More work this week towards an upcoming art exhibit I’m calling “Odditerrarium”. I’ll tell more about my creative process on this exhibit here and in subsequent posts. Odditerrarium will be an exhibit via Caplan Art Designs later this year.
This week I finished a dog portrait I’ve titled “Secret Knowledge”. It’s 10 x 8 inches and made with ink and gouache on board.
Here’s a closer look at this dog’s thoughts – according to the dog’s human this dog likes walks and is passionately interested in moles, chipmunks, mice and frogs.
Elsewhere in this blog (here) I’ve written about the similarities I see between the creative process of writing and the creative process of fine art. Like a writer might begin creating a novel by noting a story idea nugget in a notebook I began this Odditerrarium series with the nugget “what if we could see what our dogs and cats thoughts?” – just this nugget of a thesis and little else. But I began there and with exploration of that notion came the notions of thought bubbles and terrariums… and I began drafting in my sketchbook. Here’s some examples.
After a number of sketchbook drafts I began a few full size paintings – generally I do at least 5 paintings before I declare that I’m working on a series or give the series a working title. This is like a writer deciding to write a few chapters to see if their idea has merit – by creating an overview or even a rough draft of the whole work.
I think of my one person art exhibits as books you can walk around inside. And each painting is a “chapter” within the book. Each chapter/painting begins with it’s own notion, an outline or rough indication of what could be. Things at this point are usually vague. For “Secret Knowledge” thanks to my friend (the excellent author Liz Gauffreau) I had a photo of the dog I wanted to portray and the dogs thoughts also thanks to our conversation. Then I spent time thinking and making sketchbook notes. Then I drew on a board. As you can see I work on several paintings at the same time – this too is like a writer writing though the gaps in one chapter by writing on a different segment within the work.
When I have a rough drawing on board I begin what I call “chunking” trying to get a bit of color on every area in the artwork. The colors don’t have to be perfect – it’s a rough indicator subject to adjustment based on other colors. I don’t worry about details at this stage just rough shapes of color and contrast. Like how a writer writes a whole story imperfectly, all in a rush with “detail to come” notes sprinkled throughout the tale.
In the photo below I’m in the chunking process. I know I want a blue background for the portrait of the white dog but at this point I’m not sure of the precise shade of blue. The other colors within that portrait will help me determine that. Like when a writer decides a character’s course of action based on another character’s choices.
When the chunking is more or less done I begin bit by bit to fill in and flesh out areas. Here’s an example- I’m sure you can see the transition happening from chunky to smoother.
The photo at the beginning of this post is of the finished portrait which I titled “Secret Knowledge”… the blue I ultimately chose is of early morning or late evening sky: a time for walks and a time when small mammals might be more active… something of which this dog certainly has knowledge! 😉
For my art exhibit Odditerrarium I’m thinking about mental lives and encounters with the minds of other humans and other beings in this world. Here’s a few of my favorite sketchbook pages on this topic. To help me keep on task, so to speak, for my Odditerrarium series I will continue to read, write and sketch on this topic of self awareness and encounters with other minds.
In psychology this called a developing a theory of mind …and this link explains it well and I quote “Forging a strong theory of mind plays an important role in our social worlds as we work to understand how people think, to predict their behavior, to engage in social relationships, and to solve interpersonal conflicts… Forming a theory of mind is critical in our ability to understand ourselves and others. This ability to understand mental states allows people to introspect and consider their own thoughts and mental states. Such self-awareness is important in the formation of a strong sense of self. Our social functioning also hinges on having a theory of mind. By being able to think about what other people are thinking, we can better understand others and predict what they might do next.”
Anyway, when paintings on the easel need to dry a bit I’ve been playing with my poetry sketchbook.
Inside my poetry book is a notion of a new experimental art book for Storyberries. In the photo you see my notions in my book and on the right side I’m beginning to work on my notions in a tiny concertina format book.
A cat reaching is my main notion that’s getting played with in two different ways in this photo for two different books.
I’ll keep you posted on whatever happens with these newbies.
