Chapter 3: Readings From The Heart

A Creative Life, Alphapets, Alphapets Too, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, Books In Art, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, ebook, fine art, food in art, illustrated poem, illustrated recipe, life of the mind, mental health, pet portraits, printed books, public art, reading in art, sketchbook, story, Sustainable creativity, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing, writing and illustrating

I’ve been asked how I manage projects, like my “Readings From The Heart” exhibit, over a long duration. Half jokingly I replied “one bite at a time”. My joke is in reference to this saying I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall.

Seriously though when starting I create a general big picture, a kind of map for the entire project. Or, if you prefer, an outline. When I design a long project I do a hybrid blend of the two writing techniques: outlining and seat-of-pantsing. I apply these writing technique concepts to fine art making. I described in my last post what my big picture became for this exhibit that opens this week; the exhibit statement and the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. Here’s a few photos of the printed catalog. An ebook version is also available.

But when I began, more than 8 months ago, my big picture for this project was extremely vague. It was akin to a map of a forest without many details. It was akin to a book jacket blurb, with barely a teaser of what might be inside. It was akin to a writer’s outline with whole sections labeled ‘more research needed’.

My big picture map/ loose outline, was handwritten on a legal pad. Vague as it was it still served as a starting point. I keep a notebook/file box for each project so I can store all of my notes in one spot for easy updating and consultation as I work by the seat of my pants and a lots of “Very Small Goals” (VSG) for the project.

Then with the vague map in hand I identified some Very Small Goals (VSG) that would help me start and proceed on my project. These VSG’s can be as small as ‘buy a new art boards by Friday’. The VSG’s change as the process develops. The trick with VSG’s is to make them absurdly small, easily achievable and very specific – including what and when. It’s important to also find some way make each VSG fun.

I think of the creative life as an Eco-system rather than an Ego-system – what’s important is participating, showing up and finding ways to keep things fun. I can’t stress enough the importance of playing and keeping things fun. That makes creativity over a long project sustainable. Here’s another saying I have thumbtacked to my studio wall.

As I proceed to work I know many changes to my big picture/exhibit design will happen. I also know I don’t live in the big picture. I move organically back and forth from big, medium and small pictures of a project. It’s okay to be uncertain, to experiment and play. I just remember to update my big picture map as I have new thoughts. Slowly over time the picture map comes into focus. A project also changes as life happens.

In this case I began my Readings series well over 8 months ago. Then the pandemic happened and threw a monkey wrenchs in my plans. For example I had to suddenly adapt the way I was artistically inspired: to change from being inspired by things I experienced out in the world to a stay-at-home life, things that I read about or only happened in my imagination.

So to think through how to cope with the pandemic and quarantine I reread Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit, which I had created some time back, about mental health coping skills and wrote notes, drew pictures in my sketchbook in order to think.

I also worked daily in my sketchbook on the topic of how to adapt finding books to read, and the development of one’s mental life to a stay at home quarantine situation. Eventually this book was published as Another Sketchbook in order to share my entire process.

Being in quarantine meant cooking at home more so I consulted our Favorites So Far book. This is a sketchbook full of recipes that were enjoyable ways to feed body and mind. You could say that my work on these artist books/sketchbooks is the medium picture, the inset details within the bigger map, the more developed areas in the outline.

A look at the original sketchbook page which is included in Favorites So Far

All of this sketchbook work inspired my fine art, where I developed specific thoughts with ink and gouache on board. You can almost think of the fine art as the most visible leaves and fruits on the artist book “trees”. In the exhibit catalog I’ve tried to show the connections between the artist books and the fine art I created.

Sometimes, as the pandemic continued, the fine art on the topics of reading, cooking and thinking felt too serious. Needing some self comfort and to have some fun I began drawing portraits of dogs and cats. In order to organize these dog and cat drawings I decided to make them into a children’s book as a gift for some kids in our friends’ lives. Many of my adult friends enjoy my dog and cat portraits so I decided to share each pet portrait on my Instagram page as I finished it in hopes of cheering my friends as I created the kids book.

The finished artwork became an artist book titled Alphapets and was picked up by Storyberries.com. A sequel Alphapets Too followed. Many stories begin with love and an alphabet – so this portrait project felt fun, relaxed and like a small picture, a detailed map insert or a sample bit of text to be fitted into an outline. (In fact, I spoofed some of the pet portraits within my larger fine art paintings.) Here are the pages in the big picture book Readings From The Heart that tell about the smaller picture of Alphapets and how it fits in.

The original artwork for both Alphapets and Alphapets Too is on exhibit at the Aurora Gallery during August and September. More details about those projects here with lots of pictures of the artwork.

When all of the artist books and all of the artworks were finished I reread my notes and used those to create the exhibit statement I spoke of in my last post. I also used these notes to create the exhibit catalog Readings From The Heart. That was the very last thing I did for the August and September exhibits at Burnt Bridge Cellars, the Aurora Gallery and Caplan Art Designs. Well, the last thing besides the framing and art delivery.

Below is a photo of all of my artist books that relate to my Readings From The Heart exhibit. Additionally I’ve created a webpage with all of this projects more than 20 fine art pieces and details about each of the 3 exhibits here.

All 6 artist books related to the Readings From The Heart fine art exhibit

During this time period I was interviewed for a Doodlewash feature about my work in which I describe my working methods, the materials I use, how my daily work routine goes, images of my artwork, etc – you can see that here: https://doodlewash.com/sue-clancy-artist-whimsical-visual-stories/

Here’s a picture of me working in a sketchbook

Clancy at work in a sketchbook

I hope this look at how I work on long projects has been amusing for you. The exhibits open this week. Many of my upcoming Instagram posts will likely be about that. And I will update the above mentioned portfolio pages too.

