A new painting in my Odditerrarium series for upcoming exhibits via Caplan Art Designs is titled “Using Much Eloquence”. Like the others in this series this one is 10 x 8 inches and made with ink, gouache and collage on board.
Here’s a closer view so you can see what this dog is thinking.
Now that I’ve made sufficient progress on my Odditerrarium series – I have 15 of the paintings finished – it’s time to write the art exhibit statement that will be used both for the Odditerrarium artist book and for the exhibit. I have written before in this blog (here) about writing art exhibit statements or “blurbs” as I call them. Exhibit statements are a short, around 150 words, first person description of what an exhibit is about. I think of it as like the description on the back of a book. Here’s what I’ve come up with.
I also think of a shorter sentence that can be used like a log-line is used in book publishing. For Odditerrarium I’ve written “I wonder what our dogs and cats think about the objects, people and places in their lives so in my Odditerrarium fine art series of portraits I imagine the contents of their thoughts as a terrarium hat.”
Whenever I begin a new series I keep a logbook where I make notes of my thoughts towards the series while I work. I write what I’m excited about, the questions I’m asking, what I learn etc and those notes are what I pull from to write an exhibit statement and logline. Making “notes” includes my sketchbook pages like this one.
Whenever I have finished more than 10 paintings from what I think is a series I’ll spread the finished artwork out where I can see it all, reread my logbook and see which bits fit with the finished artworks and which of the artworks do look like a coherent series. Of course I add these thoughts to my logbook.
My statement writing process is a whole lot like the project narrative writing for grant applications directions (link here) except I don’t apply for any grants with my project narratives aka exhibit statements. I used an informal version of my Odditerrarium statement during discussions with Caplan Art Designs about my proposed exhibit. Whenever I decide the formal written Odditerrarium statement is as good as I can make it I will send it to the gallery.
Putting together the artist book version of my Odditerrarium series will help me know when my statement is done.
Here’s my dachshund supervisor helping me process photos of the finished artwork for use in the book design for Odditerrarium.
My newest artist book “Juggling Numbers” is now out on Storyberries!! In this video I’m showing the original artist book “Juggling Numbers” a handmade artist book that plays in a visual way with the flow of numbers. I made a digital ebook version of this artist book for the experimental art category of Storyberries.com – see it here – a free ebook site for children. I chose the number range from 1 to 25 because a friends grandchildren could count to 20.
Below are a few still photos of the original book – video and links are also on my portfolio page here. The logline for Juggling Numbers is something like this ” … can you count forwards and backwards with a cat?”
I got news this week that my adopted Mom is not doing well health wise (hospice) and big sister, Mom and I visited by phone several times. Mom told me repeatedly to “keep making your art”. I know she’s quite serious about that. So I’ve begun drawing and painting orchids, Mom’s favorite flower. That’s all I know to do whenever I’m sad – channel feelings and love into art. Putting symbolic things in my art is my way of doing a version of Carol Burnett’s ear tug. Printed books whenever they appear in my artwork are for my adopted Dad – in case you wondered.
Grateful for my sketchbook as a way of both holding on and letting go.
A brunch I had with my wife this weekend was particularly lovely: homemade scrambled eggs, bacon, sourdough toast with homemade jam made by our friend Carol. Our coffee cups resting on handmade coasters by our friend Jeannie – and we felt surrounded by the love and support of friendship! And yes I put tobasco sauce on my eggs and tobasco jelly on my toast … is there anything I don’t put Tobasco on? Maybe ice cream. But I haven’t tried that yet so I don’t know for sure.
I hope your week is full of love and friendships. I hope you have plenty of tobasco sauce if you like it. I’ll keep making art because my Mom says so and I hope you’ll keep on keeping on too. See you next Monday.
I’ve been thinking this week about the role of curiosity in a creative life. So here’s a fun curiosity/creativity game I play with myself. To play you’ll need: any printed book with lots of visual images in it, 5 sticky post-it notes from a post-it note pad, a separate piece of paper and a pen or pencil.
