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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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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Winter Cozies (Sketchbook Pages)

Do you know what I love? Kids in snowsuits. They’re so puffy and cumbersome and adorable! I can’t help but smile when I see them.

Ink and watercolor illustration of kids playing in snow by Jacque Oman Clinton

(ink and watercolor)

You’ll find lots of wintery things in my sketchbook, these days. It’s been a rainy month here in MA, but I’m sure it’s snowing SOMEWHERE…right?

ink and watercolor drawing of musk oxen from the sketchbook of Jacque Oman Clinton

ink and watercolor musk oxen

page from the sketchbook of Jacque Oman Clinton

chicken scratch and snowsuit people

ink and watercolor illustration/drawing of slippers by jacque oman clinton

slippers – ink and watercolor

There you are, some happy cozy things. ‘Cause that’s what January is all about, friends!

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“Sarge”: Custom Illustrated Dog Book in PRINT! + A Quote for New Years

And so a new year has begun. Before I get carried away sharing my new projects that are already in full swing, I figured I better show you the things I was working on in December, first.

Perhaps you remember the book I said I was working on — the illustrated story about Sarge the farm dog? Here’s how it turned out!

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton

cover

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton

first pages

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton about a farmer and his dog

random middle pages

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton about a farmer and his dog

more random middle pages

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton about a farmer and his dog

more random middle pages

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton about a farmer and his dog

last pages

I used blurb.com for the printing, and I’m really happy with how it turned out! Their design software is easy to use and the website is informative, helpful, and full of options. (I highly recommend them if you’re ever looking to self-publish or print-on-demand). Best of all, I can order more copies whenever I want (so if you’re interested in buying one (or commissioning your own personalized book), let me know!).

EDIT: Enough people expressed interest in buying the book that I’ve put it up for sale here: http://www.blurb.com/b/7576769-sarge

Then there was this watercolor portrait I was asked to do:Commissioned Wedding portrait painted in watercolor by Jacque Oman Clinton

The above projects, plus a few orders for prints on Etsy, kept me plenty busy right up until Christmas. Then I spent the holiday week celebrating with family, relaxing with my husband, and enjoying the well-earned freedom of not needing to be “productive” (all while trying to recover from a germ that just WON’T go away). There was some re-watching of the Lord of the Rings, and a wee bit of jigsaw puzzle-ing, but mostly, there was the glorious luxury of sitting around in sweatpants, watching birds at the feeder, and doodling freely in my sketchbook for no purpose other than the sheer joy of it. Sigh…it was great.

bird blob doodle from sketchbook of Jacque Oman Clinton

bird blobs from sketchbook

And now I shall conclude with a bit of insight I picked up from author Anne Lamott in her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Though specifically aimed at writers, the following quote is helpful to all of us who are…you know…trying to live a life. May it give you the courage to face a new year and the many unknowns that lie ahead:

“E.L. Doctorow once said that ‘writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.”

Nice, right? Whatever you may hope to accomplish in 2017, just remember…you don’t have to have it ALL planned out. Sometimes you just have to point yourself in the right direction and start moving, one day — one step — at a time.

So buckle up! 2017, here we come!custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton about a farmer and his dog

 

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Candy, cats, and coloring: The great equalizers

On Thursday mornings, I hang out with my niece before taking her to kindergarten.

She’s a good sport. She knows I don’t like to play dolls and that I don’t know the plot to “Frozen” very well. So she humors me and opts to do other things, like sculpting with play dough…and COLORING!

This morning we were two peas in a pod. We sat together, coloring and discussing important things — our favorite colors and seasons and all that good stuff.   We snitched candy off of her gingerbread house (Shhh, don’t tell her mom!). I convinced her that it was okay to color penguins with purple and green crayons. She convinced me that pink can be an okay color…sometimes. We laughed, we made cat noises, we teased each other. She oozed her Christmas cheer all over me, and I soaked it up like a sponge.

Candy, cats, coloring…that’s all we needed to bridge the decades between us. Art is fun and snacks are great. Hugs are precious and kids are amazing. Christmas is joy, gumdrops are sticky. Cats are cats. Aunt Jacque is weird.

