Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mind Body Spirit Artist Series - Diane Clancy

Ever since I first saw Diane Clancy's stunning visual landscapes - with the beautiful little balls -  coming across by computer screen, I have been completely fascinated.  What are they?  How are they created?  What do they represent?  All I know is that once you see one, the images tend to stay with you ~  I hope you enjoy this interview with Diane Clancy as much as I did.  It's a fascinating peek into a beautiful world!

                                                                                                         ~ diane fergurson

Peach Fantasy
MBS: Can you tell us a little about your background? How did you get started in art?

Diane:  When I was 3 and 4, I spent a lot of time (when I was supposed to be napping) watching the shadows across the ceiling where the light snuck in.  We also had this cool blanket (and I still have it) that is peach and cream with the reverse designs on each side.  I flipped it back and forth, back and forth, to see the difference in how it looked depending where the colors were. My Mom would listen as I showed her these things.

I have always loved color and rainbows.  As a young adult I quilted and crocheted some using color in a way different from what I saw others use.

In my late 30's while struggling with a lot of health issues, I looked through every single offering in the U Mass catalog and found only one that I was interested in - Textile Design.  I was a double computer science and math major and I just needed a break.  In that class my work was different from others and they couldn't believe I wasn't already an art major.  They all encouraged me to go take classes in the art department and the rest is history - I never looked back.

For me, math and computer science were comforting and art was like jumping off a cliff … but I went ahead and jumped.


Conundrum 1 - Rainbow Woman
MBS:  Well I guess I have to ask the obvious - what did you find?  Both on the way down and also at the bottom of the cliff (or is there a bottom)?

Diane:  When I was very sick for a long time, I had a lot of time to meditate, connect with my inner self and Spirit.  Often I would make up spiritual exercises or read them in books or tapes and try them out.  Remember, I spent a lot of time in prayer and mediation - I couldn't really do much else.  One exercise I read about was being in a very large enclosed bubble.

The activity was to climb up and up a very tall ladder to the top.  At the top was a diving board that I was to walk out to the end and then allow myself to step off.  It was scary for me walking up that high, but it was still solid matter. Walking off the diving board was another thing.  I knew I would not really die, so I took the risk to go ahead and step off.  Absolute terror overwhelmed me as I was falling.  The feeling was totally real and present.

I knew I couldn't physically die, so I kept just allowing myself to fall.  And all of a sudden I was caught and held mid-air.  It was a very physical feeling. I have never felt the same level of fear since then - this healed something inside me.  This was totally transformative for my relationship with my inner self, soul, the universe. I have more trust in the unseen.

So computers and math are a foundation for me, a known quantity, an internal pattern of the universe.  Those first times I put a pastel to paper in drawing class were very scary to me.  Bits of terror flooded me.  But I did it anyway, with the knowledge that I had been caught when I jumped off that other cliff.  It often got easier.  But now, sometimes I still get panicked with a blank piece of paper or the start of a new project.  But I have that inner place now inside that has some essential confidence and connection that allows me to reconnect and thus keep going.


MBS:  I've always wondered about the bubble imagery.  It's such a predominate part of your your work, but I didn't know if it was a bubble, circle, orb or something else of spiritual significance.  Can you tell us a little bit more about it?  The image is just always so beautiful,immediate and captivating.

Diane:  For me, while creating digital art there is always an element of surprise. There are lots of paths one may pursue as one is developing computer art. I played with KPT filters with Photoshop and came upon the bubbles.  When I first saw the bubbles, I was totally and immediately captivated.  This was a direction I knew I wanted to follow and explore.

The Bubblescapes look like mini-universes to me so I was hooked!  I love seeing things cosmically! The inner and the outer are reflections of each other.  These creations can be micro-worlds within a cell or the very outer edges of space and time (or anywhere in between).  To me, there is also a wholeness of a bubble … a perfect sphere that represents the whole.  I also am quite taken with the way some bubbles are transparent and then there are layers upon layers.  So, they are a reflection of life. These are some fractal Bubblescapes that I see very spiritually.

I then started to create Bubblescapes in a different way (with the Bryce computer program).  Lots of folks create worlds and landscapes with Bryce but I have never seen anyone else use it like I do.  This is partly why I say one chooses the ways to work within the multitude of possibilities with computer programs.  I got totally hooked on creating bubbles and Bubblescapes.

