We had a fun visit this week with our wonderful Fairy Goddaughter, the very best Goddaughter since once upon a time! We had a delightful conversation about books and she gave us this one by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
It’s a delightful cheerful sort of poetry book. A restorative way to begin and end a day. What a beautiful gift and even better is having a wonderful Goddaughter to share life and books with!!! 💙💚
Also this week some bunny made a Mysterious Mural – https://sueclancy.substack.com/p/mysterious-mural-2 It’s a small 16 page artistbook story about the creative process that I made using fountain pens and gouache on one sheet of handmade paper for the encouragement in it. Details at the link above.
Knowing how you feel, what you think and being able to talk clearly about it is an important skill to cultivate. This is true for everyone and especially true for anyone trying to do anything creative.
Creativity comes from a regular habit of observing the world and listening to yourself to your own thoughts and feelings. Creativity comes from trusting your own voice. Creativity comes from cultivating your attention, deepening the depths of your thoughts and playing with the possibilities there. Creativity, even humanity itself, relies upon individuals having an active inner life.
Basically this week I’ve been thinking a lot about how it’s helpful for mental health’s sake, to somehow make time everyday- at least 5 minutes- to check in with your five senses, to explore your own thoughts and have therapeutic conversations with yourself. Pens and paper are so useful for such inner conversations. My friend Neera also discusses this in her email newsletter and kindly mentioned me and my morning sketchbook efforts!
Speaking of my sketchbook efforts: This week on my sketchbook newsletter I finished sharing my entire book “C” and will begin sharing sketchbooks D and E soon.
I’m enjoying publishing my sketchbooks sequentially, warts and all, in a Substack email format – A.M. Sketching. I see it as a creative art project. I can share digitally whatever I’ve created in real life in a reader supported way – via both paid subscribers and free subscribers. The Substack format enables me to share my creations directly in an ebook or other downloadable format on a regular basis with people who have said (by subscribing) that they want to see my stuff. This way of publishing feels more sustainable both environmentally and creatively. Substack also feels like a more sane, humane platform for authors and artists and readers …fewer trolls… so far.
Anyhoo, the creative arc for creating a one of a kind artist book, printed book editions, fabric design productions and fine art prints can take multiple weeks or months of time. (And can be expensive to produce.) To create a one person fine art exhibit – 20 or more paintings in a themed group – can take a year. You see evidence of these long creative arcs here in this blog. So it’s nice to have my email newsletter that goes a bit faster and the dollars and support I get there gives me the encouragement I need to sustain my longer arcs. The support I get here on WordPress is valuable too – and I heartily thank you for it – yet I’ve never figured out, successfully, how to share downloadables here on WordPress. So I do my actual books and downloads on Substack where it’s easy. On the other hand WordPress doesn’t have word count limits as Substack does so here on my blog I can write in more depth about my creative life and why I created something. But then again WordPress can be buggy, cumbersome, with gremlins… Some pros and cons to both publishing platforms. The main thing I’m discovering is that it’s less expensive for me to share my actual work via an email newsletter on Substack and as a result of both its ease of use and less expense I’m able to share more of my art – and that itself feeds my soul!
And on my Substack newsletter I shared a Rabbit… more about that in a second…
To be healthy mentally we all need to regularly see beauty, we need gentle humor, we need to see patterns in our world and even to attempt to make them with our own hands.
Humans need rhythms as I’ve mentioned in recent blog posts. We simply, physically, need times when we can wander slowly, aimlessly and hear ourselves feel and think. Throughout our lives in order to have satisfied minds we need to repeatedly test what we think we know and what we think we like. Reading novels, writing and doodling are easy ways to give ourselves time to mentally wander and play.
And yes sometimes finding the time to mentally wander feels impossible in these days of 24-7 information onslaught, when our days seem so full of activities that it’s difficult to find moments of quiet respite … While thinking about that I drew in my sketchbook a pig with wings, hovering in the quiet air doodling…
That sketch led to my finished painting titled “When Pigs Fly”. It’s a tall skinny size, 18 inches tall by 8 inches wide. Eventually (the long arc of creativity again) it will be in fine art exhibits via Caplan Art Designs later this year.
Even though it’s hard sometimes to wrangle time for them the repeatable motions like walking and reading and doodling are reliably accessible, more accessible than a vacation cabin in the woods. And besides vacations we need regular mundane ways we can enable ourselves to hear ourselves think. This physical brain fact about the value of quiet and repeated motions as a self-care technique is related to why adult coloring books are a “thing” – coloring is another rhythmic activity that gives us space to calm and connect to ourselves.
