Being creative is like cooking – you get one meal cooked and cleaned up then it’s time for another meal. It’s the slog – long live the slog! Hooray for the slog! Okay so the word slog can have a negative connotation… I also call it a a good working rhythm! There’s a wonderful article about slogs aka work, talent and audacity from The Painters Keys. [Spoiler: it’s not the talent so much as the willingness to see it through]
Here’s some of my more finished than unfinished Dragon pages. I still have to ink all of the poem text and fill in certain visual elements on many of the pages but the entire book has been penciled!! Feels like an accomplishment… which I celebrated (more on that later in this post)! Anyway here are some of the mostly inked pages!!
If you recognize some of the pages, well that’s because I go through the book penciling. Then I go through the book inking this bit then I go through the book inking that bit then I go through the book….
See what I wrote earlier about slogging. Writers most obviously slog – you hear about novelists working on a draft of a novel for years, decades even. You hear about it taking years to rewrite and edit a novel. The same is true of my visual artistic life too. But the public doesn’t often hear about the slogs of a visual artist. I’ve written in the past about the similarities I see between art and writing – what I write here today is of a piece with that idea. Anyway, I find that it helps to celebrate small milestones of creative projects.
I penciled the entire How To Draw A Dragon book!! Yippee! So I celebrated by having margaritas with my spouse on our backyard patio. I also did a small painting in color. I’ve been thinking of of color as I have been working on “How to Draw A Dragon” a black and white line drawn book for other people to color. Indulging in both an adult drink and some gouache paints was decadent!!
And while I was painting the light outside changed but I kept painting.
While this looks like a complete painting done during the duration of a drink – and it is – but it is also only one piece of my much larger Odditorium exhibit. You might say this is like novelist writing one decent short paragraph during the time it takes to drink a margarita. A paragraph is not a novel. One painting is not an exhibit.
On another day this week my spouse snapped a photo of me drawing in my morning sketchbook. Below the photo you can see what I was sketching.
The next morning I got one of my small art boards and re-sketched my thought. This is what I love about keeping a sketchbook – I can explore thoughts messily in my sketchbook then later pick the thought I really like and re-explore and repeat with variations. I can try it in different sizes, art mediums and colors. This way there’s no pressure to get it right the first time. And I get to play with a group of fun thoughts as long as I like. Some might call it “flitting about” but I call it normal creativity. (See also my last post) Can you see how similar the visual art creative process is to the writers process of rewriting? Below I basically “rewrite” my thought.
I’m thinking this artwork will be fun on a mug for a gardener to use. There I go again dedicating a gift for someone – whether they ever see it or not. I mentioned doing this gift making / dedications in my last post. This mug and a card with the same artwork are on my Zazzle shop now.
I’ve even thought about color when eating this week – inspired by a recipe in my kitchen sketchbook Favorites So Far.
Below is one of the books I’ve been reading in the evenings before bed titled Nature’s Palette. My spouse gave it to me for my birthday earlier! Do you notice that some botanical and zoological drawings look sortof coloring book-like? Well in part that’s because long ago books were illustrated using etchings which were often colored by hand before being bound into a book. And from my past experience as a biological illustrator often both black line drawings and color drawings are needed for the same plant – so color is filled in (so to speak) after one has an accurate line drawing. Is it really any surprise that I’ve been thinking of color and coloring books lately?
I hope your week is full of color and delights for your senses. See you next Monday.
“Warning” by Jenny Joseph is one of my favorite poems. I particularly like these lines “…and hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes…”. But I hadn’t read that poem or thought of it in a while (you can see the entire poem here).
Earlier this month I received the prospectus for a “reclaimed canvas” art exhibit upcoming at the Aurora Gallery. (This is the project I hinted at in my last post.) The Reclaimed Canvas is an art exhibit asking the gallery artists to paint on something not normally used as a canvas or surface for painting. So I began this new project by rummaging around my studio for a not-typical thing to paint on. Look what I found – boxes of pens, pencils and beermats!
Suddenly I remembered the poem “Warning” by Jenny Joseph…. and had a good chuckle at myself. Of course I reread the poem and laughed some more.
Before we visited, and later moved to, the Pacific Northwest I didn’t think I liked beer. But here in the Pacific Northwest there are locally owned microbreweries and the beer is worth taste testing – and both the brewpubs and the beers often reflect the region in which they’re located. So having a beer in one of the microbrew pubs includes a bit of regional history and personal stories. Often there’s beautiful scenery too. Oh, and did I mention that the beer tastes surprisingly good?
As I looked through my collection of beermats in my pencil box I thought of poetry and word play in general. I also remembered our various visits to the brewpubs whose beermats I had in hand. I evaluated the qualities of the beermats themselves as a possible canvas for a painting.
Here’s the beermat I chose for my new painting project – the first photo shows the front of the beermat and then the next photo shows the back of it.
