The Election, Existential Art Questions, & Great Horned Owls

Since the election back in November, I’ve found myself struggling to come up with things to say here on the blog. Not because I don’t have things to talk about, and certainly not because I don’t have artwork to show, but because I’ve been feeling very self-conscious about making myself “heard”. The election and its aftermath forced me to confront certain realities that I had hitherto been ignoring in order to play around in my idealistic tree house in the clouds, and to be honest, it left me feeling like a deflated pompous fool.

It was like the world was shouting: “HELLO! WAKE UP, KID! Did you know that people living in the USA are unhappy enough that they are willing to put THIS GUY in charge, even after all the hurtful, discriminatory, and blatantly untruthful things he has said?”

Oh! Clearly I’ve been missing something. Clearly I’ve been living in a bubble.

I am guilty of making great and incorrect assumptions about how other people think and feel. Here on this blog, I’ve been trying to offer pithy little bits of wisdom about life – things that I’ve discovered through making art every day that seem to apply to things beyond art-making itself. I’ve been trying to articulate my belief that you, too, can learn valuable and enriching things about life, yourself, and everything in between, just by being mindful and engaged with what you do.  I’ve been trying to spread excitement…to infect you with curiosity and creative joy. But what does any of this even mean?!

“Mindfulness?” “Creative Living?” Meticulous drawings of CANDY CORN?! Art?! What planet am I living on?

That’s the voice that has been popping into my head each week whenever I’ve sat down to write a blog post.

I felt afraid that all of this was just a selfish exploitation of my “privilege” – an insensitive and frivolous pursuit that makes a mockery of real issues like trying to earn enough money for food or suffering under systematic racial oppression. I didn’t want to rock the boat by suggesting that art is important and worthwhile. I didn’t want to somehow insult you with my small thoughts and mental struggles. I didn’t want to say things in a public space that could be used against me some day, or say things with confidence now that I might change my mind about later (as one is apt to do as one grows and learns). I didn’t want to add to the opinionated noise that clogs up the internet and gets blown out of context and makes fools of us all.

But then, while flipping through Danny Gregory’s book: “An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators, and Designers”, I found a few passages that brought me peace of mind and re-established my belief that art is necessary.

First, while talking about sketchbooks and artist’s journals, Gregory says this:

“The pages unfold like a story, a journey, a life. Each of the books is a slender slice of a life…as you turn the pages, you feel the time pass. You see moments being recorded in sequence. You see ideas unfold and deepen. You see risks, mistakes, regrets, thoughts, lessons, dreams, all set down in ink for posterity…”

Then he goes on to point out the effect sketching has on the artist’s own life. Life is

 “enriched by living in the moment instead of doing sudoku, contemplating the world as it passes—even if it is serving up just a glimpse of a Kmart parking lot or a slumbering night-shift worker.”

And then, talking about his own reasons for keeping an art journal, he says this:

“I just draw the things around me that count…mundane stuff that I used to pass blithely by every day until I stopped to notice what my life was made up of, the blessings I need to count to give myself meaning.”

And that’s it, right there. Art shows us life, helps us make contact with it. It gives glimpses of our humanness, our journey. It helps us to pay attention, to focus on things we care about. It is personal but it is also universal. It’s not a waste of time. It’s in our blood.

So I’m here, to keep doing what I do and to keep sharing my stuff. It’s what I can do to add to this grand tapestry of human history, culture, and collective experience. Art is how I connect and communicate, and I can’t live without it. Plus, it brings me joy, and joy is worth sharing, right? Goodness knows I like seeing OTHER people’s art and experiences and journeys through life…

Blah blah, okay, I know. Enough already, where’s the art? I’m getting to it! Geez.

In the spirit of cherishing the gifts of the present moment, I give you this:

watercolor and ink illustration of a great horned owl by Jacque Oman Clinton

“Great Horned Owl”

because the sun just set a moment ago and now I can hear two Great Horned Owls hooting in the backyard. (Backstory: I first heard them on Sunday evening when I was taking out the trash. Later that night, as I lay in bed, I kept thinking about how grateful I was for owls to serenade me and make taking out the trash seem like a magical treat. The next morning I woke up figuring I better document my owl “sighting” (even though I didn’t actually see them) in my sketchbook. You know, for “posterity”. But things got a little unscientific somewhere along the way…and I ended up with this.)

watercolor and ink illustration of a great horned owl by Jacque Oman Clinton

 

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Friday Smiles

It’s easy to find things to complain about. Just read the news (or, if you don’t mind the liberal use of profanity, ask John Oliver). With so much serious stuff going on in the world, a person could almost feel guilty for being content with anything. You don’t want to seem culturally insensitive (or give the impression that you’re uninformed) by being light of heart.

