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.

Benefits of miniature art, celebrations and a love letter to librarians

A Creative Life, art prints, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, children's book, creative thinking, fine art, gift books, mental health, miniature art, mundane and magical moments, printed books, published art, sketchbook, Uncategorized, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

Some of my sketchbook pages this week felt like personal milestone markers, like “Yeah! That’s exactly the point of it!” This what I enjoy about having a regular sketchbook habit, the aha moments.

In the studio I’m working on a fine art reproductions project that I can’t talk about much yet. But I’ve discovered another side benefit of working smaller- doing 6 paintings at a go, working in groups of 3, is more easily done when they’re smaller! Working in groups also lets me coordinate colors more easily! Who knew?!

But instead of my new art project we’ll talk of other things. Like how my bio on Storyberries tells about my art studio supervisors. I include their photos in this post along with all due deference because they’re very good at their jobs – there are 14 books from me now on Storyberries!

A box came in the mail this week from Vintage Books with the new banned books we’d ordered! My last post tells about our current quest to buy and read banned books.

The Mississippi library mentioned in my recent post whose funding was taken away because the town’s mayor objected to LGBTQ books has met it’s fundraising goal several times!! Celebrating this success!! Up to the minute details are here.

This week I was lucky enough to get to sign some printed copies of my newest artist book “How The Cow Went Over The Moon and Tiny Notes To The Sun” for a friends precious grandchildren. Getting to do this for a dear friend makes me so happy!

And there’s also been lots of love for my new books on Storyberries!! Readers are reading in our new “experimental art books” category!! Wahoo!! I am inspired to make more books and have begun already!! (More of that in future posts)

https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-how-the-cow-went-over-the-moon-sue-clancy-wordless-no-words-picture-books/
https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-tiny-notes-to-the-sun-sue-clancy-wordless-picture-books/

Speaking of celebrating good things – my wife and I are celebrating 26 years together and 9 years of marriage!! I am so incredibly lucky to be with someone so warm, witty, wise and in possession of a wonderful sense of humor! And she’s a reader who is always reading interesting books!

Cheers!!

We had a good weekend talking about the books we’ve been reading! We do this often – it’s one of the many fun things we do together! A sample conversation is in our kitchen sketchbook of our favorite dishes – titled Favorites So Far – we’d published when we’d only been together 24 years. Our conversation about books is on a drink recipe.

Speaking of love – to coincide with Valentine’s Day here’s a love letter to librarians, teachers, authors and readers. This letter began as a conversation with Liz Gauffreau since our talk I’ve handwritten (and edited of course) my part of the conversation and did some illustrations for it. Then I’ve set the artwork up as an art print on my Society 6 shop for the encouragement, love and support in it for my fellow bibliophiles.

Learn by reading books – by Clancy – https://society6.com/product/learn-by-reading-books_print?sku=s6-23137174p4a1v45ht

Happy Valentine’s to my fellow book lovers! See you next Monday.

Professional dog, the box project, encouragement, a chat and gnocchi

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art prints, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, children's book, Creativity Chats, Dogs in Art, fine art, greeting cards, illustration, life of the mind, mental health, pet portraits, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

My childrens book “The Professional Dog” has moved into color! Over the last week I’ve inked more than 12 of the illustrations just so I could see where I was going. Now I’m doing the same testing with colors. I’m using my butterfly palette (a post about that here) – it’s a fun challenge to paint dogs using a palette based in a scientific study of the color variations of butterflies. I have been using a few extra colors – most notably dark brown- but my primary color scheme is butterflies!

Below is a look at three of my Professional Dog illustrations together so you can see how the colors look.

Then here’s a closer look at each of those illustrations: my book text for each portrait is below.

The Accountant’s dog is an adorable dog.
The Artist’s dog is an adventurous dog.
The Assistant’s dog is an angelic dog.

Progress has also been happening on my holiday box project for an upcoming exhibit at Caplan Art Designs. I now have the overall design plan somewhat in view. In the photos below I’m working in my sketchbook to see if my plan has legs so to speak.

I’ll do more sketchbook work over the coming days towards this holiday box project. The box project has a firm deadline attached to it so I’m playing with it every day.

This is true now too of The Professional Dog. There’s a deadline but it’s not as firm as the box project deadline. Even so I have two main projects to work on every day! How nice is that?!

I am still planning to add to my ongoing “For Pleasant Encouragement” art print project and to my “odd greeting cards” project but progress on both of these is primarily in my sketchbook now. My daily focus is on my two main projects but I’m making regular notes in my sketchbook of my ideas for future cards and art prints for when I have time to do them!

Here’s one of the art prints in the “for pleasant encouragement” collection.

https://society6.com/product/have-i-done-something_print?sku=s6-21898856p4a1v45

I also did another Creativity Chat this week – this one is about playing on paper https://youtu.be/UGCP2fm9IYg

If you’re curious about where I’m filming these chats here’s a blog post from some time ago that has a fun photo of the spot in my studio. It is still true for me what I write in that post that art is love made visible and that this spot in my studio is where I practice loving.

