On playing with books, art and being wholly bent

A Creative Life, art exhibit, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, comfort food, fine art, gift books, hopepunk, household surrealism, illustrated poem, life of the mind, mental health, miniature art, pet portraits, poetry, printed books, sketchbook, visual thinking, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

I painted an unauthorized portrait of a playful cat that I’ve met courtesy of a dear friend. This portrait is titled “Wholly Bent” and is 10 x 8 inches. This is me just playing and working towards future art exhibits.

Here’s a closer view of “Wholly Bent” it is 10 x 8 inches, ink, gouache and collage on board.

As you may remember I’ve been reading “The Annotated Arabian Nights” by Horta and Seale most evenings. I’ve been struck by how much the book talks about being true to yourself – accepting that you’re “bent” in your own ways- while also being an ethical contributing member of a community. So I’ve been pondering ethics in my sketchbook.

The above photo shows my spouse’s homemade blueberry lemon scones. Seriously yummy… but I digress.

These thoughts reminded me of an eon ago when I asked my adopted mom how to know when someone is “for real” i.e. ethical, honest, kind. Her response was “watch what someone  says and does over time.” In my art journal I recorded a conversation we had on that same topic years after I’d asked the question originally.

Those notes from my art journal eventually became an ebook and then a printed book titled “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit“. Many of the concepts in the book speak of ways of being true to yourself and being an ethical participant in a community aka feeding the good wolf.

https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dr-Bobs-Emotional-Repair-Program-First-Aid-Kit1

In my last post I showed a hint of an art print project I’m working towards that I can’t talk much about yet… but a sneak peek is here (the grid of 6). Now I’ll wait to see what happens.

My last post also talked of book banning, a topic I’m following… well, on the attempts to ban books (and a thrilling subtext) there’s this article which reminded me of the skills I learned to use when dealing with people in Oklahoma who were in my face wanting to ban my artwork (see a prior post for details). This page below from Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit gives details about the skills.

Speaking of coping skills: some students in Missouri are suing the school board because of the book bans. (Article here.) Sometimes standing up for your right to read anything you want is neccessary. As said in the article “The lawsuit alleges that the district’s decision to remove books was based on the “dislike of the ideas or opinions contained in the books by policymakers, school officials, community members, or a combination of those.” Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that the district’s removal of books violated the students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights “by restricting their access to ideas and information for an improper purpose.”

I’m proud of and inspired by the students and their efforts to maintain a wide intellectual world. Restricting access to ideas and information can have serious negative consequences for both individuals and society. The larger our intellectual world the better we’re able to cope with whatever comes in life and then, having coped personally we’re then able to help our community cope – and the people in our community are better able to help us…

Also the more expansive our mental life is the more fun rabbit holes there are to explore that can also help one personally as well as one’s society.

Anyway, here’s a post from Austin Kleon that reflects my feelings about the importance of taking time to read widely and pursue the rabbit holes of your own making.

On a related topic I also read this article about how our attention span is not a product to be bought or sold. Our attention isn’t solely a vein of data to be extracted by a corporation. Our attention isn’t something to be controlled or abused at the will of someone else’s religious or political ideology. Our attention is a precious gift that deserves to be treated respectfully. And it’s up to us to protect, preserve and defend our attention as well as to carefully curate and cultivate it.

Having wide access to ideas and thoughts – lots of books – is how we learn over time what is worthy of our attention. Our attention span is ours to exercise and explore throughout life. What we get for our payment when we “pay” attention is the power to choose.

I find that having a wide range of books to read helps me stimulate and cultivate my own ability to pay attention where it nurtures my creativity the most. My sketchbook is where I practice noticing/tracking (accounting?) where I pay attention and how helpful it is or isn’t. It’s where I play with ideas and cook up my own “good wolf food”. It’s where I live and work with the questions. It’s where I “stick around and find out”. 🤣

As a creative person I want to be respectful of my readers/viewers time. So I enjoy creating “short” things: art, stories or poems that can be understood in a glance yet there’s more to be seen if a reader chooses to take the time to look. (My Monday blog is possibly the longest form I work in… 🤣)

Speaking of sketchbooks and reading: I feel a sense of urgency to create more books for children that are “artsy” and perhaps a little “different” from the usual kids books. So I’ve been reading about poetry in two books: “Writing incredibly short plays poems stories” by James H Norton and Francis Gretton and “The Intimate art of writing poetry” by Ottone M. Riccio. And I’ve been brainstorming in my poetry sketchbook (the orange book in the foreground) some visual poem ideas for my new “experimental art book” category on Storyberries.