The Aurora Gallery contacted me wanting more of my cards and books so I took those to them this week!
It did my artist heart good to see my things displayed by the Gallery so well and to know that my work is appreciated! The Aurora Gallery ships my art, cards and books anywhere and my signed green dragon book plates are available on request.
This week in kitchen creativity I made spinach enchiladas inspired by “Mrs Rasmussen’s Book Of One Armed Cookery” by Mary Lasswell. I used both arms to cook with and didn’t have a beer. I’d probably get demerits for that from Mrs Rasmussen as I can imagine her saying “What?! No beer?!” but the chili onion gravy was divinely scrumptious over spinach enchiladas and beans and rice!
I say I was “inspired by” Mrs Rasmussen’s recipe because I ruthlessly adapted this recipe as I was only cooking for two people and as you can see below Mrs R was cooking for the entire tricounty area. Plus I don’t use lard…
To make my chili onion gravy I used my good gravy recipe but instead of sausage I used a small can of roasted chilies and some chopped white onion.
In one serving size oven safe boats I made one spinach enchilada for each of us and surrounded the enchilada with beans, rice then ladled the gravy over it all and topped it with cheese. Turned out so good!! I did have gravy leftover which I used for another meal.
My evening reading loosely related to the topic of encounters with and awareness of other minds is the last book in the trilogy “His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman and Pullman’s nonfiction book “Daemon Voices” about stories and storytelling.
Hope your week is a good one! See you next Monday?
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.
Imagination and poetry were on my mind this week. I’ve been thinking of our mental ecosystems and the landscape of our minds. So this week I did a portrait of a Shih Tzu this week for upcoming exhibits via Caplan Art Designs which I’ve titled “In Imagination”.
Storyberries said “Great! Can you do it as an Instagram Reel?” And I replied “A Reel? I’ll have to Google whatever that is…” So I Googled and found this article as well as others. I also talked more with Storyberries about Reels because they’ve been doing Reels longer than I have.
Turns out that doing a Reel was fairly easy to figure out. I still have more to learn but I did turn the above YouTube video into a Reel on Instagram
Additionally for promoting “How The Cow…” I submitted it to Apple Books as an ebook and was accepted! This brings the total number of books by me on Apple to 15! I’m proud of that! If you scroll down this page you can see more of my books.
As you know from my last post I’ve been thinking of poetry as a rhythmic visual sequence. So I played with a short sequence of drawings and published it as poem on a coffee mug. To me the sentiment in my poem fit the trying-to-get-started morning need for caffine. I also used these drawings as test content for making another Instagram Reel. Im trying to practice this because suddenly I’m seeing the very short videos as another way to share my visual content… and I can imagine doing more collaboration with Storyberries this way too!
Speaking of very short poems: a whole lot of progress happened on my newest experimental art poem…
I finished painting the content and the cover art. Then I cut out the cover art and glued it onto the outside of the 2 inch square concertina book.
Here’s an early peek at the finished original artist book. As I mentioned in my last post I don’t want to show too much of the punchline before Storyberries has a chance to distribute it. They’ve tentatively scheduled it for release Mar 12 so slowly over this next week I’ll post more in public on social media. But for my dear blog followers here’s an advance look at the original artwork.
Here I am, with canine supervisory assistance, setting up the digital files for sending to Storyberries.
And here’s what’s on my laptop screen.
My thinking is about the mechanism of ebook flow on Storyberries and fitting a visual poem rhythm to that. The ebooks on Storyberries flow up and down so my question is can I do poetic rhythms, repetitions and surprises in a way that takes advantage of that? Can a viewers eye “read” an implied connection between the up/down pages? It’s fun to experiment and play with what a poem and a book can be!
Here’s a peek at the ebook version. I’m thinking the viewers will make the transition between the pages just fine… what do you think?
While “A Scoop Of Letter Soup” seems really simple there was a lot of thinking and planning behind it, possibly more planning than I’ve done for my more complicated works. I think of “A Scoop…” as a little treat rather like how a baker puts a lot of time and effort into making something yummy that’s eaten in a moment.
