Writing and drawing while being human and using a thumb

A Creative Life, Art Word Combinations, artistic inspirations, books, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, life of the mind, mental health, reading, sketchbook, Sustainable creativity, writing and illustrating

Human brains have the ability to be imaginative and creative. This ability is used, for example, when you imagine that a flat tire could happen and then, after checking the spare tire for soundness, you creatively pack the car so that if you do have a flat you don’t need to remove all of your luggage to get to the spare. Imagination and creativity are used in any “if this then that” kind of thinking. Of course not every person uses their ability to imagine or be creative and some use it constructively and others destructively. More on that in a sec.

When I say all humans are creative I mean that human brains experience the real world and then we process it, we make it make sense to us as best we know how, via our use of language and our cognitive system. That’s just part of being human. It’s what human brains do as automatically as breathing. Humans make symbolic sense of what we experience in the real world via figments of our imagination. How well we’re able to use symbols in response to the external world correlates to the qualities of our inner life. But this concept is not rigid. Sometimes poop just happens in life and there’s no symbolic sense to be made of it we just have to cope.

Even so, frequently exercising your imagination is like exercising any other part of your body, it helps keep it in working condition so it has a better chance to be helpful when it’s needed. Fine tuning your cognitive system coping skills is like practicing an exercise with a trainer to make sure things are working well and skill is improving. This falls under the category of cultivating your inner life or the life of the mind.

Another Sketchbook by Clancy

Writing, drawing, cooking, gardening, singing, dancing, wood furniture making, rug weaving are all learnable skills. Culturally we call these “creative arts” and tend to speak of people who do those skills well (because they practice a heck of a lot) “creative” or “talented”. But even if someone doesn’t cultivate specific skills like any of those they still have an inner life, they’re still imaginative and creative simply because they have a human brain and need to process, make sense of whatever happens or might happen using both their physical body and their symbol making mind. For example even someone who doesn’t consider themselves a writer can get a mental health benefit from processing their daily life events by writing in a journal by hand.

Another Sketchbook by Clancy

Okay, let me back up. What’s inspired these thoughts is this blog post by my friend Audrey Driscoll and the comments there about AI, Artificial Intelligence being used for writing.

Also inspirational was a conversation I had with one of my college aged great nephews. We were talking about a video in which an older artist advises younger artists (and I’m paraphrasing) to ignore the people who just want to tear down whatever you’ve created by doing a version of the ‘no true Scotsman’ argument fallacy saying that your art “isn’t real art because it (fill in the blank)”. They are attempting to set themselves up as the one and only arbiter of what is/isn’t “real art” instead of you, the artist, deciding for yourself. You don’t have to accept anyone else’s definition of what art is. You can stay with your own feelings about your own art. My nephew said the video reminded him of a phrase he heard somewhere “obsession with hyper realism kills art”. That in turn reminded me of one of my adopted Dad’s favorite sayings “knowledge without imagination can be deadly.”

It’s nearly Father’s day so I’m going overboard on the Dad quotes – thank you for bearing with me.

Anyhoo, to be rigidly fixed on an idea (an imaginary notion), to think you “know” and to refuse to adjust or imagine that you might be wrong or that your ideas might not apply in a new situation or to fail to imagine that there could be anything bigger than what you think you know, well, that can be extremely harmful to yourself and everyone else around you. Misapplied cognition and rigid “knowledge” without some constructive imagination is woefully lacking in creativity, humility and humanity. It’s rather machine like really.

Which brings me to why I’m writing about this topic today. We care about our inner life because imagination and creativity are human attributes and we’re all we’ve got. Outsourcing human attributes, like letting someone else do your thinking for you, or letting someone (or something else) write your school essay for you doesn’t usually work out happily.

We’re here, we’re human, get used to being human, be the most fully human and the best human you can be!

Computers tend to have fixed ideas about many things like language, as anyone who has interacted with auto-correct or predictive text has experienced, and this often interrupts or even inhibits the flow of the human writer’s words. Have you ever tried to, on purpose, write a silly nonsense word using a computer? Yes, there’s a reason there are so many cartoons of a human frustrated with a computer!

As with the above mentioned mean art-troll “critics” you don’t have to accept or be bound by a computer’s preferences either! A human is an emotional being from the era of Homer (either Homer the Greek or Homer Simpson) while the computer is more rigidly pedantic and more literal and much less caring than the Vulcan Spock in Star Trek ever was.

It is okay to be human!

Human brains when they’re working well (no organic diseases) are constantly – and I do mean all the time – using imagination to make sense of the world. We experience with our 5 senses the external world then we have internal conversations with ourselves about “what it means”. Sometimes these internal conversations are helpful and sometimes they aren’t. (We can learn to direct that!) Then our inner conversation, whatever it is, runs through our cognitive processes: our organic body, how we feel, whether we slept well, if we’re hungry, our habitual ways of responding to the world or to certain words, our past experiences, things we’ve learned etc. In a nutshell we apply to the event that happened in the external real world multiple layers of our feelings-based inner life, and then we react for better or worse. This is just what human brains do often in lightning fast ways without us realizing we’re doing it.

Now we’re living with Star Trek level, more or less, technology while using the emotional brains of the Homeric era. If we’re smart we are still learning and practicing how to deal well with our personal Homeric brains because life continually happens whatever the available technology. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is a constant need for all humans at all ages and SEL is a vital ongoing aspect of our interior lives.

