cats book progress

A Creative Life, animals in art, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, Cats in art, Dogs in Art, Narrative Art, published art, travel art and writing, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing

I do better now, writing words-in-a-row, than I did once upon a time. Reading text has never been a problem for me – but speaking, and writing. Whew! Lets just say good speech therapists, theatre-acting coaches and writing class instructors are worth their weights in all the precious things in the world combined. As a kid practicing speaking by reading aloud from a comic book or a picture book felt less intimidating than reading aloud from a text-only book.

Even today I enjoy visiting art museums and galleries and looking at the artwork first, reading the labels last. I enjoy looking at coffee-table books with big glorious pictures – forming my own thoughts first – reading the words later.

Nowadays I read plenty of books cover to cover that have text only, no pictures at all. I even give demo’s and talk in front of 200 or more people without as much as a blink. (Wish my 10 year old self, who threw up at the thought of giving an oral book report, could see me now!)

So it has become a philosophical point to ponder with me – when is text important? When is an image important? When to have the words? When to have the pictures? How much of either?

For example I love it that signs for the restrooms are often pictograms. You can “read” them no matter what your language – or your linguistic skill level. Much of our international travel culture utilizes visual maps and non-verbal way-finding signs for things like hospitals, airports and government buildings – using pictograms rather than single language dependent text.

As I’ve worked on a new artist book containing my cat themed fine art I’ve thought a lot about whether or not to have text along with the images. If text – how much? Text located where in the book?

When I did my book “Dogs” I had the text at the end – and didn’t include much of it there either. The majority of the book is images.

On the one hand I spend quite a lot of time coming up with the titles for each of my artworks and it seems almost a shame to not list the titles. But I’ve often noticed – at museums and galleries – that people read the label-wall-text and sometimes forget to look at the pictures.

So sometimes I deliberately create text for use in my fine art gallery exhibits… just to be contrary. I’ve even created whole artist books with text and sketches to accompany my fine art exhibits. But sometimes I omit text completely and rely on my art images alone, the curious can ask the person running the gallery for more info. In this way I purposefully encourage people to verbally-talk with each other. Which way I go – words and/or pictures – often depends on the exhibit.

Like I say for me the words and pictures question is an ongoing, almost daily, one.

People seem to enjoy my Dogs book as it is – largely without text. And I’ve noticed that I’ve sold that book fairly well in non-English speaking countries. People of all ages seem to like it. So….

“Cats by Sue Clancy” will be largely wordless too.  Here’s what the cover will look like:

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The front cover of the artist book “Cats by Sue Clancy” – http://www.blurb.com/b/8837851-cats

The book is square, 7×7 in, 18×18 cm and 22 pages – full color.  Here’s an early-reader link to the book http://www.blurb.com/b/8837851-cats  In fact “Cats” has even fewer words than “Dogs” does – but more pictures in full color.

I’m sure I’ll continue to have this words and pictures discussion with myself in every book and every art exhibit I create.  But I’m curious about your thoughts: do you look at words first? Or pictures first? What are your thoughts about wordless books?

on writing and giving speeches about art

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, fine art, writing

During my art exhibit opening Oct 1st I’m giving a 5 minute talk about my artwork. If you had told me when I was 9 years old that one day I would, fairly regularly, give short public speeches about my artwork during gallery openings I would not have believed you. At the time I was in speech therapy daily and the thought of talking in class terrified me. I had only worn hearing aids for a year or so and had been deaf for far longer. Hearing sounds was still new and scary.

I spent lots of school and recess time sitting with my speech therapist in a tiny area partitioned off by a curtain from the school’s boiler/heater/janitor’s office, wearing my new hearing aids, trying to understand in that noisy space what the therapist was saying and then accurately repeat out loud what she’d said… well, let’s just say it was a stressful time.

After a year or so of that my therapist and I were good friends – and I’m now 10- but still when it came to answering a teacher aloud during class I’d sweat and my heart would pound and my voice would shake. So my therapist suggested that I take acting classes. I did! And over a long time, and lots of acting classes, I became a regular ham, okay, a ham and cheese on wry, and talking in class or anywhere else became relatively easy.

Eventually the only people who said anything about the quality of my speech, like “you talk funny”, were under the age of 6. The kid’s parents usually gasp in embarrassment and try to un-do their kids comment. I typically ignore the grown-ups and talk directly with the kid, explaining that “I don’t hear like you do” and pull off one of my hearing-aids to show the kid and answer questions. After such a conversation I usually have a friend-for-life in the kid (and profoundly relieved grown-ups).

Fast forward lots of writing classes, lots of practice writing and speaking, lots of reading books on writing, books on giving speeches etc. – and here’s what I’ve learned about writing talking about ones artwork:

When writing a speech: write like you talk, avoid jargon (it is usually hard to say anyway), in simple brief terms describe what kind of art you do, how you do it, a short bit about why you do it – ideally revealing a bit of who you are in the process – then sum up with “what people enjoy about your work”/ “how they benefit” from your work.

When delivering the speech: remember to breathe, talk slowly enough so as to pronounce everything, and keep going even if you mangle a word (most people over the age of 6 are not likely to point out the error). Practice your speech out loud. Practice speaking confidently. Practice smiling at your audience. Practice thanking everyone for listening.

It helps to have a sympathetic supporter listening to you while you do all this practice.

Here is a photo of my speech practice partner – Rusty – who has kindly listened – for days now – as I have practiced the short talk I’m to give Oct 1st.  If only my 9 year old self could see me now! Oh wait…

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Sue Clancy’s dachshund Rusty listening as Sue practices her speech for the Oct 1st wine dinner opening for her fine art exhibit via Caplan Art Designs