Artistic growth through experiments and feigned courage. A new watercolor.

I’m feeling brave today (must be my new haircut), so I’m finally posting this ink and watercolor piece that I’ve been avoiding sharing for some reason.

Earlier this year, after months of working on commissions, I found myself itching to do some experimenting with ink and watercolor. When applied wet-on-wet, the two materials can sometimes create interesting effects, and I wanted to play around and see I could discover.

So, I made this. I’m not sure if you can call it abstract or not. It was inspired by quilts, patterns, and batik fabric. It’s a celebration of color, negative space, and interacting shapes. The whole endeavor was an illuminating exercise in finding the courage to forge ahead, daily, on a project that I wasn’t sure would result in anything successful.

Abstract ink and watercolor painting by Jacque Oman Clinton. Inspired by quilts and batik fabric.But hey – I think it WAS successful! A worthwhile experiment, indeed. Now we’ll just have to see where things go from here!

Hope you’re enjoying your summer. Thanks for stopping by!

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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

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A Tiny House Pattern, and some Praise for Technology

I’m glad I live in the age of technology (is that what we call it?). Sure, it can be distracting. We fall off cliffs while catching Pokemon. We drop our phones in the toilet. We can’t sit through a 22 minute tv show without looking something up on Wikipedia. (Excluding the Pokemon example, by “we” I actually mean “I”).

But we’re also communicating, sharing, connecting, teaching, and learning! Without the ease of the internet, I wouldn’t have known where to turn for tips on pattern design. Who knows if the local library would have had books about it? Thanks to Amazon, I ordered a book and it got here the next day. Thanks to the generous teachings of bloggers and YouTubers, I watched videos on how to better use tools like Photoshop and Illustrator. And thanks to social media, I felt encouraged to keep making stuff after people reacted positively to my work.

Another nice perk of technology? Digital textile printing! As Kimberly Kight says in her (very helpful) book A Field Guide to Fabric Design:

“As you read this, fashion and textile design pioneers, newly freed by digital technology from the restrictions imposed by mass production–namely, limitations on the number of colors and the requisite use of pattern–are completely changing the notion of what a fabric print is.”

Fabric design, Kight, says, is entering the “territory of fine art.” Which means we all get to me more creative — and DRESS more creatively, too!

Anyway, here’s a pattern I made so that I could practice some new tricks that I picked up. These houses were definitely inspired by the wonderful colonial architecture that is so common here in Massachusetts. And because I tend to be excessive and am a nut about color, I’m sharing several versions of it with you:

Tiny Houses - WhiteTiny Houses - PurpleTiny Houses - GrayTiny Houses - Lavender

Which color do you like the best? I think the gray one would make a great bow tie. And the dark purple one…it just makes me happy.

As always, thanks for stopping by! Enjoy your weekend, and steer clear of Pokemon-inhabited cliffs.

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Surrounded by surface patterns

I haven’t been sleeping too well lately (boo hoo, complain complain). I can’t stop thinking about surface pattern design!

Now, I’ve only just started to dip my toes into this bottomless ocean that is pattern design. I have a lot of room to grow (to put it gently). Right now I’m just letting myself play — figuring out how repeats work, testing out my different tools/mediums, and getting familiar with the parameters of design. Learning, learning, learning. Which, of course, takes time…

…but all the while (day and night) I can’t stop brainstorming ideas! Patterns, my friends, are taking over.

My imagination is racing, turning everything I see into motifs I could use for future patterns. Designers, I’ve learned, call this “building your design library”. Everything is a novelty print waiting to be made, and I can’t stop myself from “pattern-izing” things, from the contents of my refrigerator to the the birds squawking outside.  It’s a fun time (if only I could turn it off at night).

building my design library

(building my design library)

Then, to add fuel to the fire, there is this lovely detail: I’m already surrounded by surface pattern designs! Honestly, have you ever noticed how much art is in your life? Designers have decorated everything — their patterns lurk in every corner, waiting to inspire you.

For example:

(From L to right, starting at top: wrapping paper, toilet paper, my "fungi frock", our bedspread (w/ Ducky the cat), my Christmas boxers (I use these as PJ's), a Bacardi box, a tissue box, the futon cover, and my purse)

(From L to R, starting at top: wrapping paper, toilet paper, my “fungi frock”, our bedspread (w/ Ducky the cat), my Christmas boxers (I use these as PJ’s), a Bacardi box, a tissue box, the futon cover, and my purse. All covered in patterns!)

