Our current times, tuning in to awe and books

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This week war began and for a second being an artist felt frivolous. But in difficult times we need art more than ever. We need things and people that feed our spirits and remind us of why we’re glad to be alive. We need hope. That’s how we fight for democracy  and win.

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began I listened to the news and searched my bookshelves for a title I had gotten in 2003 not long after 9/11 and when war began in Iraq. My thoughts then, like now, turned to the role of artists during times of war. “Artists in Times of War” by Howard Zinn was very relevant in 2003 and still is even though the current event details are different.

Spoiler: artists are carriers of democracy. To quote from page 108 they are “profoundly democratic”. Democratic is defined as upholding, however imperfectly, the ideas of rule of law, of equality before the law, equality in access to resources, equality of representation in government and the human right of self determination. The Arts are a living language of a people, a dramatization of what they feel, what they need, what their hopes are … The Arts help people become self aware. Self-awareness helps people make choices and become active participants in their own lives and communities. That’s what makes living artists so dangerous in the viewpoint of authoritarians.

And perhaps equally important is the fact that artists help us, no matter how high flying the political rhetoric, to remember that the kids will still need to be entertained and educated, that adults will still need kindness, that dinner will still be wanted. Art, poetry and writing of all kinds can help us remember that the statistics a politician quotes represent actual people.

Speaking of dinner: a dear friend came over to visit for an evening and to ask me to sign some copies of two of my book titles that she plans to give as gifts! It was so good to see her!

After serving wine I signed copies of The Professional Dog and Numpurrs. I also did little drawings in each book!

We had a free ranging conversation about life, books, movies and my friend indulged me as I showed her my art projects in progress and outloud we played with what “could be”. This is an extremely exciting and valuable sort of conversation! Bouncing ideas around in loose “what if…” and “what about…” ways helps me in my creative process! It was so unbelievably good to get my friends input! Sharing artwork in its fragile beginning stages is risky and I’m so lucky to have trustworthy creative-playing friendships.

I made a new batch of potato soup (recipe last post) and when it was ready the three of us ate soup out of large mugs while sitting informally in the living room where it was warm and comfy.

I delighted in having fabric cocktail napkins with my Professional Dog portraits on them and enjoyed our friends chuckles when she saw the napkins!

The Professional Dog cocktail napkins- https://www.spoonflower.com/en/home-decor/dining/cocktail-napkins/12418133-professional-dog-by-sueclancy

Whenever I feel unsettled about world events besides talking with my spouse and trusted friends I deliberately tune in to awe. Meaning that I purposefully do some small thing that delights me, sparks my curiosity or causes me to notice something and say “wow!”. A good article I read this week on the topic of awe and why it’s important is here. An aspect of tuning in to the feeling of awe is to cultivate time to play in unstructured ways, to make time to wander, to ponder.

On a recent wandering meandering car drive we saw snowfall and large trees. That’s a guaranteed “wow” from me – I love the large evergreens any time of the year.

The feelings of awe, the feelings curiosity and the feelings of an aha moment are part of why I object so strongly to book banning (see a recent post). The attempts to control the mental resources available to others is a form of abuse. Banning preempts the victims ability to be self-aware and to be able use, as democracy offers, however imperfectly, the right of self determination. The restrictions of a person’s access to books and other mental resources is as serious as someone restricting a person’s access to food, water or healthcare.

Books Are All We Know … art print by Clancy –  https://society6.com/product/books-are-all-we-know-of-heaven4207368_print?sku=s6-18617343p4a1v45

During times of unrest I think taking the time to ponder is crucial because an artist is so much more than a reaction to or a mirror of society. If an artist is going to take action rather than simply knee jerk react to current events it takes time to think things through.

Here’s a paraphrased quote that I wrote on a card and thumbtacked to my studio wall.

Progress is happening on a new experimental art book for Storyberries! It’s a wordless visual poem about letter soup with only 10 panels plus front and back covers. 12 images total. Ink, acrylic and gouache are my art methods on another 2 inch square concertina zig zag folded book. I focused as I mentioned last post on rhythm, repetition and surprise. It will be a challenge to talk about this poem on this blog and on my social media without giving the poem’s punchline away immediately before Storyberries has a chance to distribute it but I’ll do my best.

In the photo below I’ve laid in the extreme dark and light areas to establish the contrast as well as to focus on the visual rhythm. I’m thinking of how the ebooks on Storyberries flow up and down so I’m designing my content to flow with that book motion. Will it work? I don’t know. 🤷‍♀️ Yes, my new poem is for a category on Storyberries called “experimental” for a reason! 🤣

The sortof weird thing is that I’ve not completely finished promoting “How The Cow Went Over The Moon” yet. So there might be some promotion overlap. Oh well. People read more than one book at a time anyway right?