Toward that notion this week I hand drew a coloring page and set up my artwork so that it can be downloaded and printed via my email newsletter. Alongside the coloring page I told a personal story… here’s where the Rabbit mentioned earlier comes in…
Teaser: As a deaf kid I had “Easter Bassets” from my mishearing of the word basket. My coloring book drawing in my newsletter was inspired by my Easter basset memory… you can download my drawing page to do coloring yourself or to read my personal story. Here’s the link: https://sueclancy.substack.com/p/leggs-easter-bassets-and-rabbits
Yes, I grew up and learned about the “k” language sounds … but I still like to think of the Basset Hound as the delivery system for treats this time of year … the rabbits may have done the egg decorating but the eggs got to you via the hounds !!
Now you know!
Here’s what the coloring page looks like. Again the actual download is here.
Also in the same Substack newsletter is a link for a book I wrote and illustrated for Storyberries titled “This Rabbit” – its about rabbits liking things – and as I mentioned knowing what you like is a skill to cultivate all of your life. (Watch out! More rabbits!)
I hope you can see how I’m experimenting with using both the Substack and WordPress platforms- more to the point I hope you’re enjoying what you see from me in both places!
Speaking of enjoying things – here is a photo of books I particularly enjoyed this week: one is a list of things the author Barbara Kipfer likes. I enjoy trying some of her preferences that are new to me. I also enjoy the reminders of things I’ve enjoyed in the past. The book on Zentangles is a wonderfully relaxing doodle prompts book.
A pleasant digression: A fun thing happened when we were at the Powell’s bookstore on Hawthorne street in Portland this week. In the poetry section where I was browsing was another adult, also browsing. With that adult was a kid sitting on the floor at their adult’s feet. The kid, maybe 10 or 11 years old, was looking, with a furrowed brow, at 8 books from a series, looking from one book to another in fairly rapid succession. After a bit of that activity the adult leaned down, picked up one of the books, looked at the price tag then at the array of 8 books and said “Let’s get them all.” The kid’s jaw dropped. “Really?” “Yes!” Said the adult. “Ooooh!!” breathed the kid scooping up the 8 books and hugging them. Big grin from the adult hero of the day.
Below are the used books we hugged home ourselves. Bread and poetry in our future! Both bread making and short poetry involve patterns and rhythms…
Here’s a novel I’m currently reading. It’s just relaxing and fun.
The text below was on a bookmark found in one of the used books we bought …it made me laugh.
I hope your week is has as many pleasing patterns and rhythms as possible.
See you next Monday.
P.S. if you’re curious about the books mentioned in this post you can find them here on Bookshop.org which benefits small independent bookstores.
I recently read “Hare Brain Tortoise Mind” by Guy Claxton and was reminded of how rhythmic things like weeding a garden or doodling can be calming to the human mind. This physical neurological response to “uniformly random rhythms” is also part of the human reaction to rhythms in songs, poetry or prose – we respond neurologically to refrains and repeated patterns, with variations, in all of the arts.
I include cooking here – it too is one of the fine art forms that has comforting rhythms both for the person stirring the stew and for the person eating. I think of how soothing it is for a small child to be held and rocked – what if all of the human fine arts are basically rhythms that can hold “rock” and soothe our physical brains?
So I’ve been thinking more about rhythmic patterns in my own creative efforts. I’ve begun doing doodlebugs… and other projects that involve “uniformly random rhythms” of patterns. I’m also making some changes to my morning sketchbook sessions that involve making more patterns.
As you know things that encourage good mental health skills are important to me and if I can foster my own mental health via rhythmic pattern creativity – and by sharing my work perhaps help others too – that seems a worthy artistic goal.
Here’s a doodlebug I did in my sketchbook and a fabric pattern I made from it.
Recently someone sent me some photos of one of my wallpaper designs that they applied to their kitchen island. They were pleased and said it was “just the whimsy we were looking for”! I’m glad they were pleased!! I’ve learned in the process that grids are fun ways to make visual rhythms!
Here’s a painting I finished this week that I’ve titled “This Little Piggy”. It was inspired by the nursery rhyme: (please note the rhythms) “This little piggy went to market. This little piggy stayed home. This little piggy had roast beef. This little piggy had none. This little pig cried wee, wee, wee all the way home.” As you can see in my painting below I also repeated visual rhythms, like the rhyme, and did a few playful alterations.