Needless to say, I’m having a good time exploring this new creative realm, and I’m excited about what I’m learning. I do hope, though, that my body will adjust to this surge in adrenaline and figure out how to sleep at night. (Yeah, if you could get on that, Body, that would be great. Thanks.)

To conclude, here are some of my latest creations:

"Ants and Melons"

“Ants and Melons”

And my 4th of July patterns (in case you missed them on Instagram last weekend):Red White and Blue

(hand drawn scallops/lace)

(hand drawn scallops/lace)

Melting Rocket Popsicles.

Melting Rocket Popsicles.

That’s it, folks! Thanks for stopping by.

 

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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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Welcome to the World of Surface Pattern Design

Lemons 1I recently discovered the world of “surface pattern design”. Now, I’ve always enjoyed me some wallpaper, fabric, wrapping paper, and other pattern-printed things, but it never really dawned on me that there was an actual term/career field pertaining to it. What can I say? — we’re all a bit slow at times.

What a wonderful discovery! Now that I know there is an actual OUTLET for my itchy urge to draw all the “little things”, I find that the sky is the limit.Lemons 2

Fabric…specialty paper…these things are PRIME channels for all the rinky-dink doodles I enjoy making so much. What’s that, world? There’s a REASON for me to create repetitious designs of ketchup bottles?! You’re telling me that someone might actually want some fabric covered in umbrellas and pool buoys?! THAT’S INCREDIBLE! OH life, you never cease to keep me engaged.

Not only is this a gratifying outlet for my difficult-to-ignore compulsion to draw all the things, but it’s also a great way to pass the time after I’ve reached my daily limit of working on what I consider (for better or worse) to be the “serious” stuff (i.e. my acrylic and watercolor paintings). Alas, as much as I WISH I could paint for 8 hours straight on a highly detailed watercolor painting of cracked and peeling house-paint (yes, you heard me), realistically, that never seems to happen. After a certain amount of time, my eyeballs glaze over, my observational keenness dims, and I cease responding intelligently to the details of what I’m looking at. My hand cramps up, and my brushstrokes get sloppy. To keep working at that point would just leave me burnt out for tomorrow. And it would probably undo the progress I made up until then. So I make it a point to stop before I’ve exhausted myself. This ensures that I’m excited and ready to begin again the next day.

Hemingway said it best:

“You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. It is the wait until that next day that is hard to get through.”

And I agree. That wait is hard. You WISH you could just keep chugging along and crank out all your ideas, but you’ve learned that if you drain yourself today, there’s nothing to get you out of bed tomorrow. It’s uncomfortable to try to be patient with your human limitations, to wait until you are restored and able to get back at it later.

That in-between time can be a dangerous place if you’re not careful. It’s easy to freak out and self-destruct. When art is your passion, when it’s the main thing you do to feel connected and alive, then it’s a drag to have to wait-out the necessary periods of rest.  You might find yourself numbing the discomfort by eating a pint (or 2) of ice cream, or by drinking a bottle of wine, or by anxiously gnawing off your hand. Which, of course, makes it harder to start again tomorrow. It harms you and defeats the purpose of taking a break. And it leaves you feeling EXTRA uncomfortable because you’re hungover and feeling guilty for getting in the way of doing what you were so impatient to do in the first place.

I’ve had my share of foolish self-destructive moments, so surface pattern design has been a welcome addition to my list of non-work activities. It still lets me be creative and put my fascination with mundane objects to good use. It still lets me stretch my brain and marvel at the world around me. But it doesn’t drain me or require extreme precision. I can fix mistakes on the computer. I can afford to play around and try a million iterations of the same thing without feeling like I wasted hours of precious effort getting it just right. AND I can do it in my PJ’s on the couch!Lemons 3

So…Yay! I’m not saying my designs are going to show up in stores or on handbags any time soon, but hey, who knows? Now I at least know there’s a place for it. And there are so many things to turn into patterns! (And it’s oh-so-do-able thanks to modern things like iPads and Adobe!)

I’m only sorry that Hemingway didn’t have such a way to pass the time.

(and now I shall resist sharing EVERYTHING I’ve “patterned” so far, so that I don’t exhaust my supply of things to show you in the weeks to come…)

Which of my lemon/lime patterns do you like best? (The possibilities are ENDLESS!)

