mixing the mundane and magical

A Creative Life, animals in art, art techniques, artistic inspirations, books, creative thinking, Dogs in Art, fine art, food in art, mental health, mundane and magical moments, Narrative Art, reading in art, story, visual story

I’ve been reading “Whiskey Galore” by Compton Mackenzie. Once again I realize that I enjoy the mix of real-life and a whimsical imaginative look at real-life. Mackenzie used a real-life event as the inspiration for his whimsy and did the mix extremely well.

Already I’ve been doing some of this mixing in my work – but I want to do even more of that mundane/imagination mixing in my various art projects. Here’s what I did most recently: it’s 8 x 18 inches, ink and gouache on board – I’ve titled it “The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients”

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“The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients” by Clancy

It mixes the real-life (mundane) action of consulting a cookbook recipe, perhaps for chicken soup, with a (magical) chicken rescue. “The Soup Book: Starting With Ingredients” will be one of several new works for an upcoming one-person art exhibit in September at Caplan Art Designs in Portland Oregon. I’ll post the new artworks here as I get them done.

But back to the artwork itself: I enjoyed doing a panoramic visual story that continues what I began doing for my “Dear Readers” exhibit currently on display at Burnt Bridge Cellars. The new wider format let me put in more details, more “story-ness”.

“The Soup Book…..” was such fun to create that I plan to do more in this format! And of course do more general mixing of metaphors, more blurring the lines between the mundane and the magical in all of my work. We’ll see how it all goes of course.

Generally I’ve been thinking of how important it is, for living well (and good mental health), to be able to view mundane life with a “glass half full” attitude, to be able to see what is good/delightful, and to use curiosity and imagination (and good books) to stimulate ones own inner life. Which is why I aspire to do an even better artistic job of mixing the mundane and the magical.

BTW: “Whiskey Galore” has been made into a movie – and a very well done movie too! The book version has a bit more story to it – but the movie is wonderful and it’s not always that both the book and movie are equals in quality.

Now for a wee dram….. Slàinte mhath!

 

 

epic pug sitting

A Creative Life, animals in art, Art Word Combinations, Books In Art, Dogs in Art, fine art, illustrated shorts, illustration, reading in art, small things, story, visual story, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

Recently I did a post titled Pug Epic Book In Art – (the post is about my painting in which a pug sits in a café reading a book) – since then I’ve also mused about a character who wrote the book the pug in the painting is reading. Here is an illustration of who I imagine is sitting to write the story “Epic Tales of the Pug King” – the book being read by the other pug in the painting:

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“Epic” by Clancy – ink and gouache on paper

And I’ve written the full text of the story that I hand lettered on the painted-book within my painting referred to in the prior post – the painting that when my wife saw it said she’d like to read the rest of the story of which only a part was depicted within the painting. So here’s the story:

Epic Tales Of The Pug, King  – by Clancy

The Pug King’s elegantly chipped ceramic bowl appeared before him resplendent with gravy, chunks of meat and yams. His Majesty tasted the gravy, then a meat chunk, the gravy again, then a yam, a meat chunk with the gravy and a piece of yam with gravy. He licked his lips, the bowl and his lips again. The Royal Feast was done; the dog sought some sport to aid all digestion and to his owner cried “Sir, Fool! Kneel now and play some ball!” The owner bowed and bent his knee. “Fetch!” he said and flung a mighty fling. The ball arched high into the air across the green expanse of Royal lawn. His Majesty ran flowing, majestically, swiftly, across the grass, conquering the ball and returning back to his owner. Three times, four times they did this at the King’s command. On the 12th time the owner knelt, patted the Monarch’s silken head, saying “Enough now, lets go inside and get ready for bed.” His Royal Majesty barked sharply. “Sir Fool, there’s a King’s personal business still to do…”

pug epic book in art

A Creative Life, Art Word Combinations, artistic inspirations, Dogs in Art, fine art, reading in art, small things, visual thinking, writing, writing and illustrating

Recently I was in a local coffee shop and a coffee cup was silhouetted beside a rainy window. Steam rising from the cup. Such a simple thing but I began thinking of how many stories begin with simple things and grow, cumulatively, until they become epics.

Like Pug dogs. So small yet so large in personality especially as they mature.

