Winter Cozies (Sketchbook Pages)

Do you know what I love? Kids in snowsuits. They’re so puffy and cumbersome and adorable! I can’t help but smile when I see them.

Ink and watercolor illustration of kids playing in snow by Jacque Oman Clinton

(ink and watercolor)

You’ll find lots of wintery things in my sketchbook, these days. It’s been a rainy month here in MA, but I’m sure it’s snowing SOMEWHERE…right?

ink and watercolor drawing of musk oxen from the sketchbook of Jacque Oman Clinton

ink and watercolor musk oxen

page from the sketchbook of Jacque Oman Clinton

chicken scratch and snowsuit people

ink and watercolor illustration/drawing of slippers by jacque oman clinton

slippers – ink and watercolor

There you are, some happy cozy things. ‘Cause that’s what January is all about, friends!

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The Timelessness of the Simple

While Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have been “debating” (bickering?) their lovely hearts out, I’ve been wrangling with an idealogical conflict of my own. For several days (more like weeks), now, I’ve been duking it out with myself over a great and formidable question:

“What to be for Halloween?”

Yes. It’s tough stuff.

After tossing aside my initial ideas, which included dressing up like Maid Marian (actually, I prefer Madam Cluck), Abraham Lincoln, and Captain Janeway from Star Trek, I decided to confine my ideas within the boundaries of a single theme. And, since I’m really a 5 year old (albeit an adult-sized one), the theme I chose was “iconic childhood characters.”

Characters like Madeline

The Man with the Yellow Hat (from “Curious George“)…

Charlie Brown

and Cookie Monster.

And let’s not forget our gaming friends like Pac-Man and Mario.

(I also considered the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, a childhood staple that’s basically a character itself.)

And it was then that I noticed one of those happy truths about life:

It’s often the simplest of things that become the most timeless.

Madeline, Curious George, and Charlie Brown — they were drawn in such a simple style. The illustrations are wonderfully loose and sketchy, with just the essential details. And yet they remain memorable and dear from one generation to the next.

Cookie Monster? He’s a googley-eyed piece of carpet whose single fixation is yet another of life’s simple delights: the good old, tried-and-true chocolate chip cookie.

Pacman? He’s a circle with a mouth. He eats pixels.

And let’s not forget that Mario is just a humble plumber, fighting bad guys in world of cotton ball clouds and potted flowers. A genius concept? Not really. But wonderful, yes.

Which is all a roundabout way for me to get to the point I’m actually trying to make:

A full and splendid life doesn’t have to be a complicated life. And, in a similar vein, what you contribute to the world doesn’t have to be complex and heady in order to be of value. Memories are made from the smallest of moments: like standing barefoot in the shallows of Lake Itasca (the headwaters of the Mississippi, dontcha know), or eating Stove Top stuffing next to Uncle Joe every Thanksgiving. Art is made of lines and color. Hugs are made of arms and hearts. Life is made of days and minutes, and they’re all meaningful in their own right.

So in the age of “FOMO” (fear of missing out), I encourage you not to discount the simple things. Your life, your ideas, your creations…no matter how big or small… might just be what someone else needs to see in order to access the joy residing in their heart. Open your eyes, breathe deeply, and remember that life is good. Let yourself be moved by the simple things. Be curious. Share. Laugh. There is much to experience and savor, no matter who, what, or where you are.

(Here are my own simple contributions to entertain you this week. They’re little sketchbook tidbits, made in the cracks of time between other projects I’ve got going on (as always, stay tuned for more on that)…)

pen and ink illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton of a quail in a smoking jacket

Quail in a Smoking Jacket

quick apple sketches by Jacque Oman Clinton

apples!

Nothing amazing, but just the same, thanks for stopping by. Now go enjoy your weekends, y’all!

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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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Thanks, Mom!

Mother’s Day might not be until Sunday, but hey, why not celebrate all weekend long?

After all, Moms. Are. The. BEST.