But I’ve always had a rebellious streak in me (maybe that’s why, after the election, I cut off all my hair. And why I now allow myself to put on sweatpants as early as 7PM instead of waiting until 9! Oh wait, maybe that’s just laziness…). These days, what better way to rebel than by finding things to smile about, amidst and despite the somber realities of an uncertain and volatile world?

After all, just because something is easy, doesn’t mean it’s what you should do. It’s easy to complain, but it’s MORE FUN to LAUGH!

So, blah-dee-blah and without further ado, I give you…

5 Things to make you smile:

  1. If you’re bummed about having to rake leaves, may I suggest that you pretend your rake is a comb and that you’re brushing the fur of a giant, sleeping beast. It adds an element of adventure to the task.
  2. Speaking of beasts…I can hear my cat snoring all the way from the other side of the house…
  3. Speaking of cats, the other day, I looked out the kitchen window and witnessed my neighbors’ tiny dog take a running start, fly across the yard, and leap adoringly upon the gray cat that was meditating calmly under a tree. The cat just stood his ground, like a real champ. Cats > dogs, always.
  4. Speaking of dogs…here’s one (or is it a sausage?):puppy illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton for an upcoming children's book
  5. Oh look, another one!:
retro style dog illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton

(While working on a commissioned dog project, I got inspired to try some “retro” style illustrations after checking out the classic children’s books by P. D. Eastman)

Don’t like my 5 things worth smiling about? Then go forth and find your own! I dare you. No, I DOUBLE DOG dare you! (Ooo, see what I did there?!)

Okay, bye 🙂

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New Prints on Etsy! Friendly Dogs, Cozy Birds, Oh my!

My new studio is up and running! Which means I am able, once again, to make prints!

Looking for things to decorate your home and keep your spirits up this winter? Maybe these cozy birds will do the trick."Fall Fashion Line" Sparrows on Wire illustration print by Jacque Oman Clinton

Or perhaps you’d rather hang this seriously adorable dachshund on your wall so he can bid you “Good Day” each time you pass by?"Dachshund Greetings" illustration print by Jacque Oman Clinton

Head over to my Etsy shop to get ’em while they’re fresh!Etsy prints featuring illustrations by Jacque Oman Clinton

In other news, I thought I’d share a few helpful things that I came across in my listening/reading this week. Each expresses sentiments that I agree with and sheds light on issues that I think about often. Hearing other people’s insight on familiar themes can be so clarifying and reassuring to the psyche! Thank goodness other people are more articulate than I! Anyway, these 3 things stood out to me this week so I’m passing them along:

  1. Author/artist Austin Kleon wrote a little piece on his blog titled The Pram in the Hall. It’s about being an artist AND a good parent/person; how important it is to find good role models; and how our every day responsibilities/routines contribute to rather than detract from our artistic endeavors. “Art is for life, not the other way around.” So true, so true. Check it out! (Disclaimer: he curses once or twice).
  2. NPR interviewed illustrator and artist Christoph Niemann about his “Sunday Sketches“. I encourage you to listen to the audio version of the interview to get the full effect (it’s not very long). He talks about the unknowns in the art-making process, the inevitability of creative discomfort, and the importance of not letting social media dictate the art you make. At the very end, he also talks about how frustrating it can be when people don’t recognize how much work goes into making illustrations, a fact that he dislikes but nevertheless accepts because it’s just part of the job. “You can’t have people like the work that you create and also be in awe of how hard it is to do it,” he says. Here’s an excerpt:

    “People say: ‘Oh, you’re so talented. I could never do that.’ I always feel like: No. When you listen to a pianist playing a Beethoven sonata … you would never say: Oh, I couldn’t do that [because of talent. It’s] because, well, you didn’t sit down for 10,000 hours and practice. It’s all about sitting down and the time you spend at your desk.