Bouy Beer is in Astoria Oregon and the brewpub sits right on the water. When entering the pub you can walk over a large glass floor. Through the glass floor you can often see the sea lions lounging on the pier beneath. We’ve enjoyed sitting in the pub on the waters edge, watching ships and marine wildlife. Sitting there, with a beer, I’m aware of the intimate connection this one spot has with the entire world: international ships come and go as do migrating whales, geese and sea lions. I love the way it is both a unique place with it’s own regional quirks and yet it openly, joyfully, participates in a wider world. It’s a wonderful reminder that one can be fully ones particular self while also being fully within, and open to, a diverse world. The food menu at Buoy Beer is also an enchanting fusion of world cuisines… but I dangerously digress. I have so many good memories of this particular pub and look forward to each visit. Oh, and they brew really good beers!
Anyway, for an animal character to use in my painting on the Buoy Beer beermat I thought about having a sea lion drinking beer, a great blue heron drinking beer, a whale drinking…. eventually, after a number of sketchbook drawings, I settled on the character of a bear. My main reasons for choosing a bear is that I could do a wordplay title for the finished art … but also the shape of bear, physically, could evoke the feeling and the relaxing-into-hybernation pose that I associate with the flavor of one of my favorite beers when it’s seasonally available at Bouy Beer.
Here’s a sketch I did when exploring my thoughts.
And below is the painting I did on one of the 4 inch round coasters I had collected during one of our trips to Bouy Beer (which I kept in a pencil box with the rest of my beermat collection – 🤣). I painted on the coaster with gouache and have titled it …wait for it… “Bear, Matt”
The back of my “Bear, Matt” painting has the title and other data written by hand.
I did seal the beermat with a clear primer before I began painting on it and when my painting was finished and dry I varnished the artwork. Plus the art will likely be framed at the Aurora Gallery. So what was once an ephemeral throw-away object now will potentially last quite a bit longer.
I think of this new project as fitting in with my recent household surrealism thinking: a mundane object was thought about in a new way.
With this thought, given my sense of humor, I simply couldn’t resist turning my original painting “Bear, Matt” back into ephemeral beermats. So on my Zazzle shop I made round paper coasters – beermats – that are copies or art prints of my original “Bear, Matt” artwork! The back of these printed coasters is blank. That’s one way you can tell the copy from the original. You can get these here.
After finishing “Bear, Matt” and delivering the original to the Aurora Galley a few days ago – I visited, in masked-up person, another favorite local independent bookstore called Daedalus Books. This bookstore is especially alluring for me with my interests in literature, fine art, poetry, books about books, artist books, literary studies, culture, history and philosophy. You can see how tempting it was… in the photo below is my book haul!
Another new project in progress contains a crocodile. In the photo below you can see my orange poetry sketchbook and my crocodile poem written by hand. Also in the photo is a binder that holds my drawing attempts, book dummies and poem drafts. Yes, I’m working on a new children’s book. I plan to update this blog over the coming weeks with my progress…
My spouse’s garden has lots of garlic scapes and some radish greens so the memorable meal this week was the pasta with radish greens and garlic scapes recipe below!
Hope your week is full of fun memories and your own collections of beermats, pencils and pens!
Last week I took 3 boxes containing all of my Odditorium fineart into Burnt Bridge Cellars where it will be through the end of July. Everything I’ve done over the last year is now in the capable hands of the winery and the Caplan Art Designs art gallery!
My spouse took this photo as I paused with one of the boxes on my way into the back patio door of the winery.
Due to our state’s Covid19 protocols reservations are needed for drinking and eating indoors or outdoors at the winery. Masked people are welcome to drop in to see the fine art and buy bottles or growlers of wines. When not seated masks are required.
While not exactly a full art opening the winery took reservations for a special Friday night dinner: marinated salmon or chicken sate by Class Cooking and of course one could sit and enjoy a variety of wines!! Masks can be removed when seated it’s just when walking about that they’re needed.
Friday night there was live music outside on the winery patio. And you could go inside to see my fineart and artistbooks then you could go outside to hear the music or vice versa.
These photos below are a look at my Odditorium artexhibit on the winery walls before people came (there are more photos here).
Below is a photo of the artist books that are in the basket in the photo above.
And my green dragon bookplates did come in time!! I had hoped in my last post to sign a few of the bookplates for the exhibit in case someone wanted one in one of my books.
Anyway, I was very aware all week that in the best of times and conditions I don’t hear well. Add the masks worn sensibly during a fading pandemic and lip reading isn’t an option either. So I made the decision to stay home even though I could have made a reservation at Burnt Bridge Cellars and spent at least some time at the winery during the first Friday my Odditorium art exhibit was available.
But I know myself and I know that if I saw someone looking at my art I’d want to pop up from my seat put my mask on and try to talk with them and try to hear what they’d say even knowing it wouldn’t be likely…. so I just chose to not put myself in that situation.
While it was a sensible decision I still had some upset feelings about it. So I worked on remembering this 👇
Bookstores and libraries have often been my places of consolation. So my spouse and I went and had our first in-person visit to a local independent bookstore Vintage Books ! We’ve both been buying online from Vintage Books for a year now…but the impulse buying when indiebookstore shopping in person can’t be beat!! https://www.vintage-books.net/
Here’s a selfie I snapped inside the store. At the time we went there were only two other customers and two store employees. We were all spread out throughout the store. It was silent (at least to my perception) except for one of the two store cats who sat up when I neared the shelf where she lay and said “meow”. Vintage Books has both new and used books so the store smelled like book heaven even though my mask. I loved the sights of the colorful book spines and book covers displayed on shelves from floor to ceiling. The staff write handwritten notes about books and I enjoy seeing the various handwriting styles in various places on the shelves. There were multiple spaces where books from different topics/genres had been collected together with staff comments like “if you like the topic in this book then you may like these too” – and that’s a sure way to get me to impulse buy! 🤣
Here’s a photo of my book haul.
