GUEST ARTIST: “Whimsical Visual Stories” by Sue Clancy

Sue Clancy Gouache Artist Hare Heritage Illustration

My name is Sue Clancy and I paint and write to cheer people up, myself included. I live in cool, rainy Washington state, in the Pacific Northwestern United States, where I often cook a comforting Irish Stew. I also like to read books and drink hot coffee.

As long as I can remember I’ve loved to draw. I began a small illustration business as a high school student for extra pocket money. I put myself through art school at the University of Oklahoma by working as a graphic designer. After college I worked as a graphic designer and as a biological illustrator. I also had a short career as a costume designer. Then in the late 1990’s I began working for myself as a full-time artist. Drawing daily has been my life.

Dublin Coddle Irish Stew Recipe Illustrated

Even now most days start with my sketchbook, breakfast and of course, coffee. I sketch in a 5 x 3 inch sketchbook made by Royal Talens using waterproof ink pens made by Micron, Zebra and Tombow. Over the ink drawing I use a Pentel water brush and M. Graham and Holbein gouache colors. My sketchbook is usually held on my knee with my box of pens and palette of colors beside my breakfast and coffee cup. My box of pens and palette stay in my breakfast nook so they’re always near to hand.​

Whenever I read novels or other kinds of material, I’ll hand letter a short phrase that I thought of, or a quote I read, into my sketchbook. Then in the mornings I’ll “free associate” – in that just-woke-up-half-asleep state and come up with a character and actions that may or may not relate to the quote on the page. The words serve as a starting point for my loose breakfast sketch.

Flamingo illustration Sue Clancy​My daily sketching informs the rest of my creative life; my published artist books, my illustrations, my writing and my fine art. After breakfast, I go to my studio, another room in my house, where I have an easel made by David Sorg, and drawers full of papers, boards and other art supplies. In my studio I’ll flesh out some idea I’d had during my morning sketch sessions. I’ll work on several different ideas at a time, moving from one to another as I need to wait for paint to dry, or for a thought to “ripen”.

To give you an example: in my sketchbooks I’d doodled a poem and some animal characters. Later, I began to redraw the animal characters on 8 ply board that I get from my local art gallery frame shop. Over about 9 weeks each weekday I’d illustrate a line in my poem with one animal character that I painted in ink and gouache on board. The work I did on board is much more carefully done than the work in my sketchbooks. As I finished each painting I posted the pet portrait to my Instagram page.

Bit by bit, I created an artist book I titled “Alphapets” by Clancy. This book is now available via Blurb and it is available for free via a children’s book publisher I work with called You can see Alphapets by Clancy on Storyberries here, and find other artist books I’ve made for children by doing a search for my name.

I use the term “artist book” to mean a book conceived as an art object. It reveals a story over time and space using a combination of content and art technique in ways that directly involve the viewers participation. Artist books, in my mind, are the ultimate mixed media; combining various artistic methods such as drawing, painting, creative writing and then moving on to digital media, layout, design or even gluing and binding. Artist books are well suited to telling a story, sharing an idea, visually and intimately. I find waterproof ink and gouache excellent media for this process.

In my morning sketchbooks, I’d been working out how to adapt to living in a pandemic; adapting for example the process of finding novels and other books to read while staying at home. Thinking of how to select the next book to read, and so on. Reading books was a running theme in my sketchbook and it carried over into my studio work as a topic of my fine art.

Living in a pandemic has also meant cooking, eating and drinking at home – so that became a topic in my sketchbook and also in my fine art.

All of the fine artwork I’ve produced lately has been about books and food and drink. These are ways we practice coping and good mental health during a pandemic. Reviewing these techniques in my fine art helps me to remember them and it enables me to share with other people.

Sue Clancy Photo

My main motivation for making art is to stimulate a laugh or at least a smile. So, it suits my sense of fun to, alongside my fine art in a gallery exhibit, include reproductions of my sketchbooks that inspired the fine art.

This year I’m doing three fine art exhibits occurring at the same time period spanning 2 states: at the Aurora Gallery at Burnt Bridge Cellars and at Caplan Art Designs. I’ve titled all of the artwork for all three exhibits “Readings From The Heart” and produced these artist books to go alongside the exhibits in a way that they can be mailed directly to someone in a safe manner.

