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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To be an unassuming chronicler of life

Artists — be they writers, photographers, painters, musicians, or other – have different goals and reasons for why they create. Some claim their craft is a way of bringing fantasy to life, or of probing the subconscious.  Others say they make art to express specific ideas, to explore certain topics, or to give a voice to the voiceless. Some want to make the world a more beautiful place. And many don’t know why they create, they just know that “they must”.

I’ve slowly been making my way through the book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In it, I came across some words about the poet Mark Strand that really hit home for me.

“Patiently watching and listening to events unfolding around him, alternating between passionate involvement and sardonic detachment, [Strand] has found the pattern that best fits the predilections of his consciousness: to be an unassuming yet precise chronicler of life.”

“His craft” Mikkahily says “is to express in arresting and accurate language what he has learned from witnessing life”.

“Some artists get so involved in their creations that they lose their appetite for raw experience, but Strand welcomes ordinary life—puttering in the yard, having meals with the family, going on hikes, lecturing, even shopping.”

After all, “…the enterprise of writing makes sense only within the context of a broader, more mundane reality.”

Ah, to be a chronicler of life. Yes. That’s what it is.

Mundane, patterned, repetitive, unpredictable, beautiful, heartbreaking, changing, simple, complex, amazing life. I want to draw it all. Every day, forever.

Fall Walking - Crunching on Leaves

An old fall-y watercolor and ink illustration from my Illustration Friday days. It reminds me of back-to-school. Fall — such a poignant season of life!

In a field

I am the absence

of field.

This is

always the case.

Wherever I am

I am what is missing.

 

When I walk

I part the air

and always

the air moves in

to fill the spaces

where my body’s been.

 

We all have reasons

for moving.

I move

to keep things whole.

– Mark Strand (Keeping Things Whole)

 

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The Awkward Middle

This week, I find myself at the awkward middle point of several works in progress. I have this one acrylic painting in particular that has been driving me nuts as I try to find my way through it. I started it with great excitement, but now that I’m well on my way into the thing, I feel a little lost in the woods

work in progress

work in progress

Every project has its awkward middle point. Sometimes it’s a brief ordeal, but sometimes it lasts for months. It’s the point when the shiny exhilaration of STARTING something has worn off. You can’t really see the end point yet – and you’re not even sure if what you’re doing is going to work. When you step back to look at your progress, it looks raw and unbalanced. It’s like looking in the mirror half-way through a haircut. Or being caught mid-step, with one leg frozen in the air. It’s uncomfortable to stand that way for too long. You have to keep going or else you’ll fall over.

At this point, things can look pretty uncertain, possibly even ugly. Things aren’t going how you thought they would. It’s not the perfect picture you envisioned at the start. Instead, it has taken on a life of its own, and now you have to re-define your approach to it. You’re in uncharted territory, trying to figure out where to go next.

If you’re a perfectionist, or an all-or-nothing type of person (I constantly struggle with this), then the middle point can be quite a disappointment. There’s not much aesthetic delight in something that is half finished! It’s off-kilter, it’s incoherent, it’s vague. How do you psych yourself up to keep pushing through?

Instead of relying on the satisfaction of “finishing”, you have to rely on the satisfaction of doing. Finishing is nothing. It’s boring, it’s lack of movement. But DOING! – that is a thrill! It’s the gratification you get from facing a challenge, day after day. It’s the joy of letting yourself be curious about where this thing is leading you. Dress yourself up for adventure so that it’s a pleasure, not a fright, to find yourself in the awkward middle ground.

In fact, maybe the middle point isn’t so awkward at all. Maybe it’s the perfectly natural place to be. I mean, we spend most of our lives in the middle space, right? We’re growing up, but we’re never done growing. We’re learning, but there’s always more to know. We’re married, but our relationship is still a work in progress. We’re done for today, but we’re going to have to get up again tomorrow…

So, alright, alright…I’ll keep working, bit by bit, on this painting that has me feeling so stuck. I’ve got nothing to lose and plenty to learn.