Another Sketchbook by Clancy

Troubles happen, to quote my Dad, when we forget that “feelings are guides not gods to be obeyed”. If you’ve ever gone to school or work when you didn’t feel like it you know what that quote means. But first we had to learn, somehow, that we could acknowledge the feelings and still do the hard stuff that we didn’t feel like doing. We developed coping strategies to help ourselves do that hard stuff… even if it’s an “ice cream afterwards” kind of deal. Even so sometimes due to events in life our emotions loom as large as a god… and in such times our cultivated inner life can be a solace.

My point is that even with the advanced  computers in our daily lives the physical human brains we have in our skulls constantly go back and forth, by degrees, from the pole of what happens in the external world and the pole of our imaginations. The trick, according to my Dad, is to remember that our imagination and inner life, i.e. language and our cognitive coping skills, are adjustable tools for dealing with stuff that happens in the real world. If your tools aren’t helping you cope with the real world then the tools may need adjusting or maybe repair.

Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit

The importance of language and our inner life is, I think, reflected in the fact that in most human groups it’s considered rude to finish people’s sentences for them, to put words in their mouth, to interrupt or talk over someone. Many groups use some variation of passing around a talking stick or some physical device by which we know who is to speak and for what duration of time. These devices signal who is speaking even if the speaker has paused quietly for a time to think.

Similarly, because language accuracy matters to the creating of shared meanings between people, it is considered rude to assume you know for certain (without double checking) what someone meant when they said that. Or to definitively declare – in the fashion of colonialism – that you and only you know what is/isn’t good and that your personal standards *should* be adopted by everyone everywhere instantly.

To quote my Dad again “Put the words should and shouldn’t on a 50 pound brick and carry it with you at all times”.

Cultivating your inner life, being careful, gentle, flexible and aware of your own connections between matter (the world) and your mind (imagination) can help your own mental health and aid with the stressors of being alive. Including giving you the mental strength to stand by your own thoughts about things.

Additionally it can be useful to be generally aware of real-life people or, nowadays the technologies, that may try to insert themselves, constructively or destructively, between the external world and your own inner life. Such awareness can inspire a focus on whoever or whatever that might help you make better (not worse) connections between the world and your imagination.

This awareness of matter/mind external world/inner world technique can even be a useful tool for the practicing writer or visual artist as I map out here.

True, within the matter/mind continuum there’s no shortage of people who will tell you what to think, what to feel, who will finish your sentences for you, who will try to colonize your inner life, who will claim to “know what you need” and otherwise try to affect your personal relationship between the world and your own imagination.

Sometimes such people do harmful things – the abuser who is gaslighting and manipulating a victim.

Sometimes such people do helpful things – the teacher who is enlightening and encouraging a student.

Mostly the people we typically encounter are somewhere between these two harmful/helpful extremes.

Each of us have to figure out for ourselves ways to decide who or what is helpful, relevant or trustworthy.

Another Sketchbook by Clancy

Yes, your family, friends, a guru, a book, a politician, a cult leader may all queue up to give you the “correct” answers for this too. And you might or might not like the results. And you’ll still have to figure out some ways – apply imagination and creativity here – to decide what the results are, whether or not you like them, how you’ll respond and what you’ll do next. At the end of the day it’s up to you, it’s your choice of what kind of inner world you want to create and how it can help you deal with the external world.

And yet we are social beings. We need each other and we do learn from each other, all of our lives, various things about living. There’s a lot of trial and error involved. To quote dear Dad again…👇

Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit

For most things other people tell you about the world asking yourself the question “which wolf does it feed” is a useful guide. Also useful is the question “who benefits if I believe this?”. It can help to simply write regularly, daily, weekly, what happened, what so-and-so said, how that makes you feel, what it reminds you of, what you need or want or hope. It can help to watch both what someone says and what they do over time and evaluate for consistency and effects. (The CRAAP test is useful too)

Since processing the connections between the external world and our imaginations is reliant on our physical brains/bodies it also behooves us to eat well, to get enough sleep, to walk/exercise and to give ourselves the downtime needed to process our thoughts and feelings. It simply takes time to do something with our bodies that is expressive of our emotions.

To quote Dad again “Having feelings/thoughts? Write about it, draw about it, talk about it, make music or poetry about it…and by doing that with feelings you can name it, claim it and tame it.” There’s really no substitute for doing this yourself with your own hands and voice. Making these physical expressions of imagination and creativity is not about being perfect any more than playing tennis has to always be about becoming a professional tennis player. It is possible to practice an art form just for the fun, playful, inner life exercise in it.

Because I really do believe everyone has the capability to constructively use imagination and be creative – and that having a lively connection to your imagination is essential to good mental health – I’m beginning a series of tutorials for Storyberries.com like this one, Thumb Birds, that I shared on my email newsletter recently. Here’s a still photo of it.

Anyhoo, please play with your imagination often and keep it in good working condition. Carefully cultivate and care for your own inner life. You need you. This world needs you. I need you.

See you next Monday.

Touristing, a happy hippo, and a pink elephant

A Creative Life, animals in art, art prints, artistic inspirations, books, ebook, fine art, humor in art, kitchen art, mental health, poetry, sketchbook, travel art and writing, travelog, travelogue, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

We went touristing and drove 20 minutes from our house to Camas WA independent bookstore called Its Bookish. It’s a delightful store focused on children’s books up to young adult with some adult books too. Here’s some views of what we saw on our way to Its Bookish. Not pictured, because I wasn’t able to get pics due to intermittent clouds and terrain, were fleeting views of distant snow covered mountains.