Then next Monday when I post here I hope to be beginning a new long-ish project; an illustrated poem for a children’s book titled Numpurrs. I found I quite enjoyed the serialized posts I did for Alphapets and Alphapets Too. So I look forward to doing that again!

the first aid cover art

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Here’s the cover for the new print version of “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”.  Keeping the hand-drawn look for the cover was important. Half of this book is filled with hand-drawn graphic-novel type stories. And the book originated in my sketchbook. So it seemed a no-brainer to keep the cover art “organic” looking.  Here are both the front and back covers:

Yes, I did see this new print version as an opportunity to hand-write the entire book and considered it strongly. However from the outset of this project when we did the first printed editions small run, Dr. Bob Hoke wanted the book to be as easily accessible as possible – including constructing a book that would feel “simple” and even fun.

So as I designed this new print version I decided that typing the text of Dr. Bob’s lecture notes, rather than hand writing it would be more in keeping with Dr. Hoke’s methods. By typing I could also choose fonts and formats that would be easier for anyone, including dyslexics, to read. “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” is also small in size; 5.5 x 8.5 inches and only 56 pages long.

As I mentioned above, half the book is drawings… so I worked to make the cover art fit with the cartoon drawings inside the book.

“Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” will be officially released November 1st – but since you follow my blog you can get early access here: https://store.bookbaby.com/bookshop/book/index.aspx?bookURL=Dr-Bobs-Emotional-Repair-Program-First-Aid-Kit1

feeding good wolves

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I’ve been reading a book titled “Become America” by Eric Liu. In it Liu writes “To be a citizen is to be an artist…. ” Liu included examples of people imaging things like “why is this not a park?” and “How could these old folks and these little kids be making something together?”.

That got me thinking of how citizenship is an act of imagination. Governments, businesses – and of course artists – imagine all kinds of activities for their fellow citizens to participate in. Such imaginative action creates the civic world over time.

It is crucial, then, the kinds of imagination used and the intentions behind it. It matters which wolf gets fed: our good wolves or our bad ones.  Or if you prefer angels: do we encourage the “better angels of our natures”?

It far too easy for the human mind to think “It’s always been this way” when we see civic spaces or events. It takes a healthy imagination and some effort to remember that we, collectively, created “this way” bit by bit and that we can maintain it or change it by equally small mundane bits too.

When it comes to my own imagination – and maintaining the health of it and my own civic engagement – I’m constantly asking myself “which wolf does this idea/thought/event feed?” and then looking for the small mundane steps needed to create a banquet, a meal or a snack for my good wolves and better angels.

One step I’ve identified recently, something small and within reach, that I can do to encourage and maintain my own healthy imagination – and good citizenship – is to create a new printed edition of Dr.Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit. And to make it more widely available.

Currently there is only the ebook version out.  The first printed edition was done on an Espresso Book Machine at my local Powell’s bookstore.  That machine no longer exists. Sigh. Theoretically copies of the first printed edition may still be found out in the wide world – by clicking here – but it’s a challenge.  I want to make the book easier to find.

I, personally, want to have another printed copy of Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit. I want to put a copy in my bathroom. I want to read it when I brush my teeth. I want my good wolves to have more food to sink their teeth into. I want to maintain my healthy imagination – and to practice envisioning other good wolves with healthy imaginations also brushing their teeth…

Anyway, here’s one of my illustrations for the book:

TwoWolves

illustration by Sue Clancy for “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit

more cats book progress

A Creative Life, animals in art, artist book, cat portrait, Cats in art, fine art, published art

I’d written recently here about my progress towards making a 22 page full color book of my cat themed artwork. Well, I’ve gotten my “proof copy” in the snail-mail, showed it to Hawkeye my studio supervisor cat – and my wife, a cat-lover – and all of us approved of the print quality! Even Rusty, my studio supervisor dachshund, admitted that the cat art looked good.

I’ve photo’d a few pages so you can see for yourself:

What do you think?

Right now you can get a copy – either softcover (like in the picture) or hardcover – here: http://www.blurb.com/b/8837851-cats or via Amazon.   Later this year I’m to do a library event and I may have a few copies at that time to sell directly.  We’ll see…

But no matter how this particular cheese gets sliced I heartily thank you for your support of my projects.

sketchbook publishing

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Tomorrow I’ll be installing my “Verrry Big Project” so while I’m getting ready to deliver the art I’m thinking about my next sketchbook publishing action.  I want to publish my Oregon Coast Sketchbook (some sample pages are in this post and elsewhere on my blog) – but shall I do it as a printed book? an ebook? or both?

I’ve heard that some people have enjoyed my sketchbook that I published as an ebook titled “Coffee Table Book” (link here: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/coffee-table-book) but that had recipes and fine art along with my sketchbook pages – so perhaps that made it interesting to folks?

My Oregon Coast Sketchbook is a travelogue, memoir and culture-study done in (duh!) a sketchbook form. Would you want to look at my Oregon Coast Sketchbook as a printed book or an ebook?  If it was printed only in black-and white ’cause that’s what I can afford – what would you think of that?

Obviously I’m going to be busy the next few days with the “Verry Big Project” – but I  will look forward to seeing your thoughts when I get back. And thanks in advance!

Here are some random non-sequential pages from my Oregon Coast Sketchbook:

7at72

8at72

12at72

10at72