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Portrait of the Mind in Winter

In an attempt to make light of my tiredness in winter, I illustrated some of the mundane thoughts that play on repeat through my half-hibernating mind each day.Portrait of the Mind in WinterMostly, though, I think this speaks for itself.

 

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Illustrating Plaid, Illustrating Life

Colors. Patterns. Repeating shapes.Plaid, Plaid, Plaid

What, you want me to say something more?

Ok.

I love color. I love patterns. I love repeating shapes.

(What, I should keep going? OK.)

I love collecting colorful, patterned, repetitive things in my sketchbook. I love looking at something and interpreting it by splashing color around in blips and blobs that bleed into each other and congeal into unpredictable new forms. First, I put on my HYPER-COLOR-VISION goggles and play around in a world where shapes and structure are lost and all I see are layers and layers of vibrant, deliciously varied hues. Then I put on my pattern-seekers (another pair of goggles. Sorry, they’re not available in stores) and superimpose some sort of organizing structure on top of the color blobs below. I love tying up my amorphous pools of color-impressions with sturdy (but still expressive) defining lines. It’s just like life, where we sort of wing-it through experiences happening in real time and then, retrospectively, give them a conceptual framework by defining what occurred and what it meant to us.

So, yeah. There’s a certain thrill to filling a page in my sketchbook with a bunch of colorful, repeating things. I love the process (and yeah, fine, I’ll admit it: it’s fun to see an end result, too). It’s all really just an excuse to play around with shapes and color and try to figure out why these things mean so much to me. It’s engaging and it makes me feel good.

You know what else makes me feel good? Plaid. It’s nostalgic and trustworthy. Wearing it makes me feel like me.

Hence, this drawing. Sometimes, that’s all I’m doing: finding things that catch my eye — things that hook my imagination — and trying to understand them (and myself) through the process of interpretation/creation that’s called, apparently, “making art”. And all the while, I’m clinging to the hope that the end results will be things worth sharing with others so that I might have the opportunity to make them feel good, too. Because that’s the best.

Plaid and making art. They make me feel like me. What makes you feel like you?

The End. (or, if you’d like: “Die Geschichte ist aus und hier lauft eine Maus.”)

 

 

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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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My New Painting: Continuing to Experiment with Acrylic

There is a quilt on our bed that my mom made for us when we got married. It’s made with batik fabric (fabric hand-dyed using a wax-resist technique), so each patch is different from the rest. It’s the sort of visual feast that I could look at for hours (if I had the time). In some spots, the dye is particularly saturated, or it’s more green than in other areas. Elsewhere, the colors have mixed spontaneously into unexpected shades of magenta and blue and purple that end up reminding me of the sunset in Minnesota when I was 17 years old. Indeed, as a visual object alone, the quilt is a treasure.

Then I start thinking about the unseen layers of the quilt. How it’s filled with my mom’s love. A warm and symbolic way for her to wrap her kid up in a comforting embrace and make everything okay forever, even though her daughter is supposedly grown up (because hey!, moms never stop being moms and daughters never stop being daughters). And it’s a reminder of Grandma, too: The Matriarch Quilter, with her contagious curiosity and her unfailing sense of humor. (Hi Grandma!, if you’re reading this). And it’s a sparkly little beam of excitement that perhaps someday, I’ll have a kid that I make a quilt for. (And then I find myself already hoping, with some desperation, that my kid will be able to feel the love that’s layered into their quilt — that love that feels too big to express, no matter how many times I try to).

Beholding this quilt; snuggling under it; sharing it with my husband and our cats; seeing it every morning in the different light of fall, winter, spring, and summer — it’s one of those deeper-than-you’d-expect experiences that comes with living life with your eyes and heart open. It’s one of those experiences that I wanted to share with others.

So I painted this:

Miko_Final copy

I’m sure there’s a ton of skeptics who, if they heard me and saw what I make, would think that I’m just a sentimentalist who gushes nonsense about marshmallow fluff and ponies and unicorns that eat rainbows. But I’m not.

I just hope this painting gets you to see and feel a little bit about what I’m always talking about with this blog. There are a lot of interesting things to be seen and felt in the world. As an artist (and a human), I always find myself wanting to celebrate and explore the complex beauty of the everyday things that surround me. I can’t help it. That’s why I set out to paint this. Because the quilt inspired me. I wanted to play around with the colors and textures and patterns of an object that I love, just to experience what happened along the way.

So, don’t be afraid to look at things — to really look, and experience how they affect you. You never know where “looking” will take your mind and your spirit.

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