The door to Its Bookish was warmly welcoming and was a delight to see!

Naturally I made a beeline for the poetry section and then had a more general browse. Both my wife and I found books/authors that we’re always looking for that are sometimes hard to find. The store was quite crowded with lots of kids of all ages and their grownups but during a brief quiet moment in the young adult section I snapped this selfie with my wife in the background. It was a pleasant experience. No bookstore cats though which was understandable given the high level of children’s activities.

After we finished at Its Bookish we walked around downtown to a locally owned pub Grains Of Wrath. On our walk we passed by sculptures and many more locally owned businesses with welcoming to everyone signs in their windows or doors!

At Grains of Wrath we had really good beer and the best mac and cheese ever! Here in the Pacific Northwest every pub has their own version of mac and cheese and it’s fun to discover how much variety mac and cheese can have! My spouse and I split the dishes so we each got enough but not too much. We felt quite indulgent!

Back home I photographed our book haul from Its Bookish.

On my email newsletter I shared my sketchbook page of a dancing hippo … and as you can see by the above tourist play I followed the hippo’s advice

By request I made an art print of my sketchbook page… https://society6.com/product/dancing-hippo-reminder_print

Dancing Hippo Reminder – by Clancy – https://society6.com/product/dancing-hippo-reminder_print

Here’s the gouache painting I finished last week titled “Pink Elephant”. More details and the sketchbook page leading up to the painting are on my email newsletter here.

Also last week I released my entire 38 page year 2016 sketchbook as an ebook download. It’s part of my “book of the month club” paid ($7) subscription series on my Substack. My 2016 “Glad to be alive” sketchbook contains drawings from walks in nature and visits to various Vancouver WA and Portland OR area restaurants libraries and other places. I hope you’ll enjoy it!
https://sueclancy.substack.com/p/my-glad-to-be-alive-sketchbook

My friend Bernadette Laganella shared my Magic Beans on her New Classic Recipes blog ! Thank you Bernadette! Besides my beans recipe I shared how I learned during college women-supporting-women supperclub how to survive and thrive as an artist by knowing beans https://wp.me/pcAug8-kR

I’ve really enjoyed sharing both my art images and my stories via my email newsletter and also as a guest on blogs and other people’s email newsletters! I want to create more artist books and learn more about merging words and pictures together… and do more sharing of both my words and images… 🤔

This week, Mar 14th, Amie McGraham from Cook and Tell interviews me and includes my sketchbook pages for St. Patrick’s Day!! You’ll be able to see it here.

I hope your week contains happy hippos. See you next Mondayish.

Flying pigs, pastries and doodlebugs

A Creative Life, animals in art, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, creative thinking, fine art, humor in art, poetry, reading, sketchbook, Storyberries, whimsical art, words and pictures

One pig leads to another it seems. On my email newsletter I shared a flying pig and what inspired it. The finished painting was called “The Plot”.

The Plot by Clancy

That in turn inspired another pig with wings to appear in my sketchbook.

Which then became a painting titled “Higgledy-Piggledy” which I also shared in my email newsletter along with other things not mentioned here because I’m trying to not repeat myself too much across my social media, but … this is what’s going on in my world.

Higgledy-Piggledy by Clancy

My artist book “We All Count” is on Storyberries now!!!
Freely available via this link as an #ebook !!!! https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-we-all-count-by-sue-clancy-experimental-art-books-counting-books/

This is now my 20th #childrensbook !! (There’s a search bar on Storyberries.com where you can type Sue Clancy to see all 20 of my books!!)

We All Count by Clancy

In case you missed my video flip-through…

Over on my email newsletter I had shared my original idea book notes in my poetry sketchbook… but so you don’t have to click away here it is below. My sketchbook is where everything begins…

We went out for pastries and coffee earlier this week before the snow descended. While there were muffins (like in my Higgledy-Piggledy painting above) I opted for a croissant. I thought about drawing these delectable morsels but instead of drawing I just enjoyed eating.

In an earlier post I shared about getting a set of Haikubes … well, this was the playful poem absurdity that happened this week…

…followed by a doodlebug dancing. Instead of being a “violet grace” color though the bug ended up grey blue-green with a purple shadow. 🤷‍♀️

I agree with Austin Kleon here when he says “Books are toys”. They are! Art supplies are toys too. So are cooking utensils. Here’s a stack of books I’m playing with.

Reading about creativity and how it works neurologically is fascinating to me. Creativity is what creative people do – whether the artistic method used for expression is writing, drawing, music or any of the other arts – and regardless of the mood or topic expressed. Much like heating food is what a kitchen stove does – whether the stove is used to boil, bake, saute or in any way apply heat to a soup, a sandwich or a casserole.

Anyway, hope your week is full of grace and playful creativity in whatever colors or flavors.

See you next Monday-ish.

Coffee and blank books

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art supplies, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, books, creative thinking, drawing as thinking, fine art, Patchwork Poems, sketchbook, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

This week has definitely been caffeinated. My art commission for Caplan Art Designs is buzzing nicely. The Bainbridge Island Art Museum sent news this week that my book Coffee Beans Plus H2O is included in an exhibit catalogue “Open Sesame” that will come out in March 2023!