Then after we got home I used my usual “how to pick a book” method. I’ve described it in Another Sketchbook and also included it on this coffee mug in my Zazzle shop.
It felt so good to have an extended length of time reading!!
Another soul satisfying restorative was finding that my order from Paperblanks came!!! (https://www.paperblanks.com/en/) Yippee!!! I buy blank books 5 or 6 at a time because it gives me the joyous feeling that I can write with impunity. I can draw with abandon. I can liberally spread the sunshine of my imagination. I can run around with my pen… I can…I can… I can…❤❤❤❤🖋🖋🖋☕☕❤❤❤❤
So this weekend I immersed myself in my books, I dipped into novels like a diver into a swimming pool. I also swam freely in my new orange poetry sketchbook book (mentioned last post). The orange book was the last unused book from my last order-of-5 books. Whenever I get to the last few books I order more immediately.
Several meals this week were quick sandwiches: cream cheese, various vegetables chopped up and some spring greens on lavash bread rolled up. A rolled sandwich only requires one hand to hold it which leaves the other hand free to hold a book! The Atoria Lavash are some of the best I’ve tasted and they ship directly from the bakery! Anyway here’s a link to the sandwich rolling technique https://www.atoriasfamilybakery.com/wrap-like-a-pro/
While my Odditorium exhibit will run through the end of July in subsequent posts I’m going to turn this blog towards new projects. I’ve already started new fine art that continues this Odditorium theme. The new art will be destined for exhibit in September. There’s also the children’s book version of my Odditorium exhibit book still to be released. So periodically on this blog I will probably return to this theme. But I’ve also got a different project in progress that I also want to share with you…
More about that next Monday. I hope your week is a good one!
Literature and art are forms of self care and of care work. I’ve thought of this as I have worked in my household surrealism projects. Home is where most of us practice self care and care for others. We all need regular care and comfort, including the care and comforts to be found all of the Arts, so it feels crucial to have fine art, literature and music in ones home.
With that in mind this week I did a short video about why I make art. Spoiler alert: I want to make the visual art equivalent of freshly baked cookies and a kind note. Video here: https://youtu.be/GYiby2CfySc
And as part of those thoughts I’ve changed my avatar for most of my social media to this green dragon reading a book. For me green dragons represent creativity/imagination and books represent love and caring.
When I can I’ve directly signed the artist books I’ve written and illustrated. Often I’ve also doodled something right on the page. Like this…
But there are many times when that isn’t possible so I’ve signed and doodled on a piece of label paper and mailed that to the book owner for the book owner to affix in the book. That’s seemed to work. Finally I had the notion to make a bookplate specifically for this purpose. Hence the green dragon. Will update about the bookplate when I get them from the printer…
Anyway, here’s a look at some of the Odditorium artwork in the frames. I get the frames made at a local frame shop Aurora Gallery (www.auroragalleryonline.com) but I put the art in the frames myself. I think of how my paintings might hang on someone’s wall and lift spirits.
Here below are some of the odd greeting cards I’ve made with some of my Odditorium art. I love the pun of creating household surrealism artwork and then using that to make household items like greeting cards, mugs and coasters. The collection of Odd Cards is here and you can find some of the other items in my Zazzle shop.
These cards are long and skinny and come with an envelope. A message can be written on the back. I imagine someone smiling when getting one of these cards in the mail.
Since I told about the green dragon avatar and upcoming bookplate here’s a look at the two other logos I use on my cards, books and mugs.
Here’s another Odditorium painting “Favorite Walk” in its frame. The idea for this painting was a combination of outdoor walks my spouse and I enjoy along with red shoes a fellow artist family member has depicted in her artwork. So the red shoes are a “hello” to a family member….and they’re just fun!
Here’s us on a recent windy rainy walk in one of our favorite spots. I imagine you can see a relationship between my painting “Favorite Walk” and the landscape in the photos below.
So I am glad people will get to see my art in person and will be able to buy some of my artist book titles while enjoying some very good wine! Even given this good news I am continuing my virtual art exhibit efforts with the printed picture book Odditorium and the new (still in progress) portfolio page. And I’m glad my art will also be accessible via Caplan Art Designs. I tell ya it takes a village…
Here are some of the artist books (many of them signed) that will be available during my Odditorium exhibit. All of my books are also accessible digitally here and here. I imagine people looking at my books and enjoying sharing them with others even if they don’t see my original art in person.
Of course I don’t know for certain how my fine art or anything else will be received. Rarely do I actually see my artwork hanging in someone’s home or office. I can only create and imagine and that’s enough motivation for me. I do treasure the comments and photos people have shared with me of their joy and delight in my work!
I like the thought that via my art I may be contributing to people’s happiness. Human minds need books, art, music anything that healthily feeds the imagination. Minds need good nutrition just like bodies do. Mental health also includes the comforts of homemade cookies.