To begin the game open the book to random pages, page through very rapidly – ONLY PAUSE WHENEVER AN IMAGE CATCHES YOUR EYE – put a sticky post-it note on that page. Then keep going, quickly, through the book until all 5 of your post-it notes have been placed. DO NOT READ ANY TEXT IN THE BOOK. This part of the game will only take one minute or two. You’re just reacting and post-it note flagging that “something caught my eye” in an image.
After all 5 of your post-it notes are placed look at each of your chosen 5 images, look only at the image itself NOT at any accompanying text. Add a letter (or number) to the post-it note on each image, write a corresponding letter on your sheet of paper. Then write very specifically what caught your eye in the image. This is usually a brief description of some ordinary visual element in the image like “ladies funny hats” or “dogs droopy ears”. It could be the colors or the odd shapes that are described. There are no wrong answers. This is just YOU being curious about your own native interests and creative voice.
After writing about all 5 of your noticed images get curious about them as a group. Is there a theme or a commonality between any of the 5 images? For example the ladies funny hats and the dogs ears could be grouped as “head gear”. Again, there are no wrong answers. Be as absurd and freely-associative as you like. This is just you playing and being curious about any themes that may be subconsciously on your mind today.
When that part of the game is done read any text about the 5 images you chose. Does the information in the text add to your interest, to your curiosity? Feel free to investigate further…
And that’s the game! I’ve found in playing this game often that my themes repeat, certain elements consistently catch my eye, and knowing what those are helps me work deliberately and playfully in my studio. I play this game often because my interests and what catches my eye changes.
The Odditerrarium series painting that I finished this week is titled “Curious”. Like the rest of my series (for upcoming exhibits via Caplan Art Designs) this one is 10 x 8 inches and made with ink and gouache on board.
Here’s a closer look.
Part of curiosity, imagination and the life of the mind is allowing oneself to mentally reach, to play, to accept the risks and thrills of uncertainty. As a metaphor for these thoughts, as you may know from past posts, I’ve been thinking of the ways cats reach up. Here’s two in-progress artist books that have cats reaching in them. (Probably these books will eventually go to Storyberries.com)
Recently I stumbled across an Instagram post by Columbia Gorge Book Arts and got curious. (Lettering and alphabets consistently catch my eye.) I followed their Instagram account and looked at their website. I found out they live in the same town I do! So I contacted them online.
Letterpress and Linotype work is in my own past work history so I enjoyed the trip down memory lane while viewing their photos of equipment but more importantly I loved discovering that Ben, at Columbia Gorge Book Arts, hand-carves from bamboo the individual letters used in letterpress hand presses! The letterforms are beautifully created and Ben has quite a variety of typefaces! Seeing Ben’s printed proof sheets inspired my thoughts towards future kids books and children’s room decor. So when I contacted Ben I asked if I could buy a few printed proof sheets of his various alphabets. He sent me some!!!
When you’re a child learning one’s alphabet letters also means learning to recognize a letter even if that letter is differently shaped or colored. Towards that thought (and to indulge creatively in a theme that I love) I’m starting a new project, The Ralphapet Projects, in which, over time, I’ll make art prints, cards, cups and eventually a story book using some of the beautiful lettering I get from Columbia Gorge Book Arts.
Here’s the first one. I selected one of the Columbia Gorge alphabet proofs and mounted it on one of my boards using archival glue. Then when the glue was dry I drew, in ink, a cat muralist reaching up to “paint” a letter.
Here’s the finished “Ralphapet Cat” that I did using gouache on a 7 x 5 inch board.
So you can see the array of my recent cat reaching thoughts.
I took photos of the Ralphapet Cat artwork with my big camera (a better camera than a phone camera) and then my studio supervisor cat, Hawkeye, helped me do the graphic design hocus pocus in order to make art prints.
For weeks I’ve been working on two poodle portraits. The details of their hair and eyes has been such fun! It’s also been delightful to imagine what each dog is thinking about! My wife and I have had the honor of knowing these poodles’ humans for a very long time – so it’s been a treat to get to love on our friends via these dog portraits!
