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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Birdhouse City! Avian Real Estate Illustration

If you were a bird, what kind of house would you live in? I have a fine teapot available…
Birdhouses

Or perhaps you’d be an owl and live in a cactus?

It’s spring, and the birds are singing. Enjoy your weekend, friends.

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Happy Valentine’s Day! Here are some adorable animals in love…

Brace yourselves, I’m about to get sappy!

When I was in college, my (now) husband and I used to write letters to each other. Of course we also used our phones, Skype, and the occasional plane ticket to bridge the thousand-mile gap between us, but the letters we sent were of exceptional value. There was no established routine with our letter writing, no schedule. Rather, each one was a delightful, handwritten surprise, and I cherished them beyond measure.

Since then, we’ve “grown up” (whatever), gotten married, and moved twice, but the letters have stayed with us. They are precious artifacts that document a particular time in our ever-evolving journey through life together.

One of those letters was a doodle. (Actually, a lot of them were). For some reason, I still remember the afternoon that I made it. I found a sunny patch of floor in the attic of my college house and hid there, with a cup of tea, until I came up with this:

Original Animal TreeWe have it hanging on our wall now. I was looking at it a few weeks ago when I decided to make a fresher version of it to share with you all on Valentine’s day. (The original was NOT, however, a Valentine…in case you’re a stickler for the truth).

So here you have it. Version 2.0, complete with a romantical backstory for you all to enjoy (or be snarky about, whatever floats your boat). Share it with the people you love. Contact me if you want to buy it as a print. And most importantly, have a happy, heart-filled day.
Valentine Tree

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The Winter Watercolors Continue: Another Bittersweet

I think I spent more time choosing the composition of this watercolor piece than actually painting it…
Bittersweet 2

…which isn’t to say that I painted it quickly, but rather, that I spent an excessive amount of time obsessing over what the “most perfectest” layout could be.

Oh the many paths down which the mind will wander! My brain will take ANYTHING too seriously, if I let it.

And it’s par for the course when you’re living the creative life. The art-making process teaches me so much about myself. It’s a destination-less, lifelong quest to master not just my technical skills, but also my mind. I’m getting better at recognizing the typical pathways that my mind likes to wander down at each step of the creative process. I know that every time I step into my studio, I have to pick and choose which thoughts to pay attention to. Experience teaches me which beliefs will be constructive t0 my aims and which will hinder them.

But boy, it’s such a balancing act! It requires so much mindfulness and alertness. It take a lot of energy, flexibility, and perspective. In this, I’ve found a great motivator to take care of myself — physically, spiritually, and mentally. The better I take care of myself, the better equipped I am to engage wholeheartedly in art. And life!

But now I’m starting to ramble…

Oh life. Oh human brains. Oh bittersweet berries sparkling in winter!

Ok, I’m done.

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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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The Jungle of My Mind, Plus A Commissioned Jungle-Themed Painting

Hi folks! Hope you’ve been having a good summer!

Summer, with its shameless abundance of visual splendors, is a wonderful and dangerous time for my creative brain. Every thing I look at– be it a homegrown tomato, one of the neighbor’s perfect marigolds, or the ever-changing cloudscape– inspires an idea for some piece of art that I could make, if only I had infinite time, energy, and concentration. A five minute walk down the sidewalk turns into a bombardment of ideas. They hit me one after another with such speed that they knock the wind out of me, leaving me (mentally) sprawled out on the sidewalk, grasping, with great futility, to capture them all before they escape beyond reach. Don’t get me wrong, it’s truly exhilarating to have my brain go into creative hyperdrive each summer. But I have to be careful or else the excitement gets TOO big, the ideas come TOO fast, and I get TOO attached to each and every one of them. Then I crash, hard, when I have to face the reality that I can’t conceivably pay artistic homage to every inspiration I have.

Thankfully, I can maneuver through Summer’s jungle of ideas just fine as long as I remember to “let it go”. Don’t get too attached to my ideas. Don’t fool myself into thinking that I have to create every painting that I’m inspired to make. It’s another one of those secrets to living a balanced and fulfilling life, a secret discovered through art-making but applicable to all things:

Let. It. Go. (cue “Frozen” music).

Speaking of jungles, here’s one I created for a client who wanted to hang some “animal art” in her son’s bedroom. It’s done in gauche and ink.