This week I also cut, folded, trimmed and glued handmade paper into what I call “book blanks” concertina books that are ready for my content. I have some more plans for future artist books and this is part of getting ready for book content production.
Sometimes I have bought blank concertina books from an art supply store but generally I find it more satisfying to make my own. I can choose my own paper for the book and make it a size and length needed for the projects I have in mind.
Below is a photo of my evening reading list. Three of the four books pictured talk about the playful, generous nature of poetry and books in general and ways language itself can be a form of loving and caring. I’m enjoying thinking of how poetry and stories can be useful mental landscape construction tools for creating pleasant mind-scapes.
And Good Omens by Terry Pratchett is just plain fun to read.
I hope your mind is your preferred landscape and that it is especially beautiful this week. See you 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.
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.
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?
Some of my sketchbook pages this week felt like personal milestone markers, like “Yeah! That’s exactly the point of it!” This what I enjoy about having a regular sketchbook habit, the aha moments.
In the studio I’m working on a fine art reproductions project that I can’t talk about much yet. But I’ve discovered another side benefit of working smaller- doing 6 paintings at a go, working in groups of 3, is more easily done when they’re smaller! Working in groups also lets me coordinate colors more easily! Who knew?!
But instead of my new art project we’ll talk of other things. Like how my bio on Storyberries tells about my art studio supervisors. I include their photos in this post along with all due deference because they’re very good at their jobs – there are 14 books from me now on Storyberries!
A box came in the mail this week from Vintage Books with the new banned books we’d ordered! My last post tells about our current quest to buy and read banned books.
The Mississippi library mentioned in my recent post whose funding was taken away because the town’s mayor objected to LGBTQ books has met it’s fundraising goal several times!! Celebrating this success!! Up to the minute details are here.
And there’s also been lots of love for my new books on Storyberries!! Readers are reading in our new “experimental art books” category!! Wahoo!! I am inspired to make more books and have begun already!! (More of that in future posts)
Speaking of celebrating good things – my wife and I are celebrating 26 years together and 9 years of marriage!! I am so incredibly lucky to be with someone so warm, witty, wise and in possession of a wonderful sense of humor! And she’s a reader who is always reading interesting books!
We had a good weekend talking about the books we’ve been reading! We do this often – it’s one of the many fun things we do together! A sample conversation is in our kitchen sketchbook of our favorite dishes – titled Favorites So Far – we’d published when we’d only been together 24 years. Our conversation about books is on a drink recipe.
Speaking of love – to coincide with Valentine’s Day here’s a love letter to librarians, teachers, authors and readers. This letter began as a conversation with Liz Gauffreau since our talk I’ve handwritten (and edited of course) my part of the conversation and did some illustrations for it. Then I’ve set the artwork up as an art print on my Society 6 shop for the encouragement, love and support in it for my fellow bibliophiles.
Happy Valentine’s to my fellow book lovers! See you next Monday.
Book banning is a hot topic with me because I’ve been on the receiving end of bans. Those occurrences happened in Oklahoma over 10 years ago when I lived there. To name just one example, in 2008 I was to have a one person art exhibit at the Oklahoma State Capital. More than a few of my paintings were banned from the Capital exhibit. I called my Tulsa Oklahoma gallery, Joseph Gierek Fine Art, to tell about being banned. The Gallery owner, Joe, said “Stay right there, I’ll come and pick them up!” Tulsa is about a 200 mile drive away from the Oklahoma Capital but Joe was there with his van in a trice. Then the Joseph Gierek Fine Art gallery did a special exhibit behind yellow caution tape in Tulsa and we called my one person exhibit “View At Your Own Risk” with a statement telling a bit about my work being banned. Oh my, was the Gierek Gallery brave! So that very weird experience of being banned turned out very well for me and for Joe!