In the video below is a look inside my studio at “This Little Piggy” – I created using ink, gouache and color pencils many of the supplies you’ll see briefly in the video. It will join my other paintings for exhibits later this year via Amy Biederman Caplan at the Caplan Art Designs Gallery. www.caplanartdesigns.com
In my email newsletter this week I shared my “This Little Piggy” painting and I’ve been sharing my sketchbook pages. I’ve finished sketchbooks C and D and am working on E currently. The doodlebug image above is in book “D”.
This book is my current evening and weekend reading. It has a library in it that is dedicated to poetry… be still my heart!
And because I like to share particularly good things: here’s a link to a good recipe for LENTIL CHILI along with my additional notes and variations: Add a can of roasted chilies and use chicken or veg broth or water (whatever available/handy). Add cumin, dark cocoa, Mexican oregano, chili powder, salt, pepper – cook 30 or more mins on simmer, stir often and add more broth or water if needed. Variation: add a chopped carrot, frozen corn and or chopped bell pepper
And look at the rhythmic visual pattern of the beans in my cookpot too!!
I hope your week forms a pleasant daily rhythm for you.
My Odditerrarium exhibit is humming along nicely at the Caplan Art Designs Gallery! This week was another busy week and I’m grateful to have a Gallery collaborator who helps keep things going in many ways including with posts like this! What a nice way to show the pets that inspired the portraits in my exhibit!
Since I knew this week would be another busy one I carefully carved out some time to sketch. Because I’ve discovered I enjoy sharing step-by-step how I create my sketches I documented my sketchbook session and posted it here on my email newsletter. In the post I show the art supplies (like the NIL-TECH watercolor pencil set) and how I use them as well as how I got the idea for my sketch.
As you know from earlier posts I’ve been working on a new illustrated poetry book for Storyberries.com. Knowing I wouldn’t have much time to work I did “need to let it dry” kinds of tasks: I spray-fixed the pages and glued the still-raw boards for the book covers. In the last photo you see the small credit card sized book just before I set it up interlaced with wax paper and paperweights to dry while life happens.
Then a wonderful visit happened over three days with family! There were two college soccer games to attend in support of one family member. We ate in a number of locally owned restaurants. We went for a hike in a park. We played games of dominos well into the night. I didn’t photograph everything and I never managed to get everyone in the photos at the same time but this photo below was the most successful.
One family member was on the field being a goalie. Other family members were along sidelines taking photos of the action on the field. There were so many reasons we were seldom in the same places at the same time for a family photo. The games were active occasions!
The outdoor soccer games were also unseasonably warm and sunny, for the Pacific Northwest, as you can see below.
I wear two high powered hearing aids and have since I was 8 years old. My right ear is a bit better at hearing with hearing aids than my left one. I know well from past experiences that hearing aids are sensitive to heat, moisture and interference by hats – among many other things – so I try to be careful. I even remove my hearing aids before I use spray-fix on my art projects just in case.
Well, during the first soccer game I was enjoying listening to family members and the noisy hubbub of the game when suddenly everything went quiet as if a switch turned the sound off. My right ear was completely silent and I could barely hear, with the hearing aid in my left ear, the loud drums and shouting from the crowd. Immediately I told the family member who was talking to me that something had happened to my hearing aid. I told my wife too and excused myself to go to the car to see if I could replace a battery, adjust a setting that was knocked off by my hat or do something and get my hearing aid back on again. No such luck.
So I went back to the stadium and told my family that I’d be more deaf than usual the rest of the day. My hearing issue was no problem for anyone else, some sign language, repeating things patiently, and my lip reading skills could compensate. It was me that had a problem. In such scenarios I have FOMO, a Fear Of Missing Out. My family loves me and includes me in everything- I can trust and rely on that – it’s that they are all such good storytellers. They’re good storytellers in the literary sense of building suspense using nuances of wordplay, of voice tones and inflections, of playing shared family knowledge like a violin (in kind, gentle ways) while building towards a punchline. To miss some of the words or sentences means a high probability of missing the joke! If you know me at all you know how I love a good story so I had a serious case of FOMO!!! I didn’t want to miss any clever turn of phrase that would be said!