With Bryce the bubbles became more of images of people some of the time.  I have one digital painting (Evening Stroll) with a couple walking down the street with streetlights; I imagine that they are window shopping.   At other times with the ocean bubble landscapes, I also use the bubbles as people. With these kind of images I see the bubbles very much as representations of humans or other beings.

Sometimes the Bubblesapes are landscapes over an ocean with the bubbles floating. These Bubblescapes again seem more cosmic and mystical.  The series that has faces in the bubbles are overtly spiritual since the faces I used are from my Goddess series.  I have some Goddess images that I have created in traditional mediums (oil, mixed-media, acrylic, pastel).   Often the bubbles are transparent and thus back to the mysticism.  Other times they are opaque and reflect light and create color in wild and beautiful ways.

Bottom line, I connect with my inner self, soul and Spirit when I create, to the best of my ability.  So I am especially happy when my art reflects the whole, inspiration, goodness, spirituality in some small way.  Bubblescapes seem to help me reflect spirituality.

Spring Creation

MBS:  Are all of the Bubblescapes Digital, or have you created them using other mediums as well?

Diane:  I have a little bit of precursor work with Bubblescapes in traditional mediums, but as of now all my true Bubblescapes are digital.  I have tons of ideas for bubbles in pastel, collage, colored pencil, acrylics and even watercolor.  I am hoping as I get stronger and healthier, I will be able to get back into the studio.

MBS:  How long does it normally take you to complete a piece?  Do you work on more than one piece at a time?  Do you work in a series?

Diane:  There is an incredible variety in how long it takes me to complete a piece!!  My signature piece of Conundrum I, mixed-media, took me over 100 hours over several months to complete.  Some of the digital work can have total synchronicity and pop out in a half an hour.  Many digital pieces take an hour or two while others it is hours.  Of course after I create a piece there is a lot of other work to be done.  In many ways the creation is the easy part.

I do work on several pieces at once - I find it helps me keep the momentum going.  Almost always I work in series.  I like to work from one direction, then another and shifting again.  I feel that helps me explore a subject, a feeling, a vision better.  Sometimes the series occur over a period of years.

MBS:  Do you have any themes surrounding the Bubbblescapes that you find yourself coming back to?

Diane:  I very much want to get back to the KPT filters to create more Bubblescapes like the Inner Flow series.  KPT only works on an older version of Photoshop and on an older computer (system 9 for Mac folks).  So I have that next to me to get going on them.  I love the sense of inner and outer connection that I get from this type of Bubblescape - it draws me deeply in.  So this pulls me back.

For the Bryce Bubblescapes I need to go back to an older computer also because Bryce is not supported in the current Mac system versions that one needs to use for protection on the web.  So again, I really want to get back to creating with Bryce!!  Those ocean bubbles speak to me so loudly!!  Ideas and values are fun to play with in the ocean Bubblescapes.  I have been working on a Simple Pleasures series that I would like to return to.  These are oceans with ideas like Whimsy, Love, Solitude, Joy.  It is such fun to create feelings based on color and design.

I also want to explore some of the landscapes like Peach Fantasy, Spring Renewal and Bubble Garden to see where I can go with them.  And many people have been responding deeply to ones that I have temporarily called Instincts and Bittersweet.  I like this clearer sense of bubbles as people and values.  So I want to dive more deeply into Bryce again to push the limits to see where else I can go and explore.

As I can, I sure want to expand the bubbles into traditional (non-digital) mediums.  In my mind I am testing what it would be like to work with Bubblescapes in different mediums.  I test ideas out so that when I face blank paper I will have some idea of what I want to play with.  So, as you can see, bubbles are always floating around my mind!

Love Birds

MBS:  Do you have any current projects or shows in the works?  What are you currently working on?

Diane:  I am working on a project with a friend in Norway and one in Denmark to showcase art and artistic images on home decor products to make it easier for people to find a wide variety in one convenient place.  Many of our friends promote others work (besides their own) as a way to make extra money from marketing others' products to get a small percentage of the sale (affiliation).  I have been working very hard to get many of my paintings on a wide variety of items both at CafePress and Zazzle to make sure I can be part of this promotion.

The range of merchandise is wild!!  It goes from shower curtains, duvet covers,  pillows  and canvas prints to skateboards, flip flops, thermos food jars, clocks and iPad covers.  As one can image creating images, prepping them and actually getting them on products is quite time intensive!!  Then comes the marketing!!  This is called POD (Print on Demand).  The items don't get created until someone orders them.  A lot of my time has been taken up with this exciting international project of marketing POD items.

