Bumblebee Cats and Secret Languages

ink and watercolor illustration of bumblebee tabby cats and clovers - by Jacque Oman ClintonIt’s funny, the language that develops between two people in a relationship. Through time and togetherness, we come to share and redefine certain words, images, and phrases. We inadvertently create a secret code that expresses the nuanced, intimate things that only the two of us could ever understand.

Many a dinner conversation has demonstrated this. On the rare occasion when it’s just my parents and I, things usually go as follows: Mom and I hijack the conversation and begin bantering away in our secret language, laughing and brainstorming until my dad eventually asks “Whaaat??” Then Mom and I smirk at each other and say “Nothing!” in unison as we give each other knowing looks and stifle more laughter.

Yes, secret languages glue us all together.

Hence these bumblebee cats. “Bumblebees remind me of cats.” I don’t know who said it first — my mom? Me?. Maybe it was appropriated from some other source long forgotten now. But in any case, it’s a jointly understood Mom-and-Me phrase. Forevermore, when I see bumblebees, I think of them as tiny flying tabby cats. I mean, is there really any difference between purring and buzzing? Bees and cats — they’re both adorable. And oh so furry. And delightfully plump and round. When I see a bumblebee, I think of my parents’ lumpy old cat, Suki, with her orange-y yellow tabby cat legs. Then I think of my mom and good times we’ve had together, enjoying nature and its wonderful gifts. And I smile, feeling happy on behalf of those lucky bumblebee cats whose whole purpose in life is to buzz around, happily, in the sun, going from flower to flower and getting fat on the delicious juices of zinnias, roses, and the like.

Bumblebee cats illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton - print on Etsy

Prints available on Etsy!

These shared, secret languages speak to us in all sorts of contexts, stirring up memories of special people that have come (and gone) throughout our lives. Hundreds of stories spill forth when we see a familiar sight or hear a certain phrase. These stories weave through our day to day wanderings, flavoring our inner experiences and affecting how we see the world.

I drew this random fruit and fish kebab one day on a used piece of old watercolor paper. At the time, I had no particular meaning or agenda for it (other than to transform the painted blobs — remnants from a previous project — into something worth looking at). But now I look at it and my mind goes on a journey:A sweet and savory fruit and fish kebab. Food illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton. Ink and watercolor.

The fish head reminds me of that time in middle school gym class, when my friends and I had to choreograph a dance to any song of our choosing. The song we chose was  “The Fish Head Song” by Barnes and Barnes. Naturally.

And the octopus tentacle reminds me of that time I went to a Korean BBQ that my friend’s church had one summer. It was in a county park and we ate delicious foods I’d never seen before, including some tentacle-y things that blew my raised-on-Midwestern-food mind. We played tennis — TERRIBLY — on the weed ravaged tennis courts and caught a snapping turtle in the creek using a saltine safety-pinned to a piece of string.

On the 4th of July, I sketched this, based off a photograph from an outing my parents took with their grandkids:4th of July Sketch in pen and ink by Jacque Oman Clinton

I see the American flag and I think of the 21 gun salute at my Grandma’s funeral. And the playing of taps. (Then I think of my Grandma, period, and all the memories surrounding her and her home). I see my dad standing under the flag and I think of September 11th and how happy I am that my dad came home from work that day. I see the Stars and Stripes and I think of my friend, Allie, and her wedding on the 4th of July a few years ago. How happy she was. How life has stretched and changed since then. How she, too, is living in a different state now, growing vegetables in her garden and being a cat momma, like me.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that a picture is always more than what is depicted at surface level. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say.

But a word is also worth a thousand pictures. So speak good ones. Make your words count. Share your words, build a common language. And together we’ll write a story — a LIVING story — that grows beyond space and time, to create a world full of meaning, connection, and love.

Related posts:

Share

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!

 

Related posts:

Share

Preparing for Shows

Framed Miko PaintingFramed Ducky PaintingThese 2 paintings finally have frames and are ready for display! My dad made the frames (he’s a fine wood craftsman, if I do say so myself. He also built the shelves and storage crates in my studio) and man, they sure are nice. Now I can submit these to the Salem Arts Festival gallery show.  (Last year I had a booth at the Arts Festival. This year I’ll just stick to the juried show – and HEY, if you’re in town, you should definitely come!).

I also submitted some work to another nearby show.  I’m still waiting to hear back whether it got accepted, so stay tuned for more details and pictures later.

I’ve been getting back into acrylic lately (after being caught up in watercolors for a while) and look forward to receiving feedback from people about some of these older works. I’m energized by the new ideas that I’m starting to get down on canvas (and the many more ideas that are swimming around in my head). It will be good to get some outside perspective as I move forward.

It looks like I might also have a solo show in the works — but I’ll save that for another day.

Enjoy your weekend! I know I will…we’re going to a clambake!

Related posts:

Share

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

Related posts:

Share

Winter leftovers and a Welcome to Spring!

Hiydee hey.

Spring has burst onto the scene here in Massachusetts and it’s a glorious thing. Gone be the winter coats! Gone be the ritual struggles to bundle up before leaving the house! Suddenly it’s so easy to just grab my sketchbook and walk out the door.  And let me tell you, this city of ours has some excellent fodder for my HUNGRY herd of creative, over-wintered brain cows…

But before I get to sharing the first-fruits of my quest to become Salem’s resident sketcher (I’ll be like that guy you see everywhere who is always taking photos to document events, only I’ll be more of a wind-blown looking lady who always has a sketchbook, a runny nose {allergies! can’t complain though because, woo spring!} and a mustard stain on the boob of her shirt {what can I say, I love a good sauce}), let me first say goodbye to winter by sharing some snippets and doodles that I didn’t get around to posting earlier. They’re not necessarily wintery in content, but still, they were done in the days when inspiration had to come from things other than the splendid experience of being outside.