Both books about poetry cover techniques to keep things short. I’m translating in my mind the advice in the books regarding writing words into what may also work when I’m making visual images. As you see in the above photo of my poetry sketchbook I’m thinking that the poetic concepts of rhythm, rhyme, repetition and surprise can work within images too. But we’ll see how it goes… more in upcoming posts.

Dinner recently was a favorite potato soup recipe from a favorite cookbook. Even in the solitary pandemic days I love reading about community being formed around shared soup.

When there’s a yellow sticky note on a page in one of the cookbooks in our collection … that’s a reliably good recipe! Add a star and the phrase “Judy likes” and you’ll know it’s a real good one. Then there’s the penciled in variations and now you know this recipe is a great one! It has consistently proven itself over time!

We had mugs of soup with a grilled cheddar cheese sandwich split between us. Yum!

For fun I’ve added James Thurber to my evening reading. He too talks about ethics and community while also being whimsical.

Thanks to a friend on Twitter I’ve just learned about a genre called “Hopepunk” – here’s one of the articles I read about hopepunk that defines the genre and has examples (book list!) of literary works within it. To quote from the article “…Hopepunk says that kindness and softness doesn’t equal weakness, and that in this world of brutal cynicism and nihilism, being kind is a political act. An act of rebellion… Hopepunk is a reaction to our times, an insistence that a hollow world built of hatred and financial ambition is NOT the norm. It is stories of resistance, stories that celebrate friendship and truth and the things that make us human.”

I have more to learn but I’m feeling like I’ve found another genre that possibly fits me and my work well! Discovering the “hopepunk” genre feels exciting like my discovery of the “miniature art” and “gift book” genres! With my creativity I do want to share whimsy and hope while also being thoughtful and real.

Yes, I’m finding it good to know more about the ways I’m wholly bent and to be able to find books and people bent in ways I enjoy.

Thank you for honoring me with some of your attention. I hope you have a playful week of more or less your own design, a week bent in all the ways you find fun. See you next Monday?

Professional dogs, artist books, unmentionables and hamburger

A Creative Life, art commission, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, business of art, children's book, creative thinking, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, fine art, Fine Art Commission, public art, Sustainable creativity, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

My new childrens book, The Professional Dog, is progressing nicely. I’ve been thinking of this as a fine art dog portrait album inspired by the idea of the 19th century parlor game The Minister’s Cat. My book concept is an excuse to talk to my friends about their dogs and see if I can do 40 portraits of dogs whose owners are people I know. It just so happens that I know people occupying an alphabets worth of professions! How fun is that?! Anyway, here are three of the dog portraits together.

Below the larger portrait is the text I’ve written for the book.

The Helper’s dog is a hopeful dog.
The Inventory Manager’s dog is an insightful dog.
The Judge’s dog is a jolly dog.

Besides keeping on my work schedule for The Professional Dog I’ve been working closely with two of my galleries. We’re doing fine art commissions and studio visits in prep for the upcoming gift giving season. It’s beginning to resemble Santa’s workshop around here.

For example I created, then delivered, an art commission to Aurora this week for someone’s holiday gifts (shhhh!). Then while I was in the Gallery I got to see a glorious display of my own work! That sight inspired and encouraged me to keep making my stuff. https://auroragalleryonline.com/

The Aurora Gallery does such a good job displaying my wide variety of differently sized things – artistbooks, greetingcards and fineart – I love it that someone can see my books and around the corner nearby in the art gallery they can see the original artwork in the books!

Since we’re not talking about the fine art commission I just did for the Aurora Gallery here’s the art studio dachshund keeping mum with me.

And as I mentioned in my last post we’re still very definitely not talking about the Caplan Art Designs upcoming holiday box project.

Also there’s another event upcoming at Caplan Art Gallery that… well, we’ll talk more about that later. (There is a hint on my Instagram page about that however 😉)

Suffice it to say that I was extremely busy this week, working in both short and long bursts, on several projects I can’t talk about publicly.