To cope with the FOMO I did my best to focus on the bigger picture of just enjoying their physical presence and to appreciate the things I did hear and let the rest go…and to just trust myself and them! I did my best to “catch the conversational drift” and add related stories of my own now and then. I tried to be as much a full participant as possible. It was hard at first to keep my FOMO from dropping down like a barricade between us but I leaned on trusting myself and everyone else. I imagined the conversation was a happy-accident style painting where an artist just trusts the creative process. I reminded myself that I like surrealism and nonsensical poetry – that I would be fine with things not being comprehensible. I recalled the art college essays I wrote about the artists John Cage, Rene Magritte, Joseph Cornell and Ray Johnson. I also remembered reading about Surrealism and Dadaist poetry and storytelling in addition to the art styles.
Later that day when we had dinner and as the evening cooled off my right hearing aid fluttered to a little more life. Not back to it’s normal power but I was glad of a wee bit more sound. After we were home I got out the hearing aid instructions and fiddled with the settings. During breakfast the next morning I fiddled with the settings some more and the second game day had a bit more – not normal but better- hearing in it. Still I practiced “just appreciating what I did hear” and “just trusting and loving”.
Here are some photos from the second soccer game of people I was just loving and trusting.
Our family soccer goalie is in the middle behind the fence. The 4 others are also family members.
And I found myself just enjoying our meals together and didn’t take photos. Except for this one at happy hour.
Stories got told over our domino games we had at our house till after midnight! In our quiet house I heard a bit more of the stories but it’s obvious that these hearing aids need repair! Will visit the hearing aid repair place asap!
So I learned this week that it really is true that “A little nonsense now and then is valued by the wisest people”, that art can help – even when it’s memories of art history essay papers, and also that just loving and trusting can lead to some of the happiest of experiences! What a great time I had with family!!!!
I hope your week is filled with love, trust and happiness too! See you next Monday.
My exhibit “For You By Sue the ABC’s: Art, Books, Cards” opened at the Aurora Gallery. It was my first art event since my adopted Mom passed so it was hard in many ways. But I spent time talking with my spouse and being in touch with family and friends so that helped. I didn’t attend my art opening in person because I’m still being careful re Covid and, frankly, I didn’t want to cry in public. Even so I heard nice comments via social media from people who saw my exhibit during the opening and took the time to tell me they enjoyed it. It’s safe to say quite a wide spectrum of my emotions were covered.
Which made me glad that I’d spent time reading Marcus Aurelius recently. Over on A.M. Sketching I thought, as I sketched, about a quote from Marcus Aurelius – regarding not needing to always have opinions and the practice of letting opinions float by as they will. I find this is true of my emotions too – they come and go if I just let them alone. So, it helped this weekend to just let my emotions come and go without forming an opinion about how I felt. Not forming opinions about my emotions helped me to sustain both my creativity and my ability to do the business end, so to speak, of living a creative life during a personally difficult time.
This last week I made an effort towards my new drawing tutorial gig via Nil-tech. I did a demo of drawing “Hedgehog in Shade“.
It’s a beginning… here’s a link if you’d like to see my very short tutorial effort.
Here’s a book I’m reading and enjoying. I find the main character’s way of cheerfully adapting to difficult circumstances very refreshing.
I’m going to read and rest some more. Thank you for reading and for your kind comments. See you next Monday.
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.
Unlike ball obsessed dogs I get tired and need a break even from my most favorite activity in the world: making art. In my last post I talked of finishing most of the prep for my upcoming Odditerrarium exhibit a week or so early in order to give myself time to rest and recharge before the exhibit opens at Burnt Bridge Cellars via Caplan Art Designs.
Here’s one of my portraits for the exhibit titled “Unwearied Fancie”. It, like the others, is 10 x 8 inches created with ink, gouache and collage on board.
And here’s a closer look at what this dog is obsessed by er um I mean thinking about.
This week the massacre in Uvalde Texas happened. I’m so very tired of unnecessary deaths. I’m bone weary of gun violence. Generally I keep my comments about current events off of this blog but I’m very upset about all of the unnecessary deaths due to one word said by one political party in the U.S. One morning I grabbed a scrap of paper and wrote…
So more than just my hand and arm felt a need for rest this week…
Anyway, all of the frames have been filled with artwork now. Here’s some photos of just-framed works still on my work bench.
My dachshund has a bed near my work area. (See the photo below). As I finished framing the last painting I imagined…
“Is that number 20?” Asked my dachshund art studio supervisor.