Recently I gave a presentation on POD for 2D artists at the 4th Creative Economy Summit in Franklin County, MA.  I  also have been (and remain) on the planning Summit committee for the whole year it took us to put this together.  I have been involved with the Fostering the Arts and Culture Project for years as we work to promote and support the local creative economy, especially as it relates to artists.

I continue to create new artwork in a variety of directions.  These days most artists need to spend a lot

of our time marketing our work.  There are many new venues for sharing and marketing our creations. Part of the process of marketing is creating descriptions and tags so that buyers can find our work.  The rules for those seem to keep changing and most of us (including me) often struggle with that.   I network a lot (much of the new marketing involves one kind or another of social media), learn about what's happening and then dive in to keep moving ahead to cultivate collectors of my artwork.
Inner Flow Mug

MBS:  What is a typical work day like for you?

Diane:  As anyone who owns a business knows, there is hardly a typical day! Some days of course I have appointments, including clients and meetings so that breaks my rhythm.  Or there are taxes to prepare, the plumber, roofer or whatever.  I like the days that I have no structure from when I wake up until I sleep!

On all days, first thing I align with my Inner Self, my Soul and Spirit first and ask that all my thoughts, words and actions be aligned with my own and the Universe's highest and best good.  At some point in the morning, I connect and check in with my partner, Susan.  I check and see if there are any orders from folks that I need to work on, fill or mail out.

On days that are all mine, I open up the computer and start going!  Often I have set up some computer work the night before so I don't have to think too hard to start.  Most of my life involves creating art, prepping this artwork for POD or printing or showcasing, writing descriptions and creating tags for this work, getting that creation where it needs to go for the next step and then promoting and marketing.  Networking is an important part of my day, whether or Facebook or some online group.

At some point, I take a break to exercise.  I might check in with a friend or family member.  At dinnertime Susan and I take a break and eat and watch some TV or a movie.  We love analyzing together the colors, design, story, issues …lots of things!!  We watch the ads with no sound and guess what they are trying to sell and see how well they did that.  With me as a painter and Susan as a photographer, videographer and writer, we get ideas to follow and not follow!  Then I go back to work on the computer.

I have made lists of what I think I should do every day and each week.  The problem is that I would probably need 10 of me to carry all that out.  (And that doesn't include making the art!!)  There is so much out there today for social media, selling and promoting one's art!!  Differentiating what is most important for me to pursue is an ongoing project.  I strive to analyze what is most effective.  And I want to keep learning the art programs I have to expand what I can do and what art I can create.  I value the connections I have made in my online and offline worlds around art and that networking is important to me.   In summary, my days are not boring and I feel grateful to have a full life!

Inner Flow 3

MBS:  I see that you sell your work online.  How has the online experience been for you as an artist?

Diane:  For me, selling online has been fantastic!  I have gotten a lot of feedback that many people are uplifted by my work so it seemed to me that getting my paintings out there in different ways would be a high priority.  My original plan when I consciously went into business, was to license my art so that many people could be inspired.  With licensing, since a company would pay me a usage fee, that company would deal with all the printing and distribution and I could get some income from that.   In my mind, the best way to do that would be to get my creations on calendars, cards and items like that.

The industry has totally changed since then - POD (Print on Demand) has turned everything upside down.  This way I myself could put my work on things and get them out to people.  Instead of my having to buy 50 or 100 mugs to have my art on mugs, instead I can put my creations on mugs online and then when someone orders it, the company prints, ships, deals with problems and I get my markup.  The variety of items I can create blows me away!! Shower curtains and skateboards (and I have sold both).  This has given me my goals and dream in a different way.

There are lots of POD sites, like CafePress and Zazzle, out there now where the artist puts their work on merchandise and the rest is done - besides marketing.  There are also sites like Etsy where one sells directly to the customer, so all the preparing the work, shipping and returns is done by the artist - and again also the marketing.  Sometimes I sell directly from Facebook or my blog and I love that!

There are tons of places to network and market our work and products as artists.  One upside is that it is much easier to reach a real worldwide audience of potential buyers and collectors.  Another upside is that is thrilling to see my art out there, appreciated, liked and purchased.  Some of my art on merchandise is now in Japan, Sweden, France and the U.K. among other places.