Creativity chats: playing on paper- https://youtu.be/UGCP2fm9IYg

This week for the main special get-creative-in-the-kitchen project I added sauteed zucchini but otherwise mostly followed this creamy gnocchi sauce recipe https://www.acouplecooks.com/easy-creamy-gnocchi-sauce/ It was tasty but a bit more heavy than we like to eat so I probably won’t make this again. Still, I’ve not cooked gnocchi very often so it was fun to try it.

Contrary to what it may seem like having two main art projects with deadlines actually frees up my brain time. In addition to playing in my sketchbook I can get some reading done! I’m within whiskers of finishing “A Swim In The Pond In The Rain” by George Saunders for the 2nd time. Gosh I’m glad I bought my own printed copy of this book … it’s such a good source of creative encouragement!

Here’s hoping you have many sources of encouragement this week and that your cat similarly saves a chair for you in your happy place.

See you next Monday.

The minutest concerns: poems, love, books and odd balls

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artistic inspirations, books, fine art, household surrealism, magic realism, mental health, Patch La Belle, poetry, sketchbook, This Rabbit, Uncategorized, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

This week in household surrealism I’ve been thinking of love. Love in the sense of the poetry, the food, the care for and cleaning of things, generally creating a gentle environment for ourselves and others. Perhaps an environment also filled with souvenirs of loving moments as I wrote in my last post.

My recent children’s book This Rabbit was about knowing what you like. Well, this week I’ve been thinking about how it can take practice as adults to remember to let ourselves love openly, wholeheartedly and to unabashedly enjoy things.

Among these thoughts is the fact that tulips are in bloom when I live in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s a photo from my spouse’s garden.

In the morning sometimes I read a bit of poetry while having my breakfast and coffee. The photo below is a poem by Mary Oliver, from “New and Selected Poems Vol 1”, I see this poem as talking about wholeheartedly living life. A life well lived is lived bit by bit in thousands and thousands of mundane moments. Many of those moments (even in pre-pandemic times) happen at home.

Letting oneself wholeheartedly enjoy and love little parts of daily life – why is that so hard? Perhaps as adults we get caught up in the “gotta do’s” as I call them. We sometimes almost chain-smoke, metaphorically, one gotta-do duty after another forgetting that love and pleasure is often part of the reason we do things. By contrast it feels good to pay attention to whatever interests you and revel in that focused moment. This wholehearted enjoyment is a way to be gentle  and loving to yourself and the people you love. Anyway, I thought of that while I doodled in my sketchbook.

Then I worked several days in a row to flesh out my thought using acrylic paint on cradled board. Yes, this is another piece destined for upcoming art exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars and at Caplan Art Designs.

Below is the finished painting I titled “The Minutest Concerns”.

The label on the bottle of cleaning fluid the mouse is using in my painting is actually a bit of collage. I’ve been using a falling apart copy of Jan Austen’s book Pride and Prejudice as my collage source. (See my last posts here and here for details)

As I worked I also thought about and reread a passage in a book I illustrated titled “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit“. The passage reads “love is clarity of perception and accuracy of response”. 

Basically, in the bigger universal sense, things are okay, you are okay, and it’s okay to relax and enjoy just being yourself and liking and loving the world around you.

For example this photo below is part of my world that I love; I love picking up one of the books and reading a bit, I love just looking at the books on the shelves and I even love dusting them. Of course I confess that often I get distracted and stop dusting to read 😁

I love having lots of books so much that it feels like heaven. So I did this drawing and made a print of it…just in case someone else feels the same way. (This is part of the gift making I talked of last post) Even if I’m the only person who feels like this making a drawing and a print was a fun way to fully enjoy and love the feeling.

Books are all we know of heaven – an art print by Clancy –https://society6.com/product/books-are-all-we-know-of-heaven4207368_framed-print?sku=s6-18617343p21a12v52a13v54

I also love the challenge of cooking. It took me a while to figure it out but I can now reliably make meatballs to store in the freezer for use whenever the odd meatball is wanted with pasta or rice or roasted vegetables.

Here’s my recipe as written in my kitchen sketchbook. Yes, this is another souvenir of love! Books and sketchbooks are the best souvenirs!

My sketchbook page will still be there long after the meatballs have all been eaten! Plus I can share this sketchbook page with people and thereby share the love.

That’s part of what I love about poetry, books, gardens and art they each nourish one’s spirit and are shareable. They’re part of how we know we’re loved and part of how we love other people and how we remember to love ourselves and the world around us. They’re part of how we connect emotionally with each other.

A dear friend loaned me this book “The 3000 Mile Garden”. It’s a wonderful almost voyeristic view of two people sharing their love of food and gardens with each other. And we readers get to see their intimate exchange of letters! The book has hand drawn maps and photos too! It’s a fun evening read.

These are the sorts of thoughts that inspire me as I work on my new household surrealism fine art series that I’m titling “Odditorium”. In addition to the art itself I’m also working on an exhibit statement- which is kindof like the synopsis on book covers – a short paragraph or two to interest viewers and help them understand what I’ve created. Wish me luck at crafting the sentences?