After my spouse and I had newly relocated to Washington state I had an interview with the Caplan Art Designs Gallery. Having just moved I brought along to Caplan’s the finished artworks I had on hand which was some of my then recently banned-in-Oklahoma artwork. The Caplan Gallery immediately signed me up as a gallery artist and sold 4 of my paintings before the ink on my contract was dry! In Oklahoma my work had often been considered “subversive” or even “offensive” (there were a number of bans of and objections regarding my artwork) but in the Pacific Northwest my work – the very same artwork! – is considered “charming” and even “delightful” and “whimsical”. What a pleasant shift of perspective!
This painting below is one of my paintings that had been banned in Oklahoma but quite welcome in the Pacific Northwest. Allegedly this painting was banned in Oklahoma because of the semi nudity. 🙄 This photo is of the same banned art newly located in the Pacific Northwest where instead of offending adults it amused adults and children!! (Yes, I have found my happy place!!)
More to the point of my blog post today – in 2010 the public library where we then lived in Oklahoma was going to display a few LGBTQ friendly books under glass deep inside in the library. It seemed like almost the entire town turned out to protest in a 4 hours long city council event. The majority of the speakers were vehemently homophobic. After the event one young gay person committed suicide. It was that vitriolic. After the event we contacted a realtor in Washington state and asked her to please find us a home and that we would even consider a hole in the ground with a tarp on it. We needed out! Long story short we, with the help of a wonderful realtor, found and bought our Washington house sight-unseen over the internet and within 6 months of that Oklahoma council meeting we had moved! One of the best things we ever did!! Being gay in Washington is no big deal at all! Also no big deal: being an artist, a book reader or being deaf.
I don’t for one minute think that every book has to resemble and reflect the superficial attributes of a reader in order to be a book worth reading. As an adult I enjoy reading work about, and by, people unlike me but I can see how it would help young people to be able once and a while to see, in a book, a superficial likeness of themselves. It helps to feel less alone, even safe, wanted and welcome somewhere – even if that place is in a book.
I went though my entire childhood – as an avid, dare I say obsessive, reader – never once reading about a gay deaf artistically inclined tomboy girl living primarily with her grandmother and enduring “visits to hell” with her abusive biological uber-religious parents.
The only deaf person I ever read about in a book was Helen Keller and that didn’t feel relatable to me.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was the first time I read of violence and family dysfunction happening to someone besides me and that was SO relatable – even though all of the characters were boys. That book helped me feel less alone then and I can still quote verbatim from that book today.
Judy Blume’s “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret” helped me address my confusion about cruelty/weirdness about bodies that was done in the name of religion.
I didn’t encounter a gay character in any book until I went to college in 1986 and read “Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit” by Jeanette Winterson which had been written in 1985. And that book felt like a welcome healing salve to my 18 year old psyche.
I could go on naming books – many of them now banned – that really helped me get through things as a young person. But I’m sure you’re getting the idea of why wide availability of books (and art) matters so much to me.
So naturally my spouse and I in response to the spate of book banning in 2022 went looking for lists of banned books so we could buy copies of those books. If you too want to use banned book lists as book buying recommendations 😁 Below are the lists we found.
A juicy oh-so-delectible list of banned books for grownups at Powell’s one of my local Pacific Northwest independent bookstores. (I think most of my high school and college required reading is on this list!🤯)
I mentioned last post about Maus by Art Spiegelman being banned … well here is a great article about why that book is important and why it is shocking that, to quote from the article, “people could be more upset by mild profanity than they are by genocide.”
And another article speculating about why book banning and even book burning has become “a thing” in late 2021 and early 2022.
There’s also an article about a Texas lawmaker who wants to ban and burn 850 book titles statewide… but enough of that.
When things begin to feel overwhelming I find it helpful to look for one specific thing I can do something about. This is in the vein of “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”
Here’s an article we found about one specific library in Mississippi whose funding is being withheld by the mayor because he disapproves of some LGBTQ books. My wife and I chose this library and donated money. Then we spent time tweeting and sharing the info in hopes of getting more donations for them.
Here’s a portion of the letter we got after donating which has the libraries snail mail address if that is preferred.
Two days later we saw that they had achieved their funding goal with still more time to spare!!! We’re hoping even more donations will happen!
