Troublesome wit, books, poetry and essential ordinariness

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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.

Alphapets: Q R S and T

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The Alphapets portrait project this week is brought to you by the letters Q, R, S and T. Here’s my abecedarian poem to go with these letters and artwork :

Quincy is rarely upset

Rufus requests a 3 egg omelet

Snickerson eats all the whitefish

Tippy, age 2, is still kittenish

Here’s the artwork (somewhere on each piece is an alphabetical letter):

I did portraits of a Maine Coon cat, a pug dog, a Sphynx cat and a tuxedo cat. This seemed to be cat week.

The world also seemed a bit topsy-turvy this week so when setting out to work on this pet portrait project I sat and thought of calming pets, including some professional therapy cats and dogs I’ve done portraits of in the past.

While thinking I remembered a pre-quarantine visit my spouse and I made, several years ago, to a cat show in Portland Oregon. It was a tumultuous event, generally, but one area seemed particularly chaotic: a group of small kids were clamoring around a large Maine Coon cat, taking turns holding the cat who was almost as big as the kids doing the holding. The cat was poured from lap to lap, he was hugged, kissed, patted, fur ruffled, his tail and ears were tugged – and through it all the cat serenely meditated. A Zen monk would surely be impressed. I certainly was. Still am.

Anyway I combined those thoughts with memories of a long ago trip we took to Maine where I discovered thick “fisherman’s sweaters” with shawl collars and big pockets. I feel serene when wearing one. So all of these thoughts combined for Quincy.

For Rufus I was thinking about omelets; omelets with veggies, omelets with cheese… and Pugs are fun to draw. The background pattern was just playful fun – thinking of oval eggy shapes.

A dear friend of mine suggested Snickerson and Tippy – suggesting both the names, the breeds and giving me some resource photos for each cat. As I looked at what my friend shared I thought of fish, and the fishing in my local area – and I can imagine that with Snickerson’s big eyes he’d charm any fishmonger out of all their whitefish.

I combined my friends info about the tuxedo cat Tippy with my awareness that lots of people are doing school at home now – including teaching and learning to write. Writing seems a thing to learn and practice one’s entire life anyway … which keeps one kittenish. 😄

As usual all of this artwork was created with ink, gouache and color pencil. I do these portraits on board, size 3.5 x 2.5 inches. The original art will be framed…eventually and be a miniature art exhibit. But since the pandemic I’ve decided that rather than wait for the physical art exhibit, (I normally wait to release a book in conjunction with an art exhibit) to go full steam ahead with the book. Since these posts of my Alphapets, especially on Instagram and Facebook, have seemed to cheer people….perhaps it will also cheer people to have the choice of a printed or an ebook of these portraits? Anyway, now that I’ve reached the letter T my thoughts are turning more firmly towards book design – and that’s fun for me too. Art, in my opinion, is there to give us solace, to help us get thru whatever is happening in life.

If you’re just joining the fun the previous set of letters is here. My Alphapets project is still aimed to be an art exhibit. With framing eventually done by Aurora Gallery and Frameshop. https://auroragalleryonline.com/ as part of the Ambassador for Small Frames program. More of the poem will be revealed on each Monday’s post as I get more of the artwork done. More of my artist books are here.

Anyway, I’ll have more letters for you next Monday. See you then!

Slaughterhouse Chives or what came from my sketchbooks

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My last post featured my sketchbook pages and those sketches added to my reading in Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut were combined in my mind becoming this fine art piece I’ve titled “Slaughterhouse Chives”

“Slaughterhouse Chives” by Clancy – 24 x 18 inches – gouache and ink on board.

If you saw my last post you may recognize the man’s gesture from my “loosey” sketchbook studies.

I combined the man’s gesture with my soup thoughts, a recipe I cooked this week (and posted on my Instagram page) from my kitchen sketchbook. Then I read around in both Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut.

The Vonnegut title, with its focus on time (and other things) fit best with the thoughts I’d noted in my sketchbooks. (And my thoughts about current absurd American politics.) Reading the Vonnegut book helped me pull together all of my thoughts. Then I did a preliminary drawing, tweaked the drawing over a few days, transfered it to a board and painted.

Here’s some closeup details of sections within my painting:

There now. As Kurt Vonnegut says so often “And So It Goes”.

epic pug sitting

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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:

Epic300

“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”.

EpicTalesOfThePugKing72

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.”