In my studio I keep this quote where I’ll see it often. “One must care about a world one will never see.” Bertrand Russell
Speaking of love and caring: here’s a super yummy homemade cookie recipe of my spouse’s creation!
May you have many pleasant moments of comfort this week with cookies and storytime of your own! See you next Monday?
One of the gifts of travel is the awareness that things don’t have to be what you’re used to in order to be enjoyable.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 I’ve been looking at household things with the eye of a traveler. I’m practicing being okay with things as they are, seeing them in new ways and enjoying them – like how I would enjoy things on a trip. Along the way it occurred to me that domestic arrangements are one place in life where things can be more or less to our preferences. Home is a place of fairly reliable comforts. There’s a gift of comfort in that.
The sketchbook I began this, ahem, journey in has been published as Another Sketchbook. I decided at first to view household things as if they were public monuments, things we might travel to see. Then I decided that was too distant…the people too small and far away. Then I decided I didn’t want to draw people after all because animals feel more comforting. Anyway, here are a few pages from Another Sketchbook…I’m hoping you can see how I got to my present Odditorium art series via this trail.
Here below is the book cover and a link where you can look through the entire book.
Of course after publishing Another Sketchbook I’ve kept on keeping a sketchbook. I post these new pages now and then on my social media. Here’s a few pages from my new sketchbook that are relevant to the painting you’ll see in this post.
While musing about the crows I often see in my yard I thought of how the kitchen gadgets I have are so useful. And I love herbs and spices – especially those from Penzeys. So I took a photo of the kitchen tools and spices I was about to use at that moment.
Then as the days progressed I began a new acrylic painting full of my thoughts about my ongoing efforts to dance and appeal, so to speak, to the various gods of good-food cooking. My spouse snapped this photo of me working.
As I worked I tried a new-to-me color scheme that includes magenta, an orange-red, a light pink, grass green, a grey-blue and a creamy yellow. The crows aren’t really black there’s a lot of dark purple and deep blues to their feathers. The color nuance shows more when you see the painting with a human eye. I have another camera that shows more of the color range that I use when taking pictures of the art for publication. Anyway, I’ve titled this new painting Domestic Comforts
Another thing I keep thinking about is the different speed of time at home. When traveling in the past I have tended to be very rushed and scheduled. But at home and in my art studio, which is in my house, I tend to be scheduled but usually much less rushed. In fact for quite some time – even before the pandemic – I have intentionally tried to maintain the habit of a steady but relaxed pace in my studio and home. Sustainability of energy is my focus. No, I don’t do this perfectly it’s an ongoing goal. During the pandemic this goal has strengthened as I’ve realized this habit also maintains a critical space for long-form thinking.
Long form thinking is a term usually applied to reading and literacy. It’s a discussion of cultivating the ability to pay attention. There’s an article by James Patterson here and another related article here on the long form thinking as it relates to literacy.
I think of the term long form thinking as applying more generally to creative efforts that stretch over a longer span of time. The actual work may be done in fits and starts or in short bursts of actual hands on time but a thought is held in mind, come what may, over an extended time period. Long-form thinking, in my opinion, allows for a sustained leisurely attitude towards time for art, for reading and writing. Creativity requires time to meander and travel in ones mind – even while cooking dinner or mowing the lawn one plays with the thought topics currently being considered.
Long-form thinking purposefully includes time for making homemade cookies or any other bits of meandering fun. This week I tried a cinnamon sugar cookie recipe. I cut this recipe in half, dumped all the ingredients in my Cuisinart (kitchen gadget!) blended the dough and otherwise followed the recipe directions.
The cookies turned out very yummy!! As hinted above taking the time to read books is an essential part of my creative process – with or without hot from the oven cookies and hot chocolate. Here’s one of the books I’m reading…
My art is a part of my life and vice versa. Creativity is a continuous thing I’m committed to doing within and amongst all of the various domestic concerns and that’s-life stuff.
In fact I view the public aspect of my creative life of making artist books and art exhibits as like the game of musical chairs. I do steady continuous studio work then about a month before the fine art exhibit goes up the music stops. As in the hands on action of creating paintings temporarily stops, and I start framing, photographing, publishing everything I finished up to that point.
It is exciting as I frame and publish the artwork to both see and feel my Odditorium series coming together. The work that I began last year will be exhibited this year in June and July at Burnt Bridge Cellars and when my work is on their walls that will add to my ongoing Odditorium thoughts. Then there’s another exhibit at the Caplan Art Designs Gallery in September. After delivering art to Burnt Bridge Cellars later this month the music (active painting) starts again – specifically the thoughts I have when seeing my works hung together will inspire more work in the series. Then I will begin making the new art in this Odditorium series with an eye towards the next exhibit. Some of the art at Burnt Bridge Cellars along with the freshly made new art will go to Caplan Art Designs when the music stops again at the end of August. This is the way my exhibits grow and travel.
So yes I like long-form thinking. I like projects that stretch over a years time. This allows me to explore a topic from several angles as well as to change my approach as I’ve described in this post. It’s risky as I don’t know at the beginning where my thoughts will go. Plus I do all of the hands on work in short bursts of time each day so I “live in” small slices of my thoughts. My sketchbook is the way I both develop the exhibit idea and keep track of my thoughts – but still the uncertainty is there. I’ve just learned to ride with it.
