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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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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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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Surrounded by surface patterns

I haven’t been sleeping too well lately (boo hoo, complain complain). I can’t stop thinking about surface pattern design!

Now, I’ve only just started to dip my toes into this bottomless ocean that is pattern design. I have a lot of room to grow (to put it gently). Right now I’m just letting myself play — figuring out how repeats work, testing out my different tools/mediums, and getting familiar with the parameters of design. Learning, learning, learning. Which, of course, takes time…

…but all the while (day and night) I can’t stop brainstorming ideas! Patterns, my friends, are taking over.

My imagination is racing, turning everything I see into motifs I could use for future patterns. Designers, I’ve learned, call this “building your design library”. Everything is a novelty print waiting to be made, and I can’t stop myself from “pattern-izing” things, from the contents of my refrigerator to the the birds squawking outside.  It’s a fun time (if only I could turn it off at night).

building my design library

(building my design library)

Then, to add fuel to the fire, there is this lovely detail: I’m already surrounded by surface pattern designs! Honestly, have you ever noticed how much art is in your life? Designers have decorated everything — their patterns lurk in every corner, waiting to inspire you.

For example:

(From L to right, starting at top: wrapping paper, toilet paper, my "fungi frock", our bedspread (w/ Ducky the cat), my Christmas boxers (I use these as PJ's), a Bacardi box, a tissue box, the futon cover, and my purse)

(From L to R, starting at top: wrapping paper, toilet paper, my “fungi frock”, our bedspread (w/ Ducky the cat), my Christmas boxers (I use these as PJ’s), a Bacardi box, a tissue box, the futon cover, and my purse. All covered in patterns!)

Needless to say, I’m having a good time exploring this new creative realm, and I’m excited about what I’m learning. I do hope, though, that my body will adjust to this surge in adrenaline and figure out how to sleep at night. (Yeah, if you could get on that, Body, that would be great. Thanks.)

To conclude, here are some of my latest creations:

"Ants and Melons"

“Ants and Melons”

And my 4th of July patterns (in case you missed them on Instagram last weekend):Red White and Blue

(hand drawn scallops/lace)

(hand drawn scallops/lace)

Melting Rocket Popsicles.

Melting Rocket Popsicles.

That’s it, folks! Thanks for stopping by.

 

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Throw Doubt Away: You ARE an Artist.

crab apple blossoms (sketching during breakfast)

crab apple blossoms (sketching during breakfast)

I spend too much time feeling like I’m not a real artist because I don’t churn out amazing work every day. Often, the end of the week comes and I feel distraught over how seemingly little progress I’ve made on my paintings. There are days that I don’t get to paint much at all — where I have to try to take satisfaction in a doodle during breakfast because the rest of the day will be filled with the not-so-thrilling busywork of framing, matting, scanning, and e-mailing.

I begin most days wondering “is today the day that it’s all going to click? If I run fast enough, will I finally fit everything in?” I chase the crushing ideal of a daily routine that is perfectly balanced and productive — where I effortlessly manage my time so that the painting, marketing, networking, practicing, learning, writing, documenting, planning, and accounting all get done…with time to spare for life’s other demands like exercise, eating, relationships, sleep and leisure.

It’s a fantasy that sets me up for disappointment, and it robs me of the joy that comes from what I DO get to work on each day.

Why is it that I can have several paintings that I’m working on, a solo show that I’m getting ready for, and my work hanging in the homes of strangers, and STILL feel like I’m not an artist? If a friend told me this, I’d call her out for talking nonsense.

The only way I’m ever going to feel like an artist is if I decide to call myself one, and choose to own it despite my niggling self-doubt.

So I’m choosing that now. Next time someone asks me what I do, I’ll tell them the same thing I’ve been saying for years: “I’m an artist”. But instead of looking at the floor and brushing it off as if I’m only half- serious, I’ll be sure to stand tall, look them in the eye, and say it with pride.

Because you know what? I AM proud. And I’m not going to downplay how happy I am that I get to do this work.

(A special thanks to Lisa Congdon whose fantastic blog post inspired me to “own it”).

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Birdhouse City! Avian Real Estate Illustration

If you were a bird, what kind of house would you live in? I have a fine teapot available…
Birdhouses

Or perhaps you’d be an owl and live in a cactus?

It’s spring, and the birds are singing. Enjoy your weekend, friends.

