 3 exhibits here.
I hope this look at how I work on long projects has been amusing for you. The exhibits open this week. Many of my upcoming Instagram posts will likely be about that. And I will update the above mentioned portfolio pages too.
Then next Monday when I post here I hope to be beginning a new long-ish project; an illustrated poem for a children’s book titled Numpurrs. I found I quite enjoyed the serialized posts I did for Alphapets and Alphapets Too. So I look forward to doing that again!
I’ve been working on a large painting and posted a pic of me at work on my Instagram page. A friend asked me to explain my symbolism when I finished it …so here goes:
First the painting. It’s titled “The Way Of All Fresh (Food)“. The size is 36 by 24 inches and I used ink, gouache and color pencil to make it.
As evidenced by recent posts of my sketchbook pages I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the life of the mind. I’ve also been reading classic fiction on the topic: “Stoner” by John Williams, “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin and “The Way Of All Flesh” by Samuel Butler.
When creating fine art I like to use symbolism that originates in literature and mythology as a way to orient myself in order to create a visual story.
In this case Butler’s novel had me thinking, as I read, of the ways mental development, new learning – like love – can sneak up on us, and yet it’s something that we process daily. The challenges and necessity of purposefully participating in one’s own mental life dominated my thoughts – especially after I finished reading Butler. I thought of how the maintenance of one’s mind is similar to the maintenance of one’s physical body.
With that as a bare bones thesis I sought, and selected from literary history, symbols with which to construct my visual story:
Lizards represent inner life, taking time to reflect. (I also remembered a quote from the children’s book author Madeleine L’Engle “Love is a funny thing, shaped like a lizard, that runs up and down and tickles your gizzard.”)
Celery, in Ancient Greek writings, represents victory and a warding off of evil spirits. Parts of the celery plants were woven into garlands, crowns, and given to the winner of sporting events. They were also woven into funeral wreaths.
Parsley stands for useful knowledge, joy and feasting. (Practical stuff of life.)
Apples have a long literary history signaling love, knowledge, self-awareness, attainable joys….all elements of life that have been, in some stories, forbidden or used to trick (think Snow White and the 7 dwarves). So I see an element of good critical thinking skill development in an apple but I digress.
Bulldog represents tenacity, courage, willingness to do the right thing.
Cat represents curiosity.
In addition to playing with symbols I’ve also hidden what’s known in the movie and gaming industries as “easter eggs“. Some of the eggs I hid are:
The cat portrait in this painting is a spoof of my own artwork, i.e. there exists an artwork by me that’s similar to this painting within the painting. (There’s also a jigsaw puzzle I designed with this cat artwork.)
I’ve waved “hello” to many of my friends – the kitchen furniture waves to my interior decorator, visionary friend, Carolyn. The cutting board high-fives Kevin, a friend who’s a talented woodworker. The lizards are a shared giggle with my friend Kim. The socks are a howdy to Frank and Elaine. The purple shirt is there because of Beverly, Kris H and Erica M. The book and the heart-art are for my spouse – as always.
Since the lizards represent time to reflect I’ve included a clock near the heart and brain artwork with a special time on it. Most days by 10:40 a.m. I have spent time writing and drawing in my sketchbook. One of my methods to cultivate my own inner life. (And yes, I post these sketchbook pages on Instagram and make artist books from them. You can see some of the books here.)
Oh, almost forgot, there’s a yummy celery, apple and parsley salad recipe that goes with this painting too.
There now. I’ve told most, but not all, of the punchlines. Enjoy!
Here, below, are some new sketchbook pages – I’m still thinking towards publishing a version of my sketchbook. I’ve been encouraged to do this by friends who’ve looked at my book, as well as by my followers on social media – thank you all!!! Now without much further typing:
Recently I’ve been super busy with fine-art exhibits and other illustration projects. But now I’m back to regular work on a new print version of “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”. During my work on the pages about Dr. Bob’s S.W.I.F.T. finger therapy I remembered how valuable this concept is when I’m in the middle of an art project.
While a project is not a person all creative projects also have an ugly-duckling stage. A point in which they’re more “mess” than “masterpiece”. A point in which things are happening with the colors and shapes that may not be what I intended or hoped for.
I’ve found the S.W.I.F.T therapy helps me remember to calm down about the mess. If a creative person gets too angst-y about the in-progress project it stops the flow of creativity. Possibly leading to a creative block. Remembering to think of “So What If….” finger therapy helps me relax and to do nothing radical to the in-progress project during my don’t-like-it moment. It enables me to let go, and approach the project later with an open, playful, mind. Perhaps after lunch, perhaps the next day.
Page from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” collected and illustrated by Clancy
If you’ve just joined my blog (and thank you for that!) here’s the last post about this project. The last post covers another mental-health technique that relates, in my mind anyway, to living the sustainable creative life.
I began learning these mental-health techniques and applying them to my creative life back in the 1990’s. I’m still creating new artwork daily. Still loving it. Something works.
Hope this book and these posts will help you too. All the best…
I’ve been very busy getting ready for a one-person fine art exhibit at Caplan Art Designs that will open in September. (So my social media activity has slacked off lately.) Around the edges of creating new fine artwork, framing, paperwork and so forth I’ve been working towards a new print edition of “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”.
This story from the First Aid Kit has been a good reminder of an art technique I try to practice daily – even when I’m busy:
Even when I’m very busy I practice taking a moment within my day, wherever I am, in the here-and-now and pay attention to my 5 senses. I try to let go of any preconceived conceptions, to just expand my awareness. I also include, in this exercise, paying attention to my free-associations and my imagination during my 5-senses check-in moment. I’ll note my sensory experience and “watch”, like you’d watch television, the memories, thoughts and associations that cross my mind as a result of the sensory experience. I’ll often make notes in my sketchbook.
What I “get” for my payment – when I pay attention – is the power to choose what to focus on when I’m at my art easel working.
This practice of paying attention to both sensory input and the content of my mind – is a version of what Betty Edwards wrote about in her book “Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain” – in the section where she talks about chairs. How (and I’m paraphrasing) a drawing student first attempting to draw a chair will substitute their knowledge about chairs (4 legs, a square seat and back) and will draw a child-like symbol of a chair. One has to learn to see the shapes of the spaces around the chair as well as the shapes of the chair itself – what is actually seen (3 legs, a trapezoid shaped seat and back).
I find too often – especially when I’m busy – I’m substituting my “knowledge” about the world, my preconceptions, for what “is” in the world. So I find it helpful to practice seeing the shapes of spaces, so to speak, in my sensory experience of the world. And to see the shapes of spaces within my own mind.
Paying attention allows me to merge real-world phenomenon with my mental life and to choose to communicate, via art, in ways that are helpful, playful and fun.
Currently “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” only exists in e-book form. But as I said above, I’m working on that. This book has had such a profound impact on my own creative life that I want to have another print version around.