“Yes! All 20 of the Odditerrarium series paintings are framed now!” I replied.
“Let’s order new artsupplies and then let’s go wander the yard, eat something, read books and rest.” says the dachshund.
“Great idea!” I said reaching for the phone to order new supplies.
I already have sketchbook notes (due to my almost daily sketchbook routine) and plans for other creative projects that I haven’t talked about on this blog – or anywhere on social media – because they’re in flux. But I know generally from these plans what art supplies I need to buy.
All of the Odditerrarium artwork is now packed in boxes ready to be delivered at the appropriate time. So it’s “all done except for the shouting” as I sometimes refer to the exhibit promotions. Tired ole me is very grateful to have help spreading the word about the exhibit from Burnt Bridge Cellars and the Caplan Art Designs gallery. I’m also beyond grateful to the fans of my work who share about it online. Your encouragement and support helps me a lot! Thank you!
The paperwork for the Odditerrarium exhibit has been done and already sent in to the gallery. I’ve also finished the webpage about the exhibit which includes images of all of the art and access to the printed artist book. As I get photos of the exhibit on the winery walls I’ll add them and other related things to my portfolio page. All of these things are my efforts to make sharing about my exhibit easier plus the portfolio page and the book make it possible for people to participate in my exhibit without coming in person to the winery.
My ultimate point is that you, my dear blog reader, besides seeing behind the scenes in my studio as I have worked towards this exhibit are also the first to see all of the Odditerrarium artwork together and have early access to the book!
I hope you like it! Here’s a few photos of the book…
Here’s the visit to the yard my supervisor dachshund and I talked about earlier. The Japanese Iris’s are blooming now and I really love the odd shapes of them! The other flowers in my wife’s garden are pretty too.
In my last post I told about our dishwasher troubles… this week a new one was installed! To celebrate having a dishwasher again I made one of our favorites and served the Coddle in the big mugs that are hard to handwash. Our new dishwasher did a great job!
Here are pictures of my art studio supervisors resting.
My reading stack this week: I finished Christopher Moore’s “Island of the Sequined Love Nun” and P. M. Carlson’s “Murder Misread”. Both of those transported me to a better frame of mind.
Being upset about current events also has me reaching back in history for a somewhat similar past era and the artistic responses to the issues of that time and how, these many years later, that turned out…
Now I’m reading Alan Watt’s “Zen and the Beat Way” alongside some of the Beat writers work in Ann Charters’s “The Portable Beat Reader”. (Here’s a good link about the history of the Beat generation aka hippies.) It occurs to me that many discussions of the 1960’s and 1970’s have focused on pooh-poohing the long hair, the beadwork, the lack of shoe wearing, the organic vegetable growing/eating habits instead of grappling with the ideas contained in the written works of that era. Many of that generation’s artist’s were responding artistically, critically, via literature, poetry, music, etc, to the Mccarthyism, the Vietnam war, the various conventional cultural cruelties of that time period. The conservatives, or squares as they were called in the 60’s, said “no” a lot back then too.
In reading about all of it I wonder is peace, love and understanding really so radical, so threatening that we must distract from those ideas by ridiculing the clothing and eating habits of those advocating kindness?
On the topic of 1960 era food: here’s a review of a book by Jonathan Kaufman titled “Hippie Food”. And here’s another article about the healthy food (brown rice, beans, organic whole foods etc) efforts that began back then. I’m now aware of very real kitchen table progress that has been made because of the ideas originating in the countercultural 1960’s, things we benefit from today such as more food safety, better quality, more wide spread availability of fresh vegetables and more diversity of vegetables and grains.
I have ordered another book, that hasn’t come yet, about the women writers, poets and artists of the Beat era. I’m impressed, by what I’m reading in the titles by Watts and the Charters, with how much work the women of that era did to expand the life possibilities for women living, working, cooking and being creative – things we benefit from today. (See also this tangentially related article) I look forward to reading more. It may be a cliche but we do indeed stand on the shoulders of giants. And I’m finding comfort and hope from what turned out to be the many Beat generation countercultural successes despite the frustration they felt in the 1960’s and 70’s.
For weeks I’ve been working on two poodle portraits. The details of their hair and eyes has been such fun! It’s also been delightful to imagine what each dog is thinking about! My wife and I have had the honor of knowing these poodles’ humans for a very long time – so it’s been a treat to get to love on our friends via these dog portraits!