  3. And finally, in this week’s episode of Note to Self (one of my favorite podcasts), host Manoush Zomorodi interviewed spiritual advisor and former Google employee  Chade-Meng Tan about mindfulness and how it can be used to cultivate joy, peace, and compassion. It’s got lots of helpful tidbits — like how we can turn the aforementioned virtues into habits and how we shouldn’t shun technology, but instead learn to use it wisely. Also….listening to this episode just makes you feel good! So head over there and give it a try. One of my favorite things that he said is about how mindfulness opens up our capacity to be creative:

    “An analogy that I’ll give is: if you drop a pebble in choppy waters, you don’t see ripples very well, but if that water is completely calm, you drop pebbles in it, you can see all the beautiful ripples and how they interact, and then you can see the ideas very clearly, you can see hidden directions very clearly, and you say “oh wait a minute, I never thought of that before!”

I hope you enjoy the links. If you end up checking them out, feel free to comment below with your thoughts! I’d love to know what you think.

Have a happy and healthy week, and remember, whatever ends up happening with the presidential election on Tuesday, at least we have this: the Cubs won the 2016 World Series! Woohoo!

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The Candy Corn Saga

candy cornCandy corn has been on my list of things to draw for quite some time. Every fall I buy a bag, take it home, pour it into a glass bowl, and just…look at it. It’s colorful, repetitive, roundish. It’s oh so cute and ridiculous. I play with it. I hold it. If someone asks, I even share it.

candy corn flower

candy corn weaving

I have no profound things to say about candy corn, no grand meditations or metaphors to overanalyze. I just think it’s visually compelling. And I don’t believe that it’s edible — it smells nice, but you probably won’t find me lurking in the kitchen, munching on the stuff. (It’s a bit too “candle-y” for my tastes). But like beads, gems, snowflakes, and cable knit sweaters, it delights my little eyeballs. And it comes in such mass quantities!

Well, this year, I finally got around to doodling it.candy corn doodles

Or, er…I MEANT to just doodle it.

But, as often happens with art projects, it took on a life of its own. With a few blobs of watercolor here and a couple pen-marks there, a certain trajectory was established. Choices were made, and there was no turning back.

And so I traveled on a journey:img_2068 img_2107 img_2133
img_2141 img_2149 img_2180

And ultimately ended up here:ink and watercolor candy corn illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton
And now I think I’m done with candy corn. For a long, long time.

🙂

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Fall Fashion: Sweater Vests…FOR BIRDS! (An Illustration)

It’s that time of year when the birds start to look a little…chilly.

Poor guys. I see them in the morning, all fluffed up and huddled together on the telephone wires. Their jabbering fills the frosty air while I sit indoors, drinking my coffee, feeling cozy and warm.

If I was a better knitter, I’d knit tiny sweaters for them all.

"Fall Fashion Line: Sweater Vests for Sparrows" illustration of birds on telephone wires wearing sweaters, by Jacque Oman Clinton. So Cute!

“Fall Fashion Line: Sweater Vests for Sparrows”, ink and watercolor, 2016

That’s all I’ve got. Thanks for stopping by! Have a great weekend, my chickadees.

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Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall!

I have one last sliver of summer to share before we move on to FALL!:

One night in August, my dad sent me this photo so he could brag about the delicious, summer-y dinner he and my mom made…

one night in August, my dad sent me this photo to brag about the delicious dinner he and my mom made.

How tragic that I was not there to partake in the feast. So naturally, to console my lobster-lovin’ self, I did the next best thing…Lobster & Corn

…and drew it.

The end.

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To be an unassuming chronicler of life

Artists — be they writers, photographers, painters, musicians, or other – have different goals and reasons for why they create. Some claim their craft is a way of bringing fantasy to life, or of probing the subconscious.  Others say they make art to express specific ideas, to explore certain topics, or to give a voice to the voiceless. Some want to make the world a more beautiful place. And many don’t know why they create, they just know that “they must”.

I’ve slowly been making my way through the book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In it, I came across some words about the poet Mark Strand that really hit home for me.

“Patiently watching and listening to events unfolding around him, alternating between passionate involvement and sardonic detachment, [Strand] has found the pattern that best fits the predilections of his consciousness: to be an unassuming yet precise chronicler of life.”

“His craft” Mikkahily says “is to express in arresting and accurate language what he has learned from witnessing life”.

“Some artists get so involved in their creations that they lose their appetite for raw experience, but Strand welcomes ordinary life—puttering in the yard, having meals with the family, going on hikes, lecturing, even shopping.”

After all, “…the enterprise of writing makes sense only within the context of a broader, more mundane reality.”

Ah, to be a chronicler of life. Yes. That’s what it is.

Mundane, patterned, repetitive, unpredictable, beautiful, heartbreaking, changing, simple, complex, amazing life. I want to draw it all. Every day, forever.