My long-form working process is like reading a long novel – when you have a few minutes you read a paragraph or a page or two a day. When you begin reading you’ve no idea where the book is going. But if you keep reading a bit per day pretty soon you’ve read the whole book and you know the book conclusion. Same goes with creating an art exhibit.
There’s an excellent article here about the counterculture of commitment. It describes well what I’m talking about. I see this concept of long-form thinking (aka commitment) as similar to the idea of slow food/ home cooked food but about the subject of creativity. Inherent in this notion is the acceptance that things can develop slowly over time and that slowness allows for uncertainty and changes of mind.
I have a quote by Christopher Morley thumbtacked to my art studio wall. The quote applies, in my view anyway, to ones sense of time and space too.
It’s okay maybe even good to be a little odd. It’s not a goal to have domestic life or travel or art projects or life in general be perfect. The goal is to have the coping skills to deal well with imperfections when they happen. To be able to do the domestic dances and appeal well enough to the gods (metaphorically) of home cooking. Or to the gods of plumbing or whatever the household issues may be. To be relaxed and calm enough that one’s able to see the solutions, comforts and enjoyments near to hand. This is my approach to art projects too. Slow but steady, to have the coping skills to fix artistic mistakes, to adjust, to try something new.
Since this month began – besides framing the artwork a bit per day – I’ve been creating an exhibit catalog, a coffee table picture book of my exhibit. Last year during the worst of the pandemic it seemed to please fans of my artwork that they were able to get a printed book or an ebook of my entire art exhibit. So that’s why I’m doing a book this year too.
Additionally I’m doing a few greeting cards and coffee mugs with my art from this series. Both the cards and mugs are in keeping with the root idea of my Odditorium series – taking an uncommon view of ordinary household things and surreally creating souvenirs of pleasant moments. Here below is an example of a note card with the artwork I wrote about in my last post.
Yes, the temptation to stress, to worry, to rush is there, especially as the day nears to deliver all of the artwork. But I remember those pre-pandemic travels when I rushed mightily because the day the trip ended was coming nearer and I didn’t want to miss anything … what I remember now of those trips isn’t the scenery or the food but the stress and rush. So I try to remain calm now and go slowly as I continue towards the exhibit. And I rest knowing my thinking-work will continue …
Thanks for reading! I hope you have many enjoyable domestic comforts this week – and if you try the cookies I hope you like them. See you next Monday?
These thoughts swirled in mind as I watched the crows in my yard. I don’t know where the wingtip shoes came from… but here they are in my sketchbook.
From my morning reading I added the quote from Plutarch. And I thought of how all too often we see only what we expect to see. It takes practice to work on our inner selves, to moderate our expectations and let things just be however they are. Then I put away my book and puttered in my studio cleaning things up, sorting pen nibs back into their places and cleaning the nib holders.
With these thoughts still swirling I started a new painting loosely based on my sketchbook page above. After a few days of work my spouse snapped this photo.
And then my spouse took this photo to show that sometimes I “hide” things on the edges of the paintings I do on cradled board.
Some time later I took a photo of the finished painting. I’ve titled it “Enjoyment”. I keep thinking of how we can choose to dip our pens in our pleasures and write them on our souls rather than rehearse the things that upset us. That choice can change one’s attitude and the kind of day one has.
Here’s a close up photo of the area of “Enjoyment” that contains the collage elements. I carefully chose text from the falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that I’ve mentioned in recent posts. So much of Austen’s work is a social comedy of people’s expectations and emotions. That’s why I choose this book for my collage source material besides the fact that it was already falling apart and was handy. (I have a collection of collage material to choose from and could have chosen some other theme.)
After I posted “Enjoyment” on social media a friend who had studied poetry and Victorian literature in college commented that crows represent transformation. And the symbolism of crows was definitely on my mind. What a good word the word transformation is and I appreciate my friend for reminding me of it. When we are able to remember to enjoy the smallest of pleasures – and to be curious – we are in a position to transform moments of stress into something manageable.
Getting curious and writing and drawing (however well or poorly) are all tools of the emotional transformation process.
It wasn’t until later after conversation with my friend that I realized that in my new crow painting I echoed a theme (transformation) I have played with before. Such as when I took a tale by Aesop and made a wordless story “The Crow And The Water Jug” (you can also see the whole book via this link at Storyberries.com )
As I mentioned last post I’ve been working on writing a short summary for my entire fine art exhibit that I’m calling Odditorium. Writing in my sketchbook as I work on art projects helps me focus my fine art onto a clear theme. I write my thoughts down as I work on fine art and vice versa so there’s a *lot* of both writing and art to winnow when it’s time to write an exhibit summary statement. Besides helping me sort my own thoughts the short summary text is something that Burnt Bridge Cellars and Caplan Art Designs will use when talking about my exhibit with the public. Anyway, after more rewrites than most humans can count without a calculator here’s what I came up with:
Odditorium: I’ve been practicing household surrealism; painting visual stories inspired by looking in an uncommon way at common objects and plants. A useful mental health technique for dealing well with feelings is to deliberately look at the feeling in a new way. This is what I’m practicing when I do household surrealism. I take ordinary things found about the house and depict them in odd, different from the usual, ways so that instead of feeling mundane they evoke feelings of magic, wonder and laughter. Perhaps the flowers, the wine opener, the coffee mug are really souvenirs of pleasant moments in life?
