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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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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Now Showing at ArcWorks Gallery: “Niche (Wall Shrine)” acrylic painting

On display (and for sale) now at the ArcWorks gallery in Peabody:

"Niche (Wall Shrine)", acrylic

“Niche (Wall Shrine)”, acrylic

It’s part of the juried show “Spring Fling”, going on from now until June 30th. If you’re local, consider stopping by to check out some of the other artists that made it into the show!

This painting is a continuation of a series of acrylic paintings I did in college. It’s about memory, nostalgia, and the passing of time. The jar holds memories from my childhood — of long humid summers, my grandpa’s house, and other moments that have become unrealistically beautiful in my mind. It’s about our tendency to make certain memories “sacred” and the romanticized light we cast them in. It’s a shrine, more or less, for the idealized moments of the past.

(Here’s a less dark photo)
Niche (Wall Shrine)

(and a close up)

(close up)

I’m considering doing some more of these. Since I last worked on this series, I’ve racked up some more memories to preserve! I’m also considering taking commissions from others who have memories they want preserved. Got any symbolic objects of special memories that you want me to paint? E-mail me if you’re interested in commissioning some jars!

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The Art of Spring, the Art of Winter

“Every Spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment.” – Ellis Peters

Iris (Dragon tail)

“Dragon tail Iris”, watercolor, 2011 (incidentally, a winter project)

So true. Year after year, winter gives way to tulips, violets, irises, dandelions… and it fills me with delight and wonder. The grass turns green and my energy is restored. Long days, bright colors…each year, it’s a reliable and welcome source of joy.

Winter has its inspirations, too, but they require more effort to find. Much energy goes into keeping a positive attitude, and I have to pump myself up to go forth and seek ideas that engage me. It takes a lot of work to gain and maintain the momentum needed to get simple things done. And it takes even MORE work to hold onto a sense of purpose about what I’m doing. The energy required to get up and seek inspiration comes at a cost, leaving little behind when it comes time to put those ideas to action.

But I’m human, with a brain and a knack for adapting, so I’ve figured out how to deal with winter, and it’s enjoyable in its own, temporary way. I’ve found it to be an optimal time for doing slow, obsessive projects that require most of their planning upfront (like the Bittersweet paintings). I put effort into finding an idea that excites me, and then lay out the parameters before beginning. I make the big decisions beforehand, and I take care to outline a satisfying, doable trajectory. This way, I only have to rely on “feeling inspired” at the beginning, when the idea takes root. Once it’s set in motion, I can then rely on the more predictable appeal of hard work to see it through. I wake up each morning knowing I have something to work on, and knowing HOW to work on it. What inspires me in the winter, then, are things that are meticulous, detailed, and that will expand my technical mastery. During these times, the joy of creating relies heavily on the satisfaction of physically doing the work — of engaging with the materials and obsessing over the details – and of falling into a comfortable harmony with a world that seems quiet and still.

But something shifts in spring. Nature is less stingy, and inspiration literally grows on trees. Unlike Winter, Spring heaps energy onto my plate like a grandma feeding pork chops to her grandsons. It gives, and gives abundantly. Suddenly, I’m awash in life and meaning, and it’s begging to be expressed.

It’s not just the flowers that sweep me off my feet. It’s the change in daylight, the singing birds, the nostalgic smell of warm asphalt and mulch, and the re-emergence of my neighbors from their winter dens. I don’t have to scrunch up to keep warm. There is no bracing myself against the biting wind or staring at the ground to protect my eyes from the sun’s harsh angle. Now I can expand, breathe, and let myself feel my body as the sun warms my cheeks and the wind knots my hair. That reconnection to body and earth reminds me that I’m a part of this beautiful universe, and it is from that that my sense of purpose is re-awakened. Life matters, moments are beautiful, memories are precious…etc. All of this fuels my creative drive, amplifying the persistent need to “capture” and express these bountiful moments so that others may feel the goodness I’m feeling, too.

