Here are a few of the artworks I’ve recently sent to Joseph Gierek Fine Art (www.gierek.com) for the upcoming Holiday Art Show. I’m sure you’ll notice my “still life” object practice work now combined with characters. Yes, I’m trying to make every element count toward the visual story. You know, like a writer tries to make every word count.
There was a time when I felt that writing words-in-a-row about visual art was rather like using lemon juice to describe honey. But somewhere along the way I realized that being a professional artist out in the “real world” meant I didn’t have to write as if I were in an academic university. That was a relief. And I realized that writing about visual art was like combining multi-media or like a playwright creating a musical theatre piece about a historical event.
It’s genre bending/blending.
So I began practicing writing about my own visual art in an everyday conversational way. When I’m coming up with my artistic ideas I write by hand what I’m thinking and feeling as I’m drawing in my sketchbooks. Later on I use that hand written data to write more formal “blurbs”, or story-clues, about what inspired each of my artworks. I say “more formal” because the blurbs are type-written, the spelling has been checked and the original hand written data has been neatened/edited/condensed. These “blurbs” are often printed and posted near my artwork in exhibits. In my writings I largely leave off the technical points of artistic technique because the majority of the time I’m talking to the general public. (Of course if I’m asked about art techniques I’ll gladly share details!)
In Sept I’m doing a one-person exhibit titled “Story Stuff” at Caplan Art Designs (I wrote more about that in a post titled Cozy Mystery Story Stuff). Here are a few of the artworks and the “blurbs” (story-clues?) I’ve written that will be alongside the art at my exhibit:
Near Forest Park – I enjoy hiking in a large forest in the middle of an urban city (Portland Or). I love it that I can pop out of the dense forest, get a coffee – or boot laces – and then resume my hike.
A Novel Morning – One of my favorite things to do is to go to Powell’s bookstore, find a new-to-me novel and then get something in the café. The “text” in this painting is re-combined and paraphrased from “Death at La Fenice” by Donna Leon.
Good Morning – What constitutes a “good morning”? One of my answers is plenty of coffee and enough leisure time to work the daily newspaper’s crossword puzzle.
During my exhibits I’ll often see people reading the blurbs and then looking more closely at my artwork – and sometimes they’ll approach me and talk about the topic within one of my paintings. It seems that my “multi-media” pictures-plus-words exercise is helpful for starting conversations at least.
What are your thoughts about combining writing and visual art?
In September at Caplan Art Designs www.caplanartdesigns.com I’m doing a one-person fine art exhibit titled “Story Stuff”. And you can thank the literary genre of the “cozy mystery” for it.
You see I enjoy detective novels and movies. I particularly enjoy cozy mystery novels because I like the inherent premise in them that a regular person living an ordinary mundane sort of life can use reason and logic to resolve problems.
After reading and watching a gazillion mystery stories – I realized how often some small object; a receipt, a coffee bag, or a whiskey tumbler is the clue that solves the mystery. That thought inspired me to try telling visual stories with “just stuff”. So for this exhibit I’ve selected things from my daily life and arranged them in my imagination, along with color, light and texture, in such a way that the viewer can deduce a story; they can “read” my visual description of how things are and which things matter. The viewer becomes the story detective/character-actor.
In some of my works I’ve also invented a character-actor – a cat or a dog – who plays a more obvious part in the story. Anthropomorphic animals are a way to make it plain that the artwork is a visual story. These particular animal characters are created and chosen because their breed characteristics add elements to the tale. The viewer is still the detective – there’s just more actors on stage.
I’m merging fine art techniques, and fine art genres of “Still Life” and “Animals in Art”, with literary and mystery genre concepts. I also love food, drinks and books – they are the elements of everyday Pacific Northwest life which for me is the stuff of stories.
Here’s (ahem) a short story collection from my upcoming exhibit:
Below are some books I’m currently reading that are “feeding” many of my upcoming art projects. That’s art exhibits, illustration projects and yes even my sketchbook work for The Sketchbook Project I blogged about last post. Even though it may seem that I produce a random variety of things – there’s a uniformity to my randomness and it begins with what I read. I see all of the things I make as telling a visual/tactile story about being human, enjoying life and living well. And to help me develop my visual story I read…
In case you can’t see all the titles in the picture they are:
“Wonderland; How play made the world” by Steven Johnson
“Books for Living” by Will Schwalbe
“The Creative Spark; How imagination made humans exceptional” by Agustin Fuentes
“The Foundations of Mindfulness” by Eric Harrison
“Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel
All of these books relate to themes I’ve been working with artistically for some time now:
How being willing to try new foods, to eat diverse foods, has helped us develop biologically as physical human beings. And how it helps us still.