Since I took the above screenshot the Ridgeland Library has adjusted their goal upwards… and is reaching the new goal too!! Yippee!!! Click this link to see up-to-the-minute progress. I’ve been monitoring and boy is it fun to see the library succeed!!!
Anyway, for me public libraries are intimately interconnected with basic human rights. Images and words make up the human mind much like air and water make up the human body – we need trusted sources for all of these. Humans are social beings intertwined mentality and physically with the community around them. Here’s a poem that illustrates this idea that I have written off by hand and thumbtacked to my studio wall where I see it often.
And that’s why I make artist books. It’s my “why” for most of my creative efforts really. It’s part of why I feel it’s important to be a participant in a community of artists, writers and readers. It’s why having an egalitarian community – at least on the gallery walls and the library shelves matters so much to me.
Books and art are communal in nature and utilizing them often is part of being fully human within a community.
I thought about my Vancouver USA downtown and how I love it that the 5 story library and the independent theatre are some of the tallest most iconic buildings. I also thought about the scrubjay blue birds that are native here.
Then I wondered just how did Mother Goose’s cow travel over the moon… and how do birds remember their songs?
Storyberries has even created a new book category for my work called “experimental art”!! Oh I’m gleefully looking forward to making more books for them to distribute!!!
So it can very truthfully be said that my new artistbook is a direct result of community !! Thank you all!! And I love you all too!! ❤🙌
I’ll repeat myself here because I am so excited and grateful to the Storyberries community for this new “experimental art books” category! Thanks for giving me such a valuable space to just be me! I’m so looking forward to sharing the fun of playing with imagination and creativity this way!
Speaking of imagination and being creative: there’s a wonderful article on creativity written by Luzemy Romero and Fleur Rodgers on Storyberries – and I have an illustration in it! But what’s fun is that these creativity tips the authors write about are things I do… Every. Single. Day! Especially the reading part!!! And if you go by chronological age I’m a grownup… so… the authors ideas apply to all ages. Anyway there are some really great creativity tips here https://www.storyberries.com/creativity-kids-how-to-help-your-child-to-be-creative-storyberries-parenting-portal/
Here’s my illustration within the article by Gamboa and Rodgers and a bit of the article text. We need a wide variety of stories in order to practice flexibility in our thinking and creativity. A variety of material, some of it liked, some disliked, gives our minds something to respond to within our own creativity.
Also on the intersection of creativity and libraries there’s a fun article right here about an 8 year old who wrote and illustrated a handmade book and slipped it into the public library collection in Boise Idaho!
This week our copies of Maus by Art Spiegelman came by mail from one of our local bookstores Daedalus Books!
I had posted on my Instagram page that I was looking online at our local indiebookstores to see if anyone had Maus and didn’t see it – as they indicated sold put or it wasn’t listed. Well @daedalusbookspdx commented on my post that they didn’t have all of their books online but that they *did* have copies of Maus!!! So I called them immediately and bought the copies of Maus!
In the past when we’ve visited Daedalus Books in person I’ve relished their “books about books” section… While I had the store on the phone I named a price range and asked the store to pick a book for me from that section and include it with our Maus copies… I also asked that they *not* tell me what title they selected! I love a good book surprise!
Here in the photos below is my surprise book! It’s perfect!!! It’s a book about giftbooks – which is what I create!!! (See my portfolio page) I’m beyond happy with my surprise book! I immediately wrote a postcard to tell Daedalus thank you!!! Wow! What a treat!!! I am so glad Daedalus had copies of Maus too!!
The last photo has contact info for Daedalus…and as I’ve learned you can just call them up, ask politely and they’ll hand you a smile in the form of a book !! Wow!!!
Come to think of it becoming a semi-vegetarian while in college in fried-meat-and-fried-potatoes Oklahoma was another, ahem, “interesting” experience. I’m not, and have never been, a strict vegetarian (I don’t want to be strict about anything) I just do like vegetables and well vegetarian meals frequently happen. But I remember accidentally shocking people in Oklahoma with vegetarian fare now and then. 🤷♀️
Back to the present yumminess… the mushroom chili was served in big mugs with crackers and a side of books to read. I’m lucky to have married a fellow avid book reader!
