Aliens in the Garden: Sea Tomato and a Deep Water Diver (illustration)

Young garden tomatoes?Young Garden Tomatoes illustration in ink watercolor and ink by Jacque Oman ClintonOr newly discovered sea creatures?

"Aliens in the Garden: Sea Tomato and Scuba Diver" - tomato illustration in ink and watercolor by Jacque Oman ClintonIt’s a rather whimsical thing, either way you see it.

(But if you prefer undersea adventure, you’re in luck, because you can buy prints of this one in my shop on Etsy!)

"Aliens in the Garden: Sea Tomato and Scuba Diver" illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton

“Aliens in the Garden: Sea Tomato and Scuba Diver”, watercolor and ink

print of the original pen and ink illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton

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Artistic growth through experiments and feigned courage. A new watercolor.

I’m feeling brave today (must be my new haircut), so I’m finally posting this ink and watercolor piece that I’ve been avoiding sharing for some reason.

Earlier this year, after months of working on commissions, I found myself itching to do some experimenting with ink and watercolor. When applied wet-on-wet, the two materials can sometimes create interesting effects, and I wanted to play around and see I could discover.

So, I made this. I’m not sure if you can call it abstract or not. It was inspired by quilts, patterns, and batik fabric. It’s a celebration of color, negative space, and interacting shapes. The whole endeavor was an illuminating exercise in finding the courage to forge ahead, daily, on a project that I wasn’t sure would result in anything successful.

Abstract ink and watercolor painting by Jacque Oman Clinton. Inspired by quilts and batik fabric.But hey – I think it WAS successful! A worthwhile experiment, indeed. Now we’ll just have to see where things go from here!

Hope you’re enjoying your summer. Thanks for stopping by!

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Bumblebee Cats and Secret Languages

ink and watercolor illustration of bumblebee tabby cats and clovers - by Jacque Oman ClintonIt’s funny, the language that develops between two people in a relationship. Through time and togetherness, we come to share and redefine certain words, images, and phrases. We inadvertently create a secret code that expresses the nuanced, intimate things that only the two of us could ever understand.

Many a dinner conversation has demonstrated this. On the rare occasion when it’s just my parents and I, things usually go as follows: Mom and I hijack the conversation and begin bantering away in our secret language, laughing and brainstorming until my dad eventually asks “Whaaat??” Then Mom and I smirk at each other and say “Nothing!” in unison as we give each other knowing looks and stifle more laughter.

Yes, secret languages glue us all together.

Hence these bumblebee cats. “Bumblebees remind me of cats.” I don’t know who said it first — my mom? Me?. Maybe it was appropriated from some other source long forgotten now. But in any case, it’s a jointly understood Mom-and-Me phrase. Forevermore, when I see bumblebees, I think of them as tiny flying tabby cats. I mean, is there really any difference between purring and buzzing? Bees and cats — they’re both adorable. And oh so furry. And delightfully plump and round. When I see a bumblebee, I think of my parents’ lumpy old cat, Suki, with her orange-y yellow tabby cat legs. Then I think of my mom and good times we’ve had together, enjoying nature and its wonderful gifts. And I smile, feeling happy on behalf of those lucky bumblebee cats whose whole purpose in life is to buzz around, happily, in the sun, going from flower to flower and getting fat on the delicious juices of zinnias, roses, and the like.

Bumblebee cats illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton - print on Etsy

Prints available on Etsy!

These shared, secret languages speak to us in all sorts of contexts, stirring up memories of special people that have come (and gone) throughout our lives. Hundreds of stories spill forth when we see a familiar sight or hear a certain phrase. These stories weave through our day to day wanderings, flavoring our inner experiences and affecting how we see the world.

I drew this random fruit and fish kebab one day on a used piece of old watercolor paper. At the time, I had no particular meaning or agenda for it (other than to transform the painted blobs — remnants from a previous project — into something worth looking at). But now I look at it and my mind goes on a journey:A sweet and savory fruit and fish kebab. Food illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton. Ink and watercolor.

The fish head reminds me of that time in middle school gym class, when my friends and I had to choreograph a dance to any song of our choosing. The song we chose was  “The Fish Head Song” by Barnes and Barnes. Naturally.

And the octopus tentacle reminds me of that time I went to a Korean BBQ that my friend’s church had one summer. It was in a county park and we ate delicious foods I’d never seen before, including some tentacle-y things that blew my raised-on-Midwestern-food mind. We played tennis — TERRIBLY — on the weed ravaged tennis courts and caught a snapping turtle in the creek using a saltine safety-pinned to a piece of string.