Here they are on my easel. I worked on both paintings at the same time. I did a Reel of me in action working and another Reel that looks up close at the finished paintings. Both Reels can be found on my Instagram page.
I imagined each dog keenly watching their energetic humans and philosophically contemplating (from a dogs point of view) their humans divinity and mysteries. Naturally I titled one painting “Divine” and the other “Mysteries”. Both are 10 x 8 inches and created with ink and gouache on board. Eventually these portraits will be in an art exhibit via the Caplan Art Designs Gallery www.caplanartdesigns.com
Below are some closer photos so you can see the miniature art details! I’m particularly pleased with their eyes!
Since the pandemic began in 2020 we’d not set foot in one of our favorite brewpubs Mcmenamins on the Columbia river. So during a cold rainy walk by the river we decided to pop in and get a growler full of our favorite beer to take home. We’re not dining indoors yet and we’ve normalized mask wearing no matter what the numbers and rules may be.
While we were waiting for our growler to be filled I admired one of my favorite posters on the Mcmenamins wall. I enjoy the funky steampunk-ish vibe in this pub.
On our walk we saw a bald eagle big as you please just above the walk path!
Here’s some of the books we read with our beer after we got home: Old in Art School by Nell Painter, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, Daemon Voices by Philip Pullman, The Summer of a Dormouse by John Mortimer.
The children’s writer Philip Pullman ranks number two on the lists of books often banned in the U.S. The other titles are from writers who are similarly considered “unorthodox”. Yep. Still reading banned books. Told you it was a “thing” for me.
As my regular readers know besides fine art and books I’m fond of cooking. Well, my friend Bernadette of New Classic Cooking, a food blog I follow, did a wonderful blog post about feeding the Ukrainian people during this time. It’s comforting to have practical ways we can help each other.
Here’s a favorite soup I made this week. It’s from a recipe in our “Favorites So Far” kitchen sketchbook and thanks to a suggestion by my friend Bernadette it’s also part of a postcard series – we enjoy sending these recipe cards to friends!
And speaking of soup…my experimental art book “A Scoop Of Letter Soup” is being served out by ladles full on Storyberries!
I’m excited about making some more of my unusual books for kids to read on Storyberries.com!!
And speaking of food for tummies, fare for minds, mental health, our interior lives and books… I’ve selected pages from my sketchbooks with my drawings and writings on the topic of our interior lives and made a book of them. You can see more about this book, Another Sketchbook, on my portfolio page.
Since books and beverages go together in my mind – and I also enjoy having soup out of a mug – I picked some of my favorite pages from Another Sketchbook and put them on a large mug here on my Zazzle shop.
Also on the topic of mental health I’m delighted to happy-dance with you about the news that a book I illustrated is now being carried by one of my local bookstores, Vintage Books! The book is titled “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” and it’s one of my creations that I am most proud of having done. I even keep a copy of it in my bathroom so I can reread it often – it means that much to me! Anyway, Vintage Books will ship anywhere so they can be asked to send my book to you by mail. More about my book can be seen on the bookstore website here. Okay, let’s dance another happy jig around the couch then back to posting photos…🤗
Sometimes remembering that the Universe loves you just the way you are helps. At least I find it helpful in my creative life… as is knowing there are fairly direct practical tools for dealing with feelings during difficult times.
I hope your week is full of love that you can embrace with relish as food for your heart and mind – see you next week.
My newest artist book “A Scoop Of Letter Soup” was just released on Storyberries.com and you can see it for free here! Yippee!!!
A video look at the original book “A Scoop Of Letter Soup” is here on YouTube and I did manage to make an Instagram Reel of it too!! I wrote last post about learning about Reels so I’m still feeling “look I did it!” about my new skill!! 🤣 And I’ve made a portfolio page where my currently in progress series of short experimental art books will be collected as they appear as ebooks on Storyberries. At some future time I may gather them into a printed book but for now this portfolio page is where they’ll exist outside of Storyberries. I’m loving the pun of making books by hand that are distributed as ebooks!!
Here are some still photos of the book
In one of the little concertina book blanks I made and talked about in last weeks post I am starting a new illustrated poem book. This will be a slow project to be worked on around the edges of other projects. But here’s how it goes: In my poetry sketchbook, seen in the upper part of the photo below, I have some poems that seem worth working with. After selecting one of my sketchbook poem rough drafts I did a few thumbnail doodles on a scrap of paper to try different placements of my poem text and artwork. The thumbnail doodle that I like best can be seen on the lower right in these photos. To the left is the concertina book blank and my efforts at doing the hand lettering and drawing “for real” aka neatly and possibly worthy for public viewing.