Playing music, playing games, “playing” with our food – each kind of play in it’s own way has helped humans as a species develop and maintain physical and mental structures as individuals – and also social structures as communities. This is still true today. When we do not take time to play we hurt ourselves and each other.
Reading books (and writing them) has helped us – as a species – to pass on information so that each generation doesn’t have to completely reinvent the world from scratch. This ability to collect information, and learn from it, informs our abilities to play – to playfully combine/recombine things – helping us to develop and maintain our mental skills.
Which leads me to mindfulness. Mindfulness for me is the human ability to pay attention, to focus attention and also to have a state of open/non-judgmental acceptance – curiosity even. This is essential to developing, having and keeping our human ability to imagine and be creative. Mindfulness is part of being able to play and learn…and being able to play and learn is a way of being mindful. And for me, keeping a sketchbook, making art, is at it’s heart an exercise in playful mindfulness – but more about that in another post.
The novel by Esquivel is included in my current reading list because woman does not live by non-fiction alone.
Now please pass the popcorn. Thank you.
Some time back I did a blog post about my experimental exhibit currently at Burnt Bridge Cellars. In that post (link here: https://sueclancy.com/2017/06/13/my-experiment-of-exhibiting-art-as-a-multi-layered-story-environment/) I talked about creating a multilayered story environment; I included links to a free ebook sketchbook I’d done – as well as to a printed book and I included a few images of the artwork along with some short story-like descriptions for them. I wanted to share something with all of my fans whether they could physically come to my exhibit or not.
Then life went on in a hectic busy way and well I’ve only just now gotten around to posting on YouTube the video I’d shot, quick walk through style, after we hung the exhibit. Here it is:
Now all that’s left is for you to taste the wine… but as far as I know there’s no way to upload wine to everyone’s screen in a way that they can taste it. Sigh.
The next opening party for my exhibit is July 7th. www.burntbridgecellars.com
My current fine art exhibit is still up and available during the Burnt Bridge Cellars winery hours (www.burntbridgecellars.com) and will be through the end of July. I’ve designed it as an experiment in layers of story – layered like a lasagna. Judging by responses and comments, both to me and to the staff at Burnt Bridge Cellars, people have been having fun with my experiment!
Layer 1 – as I worked toward this exhibit, starting well over a year ago, I took notes on my experiences of ordinary daily life and recorded them in my sketchbook. You can see this sketchbook as a free ebook here: https://sueclancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/gladtobealivedrinkmusiced.pdf
Layer 2 – I spun my sketchbook notes through my imagination creating characters (dogs) that helped me describe my thoughts and feelings about ordinary life visually and metaphorically. I created a series of sumi ink pieces on handmade papers – dogs drinking, playing musical instruments and etc. Some of these pieces got framed and are in my exhibit. Others became part of a printed book titled “Dogs by Sue Clancy”. You can see that book at the exhibit or via this link here: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dogs-By-Sue-Clancy
Layer 3 – I created a series of items aka “illustrated things”; scarves, napkins, tea towels, phone cases and many other items that relate to this exhibit – return full circle to the “ordinariness” of life – these items are available via the links found here https://sueclancy.com/pattern-design/
Layer 4 – A group of 17 of my artworks are hung on the walls at the winery. But in addition to the artwork itself which can be viewed up close in person I wrote short “blurbs” – very short descriptions of what inspired the artwork. You can literally walk around (wine glass in hand) the exhibit “reading” my story of living my life. Additional details – the layers above – are there if people want to see more.
Here are four of my artworks along with their stories that you could read on the wall next to my artwork at Burnt Bridge Cellars:
Click on the above images to see the title I’ve given them and then find the story below –
Maestro Houndsinger by Clancy
I attended several musical concerts and noted a consistency of a moment, that moment, just before the music started, when the conductor, the soloists, the performers took a deep breath. All performance, all of life, starts with a breath – and that’s what I wanted to remember – to breathe.
