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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“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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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 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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Upcoming Art Event: “REVEAL” August 25th

Busy busy busy. Packing, moving (Saturday is the big day! New house, here we come!), and getting ready for next week’s RAW Boston art show, “REVEAL”. You can still buy tickets! Click the link above to buy directly through my artist page. Even if you can’t attend, you can still show your support by buying a ticket anyway. The funds will directly support me and my participation in the show.

I finished up making all my prints for the show this week. There will be some excellent ones for perusal and purchase 🙂

And now, though I’d love to something insightful or funny, I must instead close up shop for today and go to bed. Packing is laborious, moving is a marathon, and I need to get enough sleep if I want to avoid burning out before it’s all done.

Here’s some pictures from the past week, at least:

Seagull print for "REVEAL"

Seagull print for “REVEAL”

more prints for "REVEAL"

more prints for “REVEAL”

breakfast doodle experiments of quilt-like ideas...

breakfast doodle experiments of quilt-like ideas…

quilt sketch close up

quilt sketch close up

Looking forward to writing more involved posts (AND MAKING NEW ARTWORK!!!) once all the busyness has died down! All the same, thanks for stopping by.

 

 

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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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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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