But of course, this comes with its own challenges. Because now I’m FULL of energy and ideas and purpose, but it will scatter all over the place if I don’t take some measures control it. Then I’ll end up good and tan, with lots of dirt on my bare feet, but winter will come and I’ll have gotten nothing done.

So usually, things go like this: For one week, I let myself frolic, untethered, through the creative whirlwind (and pollen induced blur) that arises during those first days of TRUE spring—those days when nature comes back to life and I can walk outside without a jacket. My imagination goes wild and I usually don’t sleep much because I’m on a roll brainstorming about the nine million projects I’d like to undertake.

I become like a hummingbird that can’t stop flying because it has to keep finding more delicious flowers to drink from so it can sustain its crazy metabolism. Only, instead of nectar, I’m drinking inspirational fodder, which I need to sustain my hungry creativity. I let myself flit around, delighting in my ideas, stockpiling energy and inspiration. I write long lists of potential projects in my notebooks. I take a lot of ugly reference photos. I write down specific feelings, thoughts, and words that will help me remember. Though I create very little, it feels very productive.

I don’t hold back and I don’t take the season’s change for granted. It is a welcome restoration to what feels like my more natural state: that state in which my zest for life drives me to explore my curiosities and try to recreate them on the page. (I say it feels like my “natural” state because when I’m in it, I feel like I’m thriving. It seems to contribute to my well-being somehow). For that precious week, I indulge my exuberance. And then I try to settle down and get back into a work routine.

My cache of ideas, gathered in that first burst of Spring excitement, becomes a sustainable energy source. This makes it easier to maintain a productive routine. I go to bed and wake up excited about my projects. I cherish my routine because it moves me daily, bit by bit, down the list of projects I have in my head.  Of course I know I won’t be able get to ALL the ideas on my list, not in one season or in one lifetime. But that is a WONDERFUL motivator because it means I’ll always have something to do. There will always be a reason to keep trying, another carrot dangling before me. Life won’t get dull unless I decide to stop listening to my curiosity and creativity (which, in all likelihood, seems impossible since these things are inherent to being HUMAN). This is an excellent incentive to take care of myself and to honor my days, because I want to keep having that creative experience of seeing beauty and getting lost in it.

Thanks goodness Spring will come again next year, and with it, more ideas and energy. With such knowledge, I can buzz forth, landing on the flowers that catch my eye, relishing the freedom of Spring’s abundant generosity. I’m free from worrying too much about “keeping up with my ideas” because there will always be enough. Yes, as long as the years keep turning, there will be enough.

(What are these lists of new project ideas, you ask? I guess you’ll have to keep coming back to see!)

Iris (Dragon Tail) framed(One last thing: Thank you for reading this. I fear that my posts may be beginning to sound redundant. Certainly I’ve written about spring before. But each year, I learn and grow so much, and as I come to understand myself more, life becomes better and better, artistically and otherwise. I hope you know that I only share these personal insights because I think they might be helpful to you on your own path, not because I love to talk about myself. I think we all benefit from seeing how other people pursue a meaningful life, and I’m just as interested to know how YOU do it! So if you can relate at all, to the change in seasons, or anything else I said, please DO share in the comments below!)

 

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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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Travel Sketchbook: the Southwest Edition

When I was in Sedona, AZ, a few weeks ago, I did a very quick watercolor sketch of the colorful rock hills that make the town so famous.

After returning home, I looked at that sketch and decided it needed sprucing up. So I made it into a Pueblo city, inspired by the Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde, New Mexico — a place I visited many years ago, when I was a little squirt.

Because who said travel sketches can’t be composites of different adventures I’ve had over the course of my life?  Such sketches are like slices of my brain, transcending regular time and space. They’re documents from the part of my mind where memories have been a’stir (going about their business of building up on themselves, shifting shape, and assimilating new information). I guess you could think of them as travel sketches from my trips down “memory lane”.  Which is kinda cool, I think.
New Mexican Cliff Dwelling Illustration

(watercolor and ink)

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Watercolor and Ink Sunflower Paintings and A Theme for Summer

If dandelions and dandelion puffs were my inspiration this past spring, then it’s only fair to say that my summer has been all about the sunflowers.

