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

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!

Related posts:

Share

Fish Surface Pattern

Oh, did you think I was done with surface pattern design?

Fish and Water Surface Pattern Design by Jacque Oman Clinton

the original “tile” that repeats for this pattern

Nah! Here’s my latest – waves and goldfish! Can’t you just imagine a good pair of fish leggings to keep you warm all winter? Because…why not?

Fish and Water Surface pattern design by Jacque Oman Clinton

blue

Fish and Water surface pattern design by Jacque Oman Clinton

green

Fish and water surface pattern design by Jacque Oman Clinton

white

Related posts:

Share

The Christmas Cod

Christmas CodMerry Christmas! Here’s a Christmas cod.

This was a custom design I came up with for my parents’ Christmas cards this year.  My parents moved to New England this year and my dad wanted to poke fun at the Boston accent by sending a “cod” instead of a “card”. So here is my illustration of said cod. If only it was scratch-and-sniff.

I hope you have a truly blessed and wonderful Christmas! See you in 2016!

 

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

Poached Trout

Here’s an illustration I did this week.

I find it interesting that the thing that inspired this was not the cuteness of cats, nor the pleasure of drawing mushrooms, but rather, how lovely I think my cutting board is.  Every time I chop veggies on it, I think about how I want to do a watercolor painting that captures its beautiful woodgrain and it’s maple-y color.  Unfortunately, as I worked through this illustration, I realized that visually, this was not going to be about the cutting board at all (those pesky cats stole the limelight!).

So in the end, I didn’t get to do the obsessive detailing I long to do in order to sing praise to the under appreciated cutting board.  I guess I aught to do a painting that solely focuses on the cutting board, without attaching it to any visual story about curious cats…

…because cats are awfully distracting, are they not?

Fish_Provencal_Illustration_Combined

Related posts:

Share