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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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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A Brief Word About Seagulls, Beauty, and Nature’s Wisdom

Give a gull a puddle full of sunset, and suddenly he seems sublime.Gull in Sunset PuddleGulls in Puddle 2

(more experiments...)

Sunset Puddle Gulls

All things have their beauty, you just have to look at them in the right light. Nature, ever the wise one, is good at reminding me that.

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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 Last of the Wildflowers: Crown Vetch

This is crown vetch, wild flower extraordinaire:Crown Vetch Sketch

I was delighted when I first saw it begin to bloom early this summer. Yay flowers! Yay earth! Colors! Woot!

And when I saw that it was still blooming last week – in NOVEMBER – I was thoroughly impressed. Despite the fact that the tree’s leaves are nearly gone, the vetch was still standing all a’straggly by the side of the road. Way to go, Vetch! You outlasted them all (except for the dandelions that I’m STILL seeing around. Good job to you guys, too).

Yes. I talk to flowers. They spark my curiosity and excitement. I like learning about them and watching them, keeping track as they come and go. When you spend that much time interacting with something, you start to regard it as a sentient being. Who knows? Maybe the vetch is talking to me, too.

Now it seems the vetch has finally gone to sleep for the winter. Goodnight, my legume friends. And so ends another season.

That’s all for now. Until next week, I bid ye well. And leave you with the loving reminder to stay curious, stay open, and stay away from windowless buildings. Don’t let SAD get you down!

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Watercolor and Ink Sunflower Paintings and A Theme for Summer

If dandelions and dandelion puffs were my inspiration this past spring, then it’s only fair to say that my summer has been all about the sunflowers.

Now, unlike cats, vegetables, and pickled things, sunflowers don’t immediately come to mind when listing off “Things Jacque Loves”. I always thought sunflowers were “meh, you know…fine…” but my appreciation for them didn’t extend much farther than being nostalgic for the fabulous sunflower-printed denim shorts I had when I was 5 and my monthly habit of roasting sunflower seeds to make into nut-butter (yum). But this year…THIS YEAR…they’ve certainly won a place on my list of “excellent things”.

What’s so great about sunflowers? They are BRIGHT and YELLOW! They are HUGE! And they are oh so delightfully SCRAGGLY! (Hm, this sounds an awful lot like a description of Big Bird). Their bulky blooms demand attention and seem to grow anywhere and everywhere. They’re so chunky that I want to take a bite out of one, but they’re so dynamic that if I did, it would probably whomp me on the head with its big ol’ flower. I can see where Van Gogh was coming from when he painted all his sunflowers. They are real characters, and this summer they took over my brain.

It started with these guys in May:sunflowers

And some cupcakes I made for my sister’s baby shower:Sunflower Cupcakes

Then there was the sunflower tree:SunflowerTree

And some sketchbook experiments:

Ink and Watercolor Sunflower Sketch

Sunflower Sketch from Lake George

And it culminated in this (the “real” project, if you will, that spawned out of those other little “studies”):

A tribute to the sunflower that was in our summer CSA share

A tribute to the sunflower that was in our summer CSA share

So now I will say “farewell” to the Summer of Sunflowers and forge ahead. I wonder, what will Autumn bring?

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Brought to You From Green Meadows Farm: Beets and Radishes!

My husband and I have been enjoying the first few weeks of our summer produce share from a local CSA, Green Meadows Farm. This week’s share featured various greens, a handful of garlic scapes, a pint of organic strawberries, and a stoic cucumber. All were delicious, but I have to say, it was the beets and radishes that stole the show. Why? Well… (excuse my shallowness)…because they are BEAUTIFUL!

This week’s share also brought with it a miracle. That’s right friends, a miracle! Here’s how it played out:

Rewind to a few weeks ago, when I bought some beets from the grocery store and roasted them for dinner. Upon sitting down to eat, I discovered, to my shock and dismay, that I could not STAND the taste of beets anymore! Thus ensued an identity crisis in which I was forced to grapple with some big existential questions. Who was I without beets? What monster had I become? Was it possible that I…Jacque…the SUPREME Lover of Beets, would henceforth have to be called Jacque, Supreme Lover of All Vegetables EXCEPT Beets? Oh the turmoil. It was tough.

Then we got this week’s vegetable share from the farm, and my heart broke when I saw the beets. For 4 days I avoided eating them, choosing, instead, to commune with them artistically. Finally, this morning, a revelation came down from the sky (it WAS thundering, after all):

Put the beets in your oatmeal.” 

So I washed one, shredded it with the grater, and cooked it into my morning porridge (along with some other good stuff).

And — joy and jubilation — my heart of stone was made alive once more. For it was delicious, and beautiful to boot.

The end.

Beets_Sketch(And just for kicks, here are the radishes):

Radish_Sketch

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Ink and Watercolor Sweetgum Tree

The other day, I was gazing out my studio window, looking for things to feel cheery about, when a sweetgum tree caught my eye. The sun was shining intensely through its leaves, making them glow like green paper lanterns. It struck me, then, that during both night and day, the sky is filled with visible stars. The day stars just happen to be green, herbaceous ones.

SweetGum_Leaves

 

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Scenes of Summer: Strawberries, Clovers, and…Viking Llamas?

Strawberries from our CSA!

Strawberries from our CSA!

simpler strawberry illustration

simpler strawberry illustration

Clovers make me happy. They make me think of cows grazing and big, fuzzy bumblebees. Plus, they smell divine.

Clovers make me happy. They make me think of cows grazing and big, fuzzy bumblebees. Plus, they smell divine.

Doodling...

Still doodling houses…

Oh you know, just a cartoon with Viking Llamas out fishing. (I dunno, I picked up my pen one morning and it just happened!)

Oh you know, just a cartoon with Viking Llamas out fishing. (I dunno, I picked up my pen one morning and it just happened)

 

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Illustration Friday: Twisted

The theme for this week’s Illustration Friday is “Twisted”. So here is a pen and ink illustration of some Ring-Tailed Lemurs!

IllustrationFriday_Lemurs_2According to Wikipedia, male ring-tails “will participate in stink fights by impregnating their tail with their scent and wafting it at opponents.” How…fun…

I also learned that ring-tails are very social, intelligent, and adorable. I spent a lot of time looking at pictures of them today — I just couldn’t stop! They’re so funny looking! If you’re ever feeling gloomy after too many days of winter, I highly recommend Googling ring-tails. It will lift your spirits.

Now I want to snuggle with one…

…or five or six.

 

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