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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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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Illustration Friday: Prehistoric

This week’s theme for Illustration Friday is “Prehistoric”. I decided NOT to illustrate any dinosaurs, since I’ve done quite a few of them in my day. Instead, I made some Canada geese dressed up as dinosaurs.

IllustrationFriday_Prehistoric

What, you’ve never noticed how much geese look like dinosaurs? I used to stare out the window in high school at the geese grazing on the soccer field and pretend that they were little hungry dinos. (I guess that’s why I don’t remember very much European history!) Anyway, that’s what inspired this creation. It’s a tribute to my sixteen-year-old self, and a shoutout to Canada Geese, which are, after all, descendants of dinosaurs.

Also, since we’re having our millionth snow day of the year today, I decided to winterize my picture by illustrating the geese on a frozen lake. Hence the ice fishing cabins! Doesn’t it look cold?

 

 

 

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