Aliens in the Garden: Sea Tomato and a Deep Water Diver (illustration)

Young garden tomatoes?Young Garden Tomatoes illustration in ink watercolor and ink by Jacque Oman ClintonOr newly discovered sea creatures?

"Aliens in the Garden: Sea Tomato and Scuba Diver" - tomato illustration in ink and watercolor by Jacque Oman ClintonIt’s a rather whimsical thing, either way you see it.

(But if you prefer undersea adventure, you’re in luck, because you can buy prints of this one in my shop on Etsy!)

"Aliens in the Garden: Sea Tomato and Scuba Diver" illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton

“Aliens in the Garden: Sea Tomato and Scuba Diver”, watercolor and ink

print of the original pen and ink illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton

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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.

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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!

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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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Illustrated Places: Waikiki Beach, Norfolk, Saratoga, and Charleston

Hey! Long time no see! Spring is in the air (as long as you ignore the dump of snow we got yesterday and the toothy icicles that are dangling from my car’s bumper) and I’m thawed out and ready to ease back into my routine of spewing hot air at you here on the blog.

Where have I been, you ask? All over! In places sunny and warm! I spent January and February working on a commission that had me traveling (okay okay, I wasn’t actually traveling…it was more of a mental thing) to Hawaii, South Carolina, New York, and Virginia. I was working on a project for a dear friend, who, back in December, asked me to illustrate each of the four places that her boyfriend lived while he was serving in the Navy. She wanted to surprise him with the set when he got out of the Navy in March.

So after the December holidays were over, I got to work on the project. It began with a lot of fits and starts as I worked out my ideas and tried to settle down on a style. (Note to self: don’t get carried away getting “inspired” on Pinterest and the Googles. If you look at TOO MUCH art by TOO MANY wonderful people, your brain will short-circuit and you’ll lose the ground beneath you. You may love everyone else’s artistic style, but in the end, your work always ends up looking like your own. Don’t fall into the trap of brainstorm overload! You’ll get washed away in the surge of “possibilities”!)

Things also stagnated for a couple weeks when I got the flu. But eventually –after enough trial-and-error, mistakes and re-starts , bowls of soup and boxes of tissues — I settled down and found my groove.

I finished the set at the end of February, just in time to mail before March 3rd. Since they are now safely in the hands of my friend and her boyfriend, I can share them with you without ruining any surprises.

So here they are! 4 ink and watercolor illustrations (with hand drawn logos, I might add) of Waikiki Beach, HI; Saratoga, NY; Norfolk, VA; and Charleston, SC. Enjoy!

commissioned watercolor and ink illustration of Waikiki Beach by Jacque Oman Clinton

Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

ink and watercolor illustration of the horse tracks at Saratoga Springs, New York, by Jacque Oman Clinton

Saratoga. NY

ink and watercolor illustration of "the Lone Soldier" statue in Norfolk, VA. By Jacque Oman Clinton

Norfolk, VA

ink and watercolor illustration of Rainbow Row in Charleston, SC, by Jacque Oman Clinton

Charleston, SC

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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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Life at Life’s Pace

I seem to have entered a new and illuminating phase of young adulthood in which I’m constantly learning all sorts of obvious and handy lessons about “time”.

Particularly, I’ve had to learn and relearn with embarrassing regularity that things take as long as they take. I often forget that. No matter what “superfoods” I eat, no matter how much preparing and planning I do, no matter HOW much I wrack my brain trying to find a way — it’s simply unrealistic to think that I’ll ever figure out how to do all the things. (Especially since my list of  “things I want to do” seems to grow exponentially – See graph below:)

Things I Want to Do

I get cocky and try to make time operate against its nature, hoping that if I construct my lifestyle in a particular way, I’ll be so efficient and perfect that I’ll be able to bang things out and keep up with my runaway thoughts. There won’t be a list of “things I’m going to do next” because — BAM!– I’ll already be ON it. Things that take a long time WONT because I’ll be…simply amazing.

HAH. Yeah, right.

Of course, chasing that dumb fantasy makes me exhausted, bummed, extremely self-critical and — ironically — UNINTERESTED in doing ANYTHING. It quite effectively removes the joy from everything.

So forget it, I’ve got a new plan. I’ll try to find the pace that life — with all its inconsistencies and surprises and human foibles — deems appropriate. I’ll regard all-or-nothing thoughts like “I’m going to do ALL of ___(insert major project, enlightenment, or life achievement)___ on ____(insert day)___ !” as red flags marking the road to unhappiness/burnout. When I see them, I’ll choose a more mindful path —a path that honors the virtue of “keeping on keeping on”, not at rat-race speed, but at a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other tempo that allows life (and time) to operate how they will. And I’ll remember that always…ALWAYS!!!…I need to be patient.

This is fresh on my mind because this week, I finally started painting the walls of my new art studio. Earlier this month, my husband tore up the carpet and put some lovely laminate boards on the floor. Slowly, I’m getting closer to having my new work space up and running. But alas, despite my magical thinking, I didn’t paint my entire studio in one day. Instead, I painted some yesterday. And I painted some today. And I’ll probably paint some tomorrow. And that’s how it’s going to go.

img_2090

installing laminate flooring

painting the walls

painting the walls

And truthfully? I’m happy with that pace, because it left time and energy for lots of other good things. Things like playing with my niece, laughing with my family, baking apple cake, planning upcoming collaborative projects with people, reading good books, and watching the sky turn to Fall. And drawing candy corns, pretzels, and other happy things (of course).

ink and watercolor illustration of candy corn by Jacque Oman Clinton

watercolor and ink Candy Corn – in progress

Oktoberfest themed illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton

Oktoberfest snacks, anyone?

Bavarian Apple Torte - 'tis the season!

Bavarian Apple Torte – ’tis the season!

So it’s all good. And it’s all in good time.

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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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How to Rock the Summer: A Visual Guide

Summer is here! Find some time to enjoy it.

Go outside!

Cornflower with the cows

(page from my yet-unfinished children’s book (which continues to be a back burner project…))

Eat a burger!…

Burger Tower

(“Burger Tower”. Prints available on Etsy.)

Plant a garden…

Turnips

(“Turnip Twins”, 11 x 14, watercolor. Available for sale at TWK (or e-mail me at jacqueoman@gmail.com))

Go to the beach…

Interested in having this printed on fabric or wallpaper? Shoot me an e-mail!

(Interested in having this printed on fabric or wrapping paper? Shoot me an e-mail!)

doodle from my sketchbook

(a wee sketchbook doodle)

Pick some wildflowers…

more sketchbook fun

(more sketchbook fun)

Do something nostalgic…

(I love to draw tiny foooooood)

(A rocket pop! I love to draw tiny food.)

Go camping…

(page from last year's summer sketchbook)

(page from last year’s summer travel sketchbook)

And enjoy the precious company of family and friends!

(from last year's travel journal - hiking with my husband!)

(entry from travel journal – hiking with my husband!)

Thanks for stopping by! (Now seriously, get your butt outside).

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