They came in a big box. My early copies of the new print version of “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”! The official release of this book is November 1st – but you can click here for early access. I’ll be able to look at a print copy tonight while I brush my teeth – and that’s what I’d hoped for back when I started this project! But first – more happy dancing around the living room!
“Feelings are guides not gods” is a phrase from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”, the new print version I’m currently working on. The concept is illustrated by this story:
Here’s some text from the book related to the artwork: “Do you think that feelings keep you from doing things? More good news – they don’t! We’ve all done many things we didn’t feel like doing – such as going to school or work when we didn’t feel like it – which proves that: Feelings don’t keep us from doing things. Moreover, when you do that thing you feel scared to do, you are nourishing your courage…… Remember, you are responsible for your feelings not responsible to them.” (see the Eggplant story above)
Cultivating and maintaining a high level of Emotional Intelligence is essential to well-being (and creativity). Good mental health is about more than just the absence of mental illness – it is the presence of good coping skills, being able to self-regulate, to see feelings as a guide whether the feelings are your own or someone else’s. (Btw: there’s a good article about teaching Emotional Intelligence here.)
I’ve found Dr. Bob’s concept of “feelings are guides not gods” applies to creativity, and the creative life, as well. Whether or not I feel a particular way doesn’t have to affect whether or not I make my artwork. My feelings are not a “god” to be obeyed. If it’s time to work in the studio, however short or long the time-to-work I’ve allotted is, off I go to my creative work no matter how happy, sad or inspired I feel at the moment.
Where I use my feelings as a “guide” is when I’m out in the world on the lookout for possible art-topics. I keep my inner eye open for things that capture my curiosity and my imagination. Then I keep a list of those things and my feelings related to them in my sketchbooks for future art-making. My use of this “feelings as guide” technique has helped me create many helpful guidebooks, so to speak, for my own creative life. I find it a sustainable creative practice.
All that aside I’d like to add that eggplant can, once in a while, be a very good vegetable – especially as eggplant parmesan.
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.
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 busy getting ready for an exhibit at Caplan Art Designs (www.caplanartdesigns.com) that opens Sept 5th in Portland Or. This is one of the new art pieces that’ll go to the exhibit. Just put it in a new frame today. It’s titled “Immortal Good Fortune” (details below)
Here’s the series of random thoughts I was thinking about as I created it:
We make our own luck. When life hands you dragons – cook sausages to share with others. Dragons are often a symbol for self-confidence, good luck, happiness and power. Happiness is not about luck or getting what you want – it’s the state of mind when life gives us what we’re willing to accept.
And of course I was thinking about reading books, art collections and Schnauzer and Havanese dogs…
I’ve been reading a book titled “Become America” by Eric Liu. In it Liu writes “To be a citizen is to be an artist…. ” Liu included examples of people imaging things like “why is this not a park?” and “How could these old folks and these little kids be making something together?”.
That got me thinking of how citizenship is an act of imagination. Governments, businesses – and of course artists – imagine all kinds of activities for their fellow citizens to participate in. Such imaginative action creates the civic world over time.
It is crucial, then, the kinds of imagination used and the intentions behind it. It matters which wolf gets fed: our good wolves or our bad ones. Or if you prefer angels: do we encourage the “better angels of our natures”?
It far too easy for the human mind to think “It’s always been this way” when we see civic spaces or events. It takes a healthy imagination and some effort to remember that we, collectively, created “this way” bit by bit and that we can maintain it or change it by equally small mundane bits too.
When it comes to my own imagination – and maintaining the health of it and my own civic engagement – I’m constantly asking myself “which wolf does this idea/thought/event feed?” and then looking for the small mundane steps needed to create a banquet, a meal or a snack for my good wolves and better angels.
One step I’ve identified recently, something small and within reach, that I can do to encourage and maintain my own healthy imagination – and good citizenship – is to create a new printed edition of Dr.Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit. And to make it more widely available.
Currently there is only the ebook version out. The first printed edition was done on an Espresso Book Machine at my local Powell’s bookstore. That machine no longer exists. Sigh. Theoretically copies of the first printed edition may still be found out in the wide world – by clicking here – but it’s a challenge. I want to make the book easier to find.
I, personally, want to have another printed copy of Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit. I want to put a copy in my bathroom. I want to read it when I brush my teeth. I want my good wolves to have more food to sink their teeth into. I want to maintain my healthy imagination – and to practice envisioning other good wolves with healthy imaginations also brushing their teeth…
Anyway, here’s one of my illustrations for the book:
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”
Some time back I read an article in my local newspaper about teaching kids to snack healthy and to learn to trust their body’s cues about food. Since then I’ve been thinking of similarities between healthy snacking habits and developing a healthy creative life.
- Teach yourself how to recognize aesthetic cues/desires – and practice responding to them – over time. I think of aesthetic cues as mental indulge-ments; things like stories, poems, movies, music, art etc. that make you feel glad to be alive. Just like a kid has to learn how to try new foods and then practice recognizing what foods they enjoy eating. As we go through life our aesthetic preferences change – just like our food preferences do. So it’s helpful to continue to try new aesthetic/art snacks periodically – and practice trusting your own cues.