Lots of creative things are percolating! Here’s a video look at my book Coffee Beans Plus H2O.

The portfolio page on my website has more photos and info.

In last Monday’s post I shared a pig painting I began with the excess blue paint I had as a result of the still in progress secret art commission. Well, here’s progress on the pig painting. The week has been very busy so I’m glad to have this much done on a new painting.

I still make many of my artist books from scratch – hand sewing the bindings, paper folding and all. Coffee Beans Plus H2O is one example. Patchwork Poems is another. But some time ago I got some very valuable advice from Laura Russell at the 23 Sandy Gallery (an artist book gallery I work with). Laura encouraged me to focus on my book content, my stories and illustrations, as not so much on creating complicated book bindings. So nowadays I buy and use well-constructed blank books to write and draw in. Many of the books I buy have sewn bindings and will lay flat while in use. Quality of paper and the ability to lay flat are attributes I seek in my blank books.

There’s a locally owned art supply store, not far from where I live, Columbia Art and Drafting, that regularly has good quality sketchbooks in their “buy one get one free” section. I like to go through this section like a vacuum cleaner, hoovering up sketchbooks!! 🤣

Here’s what I got: six 3 x 5 inch hardcover sketchbooks for pen and ink work, two 5.5 x 8.5 inch hardcover sketchbooks for heavy watercolor and gouache work, two 6 x 9 inch hardcover books and four 8.5 x 11 inch hardcover books all of which will accept ink, color pencil and light watercolor and gouache work! When we got home from the art supply store I started right away on a drawing in one of the new blank books… which will get shared on my email newsletter later this week and I will continue sharing as time goes.

Here’s a limerick I wrote and illustrated about blank books.

Here’s a delightful article about journaling and what’s good about keeping a journal.

And Sketchbook Skool is fun too – lots of videos with drawings in action.

Hope your blank books will soon contain your very own delights! See you next Monday or so.

Hedgehogs, foxes, reading and making meaning

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, art prints, art techniques, artistic inspirations, creative thinking, fine art, life of the mind, mental health, sketchbook, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

I wrote in my last post that there may be hedgehogs and foxes in my upcoming sketchbook pages because I’m reading “The Hedgehog and the Fox” Isaiah Berlin’s famous essay about Tolstoy and history based on the Greek aphorism “The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing”

In his book Isaiah Berlin writes (I’m paraphrasing) of how history is actually created by a whole bunch of people but when we talk about a time in history we tend to single out one person as a “hero” and the lone “causal agent” of an event. Berlin writes of how as a creative person Tolstoy was naturally a “many things” fox but as he got older Tolstoy wanted to be a hedgehog with “one big thing” that explains everything.

My reading got me to thinking about hedgehogs, foxes, Tolstoy’s demands of himself as a creative person and how that aphorism related to creativity. I said something about that and my friend Liz Gauffreau asked me how hedgehogs relate to the literary world:

Well, besides the fact that both foxes and hedgehogs are so very cute and fun to draw and write about here are a few of my somewhat random thoughts while reading the essay by Isaiah Berlin. Don’t worry I’ll intersperse my thoughts with sketchbook drawings of hedgehogs and foxes using all 3 of the new fountain pens I described in my last post. (BTW there are even more fox and hedgehog sketchbook pages in my recent email newsletter )

As I read Berlin’s essay I’m realizing that as  a creative person I use the fox-like kind of “knowing many things” in a free ranging playful open way while I’m in the midst of creating. I’m free-associating between many things while I’m on the hunt for how to best express my elusive thought. But once I’ve finished my creation and caught my thought then, if I’m not careful, I can curl up into a prickly ball hedgehog-like defensive about whether my creation “means” something, what it means, whether it was worth doing, which “one big things” label it belongs within…etc. Staying for any amount of time in such a prickly ball isn’t helpful.

This getting stuck in a hedgehog ball mode happened more often in my younger years but still occasionally I feel a despairing “what was the point of doing all that?” moment. By now I know not to “feed” such overly self-critical negative thoughts and to deliberately stretch out and switch my thinking to some other more pleasant topic. I know such moments will pass especially after a good meal, a good night’s sleep, time spent reading a novel or going for a walk with my spouse. It’s not always easy but that’s the way I deal with it. I avoid getting stuck by deliberately keeping fluid movements between the modes of fox and hedgehog. Anyway, in my mind, that’s one part of how hedgehogs and foxes figure in the creative/literary life.

Another part of how hedgehogs and foxes figure in to it: our creative life isn’t “one big thing”: we aren’t the sum total of one published book or one painting. We aren’t one label. A creative life is cumulative. Of course when people talk about artists or writers shorthand references – labels – are often made like “So And So is the insert genre label author of Famous Book”. But this is just a way of speaking, a verbal convention. It’s even a necessary one because we use helpful labels to find things, like books to read, and a name or a genre category label is a great starting place.

Yet during the lived reality of a creative life things aren’t so simplistic. Creativity is many-things fox like when we’re in the midst of our unnamed, unlabeled creative project. It can feel unfocused, messy, free ranging all over the territory at the beginning only slowly becoming focused over time as the thought “scent” is caught and the project develops towards completion. After completion then the one-big-thing hedgehog label can be applied. And while my diagram below simplifies the fox/hedgehog creative process please know that this process isn’t linear, its fluid, there will be foxhogs and hedgeoxes, there’ll be all sorts of fits and starts, beginnings and endings, rushing currents and still pools… before a project is finished.

