Curiosity, cats, our minds and alphabets

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, cat portrait, creative thinking, fine art, life of the mind, mental health, miniature art, Odditerrarium, poetry, publications - publishing, sketchbook, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

I’ve been thinking this week about the role of curiosity in a creative life. So here’s a fun curiosity/creativity game I play with myself. To play you’ll need: any printed book with lots of visual images in it, 5 sticky post-it notes from a post-it note pad, a separate piece of paper and a pen or pencil.

To begin the game open the book to random pages, page through very rapidly – ONLY PAUSE WHENEVER AN IMAGE CATCHES YOUR EYE – put a sticky post-it note on that page. Then keep going, quickly, through the book until all 5 of your post-it notes have been placed. DO NOT READ ANY TEXT IN THE BOOK. This part of the game will only take one minute or two. You’re just reacting and post-it note flagging that “something caught my eye” in an image.

After all 5 of your post-it notes are placed look at each of your chosen 5 images, look only at the image itself NOT at any accompanying text. Add a letter (or number) to the post-it note on each image, write a corresponding letter on your sheet of paper. Then write very specifically what caught your eye in the image. This is usually a brief description of some ordinary visual element in the image like “ladies funny hats” or “dogs droopy ears”. It could be the colors or the odd shapes that are described. There are no wrong answers. This is just YOU being curious about your own native interests and creative voice.

After writing about all 5 of your noticed images get curious about them as a group. Is there a theme or a commonality between any of the 5 images? For example the ladies funny hats and the dogs ears could be grouped as “head gear”.  Again, there are no wrong answers. Be as absurd and freely-associative as you like. This is just you playing and being curious about any themes that may be subconsciously on your mind today.

When that part of the game is done read any text about the 5 images you chose. Does the information in the text add to your interest, to your curiosity? Feel free to investigate further…

And that’s the game! I’ve found in playing this game often that my themes repeat, certain elements consistently catch my eye, and knowing what those are helps me work deliberately and playfully in my studio. I play this game often because my interests and what catches my eye changes.

The Odditerrarium series painting that I finished this week is titled “Curious”. Like the rest of my series (for upcoming exhibits via Caplan Art Designs) this one is 10 x 8 inches and made with ink and gouache on board.

Here’s a closer look.

Part of curiosity, imagination and the life of the mind is allowing oneself to mentally reach, to play, to accept the risks and thrills of uncertainty. As a metaphor for these thoughts, as you may know from past posts, I’ve been thinking of the ways cats reach up. Here’s two in-progress artist books that have cats reaching in them. (Probably these books will eventually go to Storyberries.com)

Recently I stumbled across an Instagram post by Columbia Gorge Book Arts and got curious. (Lettering and alphabets consistently catch my eye.) I followed their Instagram account and looked at their website. I found out they live in the same town I do! So I contacted them online.

Letterpress and Linotype work is in my own past work history so I enjoyed the trip down memory lane while viewing their photos of equipment but more importantly I loved discovering that Ben, at Columbia Gorge Book Arts, hand-carves from bamboo the individual letters used in letterpress hand presses! The letterforms are beautifully created and Ben has quite a variety of typefaces! Seeing Ben’s printed proof sheets inspired my thoughts towards future kids books and children’s room decor. So when I contacted Ben I asked if I could buy a few printed proof sheets of his various alphabets. He sent me some!!!

When you’re a child learning one’s alphabet letters also means learning to recognize a letter even if that letter is differently shaped or colored. Towards that thought (and to indulge creatively in a theme that I love) I’m starting a new project, The Ralphapet Projects, in which, over time, I’ll make art prints, cards, cups and eventually a story book using some of the beautiful lettering I get from Columbia Gorge Book Arts.

Here’s the first one. I selected one of the Columbia Gorge alphabet proofs and mounted it on one of my boards using archival glue. Then when the glue was dry I drew, in ink, a cat muralist reaching up to “paint” a letter.

Here’s the finished “Ralphapet Cat” that I did using gouache on a 7 x 5 inch board.

So you can see the array of my recent cat reaching thoughts.

I took photos of the Ralphapet Cat artwork with my big camera (a better camera than a phone camera) and then my studio supervisor cat, Hawkeye, helped me do the graphic design hocus pocus in order to make art prints.

Here’s the finished art print.

Ralphapet Cat – by Clancy- https://society6.com/product/ralphabet-cat_print?sku=s6-23742735p4a1v45

And then because it was fun I also made a cup with my Ralphapet artwork.

https://www.zazzle.com/ralphabet_cat_cup-168792812275506970

This weekend one of my poems was included in the pocket poem series given away by Birdhouse Bookstore at the farmers market!

Here are some more of my thoughts this week about minds…and some sketches in my sketchbook.

I hope your mind is a pleasant place to be this week. See you next Monday.