Thank goodness I can talk about my childrens book project The Professional Dog! The book is farther along than my posts make it appear. And I’m excited about this book! I believe kids need fine art in their lives too so I’m taking great pleasure in making an album of fine art paintings and producing the work in such a way that while being an art object itself – as in I am personally making an artistic reproduction of my original artwork – my finished book will be affordable and will also withstand little hands with grape jelly on them!

I’ve been so slowly posting about this work because when I run out of time in a day it’s the online posting that drops off my to-do list. Creative work comes first. Talking about it comes later.

Similarly there wasn’t time for one of my Creativity Chats this week. I wrote notes for it though.

Food got simplified this week too. I threw ingredients for this recipe from a blog I follow called In Diane’s Kitchen into my slow cooker, pressed buttons and went to work in my studio. The reheated leftovers were even better the next two days.

And you bet your sweet bippy that I am still taking the time, up to an hour or so every evening, to read books and have hot chocolate before bedtime. It’s the way I keep calm and carry on during busy times.

My secrets to maintaining this level of creativity? In the mornings 5 or 10 minutes daily playing around with my sketchbook. In the evenings 30 minutes to an hour playing with books – print books I own as well as ebooks from my local library. (I especially love cozy mysteries, fiction, short story collections, poetry…)

And between those daily just-for-me fun times I play with whatever project is at hand. I just charge ahead with my project in my best imitation of a child arriving enthusiastically at a playground.

Yep, those are my secrets to a sustainable creative life which could be distilled to “Play and have fun every day come heck or high water!”.

I hope your week is a playful one no matter what else is happening. See you next Monday.

Dogs, boxes, old stories, cards, nachos and video vibes

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, pet portraits, public art, publications - publishing, published art, recipe illustration, sketchbook, whimsical art, words and pictures

The text for my newest childrens book project “The Professional Dog” is shaping up. I’m still collecting dog photos from friends but I’ve almost gotten them all. The project still feels vague but it’s more in focus than it was last week. I’m content to view it with my peripheral vision so to speak.

Dog photos came this week from a Gallery owner, a Reporter, a Park Ranger, a Sculptor, an Assistant and a Bus driver.

So one of the focal points this week was a masked-up very quick in person visit to the Caplan Art Designs gallery in Portland Oregon. The Gallery invited some of the Gallery artists to participate in a “Holiday Box Exhibit”. We were given wooden box cubes and asked to do something with the cube in our art style. The cubes are 8 inches square. 

This box project is now a vague project on my work schedule. It’s much more nebulous at this point than The Professional Dog book! In a creative life learning to deal well with uncertainty and insecurity is as much an essential creative skill as the ability to draw!

Of course while I was at the Caplan Art Designs Gallery I enjoyed looking at my Odditorium exhibit and seeing the red dots indicating sales and the spaces indicating that my pieces have gone to their new homes! About a year ago my Odditorium project was itself a vague nebulous notion. I dealt with all of the uncertainty and now my Odditorium project is a very solid real thing!

Odditorium by Clancy at Caplan Art Designs https://caplanartdesigns.com/

The other focal point this week was my exhibit “The Old Stories” that opened in Oklahoma at Downtown Art and Frame. Each of these paintings are about stories: a folktale, a myth, or an ancient children’s rhyme or saying. For example the one with the dancing sheep is titled “Ewephoria” and it’s about the history of the rhyme “ring around the rosies, pockets full of posies…” (Black Death)

“The Old Stories” is an artexhibit of my larger artworks – anyway, all of these pieces refer to classic ideas from mythology or fables –
The titles of my collage paintings give you clues…

Panda Dora’s Box – 24″ x 24″
Woolrich Family Yarn – 24″ x 24″
Long Dog Love – 11 3/4″ x 12 3/4″
Just In Time For Cookies. 10 1/4″ x 12″
Ewephoria 24″ x 36″
Cheetahs at Cards. 24″ x 36″

Please contact Downtown Art and Frame in Norman Oklahoma for more information
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100057154703557

If you’re wondering- no I didn’t visit Oklahoma in person. I just talked with the Gallery owner there via phone. I have worked with Barney at Downtown Art and Frame since the late 1980’s and we can darn near read each other’s minds! Makes long distance projects like this so much easier! They ship art all over this globe the way you and I would switch a book from one hand to the other.

The third focal point this week was the Aurora Gallery https://auroragalleryonline.com – I made sure they had plenty of my greeting cards and my various artist books. I also got, via no-contact delivery, new white boards from them cut to my various sizes so that I have plenty to work with for my Professional Dog book project as well as for my greeting card designs.