I use gouache, ink, color pencil acrylic and collage to make my images. The collage text is from a falling apart copy of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen that I had in the house. Austen wrote about emotions and dealing with them so I enjoy the visual pun of including bits of her text in this series. I use animal characters because an animal behaving like a human highlights our humanity.
That’s the end of my statement which counts to about 200 words. I may tweak at it a bit more. But there it is.
No grand food experiments to crow (sorry!) about this week but I did repeat a reliably good sandwich recipe.
So I hope you have a very good week. See you next Monday?
This week in household surrealism I’ve been thinking of love. Love in the sense of the poetry, the food, the care for and cleaning of things, generally creating a gentle environment for ourselves and others. Perhaps an environment also filled with souvenirs of loving moments as I wrote in my last post.
My recent children’s book This Rabbit was about knowing what you like. Well, this week I’ve been thinking about how it can take practice as adults to remember to let ourselves love openly, wholeheartedly and to unabashedly enjoy things.
Among these thoughts is the fact that tulips are in bloom when I live in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s a photo from my spouse’s garden.
In the morning sometimes I read a bit of poetry while having my breakfast and coffee. The photo below is a poem by Mary Oliver, from “New and Selected Poems Vol 1”, I see this poem as talking about wholeheartedly living life. A life well lived is lived bit by bit in thousands and thousands of mundane moments. Many of those moments (even in pre-pandemic times) happen at home.
Letting oneself wholeheartedly enjoy and love little parts of daily life – why is that so hard? Perhaps as adults we get caught up in the “gotta do’s” as I call them. We sometimes almost chain-smoke, metaphorically, one gotta-do duty after another forgetting that love and pleasure is often part of the reason we do things. By contrast it feels good to pay attention to whatever interests you and revel in that focused moment. This wholehearted enjoyment is a way to be gentle and loving to yourself and the people you love. Anyway, I thought of that while I doodled in my sketchbook.
Then I worked several days in a row to flesh out my thought using acrylic paint on cradled board. Yes, this is another piece destined for upcoming art exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars and at Caplan Art Designs.
Below is the finished painting I titled “The Minutest Concerns”.
The label on the bottle of cleaning fluid the mouse is using in my painting is actually a bit of collage. I’ve been using a falling apart copy of Jan Austen’s book Pride and Prejudice as my collage source. (See my last posts here and here for details)
Basically, in the bigger universal sense, things are okay, you are okay, and it’s okay to relax and enjoy just being yourself and liking and loving the world around you.
For example this photo below is part of my world that I love; I love picking up one of the books and reading a bit, I love just looking at the books on the shelves and I even love dusting them. Of course I confess that often I get distracted and stop dusting to read 😁
I love having lots of books so much that it feels like heaven. So I did this drawing and made a print of it…just in case someone else feels the same way. (This is part of the gift making I talked of last post) Even if I’m the only person who feels like this making a drawing and a print was a fun way to fully enjoy and love the feeling.
I also love the challenge of cooking. It took me a while to figure it out but I can now reliably make meatballs to store in the freezer for use whenever the odd meatball is wanted with pasta or rice or roasted vegetables.
Here’s my recipe as written in my kitchen sketchbook. Yes, this is another souvenir of love! Books and sketchbooks are the best souvenirs!
My sketchbook page will still be there long after the meatballs have all been eaten! Plus I can share this sketchbook page with people and thereby share the love.
That’s part of what I love about poetry, books, gardens and art they each nourish one’s spirit and are shareable. They’re part of how we know we’re loved and part of how we love other people and how we remember to love ourselves and the world around us. They’re part of how we connect emotionally with each other.
A dear friend loaned me this book “The 3000 Mile Garden”. It’s a wonderful almost voyeristic view of two people sharing their love of food and gardens with each other. And we readers get to see their intimate exchange of letters! The book has hand drawn maps and photos too! It’s a fun evening read.
These are the sorts of thoughts that inspire me as I work on my new household surrealism fine art series that I’m titling “Odditorium”. In addition to the art itself I’m also working on an exhibit statement- which is kindof like the synopsis on book covers – a short paragraph or two to interest viewers and help them understand what I’ve created. Wish me luck at crafting the sentences?
Anyway, I hope this week that you’ll remember to allow yourself to love whatever is commonplace in your world. See you next Monday?
This week was filled with photographing my illustrations for a new children’s book tentatively titled “This Rabbit” (as I wrote last week). Then I uploaded the photos checking the digital images against the original artwork for accuracy of color. Sometimes I had to retake a photo.
Once all of the illustrations were digitally correct, more or less, I uploaded them into the software I use to make the printed books. My art studio supervisor cat, as you can see, helped with the process.
What I’m aiming for as I process the photos: I want to make an album of my fine artwork that just happens to be for kids. Kids need fine art too, in my opinion. So I’m striving for digitally capturing as much of the range of color and detail in the original artwork as possible. No camera or screen matches the capability of the human eye but I do the best with what I’ve got. I’m also trying to keep the soft feel of the original artwork on the off-white handmade papers.