Troublesome wit, books, poetry and essential ordinariness

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, dog portrait, Dogs in Art, fine art, hopepunk, household surrealism, life of the mind, mental health, Odditerrarium, pet portraits, poetry, sketchbook, words and pictures

Work happily proceeds on my new Odditerrarium series. I’ve a work schedule and I’m sticking to it. As I worked on this pug painting titled “Troublesome Wit” I thought of John Lewis and his phrase ‘good trouble’. I thought of how humans work together in order to have the wit and fortitude to deal with life. I imagined a pug dog watching a human take measures and make efforts.

“Troublesome Wit” was created with ink and gouache on a 10 x 8 inch board. Here’s a closer look.

You can see more about my in progress Odditerrarium series and the upcoming exhibit via Caplan Art Designs in my last post.

One of the online groups I lurk on and sometimes participate in is on the topics of handmade books and artist books. The question “what got you started making books” was asked of the group. This is how I responded: I began at age 8 when I got hearing aids for the first time. I looked in the school library for a book about how books were made. Following pictures in that library book I folded paper in half and stapled it roughly in the middle. Then as the weeks progressed I drew my hearing aids and drew all the things I encountered that made noise. Two grownups in my life were always yelling “be quiet!” at me so I kept the book so I could figure out what made noise, how much noise it made and what was quiet. My pencil and crayon llustrations showed the “volume” of any noisemakers as well as what they were. I titled my book “The Be Quietness Book”. So I’ve been making books by hand or at least writing/drawing in blank books since age 8 until present time and I don’t imagine ever stopping! I’m still trying to figure things out with my books!

Here’s a corner of my studio as it is today that has many of my filled-to-overflowing books and some new blank books awaiting their turn. Some of the blank books I made from scratch, some I bought.

One of my poems was published this week for poetry month by Birdhouse Bookstore. My poem was put on bookmarks! As you know I enjoy non-traditional unorthodox publishing and publishing my poem on a bookmarker is perfect!! 😁
In the second photo you’re looking at the poetry books on the shelf in my breakfast nook. Several of these titles came from this localbookstore
https://birdhousebooks.store/

I’ve still been practicing, whenever I have time, at doing Reels on Instagram. I did one in which I read aloud one of my poems in Patch La Belle. I’m having fun with this way of sharing my stuff.

Did I manage (finally) to embed a video in this blog post? Or do we need to see that Reel via this YouTube link here https://youtu.be/f0W-7642inU ?

Anyway, technology aside here’s a sketchbook page with toast and coffee.

I’ve been thinking this week of how it matters who keeps the stories, the poems and who tells them. I’ve been an armchair folklorist since my college days and I’ve maintained my interest in old stories throughout the years. Here’s my current evening reading stack.

I find it fascinating to see how stories and the cultural and personal attributes we bring to them can affect knowledge formation for good or ill, up to and including what gets designated as “important”. Then that knowledge, however imperfect, is what gets passed through to others who acquire and form their knowledge based on what we share. Whatever is new to us today will become “the way things are” for the next generation. All we can do is try to share generously whatever might help someone else build new constructive knowledge.

We learn from other people how to live. Sometimes in the effort of trying to share what we know we teach ourselves something new.

However there’s no shortage of people, in any era, who will hold up a thumb and forefinger an inch apart and try to convince you that the space indicated is literally the whole world, that their definitions of that world, their narrative, is the only “true” one, that only their description of what is important matters. They want you to believe only them and will likely somehow benefit if they do convince you accept their story framework and take it literally without questions.

Knowing a wide range of stories and metaphors can help us not fall prey to such literalism and narrowness of mind. Which is why multiple versions the same stories are essential. We need reminders that there are many points of view. We need a diversity of stories. A monoculture isn’t healthy for plants or any other living beings.

Anyway, my way of responding to censorship and the attempts to control the available information and to manipulate perceptions is to deliberately buy and read banned books, to read widely and talk about, learn and share history, culture, poems and stories. To carry knowledge forward, to wrestle and play with it within my own life and work. To do my thinking on paper in art and stories, to always be trying to learn more and to share generously.

Book formats are only one of the ways we as individuals and as cultures keep our stories – it is the act of collecting stories together, whatever the technology used – that helps us figure things out. To lose that collected, collective, personal or cultural memory can be both a current and ongoing tragedy because the loss of knowledge affects future knowledge formation.

Recently I read of a massive archival effort to keep and preserve archives of Ukrainian stories and poems which are in danger of getting lost forever due to the war. See the article here.

You’ll not be surprised to hear that now I want to find ways to support that project and buy at least one printed copy of a book of, or at least a book containing some, Ukrainian folk tales.

And speaking of important, relevant and keep-able stories here’s a link about the Wendigo monster . I’ve been thinking of this Algonquin tale a lot lately because I’m so tired of greedy extremist monsters. I see this story as a reminder to appreciate ordinary life and to play well with others. It seems so relevant to current times and possibly a guide for figuring out ways of going on and doing better.

As I type this it is snowing in my backyard! In April! Our Camilla bush has blooms!

I hope your week is full of wit, art, stories and poems that help you figure things out. And hot beverages if it’s snowing where you are too. See you next Monday.