On the 4th of July, I sketched this, based off a photograph from an outing my parents took with their grandkids:4th of July Sketch in pen and ink by Jacque Oman Clinton

I see the American flag and I think of the 21 gun salute at my Grandma’s funeral. And the playing of taps. (Then I think of my Grandma, period, and all the memories surrounding her and her home). I see my dad standing under the flag and I think of September 11th and how happy I am that my dad came home from work that day. I see the Stars and Stripes and I think of my friend, Allie, and her wedding on the 4th of July a few years ago. How happy she was. How life has stretched and changed since then. How she, too, is living in a different state now, growing vegetables in her garden and being a cat momma, like me.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that a picture is always more than what is depicted at surface level. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say.

But a word is also worth a thousand pictures. So speak good ones. Make your words count. Share your words, build a common language. And together we’ll write a story — a LIVING story — that grows beyond space and time, to create a world full of meaning, connection, and love.

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Travel sketches (and a new Etsy print!) from Iceland and Sweden

Earlier this month, my husband and I ran away to Scandinavia for a much needed vacation. Our first stop was Reykjavik, Iceland, where we spent two days wandering the streets, exploring museums, hiking the coast, and eating fish and Skyr (Icelandic “yogurt”). It was a good place to recover from jet-lag and get adjusted to the 20 hours of daylight that Scandinavia enjoys during the summer months.

Sketches from Iceland from the travel sketchbook of Jacque Oman ClintonThen we headed off to Stockholm, Sweden, where we spent a week of glorious togetherness. We walked many miles over the course of the week, taking in the sights and culture in the land of (some of) my ancestors. sketches from Sweden - Jacque Oman Clinton's travel sketchbookI know that my travel sketches don’t capture all the events and highlights of the trip, but that’s not really the point. Rather, it’s the ACT of sketching during the trip that helps commit things to memory. Wrapped up in these images is the memory of when and where I was while making them, which subsequently calls to mind all the things that were going on around me and all the thoughts that were running through my head. There’s a lot more than meets the eye.

I turned one of the sketches from Iceland into an 8×10″ print to truly memorialize our adventures abroad. You can buy yours on Etsy, or share it with your world traveler friends!

Iceland Travel Poster art print by Jacque Oman ClintonIceland Travel Poster illustration from the Etsy shop of artist Jacque Oman ClintonAnd as an extra bonus, here are links to the work of two of my favorite illustrators who also do travel illustrations: Lizzy Stewart and Lisa Congdon.

Thanks for stopping by! Hope your summer is off to a good (GREAT!) start!

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Painting the Colors of a White Wall

I love color. It consumes me…it fills me…it overwhelms me. It stirs up feelings so big that I have to DO something with them or else I’ll explode.

So I paint.  With brush in hand, I immerse myself in all the delicious ways that colors layer and pool together, creating texture, shadow, and form.  The longer I look at something, the more colors I see. If I’m not careful, I “overwork” my paintings. (Hence the friendly reminders I scribble in the margins as I’m working – things like “DON’T OVERWORK IT, FOOL!” and “KEEP IT CLEAN, KID!”).

Last year, my mom sent me a photo she took of cracked and flaking paint on the side of an old building. (That Momma of mine has a keen eye for beautiful things hidden in plain sight). The colors in the shadows and exposed woodgrain were shockingly rich and abundant. I knew immediately that I had to make a painting of it.

Thus began the delightful and painstaking endeavor to paint paint, and now, months later, I’m finally ready to call it done. I started the painting last summer but got interrupted when we moved and then lost my momentum with it. Then life got all crazy (like it does  sometimes) and I didn’t want to touch it for a long time, so I hid it in a drawer and made a bunch of other things instead.

But good ideas don’t just go away. They don’t like being abandoned before they’ve had their say. They put up a fight and nag at you from the backseat of your brain. Keep you up at night. Refuse to back down.

So eventually I pulled the painting out of its drawer and looked at it with fresh eyes. (Things look better after you walk away from them for a while. That’s the wonderful gift of perspective!). When I realized how close it was to being a finished piece, I mustered up my courage, added a few more shadows, and voila! Here it is:realistic watercolor painting of cracked, flaking houseplant by Jacque Oman Clinton

Who know a white wall could be so colorful?! Oh, World, you never cease to amaze me.

 

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New Print on Etsy: “The Cat in the Highest Tower” Pen and Ink Illustration

Remember this illustration?

Pen and ink illustration of a cat watching birds from the top window of a CRAZY tower house, by Jacque Oman Clinton

“The Cat in the Highest Tower”, pen and ink

It’s one of my favorites from the last few months. It’s fun to imagine what I’d use all the rooms of that house for. (It’s NOT so fun to imagine vacuuming all the stairs).