This process of metamorphosis from fox to hedgehog is part of why it is such a challenge for writers and artists to think up loglines or book jacket blurbs or elevator speeches or art statements that sum up their creation in a few sentences (or a Tweet). To sum up their work of the last few years, work they sweated daily over, work they gnashed their teeth on – to distill what it was about using 150 words or less both encompasses and transcends the lived creative process itself. It’s hard to rise above the creative life meadows where the foxes and hedgehogs have played and, from a birds eye viewpoint, select a single meaning for the shorthand talking points. This difficulty is why it’s also a challenge to write query letters that briefly describe a manuscript submission. It’s hard to reduce a fox-y many splendors creation down to a hedgehog-y one big thing and to call the hedgehog an accurate, yet attractive, name.

By the way if you formulate the hedgehog one-big-thing, the logline or art statement, in advance and are rigid about it (i.e. curl up in a prickly hedgehog ball) the resulting project is seldom satisfying to either the foxes aka the creators themselves or to their audience.

And yet a hedgehog can be a great starting place – if you aren’t rigid about the hedgehog label and use it as a prompt! It’s highly likely that a creation that starts out as one defined hedgehog can shape-shift to a fox during the creative process and finish up needing an entirely different hedgehog-y label. So that’s another reason it’s a challenge at the end of a project to select the exact hedgehog that was metamorphosed from that fox. This is also part of the exhilarating fun of a creative life.

We enjoy the arts for the fox-y complexity of many things in them – we talk about that complexity we enjoyed viscerally using simple hedgehog-y verbage. The fox represents a direct experience and a nonverbal expression of life. The hedgehog represents a definition and ways of talking about that artistic representation of life. We need both the foxes and the hedgehogs. The challenge is to remain loose, open, letting the foxes and hedgehogs become themselves while also keeping a benevolent watch over them.

What a work of art or literature “means” in the big scheme of it’s hedgehog label, is identified (if ever) after the work has been  made and existed in the world a while. After the artist is finished then we use simple language to sum up what a creation meant. We give it a genre, a category, a label. That summing up or meaning finding is done and verified over the duration of time that the art exists – it gets reevaluated by the artist and by the audience constantly. The lables often get changed multiple times before they “settle” if they ever do. Almost all of Tolstoy’s work has gotten reevaluated numerous times since the era in which he was living and working.

From a creative person’s point of view I find it’s sanity-saving to not worry about the meaning of one work in the big scheme of things but to just get on with the next project. I don’t worry overmuch about the hedgehog labels I give my work for use when submitting or promoting it. As I wrote in my last post I’m regularly surprised by what labels publishers, distributors and art gallery owners place on my work. I just accept the label and these labels become tools I can use to talk with that distributor. For example I now can say to Storyberries “Here’s a new ABC123 Poetry book from me”.  But even with that new knowledge generally my attitude when I’m working in my studio is “I’ll make the stuff and you can sort it out” rather than getting stuck on any of the potential labels while I’m in the creative process. Anyway, here’s a note on this topic that I have thumbtacked to my art studio wall.

The meaningfulness that is found after the creation is finished also has an element of danger. Sometimes because an artist is so tired upon completion they, in their fatigue, misjudge their own work and may mislabel it or even destroy it. Sometimes an artist gets stuck on a label and that impedes their progress. Sometimes the selected audience isn’t ready for a creative work and rejects it. Sometimes a work isn’t found to be meaningful until long after the artist and audience’s current era is gone and a new era begins. Sometimes a different audience within an artist’s lifetime finds the work more meaningful. Sometimes meanings and labels change over time too. Sometimes these new labels are helpful and sometimes they’re not.

So for all of those reasons I find it’s best to avoid gaslighting myself, i.e. making hard declarative statements about my work, either as I’m working on projects or whenever they’re finished. I just enjoy the process of making things. Other people can sort them into meanings and categories. That said, I do find the effort of succinctly summarizing my own creative works as a logline etc helpful as long as I don’t take it too seriously. Whatever you want to call it is fine with me as long as my personal foxes get to play and my hedgehogs stay cute.

Hedgehog in Shade – art print- by Clancy https://society6.com/product/hedgehog-in-shade7281858_print?sku=s6-24823546p4a1v45

Which brings me to book banning. I despise censorship because someone somewhere has decided in advance what a book or work of art “means” and they aren’t willing to let people decide that for themselves. They get rigid, in a hedgehog-y prickly defensive ball way, about everything fitting into their one big thing label whether that label is political or religious. They can’t, or won’t, deal with the foxes free ranging exploration. They’re allergic to questions  and uncertainty. They reject categorically the concept of changes over time. They’ll decide they just don’t like one particular fox or hedgehog and insist that the external world must conform to their preferences.

Creativity is all about questions and dealing well with uncertainty. To be creative is to actively participate in change and growth. Creativity is a response to the world. Anyway, here’s an article about many of the current censorship efforts that I keep a careful eye on.

In my current art exhibit at the Aurora Gallery on the upper left shelf in the photo below is an artist book I made which tells a truth about rabbits and metaphorically about people. It’s called “The Rabbit” and it is about book banning.