My root idea with this new book “This Rabbit” is cultivating the skill of enjoying the many things there are to like and do. So that is always in the back of my mind as I work.
Here are the two poem lines I wrote to go with the two illustrations below:
This rabbit likes pretty pearls
This rabbit likes doing curls
After the photos of all 32 illustrations were digitized to suit me, it takes me a lot of time to do the digitizing to suit because I am the original Ms. Picky, but when I had the images as I wanted them then I worked on the books graphic layout and design. As I proceed with the layout/design part of this project I may need to take new photos of some of the artwork depending on how they look as I place them side by side in the book design … we will see how things go.
This new book is part of a series of children’s books I’m creating. So it will have a have similar cover design (and other format elements) to fit with the book series. However, for “This Rabbit” I decided to make the illustration images on each page larger, filling two thirds of the page or perhaps a bit more, filling almost to the three edges of each page.
I chose this layout because I’ve included small details within many of the artworks that might be missed if the images were smaller. My poem text is one single line within a small white space on the bottom of each page.
I will serialize some of “This Rabbit” on my Instagram page and give you more details of my working process (and my creative life) here on this blog each week.
Anyway, now you know what a busy week I’ve had. Needless to say lunches were quick-fix affairs. Like this broccoli pasta dish.
Here’s the recipe – a loose guide or philosophy really rather than a recipe. When I made the dish this week I used short pasta and added spinach. But the rest of the recipe was followed. It’s a recipe from my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook.
Despite being busy I still carved out time to read most evenings. In my last post I was still reading “The Mexican Tree Duck” by James Crumley. I finished that book and loved it! I’ll miss the main character Sughrue. Sughrue was a decent guy, a good friend to other characters in the story, someone who cared. I liked that! Crumley’s character and his writing style will be a hard act to follow.
As I cast about for which book to read next I realize that I want another protagonist with a strong decency streak. Not moralistic, self righteous, preachy or anything like that. I want a character who is just plain caring and kind. Even if they have flaws, faults and difficulties I want there to be a core of goodness, a sense of concern for their community, at the heart of the main character.
I’m ready for the good people to win a few … damnit!
So from my book shelves I pulled this book selection for consideration: The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers, Rumpole A La Carte by John Mortimer and Death of A Bore by M. C. Beaton.
A few more cups of coffee and I’ll decide which book to read more of later after my working day is done.
See you next Monday with more of my progress on “This Rabbit”? (And yes…so far my working title has stuck.)
As I mentioned in my last post I’ve been sorting and winnowing my illustrations and poetry for a new children’s book.
By writing the poem lines on index cards and having the illustrations on paper I can physically spread them out and sort them. This is very much the editing and rewriting process that the books on writing talk about. I’m doing draft after draft after draft just like they recommend – my drafting is just in tangible form.
For example I put numbers on yellow post it notes which affix on the archival sleeves holding the artwork. That post it note number corresponds to the poem line written on an index card. My legal pad contains a handwritten record of sequences I’ve tried aka manuscript drafts.
The artwork and the index cards are laid out on a queen size bed in the number sequence I’d most recently tried. I read the poem out loud. Then I walk away after shutting the bedroom door so my cat won’t pounce on the artwork. Later, after lunch for example, I’ll go reread and view the artwork, perhaps make a change in the order of the art/poem by moving the art, the index card and the yellow post it notes. Then I’ll read the new order aloud. I’ll note the new numeric number order (draft!) on my legal pad. Then I’ll go do something else. Perhaps just before dinner I’ll repeat the above process before putting everything away for the evening. This short-burst working method allows space for my unconscious mind to work on my project.
As a result some of the illustrations didn’t stay in the queue. Some poem lines went into the bin. Some art and poem lines stayed but took their time to find their place. Eventually after more than a week of these daily sort/resort episodes gradually more of my sequences resonate with me.
As I sort the pictures and words I’m keeping my eye and ear open for what resonates. By resonate I mean that I keep returning the art and poem lines to a particular place or order that makes me smile, makes my heart sing. This resonance is found slowly, page spread by page spread. I just keep on sorting until all of the pages and the entire book sequence feels that heart-sing way, a feeling I call “taking root”.
After that “taking root” has happened then I read the poem aloud and show the artwork to my spouse. Further adjustments are made according to her suggestions. Then I live with any new sequence another day or so to double check how rooted it feels.
I think of this entire creative process as a lot like growing a garden from seed; you plant seeds, you water, you wait, you position the pot on a window sill to catch the sun, you water, wait…at times it feels like nothing is happening…then eventually you have a seedling big enough to safely transfer to another container.
I’m about to the point with this new book of transferring it to another container – meaning that I’m ready to photograph the artwork and begin the book layout design, the computer hocus pocus of it.
The probable title for my new book is “This Rabbit”. But we’ll see if that holds as I shift the book, idea-seed soil and all, to it’s new digital pot.
Speaking of seeds and gardens: here’s a new fabric pattern design with bunnies and blooms. I’m now waiting to see a proof fabric swatch before I approve it to be in my Spoonflower shop.