Words will never express how thankful I am for all the ways my mom has shaped my life. Sure, she raised me, fed me, clothed me, and made sure I survived past childhood; but she also went above and beyond to give me a childhood full of creativity and wonderment. It’s thanks to her, after all, that I am interested in art — she was helping me with creative projects before I was even speaking in full sentences. Her curiosity has always amazed and inspired me. She can’t help but pursue the things that interest her, and it seems like she’s always learning, experimenting, and making new things. Best of all, she shares what she learns, and has been an invaluable source of wisdom and support throughout my entire life.

Yes, that is me. And yes, I still make a mess when I paint.

Yes, that is me. And yes, I still make a mess when I paint.

When I was a kid, she was always willing to let me play with her art materials, even though I often made a mess of her studio. Whenever I was bored or curious, there she was, ready to help me channel my creativity into a new project. One project that was PARTICULARLY special to me was the “book illustrating” she helped me do in kindergarten. Throughout that year, she helped me write down stories that I came up with, and provided the materials for me to illustrate them. I’d bring them to school and read them to my class. I felt SO COOL!

A few years ago, she gave me a binder FULL of those very stories! She kept them all (that dear woman) and what a treasure they have become!

Looking through those old stories, I can’t help but notice that I’m still compelled to draw the same things I was back then — cats, fruit, nature, birds…

…and jars! Lovely, lovely jars, full of delightful things! Muffin the Puffin with Candy Jars(This is a page from the story “Muffin the Puffin”, about a Puffin who LOVES to eat gummy fish from the candy store. One day, of course, he eats too many of them and gets sick. So then he learns to eat REAL fish and decides, in the end, that they are just as good.)

I stumbled upon this old gem while I was taking a break from an illustration I was working on. An illustration that just happened to include:

JARS! Full of delightful little things!

Jars: Pickles, Fireflies, and Seashells

(Pickles, fireflies, and seashells, oh my!)

SO…THANKS MOM! — for all the support, wisdom, time, and camaraderie. Thanks for encouraging me to be myself, and for helping me pursue a life of artistic adventure. Thanks for the laughs, thanks for the cookies, thanks for listening, thanks for the love.

And thanks for the hugs, too. (My mom gives really, REALLY good hugs).

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Cat meets pineapple (illustration)

Through art, we grapple with life’s biggest questions. For instance: I woke up one day wondering “How would a cat interact with a pineapple?” So I got out my watercolors and began searching for an answer.Cat Meets Pineapple


In no time, the answer made itself clear. “Oh, right. That’s how,” I sighed, putting down my paintbrush.

What a relief to have gotten to the bottom of such a pressing matter.

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My Sketchbook = Snapshot of my Brain

I suppose it’s no big surprise that our sketchbooks reveal a lot about ourselves.

I, for one, am apparently very taken by colorful, round objects:

Snail by Jacque Oman Clinton

snail

Buttons by Jacque Oman Clinton

buttons

Rosehip Sketch by Jacque Oman Clinton

rose hips

Crabapple Sketch by Jacque Oman Clinton

crab apples

Rosehips Sketch by Jacque Oman Clinton

more rose hips

Barrel & Pepper Sketch by Jacque Oman Clinton

barrel with bell peppers

I think I find round things comforting, which is why I feel compelled to draw them.

My sketchbook also reveals other things going on in my life, like what books I’m reading or what I’m cooking for dinner. For instance, I am currently reading “The Shipping News” by E. Annie Proulx, and have subsequently taken an interest in nautical knots:

rope

rope

So, there you go, a little slice of my brain as revealed to you on paper. Important? Probably not. But still…mildly interesting!

What do you find yourself doodling? DO you doodle? I hope you do 🙂

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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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Beyond Inspiration: What it REALLY Takes to be an Artist

The Essential Ingredients for Making Art

The Essential Ingredients for Making Art

I talk a lot about inspiration. Being “inspired” is a powerful experience – it’s what kindles the need to make art (at least, for me). So it’s easy to believe that inspiration is the primary ingredient of art making.