Surround Sound by Clancy
I’ve gotten to hear some “hairy” (complex) guitar music. I’ve also enjoyed seeing locally hand-crafted music instruments. I’ve also thought of the local music and musicians that I’m honored to know personally – those I get to hear in small places, like cafe’s and homes – where I get to be surrounded by their music, love and friendship… all of these thoughts are combined in this piece.
Paws For Coffee by Clancy
I can sometimes get so busy that I forget to take time to be present in the moment, to pause and smell the coffee. This is me – remembering.
Pup Fiction by Clancy
I was thinking of how curiosity and imagination are the “muscle” and “bones” of a healthy mental life. Perhaps curiosity, imagination – and coffee – are what makes us human?
What exactly was my experiment you ask? I wanted to create an exhibit that would have something (actually several somethings) for my friends and fans who are not able to come in person to my exhibit – and also to give people who are able to come to my exhibit in person an extra treat. As in while they’re waiting for their friends to meet-up at the winery they can down-load my sketchbook to their phone, or read blog posts like this one https://sueclancy.com/2017/05/16/mind-map-of-a-clancy-art-exhibit/ that describe my creative process or look at a printed book of my dogs… Of course they can look at my fine art on the walls and imagine themselves enjoying the simple ordinary things in life.
And have I mentioned that the wine at Burnt Bridge Cellars is very good?
Last evening I was looking up something in a book called “Drawing Masterclass” and I read this (again): “Animals as subject matter for the visual arts have a longer history than any other subject. The first images drawn by the human race depicted the animals that were hunted for survival [cave paintings]…. There is no period in art when animals have not played a major role.”
In my fine art animals become characters; my creative process is much like the way a novelist creates a character, a compilation of authorial thoughts and observations – a “collage” of them you might say – merged into one person/character within their story. I create anthropomorphic animal characters because I see humans as part of the natural world and the natural world as part of humanity. I’m inspired by both nature and culture.
So when I do animal portraits, people are there too. When I do a portrait of a particular dog, for example, a particular person (someone, or several someone’s I saw in real life) is also reflected. It becomes a visual story of that animal and that person. I define “story” as a plot where there is some surprise. The surprise in one of my visual stories might be the realization of how a human can be like a dachshund.
For example in my artwork titled “Happy Hour” (see image below) inside I sometimes feel happy and excited like my dachshund Rusty looks when he is bouncing around wagging his tail and dancing for his supper. (Places and objects enter in to my visual story creation too but that’s another discussion.)
My gallery agents often explain to clients that I create (as special commissions) portraits of pets as their pet owners; an imaginative merging of pet and person. And that’s true.
Here, so you can see what I’m talking about, are some of my animal portraits currently available at either Caplan Art Designs www.caplanartdesigns.com and at Joseph Gierek Fine Art www.gierek.com – please contact each gallery for more details.
Practicing “narrative” additions to my “visual story” thing – and this time I illustrated a short short-poem-story-like-substance. Please wash your hands after handling (ahem, wink) this one titled:
Haste Accounting by Sue Clancy
An accountant was working in Haste
who added his numbers with paste
saying “If these sums are wrong
then I’ll sing you a song
but there’s simply no accounting for taste.”
I’ve decided I’m going to practice adding more “narrative” information on occasion to the “visual story” thing I do. Particularly when I’m doing my artist books. So, lucky you, you’ll get to watch me practice in public! Here’s a short, short bit of flash-fiction-y nonsense to start with:
Scary Spider Story by Sue Clancy
Once upon a time, not too long ago, some friends came from Oklahoma to visit us in the Pacific Northwest. Oklahoma does not have ocean access. The Pacific Northwest does. Our friends wanted to see the sea. However there was a catch; John has a mobility issue….
I drew pictures in ink and watercolor on paper as we worked together to get John as close to the sea as possible along the Oregon Coast. My pictures were made on location as the action happened. Yes, there was a lot of carefully balancing my paper on my knee, sand in my watercolors and sea spray dampening my paper for me. Still I got all of the pages done while we were on the coast, we spread them out in the car trunk to dry and when I got back to my studio I sorted the pages and bound them using a Japanese stab binding.
Here is a link to a video of the book: https://youtu.be/lTHsRbKrMiM
Here’s a still photo or two