One downside is that there are now millions of pieces of art easily available on the web.  Another downside for me as an artist is the relentlessness of all I can do for promotion and marketing.  I am very excited by the networking and marketing - I think it is thrilling to see my creations in the real world and have people buy them.  I know I could walk from any marketing I choose not to do (and I do walk away from a lot).   But it is still a lot and a large portion of where most of our time as artists goes.

For me as an artist with a disability, the online marketing has given me freedom.  I meet a lot of other artists online who also have been so happy with being able to participate on an even playing ground.  I still do some selling offline in shows, stores or privately, but the POD selling has given me a lot of ability to connect with my buyers.  Even though the networking and marketing can be just too too much, I am still overall totally delighted to be an artist selling online!

Dawn of Time Wall Clock
MBS:  Any advice for those who (seriously) wish to pursue an artistic path.

Diane:  Nowadays the art field is very different from even 10 years ago.  I would encourage someone to think about exactly what they wanted out of an artistic path.  There is many ways one can be an artist.  One basic question is how much one is going to connect making one's livelihood directly from one's own art.  Many wonderful artists paint and create while having full-time or part-time jobs.  That is a time honored path and a smart one in my opinion.

Other artists make their living working in arts related fields.  There can be a lot of connections made that way and it could be a way to break into an often elusive field.  It is important to be honest with one's self about what one really and truly wants to do - from one's heart, not just out of form's sake.

Whether full-time or part-time, it is important to decide how one is going to position oneself.  Some artists I know would never sell their work on prints because they feel it cheapens their work.  And certainly they wouldn't put it on POD (Print on Demand) merchandise.  They want to be artists who sell original paintings and only original paintings.  Very valid.

I want to get my work out in the world to be accessible to a vast amount of people.  So I choose to get my work out in prints, cards and lots of POD merchandise.  This is another valid position.  Still other artists I know, who create beautiful work, don't feel they can do much of that.  Many of them are full-time PODs sellers who figure out the trends and design for the trends.  Many of them create a lot of slogans, and what I would call cute work - very different from their artistic work.  They do this to make a living.

Speaking of livelihoods, obviously many folks who create ads are extremely artistic people.  Some of the ads are awesome in the artwork (I said some).  That is an example of working for hire in a field that can be creative and still give you a decent wage.  Speaking of money, one of the best ways to become richer is to lower what you need to live.  I know there are basic necessities, but for many people, lowering one's financial desires can translate into more artistic freedom.

I would recommend studying and analyzing where the art field is today.  I would look at the possibilities and use one's mind, heart and soul for direction to where to go.  If one is going to do art as a business (which most of us need to do), then studying business is good - maybe taking a business planning class at a local Community Development Corporation. There are also a lot of resources out there to teach artists the Business of Art.  Having that kind of perspective can really help in being an artist making a living.  There are a lot of internet resources and newsletters that share that kind of information.

One other tip - if one gets into creating POD merchandise, one can also affiliate one's own and others' products.  This gives a little bigger slice of the sale to the person who affiliated the product.  Some people make a lot, a whole lot, of money through promoting other artists' and designers' work.  A lot of these people work very hard but also make quite a bit of money.  It's a thought.

Whatever direction one chooses to go, networking is likely to be crucial.  If one chooses to do art online in any way, networking is the lifeblood of the web.  There are tons of kind artists who will help another artist on the way - even if they are helping to develop their competition.  Marketing is also the other key that makes a difference for one's work to stand out among all the other pieces.  Expect to spend a substantial amount of time marketing or expect to pay someone in one way or another. They say that now developing personal relationships with potential buyers and collectors is very important - and I agree.  They are collecting us the artist besides our art.

So, stop, think, ask your whole self which direction is for you.  Being honest to one's self is key to being a successful artist, whether you only create occasionally for yourself or decide to go full force into jumping in full-time art, no holding back!  Be true to you, create, ask for help, network, market and have fun!

Thank you Diane!

Diane Clancy's Art*

Links to other interviews in the Mind Body Spirit Artist Series.


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  1. I can't believe I'm the first one to comment on this blog entry! It's so wonderful! This is an inspiring and superb interview and sampling of your work. I really, really like what you've done -- I love the bubbles and the purple colors - the vividness of your art. But most of all I love how you share your journey for growth and light! Many blessings.

  2. Wonderful interview! Congratulations to both of you. I was fascinated at the imagery of Diane's spiritual journey. The stepping off into space is something I could really relate to about art. I'm so glad you did because your style is unique, beautiful and uplifting. Thanks for sharing!

    Julie Magers Soulen Photography



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Artist,Writer, Jewelry Design