And in the meantime, here are some things I DID finish this week (though even with these, there’s no feeling of “being finished” because with every design I make, there’s a bazillion more I want to do next…):

strawberry pattern

Strawberry surface pattern design for fabric, wallpaper, etc.

"Robot Guts" surface pattern

“Robot Guts” surface pattern

watermelon surface pattern design. (My what a trendy shirt this would make!)

watermelon surface pattern design. (My what a trendy shirt this would make!)

As always, THANKS for stopping by! Have you found yourself feeling awkward in the middle ground lately?

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Embracing the Beauty of Winter

I used to really dislike January. It was such a come-down after the cozy excitement of December and the holidays. With the flip of a calendar page, winter turned dark and oppressive instead of snuggly and warm. Year after year, I would wake up on January 1st and jump, headfirst, into a 2 month “time-suck” in which I could be found plodding along feeling uninspired, unmotivated, and uninterested in basically everything. I had no spark, and I beat myself up for it.

Over time, I’ve learned to value the art of acceptance. What a gift it has been! Now, instead of being so upset that short days make me tired, I accept it and move on. I’ve also realized that tiredness isn’t such a terrible thing. It’s temporary. It’s an invitation to rest and to think — to respect my connection to the cycling seasons and go at my natural pace. The tiredness of winter gets balanced out by the hyperactive energy I feel in the summer, and after enough years of experiencing this, I have learned to trust that cycle. I’ve also learned the important lesson that being tired doesn’t preclude me from doing art (or any of the things I love), nor does it prevent me from finding joy and beauty in the world.

So this year, I’m excited for January! I’m ready to be delighted by the subtle beauty of winter, and find inspiration where it lies. I’m particularly excited by the twigs and berries that sprinkle the gray world with texture and color. I am looking forward experimenting more with them in the months ahead.

This is my most recent pen and watercolor drawing of a crab apple branch. I love twigs. I hope to draw lots of them in 2016 (I’m not simple minded, right?).

Crabapple in WinterBelow  is a picture of the drawing in the early stages of the process. I liked it best at this stage, and feel sort of sad that I continued working on it from there. I find unfinished things so beautiful. I think they are more effective at expressing the experience of walking through the world, picking up bits and pieces of visual information, and assembling the fragments in incomplete memories to be recalled later. The finished drawings sometimes seem fake to me because I don’t see things that completely in my head. It can be hard to even look at artwork that I think I’ve taken “too far”. It’s like there’s nothing left for the imagination to fill in. It’s too…complete.
Crabapples in ProcessAnd here’s a picture from mid-way through. I’m still learning to not overwork things. It’s such a delicate balance. Thank goodness for another year to keep learning and growing!
Crabapples in Process 2
So, Happy New Year! I hope you find beauty and meaning in the unfolding of another year. There is much goodness to be found, every day. Keep your eyes and heart open – that’s what I’m planning to do!

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The Halloween Post

For the last few weeks, I’ve been busy working on several new commissions (Christmas is coming before you know it – this time of year starts to get BUSY!) but I’ve still got a few Halloween-y doodles to share with you. Scribbling out pictures like these helps me stay balanced and awake while I’m working on projects for other people. The change of pace keeps me from turning into a robot and keeps my mind flexible. And it gives me a few minutes to take a break from the “serious” stuff to play! (Don’t get me wrong – I’m having a blast working on the commissioned projects! But it’s still nice to take a few minutes, each day, and make something spontaneous).

You may have seen these earlier this week on Tumblr, Twitter, or Instagram.
Cat, Quilt, Spider

Sketchbook Therapy: Fall DoodleFall Tree DoodleFall Town DoodleFall Playing Cards

In addition, I feel the need to re-post these 3 gems from previous Halloweens. I mean, watching kids having fun is really what makes Halloween special, right? Who doesn’t love a good dose of nostalgia? Thank goodness we still live in a world where, once a year, it’s perfectly acceptable to fill an entire pillowcase with candy from strangers 🙂

James the DragonCreatureNaomi Butterfly

 

Hope you have a Happy Halloween!