You can see my original artwork in person at the Aurora Gallery www.auroragalleryonline.com or still photos of the exhibit and the entire book “The Rabbit” online here. https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/for-you-by-sue-the-abcs-art-books-cards/

There’s also a video look through the illustrated poem artist book here https://youtu.be/6-T5zi-fLvM
on my YouTube channel. Below are a few still photos.

Speaking further of free expression I avidly watched the recent Stand with Salman Rushdie event. It did my author/artist heart good to see so many people so supportive of authors and the literary life!!
https://lithub.com/famous-writers-will-stand-with-salman-rushdie-on-the-steps-of-the-nypl-this-friday/

I also participated from home by posting this:
I #standwithsalman in favor of free expression. For the Aug 19 2022 @PENamerica event I’m reading from “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” by @SalmanRushdie – it’s one of my favorites – Here’s my reading on YouTube.

There now that I’ve finished this blog post I’ll deliberately avoid the one-big-thing type question of “did my efforts to write this blog post mean anything or matter in any way to the larger literary or creative culture?”. In such a question lies gaslighting madness.  So instead of going there I accept that I enjoyed writing out my views of the creative process within the context of hedgehogs, foxes and the essay by Isaiah Berlin. And I hope my friend Liz will enjoy reading my thoughts on how hedgehogs and foxes relate to the literary world. There, that’s enough mattering and meaning for me.

Aha, now after rereading what I’ve written (and correcting the autocorrect 🙄) I see that there’s a few category and tag labels that I can use when publishing this blog post! Good enough…

I hope your creative week is full of playful foxes and hedgehogs. See you next Monday.

Ant Hology, the anthology, the sketchbook three and the exhibit ABC

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, children's book, creative thinking, ebook, mental health, publications - publishing, sketchbook, Storyberries, whimsical art, words and pictures

I’ve made a new handmade alphabet book for Storyberries – called “Ant Hology” – it is now a free ebook childrens book on www.storyberries.com

https://www.storyberries.com/anthology-experimental-art-books-counting-alphabet-books-for-kids/

This video link looks at the original handmade artist book which is only 2 inches square. Ant Hology on YouTube https://youtube.com/shorts/qt57rCZPhrs?feature=share

“Ant Hology” is also included in a newly printed anthology (pun fully intended) containing reproductions of 3 of Clancy’s handmade books titled “Juggling Numbers and Letters”
https://www.blurb.com/b/11198251-juggling-numbers-and-letters

Here’s a look at printed book alongside the 3 original artist books so you can see the scale difference. The printed book is 7 inches square

Speaking of threes – on A.M. Sketching this week I wrote about the three sources of inspiration for my sketchbook work: my life, my self generated photo references and my imagination. Details on A.M. Sketching but here is the gist.

As you know this use of the “3 sources” is true of my fine art and artist books too. For example Ant Hology was inspired, as I wrote in this post, by an ant mound along the edge of our patio.

In August I’m having an exhibit at the Aurora Gallery. I’ve titled it: “For you by Sue the ABC’s: Art, Books. Cards”. All of this exhibit too was inspired by my life, my self-generated references and my imagination.

Here’s the artist statement I wrote for the exhibit:

“I see creativity as a very practical thing. Art adorns our walls. Books bemuse us. Cards connect us. For this exhibit I include all three of these essential elements of life because it’s been stressful lately and I am me. So I made these things for you.”

The above photo and this video link below shows a small selection of over 30 related art gift objects created by me that are available. https://youtu.be/iPL6g_2cICw

I plan to do more photos and videos of the various art objects and put them on my portfolio page – you can see what I’ve done so far here.

This week will be very busy but each morning I will sketch and each evening I will read books a while and generate more self-generated reference material so it can percolate on the back burner of my mind while I do necessary stuff for my upcoming exhibit.

I hope your week has at least 3 nice things in it. See you next Monday.

Odditerrarium, art, ants, anteaters and books

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, Art Word Combinations, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, book design and layout, books, children's book, ebook, fine art, Odditerrarium, sketchbook, visual story, visual thinking, whimsical art, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

Ants are making progress… in my new artist book that is! In my last post I was working on “Ant Hology” using a collage of letters, ink and gouache. It’s another miniature 2 inch square book that opens to 20 inches long. Here’s the progress:

The letters I used came from Columbia Gorge Book Arts.

Now to do the graphic design hocus pocus and send a digital file containing all of these ants to Storyberries!

In my last post I shared a sketchbook page that had Anteaters in it … yes, there’s a new children’s book in progress. The text was written by Judy Sullens. Please notice that I used my ant research in this project too! Ha! Here’s the first illustration:

But this new book has been put aside temporarily so I can make new Odditerrarium paintings to replace some of the paintings that have sold at Burnt Bridge Cellars via Caplan Art Designs.

Here’s my studio supervisor dachshund supervising the paintings in progress. They need to be finished by the time you read this post so my supervisor is helping to keep me focused. Says the dog “Hey, where are you going..?”

Here’s a look at the two paintings on my easel now that they’re finished except for the varnishing, framing and delivering. Due Tuesday!

Storyberries contacted me about their release date for the ebook version of my Odditerrarium. Here’s a Reel about Odditerrarium on Storyberries that I did to help explain the visual story puzzle aspect of my Odditerrarium project.

And – drumroll please – here’s the ebook version of Odditerrarium on Storyberries! https://www.storyberries.com/short-stories-for-kids-odditerrarium-by-sue-clancy-art-books-for-kids/

When I was a kid I loved looking at coffee table books with paintings in them. Now I’m enjoying making books for children that contain my fine art because the little kid I once was would have absolutely loved a book like Odditerrarium!

