My new exhibit this year is titled “Dear Readers” and is book/reading themed. As I’ve worked this last year towards this new one-person fine art exhibit at Burnt Bridge Cellars, that will open June 7 in Vancouver WA, I’ve written lots of hand-written notes in my sketchbooks, on random slips of paper, on post-it notes in the margins of newspaper articles. I wrote down as many thoughts as possible – including quotes from books I’ve read – and kept them together in a binder. When it came time to write my exhibit statement I could reread all of my notes and pull from them.
Here’s a pic of my binder and one of my sketchbooks. And my pen.
Below is the finished “Dear Readers” art exhibit statement – text I wrote that pulled from the data pool in my binder and sketchbooks. This statement will be put on the wall somewhere within my exhibit:
By Sue Clancy
I’ve been thinking about the interconnectedness of everything in life. These thoughts led me to the concept of nested ideas; how one thing leads to another, one food or drink pleasure can lead to another new pleasure in a similar way that one enjoyed book can lead to another new book.
I’ve also thought of how much the written word in general has enhanced our pleasure in and understanding of the sensual world by enabling connections to be made between elements and people across time and space.
So, in this exhibit I’m using the printed-and-bound book as a symbol for “the written word” in its myriad of formats. And I’ve deliberately, whimsically, played with the one-thing-leads-to-another-everything’s-connected concept by including spoofs of my own artwork, my still life paintings, within my other paintings that have dog characters in them. The titles of the still life paintings, the titles of the dog character paintings, the titles of the humans with pet’s paintings all correlate.
Each artwork in my exhibit is related in some way to at least one other artwork in this exhibit. I leave it for you to puzzle out which is connected to which – and in what way.
And yes, you can read my exhibit like you would a mostly wordless comic.
Recently I did a post titled Pug Epic Book In Art – (the post is about my painting in which a pug sits in a café reading a book) – since then I’ve also mused about a character who wrote the book the pug in the painting is reading. Here is an illustration of who I imagine is sitting to write the story “Epic Tales of the Pug King” – the book being read by the other pug in the painting:
“Epic” by Clancy – ink and gouache on paper
And I’ve written the full text of the story that I hand lettered on the painted-book within my painting referred to in the prior post – the painting that when my wife saw it said she’d like to read the rest of the story of which only a part was depicted within the painting. So here’s the story:
Epic Tales Of The Pug, King – by Clancy
The Pug King’s elegantly chipped ceramic bowl appeared before him resplendent with gravy, chunks of meat and yams. His Majesty tasted the gravy, then a meat chunk, the gravy again, then a yam, a meat chunk with the gravy and a piece of yam with gravy. He licked his lips, the bowl and his lips again. The Royal Feast was done; the dog sought some sport to aid all digestion and to his owner cried “Sir, Fool! Kneel now and play some ball!” The owner bowed and bent his knee. “Fetch!” he said and flung a mighty fling. The ball arched high into the air across the green expanse of Royal lawn. His Majesty ran flowing, majestically, swiftly, across the grass, conquering the ball and returning back to his owner. Three times, four times they did this at the King’s command. On the 12th time the owner knelt, patted the Monarch’s silken head, saying “Enough now, lets go inside and get ready for bed.” His Royal Majesty barked sharply. “Sir Fool, there’s a King’s personal business still to do…”
Recently I was in a local coffee shop and a coffee cup was silhouetted beside a rainy window. Steam rising from the cup. Such a simple thing but I began thinking of how many stories begin with simple things and grow, cumulatively, until they become epics.
Like Pug dogs. So small yet so large in personality especially as they mature.
Here’s a painting I did that was inspired by these thoughts. I’ve titled it “Epic Tales of The Pug King”.
Epic Tales Of The Pug King – by Clancy – 16 x 20 – acrylic and gouache on board.
I wrote the story that’s ‘printed’ in the book depicted in the painting and hand-lettered it, with brush and acrylic, into place on the page-within-the-painting.
My wife came into my studio, saw my work-in-progress and said “What’s the rest of that story?”, saying that she wanted to turn the Pugs page for him and continue reading. Then she challenged me to write the rest of the story.
Right this minute I’m enjoying the visual pun – that the Pug’s epic story-poem, ahem, is really, really, short. Plus the setting and my character, the Pug dog, are not particularly grand as the word “epic” would imply.
And that’s in keeping with my feeling that the most important elements of this world are actually the mundane ones, the humble ones. Daily life and the qualities of it can have more impact on a person than the grandest once-in-a-lifetime vacation might.