Sometimes, life is as simple as that. Thank goodness there are kids to remind us of that!

img_0205

She draws good cats!

...and pretty awesome gingerbread houses

…and pretty awesome gingerbread houses

Like I said, we’re two peas in a pod. Earlier this week, I was drawing cats and houses, too! (Which isn’t surprising, I guess, since I tend to draw those things a lot…)

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

(can you see the tiny cat, watching the birds in the upstairs window?)

It’s the holidays, dear friends. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the simple stuff!

 

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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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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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This Week was Tiring. So Here’s a Dog…

I wasn’t going to post anything today. Like many of you, I was shocked by the results of the election. It has rattled me more than I thought it would. Now, I’m having a hard time finding the right words. Everything I try to write sounds naive, biased, or cliche.

The best thing I can do right now is slow down, listen, and try to understand.

But I don’t want to derail my Friday blog posting routine…so I have 2 things for you today.

First, this dog:dog illustration of an English Setter by Jacque Oman Clinton(a little scrap from an ongoing, SECRET project I’m currently quite immersed in…)

And second, a reminder to be kind, to be compassionate, and to shine your light wherever you can:fortunes from cookies

Thanks. Bye.

 

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The Timelessness of the Simple

While Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have been “debating” (bickering?) their lovely hearts out, I’ve been wrangling with an idealogical conflict of my own. For several days (more like weeks), now, I’ve been duking it out with myself over a great and formidable question:

“What to be for Halloween?”

Yes. It’s tough stuff.

After tossing aside my initial ideas, which included dressing up like Maid Marian (actually, I prefer Madam Cluck), Abraham Lincoln, and Captain Janeway from Star Trek, I decided to confine my ideas within the boundaries of a single theme. And, since I’m really a 5 year old (albeit an adult-sized one), the theme I chose was “iconic childhood characters.”

Characters like Madeline

The Man with the Yellow Hat (from “Curious George“)…

Charlie Brown

and Cookie Monster.

And let’s not forget our gaming friends like Pac-Man and Mario.

(I also considered the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, a childhood staple that’s basically a character itself.)

And it was then that I noticed one of those happy truths about life:

It’s often the simplest of things that become the most timeless.

Madeline, Curious George, and Charlie Brown — they were drawn in such a simple style. The illustrations are wonderfully loose and sketchy, with just the essential details. And yet they remain memorable and dear from one generation to the next.

Cookie Monster? He’s a googley-eyed piece of carpet whose single fixation is yet another of life’s simple delights: the good old, tried-and-true chocolate chip cookie.

Pacman? He’s a circle with a mouth. He eats pixels.

And let’s not forget that Mario is just a humble plumber, fighting bad guys in world of cotton ball clouds and potted flowers. A genius concept? Not really. But wonderful, yes.

Which is all a roundabout way for me to get to the point I’m actually trying to make:

A full and splendid life doesn’t have to be a complicated life. And, in a similar vein, what you contribute to the world doesn’t have to be complex and heady in order to be of value. Memories are made from the smallest of moments: like standing barefoot in the shallows of Lake Itasca (the headwaters of the Mississippi, dontcha know), or eating Stove Top stuffing next to Uncle Joe every Thanksgiving. Art is made of lines and color. Hugs are made of arms and hearts. Life is made of days and minutes, and they’re all meaningful in their own right.

So in the age of “FOMO” (fear of missing out), I encourage you not to discount the simple things. Your life, your ideas, your creations…no matter how big or small… might just be what someone else needs to see in order to access the joy residing in their heart. Open your eyes, breathe deeply, and remember that life is good. Let yourself be moved by the simple things. Be curious. Share. Laugh. There is much to experience and savor, no matter who, what, or where you are.

(Here are my own simple contributions to entertain you this week. They’re little sketchbook tidbits, made in the cracks of time between other projects I’ve got going on (as always, stay tuned for more on that)…)

pen and ink illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton of a quail in a smoking jacket

Quail in a Smoking Jacket

quick apple sketches by Jacque Oman Clinton

apples!

Nothing amazing, but just the same, thanks for stopping by. Now go enjoy your weekends, y’all!

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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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