How few lines does it take to capture "essence of cat"?

How few lines does it take to capture “essence of cat”?

"Hello, Lobster. I think you are delicious."

“Hello, Lobster. I think you are delicious.”

Bouquet from my husband! A good remedy for stubborn dreary moods.

Bouquet from my husband! A good remedy for stubborn dreary moods.

Inspired by an old timey exhibit at the local Peabody Essex Museum, I went home and pretended I was a silversmith, engraving decorative silverware for classy, cake-serving ladies.

Inspired by an old timey exhibit at the local Peabody Essex Museum, I went home and pretended I was a silversmith, engraving decorative silverware for classy, cake-serving ladies.

In another life, my husband has a seafood restaurant named "Fishenelli's". One morning, I needed something to doodle, so I decided to make it's logo.

In another life, my husband has a seafood restaurant named “Fishenelli’s”. One morning, I needed something to doodle, so I decided to make its logo.

Winter rain.

Winter rain.

These are winter’s remnants. Now get ready, Salem! I’ve got a sketchbook and one million creative itches to scratch. I’ll be watching you.

Related posts:

Share

Recent Sketches and Artistic Life Lessons

Eee! I’m so excited! I’ve finally started to make sketching a regular habit in my day-to-day routine. (It’s a habit that I’ve been meaning to cultivate for a long time).

Why? Because I was hoping that sketching would pacify the frenetic voice in my brain that is always yelling “Draw (paint) this! Draw that! And that over there, too! And WHOA!!!…wouldn’t THAT make a great art project?! What’s the matter, missy, can’t keep up?! Chop chop!”

It’s the exhilaration of finding everything I see to be just. so. darn. interesting, and wanting to give due attention to it all. It’s a blessing to see and feel this way — who doesn’t like feeling creative and inspired? But it can also be very crushing. I constantly have to remind myself not to get caught up in thinking that I actually can and must draw everything. And I have to discipline myself to focus on completing whatever serious art I’m working on (you know, like the bigger projects – commissions and my growing body of fine art paintings), even though my imagination has already moved on to the next 3 or 4 things that I want to paint.

So I started sketching more – while eating, while on the potty…(oops, too much information?…) – hoping that doing so would declutter my head and allow me to focus more on my serious art projects without feeling so hyped up on other ideas.

Well, what do you know? Sketching hasn’t stopped the madness. In fact, now, when I look around me, I see even MORE possible art projects. Sketching (as I’ve said before) increases my awareness of how interesting life is, so of course, my plan has only left me with eyes even bigger than they were before. It’s like that saying: “my eyes were bigger than my stomach” only in reference to visual snacks. So now I feel even more excited about making art, but also feel like I’m being pulled in a million different directions instead of a mere thousand.

So then I sat down to think about why it’s SOOO important to me that I get everything out there on the paper. Why do I feel awful when I don’t get around to creating things? And I stumbled upon this:

The desire I have to “draw it all” is really a desire to share and connect with people. I want to show you all how great things are, make you feel the greatness too, so you don’t miss it. It’s the same desire that makes me want to cook “all the things” for my husband, to make people laugh, and to understand whomever I’m conversing with.

And you feel it, too. It’s the desire that pulls you towards doing and saying what you think is meaningful. Maybe, like me, you sometimes feel selfish pursuing your creative dreams, fearing that what you contribute won’t be of value to the world, that it will just be a waste. BUT THAT’S WRONG. Things are never black and white. Creating is selfish and it’s not. Yeah, I get to revel in the joy of making stuff. And of COURSE I share my art with the hope that you give me compliments and make me feel like I’m doing good things. But that’s just the surface stuff. Deep down, it’s the sharing itself that I really come back for, over and over again. I want to give YOU things — things like awareness, beauty, and appreciation for the simple goodness that surrounds you. Making art, and feeling chronically angsty about making ALL of it, is at the core, just the unquenchable longing to connect with you. To understand and be understood.

So I’ll keep sketching, even though it didn’t serve the purpose I had hoped it would. And I’ll share some of my sketches from time to time because, even though they are nothing to brag about, they help achieve the goal that this whole crazy art making adventure is aimed towards: connecting, communicating, and giving.

AAAND I’ll keep feeling crazy over needing to make more…

….and more…

…and more.

…but that’s kind of a beautiful feeling, I decided.

WinterTrees_Sketch WinterTrees2_sketch Teapots_Sketch_Inked Teapot_Sketch_1
Teapot_3
 Fruits_sketchApartment_Snow_sketchTable_sketchCats_Bathtub_Sketch

Related posts:

Share

Advent Calendar Coloring Book: December 15th

This one makes me smile!

AdventCalendar_15_Cats

Download and print here: AdventCalendar_15_Cats

Related posts:

Share

Fat Cats!

Guys, I’ve outdone myself.

I have reached the apex of my art career, for behold, these happened:FatCat

FatCat_2Nothing else I ever make can be as satisfying to the eye as these fine fellows. Are they NOT the Greatest. Things. Ever.?

(I think so).

 

Related posts:

Share

Fall is for Sweaters

Another thing I love about Fall is that I get to start wearing sweaters again. There is something tremendously comforting about a good, hearty turtle neck.

I’m not the only one who seeks comfort when the chill of Autumn descends upon us. Our cats want to be cozy, too, and they become much more snuggly as a result. Hey, I won’t complain!

So here’s an illustration of both those things: turtle neck sweaters and snuggly cats (presented to you in Fall colors, of course). I hope you like it!

Cat_Opposites_Final

 

Oh, and one more thing. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Related posts:

Share