Here’s another favorite quote about books that I’ve handwritten and thumbtacked to my studio wall.
I hope your week is full of subversive literary, artistic and culinary delights and that you’re able to radically and wholeheartedly enjoy them!
Almost exclusively I used to do unique books as art objects that were displayed in art gallery exhibits. My one-of-a-kind books were then sold and that was that. Well, in 2020 after the pandemic began the galleries closed to the public and I began publishing my artist books in an on-demand way. My book is printed at the time it is ordered and mailed to the buyer. I did this so I could still share my visual stories and they could still be fairly unique i.e. not printed in large quantities. And as my portfolio page attests that’s the way I’ve now done twelve different artist book projects. As the galleries have adapted to the pandemic since March 2020 allowing the public to handle one-of-a-kind books, wisely I think, hasn’t come back into vogue.
When making a printed version of my original artist books I try as best I can to maintain the look of the original work. I do very little – or ideally absolutely no – digital manipulation of my content. At most some text is typed. I even prefer to handwrite as much as possible. It’s important to me that people – especially kids – get to have a wide variety of homemade or handmade comforts whether it’s dinners, cookies, fine art or books.
Anyway, in the case of my new “How the cow…” book I typed the about the book and the dedication page text. But those pages and the covers are the only typed text. (I’ve learned the hard way that having these pages typed rather than handwritten helps the book be found via a search.)
I also scanned the handmade pattern I used for the cow book slipcase and the found sheet music I used for the tiny notes book cover. I scanned my handwritten text summary for the cow story. I did digitally “erase” the page number marks on my handwritten text because those numbers did not apply to the printed book. Other than erasing the pages numbers the handwritten page is the same in the printed book as it is in the original.
With those very few digital documents in my 28 page book layout I created end papers of a sort to flank or wrap each story within the printed book. The original artist books are themselves covered with these patterns.
The scanned blue bubble pattern was the basis for the printed book cover.
As you can see the covers of both the original book and the printed version are similar.
The artwork in the cow story is just a bit smaller in the printed version than the original. But as you can see the colors are a very close match! Also the printed book is conventionally bound so I set up my layout like a comic book rather than in the folded concertina form of the original. I don’t yet know of any printer who prints and mails concertina style books. The two illustrations per page layout allowed me to fill the seven inch square printed pages. (In the photos below the original handmade book is at the top)
The “Tiny Notes” original artwork is reproduced at a much larger size in the printed book. The original book is 2.25 inches square. The printed book is 7 inches square. Again the colors printed are pretty close to what’s in the original!
So you can see the scales of the books in relation to a human. My spouse took these photos of me and the books…
The original concertina format cow book unfolds to four feet long. Almost as tall as me!
The original concertina tiny notes book is only 20 inches long unfolded.
You can see more of these book pages and details on my portfolio site. I’ve no idea if these original artist books will someday go to an art gallery even for display under glass.
For now I’m having fun making books intentionally for printing and mailing directly to people. It may sound odd to say this but this new way of sharing my books feels more personal and I feel like many more people are able to see and own my work this way.
This week my coloring book poem “How To Draw A Dragon” was read aloud on Kidz Stories And More !!! You can see it here https://youtu.be/EUVeDjqiz30 When we were discussing the creation of this video Kidz Stories and I decided to make my book pages so they could be downloaded for free so kids could color along with the video! The download is available here and the directions are also in the video link. I’m seeing this as possibly another fun new way to share my artist books!
Also this week someone shared this photo saying how happy they are with a portrait I painted of their cat and how it has been framed by the Aurora Gallery!! That makes me happy!!!!!