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Cat meets pineapple (illustration)

Through art, we grapple with life’s biggest questions. For instance: I woke up one day wondering “How would a cat interact with a pineapple?” So I got out my watercolors and began searching for an answer.Cat Meets Pineapple


In no time, the answer made itself clear. “Oh, right. That’s how,” I sighed, putting down my paintbrush.

What a relief to have gotten to the bottom of such a pressing matter.

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Black and White Sketchbook Fancies

I’m on vacation in Arizona right now, but it’s Friday so here are some words for thought:

I’m a sucker for vibrant color, but I’m equally wooed by stark black and white. When I doodle in a crisp black-and-white style, I’m usually pretending I’m designing woodblock or linoleum prints (since I don’t have the capacity to do REAL printmaking right now). Or I fantasize about what kind of tattoo I’d design if I were to get one. I put on my “design” eyes and try to pull out and exaggerate the pattern-y elements of whatever I’m looking at. I approach this style of doodling much more slowly and carefully than when I use watercolors and ink. It requires me to be calm and focused. It’s for that very reason that I tend to draw this way when I am feeling anxious and scattered –  the act of slowly rendering a design forces me to reign in my thoughts and find my center of balance.

That’s one of the many reasons why I think ALL of you should have a sketchbook, regardless of how “artistic” you think you are. There are a lot of reasons that I sketch that have nothing to do with my “job”.  It’s often a tool for keeping sane. Sketch to calm down, sketch to focus, sketch to connect to a particular moment in time, sketch to let your mind wander…it’s more of a meditation and devotion practice than anything else.

Anyway, here are some doodles from my sketchbook that I did in one such moment of “angst”. It did the trick and detached me from the whirlpool of useless things I had been stressing about at the time.

Sketchbook Page w/ Chickadees

I guess it’s the same idea as all those adult coloring books you see now.

See you when I get back from my trip! Perhaps I’ll have a few vacation sketches to show you.

 

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My Sketchbook = Snapshot of my Brain

I suppose it’s no big surprise that our sketchbooks reveal a lot about ourselves.

I, for one, am apparently very taken by colorful, round objects:

Snail by Jacque Oman Clinton

snail

Buttons by Jacque Oman Clinton

buttons

Rosehip Sketch by Jacque Oman Clinton

rose hips

Crabapple Sketch by Jacque Oman Clinton

crab apples

Rosehips Sketch by Jacque Oman Clinton

more rose hips

Barrel & Pepper Sketch by Jacque Oman Clinton

barrel with bell peppers

I think I find round things comforting, which is why I feel compelled to draw them.

My sketchbook also reveals other things going on in my life, like what books I’m reading or what I’m cooking for dinner. For instance, I am currently reading “The Shipping News” by E. Annie Proulx, and have subsequently taken an interest in nautical knots:

rope

rope

So, there you go, a little slice of my brain as revealed to you on paper. Important? Probably not. But still…mildly interesting!

What do you find yourself doodling? DO you doodle? I hope you do 🙂

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Happy Valentine’s Day! Here are some adorable animals in love…

Brace yourselves, I’m about to get sappy!

When I was in college, my (now) husband and I used to write letters to each other. Of course we also used our phones, Skype, and the occasional plane ticket to bridge the thousand-mile gap between us, but the letters we sent were of exceptional value. There was no established routine with our letter writing, no schedule. Rather, each one was a delightful, handwritten surprise, and I cherished them beyond measure.

Since then, we’ve “grown up” (whatever), gotten married, and moved twice, but the letters have stayed with us. They are precious artifacts that document a particular time in our ever-evolving journey through life together.

One of those letters was a doodle. (Actually, a lot of them were). For some reason, I still remember the afternoon that I made it. I found a sunny patch of floor in the attic of my college house and hid there, with a cup of tea, until I came up with this:

Original Animal TreeWe have it hanging on our wall now. I was looking at it a few weeks ago when I decided to make a fresher version of it to share with you all on Valentine’s day. (The original was NOT, however, a Valentine…in case you’re a stickler for the truth).

So here you have it. Version 2.0, complete with a romantical backstory for you all to enjoy (or be snarky about, whatever floats your boat). Share it with the people you love. Contact me if you want to buy it as a print. And most importantly, have a happy, heart-filled day.
Valentine Tree

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