Van Gogh was inspired by the colors of the landscape…
Tolkein was inspired by mythology…

Well, here’s the rub. Excluding the times when I’m sleep deprived, worn out from too many social events (we introverts gotta recharge, y’know), or stuck indoors for too long, I’d say I’m basically always “inspired”. There’s LOTS of stuff that gives me that hot-skinned, frenzied urge to make art. But am I always making it? Does every inspiration lead to a tangible creation on my part? No.

It’s a real coming-of-age experience when you grow up wanting to be an artist, only to realize that, just like everything else
it’s a lot of work.

Inspiration is a fine ingredient, but it doesn’t make art. It’s really only the first step.

Then comes the planning, the choosing of materials, the mastering of materials, the focusing (and re-focusing…and refocusing some more), and the entire process of getting it done.

It takes willpower. Willpower is the determination to get it done despite difficulty, unexpected turns in the process, and distractions. It’s having the persistence to practice and develop your skills, to force yourself to grow. It’s being committed to seeing it through, no matter what.

It takes purpose. There has to be a reason for why you are putting in the effort at all. If there’s no reason why the art should get made, then why not just stay in the comfortable, no-effort-needed state of inspiration? Inspiration itself is not a purpose, but wanting to SHARE what inspired you is. Knowing you have something you can give to the world is a purpose. (So is knowing that if you DON’T make it, you’ll lose your paying client. But that’s another story…). Connecting to people by sharing the way you see the world – that is a worthy purpose.

Being an artist also takes confidence. Throughout the process, you’ll have your doubts. You’ll think you’re doing it wrong, or that you have NO idea what you’re doing at all, or that you’re wasting your time. The process will start going differently than you expected, and you’ll start to worry that it’ll kill you in an inferno of fiery embarrassment. But if you know your purpose, then you can at least have confidence in your voice. And then you can decide, despite all doubts, to at least pretend you feel confident in your abilities. You SHOULD be confident! Skill-wise, you are where you are. You’re not perfect – you’ll always be learning – but for now, you’re exactly where you need to be in your development. For me, deciding to just be confident, regardless of how lame I actually feel, is the key to keeping unhelpful thoughts from convincing me to give up. It’s a way of prioritizing what self-talk I’m going to allow myself to listen to. I don’t have time for Mr. Brain’s negative propaganda. I’m only going to pay attention to the critiques that are constructive.

And finally, it takes faith. Faith that your project will turn out, even if you aren’t sure where it’s headed right now. Faith that your art will succeed at communicating something when it’s finished. And faith in art, period. You have to believe that art is worthwhile, that it is an essential part of being human. Believe that your contribution will provide something valuable to people.

It will. (But only if you share it!)

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Breakfast Doodles

I’ve got some bigger projects going on these days — a couple of commissions, my ever-progressing children’s book, and preparations for the Summer Arts Festival next month (where I’ll be selling watercolor originals). Good stuff. Always keeping on keeping on!

To keep myself balanced, I’ve continued the practice of taking time to just let loose and doodle. In particular, I’ve observed that when I sketch during breakfast, it gets me energized for the rest of the day. It clears out my head so I can focus better on the “big” stuff without feeling antsy about wanting to draw distracting things like dandelions and tree bark and koalas and all those wonderful things.

I’ve always loved breakfast, and drawing makes it even better! Here’s my recipe for a healthy, happy way to start the day:

Combine oats, eggs, water, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and shredded zucchini in a large bowl. Microwave 2-3 minutes. Add fresh blueberries and strawberries and microwave 1-2 minutes more. Top with almond butter. Serve alongside coffee and sketchbook.

Sprinkle liberally with doodles. (Watercolor optional, but delicious).

Tulip

Tulip

Another bandana-clad dachshund

Another bandana-clad dachshund

Sidewalk dandelions, graffiti style

Sidewalk dandelions, graffiti style

(did I mention that I love dandelions?)

(did I mention that I love dandelions?)

can never decide if I like things better with or without ink

can never decide if I like things better with or without ink

sketches_Farm

(In case it needs clarifying, this is not supposed to be a freaky girl head hovering above a cute pastoral scene. They are two separate sketches, yo)

 

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Urban Sketching: Winter Street

Winter_StreetI did this at the end of last week. If you walk down that street now, the trees have LEAVES on them!

 

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