I love this quote from Annie Dillard “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.”
Some time back I read an article in my local newspaper about teaching kids to snack healthy and to learn to trust their body’s cues about food. Since then I’ve been thinking of similarities between healthy snacking habits and developing a healthy creative life.
- Teach yourself how to recognize aesthetic cues/desires – and practice responding to them – over time. I think of aesthetic cues as mental indulge-ments; things like stories, poems, movies, music, art etc. that make you feel glad to be alive. Just like a kid has to learn how to try new foods and then practice recognizing what foods they enjoy eating. As we go through life our aesthetic preferences change – just like our food preferences do. So it’s helpful to continue to try new aesthetic/art snacks periodically – and practice trusting your own cues.
- Allow yourself to listen to your own aesthetic cues/voice without input from other people. This takes practice and no matter how experienced a person is one has to remember to return to listening to one’s own voice – rather like how sometimes a kid (or an adult) has to be reminded to pay attention to their plate and eat. (When my wife and I go to happy hour with our friends I have to remind myself to eat…I tend to focus on the conversation…)
- Give yourself permission to just practice. Practice-an-art-materials can be as simple as keeping a book of stories or poems handy for reading and a small book to write in. Think of it as adult playing. Some helpful mantras: “Nothing has to go right today”, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.” and “It’s okay to make mistakes and messes – it’s part of how we learn.”
- Set specific times to practice. These can be very short bursts of time. They can be event/circumstance based rather than clock based. i.e. I’ll practice reading/writing poems while the coffee/tea brews, the water boils or the oven pre-heats.
- Create a small place/drawer where your practice-an-art materials are kept handy. Perhaps a shelf where books related to your art snack indulge-ments are stored. Look for and collect objects, events, places that feed your creative-soul-heart-mind. Stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive. Plan to indulge in these things in small ways – daily.
- Set a habit (I hate the word “rule”) for what time per month you’ll indulge yourself – for an aesthetic “meal”, something more than a short snack – with someone else’s artwork: i.e. go to local art-openings, poetry/story slams, indie film nights, music jam nights or a visit to an art museum.
Here’s what I indulged myself with this morning as an art snack while my breakfast bread toasted:
The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats is a new-favorite poem. It reminds me that we can – and do – create our own solace.
Some twins I’m lucky enough to know turned one year old today. So in collaboration with my wife, I wrote a poem and illustrated it for them. It was a good opportunity to practice art word combinations. And I think they’ll like it. Their parents and grandparents seemed to. Anyway here’s a picture of the birthday card:
I used a fountain pen to write the poem text this time. Last time I’d illustrated one of my poems I’d used brush and ink. For this birthday poem lower case letters were used. I like the lower case style. At least for this poem… The fountain pen was easier to control (and something I’m used to) and the neatness of the type and the softness of the lower case style are pleasing to me.
When I’d finished lettering the poem I then drew the illustration in brush and ink. After that dried I used gouache to give it color. That method too was an experiment in using ink and gouache in combination.
I am pleased with the resulting art word combination and will likely do that again; lower case letters and all.
What do you think of this lettering style?
Happy New Year everyone! New on newsstands is a magazine, Oregon Coast Magazine, in which is a 4 page article that I both wrote and illustrated! It was such fun to do a “sketching the coast” article for them that I want to do more such writing plus illustrating this year. Here’s a link for Oregon Coast Magazine https://oregoncoastmagazine.com/.
Around the edges of doing a cat portrait commission and Chef Carosi’s illustrated recipe I’ve done some wine label artwork to be used by Burnt Bridge Cellars for their 2018 Holiday Wine. To meet the winery’s request for art that was “festive but not religious” I used 5 writing techniques along these lines to generate visual art ideas:
- Freewriting: I wrote and doodled in my sketchbook concepts that called to my mind a social festive season not attached to religion. This also meant writing down the religiously associated concepts so as to avoid them!
- Listing: I wrote a list of items one would buy when planning a casual social event. I doodled some of the items too. I also looked up some event-planning websites and went to a local party store and browsed – adding to my list.
- Clustering: I selected a verb/adverb from my free-write or a verb related to an item from my list and wrote further associations that came to mind when thinking of that word.
- Thesaurus/Dictionary/Encyclopedia/Google: I looked up words like “party”, “festival”. I looked up historical references to past well-known holiday parties. I read poetry that mentioned parties or was associated with the Holidays. (Twas the Night...) I thought of, and researched, holiday fashions such as the “ugly sweater”.
