Savoring the little things

Contributed photo Artist Sue Clancy works on a commissioned portrait of New York Times best-selling author Billie Letts. Here, she focuses on ink and acrylic detailing, after the cut paper pieces have been glued on and have dried.

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“Massive Mastiff Munching,” includes hand-dyed paper, hand striped paper, hand stenciled paper, handmade paste paper and acrylic on cradled board.

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"A Mice Afternoon," part of the Petite Pleasures exhibit at the Second Story Gallery at the Camas Library, includes hand-dyed paper, hand marbled paper, found paper and acrylic.

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"Coffee Tern," shows artist Sue Clancy's love of Northwest coffees and includes hand-dyed paper, hand patterned paper, found paper and acrylic.

In a seemingly nonstop, 24-7 world of technology, sometimes it is necessary to “unplug” and enjoy the little pleasures in life.“Often I have, like many people, gotten so busy, so stressed, that it felt like I was chasing my tail,” said artist Sue Clancy. “Remembering to savor a moment, to pay attention, to enjoy the little things is essential to mental and physical health. The ability to allow oneself to delight in things is an essential part of being happy.”

Clancy is the featured artist for the Camas Public Library’s Second Story Gallery this month. Her exhibit, “Petite Pleasures,” focuses on small delights such as coffee, fine wine, food, the outdoors and books.

The inspiration for the exhibit came from noticing the “little things” about life in the Northwest. Clancy and her partner, Judy, moved to Vancouver from Oklahoma a little over a year ago with their two dogs, Biscuit and Rusty Nail. Before moving to the area, the couple visited several times.

“One thing I noticed about this region is the emphasis, when it comes to food and drink, on quality rather than quantity,” Clancy said. “I noticed that here in the Northwest, people took time to eat, took time to spend with friends and family, to walk, to participate in the community.

“It seemed that they took the time to savor life itself. Besides the friendly people, this was what we found attractive. When we finally moved here, I wanted to practice “the petite pleasures” like a Northwesterner, so as to fully make the ‘mental’ move here as well.”

Clancy, 44, describes her artwork as “visual story-telling.” As an art gallery humorist, she creates portraits of characters reflecting actions, feelings, sensations and ideas within stories.

“I’m making up the character and the elements that can be combined within someone’s mind to create a story,” she said. “Hopefully it’s a fun and funny story. Rather than use words alone to tell a story, I use colors, patterns and shapes. I think of art exhibits as novels or essays, and each piece of artwork is a chapter or paragraph within the whole.”

Dogs feature prominently into her work. One aspect of Clancy’s career is creating commissioned portraits of people as their pets, or pets as their people.

“I think I was born with a pen in my hand,” she joked. “I can’t remember ever not being an artist. Creating art is how I think, how I process the world around me, how I share with people and how I love. When I was in high school I created illustrations for publications and since then I’ve always gotten my rent, and my bread and butter money by my artwork; whether I was called an illustrator, a graphic artist, a costume creator, a cartoonist, a sign painter, a surface designer, a puzzle creator, a book artist or a fine artist.”

Clancy was born in Norman, Okla., and earned a bachelor of fine art degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1992.

She has made a career of art and is represented by three galleries in her home state as well as one in Portland, and an arts organization in North Carolina.

When asked what style of art she prefers, her answer contains some humor.

“It could be said that I’m a part of the Marcel Proust School of Art,” Clancy notes, “I can be inspired by steam rising from coffee cups, the way a dog walks and by various kinds of cookies.

“Then again it could also be said that I’m a part of the Monty Python School of Art: I can be inspired by the absurdities, ambiguities, nonsense and clashes of context that are a part of modern life.”

She points out that both “schools of art” begin with the letters M and P.

One challenge in life that has shaped her work is being partially deaf, and she said that it is very easy for people, even those with perfect hearing, to misunderstand each other.

“Deafness has helped me to slow down, pay attention and consider that I might be wrong,” she said. “I might have misunderstood something, that something said might have more than one meaning.

“So in my artwork I like to play with the multiple meanings of words, the associations between colors and symbols – and the stories that we make from those.”

Clancy is excited to share her view on life as a Northwesterner with those who visit the Second Story Gallery.

“Since the Second Story Gallery was part of a library, it was the perfect setting for the kind of exhibit I wanted to create,” she said. “Fortunately, my proposal was accepted. I’m delighted and honored to get to share happiness with my fellow Northwesterners.”

“Petite Pleasures” will be unveiled at an artist’s reception, free and open to the public, as part of the Downtown Camas Association’s First Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 4.

The show will continue through Jan. 28 upstairs in the Camas Public Library, 625 N.E. Fourth Ave., during regular library hours, which are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.