Here they are on my easel. I worked on both paintings at the same time. I did a Reel of me in action working and another Reel that looks up close at the finished paintings. Both Reels can be found on my Instagram page.
I imagined each dog keenly watching their energetic humans and philosophically contemplating (from a dogs point of view) their humans divinity and mysteries. Naturally I titled one painting “Divine” and the other “Mysteries”. Both are 10 x 8 inches and created with ink and gouache on board. Eventually these portraits will be in an art exhibit via the Caplan Art Designs Gallery www.caplanartdesigns.com
Below are some closer photos so you can see the miniature art details! I’m particularly pleased with their eyes!
Since the pandemic began in 2020 we’d not set foot in one of our favorite brewpubs Mcmenamins on the Columbia river. So during a cold rainy walk by the river we decided to pop in and get a growler full of our favorite beer to take home. We’re not dining indoors yet and we’ve normalized mask wearing no matter what the numbers and rules may be.
While we were waiting for our growler to be filled I admired one of my favorite posters on the Mcmenamins wall. I enjoy the funky steampunk-ish vibe in this pub.
On our walk we saw a bald eagle big as you please just above the walk path!
Here’s some of the books we read with our beer after we got home: Old in Art School by Nell Painter, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, Daemon Voices by Philip Pullman, The Summer of a Dormouse by John Mortimer.
The children’s writer Philip Pullman ranks number two on the lists of books often banned in the U.S. The other titles are from writers who are similarly considered “unorthodox”. Yep. Still reading banned books. Told you it was a “thing” for me.
As my regular readers know besides fine art and books I’m fond of cooking. Well, my friend Bernadette of New Classic Cooking, a food blog I follow, did a wonderful blog post about feeding the Ukrainian people during this time. It’s comforting to have practical ways we can help each other.
Here’s a favorite soup I made this week. It’s from a recipe in our “Favorites So Far” kitchen sketchbook and thanks to a suggestion by my friend Bernadette it’s also part of a postcard series – we enjoy sending these recipe cards to friends!
And speaking of soup…my experimental art book “A Scoop Of Letter Soup” is being served out by ladles full on Storyberries!
I’m excited about making some more of my unusual books for kids to read on Storyberries.com!!
And speaking of food for tummies, fare for minds, mental health, our interior lives and books… I’ve selected pages from my sketchbooks with my drawings and writings on the topic of our interior lives and made a book of them. You can see more about this book, Another Sketchbook, on my portfolio page.
Since books and beverages go together in my mind – and I also enjoy having soup out of a mug – I picked some of my favorite pages from Another Sketchbook and put them on a large mug here on my Zazzle shop.
Also on the topic of mental health I’m delighted to happy-dance with you about the news that a book I illustrated is now being carried by one of my local bookstores, Vintage Books! The book is titled “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” and it’s one of my creations that I am most proud of having done. I even keep a copy of it in my bathroom so I can reread it often – it means that much to me! Anyway, Vintage Books will ship anywhere so they can be asked to send my book to you by mail. More about my book can be seen on the bookstore website here. Okay, let’s dance another happy jig around the couch then back to posting photos…🤗
Sometimes remembering that the Universe loves you just the way you are helps. At least I find it helpful in my creative life… as is knowing there are fairly direct practical tools for dealing with feelings during difficult times.
I hope your week is full of love that you can embrace with relish as food for your heart and mind – see you next week.
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.
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!
This week I finished the dog painting you saw in my sketchbook and on my easel in my last post. The cow is still active in the field of my imagination as is a wee bird. More on that later in this post.
Here’s the completed dog portrait titled “Being exquisite”. Like the dog portrait in my last post this new one is 8 x 10 inches and uses that nifty new brush technique (last post)! I’m having such fun with all of these tiny details!
Like the fur between his eyes and the nose… below are two photo views so you can see.
And the details of the dandelions! Oh that was fun!!
This past week has been filled with gluing the cow artwork pages onto a piece of paper cut 4.25 inches x 4 feet long and folding it so that it zigzags into panels 4.25 x 6.25 inches in size. Plus the week was spent making a slipcase for my book which can be called a leporello, a concertina or an accordion format. Everything was made from scratch: raw archival book binders board, white flat paper and glue. When the story pages are folded they’re almost 1 inch thick so the slipcase accounts for that. Below are photos of the slipcase and the concertina book.