- Consider the Audience/Project Purpose: After I had done the above 4 techniques, in a wild free-wheeling way, I looked at what I had written/doodled from the point of view of the Burnt Bridge Cellars winery and what they wanted to accomplish with the label art during the Holiday season.
Then I created several images based on the above brainstorming sessions:
Cat A List by Clancy
“Celebrate!” by Clancy
Then I sent the above artwork in for the winery owners consideration.
Here below is the artwork they chose and how it looked on the bottles:
The winery was pleased with my work – and has said that their customers were too! (Whew!)
The Holiday Wine inside the bottles is very good (I’ve tasted it!) and I feel like I got to participate in a collective effort to add enjoyment to people’s Holiday Season! What fun!
P.S. I originally got the idea to use writing techniques when generating visual art ideas from reading a book by Umberto Eco titled “Confessions of a Young Novelist“.
I’ve finished the handwritten ink work and the illustration painting for the recipe I’ve been doing for Chef Sebastian Carosi. (Past blog post re here) Now I’ll begin the photography and scanning processes to get it ready for print publication and etc. projects the Chef wants to do. The get-my-hands-messy art part is done. Now to do the keep-hands-clean graphic arts part…
The original artwork of the recipe, the physical painted with gouache and written in ink on hot-press watercolor paper recipe, will stay in my studio in an archival sleeve in a portfolio. At least for a time. It’s the digital files of this art we’ll work with. The artwork will stay with me just in case the Chef needs it re-scanned it for an un-foreseen-at-this-moment application.
This is a different approach from my fine art where once the artwork is finished I photograph it then frame it or otherwise make it ready for gallery exhibits – and off the physical fine artwork goes to it’s life in the galleries and then (hopefully) to a happy home with a collector.
In some ways this recipe artwork that will stay in my studio archives may likely be more widely seen by the public, because of publication, than many of my fine artworks.
It’s a curious thing this creative life. But I love it!!
As you know from a recent post (here) I’ve been working on a new recipe illustration project for Chef Sebastian Carosi. I’ve spent the most time designing a character who is doing the recipe “action”. It was a challenge to create a cannabis leaf character with “hands” holding things. But I did it! A photo of my progress is below…
When I’d illustrated Chef Kim Mahan’s recipes and we did a cookbook signing event together the question I was most often asked was “How do you keep your hand steady to handwrite all the recipe text?” The answer is shown in the photograph below that also shows my progress on the current recipe project for Chef Carosi.
Can you see what it is?
Yes. A mahl stick. That’s my big studio secret. It steadies my hand both for painting and writing.
However I do something with my mahl stick that I’ve not seen anywhere else. I added a piece of foam pipe insulation that floats freely on the stick – so my wrist slides easily back and forth along the stick as the stick is held steadily in a position. When I’m writing text I need to be able to move my wrist a little along but stay on the same line. When painting sometimes I need to make a long stroke. Either way the foam moves smoothly with me down the length of the stick held in one place.
My mahl stick is hand made. You can buy a mahl stick but I find it easy enough to DIY.
To make mine I cut a small 2 inch portion of foam pipe insulation, taped it to the end of a 36 inch dowel rod, then wrapped that end, completely covering the taped 2 inch foam bit, with a scrap of canvas tying it to the rod so that no canvas fabric ends trail/drag.
The remainder of the foam pipe insulation, about 12 inches in length, was slipped onto the dowel rod. In the photo below you can see the wrapped end of my mahl stick and see how loosely the foam pipe insulation wrist rest is on the rod. The other end (36 inches away!) has a hole drilled in it and a cord looped through it. It hangs on one of my art easel knobs when not in active use.
Okay. So the only time my mahl stick is not in active use is when I’m eating, reading or sleeping! Lol!
And now you know.
I’ve been reading “Appointment With Death” by Agatha Christie. By page 7 I was rooting for the murderer to go ahead and kill. It’s the villain who deservedly gets killed in this story. While reading I realized that I so strongly disliked the villain and rooted for her demise because of her cumulative (negative) effect upon other (positive) characters more than any one thing the villain said or did.
I realized again that in visual fine art a viewer reacts to the subject of the artwork because of the cumulative effects of the objects, colors, and shapes that surround the subject as much as they react to the subject itself.
There’s an art technique called “positive and negative space in art” where you pay as much attention to the negative spaces, the blank “air” spaces, that surround a subject as you pay to the positive spaces of that subject.
In reading this particular book by Agatha Christie I realize at a deeper level why the writers technique of “show don’t tell” is also true in fine art – we best understand, or perceive, a subject, from the surrounding elements.