Jungle_Illustration

I’m particularly fond of the frog.

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Some Sketches (and 5 Reasons Why You Should Sketch)

I’m going to try to post more of the sketches that I do throughout the week, just in case anyone is interested in seeing that aspect of the creative process. So, here are some sketches of the lilies my husband bought me when I returned home after being away for a week. (Isn’t he great?). (Also, feel free to enjoy the mysteriousness of the notes I scribbled to myself on the corner of the page):

Lily_Sketches

 

There are MANY reasons why I sketch. Here are 5 that I can think of off the top of my head:

1) To keep up on my drawing skills. Like any skill, a person’s ability to draw can get out of shape. I sketch so that I can keep my skills at a certain level. Then I don’t have to put energy into re-discovering how to draw every time I have a commission.

2) To improve my powers of observation. Sketching increases my awareness of all things visual. Things like shadow, light, texture, form…

3) To discover new techniques. It seems there are ALWAYS more things that I can learn about my art-making materials. Sketching helps me learn different ways that I can use my pencils, pens, and brushes to get certain effects.

4) To connect to my surroundings and the present moment. It can be a rather meditative and spirit-nurturing experience!

5) To take quick note of something interesting, whether it be an interesting composition, object, scene, or idea. Noting such things helps me to remember ideas that I want to use for future projects.

Sharing my sketches is something I’ve been reluctant to do. It means that I have to swallow my pride. There’s a large part of me that doesn’t want to reveal the not-so-pretty things that regularly show up amongst my doodles. I am, after all, trying to show you why I’m a GOOD artist, not a bad one. But another part of me thinks that maybe, just maybe, you’ll find my sketches interesting enough to be worth looking at from time to time– the same way you’d find watching a behind-the-scenes documentary of a band or movie interesting.

Maybe?

Well anyway, sketching is part of being an artist. And making mistakes and BAD looking drawings is part of being an artist. Goodness knows, we all need to be realistic about how “perfect” we really aren’t. Then, making “mistakes” isn’t so scary! If everything is part of the process, then there’s no such things as “mistakes”! Just opportunities to learn.

And isn’t learning great?!

Oh, and since you listened to me ramble just now, here’s a bonus sketch of a birch tree.

Birch_Tree

M’kay, bye.

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What I’m Thankful For…

I hate to be the one to say it, but we all know it’s true: November would be a terrible month if it weren’t for Thanksgiving. Perhaps I’m being a little harsh. Perhaps.

I was going to make you all a nice doodle filled with haphazard renderings of all the things I’m thankful for, but several days of icy cold November spit rain got me down. Instead, I decided to embrace my negativity and tell it like it is. So here goes.

In New Jersey (where I currently live), November looks like this:

November_Wires_2

 

…and I didn’t even include the rain that was making all the gray-ness grayer. Once the leaves on the trees are gone, a person really starts to notice just how many electrical wires there are everywhere. That’s what November’s about: twiggy trees shivering amongst telephone poles and wires, with an occasional gathering of birds huddled up on a power line for warmth. Sometimes I find it aesthetically interesting that there are so many cords a’dangling all throughout the sky. But mostly, things look pretty bleak until we get some snowfall to brighten things up.

BUT THEN…we have Thanksgiving! We glance at the calendar and see it shining like a beacon of calorific glory: November the 28th, 2013. At that moment, we know that somehow, somehow we’ll get through this most dark and dreary of months. And so, we “put our heads down and power through” (to coin one of my husband’s favorite phrases), daily baiting our weary souls with the prospect of future feasting and family. We survive until Thanksgiving, and then we’re home free, riding the buoyancy of the holidays until the New Year starts and we realize “oh yeah, January exists…”

I love Thanksgiving because I love pausing for a day to be warm and comfortable with my family and loved ones. Fine fine, I won’t pretend that I don’t also like the pumpkin pie and stuffing (and the sauerkraut that I insist must be present at every Thanksgiving dinner), but seriously, we all know that these would be meaningless without the flavor of family-togetherness that imbues them.

I know, I know, this is a lot of words. I’ll boil it all down into one happy phrase for anyone wishing there were some Sparknotes:

This year, I’m thankful for Thanksgiving.

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