For more details on the Leporello, Concertina or Accordion style folded books here’s a good link https://wp.me/p4va0m-gU
Here’s a reference book I’ve used for years when I’m constructing books and making boxes from scratch. I altered methods described in this book to make the cow book slipcase. The book is Books Boxes and Portfolios by Franz Zeier
Behind these analog scenes I’ve been working on the digital files for a printed version of “How the cow went over the moon”. In pre-pandemic days I’d have made this one handmade book and sent it to a gallery like the 23 Sandy who would have exhibited it and sold it to a private collection or to a public collection. For example the UCLA Fine arts library has one of my books, so does the Bainbridge Island Art Museum.
Then the pandemic happened and I began making reproductions of my books available via Blurb which can print then mail my books directly to the buyer. That seemed a more pandemic safe way to share my artist books. It is also why I say that I approach self-publishing from a fine art perspective.
When I did the first printed book, Alphapets, in early 2020, I was contacted by Storyberries who wanted to distribute the ebook version. Well it’s been so much fun to make my books available in an on-demand way (my books are only printed when they’re ordered) and even more fun to share with readers on Storyberries that this fun is now factored in to my book designs.
For example: as I’ve been making the digital files for the printed book (and for Storyberries) I took the photos below of the handmade books with a piece of candy to show scale. I did this because it might amuse readers to see the original books in the printed book version. And perhaps help the younger readers be aware that books are made by people just like them.
This week I’ve also been talking with Storyberries and – dear blog reader you’re getting this news first – they’ll be making an “art experimental” story category for my work!! How fun is that? I so wanted arty quirky books when I was a kid… and now I’m making them and getting to fill a whole childrens book category with ebook versions of my artist books!!! I’m over-the-moon excited and yes that pun was intended! 🤣
As I wrote in my last post I’ve been reading The Annotated Arabian Nights and I sat up and took notice when the annotation mentioned a literary genre called “mirrors for princes”. So as a companion to my “How the cow went over the moon” book message (?) about not being too serious and remaining down-to-earth I’ve been thinking of the importance of remembering joy.
So here’s a look at what will be the second wordless poem in the printed book. This poem is titled “Tiny notes to the sun”
This book too is a leporello format but instead of a slip cover it’s got hardback covers. This book is 2.25 inches square when closed and opens out to 20 inches in length.
The photos below that have a peppermint candy in them are the pics I’ll put into the printed book version because it might amuse people to see them too.
As I mentioned earlier I’ve been working simultaneously on the book layout and design for the printed version of “How the cow went over the moon” … and I’m using visual elements of the original artist books … here’s a look. 👇
This week the Caplan Art Designs Gallery sent photos of my 3d box project “All the Chances” in it’s new space! And look, the client’s pet rabbit approved!!
And someone else sent me photos of their dog approving the dog portrait I painted and the way the Aurora Gallery framed the portrait! So glad their dog approved!!
Here below is the framed portrait on the dog’s “Clancy art” wall!! Isn’t that sweet?! A whole wall!! Wow!! This makes my artist heart so happy!!
In the coming days Kidz Stories plans to read my book “How to draw a dragon” out loud on their YouTube channel and, since it’s a coloring book, they’re hosting a color-along!! I’ll post a link to the video when I have it. In preparation to help kids to be able to color-along I’ve made my coloring book a free download here on my portfolio page!
I hope your week is full of your favorite colors and comforts. See you next 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?
Lots to share: The Professional Dog is out in print and as an ebook on Storyberries! In a bit I’m sharing my creative process for my holiday box project. But first, because people tell me they’re enjoying it, I am continuing to feature 3 dogs from The Professional Dog per week so here’s this weeks…
The text in the book, which is also the title of the original artwork, is below each of this weeks featured dogs.
