Painting the Colors of a White Wall

I love color. It consumes me…it fills me…it overwhelms me. It stirs up feelings so big that I have to DO something with them or else I’ll explode.

So I paint.  With brush in hand, I immerse myself in all the delicious ways that colors layer and pool together, creating texture, shadow, and form.  The longer I look at something, the more colors I see. If I’m not careful, I “overwork” my paintings. (Hence the friendly reminders I scribble in the margins as I’m working – things like “DON’T OVERWORK IT, FOOL!” and “KEEP IT CLEAN, KID!”).

Last year, my mom sent me a photo she took of cracked and flaking paint on the side of an old building. (That Momma of mine has a keen eye for beautiful things hidden in plain sight). The colors in the shadows and exposed woodgrain were shockingly rich and abundant. I knew immediately that I had to make a painting of it.

Thus began the delightful and painstaking endeavor to paint paint, and now, months later, I’m finally ready to call it done. I started the painting last summer but got interrupted when we moved and then lost my momentum with it. Then life got all crazy (like it does  sometimes) and I didn’t want to touch it for a long time, so I hid it in a drawer and made a bunch of other things instead.

But good ideas don’t just go away. They don’t like being abandoned before they’ve had their say. They put up a fight and nag at you from the backseat of your brain. Keep you up at night. Refuse to back down.

So eventually I pulled the painting out of its drawer and looked at it with fresh eyes. (Things look better after you walk away from them for a while. That’s the wonderful gift of perspective!). When I realized how close it was to being a finished piece, I mustered up my courage, added a few more shadows, and voila! Here it is:realistic watercolor painting of cracked, flaking houseplant by Jacque Oman Clinton

Who know a white wall could be so colorful?! Oh, World, you never cease to amaze me.

 

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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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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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“Sarge”: Custom Illustrated Dog Book in PRINT! + A Quote for New Years

And so a new year has begun. Before I get carried away sharing my new projects that are already in full swing, I figured I better show you the things I was working on in December, first.

Perhaps you remember the book I said I was working on — the illustrated story about Sarge the farm dog? Here’s how it turned out!

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton

cover

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton

first pages

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton about a farmer and his dog

random middle pages

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton about a farmer and his dog

more random middle pages

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton about a farmer and his dog

more random middle pages

custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton about a farmer and his dog

last pages

I used blurb.com for the printing, and I’m really happy with how it turned out! Their design software is easy to use and the website is informative, helpful, and full of options. (I highly recommend them if you’re ever looking to self-publish or print-on-demand). Best of all, I can order more copies whenever I want (so if you’re interested in buying one (or commissioning your own personalized book), let me know!).

EDIT: Enough people expressed interest in buying the book that I’ve put it up for sale here: http://www.blurb.com/b/7576769-sarge

Then there was this watercolor portrait I was asked to do:Commissioned Wedding portrait painted in watercolor by Jacque Oman Clinton

The above projects, plus a few orders for prints on Etsy, kept me plenty busy right up until Christmas. Then I spent the holiday week celebrating with family, relaxing with my husband, and enjoying the well-earned freedom of not needing to be “productive” (all while trying to recover from a germ that just WON’T go away). There was some re-watching of the Lord of the Rings, and a wee bit of jigsaw puzzle-ing, but mostly, there was the glorious luxury of sitting around in sweatpants, watching birds at the feeder, and doodling freely in my sketchbook for no purpose other than the sheer joy of it. Sigh…it was great.

bird blob doodle from sketchbook of Jacque Oman Clinton

bird blobs from sketchbook

And now I shall conclude with a bit of insight I picked up from author Anne Lamott in her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Though specifically aimed at writers, the following quote is helpful to all of us who are…you know…trying to live a life. May it give you the courage to face a new year and the many unknowns that lie ahead:

“E.L. Doctorow once said that ‘writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.”

Nice, right? Whatever you may hope to accomplish in 2017, just remember…you don’t have to have it ALL planned out. Sometimes you just have to point yourself in the right direction and start moving, one day — one step — at a time.