Anyway, this week has been very busy but even so I still played in my sketchbook most mornings (you can see what I sketched via my Substack sketchbook emails here) and each evening I read books. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

And here’s the evening shift supervisor cat who makes sure we have whipped cream on our hot chocolate, maintain a regular reading program and still get to bed at a decent hour. Says the cat “Hey, you with the thumbs, quit poking about on the phone and get back to lap making and book reading.”

I hope your week is pleasant. See you next Monday.

Wonders, my adopted Mom and real cheese

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, book design and layout, books, business of art, cat portrait, drawing as thinking, fine art, life of the mind, Odditerrarium, sketchbook, words and pictures

My adopted Mom’s favorite flower is the orchid. Both Dad and Mom enjoyed cats – even though sometimes the cats knocked over plants or books. So I thought those thoughts while creating a portrait of a friends cat. I’ve titled the finished painting “Wonders”. It joins the rest of my Odditerrarium series and is also 10 x 8 inches and made with ink and gouache.

Here’s a closer look at the details.

And here’s a link to the Instagram Reel I did of me painting another layer of yellow on “Wonders” https://www.instagram.com/reel/CdOX5mgpJuj/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

Below are some sketchbook pages from this week. In difficult times I find that helps having a sketchbook routine.

When I first met my adopted Mom and Dad I asked “how do I know you’re for real?”. Mom’s response was “Watch what I say and do over time”. So during almost every visit with them I brought my sketchbook along and took notes. Sometimes these notes got illustrated during the visit. Often the notes were rewritten and illustrated more neatly shortly after the visit. As time has marched I have used these sketchbooks as source material for making my books and other creative projects. For example when I put together “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” I referenced my sketchbooks and consulted Dad and he shared his original lecture notes.

Here’s a recent video of me reading a story from this book here – it’s still a favorite story all these years later!

My friend Sherri Kennedy has a great post here related to this topic of imaginations and “feeding” attitudes.

I also see a correlation to what Michael Graeme says in his blog here “Try to go deeper, into the sublime, and feel it.” We can choose what we focus on, we can fully experience our feelings (taking breaks as needed) and fully embrace whatever feeds our good wolves and let that in turn feed our creative souls.

Speaking of feeding things: I remember as a barely in my 20s young person visiting my adopted Mom and Dad. We would get to talking with books and papers strewn about, including my sketchbook and drawing tools, time would fly by and suddenly Mom would put a large plate amongst the books. On this plate would be an assortment of foods, many of which I hadn’t seen before: specialty cheeses, meats, crackers, fruits, vegetables and nuts. The first time that happened Mom explained “charcuterie plates” to me. From that time on during visits when such plates appeared she’d tell me “this is Gruyere cheese” or whatever the new-to-me cheese was, each visit was an ongoing education in life, literature and food. Needless to say all of our visits revolutionized my previous “processed cheese food slices” existence for the better!

Naturally I included Mom’s charcuterie instructions when I got around to reproducing my kitchen sketchbook, along with I hope a sense of the combination of drinks, foods and conversation about books.

Here’s one of my favorite photos of a younger me with Mom and Dad.

Here’s a photo showing how things often looked just before Mom would put a charcuterie plate down.

When I was looking through my photos for this blog I saw this one of Dad looking at one of my wee books.

I miss Dad and I miss Mom being healthy (last post)… I am beyond glad that they (and my 5 siblings) adopted me! I will always carry them on in my life and creativity. This, I think, is part of the idea of “working from life” perhaps even more than the act of looking at a real life object and drawing it.

And I find comfort in loving the colors outside my window and the light and shadows. May have to try painting the grey-blue, greens, browns with that salmon color…

And I get comforts in doing the work of my creative projects. Here’s my art studio dachshund supervisor helping me with the book design and layout for my Odditerrarium exhibit book.

In my last post I was working on my exhibit statement. I edited it this week…chiefly I remembered that I needed to say something in the statement about the art media I work with! Amazing how I could forget something so basic! Ha! Thank goodness for creating books and the editing processes!! Here’s the finished exhibit statement that I’ve sent to the Caplan Art Designs gallery.

A dear friend sent a surprise knowing that I love getting books by mail! Such fun to share a favorite author in common with a friend!

Mom’s self-care directions throughout my life often included advice to “remember to eat mindfully”. Indulgence in her opinion was welcome, necessary and to be done in moderate mindfulness. This week I made macaroni and cheese using onion, garlic with Gruyere and cheddar cheeses. The recipe is here.

I’m reading an autobiography “The Summer of a Dormouse” by John Mortimer. I love his fiction and his way of writing in general. This autobiography is adding to my good-wolves in that I can read about Mortimer going though difficult times in his personal life while simultaneously creating his pleasant fictional works. I’m reminded that it is possible – normal even – to be able to acknowledge difficulties and still create pleasant things.

I hope you’ll be able to feed your good wolves this week and create pleasant things too. See you next Monday.

Fine art, books and similarities between art and writing

A Creative Life, art exhibit, art gallery, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, author illustrator, dog portrait, fine art, household surrealism, life of the mind, mental health, miniature art, Odditerrarium, visual thinking, words and pictures, writing and illustrating

More work this week towards an upcoming art exhibit I’m calling “Odditerrarium”. I’ll tell more about my creative process on this exhibit here and in subsequent posts. Odditerrarium will be an exhibit via Caplan Art Designs later this year.