My spouse mentioned the current news about book banning and that one of the titles banned is “A Light in the Attic” by Shel Silverstein. We have that book in our dining room poetry collection. It’s a favorite! Hearing that news led to both of us looking up what other books we have on our shelves that are banned. It was a fun scavenger hunt of sorts! 🤣 Turns out we have a large number of banned titles throughout our book collection. Two shelves in our dining room alone yield 4 books/authors who have been banned… even as recently as 2022.
Here’s one of the articles we read about banned books. Naturally we got online and ordered more banned books from our local independent bookstore. 😁 One of the banned books I tried to order was Maus by Art Spiegelman (here’s an article about that book) but all of my usual indy bookstores were sold out! But there were other banned books available which we happily bought.
I’ll leave some memes about book banning here just in case someone wants one.
I hope your week is similarly filled with subversive literary delights and some homemade comforts.
This week had a cow in it (more on that in this post) and a dog portrait. I selected one of my sketchbook drawings as an idea for what to paint using the new brush technique I learned from the book, Miniature Art by Joan Cornish Willies that I talked about in my last post. Here’s the sketchbook page.
This ink, gouache and watercolor painting below is 8 x 10 inches in size, well within the “miniature art” definitions. The brush method recommended in the book “Miniature Art” by Joan Cornish Willies is to lay a round pointer brush on its side in the paint and rolling it to absorb the paint while maintaining the point on the brush. Dipping, pressing or stabbing the brush point in the paint, however gently, makes the brush point spread out and thus makes doing fine detail within a painting more difficult.
Here’s a look at the whole painting I’ve finished and titled “A Tale-carrier”
The new brush technique did help me get more fine details. Particularly around the dog’s eyes, nose and on the books. Here’s a closer look…
I’m loving the way creating finer details enables me to combine the human senses of touch and sight in this new miniature work! And I enjoyed making a miniature that knows it’s a miniature! Lol! It’s amazing what a gift awareness can be! Here’s an even closer look…
I do feel a bit of “well, duh”… of course laying a brush on its side and rotating the brush in the paint would help retain the brush point even while loading it with pigment! Ah well! Just goes to show that you really can teach an artist with 25 plus years of experience a new trick or two! Lol!
This week someone asked if I would pretty please make a mug with my “green leprechaun man” on it…
Also this week another printed book on the topic of miniature art came in the mail from one of my local bookstores. The Big Book Of Tiny Art by Karen Libecap is just plain fun to look at and read. It does have a good review of pencil techniques as well as use of color. The main attraction for me is the “watch-it-develop” sequences of photos that document ways to achieve tiny details. Oh, and the gallery of examples of finished miniature artworks is a treat. This book is encouraging and pleasing in tone – which will make it nice to have on my shelves. No Earth shattering art technique BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) moments in this book like there was in reading Miniature Art by Joan Cornish Willies. But the friendly can-do spirit and lack of snooty-ness in the Tiny Art book by Libecap, I think, means more people- myself included- are more likely to keep trying this art form. Plus I just love it that these tiny art techniques are so applicable to what I do in my sketchbooks.
So now when I draw in my sketchbook I’m trying for more details – like the feathers on this bird.
As you know in the evenings I’ve been reading a print copy of The Annotated Arabian Nights. On my ebook reader, which I read while exercising, is “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. So in addition to the story-within-stories format of the Nights and the lovely idea (last post) about the genre of “mirrors for princes” that I encountered in the annotations of the Arabian Nights I’m getting a regular therapeutic dose of Adam’s gentle absurdity.
Thus I’ve been pondering just how it is that Mother Goose’s cow went over the moon. And our human habit of having sacred cows… beliefs that take us into the stratosphere away from reality. Consequently there’s a new wordless book in progress on my easel.
Here’s a closer look at the sequence of pages
As I write this blog post I have put these pages under smooth boards with weights on them so they’ll be flat. I’ll be making a physical artist book from these pages and then both a printed book and an ebook version. More about this in upcoming posts.
A dear friend and fellow artist Donna Young https://www.donnayoung.com/ and I used to fairly regularly visit each other’s studios in pre-pandemic times. Recently Donna posted a photo of her studio and asked me to post a photo of mine. Here it is below!