I’m particularly glad they have copies of Favorites So Far as I intend to do more recipe postcards and place some at the Aurora Gallery.

Just look at all these lovely blank boards in the photo below! A vast expanse of open potential!! Wahoo!!!

This week the long awaited video thingamajig (see last post) came in the mail!! At first all I had time to do was get it out of the box and read the instructions. Then…

… later I had a very brief chance to practice with the new thingamajig so I did this flip through of a book https://youtu.be/tOf3q9ALNoA It was really nice to have both hands free to turn pages! My brain is a whirl with possibilities!

We’ll see what happens next week with this new gadget… I’m hoping I’ll have time to play with it.

I hadn’t made nachos in a while so I remedied that! Spouse and I had such a delightful off-grid sort of evening! Especially during busy times playing is important!

This recipe is from Favorites So Far – and definitely one of the recipes I plan to eventually put on a postcard!

Clancy’s handwritten illustrated recipe from Favorites So Far https://www.blurb.com/b/10863384-favorites-so-far

No matter how busy your week is I hope you remember to play at least a little! See you next Monday!

reading books making art eating popcorn

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, Authors, books, creative thinking, food for thought, Sustainable creativity, The Sketchbook Project, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures

Below are some books I’m currently reading that are “feeding” many of my upcoming art projects. That’s art exhibits, illustration projects and yes even my sketchbook work for The Sketchbook Project I blogged about last post.  Even though it may seem that I produce a random variety of things – there’s a uniformity to my randomness and it begins with what I read. I see all of the things I make as telling a visual/tactile story about being human, enjoying life and living well.  And to help me develop my visual story I read…

BooksReading72

In case you can’t see all the titles in the picture they are:

“Wonderland; How play made the world” by Steven Johnson

“Books for Living” by Will Schwalbe

“The Creative Spark; How imagination made humans exceptional” by Agustin Fuentes

“The Foundations of Mindfulness” by Eric Harrison

“Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel

All of these books relate to themes I’ve been working with artistically for some time now:

How being willing to try new foods, to eat diverse foods, has helped us develop biologically as physical human beings. And how it helps us still.

Playing music, playing games, “playing” with our food – each kind of play in it’s own way has helped humans as a species develop and maintain physical and mental structures as individuals – and also social structures as communities. This is still true today. When we do not take time to play we hurt ourselves and each other.

Reading books (and writing them) has helped us – as a species – to pass on information so that each generation doesn’t have to completely reinvent the world from scratch.  This ability to collect information, and learn from it, informs our abilities to play – to playfully combine/recombine things – helping us to develop and maintain our mental skills.

Which leads me to mindfulness. Mindfulness for me is the human ability to pay attention, to focus attention and also to have a state of open/non-judgmental acceptance – curiosity even. This is essential to developing, having and keeping our human ability to imagine and be creative.  Mindfulness is part of being able to play and learn…and being able to play and learn is a way of being mindful. And for me, keeping a sketchbook, making art, is at it’s heart an exercise in playful mindfulness – but more about that in another post.

The novel by Esquivel is included in my current reading list because woman does not live by non-fiction alone.

Now please pass the popcorn. Thank you.

play and focus as a business of art model

A Creative Life, art techniques, artistic inspirations, business of art, Sustainable creativity

I got some new-to-me kinds of watercolors. Chinese watercolors to go along with my Sumi ink. So I had to play with them.  Here’s my test case below.

MeasureSpoonsPractice

Feels good to just play around with my art supplies – kind of like eating mac-n-cheese right out of the pan while wearing pajamas and watching a movie.

After I was finished it turns out that I like the yellow spoon drawing best because after attempting the green and the blue spoon drawings I learned that applying the sumi ink last makes for the boldest lines.

Yep. I highly recommend playing around with ones art supplies as a way to refresh and  sustain creativity.  I’ve not seen this important sustainable creativity business method discussed much in the business-of-art books. It oughta be…

My business-of-art model goes like this:

  1. Play around with my materials often. Both new materials and old ones. Experiment.  Make a mess.
  2. Focus on what I’m doing instead of how well I’m doing it. Focus on the fun.

Another way of describing my business-of-art model goes like this:

AHappyTail72

page from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit

Like happiness good artwork often happens while we’re doing something else.