Fall Walking - Crunching on Leaves

An old fall-y watercolor and ink illustration from my Illustration Friday days. It reminds me of back-to-school. Fall — such a poignant season of life!

In a field

I am the absence

of field.

This is

always the case.

Wherever I am

I am what is missing.

 

When I walk

I part the air

and always

the air moves in

to fill the spaces

where my body’s been.

 

We all have reasons

for moving.

I move

to keep things whole.

– Mark Strand (Keeping Things Whole)

 

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Art Show Follow Up: Making Faith a Habit & Other Things I Learned

As you might remember, last Thursday, I participated as a featured artist at “REVEAL”, RAW Boston’s summer showcase for artists, designers, photographers, stylists, and musicians. I’m happy to report that it went well and that it was worth all the effort I put in to my preparations for it. And now…it’s over, which means I can get back to MAKING stuff! (I’m very excited about that). But since the show experience warrants some reflection, please bear with me as I devote just one more post to talking a bit (okay, maybe a lot) about it.

my booth

my booth

racks of prints for sale

racks of prints for sale

So…the showcase was a great time! I felt good about the work I showed and how I represented myself. I had the pleasure of talking to other artists and exchanging valuable insights. (I have to say, it felt particularly good to be able to pass on some helpful tips to people who are going through things that I have gone through myself! Turns out I’ve learned a few things over the years!) The whole experience – from the weeks spent in preparation to the final take-down – was full of personal growth and learning.

Here are some of the things I learned:

  1. Anxiety and fear are inevitable, but I can make room for them without losing sight of the larger picture. Okay, I know it wasn’t the Emmys or anything, but even so, I was very nervous about the event. I felt angsty from the very beginning, when I found out that I would be participating. My nervousness peaked the day before the show, when I had to repeatedly tell myself that “I know I feel like I’m going to die right now, but it is just anxiety, and I don’t have to freak out about it.” During the weeks before the show, this anxiety popped up a lot, but instead of fighting against it (and feeling bad about it, wishing it would go away, and generally feeling like a pathetic speck of a person) I decided to accept it as another part of the game. Whenever I felt stress pressing down, I reminded myself that there were infinite ways that the show could play out, and since I have no ability to know or control the future, I would just do what I thought was best, have faith, and keep my mind open to the possibility that good things might come out of it. And surprisingly, the day OF the event, I felt fine! For one thing, I had the comfort of knowing that I was well prepared. But also, my mind was in a good place after spending so many weeks practicing faith, openness, and positivity.
  2. People are shy. We are all insecure about something. It’s a funny dynamic — the insecure artist and the insecure viewer, side by side, feeling awkward. I think people are afraid to talk to artists about their work because they don’t want to “say the wrong thing” or sound like they “don’t know anything about art”. But I’m not going to judge you for “not getting it” or for never taking some dumb art history class. And I don’t make art with the expectation that you’ll see it the way I see it. I want to hear what it is that you see! — how does it make you feel? What stories does it conjure up, what does it remind you of? I LOVE it when people tell me what my work means to them. It fuels the drive to keep making stuff. It satisfies the “longing-for-connection” aspect of being creative. And it reveals amazing things about the diversity of human experience.
  3. And artists are shy, too. Instinctually, I don’t want to bother people. I don’t want to impose myself on them while they look at my work, or dare to assume that they find it engaging in any way. But I suspect that, more often than not, people appreciate hearing the artist tell the story behind their work, even when the story isn’t linear or…much of a “story” at all. (i.e. “I did this before getting dressed to go to my friend’s wedding…I needed to do something creative and it just sort of came to me. I started drawing a whale, because whales need to be drawn, and then of course I realized it should be wearing a sweater.”) I like to see the humanness of other people’s artwork. It helps me feel connected to the work and to the artist. Showing viewers that the work is a process — that it’s a living thing — opens doors for communication. Then the artwork isn’t just a final “product”, but instead acts as a jumping off point for a richer connection. Art is made with time, energy, brains, and countless unexpected external influences. It’s a very human expression of divergent thinking and the way we make associations in our minds. When people understand that, it makes art less “intimidating”, less inaccessible. It’s all just another opportunity for connection!
  4. People really like dogs. My illustrated dog prints are always a big hit, and they are the most frequently bought items in my Etsy store. People always comment on them. But surprisingly (and I’m okay with this!), no one bought any dog prints at this show. Dogs are a personal thing, I guess. Everyone wanted it to be THEIR dog.
  5. My experiences have taught me lessons that are worth passing on to other artists! For example: Finding a good way to make prints of their artwork seems to be a VERY common struggle for artists. Which company should you use? How can you ensure that the print quality is excellent? How much are you willing to PAY to have prints made? I make all my prints myself. I am so happy with my Canon Pixma printer – it is getting old now, but it does a MARVELOUS job making high quality prints that I’ve been able to sell all over the place. Sure it took a lot of trouble-shooting (and a lot of frustration!) to get the print quality just right, and I had to test a lot of different papers before I found one I liked, but I eventually established a system for making prints that I am proud of. Now, I have no problem telling people that it is worth it to invest in a printer and good paper and to take the time to learn to make prints in-house.
  6. The human digestive system is very…emotional. I had no appetite the whole day of the show, and had to force myself to eat regular meals so I wouldn’t pass out at the event. For dinner before the show, I made sure to eat the blandest of sandwiches (a tough thing, because I love me some SPICE), but I STILL got indigestion! My mom saved the night with the emergency Rolaids she found in her purse (she’s my hero). And then, of course, as soon as I got home and put on my PJ’s, I found that I was starving! It was the sweet, sweet release of tension leaving my body, and so…I celebrated with ice cream and chips 🙂
  7. I’m not the only person who needs to retreat and recharge. The day was long – set up started at 1 and the event wasn’t until 7 PM. I certainly wasn’t the only artist there who needed to take 5 minutes to sit in the car and regroup before the show.
  8. That one should not be in such haste to pack up and beat the traffic at the end of the show that one leaves important things behind. Bye-bye extension cords. Bye-bye print racks. (On the other hand, if that’s the hardest lesson I had to learn that night – not to leave stuff behind — then all-in-all, I’d say it went quite well!)
  9. And finally, I was reminded of this very humbling and mind-blowing truth: I am tremendously blessed to be in the situation that I am in. I’ve had the support of my family, my husband, and my closest friends for my entire life. No one (other than the occasional stranger) has ever tried to convince me not to pursue art. When I have my doubts, my parents and my husband are the ones who tell me to have faith and keep going. They’ve always given me the space, time, and freedom to create. They’ve been patient and understanding. They’ve helped me with projects, shows, buying materials, and growing a business. They’ve prodded me to challenge and stretch myself and to take the next step when it’s been time to do so. They’ve spread the word to others, and they’ve helped open doors. They’ve been so generous – I’ve never had to live off of government cheese or go it alone. Without them, I wouldn’t be doing this. It takes a village, as they say.