I wanted to share somehow that my original artwork for The Professional Dog is smaller than the finished book. So I did a video look at all of the original artwork for The Professional Dog. Each original dog portrait is 2.5 x 3.5 inches and was made by hand using ink and gouache on board. The finished print book is 6 x 9 inches and as faithfully as possible reproduces the colors and details in the original artwork. I did this because the reproductions do enlarge the details in the artwork. Below is a photo showing a bit of what I’m saying … perhaps you can see both the small original art and the book reproductions?
You could say that Thanksgiving was a nicely quiet event considering it was just my spouse and I and a giant veggie lasagna. But it really felt like we’d hosted a come-and-go party all day as we were in contact with friends and family via text, social media and the voice phone! It was such a fun day and we both went to bed tired-happy feeling like we’d been talking and partying nonstop! We joked that we could get used to partying like this – there was a lot less to clean up afterwards! Lol!
After the holiday I delivered all of the original art for The Professional Dog to the Aurora Gallery. This project was a big one that encompassed multiple months of intense work and it all – all 40 dog portraits – fit into a 5 x 7 x 4 inch box! (Another benefit of making the original art small in size)
Here’s the box of original artwork sitting atop the signed books wrapped in paper for protection during transfer to the Aurora Gallery.
Even though everything is done now including the portfolio page for The Professional Dog I will still be posting the dog portraits in sequence over the next weeks. People have told me that they’re enjoying them.
The Thanksgiving event held by the Caplan Art Designs Gallery also began the day after Thanksgiving. Below is another attempt to include a video in this blog. This video was made by the Gallery and is shared by permission. In case I’ve not gotten the video embedded in this post like I think I do – the video camera pans around a nice large room filled with art by the Caplan Art Designs Gallery artists. You see some of my larger works right at the start. Many of my works are small and not captured in the video. My last post included images of my artworks in this event. Over the weekend the Gallery posted more videos on the Gallery’s Instagram and Facebook pages that showed more of the event! There were many sales of my artwork and of the other Gallery artists work!
And now for the full details about the holiday box project! Back in very early September the Caplan Art Gallery gave certain artists an 8 inch cube to paint in our style. These boxes are to be in a special holiday exhibit opening the first Thursday in December.
Immediately when I got my box and over the next 4 days, I began the process of putting 3 coats of gesso on it even though I didn’t know what I would create.
While the gesso dried over that first week I brainstormed in both my sketchbook and on my legal pad. First I listed over 20 things that I could think of that are square or cube shaped. Then in my sketchbook I played visually with the various items listed to see what might be fun, how I might approach it. During this time my spouse and I had a dear friend come over to our outdoor patio to visit and have dinner. I told her what I was brainstorming and she liked the idea of dice.
At that time I was still in the middle of creating the dog portraits for The Professional Dog so it felt natural to think of dog shelters and dice, the chances for pet adoption, the many names for dogs … so in my brainstorming with my friend and my spouse we thought “what are the odds you’d find 21 dogs named Chance”?
My sketchbook became focused on dice-dot portraits of dogs.
I also rummaged about the house and found some game dice I could use as a model.
Using a ruler I calculated the size of the dots in relation to the size of the cube and I made measurement marks on the gesso using a watercolor pencil. The watercolor pencil marks will blend in and dissolve when I paint over the marks with acrylic paints.
Since the cube is a sculpture and will likely be handled by humans or sat upon by cats I decided from the start to work in acrylic as that’s a permanent waterproof media. I also planned to (and did) varnish it so the dice could be protected and easily cleaned.
I painted a different dog portrait on each dot on my dice using black and white acrylics mixed to form a range of greys. And yes, some of the dog breed research and practice I was already doing for The Professional Dog was applied to this project too.
After painting each dice-dot with a dog using black and white acrylics I painted the body of the dice with white acrylic. Every bit of the gesso got covered! Below you can see the entire dice in 3d plus each dice face separately so you can enlarge it and see the portraits.
I hope you had a yummy and fun Thanksgiving too. I look forward to catching up with some of my fellow bloggers and hearing about your creative projects but some of my days this week might resemble this…
… even if it does I hope you have a delightful week! See you next Monday.