I’m sure you’ll recognize one of the dog paintings on my easel. The other dog you’ll probably see next Monday. And I’m sure you’ll notice my new magnifying glass (last post) in use!
If you were standing in my studio, where I took this photo, to your left would be a stack of boards and weights holding down my “How The Cow Went Over The Moon” pages. More about that next Monday too.
Thanks for reading this post. I hope your week is kind to you and I’ll look forward to sharing more with you on Monday!
This week was … there. Reading Marcus Aurelius helped. So did the oranges, the coffee, the leaves in the yard, the books and art. Talking with my spouse helped too. I kept returning to this quote from Marcus Aurelius so I did this gouache and ink painting. Then I added it to my “for encouragement” art print series on my Society 6 shop.
Here are a few of my sketchbook pages that formed part of my self-care this week.
In my last post I wrote about “discovering” miniature art by way of reading The Annotated Arabian Nights. While reading more about some of the artists and artwork illustrating the Arabian Nights I learned of the uses of magnifying glasses when creating art details within the miniatures. “Well duh! Wouldn’t that be helpful?” I thought.
So when a nice surprise from Storyberries came I used the windfall to get some anti fatigue mat flooring for when I’m standing at my easel and moving about my work area. It has the added benefit of protecting the wood floor! And….
…I got a magnifying glass that clamps on my easel!
Since feelings and dealing well with emotions has been on my mind I used that topic for the first of my Creativity Chats for 2022.
Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/KvCfOgtOaMY I talk about dealing with feelings and sustaining a creative project over time. Even during difficult times.
Books are some of the “good shit” that I inhale. And in stressful times I’ve found it can be hard to “let things get through” even beloved books. All I know to do is to keep reading and trust the process.
Anyway The Annotated Arabian Nights is “getting through to me” more than I’d have guessed. In addition to the miniature art concept I’ve also learned that there’s a genre of writing called “mirrors for princes”. I’ve no idea what, if anything, I’ll do with this awareness. I’m mostly just vividly aware that I sat up and took notice when I learned this.
In looking at online sources for information about miniature art I learned about a book by Joan Cornish Willies titled “Miniature Painting”. It was touted in multiple online sources as a go-to book resource. I contacted an independent bookstore and got a copy mailed to me which I read cover to cover the day it arrived.
According to Joan Cornish Willies I wouldn’t at all be considered a “true” miniature artist because I tend to use multiple media in just about everything I do; a bit of ink, gouache, watercolor, color pencil and collage to name a few of my art mediums. Plus, according to Willies, my typical subject matter isn’t considered within the realm of “traditional” subjects for miniatures. Oh well.
Fortunately I’ve read other sources and know that Joan Cornish Willies’s thoughts aren’t the only ones about miniature art and it’s definitions.
Despite the “no true Scotsman…” rhetoric and traditionalist tones in this book by Willies I found several of the technical painting directions of interest and possibly applicable to what I create. The rest of the book I take with a grain of salt or perhaps a large sack of salt. Anyway I’ve no intention, at this time, to participate in the formal miniature art society’s – as suggested by Willies – they sound entirely too rigid and puritanical for my tastes.
In the process of reading on this topic I’ve realized what I like about the idea of miniature art is the focus on storytelling, the intimacy and the connection with bookmaking and publishing. I love all of the intricate artistic details that can be achieved by the various methods of working “in the little”. Most of all I relish the way the details created in the smaller sizes are able to be reproduced in print (or online) so clearly! I had already noticed this with my own fine art and book publishing work (see my portfolio). Larger paintings often lose clarity and charm when they’re reproduced at smaller sizes… like in books. So I’m keen to do better at fine detail in smaller sized artwork with an eye toward more publishing.
That’s specifically what has amazed me about the artwork in The Annotated Arabian Nights so many of the illustrations are reproduced at the actual size – or very near it – to the artist’s original artwork! And the artistic details are glorious!
Consequently I’m thinking up a new artist book or two as well as a new fine art series – and deliberately planning smaller sizes now!
Onward into the fog as they say. See you next Monday?