A few evenings this week I took a break from reading “The Annotated Arabian Nights” to read “Suds in Your Eye” by Mary Lasswell. This book was published in 1942 when World War II began. What I’ve enjoyed about this book, besides seeing an artistic response to the wartime events of the 1942 era, is that no single person is the “hero” or center of the story. The story centers around how a group of people work together as a community. The concept of working together is also what drives the story plot. And “good food, great friends and cold beer” could be the books motto. This is such a good book to cheer up by! I’d list this book as an early example of the hopepunk genre (mentioned last post). And the illustrations are darling!

Besides the visit from a great friend this week my wife and I talked by phone with my adopted mom and big sister! Mom said she’s proud of me and that I’m to “Keep making art”! Big sister agreed! So I wrote the exact quote of Mom’s on a card and thumbtacked it to my studio wall just above the light switch for the room. That way I will always remember!

I hope your week contains many connections with your support system so that you feel encouraged to do all the good you can in this world.

See you next Monday?

An odditorium of books, walks, green dragons and cookies

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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.

This week at Burnt Bridge Cellars we bought wine and asked about the pandemic protocol for my upcoming art opening. The gist is that they’ll be at 50% capacity and taking reservations. www.burntbridgecellars.com

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?

playful and practical

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One of the purposes of the Arts is to help us live well and, paraphrasing Kurt Vonnegut, to grow our souls.  I’ve had this in mind as I’ve created my holiday stocking-stuffer stuff for my upcoming pop-up shop at Vintage Books Dec 7th from noon to 4 pm. https://www.vintage-books.net/

Making a whimsical, playful, calendar with artwork from my current Readers series was loads of fun – and I hope it will help people remember to live well and grow their souls all year long!  I’ve titled my calendar “Reading All Year”. It is 5 x 7 inches when closed and 10 x 7 inches when open. It’ll fit into a holiday stocking. I’ve checked.

CalendarA72

“Reading All Year” – a 2020 calendar by Clancy

If you can’t visit me at Vintage Books here’s a link where you can get your own calendar shipped directly to you.  Hopefully my calendar will be a fun stocking-stuffer gift the other readers in your life will enjoy too!

I wish you the best during the holiday season and in the coming new year!

Thanksgiving and The Arts

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I remember being told, as a young person, that the arts were “not practical”. Today I thought of 8 ways, both serious and silly, that the arts are useful on Thanksgiving day.

  1. Culinary arts: Making food is considered one of the “fine arts”. Even if the kitchen looks like this: Funny Cooking Fails Compilation | AFV Funniest Videos 2018
  2. Sculptural arts: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Costumes are made by artists in the Macy’s Parade Studio .  Over 50 million people had the parade on the TV during their 2017 family holiday. A link for watching the Macy’s Parade in 2018 is here.  An on the parade topic, even though it’s film animation, here’s a Cat Parade.
  3. Musical arts: A background music playlist of “20 best Thanksgiving” songs here. And then there’s a funny video of when Dad sings…. Lol!
  4. Visual Arts: Arts and crafts projects to entertain the kids while the adults drink, I mean cook.  Here’s a video of some cute kids who had lots of fun with an art project until…oops!
  5. Arts and craft mess clean up techniques (aka Art School 101) outlined here. Btw: I’ve successfully used rubbing alcohol to get marker ink off of wood surfaces and crayon marks off walls. And in this video an adorable kid has Art School 101 down… too cute!
  6. Photographic arts: Here’s some real tips for taking family photos. And here’s some funny dog photos.
  7. Story arts: Serious tips for telling stories here and here. And then there’s a funny video of Grandpa telling a story… here. But Grandma decided to tell her story using the medium of dance… lets watch!
  8. Decorative arts: Here is a silly video of a dachshund decorating … But more seriously Spoonflower is one of my favorite sites for artist-created materials for things such as napkins and table cloths. Below is a photo of a table runner I designed. It looks good with some candles or a wooden bowl with fruit or nuts as a centerpiece. I also think it’d be fun visual joke to put tiny clean, cute birdhouses… and/or some small woven baskets with candy eggs in them, as centerpieces on my “autumn leaf” table runner.  But then I’m warped like that.

Anyway if anyone ever tells you that the Arts are not practical – don’t believe them.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Strummer

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I think often about “artistic purpose” – and while, yes, I do get money for my work (I’m a professional, this is my full-time job) that’s not my only purpose for creating art.  Today when I was thinking about this topic I had my tongue firmly planted in my cheek… and I did this poem and illustration.

Strummer – By Sue Clancy

Strummer played music for money,

Ribs, rolls, butter and honey

Or any other tasty dish

Like beef or lamb or fish

A scrambled egg would even do, if not too runny.

strummer72

“Strummer” by Sue Clancy (brush and ink on handmade paper)