One benefit of working in a concertina book is that I can easily slip a bit of wax paper under the page I’m working on in order to prevent bleed-through of my inks or gouache paints.
Here’s the finished page.
A post ot two ago I wrote about one of my favorite books by Mary Lasswell “Suds In Your Eye” as one of the hopepunk style books I cheer up by. Lasswell was writing in the 1940’s so finding print copies of her work has been a bit of a personal quest.
One of my coveted Lasswell titles “One On The House” came via mail this week! A side benefit of being someone who creates artist books is that I have most of the tools for minor book repair on hand. The copy I could find (and afford) of “One On The House” was listed in acceptable condition but with a cover-spine issue. As you can see below the cover is barely hanging on by threads.
But the outside of the cover-spine is fine!
So I took a strip of archival mulberry paper and trimmed it to fit.
Then I laid the trimmed mulberry strip on wax paper and covered one side of the mulberry strip with archival neutral ph glue. I took the photo below while the strip was still wet after being put in place so it is still shiny in appearance. I used the bone folder to press the just glued paper into the cover spine fold. When the glue dries the mulberry paper will almost disappear and blend in with the books original paper.
I slipped clean wax paper in the crevice of the patch so if any glue oozes as I close the cover it won’t harm the rest of the book. Then I put some paper weights on the cover and let the book dry overnight. There were two other weak sections of the book spine that got this same repair treatment which is why you see three pieces of wax paper in the book in the photo below.
I am a professional artist who knows a lot about creating books by hand but that’s not the same thing as being a book conservation or restoration expert. My repair attempts on books are not on rare or valuable books. My repair attempts are on books for my own use. My copy of “One On The House” cost me 6 dollars and I repaired it because I want to easily read it without without causing more damage to the book. If I hadn’t done the repairs I’d bet that after the first read through the book would have fallen completely apart. I also want to keep this book on my “bookshelf to cheer up by” – more on that in a sec – so I want the book to be as hale and hearty as possible. Anyway, a very good resource book for such minor repairs is “The Care and Feeding of Books Old and New” by Rosenberg and Marcowitz. And a good source for book making or repair supplies is https://www.talasonline.com/
This photo below is of my “books to cheer up by” section I mentioned earlier. As you can see the book I repaired has taken its place on the shelf next to The Annotated Arabian Nights.
We poured a bit of bourbon and said “cheers” to the newcomers on our cheer-up bookshelf! For my own mental health sake it feels good to have a shelf full of reliable sources of good cheer.
As you see in the above photo one of the books there is titled “Mrs. Rasmussen’s Book of One-Arm Cookery”. Mrs. Rasmussen is one of Mary Lasswell’s reoccurring fictional characters who is famous for being able to cook very good meals while holding her beer in one hand.
I made Mrs. Rasmussen’s super yummy chili recipe and rice while holding my bourbon. But I did set my glass down when I chopped the onion. Even so I think Mrs. Rasmussen would have cheered my efforts. It did taste good!
One of our local independent bookstores, Powell’s, did a fundraiser for Ukraine. Naturally my wife and I ordered books. More than one box of books was mailed to us but the stack of books in the photo below was what was delivered while the chili cooked and the bourbon flowed.
Here’s hoping you too have a collection of books, soup, fur-friends and people that you love that can help cheer you up. So cheers! Till next Monday.
This week war began and for a second being an artist felt frivolous. But in difficult times we need art more than ever. We need things and people that feed our spirits and remind us of why we’re glad to be alive. We need hope. That’s how we fight for democracy and win.
When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began I listened to the news and searched my bookshelves for a title I had gotten in 2003 not long after 9/11 and when war began in Iraq. My thoughts then, like now, turned to the role of artists during times of war. “Artists in Times of War” by Howard Zinn was very relevant in 2003 and still is even though the current event details are different.
Spoiler: artists are carriers of democracy. To quote from page 108 they are “profoundly democratic”. Democratic is defined as upholding, however imperfectly, the ideas of rule of law, of equality before the law, equality in access to resources, equality of representation in government and the human right of self determination. The Arts are a living language of a people, a dramatization of what they feel, what they need, what their hopes are … The Arts help people become self aware. Self-awareness helps people make choices and become active participants in their own lives and communities. That’s what makes living artists so dangerous in the viewpoint of authoritarians.