Now, unlike cats, vegetables, and pickled things, sunflowers don’t immediately come to mind when listing off “Things Jacque Loves”. I always thought sunflowers were “meh, you know…fine…” but my appreciation for them didn’t extend much farther than being nostalgic for the fabulous sunflower-printed denim shorts I had when I was 5 and my monthly habit of roasting sunflower seeds to make into nut-butter (yum). But this year…THIS YEAR…they’ve certainly won a place on my list of “excellent things”.

What’s so great about sunflowers? They are BRIGHT and YELLOW! They are HUGE! And they are oh so delightfully SCRAGGLY! (Hm, this sounds an awful lot like a description of Big Bird). Their bulky blooms demand attention and seem to grow anywhere and everywhere. They’re so chunky that I want to take a bite out of one, but they’re so dynamic that if I did, it would probably whomp me on the head with its big ol’ flower. I can see where Van Gogh was coming from when he painted all his sunflowers. They are real characters, and this summer they took over my brain.

It started with these guys in May:sunflowers

And some cupcakes I made for my sister’s baby shower:Sunflower Cupcakes

Then there was the sunflower tree:SunflowerTree

And some sketchbook experiments:

Ink and Watercolor Sunflower Sketch

Sunflower Sketch from Lake George

And it culminated in this (the “real” project, if you will, that spawned out of those other little “studies”):

A tribute to the sunflower that was in our summer CSA share

A tribute to the sunflower that was in our summer CSA share

So now I will say “farewell” to the Summer of Sunflowers and forge ahead. I wonder, what will Autumn bring?

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Spring Sketches (And More Dandelions)

Nature is full of metaphors. If you ever need a reminder that life will be fresh and different tomorrow, walk the same path for three consecutive days and note the dandelions each time. It’s remarkable how quickly they progress from flower to seed. It’s a helpful way to gain perspective on life — In a bad mood? Don’t fret. Like a dandelion, a mood has its natural course.  It will pass like a {*cheesiness alert} dandelion puff in the wind.

Dandelions Seed Puff

dandelion puffs

Dandelions No Seeds

their seeds all blew away

Maple Seed Sketch

maple seeds scattered on all the walkways like confetti

 

Door View

enjoying the spring breeze and happy bird sounds through the screen door

 

People & Sheep

practicing sketching people (and sheep)

 

sunflowers

Sometimes I unconsciously doodle when I’m on the phone. Apparently last week’s conversations inspired sunflowers.

 

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Breakfast Doodles

I’ve got some bigger projects going on these days — a couple of commissions, my ever-progressing children’s book, and preparations for the Summer Arts Festival next month (where I’ll be selling watercolor originals). Good stuff. Always keeping on keeping on!

To keep myself balanced, I’ve continued the practice of taking time to just let loose and doodle. In particular, I’ve observed that when I sketch during breakfast, it gets me energized for the rest of the day. It clears out my head so I can focus better on the “big” stuff without feeling antsy about wanting to draw distracting things like dandelions and tree bark and koalas and all those wonderful things.

I’ve always loved breakfast, and drawing makes it even better! Here’s my recipe for a healthy, happy way to start the day:

Combine oats, eggs, water, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and shredded zucchini in a large bowl. Microwave 2-3 minutes. Add fresh blueberries and strawberries and microwave 1-2 minutes more. Top with almond butter. Serve alongside coffee and sketchbook.

Sprinkle liberally with doodles. (Watercolor optional, but delicious).

Tulip

Tulip

Another bandana-clad dachshund

Another bandana-clad dachshund

Sidewalk dandelions, graffiti style

Sidewalk dandelions, graffiti style

(did I mention that I love dandelions?)

(did I mention that I love dandelions?)

can never decide if I like things better with or without ink

can never decide if I like things better with or without ink

sketches_Farm

(In case it needs clarifying, this is not supposed to be a freaky girl head hovering above a cute pastoral scene. They are two separate sketches, yo)

 

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