So buckle up! 2017, here we come!custom made illustrated story book by Jacque Oman Clinton about a farmer and his dog

 

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The Candy Corn Saga

candy cornCandy corn has been on my list of things to draw for quite some time. Every fall I buy a bag, take it home, pour it into a glass bowl, and just…look at it. It’s colorful, repetitive, roundish. It’s oh so cute and ridiculous. I play with it. I hold it. If someone asks, I even share it.

candy corn flower

candy corn weaving

I have no profound things to say about candy corn, no grand meditations or metaphors to overanalyze. I just think it’s visually compelling. And I don’t believe that it’s edible — it smells nice, but you probably won’t find me lurking in the kitchen, munching on the stuff. (It’s a bit too “candle-y” for my tastes). But like beads, gems, snowflakes, and cable knit sweaters, it delights my little eyeballs. And it comes in such mass quantities!

Well, this year, I finally got around to doodling it.candy corn doodles

Or, er…I MEANT to just doodle it.

But, as often happens with art projects, it took on a life of its own. With a few blobs of watercolor here and a couple pen-marks there, a certain trajectory was established. Choices were made, and there was no turning back.

And so I traveled on a journey:img_2068 img_2107 img_2133
img_2141 img_2149 img_2180

And ultimately ended up here:ink and watercolor candy corn illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton
And now I think I’m done with candy corn. For a long, long time.

🙂

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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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The Button Jar

ink and watercolor button illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton

“Buttons”, ink and watercolor

4 years ago, my husband and I — newly engaged at the time — received an early wedding present from a friend. This friend (a true gentleman and scholar) was about to leave for Liberia on a Peace Corps mission and wasn’t going to make it to our wedding. In a grand gesture of heartfelt congratulations, he gave us one of the greatest gifts ever. He gave us…

…the button jar.The Button Jar

Brace yourselves, you know what’s coming: metaphors. Oh how I love them!

Man, oh man, the button jar is great. Who can resist a collection of colorful round things?! But it’s more than just a shiny vessel of visual delight. It has become, in my mind, a symbol of home. Of OUR home — my husband’s and mine — and the life that we are building together.

It’s a jar of buttons, but it’s also a jar of memories. Some are small, some are big. Each one is colorful in its own poignant way.

It’s a jar of possibilities and hope. There are many ways one could use those buttons — it’s a jar full of potential! It’s like our future and all the adventures ahead.  It’s filled with unknown and wonderful things that will make us stronger and bring us closer.

It’s a jar filled with all the tiny, special moments — from the mundane to the spectacular — that accumulate, day after day, year after year, and make this a truly blessed life.

I bring this up now because, since moving into our first HOUSE, it seems like we’ve been adding a lot of button moments to our jar. It’s been a new and exciting adventure, and it’s fun tackling this “home owning” thing together. There are buttons for the peaceful nights that we’ve plunked down, exhausted, on the couch and listened to the crickets chirping through the open windows. There’s a button for the afternoon that we dismantled the clothes dryer, and one or two buttons for the almost daily trips to Home Depot. There are buttons for the lights that don’t work yet and buttons for the neighbor’s dogs. There are lots of buttons, so I won’t list them all.

I made the ink and watercolor drawing above (which I’ll turn into a print and put on Etsy as soon as I unearth all my printing supplies from the chaos that is my unfinished new studio) simply because the buttons were colorful and cute. They were calling out to me amidst the disorder of half-unpacked boxes and post-moving clutter, begging me to draw them. In retrospect, of course, I see that, like most other things I make, this is a documentary drawing, helping chronicle my life.

Yes, life. Ain’t it great?

It sure is. Bye!

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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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Looking for Rainbows

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou, Letter to my Daughter

A rainbow landed on my painting

A rainbow landed on my painting

work in progress - watercolor "chipped paint" painting (nothing like painting paint!)

work in progress – watercolor “chipped paint” painting (nothing like painting paint!)

I saw a lot of rainbows this week – both indoors and outdoors. They came from rainstorms, sprinklers, and window prisms, and each was a welcome gift of hope and joy. The more I payed attention and looked for rainbows, the more I saw them.

A lot of things in life seem to work like that — you see what you choose to see. So why not choose to see rainbows?

Sometimes, at the end of a rainbow, you find a pot of gold. And sometimes you don't. But it's still a rainbow, and that's the real treasure, anyway.

Sometimes, at the end of a rainbow, you find a pot of gold. And sometimes you don’t. But it’s still a rainbow, and that’s the real treasure, anyway.

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