And perhaps equally important is the fact that artists help us, no matter how high flying the political rhetoric, to remember that the kids will still need to be entertained and educated, that adults will still need kindness, that dinner will still be wanted. Art, poetry and writing of all kinds can help us remember that the statistics a politician quotes represent actual people.
Speaking of dinner: a dear friend came over to visit for an evening and to ask me to sign some copies of two of my book titles that she plans to give as gifts! It was so good to see her!
We had a free ranging conversation about life, books, movies and my friend indulged me as I showed her my art projects in progress and outloud we played with what “could be”. This is an extremely exciting and valuable sort of conversation! Bouncing ideas around in loose “what if…” and “what about…” ways helps me in my creative process! It was so unbelievably good to get my friends input! Sharing artwork in its fragile beginning stages is risky and I’m so lucky to have trustworthy creative-playing friendships.
I made a new batch of potato soup (recipe last post) and when it was ready the three of us ate soup out of large mugs while sitting informally in the living room where it was warm and comfy.
I delighted in having fabric cocktail napkins with my Professional Dog portraits on them and enjoyed our friends chuckles when she saw the napkins!
Whenever I feel unsettled about world events besides talking with my spouse and trusted friends I deliberately tune in to awe. Meaning that I purposefully do some small thing that delights me, sparks my curiosity or causes me to notice something and say “wow!”. A good article I read this week on the topic of awe and why it’s important is here. An aspect of tuning in to the feeling of awe is to cultivate time to play in unstructured ways, to make time to wander, to ponder.
On a recent wandering meandering car drive we saw snowfall and large trees. That’s a guaranteed “wow” from me – I love the large evergreens any time of the year.
The feelings of awe, the feelings curiosity and the feelings of an aha moment are part of why I object so strongly to book banning (see a recent post). The attempts to control the mental resources available to others is a form of abuse. Banning preempts the victims ability to be self-aware and to be able use, as democracy offers, however imperfectly, the right of self determination. The restrictions of a person’s access to books and other mental resources is as serious as someone restricting a person’s access to food, water or healthcare.
During times of unrest I think taking the time to ponder is crucial because an artist is so much more than a reaction to or a mirror of society. If an artist is going to take action rather than simply knee jerk react to current events it takes time to think things through.
Here’s a paraphrased quote that I wrote on a card and thumbtacked to my studio wall.
Progress is happening on a new experimental art book for Storyberries! It’s a wordless visual poem about letter soup with only 10 panels plus front and back covers. 12 images total. Ink, acrylic and gouache are my art methods on another 2 inch square concertina zig zag folded book. I focused as I mentioned last post on rhythm, repetition and surprise. It will be a challenge to talk about this poem on this blog and on my social media without giving the poem’s punchline away immediately before Storyberries has a chance to distribute it but I’ll do my best.
In the photo below I’ve laid in the extreme dark and light areas to establish the contrast as well as to focus on the visual rhythm. I’m thinking of how the ebooks on Storyberries flow up and down so I’m designing my content to flow with that book motion. Will it work? I don’t know. 🤷♀️ Yes, my new poem is for a category on Storyberries called “experimental” for a reason! 🤣
The sortof weird thing is that I’ve not completely finished promoting “How The Cow Went Over The Moon” yet. So there might be some promotion overlap. Oh well. People read more than one book at a time anyway right?
A few evenings this week I took a break from reading “The Annotated Arabian Nights” to read “Suds in Your Eye” by Mary Lasswell. This book was published in 1942 when World War II began. What I’ve enjoyed about this book, besides seeing an artistic response to the wartime events of the 1942 era, is that no single person is the “hero” or center of the story. The story centers around how a group of people work together as a community. The concept of working together is also what drives the story plot. And “good food, great friends and cold beer” could be the books motto. This is such a good book to cheer up by! I’d list this book as an early example of the hopepunk genre (mentioned last post). And the illustrations are darling!
Besides the visit from a great friend this week my wife and I talked by phone with my adopted mom and big sister! Mom said she’s proud of me and that I’m to “Keep making art”! Big sister agreed! So I wrote the exact quote of Mom’s on a card and thumbtacked it to my studio wall just above the light switch for the room. That way I will always remember!
I hope your week contains many connections with your support system so that you feel encouraged to do all the good you can in this world.