Here’s a painting I did that was inspired by these thoughts. I’ve titled it “Epic Tales of The Pug King”.

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Epic Tales Of The Pug King – by Clancy – 16 x 20 – acrylic and gouache on board.

I wrote the story that’s ‘printed’ in the book depicted in the painting and hand-lettered it, with brush and acrylic, into place on the page-within-the-painting.

My wife came into my studio, saw my work-in-progress and said “What’s the rest of that story?”, saying that she wanted to turn the Pugs page for him and continue reading. Then she challenged me to write the rest of the story.

Right this minute I’m enjoying the visual pun – that the Pug’s epic story-poem, ahem, is really, really, short.  Plus the setting and my character, the Pug dog, are not particularly grand as the word “epic” would imply.

And that’s in keeping with my feeling that the most important elements of this world are actually the mundane ones, the humble ones. Daily life and the qualities of it can have more impact on a person than the grandest once-in-a-lifetime vacation might.

I love this quote from Annie Dillard “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.”

 

on seeing story stuff

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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:

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“Life’s a bowl of cherries, stems pits and all” – by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – acrylic and gouache on board

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.

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“Coffee City” – by Clancy – 5 x 7 inches – acrylic and gouache on board

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.

You can see more art examples from this exhibit in my recent posts here and here.

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.

Mostly.

 

stirring occasions

A Creative Life, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, fine art, kitchen art, small things, still life, visual thinking

As a long-time coffee lover I’ve been recently learning about tea. More than half of the world drinks tea and/or has some kind of tea ceremony. As far as I can tell the philosophy of tea is basically a way of valuing mundane life – in a somewhat carefully curated way. The ordinary as a source of stimulation, of stirring inspiration.

In making this piece I’ve deliberately used multiple perspectives – visual oddities – to emphasize the many ways there are to approach, value and appreciate a personal moment of pleasure in daily life.

Perhaps not surprisingly I’ve titled it “A Stirring Occasion”.

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A Stirring Occasion by Clancy – 8 x 10 inches – acrylic and gouache on board

I confess that I’ve recently been reading a number of titles from the British Library Crime Classics. (here’s a link https://poisonedpenpress.com/series/british-library-crime-classics/) They’ve a number of books sorted by “impossible crimes” “locked room mysteries” and other detective mystery themes.

And I also thought about the concepts “bone china”,”dogs with bones”,”seize the day” and “stirring/stimulating/interesting”…

So as I worked on my artwork I designed yet another “impossible object” because I wanted to depict that feeling of dynamism within mundane pleasures.

As you know I’ve done “impossible objects” before when it suits the artistic concept – most recently my cat portrait titled “Alpha Betty” (past blog posts about that here and here and the finished art here) which has an “impossible book” reflecting the multiplicity of language.

Anyway – If you’ve been following me on Instagram you’ll see some of my recent tea adventures…

the art of the mundane

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, fine art, still life, visual thinking, words and pictures

I’ve been reading a lot of novels by Donna Leon lately. Her Commissario Brunetti series. My wife and I had watched many of the movie versions, I got hooked and sought out the novels. As a result I’ve realized how often the detective mystery is solved by something mundane, trivial and even disposable. The clue that resolves the crime may be found in the wilted flowers in the office, the food take-out container, the receipt in a wallet – or something else really mundane.  In Leon’s work the city, the food, the objects are characters in their own right. They certainly add to my perception of her protagonist Guido Brunetti and his cases.

These thoughts led me to thinking about how historians and archeologists both spelunk in the log-books, the diaries and the trash heaps of history to find the clues about life in the past.

And then there’s the concepts of wabi-sabi and hygge…

Amongst all these thoughts I had my cat’s exhibit open at Burnt Bridge Cellars. One of the benefits of doing one-person shows is that I get to see a years worth of my own work all at one time. As I looked around I realized that I’ve focused on creating my characters; the eyes, the fur, their animal-body-shape in people clothing and not as much on the stuff, the objects, they hold.

So I want to see if I can tell a visual story with “just stuff”. A still life basically. But I still hope to tell or imply a visual story. By doing this I’ll be practicing depicting the details of drinks, food and physical objects better so they can become “characters” in their own right. Kind of like what Leon does in her novels. Then eventually I hope to put my object-characters together with my animals…

Anyway, here’s me working on one:

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