Anyway, I hope this week that you’ll remember to allow yourself to love whatever is commonplace in your world. See you next Monday?

P.S. my book Patch La Belle is going to be featured on Kidz Stories And More – and I’m excited!! I will update my social media and this space when I have a link to share… Here’s the link to the read-aloud video they made!! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rOyqdg0WUjQ

Of civility, books, odd art and rice

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, Art Word Combinations, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, Gifts, household surrealism, Narrative Art, rabbits in art, sketchbook, visual thinking, words and pictures

I got my 2nd dose of the covid vaccine this week and I’m very glad! It did slow me down some so I did more than my usual reading, sketching and thinking.

I avidly follow and read the letters written by historian Dr. Heather Cox Richardson. Often I use her letters on current events and past history as a prompt for my creative sketchbook work.

This week I read this letter by Dr Richardson https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/april-7-2021 and did this sketch.

The next day I read this letter by Dr. Richardson https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/april-8-2021 and did this sketch.

Behind these sketchbook thoughts is my ongoing thinking about Jane Austen’s work. In her novels – Pride and Prejudice most certainly – Austen writes of civility and the social comedy of manners. I see Austen’s work as exploring how stories affect civility and how the presence of civility, or lack thereof, in turn affects not just the individual but also the people around them and the larger society.

Here’s some of the books I’ve been looking at (besides the ebook murder mysteries on my phone): Living With Books by Helen E. Haines, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (my new copy!), The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, Art Matters by Peter de Bolla, In the Presence of Fear by Wendell Berry.

So in multiple ways I’ve been pondering the mundane roll-sleeves-up get-hat-gloves-boots-on kind of work it takes to have a humane civilization. Pleasantness takes effort, talent and perseverance. It can take effort to remember to notice and accept when something is pleasant and then to share it.

As Kurt Vonnegut said “I urge you to please notice when you’re happy and exclaim or murmur or think at some point “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.””

The odd surprises which delight us in nature, in cooking, in art, in literature and in music help us to cope, to see things anew, to remember why we’re working so hard – and that’s what the Arts are for, I think, to help us remember our humanity, our capability to be humane.

Anyway, I eventually finished this painting and titled it “Of Civility”. As per my last post I used some collage text from my old falling apart copy of Pride and Prejudice. This is another piece for art exhibits later this year.

“Of Civility” – by Clancy- 10 x 8 inches- ink, gouache and collage on board

Yes, it may take effort sometimes to be civil and show civility … but forward looking pleasantness usually works out better. As Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Also while thinking on these topics I made a coffee mug design for my Zazzle shop. My hand lettering on the mug says “I love you…you’re probably thinking ‘but you don’t even know me’ … but if people can hate people they don’t even know then I can love…so, I love you.” (Yes, I consider this mug tangentially part of the “household surrealism” work I spoke of in my last post” – my whimsical enjoyment of mundane things which includes making items that could be given as gifts)

I Love You Mug by Clancy click here for more info and ordering this mug – or look for other fun stuff here https://www.zazzle.com/store/sueclancy/collections

Speaking of mundane pleasures, thanks to “An Invitation To Indian Cooking” by Madhur Jaffrey, I have finally learned to consistently make good Basmati rice on the stovetop! (My rice cooker bit the dust so making rice stovetop became a project)

Some quotes I like about rice:

And here’s another sketchbook page … I keep thinking about this one…

I hope you have a pleasant week full of gentle stories, kindness, civility, some odd delightful surprises and a very good bowl of rice. See you next Monday?

Art is Love

A Creative Life, fine art, illustration

StudioPicBertrandRusselQuote

This photo shows what I see when I enter my art studio. It smells like freshly sharpened pencils, new paper, ink and archival glue. I feel a deep to-the-bone happiness here. On the wall above my stand-up desk (pictured) I have a quote: “One must care about a world one will never see.” – Bertrand Russell. Here in the photo is the place where I do my caring.

I work on average 8 hours a day making art of one sort or another. When it’s finished my art goes to galleries or publishers and from there it goes to the lobby of an organization or to a private client’s home or it is reproduced in a magazine or book. Rarely do I get to see firsthand where my art ends up. I’m lucky if I hear from a gallery owner that the client was happy. I’m lucky if the editor sounds excited about the artwork I’ve done for them.  I am really lucky if someone sends me a photo of my art in their home (I value those highly)!

This means that I am stimulated to get-to-my-studio-and-work by my imagination; I imagine that the people in the hospital get some comfort when they see my art on the wall, I imagine that the people who have my art in their home come home from a hard day and smile when they see my artwork, I imagine that people in the presence of my art feel at least a little of the happiness I felt as I created that art.

I get just enough feedback from my gallery owners and from clients to know that my imagination is fairly accurate.  And it helps me to imagine more exactly in the future because I’ll call to mind specific people who have said kind things in the past – and I’ll create something new with them in mind even if they never see it.  So this is a picture of my studio where I do my caring about the world. I have another quote on the same wall: “Art is love made visible.”

My coffee cup (see photo) needs refilling… there, now back to work!