- Allow yourself to listen to your own aesthetic cues/voice without input from other people. This takes practice and no matter how experienced a person is one has to remember to return to listening to one’s own voice – rather like how sometimes a kid (or an adult) has to be reminded to pay attention to their plate and eat. (When my wife and I go to happy hour with our friends I have to remind myself to eat…I tend to focus on the conversation…)
- Give yourself permission to just practice. Practice-an-art-materials can be as simple as keeping a book of stories or poems handy for reading and a small book to write in. Think of it as adult playing. Some helpful mantras: “Nothing has to go right today”, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.” and “It’s okay to make mistakes and messes – it’s part of how we learn.”
- Set specific times to practice. These can be very short bursts of time. They can be event/circumstance based rather than clock based. i.e. I’ll practice reading/writing poems while the coffee/tea brews, the water boils or the oven pre-heats.
- Create a small place/drawer where your practice-an-art materials are kept handy. Perhaps a shelf where books related to your art snack indulge-ments are stored. Look for and collect objects, events, places that feed your creative-soul-heart-mind. Stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive. Plan to indulge in these things in small ways – daily.
- Set a habit (I hate the word “rule”) for what time per month you’ll indulge yourself – for an aesthetic “meal”, something more than a short snack – with someone else’s artwork: i.e. go to local art-openings, poetry/story slams, indie film nights, music jam nights or a visit to an art museum.
Here’s what I indulged myself with this morning as an art snack while my breakfast bread toasted:
The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats is a new-favorite poem. It reminds me that we can – and do – create our own solace.
Thumb Use – By Clancy –
Sissy had extra-large thumbs.
So she cleared the table of crumbs
saying “What else can you do,
in the absence of stew,
but make excellent use of your thumbs?”
Beauty and wisdom are all around us if we’re attuned to look for them. Like a mystery story detective looking for clues we train our eyes to “see” what is there. This is partially a function of he way our brains work. We see what we expect to see. How broad or narrow that expectation is affects what we will see. It’s all too easy to “see” only to-do lists and drudgery in daily life. It’s too easy to “see” beauty only in dramatic once-in-a-lifetime vacation places. Yet our view can be broadened so we can see beauty in the fruit at the local market – and find wisdom on our coffee cup.
I see my job as an artist as a practice of seeing beauty in ordinary places and things; of telling the stories of the beauty and the wisdom I find. To help others to see the beauty too.
Beauty and wisdom can be too easily ignored, lost and forgotten – and when that happens life can seem dull and drudgery filled. This is why we need to constantly train our eyes and minds to look around our mundane lives and see the beauty, the wisdom. It takes repeated practice. It takes detective work.
Dr. Bob Hoke (the psychiatrist I illustrated a book for) had a phrase for this phenomenon of the mind “When the student is ready the teacher will appear. And sometimes the teacher has been there all along waiting patiently for the student to become ready, to notice and remember to notice again the next day.”
Here are some beautiful ordinary things I remembered to see – and what I thought about them:
Life’s A Bowl Of Cherries, Stems, Pits and All – At the farmer’s market during Rainier Cherry season I saw a father teaching his very young son how to pull a stem off, chew the cherry, extract the pit and put the stim and pit into a cup. it reminded me of how we have to be taught how to deal with the adversities in life, how to cope with the pits, how to focus on and remember to enjoy the good things.
Coffee City – I’ve been thinking of how much our lives are reflected in the objects we own, save, give away or dispose of – and the many mundane moments out of which a life is made. Perhaps choosing carefully what we focus on, choosing what encourages our “better angels”, choosing what becomes mundane is what makes for a good life. These thoughts began when I was having coffee in one of my downtown coffee shops, staring at the highly polished surface of the ceramic coffee cup which reflected the surrounding city-scape. It was an ordinary moment that elevated my spirit. So I made this painting in order to remember.
More info about my upcoming art opening is available on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/events/2217205128523609/
True confessions: since the opening party is tomorrow night I am having a bit of the “will anyone come?” jitters. No matter that I’ve been having one person exhibits for many years, many times a year, or that all events have for the most part been well attended – even knowing all of that as opening night nears I get a little nervous. (“Will anyone else see….?”) The exhibits matter to me. They’re risky on many levels. That’s part of the exhilarating fun of living the artistic life.
So, yes, I can see the beauty in my nervousness.
Here are some pictures from the Anstine Gallery exhibit of my artwork titled “Community Creatures”. I’ve noticed that adults sometimes become problem oriented, especially in certain professions. So I delight in, via the Anstine Gallery, bringing humorous art to a government building in Vancouver. Doing my small part to bring a smile to your day. All of my artwork in this exhibit is about what I enjoy in town. I’ve also included my sketchbook pages for your additional amusement.
My last post about this exhibit is here: https://sueclancy.com/community-creatures-running-loose-at-the-anstine-gallery/ – and it shows direct links between sketchbook pages and the fine art pieces.
My sketchbook “Running Around Loose in Vancouver WA” is available as an ebook here: https://sueclancy.com/product/running-around-loose-vancouver-wa-edition-1-by-sue-clancy/ I like to think that my sketchbook will be amusing even for people who can’t come to see the original fine artwork.