I hope this has amused you. For more information about my artwork, to watch a project unfold on my blog or for access to all of my artist books please visit the links below!

Sue Clancy
Another Sketchbook: more drawings from the heart 
Favorites So Far: a kitchen sketchbook
Readings From The Heart 

Recommended4 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists
  1. sue clancy 3 years ago

    Thank you so much. Charlie, for asking me to share my creative process here! I appreciate this!

    And thanks for reading!

  2. Robert Coleman 3 years ago

    And thanks to Sue and Charlie both, for showcasing the work here. Sue, your sense of subtle humor really shines – the illustrations have a sense of whimsey producing chuckles all the way along. I went over to your website to look at your other work and I’m still smiling. The cat sitting on the back of the sofa watching salmon swim by in the picture window while the man sits in the easy chair oblivious is outstanding! An example of all of us unaware of our surroundings! Loved it!
    p.s.: Dr. Bob is one wise man for sure!

    • sue clancy 3 years ago

      Thank you so much for looking and even more for understanding my humor!! Yes, Dr Bob was a wise man and I enjoy bringing his mental health topics (such as the bit about human awareness you mentioned) into my art! Thanks again!

  3. Karen Fortier 3 years ago

    Fantastic, thanks Sue for sharing your story and your art! You did make me smile!😊😉

    • sue clancy 3 years ago

      I’m delighted to hear that I made you smile!! Makes my artist heart happy!! ThNks for telling me!!

  4. Mary Roff 3 years ago

    I was smiling by the time I finished the first sentence and smiled the whole way through your story. It’s always a good day when you put a smile on someone’s face. Thank you!! ☺

    • sue clancy 3 years ago

      Thank you so much for your kind comment!! You put a smile on my face!! 😊

  5. Susan Feniak 3 years ago

    Wonderful 🙂💙

  6. Sandra Strait 3 years ago

    Sue, I was totally amused! Your illustrations and creative process rock!

    • sue clancy 3 years ago

      Wow!! Thank so much!! I’m glad to get to share the creative fun with you!

  7. Marisela Delgado 3 years ago

    Sue, you are a rock star! I love your Alphapets ! So wonderful!

  8. LoriCtoo 3 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your inspiring story! Your work is so whimsical and relatable. I had someone suggest the other day that I do a children’s book. Teehee, I don’t feel I am anywhere near that idea. I am a morning sketcher myself, so I related to your story and the fact I live in your neck of the woods – Gresham!

    • sue clancy 3 years ago

      Hello fellow Pacific Northwesterner!! And fellow morning sketcher! I, too, felt “not near” the concept of doing children’s books but it is amazing what can happen when you just keep working and sharing! Please keep going!! In fact there’s a wonderfully encouraging book by that name: Keep Going by Austin Kleon. I keep my copy of Kleon’s book in the bathroom nearest my studio…😉

      • LoriCtoo 3 years ago

        Thank you for the info! I’ll check into it.

  9. Bird 3 years ago

    Sue, art like this is what I dream of being able to do… one day… So creativ, so fun… Thank you for sharing.

    • sue clancy 3 years ago

      Thank you so much for your kind words! Knowing what your dream consists of is half the prize won! The rest of the prize comes every day that you’re able to do some step even if it’s a small baby step towards your dream. And those days when you enjoy your creative process are akin to deafening applause while you accept your prize. I wish you daily creative pleasures!

  10. Beth Williams 3 years ago

    I love your art! It is so warm & uplifting. I have a 2 month old grandson in Alaska. Who knows when I will get to meet him. Alphapets going to be the 1st book I read to him on Facetime. Getting a copy for his parents to show him the pictures while I read. It is absolutely to begin reading to him. Thank you so much for such a delightful creation.

    • sue clancy 3 years ago

      Oh how special!! Thank you so much for letting my work become a part of what you share with your grandson! I am honored!! I hope you will all enjoy my book! I wish you and yours every happiness!

  11. jkpringle21 2 years ago

    Hello Sue, thank you for making my day/life brighter through your wonderful art and lovely story. Looking at each one I can image what’s going on. And I visited your Instagram and even more fun see the rest of your fun loving illustrations. Loved that you shared🤗

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