Last week there was winter weather in the Pacific Northwest and friends and family lost power which caused concerns. But they were brief concerns, quickly resolved, and everyone is fine. Whew.
Then the Texas snow, ice and severe cold storm happened and was not quickly resolved (still isn’t as of this writing). We used to live in Oklahoma and we still have friends in Oklahoma and friends and family living in Texas…so we worried. And made phone calls etc.
And as we worried about friends everywhere I made a greeting card design that couldn’t really be sent, due to the storms, to the people we worried about. But I made the card anyway – the act of making it helped.
Worries distracted me some from my work on “This Rabbit” but not too much. My short-burst method of working accommodates such stuff-of-life.
Besides making the greeting card I puttered in my studio cleaning things. I came across some nice rice paper I’d forgotten I had so I stopped cleaning and made a small accordion book with the paper. It measures 6 inches tall by 2 inches wide when folded shut.
One of the many people we worried about is named Beverly. Last year during the pandemic on my birthday Beverly called to wish me a happy day and as a present she talked me through her grilled cheese sandwich method. I’d taken notes on a scrap of paper during our call last year and saved the paper folded and slipped into the pocket of my kitchen sketchbook. This week, in solidarity with Beverly, I made the yummy sandwiches and transferred the notes into my sketchbook.
And here’s the sandwich. My half of the sandwich anyway…the sourdough bread slices we have are large so spouse and I split one sandwich.
At various points during any day I find that coffee and books are comforting. So are homemade oatmeal cookies. Here are cookies resting on cloth napkins made from my fabric pattern with a coffee and books motif. It’s the small comforts that add up. Especially when worried about friends…
As of this writing it seems that most of our Oklahoma and Texas friends and family are more or less fine physically. Whew. Now we wait to hear how the horrific price gouging in Texas will affect them…
Once again I am struck by the difference in response to disasters between regions of the United States. In the Pacific Northwest the utilities are regulated and public. It is generally presumed that people are what matters. In the midwest and south there’s less regulation and more privitization. It is generally presumed that private companies’ profits are very, very important.
I’ve been thinking all week of how the kind of government one has can affect one’s daily life for good or ill. So we worry about friends and family in unregulated privatized Texas. (There’s a well written article here in The New York Times about all this.)
Anyway, hopefully we’ll all have a quieter week. I’ll keep working on my projects much like a seed works at growing no matter what else happens – being creative helps me cope with stuff. It also helps to share my work with you. Thank you so much for looking at my pictures, reading my words and for your kind comments. Catch up with you next Monday.
I’m having fun with new combinations of colors. In a recent post I tried a yellow and grey color set. After posting about that a friend said she liked pink and grey together. So I tried that combination this week.
I’ve enjoyed playing with odd sized elements so I continued that in this new ink and gouache painting I’ve titled “The Comfort Was Indeed Beyond…”. Again I used some text collage from that falling apart copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice I’ve spoken of.
As mentioned in a prior post I’d played with yellow and grey colors while doing a cup pattern for fabrics on my Spoonflower shop… here’s how that turned out. I titled my pattern “Cups Of Comfort”
And thinking of rabbits…I made an encouragement greeting card this week with a rabbit character. Everyone needs encouragement so by making this card I hope to help people encourage others in their life.
Speaking of encouragement to keep going: we have had some serious snow in the Pacific Northwest United States. Over 18 inches! So that’s encouraged me to continue my reading, working in my studio and puttering in the kitchen. Taking everything that happens in life as encouragement to keep going seems a helpful habit of mind.
Speaking of habits of mind: I tend to blur the line between art studio work and my kitchen. Here’s my kitchen sketchbook and the meatball recipe I made this week. I make meatballs to freeze and store in my freezer to add as desired to future meals. I love having ingredients on hand that make other recipes easier.
As I mentioned in my last post I’m working on a new children’s book with lots of rabbit characters. I did the illustrations first this time…mostly. Here I am working on the poem couplets to go with the illustrations. There’s a cup of tea at my side. My spouse took this photo.
I spread out my illustrations on a queen size bed to sort, resort then sort again. As I sort I’m referring to my poetry and rewriting. I have far more illustrations and poetry bits than will fit in a 32 page kids book. So I have still more sorting and winnowing to do.
This is a physical way of creating a book. With real-life illustrations laid out I’ll write the poems on index cards for sorting purposes. After I get them all sorted then I’ll start photographing the illustrations and typing the poem. Lots to be done. More about this project in future blog posts.
When I was thinking of describing, for this blog, my working process towards a children’s book I thought of my recent reading. Here’s a shelf of books I’ve been collecting on the topic of how our physical world, the objects, technology, the environment affect the ways we think. And vice versa: the ways we think affects our physical world.
When I work on a children’s book using physical elements as opposed to abstract outlines, book dummies or computer files it feels much like what I do in the kitchen. It feels like having a full pantry, a stocked freezer and refrigerator to choose from for making meals. “It” exists and all I have to do is rummage till I find it.
The work feels easier this way…and more fun!
For my pleasure reading this week – with coffee, hot tea or hot chocolate depending on the time of day – I’ve been reading a hard-boiled detective mystery.
I hope you’re snug, cozy and are able to rummage for the good things in your life. See you next Monday?