This week I finished a dog portrait I’ve titled “Secret Knowledge”. It’s 10 x 8 inches and made with ink and gouache on board.

Here’s a closer look at this dog’s thoughts – according to the dog’s human this dog likes walks and is passionately interested in moles, chipmunks, mice and frogs.

Elsewhere in this blog (here) I’ve written about the similarities I see between the creative process of writing and the creative process of fine art. Like a writer might begin creating a novel by noting a story idea nugget in a notebook I began this Odditerrarium series with the nugget “what if we could see what our dogs and cats thoughts?” – just this nugget of a thesis and little else. But I began there and with exploration of that notion came the notions of thought bubbles and terrariums… and I began drafting in my sketchbook. Here’s some examples.

After a number of sketchbook drafts I began a few full size paintings – generally I do at least 5 paintings before I declare that I’m working on a series or give the series a working title. This is like a writer deciding to write a few chapters to see if their idea has merit – by creating an overview or even a rough draft of the whole work.

I think of my one person art exhibits as books you can walk around inside. And each painting is a “chapter” within the book. Each chapter/painting begins with it’s own notion, an outline or rough indication of what could be. Things at this point are usually vague. For “Secret Knowledge” thanks to my friend (the excellent author Liz Gauffreau) I had a photo of the dog I wanted to portray and the dogs thoughts also thanks to our conversation. Then I spent time thinking and making sketchbook notes. Then I drew on a board. As you can see I work on several paintings at the same time – this too is like a writer writing though the gaps in one chapter by writing on a different segment within the work.

When I have a rough drawing on board I begin what I call “chunking” trying to get a bit of color on every area in the artwork. The colors don’t have to be perfect – it’s a rough indicator subject to adjustment based on other colors. I don’t worry about details at this stage just rough shapes of color and contrast. Like how a writer writes a whole story imperfectly, all in a rush with “detail to come” notes sprinkled throughout the tale.

In the photo below I’m in the chunking process. I know I want a blue background for the portrait of the white dog but at this point I’m not sure of the precise shade of blue. The other colors within that portrait will help me determine that. Like when a writer decides a character’s course of action based on another character’s choices.

When the chunking is more or less done I begin bit by bit to fill in and flesh out areas. Here’s an example- I’m sure you can see the transition happening from chunky to smoother.

The photo at the beginning of this post is of the finished portrait which I titled “Secret Knowledge”… the blue I ultimately chose is of early morning or late evening sky: a time for walks and a time when small mammals might be more active… something of which this dog certainly has knowledge! 😉

For my art exhibit Odditerrarium I’m thinking about mental lives and encounters with the minds of other humans and other beings in this world. Here’s a few of my favorite sketchbook pages on this topic. To help me keep on task, so to speak, for my Odditerrarium series I will continue to read, write and sketch on this topic of self awareness and encounters with other minds.

In psychology this called a developing a theory of mind …and this link explains it well and I quote “Forging a strong theory of mind plays an important role in our social worlds as we work to understand how people think, to predict their behavior, to engage in social relationships, and to solve interpersonal conflicts… Forming a theory of mind is critical in our ability to understand ourselves and others. This ability to understand mental states allows people to introspect and consider their own thoughts and mental states. Such self-awareness is important in the formation of a strong sense of self. Our social functioning also hinges on having a theory of mind. By being able to think about what other people are thinking, we can better understand others and predict what they might do next.”

Anyway, when paintings on the easel need to dry a bit I’ve been playing with my poetry sketchbook.

Inside my poetry book is a notion of a new experimental art book for Storyberries. In the photo you see my notions in my book and on the right side I’m beginning to work on my notions in a tiny concertina format book.

A cat reaching is my main notion that’s getting played with in two different ways in this photo for two different books.

I’ll keep you posted on whatever happens with these newbies.

The Aurora Gallery contacted me wanting more of my cards and books so I took those to them this week!

It did my artist heart good to see my things displayed by the Gallery so well and to know that my work is appreciated! The Aurora Gallery ships my art, cards and books anywhere and my signed green dragon book plates are available on request.

This week in kitchen creativity I made spinach enchiladas inspired by “Mrs Rasmussen’s Book Of One Armed Cookery” by Mary Lasswell. I used both arms to cook with and didn’t have a beer. I’d probably get demerits for that from Mrs Rasmussen as I can imagine her saying “What?! No beer?!” but the chili onion gravy was divinely scrumptious over spinach enchiladas and beans and rice!

I say I was “inspired by” Mrs Rasmussen’s recipe because I ruthlessly adapted this recipe as I was only cooking for two people and as you can see below Mrs R was cooking for the entire tricounty area. Plus I don’t use lard…

To make my chili onion gravy I used my good gravy recipe but instead of sausage I used a small can of roasted chilies and some chopped white onion.

In one serving size oven safe boats I made one spinach enchilada for each of us and surrounded the enchilada with beans, rice then ladled the gravy over it all and topped it with cheese. Turned out so good!! I did have gravy leftover which I used for another meal.

My evening reading loosely related to the topic of encounters with and awareness of other minds is the last book in the trilogy “His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman and Pullman’s nonfiction book “Daemon Voices” about stories and storytelling.

Hope your week is a good one! See you next Monday?