Well, I finally got around to making it into a print, which is available now over in my Etsy shop! It comes in two sizes, 8×10″ or 5×7″ (though I must say, the 8×10″ looks particularly superb). So please, head over to my shop and buy one for yourself and all your favorite friends! (I have one hanging in my dining room, now. It makes me smile every time I see it). "The Cat in the Highest Tower" art print from illustrator Jacque Oman ClintonThanks as always for stopping by and showing your support. Happy May, my friends!

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Update: Spring Art Print Available on Etsy Now!

I told you I’d let you know when prints were available…

"Fresh Hope of Spring" art print available on Etsy. Illustration by Jacque Oman ClintonAnd they are now! So head over to my Etsy shop and get one in time for Easter!

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Can You Feel the Fresh Hope of Spring?

This is how Spring looks in Fantasyland:

A happy spring illustration of tulips, crocuses, bees, and Easter eggs by Jacque Oman Clinton

(sketchbook doodle in ink and watercolor)

And this is what Spring actually looks like (for now, anyway):

Sketch from the sketchbook of Jacque Oman Clinton of birds in snow

(another sketchbook doodle in ink and watercolor)

Spring is a roller coaster. It throws me up and down like a bouncy ball. Bounce up: I’m abuzz in an exuberant fit of energy, intoxicated by bright daylight, warm air, and dreamy new projects. Bounce down: I’m fuming with cabin fever, brought on by late-season snowstorms and 20 degree wind-chills. Something short-circuits and my dream-addled brain fizzles back into it’s winter stupor. I sit and stare– gaping like a fish — at the walls, the dust bunnies, the darkness…

The cats are along for the ride, too. One day they skitter off the walls, scale new heights, and get into trouble. The next day, they tuck their heads into blankets and sleep, unmoving, for fourteen hours straight.

But, oh, Spring will come. It never hasn’t, right? We ride these oscillating waves of hope until we finally reach the shores of TRUE Spring. Experience has taught us patience. “Soon,” we whisper to ourselves, as we look for signs of change.

My waiting is cheered on by the red-winged blackbirds, who have recently returned from their winter vacation in the south. Their call is a mighty declaration, strong enough to coax daffodils out of the dark dirt. “Okaleeeee! Okaleeeee! (It’s SPRING! It’s SPRING!)” I hear them, and I know my hopes are not in vain.

“The song of the blackbird, like the song of the crow, is one of the songs in which summer is captured and held as on a phonograph record.” – Rachel Peden (from her book, Rural Free)

(I’ll be putting prints of the above illustrations on Etsy soon. So be sure to check back in a couple of days for an update about that and a link to the page where you can buy them from my shop 🙂 )

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Illustrated Places: Waikiki Beach, Norfolk, Saratoga, and Charleston

Hey! Long time no see! Spring is in the air (as long as you ignore the dump of snow we got yesterday and the toothy icicles that are dangling from my car’s bumper) and I’m thawed out and ready to ease back into my routine of spewing hot air at you here on the blog.

Where have I been, you ask? All over! In places sunny and warm! I spent January and February working on a commission that had me traveling (okay okay, I wasn’t actually traveling…it was more of a mental thing) to Hawaii, South Carolina, New York, and Virginia. I was working on a project for a dear friend, who, back in December, asked me to illustrate each of the four places that her boyfriend lived while he was serving in the Navy. She wanted to surprise him with the set when he got out of the Navy in March.

So after the December holidays were over, I got to work on the project. It began with a lot of fits and starts as I worked out my ideas and tried to settle down on a style. (Note to self: don’t get carried away getting “inspired” on Pinterest and the Googles. If you look at TOO MUCH art by TOO MANY wonderful people, your brain will short-circuit and you’ll lose the ground beneath you. You may love everyone else’s artistic style, but in the end, your work always ends up looking like your own. Don’t fall into the trap of brainstorm overload! You’ll get washed away in the surge of “possibilities”!)

Things also stagnated for a couple weeks when I got the flu. But eventually –after enough trial-and-error, mistakes and re-starts , bowls of soup and boxes of tissues — I settled down and found my groove.

I finished the set at the end of February, just in time to mail before March 3rd. Since they are now safely in the hands of my friend and her boyfriend, I can share them with you without ruining any surprises.

So here they are! 4 ink and watercolor illustrations (with hand drawn logos, I might add) of Waikiki Beach, HI; Saratoga, NY; Norfolk, VA; and Charleston, SC. Enjoy!

commissioned watercolor and ink illustration of Waikiki Beach by Jacque Oman Clinton

Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

ink and watercolor illustration of the horse tracks at Saratoga Springs, New York, by Jacque Oman Clinton

Saratoga. NY

ink and watercolor illustration of "the Lone Soldier" statue in Norfolk, VA. By Jacque Oman Clinton

Norfolk, VA

ink and watercolor illustration of Rainbow Row in Charleston, SC, by Jacque Oman Clinton

Charleston, SC

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