To my husband, and to my parents: I’m sorry that all I can ever do is say thank you, and that no matter how many times I say it, it will never be enough. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And with that, I bid you, good day. Thanks to everyone who came out to the show. It meant a lot to see you there and have your support!

Oh, and Happy September, yo.

"Hey Shorty" sunflower illustration

a sunflower sketch for September

 

 

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Happy Thanksgiving! (and an illustration of FOOD)

This week’s post comes to you early because on Friday, I’ll be kicking back in the glorious company of my FAMILY, and because today is practically Friday, anyway.
Thanksgiving Illustration

Here’s a photo of the actual page from my sketchbook, in case you are interested. For the final image above, I got rid of the little black olives that were hanging out with the pickles in the bottom right corner.Thanksgiving Sketchbook

Does anyone else’s family have an obligatory PICKLE PLATTER at Thanksgiving? I highly recommend it, if you don’t.

Happy Thanksgiving! There is, indeed, much to be thankful for!

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The Last of the Wildflowers: Crown Vetch

This is crown vetch, wild flower extraordinaire:Crown Vetch Sketch

I was delighted when I first saw it begin to bloom early this summer. Yay flowers! Yay earth! Colors! Woot!

And when I saw that it was still blooming last week – in NOVEMBER – I was thoroughly impressed. Despite the fact that the tree’s leaves are nearly gone, the vetch was still standing all a’straggly by the side of the road. Way to go, Vetch! You outlasted them all (except for the dandelions that I’m STILL seeing around. Good job to you guys, too).

Yes. I talk to flowers. They spark my curiosity and excitement. I like learning about them and watching them, keeping track as they come and go. When you spend that much time interacting with something, you start to regard it as a sentient being. Who knows? Maybe the vetch is talking to me, too.

Now it seems the vetch has finally gone to sleep for the winter. Goodnight, my legume friends. And so ends another season.

That’s all for now. Until next week, I bid ye well. And leave you with the loving reminder to stay curious, stay open, and stay away from windowless buildings. Don’t let SAD get you down!

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