 

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Pumpkin Patch Illustration

I haven’t had a chance to go pumpkin picking this year. But that’s okay, because I have this, which I made a while back…Pumpkin Patch Illustration

Looking at it makes me FEEL like I’m at the pumpkin patch. Until I get out there to do it for real, escaping into this picture does the trick.

After all, one of the reasons I got into illustrating in the first place was for the fantasy fulfillment it provides. Illustrating is a way of making life the way I want it to be and to explore the things I’m curious about. I can draw the world however I want it! Go wherever I please! Try whatever activities I might not actually be able to do in real life (like ride a gondola in the Alps with a hedgehog wearing a sweater)! I may not have the time to sew an entire quilt, or buy a chameleon and carry him around on my shoulder, or make enough pickles to fill an entire root cellar (shall I continue?) — but I can draw these things, and that makes life feel unlimited, in a way. Illustration gives me the power to create whatever dream world I want to visit and to have the adventures I can’t have in real life. Oculus rift? Ha! I already have access to virtual reality: I can draw! (*not bashing the Rift or anything…it’ll probably be amazing, as long as it doesn’t give me motion sickness…)

This pumpkin patch, with the crows and the kid in the blue sweater, is one of my favorite illustrations that I’ve made. It just…makes me feel good. Sometimes, that’s what art should be for.

(Prints are available at both Etsy and Society 6).

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“Acorns and Twigs” Watercolor and Ink Painting

Acorns and Twigs

Back in September, I went out one morning with my camera to look for the first signs of Fall. The leaves hadn’t begun to change yet — it still pretty much looked like summer (except that the playgrounds were empty because everyone went back to school). There were no sights, yet, that gave me that “mind-blown-by-fall’s-intensity” feeling that I had hoped to find.

So I decided to swap out my eyeballs for a pair more attuned to spotting the subtle things. Then I looked down and lo, I found the beginning of fall’s bounty, scattered everywhere beneath my feet.

Here’s my watercolor and ink drawing/painting that came out of that experience. It’s my celebration of the unexpected beauty I found on a dirt path one morning in September.

(And hey, if you want to celebrate, too, you can buy this at Society 6).

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Watercolor Leaves: For Sale at Society 6!

Watercolor Fall LeavesHi Friends! Happy October!

You might remember this painting from March, when I posted it for the first time. Now it, along with some of my other work, is available as a print here:

https://society6.com/jacqueomanclinton

I just started with Society 6, so not all my work is up yet. Be sure to keep checking back to see what’s new as I continue to add more stuff! (And spread the word to anyone you think might be interested).

Hope you enjoy this beautiful season. I love October, and I’m determined not to let a second of it pass me by 🙂

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Watercolor Painting: Fall Leaves

Here’s something that has been a long time coming, but after many interruptions and distractions, it’s finally complete! Prints of it will be available on Etsy soon, but if you are interested in buying one, let me know!

Leaves_9x12

Now perhaps it’s time to move on to a piece that is a bit more seasonally appropriate.

 

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Illustration Friday: Spirit

December has been a busy month (what with commissioned artwork that needed to get done before Christmas, and an absurd amount of obligatory Christmas cookie baking), hence the slowdown of postings around here. Nevertheless, I did manage to make some time to do an illustration for Illustration Friday. This week’s theme is “Spirit”, so I’ve created for you a visual representation of my inner spirit.

You better not laugh!  I was quite afraid of revealing my “inner spirit” to you, and nearly backed out, but here she is:

IllustrationFriday_Spirit

This is how I feel when I am out in nature, particularly when I’m out at my grandma’s farm in Minnesota (I won’t ramble on about Grandma, but let me just tell you that she is the BEST!). I breathe in the fresh air and feel my spirit buoyed up by the amazing realization that I (yes, puny little me!) get to be a small part of the huge and glorious expanse of sky and earth that surround me. I feel radiant and free, whole and at peace.

But no, my hair isn’t really that long. Yet.

Stay tuned for later postings of some of the commissioned paintings I made this month!

 

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